Singaporean writers, artists, and thinkers, living in Singapore and abroad were asked by the editors of Singapore Unbound for their favorite read of the year. Thank you to Singapore Literature Prize winner Ng Yi-Sheng for selecting my book.
Ng Yi-Sheng, poet, playwright, and fictionist. The Infinite Library and Other Stories by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2017). This may be the best collection of spec fic stories I’ve ever read by a Singapore-based author. The tales are wonderfully baroque, from a steampunk vision of Filipino national hero José Rizal at a naturist colony to a post-apocalyptic tale of a man cultivating crops and a digital transmitter in the world’s last library. Ocampo takes risks with form—stories are told with multiple endings, in the form of archaeological surveys and in SMS-speak—but manages to make all his tales share a single universe, with the same immortal characters and references (including the eponymous library) popping up in different plots. (I’m also intrigued by how Ocampo complicates our conceptions of Singaporean literature: he began writing in Singapore and is active in the local literary scene, but his fiction reflects his background as a cosmopolitan citizen of the Philippines. He’s got a south-south biculturalism thing going on, and it’s awesome.)
Coincidentally, my favorite Singaporean book of 2018 is Yi-Sheng’s exquisitely surreal Lion City Stories (Epigram, 2018).
The 2018 Singapore Writers Festival finally came to a close for me with this final reading and panel discussion: Chicken Rice and Adobo: What We Love about the Philippines and Singapore.
Increased trade and cultural exchanges between Singapore and the Philippines have led to shared experiences and stories in prose and poetry. This session continues a literary dialogue that has spawned joint anthologies and readings. Listen to the featured writers read excerpts of their works and join in the fellowship centered on what we love such as comfort food, cultural diversity and a good story.
The rain was pouring heavily abut somehow most of the speakers and the audience managed to make their way to the HideOut@Funan Showsuite, at the corner of Hill Street and High Street. Thank you to the free rain ponchos provided by the organizers!
The event last 11 November was meant to celebrate the literary dialogue born from the long cultural exchange between Singapore and the Philippines. Poet and Director of the Poetry Festival Singapore, Eric Tinsay Valles (A World in Transit) moderated the lively panel made up of poet Aaron Lee (Coastlands), novelist Claire Betita de Guzman (Miss Makeover), poet and essayist Lawrence Ypil (The Highest Hiding Place), poet, playwrite and poet Heng Siok Tian (Is My Body A Myth) and myself. Author and poet Felix Cheong (Singapore Siu Dai: The SG Conversation In A Cup) was unable to attend due to an illness.
This is an exceedingly late post on our #SWF2018 panel “Speculative Fiction as Moral Compass” last Saturday 10 November with Rachel Heng (The Suicide Club), Nuraliah Norasid (The Gatekeeper) and myself, with Khoo Sim Eng (who heads the Film Studies Minor at SUSS) as our intrepid moderator.
As you can see from the pictures, we had a very lively discussion talking about the role Speculative Fiction can play in talking about Ethics. This was the most well-attended Singapore Writers Festival event that I was a part of. The organizers had to open a second room to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd.
“From pursuing immortality to eradicating marginalization, speculative fiction reveals the deepest desires of humankind. How can the genre prompt readers to assess humanity’s moral progress, and to rethink what could be right or wrong? This panel brings together authors across science fiction and fantasy to discuss the potentialities of the genre.”
Pictures above courtesy of Khoo Sim Eng and husband.