Late Post: Futurecon 2021

FutureCon – The Future Happens Everywhere

If you missed our panel “POSTHUMOUS POSTHUMANITY: What’s Beyond The Human Species? Augmentation, Hybridization and Externalization; New Identities Arising in Contemporary Science Fiction” last 4th of September 2021, you can now catch it on YouTube –


I talked about the future of humanity with Aliette de Bodard (France), Stanley Chan Chen Qiufan (China), Daniela L. Guzmán (Mexico), Renan Bernardo (Brazil), and our wonderful moderator Leonardo Espinoza Benavides (Chile).

The Book of Red Shadows Debuts at the 2020 Singapore Writers Festival

Thank you to everyone who remembered my birthday this week! To say that 2020 has been very difficult (for everyone in the entire world) is certainly an understatement. I am just thankful to be alive and somehow still be able to provide for my family (however diminished this capacity may be). I am also thankful for some small wins on the writing front, such as the launch of my first CYOA interactive narrative.

I am happy to announce that The Book of Red Shadows, my play-by-email story, successfully debuted at this year’s all-digital Singapore Writers Festival from 30 October to 8 November. Thank you so much to the MCCY, the National Arts council and, of course, the SWF team for making this happen. Special thanks also to our producer Sara Y. and the crew of Spaceship Thirteen for putting this project together, as well as to our tireless Game Masters, Wayne Ree, Eugene Lim, Nicholas Chan; our Game Manager, Weiqi Chuah; and Adela Lee, who handled our marketing and promotions.

Lastly, thank you also to the two hundred eighty brave souls from around Singapore and overseas who willingly signed up to be our experimental tests subjects. Your eagerness to have your moral compass sorely tested resulted in our game slots being filled very quickly. Sadly, we had to turn quite a number of people away.

After ten days of playing, about 26% or roughly 72 of you players managed to make it to the end of the story (without your character meeting a horrible or otherwise gruesome end). Congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the experience.

For those who did not get to play, this story was a serialized narrative in ten parts, with an option to follow one of two threads at the end of every chapter. Within a certain narrative limit, reader/players and game masters were able to add elements to personalize their journey, creating a unique story path that couldn’t be played again in the same way. The sole objective of The Book of Red Shadows was to avoid making plot choices that would end the narrative prematurely, as well as to somehow be get to the writer’s original ending (my story ending) despite obstacles and the different ways to get there.

Here’s the synopsis:

Set in 2220, at Singapore’s colony in Mars, where the consciousness of the newly dead are pressed into National Service by the secretive Project Red Shadows. In exchange for a chance to be restored to life, they must help a massive AI alter events in the past for the benefit of Singapore’s colony in Mars. However, things are not what they seem. There are dire consequences whenever they interfere with fate. Moreover, there is a secession movement planning a rebellion against the government from Earth. A digital ghost is haunting the project, and a vicious time hacker is also trying to erase NS operatives from existence for good. The Book of Red Shadows is a dark odyssey about the true nature of time, the consequences of weaponizing artificial intelligence, and the search for hope and meaning in an increasingly bleak world.

An Interactive Story with game-like elements played over email.

The Book of Red Shadows had many media mentions during and after SWF 2020. Here’s a small selection –

It was the most mesmerizing experience I ever had. Every scenario presented was penned in detail as the story launched into more complications than you would ever expect. The choices were open-ended, giving you more control over the path you would like to take. I felt a sense of loss when the 10 days ended, wishing that it would have been longer.” 
IREVIEWUREAD

It’s pretty absorbing. The text sent each day is also, well, uniquely Singaporean and not without a dash of parody. If you like classic CYOA adventures, I strongly encourage you to give this dark saga a try.” 
THE SCRIBBLING GEEK

“(This is) A chance to enter the strange universe of speculative fiction author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo in Play This Story: The Book Of Red Shadows.
THE STRAITS TIMES

Specifically for SWF2020, voices in the SingLit community produced 20 innovative commissions in digital literary works. Begin with Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows.
ESQUIRE

This year’s offerings include unusual formats such as Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows.” 
BAKCHORMEEBOY

Fun activities include a psychological horror game that takes place entirely over email (Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows).”
SG MAGAZINE

Thrill-seekers will enjoy Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows, an interactive, psychological horror game based on a fictional universe by the speculative fiction author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo.
THE A LIST

Crafted by Singapore-based author Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, the intrigue begins with you freshly deceased – yet kept ‘alive’ by mysterious government technology.
CITY NOMADS

The speculative fiction of Victor Fernando R Ocampo is recast as a choose-your-own-adventure experience taking place entirely over email.
THE BUSINESS TIMES

Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows (is an) offline interactive (game) that would be sure to keep one on their toes.” 
THE PEAK

Innovative digital events include Play this Story: The Book of Red Shadows, an interactive psychological horror game based on the speculative fiction of Victor Fernando R Ocampo that unfolds over email.” 
SILVERKRIS

SWF also features voices from the community in the form of 20 innovative commissions in digital literary formats. This includes interactive psychological horror game Play This Story: The Book Of Red Shadows, which takes place over email.” 
THE STAR

This year’s innovative offerings include unexpected offline formats as seen in Play This Story: The Book of Red Shadows.”
NAC

My Panels at FIYAHCON’s Fringe Programming

FIYAHCON is a virtual convention centering the perspectives and celebrating the contributions of BIPOC in speculative fiction. Hosted by FIYAH Literary Magazine. The inaugural event will take place on October 17-18, 2020 and will host a variety of entertaining and educational content surrounding the business, craft, and community of speculative literature.

Where the magazine is focused specifically on the elevation of Black voices in short speculative fiction, FIYAHCON seeks to center the perspectives and experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

Thank you to FIYACON, Vida Cruz and Iora Kusano for inviting me to be both a panelist and a moderator. Join us! All the Fringe events are free! You can find my schedule below:

Running A Genre Magazine – Friday 10/16 10:00pm EDT (which will be Saturday 10am in Singapore) with Eliana González Ugarte • Terrie Hashimoto • Salik Shah • Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Moderator)

To many writers, the inner workings of magazines are utterly opaque. Our panel of editors can give you insight into what things look like on their side of the desk: financial legal considerations, unexpected challenges, how to best promote authors’ work. This panel is great for any author who wants to see how a magazine is made, especially if they’re considering starting a magazine of their own!

Should I Italicize That? – Friday 10/16 02:00am EDT (which will be Saturday 02:00pm in Singapore) with Shiv Ramdas • Zen Cho • Victor Fernando R. Ocampo • Yukimi Ogawa • Iori Kusano (Moderator)

It’s the eternal struggle: why do we italicize takoyaki but not taco? What counts as a loanword? Do italics highlight distinctive aspects of cultures settings, or do they exoticize it? Should we italicize anything at all? Panelists will share how they approach this problem within their own work, including how to discuss it with editors agents.

Futurecon 2020 – My 1st Virtual Conference

FutureCon is a global Speculative Fiction conference organized primarily by folks from Brazil – Ana Rüsche, Cristina Jurado (Spain/UAE), Fábio Fernandes, Francesco Verso (Italy), Jana Bianchi, and Renan Bernardo, with help from other people from all around the world.

This year it was held from 17 to 20 September, 2020. Speakers from over 20 different countries participated, including Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl, as well as other guests from Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey and Uganda, just to name a few.

Because of the Covod-19 pandemic, this year’s conference was completely virtual. It was the very first time I ever participated in a writing event that was recorded via Zoom and broadcast on YouTube (free to view by the general public).

I had the privilege of moderating the first panel of the conference: “Future South & East Asia: What Future is Taking Shape in India, Pakistan, Philippines?” which happened last Thursday 17 September at 8pm in Beijing, Manila and Singapore (Moscow: 3pm | Rome: 2pm | Lagos: 1pm | Brasilia: 9am | New York: 8am | Los Angeles: 5am. My panelists were a virtual whos-who of amazing writers from South Asia which included:

(Moderator) Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Singapore/Philippines)

Anil Menon (India)

Indrapramit Das (India)

Lavanya Lakshminarayan (India)

Usman Malik (Pakistan)

Note: Special thank you to S.B. Divya for allowing us to use the questions she had originally developed for this panel.

You can watch our panel in it’s entirety on YouTube (you will need to clink through to the link that goes to YouTube as the moderators have disabled it from playing outside their site).

By the way, I will be participating in a follow-up Futurecon event this coming November, so watch this space.

Other Futures: Intro to Asian SF + My Process of Writing

Other Futures is an annual multidisciplinary festival and exhibition that presents speculative visions of the future based in the Netherlands. The conference brings together makers and thinkers from all over the world who use speculative fiction to imagine and build other futures and invites them to share their visions with visitors from diverse walks of life. Like many cons and festivals this year, Other Futures went online because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last April 11, I gave my first-ever remote lecture which was split into three parts – an Introduction to Asian Science Fiction, sharing my writing process and a short Drabble writing workshop. 

Other Futures Lecture 2020

For the first 45 minutes, I gave a quick (if woefully condensed) introduction to Asian Science fiction, touching on history as well as significant developments and key writers in (greater) China, Japan, India (+ South Asia) and the Philippines (and SEA). 

Afterwards, I shared my writing process for short stories – from how I generate ideas to my tips for publishing. Lastly, we capped it off with a drabble writing workshop for which I gave a critique for those works that were written in English (A drabble is a short work of fiction of precisely one hundred words in length which is much-beloved by Speculative Fiction writers).

You can find a video of the slides I used below. 

Thank you  so much to the Other Futures team for inviting me and especially to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz for facilitating, translating and generally making magic happen! 

My Singapore Writers Festival 2019 Schedule

SWFVersionThree_V1_BlackWow, where did the year go? It’s hard to believe we are coming to that time of year when the Singapore Writers Festival comes a cracking.  I have two events this year, the details of which are listed below:

Sat, 9 Nov, 11.00am – 12.00pm, Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium

Yuval Noah Harari theorized that religion is humankind’s greatest invention. But do spiritual belief and faith still have a place in this age of science and technology? This conversation considers the relationships between science fiction, science, faith, hyperreality, and the future of humankind.

Featuring: Chen Qiufan (Stanley Chan), JY Yang, Tony Estrella

Moderator: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

Sat, 9 Nov, 5.00pm – 6.00pm, The Arts House, Living Room

When writing about intergalactic empires and space adventures, to what extent do writers need to be mindful of scientific plausibility? Should they abide by space travel rules at all? Three writers discuss why they’ve chosen to set their stories in space and how they’ve imagined an entire interstellar universe.

Featuring: Victor Dixen, Boey Meihan, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

Moderator: Jason Erik Lundberg

 

Attending Milford 2019

I guess I can share this now.
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I will be attending Milford Writer’s Conference this September at Dyffryn Nantlle (the Nantlle Valley) in the Snowdonia National Park, Wales. Oddly enough this will be the first professional writing workshop that I will attend (not having the confidence and the wherewithal to do so previously).
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The Milford Writers’ Conference, is an annual science fiction writer’s event founded by SF Grand Master Damon Knight (among others) in the mid-1950s.  It’s both a residential workshop and a writers’ conference where published SF writers convene over the course of a week to both intensively critique stories and novels excerpts, as well as to workshop ideas on all aspects of SF writing. Past participants have included James Blish, Samuel Delaney, Harlan Ellison,  Carol Emshwiller, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, Judith Merril, Robert Silverberg, Bruce Sterling, Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Wolfe and many other familiar names.
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Here’s a cool shout-out for Milford from none other than George R. R. Martin.
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Milford2019
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This has been one of the busiest years for me ever — now that I am responsible for the entire APAC and the Middle East. My work in the Mobile Identity space has been extremely challenging and tech-heavy, so one of the things I am most looking forward to is the chance to be unplugged — at least for a week. The workshop is being held inside a national park where there is limited Wi-Fi availability and absolutely no mobile phone reception. If I need to call work, I have to invest coinage to use a pay phone (imagine that).
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Snowdonia
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Snowdonia is the home of Arthurian legend and the Nantlle valley is the site of one of the tales in the Mabinogi, one of the oldest collections of British Celtic myths. I really hope this inspires me to complete the novel that I have long been working on seemingly forever.
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Interestingly. I will be the first writer from Singapore to be part of Milford. Rochita Loenen-Ruiz was the first Filipino to attend and I am proud to follow in her pioneering footsteps. Am a bit nervous, but definitely looking forward to being there.
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Dymuna bob lwc i fi!
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Read! Fest 2019 – Predicting The Future with Science Fiction

Readfest VRO

As part of the sixth installment of Read! Fest by the National Library Board in Singapore, Senior Artificial Intelligence Researcher Dr Ken Kahn from the University of Oxford and I will be giving a talk about how Science Fiction can predict and inspire real-world discoveries and inventions (or vice-versa).

Here’s the Blurb from Read! Fest 2019:

Programme Synopsis
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke describes a portable flat screen news pad which forecast the iPads that we love and use today years before they were even created. Unconstrained by scientific impossibilities and spurred on by unbounded imagination, science fiction has successfully predicted technologies ranging from earphones and radios to medical drugs like anti-depressants. It continues to be a useful tool to conjure new technologies and explore their impact on society. Join Singaporean based writer Victor Ocampo and Senior Researcher, Dr Ken Kahn from the University of Oxford as they share their perspectives on the genre and their love for sci-fic and ultimately attempt to answer the question: Does Science Fiction Predict or Inspire?

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About the Speakers
Dr Ken Kahn’s interest in science fiction from early childhood eventually led him to join the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab which awarded him a doctorate in 1979. As part of his master’s thesis he built a system that could understand Robert Heinlein’s story All You Zombies – a very convoluted time travel story. He now does research at the University of Oxford and teaches at Yale-NUS.

Victor Fernando R. Ocampo is a Singapore-based Filipino writer. He is the author of The Infinite Library and Other Stories (Math Paper Press, 2017) and Here be Dragons (Canvas Press, 2015), which won the Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Award in 2012. His writing has appeared in many publications including Apex Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Philippines Graphic, Science Fiction World and QLRS, as well as anthologies like Best New Singapore Short Stories and Maximum Volume: Best New Philippine Fiction.

This year Read! Fest is anchored on the theme of Voyage. Book a trip with us and discover alternative forms of reading at Read! Fest 2019 programmes as we journey through space and time, only from 22 June – 28 July.

When and Where: Saturday 20 July 2019, 11:00 to 11:30 AM at the Imagination and Possibility Room, The National Library, 1000 Victoria Street, Singapore.

For more details, visit check out the NLB site here.

 

Writing Speculative Fiction at the Yale-NUS Writing Centre

Thank you to the INK: Literary Collective of the #Yale-NUS college for inviting me to lead a generative Speculative Fiction workshop last Sunday as part of the Words In Progress: Yale-NUS Manuscript Intensive Weekend 2019. I hope I was able to give all the participants a different perspective on fantastical fiction and how they could use its tropes and techniques to put a new spin on their writing.

The day before that (Saturday) I had joined Singapore Literature Prize Winner Melissa De Silva in doing a critical review of two of the manuscripts submitted to INK.  All in all it was a weekend well spent at the Yale-NUS Writing Centre.

Chicken Rice and Adobo: A Reading and Panel Discussion

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.

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