Thank you also to the Pushcart-nominated writer and 2020 Felipe P. De Alba Fellow, Jemma Wei for hosting the event ,and to the wonderful Monique Truong, winner of the 2004 PEN/Robert Bingham Award, and best selling author of The Book of Salt, Bitter in the Mouth, and The Sweetest Fruits for judging the entries to Singapore Unbound‘s first flash fiction contest (the prompt of which was the title of my book). Congratulations to all the winners:
First prize: “A Room with a Point of View,” by Masturah Alatas (Italy).
Second prize: “This Is a Nice Hotel,” by Olivia Djawoto (Singapore).
Third Prize: “Devotion,” by Shuchi (Singapore).
Honorable Mention: “How Fucky Am I To Be Loved,” by Aaric Tan Xiang Yeow (Singapore).
Lastly, thank you to all who submitted entries and to all those who spent their Saturday evening with us!
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.
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!
Support local bookstores this pandemic quarantine period. They are a treasure to local communities and they need your help more than ever.
Iconic Singapore bookshop Bookactually‘s physical store may be temporarily closed, but let’s continue to support them and their three crazy feline deities online.
Things are not looking very bright for the world right now. The daily cycle of bad news and the challenges of being locked away wear out both our bodies and souls. It is precisely at this time that we need to remember that books can offer a great degree of comfort through the welcome distraction of entertainment, and more importantly, through their accumulated knowledge and wisdom.
Moreover, they also offer hope through dark days. Hope that whatever problems facing us in life, there is a book somewhere that will help deal with it. Until the world reaches a new normal, let’s all ride out this difficult period with a book in hand (or two, or ten).
Copies of the first printing ran out shortly before the 2019 Singapore Writers Festival and the few paperbacks floating around were going for an astonishing USD$35 (SGD$49) each. I am happy to note that you can now buy a brand new copy at the BooksActuallyShop for much less, at only USD$13.35 (SGD$19). If you buy 3 other books, the three cats who run the store, Cake, Pico and Lemon (and their human assistant Kenny Leck) will provide free shipping in Singapore.
“Lovingly spun and told with a keen eye on familial relationships, as well as the inexorable desires of humankind, these stories signal that Ocampo may well be becoming the gold standard in South-east Asian speculative fiction.” – Clara Chow, book review in the Singapore Straits Times.
“Fundamentally, The Infinite Library and Other Stories is a book about possibility, limitation, and the boundary between them. In imagining alternative possibilities and stretching them to the point of snapping, Victor Fernando Ocampo engages in an act of profound political importance, aesthetic significance, and philosophical rigor that is a serious pleasure to ingest.” – Deven Philbrick, prose editor for the Seattle Review writing for Singapore Unbound
“The ideas that power this collection are not just incredibly imaginative, they also weave a hybrid crossing through magical realism, allegory and science fiction, that ‘synchronicity’ Ocampo mentions in one of his stories.” – Elaine Chew, interview at the Asian Books Blog
Speaking of KidLit, I have finished writing the text for my next illustrated children’s book, The Ocean Above Her. I am now in the process of finalizing the artwork before looking for a publisher. Here’s a sample illustration from Christian Oliver Cruz. This work was done with coffee stains, watercolour wash and ink.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
Fan art is always a wonderful thing. I got a major case of the feels after finding out recently that a Surabaya, Indonesia artist, Aldrich Hezekiah (known on Twitter and DeviantArt as KiaBUGboy) had created a comic book based on my story Blessed Are The Hungry (Apex Magazine Vol. 62, editor Sigrid Ellis). Aldrich is currently pursuing his studies in Digital Art in Singapore. You can see more of his work here.
Thank you so much!
It’s interesting how this story is virtually unknown and unread in the Philippines — despite having been translated into Chinese (by one of the translators for Game of Thrones no less) and read by over a million people. It had received great reviews from places as far away as the US, the UK and New Zealand, and has even been used as resource material by a both a High School literature class in Las Vegas, as well as one of the Clarion workshops.
I really need to get my collection published in Manila. But now that VisPrint is gone, does anyone have any suggestions?
“…what is most striking is that these stories form a continuum of the Filipino diaspora from history into a hopeful future, investigating how separation has affected its members, and how in turn they have affected their host communities. This creates a deep and lingering connection between all the stories in the collection, through aspects of religion, language, time, and literature.”
Literary journalist, architect and P.H.D. student Sandro Lau, writes a great review of two short story collections — my book The Infinite Library And Other Stories, and This Is How You Walk On The Moon, a collection of Speculative Fiction edited by Patricia Karunungan, Samuel Caleb Wee and Wong Wen Pu. You can read the review here.
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).
“Victor R. Ocampo, a Filipino living in Singapore, is a clever, skilled writer. His short stories are subtle and demanding, hovering in the space between literary fiction, experimental fiction and cyberpunk.”
“The distinction between literary and genre fiction has been the topic of much debate in recent years. How the distinction ought to be made and whether the distinction is ultimately useful at all are questions with which many people interested in contemporary fiction are deeply engaged. Although a consensus on the answers certainly does not exist, one significant result of the questions having been posed is a reluctance to dismiss universally so-called genre writers as peddlers of formulaic fictions designed for quick consumption and simple, mass appeal. Science-fiction, for example, is now more than ever taken seriously as literary art. Its potential for imagining alternative realities, for conceiving of other possibilities for organizing a world, makes it a genre with the capacity for profound philosophic investigation. Writers like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Thomas Disch, and Joanna Russ are increasingly accepted as towering figures of English-language letters. Victor Fernando Ocampo, author of The Infinite Library and Other Stories, has written a book that puts him among their rank.
Fundamentally, The Infinite Library and Other Stories is a book about possibility, limitation, and the boundary between them. In imagining alternative possibilities and stretching them to the point of snapping, Victor Fernando Ocampo engages in an act of profound political importance, aesthetic significance, and philosophical rigor that is a serious pleasure to ingest. ”