Future Currents: Philippines and Singapore

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who watched us last night! If you missed our panel you can still catch it on YouTube here.

This coming Sunday, the 29th of November, 2020, please join Eliza Victoria, Isabel Yap, Vida Cruz and I as we talk about Speculative Fiction from the Philippines and Singapore (okay, it’s essentially mostly me for the latter) at Future Currents: Philippines and Singapore.

4am: California/Pacific Standard Time (PST) | 6am: Mexico City | 9am: Brasilia | 1pm: Rome | 4pm: Dubai | 8pm: Singapore/Manila | 11 pm: Sydney (AEDT)

Language: English

Panelists:

Eliza Victoria (Philippines) – Eliza Victoria is the author of several books including the Philippine National Book Award-winning Dwellers (2014), the novel Wounded Little Gods (2016), the graphic novel After Lambana (2016, a collaboration with Mervin Malonzo), and the science fiction novel-in-stories, Nightfall (2018). Her fiction and poetry have appeared in several online and print publications, most recently in LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, The Best Asian Speculative Fiction, The Apex Book of World SF Volume 5, and Future SF Digest. Her work has won prizes in the Philippines’ top literary awards, including the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Her one-act plays (written in Filipino) have been staged at the Virgin LabFest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Isabel Yap (Philippines) – Isabel Yap writes fiction and poetry, works in the tech industry, and drinks tea. Born and raised in Manila, she has also lived in California and London. She holds a BS in Marketing from Santa Clara University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. In 2013 she attended the Clarion Writers Workshop, and since 2016 has served as Secretary for the Clarion Foundation. Her work has appeared in venues including Tor.com, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Herdebut short story collection will be published by Small Beer Press in 2021. She is@visyap on Twitter and her website ishttps://isabelyap.com.

Vida Cruz (Philippines) – Vida Cruz’s fiction has been published or is forthcoming from Strange Horizons, PodCastle, Expanded Horizons, and various anthologies, as well as been longlisted for the British Science Fiction Award. A Clarion graduate and a Tiptree/Otherwise Fellow, she is also a book editor with The Darling Axe.

She lives in Manila with her family and 10 memeable dogs.

Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Singapore/Philippines) – Victor Fernando R. Ocampo is the author of the International Rubery Book Award shortlisted 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 play-by-email interactive fiction piece “The Book of Red Shadows” debuted at the Singapore Writers Festival in 2020.

His writing has appeared in many publications including Apex Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Likhaan Journal, Strange Horizons, Philippines Graphic, Science Fiction World and The Quarterly Literature Review of Singapore, as well as anthologies like The Best New Singapore Short Stories, Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction, LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, Maximum Volume: Best New Philippine Fiction, and the Philippine Speculative Fiction series.

He is a fellow at the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference (UK) and a Jalan Besar writer-in-residence at Sing Lit Station (2020/2021).

Visit his blog at vrocampo.com or follow him on Twitter @VictorOcampo

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

Escape Reality Into Magical Worlds

A Google alert yesterday informed me that The Infinite Library and Other Stories was one of ten featured books in Olivia Ho’s Straits Times article “Escape Reality Into Magical Worlds“.

Unable to leave home due to circuit breaker measures or even set foot outside your room due to a home quarantine order? Escape your physical confines through the “uniquely portable magic” of books, as author Stephen King puts it. Here are 10 works of fiction that contain worlds within worlds for you to wander.

  1.  “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” (1950) by C.S. Lewis
  2.  “Neverwhere” (1996) by Neil Gaiman
  3.  “Sophia and the Utopia Machine” (2018) by Judith Huang
  4.  “His Dark Materials” (1995 to 2000) by Philip Pullman
  5.  “Howl’s Moving Castle” (1986) by Diana Wynne Jones
  6.  “The Star-Touched Queen” (2016) by Roshani Chokshi
  7. “The Night Circus” (2011) by Erin Morgenstern
  8.  “The Eyre Affair” (2001) by Jasper Fforde
  9.  “The Infinite Library and Other Stories” (2017, Math Paper Press) by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
  10.  “Neverending Story (1979, translated 1983) by Michael Ende (translated by Ralph Manheim)

Happy to be in such distinguished company. Thank you for including my book!

Math Paper Press recently ran a second printing and you can now get a copy again at Kinokuniya, localbooks.sg and BooksActually.

Between 11 to 13 May, 2020 there will be a sale of all Math Paper Press Titles at BooksActuallyshop.com.  Use the code MPP40 when you shop at the online store to get a 40% discount. They deliver internationally.

ST-books-13May2020 paper

n.b. Thank you also to Jason Erik Lundberg for the PDF scan above.


THE INFINITE LIBRARY AND OTHER STORIES (2017, Math Paper Press)
Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

cropped-infinite-library_cover-final-2017-09-12.jpg

This fantastical collection of 17 stories alludes to Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges’s idea of an infinite library that contains every book that could possibly be written.
The stories flit from world to world – from an enigmatic map shop to an uprising on a spaceship and to a Bukit Batok housing block where the inhabitants are being slowly but relentlessly transformed into living mathematical equations.

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! 

The Great KidLit Showcase and an update on my second children’s book

A belated thank you to author and tireless promoter of Children’s literature Don Bosco for including me in his Great KidLit Showcase.

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 m d 1 in 10 in Big Echo no.13

Its funny how after you write a story, it’s actually hard to tell whether it will end up in the bin or if it will have publishing legs. Despite taking me close to a year to write, I was so sure my experimental Leetspeak/SMS/Jejemon story I M D 1 In 10 would never find a home because of its challenging use of language. To my surprise, it was picked up first by The Future Fire (July 2014) and then by the anthology Best Singapore Short Stories (2015). Happy to announce that I seem to have completed a hat trick with Big Echo (an online magazine featuring critical Science Fiction stories) featuring it in their 13th issue (devoted to avante-guard Science Fiction works). Thank you to Robert Penner and editor William Squirrell for including it.

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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Singapore’s Centre for Strategic Futures Recommends The Infinite Library

I was surprised to learn that my book, The Infinite Library And Other Stories, was recently featured by the Centre for Strategic Futures on their Recommended Reads site on LinkedIn. The CSF is a think tank under the office of the Prime Minister of Singapore. Thank you so much to Ms Liana Tang, Deputy Head of CSF for her wonderful review!

Infinite CSF Reco

Sandro Lau reviews The Infinite Library And Other Stories & This Is How You Walk on the Moon for the Asian Cha Journal

…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.”
infinite walk on the moon

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.

“The Infinite Library And Other Stories”: A “My Book Of The Year” Selection

Singapore Unbound

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).

You can read the rest of SP Blog’s 5th Annual Books Round-up here.