Readers, Writers & Unexpected SWF Press Coverage

I missed the opening and a couple of key events that I had wanted to attend, but overall this year’s Singapore Writers Festival went well. I was part of three excellent panels and was able to meet so many readers, fellow writers and friends. I finally got to meet the amazing Ted Chiang and Bryan Thao Worra in person. I also got to have dinner with Eliza Victoria and her significant other, Jaykie Lazarte, after such an interminably long time.

Because of an unexpected family emergency, I had to fly to Manila and unfortunately missed my first panel on November 5, If You Can Believe It: Flash Fiction Flash Mob. Here’s the piece I would have read if I had been there:

You dress for success and head towards your job supervising maintenance robots at Raffles Place. Unfortunately, your industry-competitive paycheck isn’t enough to cover your bills, your mother’s mounting medical expenses, and pay off the loan you needed to get to this land of mythical plenty.

You cling to your dreams but belief is expensive. On the MRT ride you feel dark thoughts welling up inside you – do you really need both your kidneys? So what if you sold one lung, or your unique heartbeat pattern? Ovaries? You never really wanted kids anyway.

Thankfully, I made it back in time for my next panel Just The World I’m Looking For: The Multiverse and Fiction on November 12, which was with Meihan Boey, Nuraliah Norasid, myself and our always-excellent moderator, Jason Erik Lundberg. We talked about hos using the concept of the multiverse was a great tool for elucidating possibilities regardless of the genre you were writing (although one person in the audience was mildly disappointed that we didn’t dwell on comic book multiverses). This was followed by a book signing, where I was informed by Closet Full of Books that all copies of The Infinite Library and Other Stories had sold out.

I met up with award-winning US-based Lao poet Bryan Thao Worra for lunch on Saturday, 12 November. We had been corresponding for a few years but this was the first time we met IRL. Bryan has served as the president of the International Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and is the author of over 8 books of poetry. We talked shop for about two hours (and had some ice kacang) before parting to prepare for our panel that evening.

I subbed as moderator for the panel A Southeast Asian Map for the Science Fiction Future at the The Arts House as unfortunately, Spec Fic writer Joyce Chng had become ill.

This was the first time I had moderated a panel with both IRL and virtual participants. Malaysian author and game writer, Cassandra Khaw, was Zooming from New York. Bryan and fellow Filipino Spec Fic writer Eliza Victoria were at the Play Den. Despite our 8:30pm timeslot, we had a full house. We talked about whether we could properly define a “Southeast Asian Science Fiction”, what were the commonalities and differences across the region and how writers could keep their fictional landscapes distinctly and believably Southeast Asian without falling into tired tropes or stereotypes.

Interestingly, a mini-rant I made about how the reading public in Singapore was the best market for poetry in Southeast Asia landed me a mention in a Poetry(!) article about the SWF2022 in the Straits Times (Singapore Writers Festival: Poetry now reigns supreme in Singapore, say panellists). Despite being slightly misquoted, I am very happy for the free publicity for me, our panelists, and SEA Speculative Fiction in general (BTW what I actually said was “It used to be that anything that had a ghost or spaceship, no matter how well written it is, is was considered junk,” and the last sentence was “That depends on the intention of the writer”). Thank you to ST reporter Clement Yong!

Also this amusing coincidence — on exact the same day I got 4 paragraphs from the Straits Times, an article in the Manila Bulletin didn’t include me in the complete list of Filipino writers at #sff2022. I guess I am not Filipino enough (or perhaps I am just too obscure for Pinoy readers)?

Later in the evening, I had dinner with Eliza and Jaykie. Unfortunately, we failed to take an acceptable picture. In the picture above, Eliza is holding her graphic novel, After Lambana, which I kept pestering her for a sequel.

The next day, 20 November, I was part of literarily the very last panel of the festival, (Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before where I found myself with poets Christine Chia, David Wong Hsien Ming and Theophilus Kwek, who was our esteemed and very loquacious moderator. We talked about the concept of originality, retakes and retellings, as well as generative fiction. Again, it was a well-attended event despite the late hour (and being scheduled against Cyril Wong’s reading of “If This Is the End… What Else Is There?”).

On last thing, despite a late start, I had managed to make it back to Singapore in time for dinner with one of my writing heroes, the amazing Ted Chiang, as well as his wonderful wife Marcia and Epigram’s indefatigable editor, Jason Erik Lundberg. We all actually got to meet up again for lunch the following weekend, this time with my wife Patricia and Jason’s daughter, Anya.

Btw, apart from talking about writing, screenplay adaptations and his stories, did I mention that we also talked about Filipino food? Ted is apparently not a fan of banana ketchup (see below).

I am looking forward to next year’s edition of SWF. Thank you to the organizers, especially Pooja Nansi, the NAC, SBC, The Arts House and festival bookstore Closet Full of Books for making all of this possible.

Thank you also to all the readers who came. You give us writers and our work meaning.

My Panels at SWF 2022

The Singapore Writers Festival for 2022 is nearly here. It’s great that in-person events are back, after a hiatus of two years. I can’t wait to see everyone again.

Actually, I am not doing many events this year, but I am very happy to be part of the following panels:

Just The World I’m Looking For: The Multiverse and Fiction
12 Nov Sat, 6.30pm – 7.30pm at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium
With Meihan Boey, Nuraliah Norasid & myself; Moderator Jason Erik Lundberg

The age-old struggle between fate and chance. The dreams and fantasies we cling to as testaments to all the versions of ourselves we could have been. We’re familiar with multiverse theory in science (and Doctor Strange), but does it hold any weight in fiction about the everyday, and do we need it? Four authors discuss the logic of creating alternate timelines, the recent interest in multiverse theory among fiction writers, and whether the multiverse provides us with answers about all the “what ifs” in our lives. This is your road not taken.

A Southeast Asian Map for the Science Fiction Future
19 Nov Sat, 7.30pm – 8.30pm at the at the The Arts House, Play Den
With Cassandra Khaw, Bryan Thao Worra & Eliza Victoria; Moderator: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (subbing for Joyce Chng)

Do flying cars and androids alone make for a convincing sci-fi Southeast Asian world? As science-fiction writing continues to break new imaginative grounds, we talk to these writers from the region about how they keep their fictional landscapes distinctly and believably Southeast Asian without falling into tired tropes, stereotypes, loopholes, and paradoxes.

This programme is made possible with the support of the U.S. Embassy Singapore and co-presented with the Singapore Book Council.

(Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
This programme has been rescheduled to 20 Nov, 7pm – 8pm at the The Arts House, Play Den
With Christine Chia, David Wong Hsien Ming & myself; Moderator: Theophilus Kwek

Has this been said before? Well, we’ll say it again: it might finally be time to abandon the search for originality. What is it about the big ‘O’ that has paralyzed and haunted generations of writers seeking the next great unsaid? We’re busting this myth apart in pursuit of more generative ways of creating.

If you haven’t picked up your festival pass yet, now’s a good time to do so. I’m looking forward to the SFF opening this Friday night (4 November). See you all soon!

Maureen K Speller, RIP

I am very much saddened to hear about the death of Maureen K Speller. She was a fantastic editor and critical beta reader who helped me with my stories “Blessed are the Hungry” and “Dyschronometria, or The Bells are Always Screaming”. My deepest condolences to her family.

Maureen Kincaid Speller was a critic and reviewer. She was Senior Reviews Editor at Strange Horizons, and Assistant Editor of Foundation: the International Review of Science Fiction. She also reviewed for Interzone and Vector. She was a former Arthur C. Clarke Award judge, and a former James Tiptree Jr. Award judge.

Novel Writing Workshop at Yale-NUS

Thank you once again to poet Lawrence Ypil and the Yale-NUS Writing Centre for inviting me and Meihan Boey (co-winner of the 2021 Epigram Books Fiction Prize for The Formidable Miss Cassidy, and the author of a science fiction novella, The Messiah Virus) to conduct a novel writing workshop with selected literature students.

This is the third such workshop I have done and I always find it such a rare pleasure to read the first manuscripts of new writers.

Joint Letter About BooksActually from Math Paper Press Authors

All my thoughts are already articulated in this statement I have co-signed. There is absolutely no place for sexual harassment or exploitation in Singapore’s literary community or anywhere else.

As members of the literary community, we were angry and disheartened to read about the accounts of past employees at BooksActually. We do not condone any behaviour that is non-consensual or exploitative in any way. We acknowledge their hurt, and honour the courage of these people for speaking up. The bookstore has provided space for a diversity of writers for more than a decade. As authors who have been published by Math Paper Press, the publishing arm of BooksActually, we acknowledge the contributions that BooksActually has made to our literary scene.  Nonetheless, we believe that any wrong must be righted and perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions. We also acknowledge that our writing community should do better, and that scarce resources should never be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour. We commit to creating a transparent and safe community where no one should have to suffer in silence; we’ll actively work to welcome all into the conversation.

We urge BooksActually and its present owner, Kenny Leck, to account for past mistakes and work on guaranteeing a safe and healthy environment for its employees. We welcome the decision to transfer Kenny’s ownership of the bookstore to the team, and await to see how the transfer of ownership will transpire within the bookstore. If BooksActually wishes to receive the support of our writing environment, we need them to fulfil their promises of outlining and enforcing better procedures and policies, including an anti-harassment policy.

We hope that BooksActually emerges from this controversy and becomes a bookstore we can depend on and love.

Signed:

Alfian Sa’at
Ally Chua
Amanda Chong
Ang Shuang
Ann Ang
Ashley Ho
Audrey Chin
Christine Chia
Cyril Wong
Daryl Qilin Yam
David Wong
Felix Cheong
Jee Leong Koh
Jennifer Anne Champion
Jerrold Yam
Jon Gresham
Krishna Udayasankar
Loh Guan Liang
Mahita Vas
Mani Rao
Marc Nair
Meihan Boey
Ng Yi-Sheng
Nurul Amillin Hussain
O Thiam Chin
Qamar Firdaus Saini
Rodrigo Dela Peña Jr.
Sanjay C Kuttan
Shelly Bryant
Stephanie Chan
Tania De Rozario
Topaz Winters
Verena Tay
Victor Fernando R. Ocampo

On behalf of themselves and 6 other MPP authors.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=110865048023181&id=110848271358192

RIP, Daniel Palma Tayona

Very sad to learn that Daniel Palma Tayona has passed away. He was a wonderful book artist, graphic designer, storyteller-illustrator (with several exhibits under his belt). As creative director of CANVAS press, Dan designed and illustrated children’s books for over 22 years. Notable among the books he designed was “Doll Eyes” (by Eline Santos, illustrated by Joy Mallari), which won The National Children’s Book Award in 2012.

That same year “Here Be Dragons” won the Romeo Forbes award and Dan was responsible for the very beautiful layout, “remixing” my English text, Rhandee Garlitos‘ Filipino translation, and Jon Jaylo‘s paintings.

My wife and I would like to offer his family and friends our deepest condolences. Rest in peace, my friend.

Dan HBD

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! 

Best New Singapore Short Stories Volume 4

Very happy to announce that my story “As If We Could Dream Forever” is part of this year’s Best New Singapore Short Stories anthology, edited by the amazing Pooja Nansi (founding editor Jason Erik Lundberg, published by Epigram Books). Set 150 years in the future, this piece deals with the concept of Free Will and using humans as receptacles for AI automation,  teenage angst, and extending National Service to young women. It originally appeared in Volume 17 of the Quarterly Literature Review of Singapore.

If you are in Singapore tomorrow, please come to the launch of BNSS Vol. 4 at the 2019 Singapore Writers Festival. The event will be moderated by award-winning poet and author Cy Rai, editors Pooja Nansi and Jason Erik Lundberg will also engage in conversation with writers like Shreya Acharya, Nidhi Arora any myself about the ingredients that make up a remarkable Singaporean story.

Deets: 9 Nov, Sat 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM at the Arts House Living Room

While you are there please drop by my other events and say hello.

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

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?

ipaddownload
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.