“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.

Where Her Shawl Ends And Her Cat Begins

Deven Philbrick, a writer, essayist and prose editor for the Seattle Review covers “The Infinite Library And Other Stories” for Singapore Unbound:

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. ”

I am so honored and thrilled to get this killer review. I was both stunned and humbled after reading it. You can read the whole review here: Where Her Shawl Ends And Her Cat Begins (which is a line from The Old Blue Notebook, a story which first appeared in Daily Science Fiction).

Thank you to Deven and to Singapore Unbound editor Jee Leong Koh!

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