LONTAR Volume 10: Saying Goodbye To A Southeast Asian Institution

The first volume of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction came out in 2013. Named after “Lontar” (“Rontal” in Filipino), an Indonesian word for a bound palm-leaf manuscript from the fifth century BCE , it was meant to showcase Speculative Fiction writing in its myriad forms from all across Southeast Asia.

I was too late to contribute to its maiden issue, but my story “Entanglement” appeared in Volume 2. Two further works “Brother to Space, Sister to Time” and “Father is the Blood, Mother is the Wine” appeared in Volumes 6 and 9 respectively. Both ended up as the cover stories.

It’s really sad to see LONTAR go. There really isn’t any publication of it’s scope and breadth focused exclusively on Southeast Asia anywhere in the world.

It’s tenth and final issue is double-sized wonder featuring work by Dean Alfar, Vida Cruz, Drewscape,  Joses Ho, Patricia Karuningan, Gabriela Lee, Manish Melwani, Wayne Ree, Lakan Umali, Eliza Victoria, Topaz Winters, Cyril Wong, Kevin Martens Wong, and many others. Founding Editor Jason Erik Lundberg wanted to include the artwork made by award-winning artist Sonny Liew for the my book The Infinite Library and Other Stories.  I wrote a flash fiction piece called “To See Infinity In The Pages Of A Book” to accompany it.

Thank you to Jason, Poetry Editor Kristine Ong Muslim, Comics Editor Adan Jimenez, and publishers Epigram and Math Paper Press (Volumes 1 and 2) for all the hard work.

Let’s hope it won’t be too long before another publication picks up LONTAR’s legacy.



An Excerpt from “Entanglement” in the second issue of LONTAR

Here’s a short excerpt from my story of a tainted, post-singularity love affair between an American-born Chinese kid and a Filipino-Singaporean ghost. It appears in the second volume of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (Edited by Jason Erik Lundberg and Kristin Ong Muslim for Poetry).


My inspiration for this strange little tale was  (indirectly) a 1944 movie by George Cukor called “Gaslight“, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Joseph Cotten. The film was the basis for the term “gas-lighting”, a type of mental abuse where false information is given with the intent of making a victim doubt their memory, perception, or sanity.

“Entanglement” is set in the same universe as “Big Enough for the Entire Universe”  and takes place a decade or so after a great technological disaster befalls Singapore.


“Did you just transfer recently? I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed you before,” I said carefully, trying not to be distracted by your ethereal form and your beautifully endless eyes.  “I’m an American-born Chinese myself. I thought I knew all the Asian kids at school. Dang, I would’ve definitely noticed a fresh freshasaurus like you.”

“Do you like cats?”

“Err… yeah I love cats. I have one at home. Why?”  I was amused by your attempt at misdirection.

“Cats dislike change without their consent. I think we end when I follow a cat.”

“So did you have a cat where you’re from, umm… Singapore right? Are you Singaporean Chinese?”

“No, I am Filipino Chinese,” you said unexpectedly, confident of your mythology, “but born in Singapore, raised in Singapore too.”

“So does that make you Singaporean or Filipino?”

“Both and neither, does it matter? I am like Schrödinger’s cat.”

“Yeah, well in these parts your identity’s very important. I mean with the new Immigration laws and everything,” I said. “You are a gorgeous Chinese girl. You’re now American and living in America. Let’s fix on that before someone else is all over you.”

I am Filipino. I am Singaporean… I am confused,” you told me, as your inner light started to dim. When you looked into my eyes, I knew I had your soul dead to rights. We were now entangled.

“Just listen to my voice,” I repeated gently. Programming deep structures was about repetition, iteration; introjection. “You are a girl, a dang pretty one. You’re also an ABC like me.”

I… I am a… I am a gorgeous Chinese girl. I am an American in America.”

Truth to tell, I first thought you had Asperger’s or some weird mental wallering going on. To deal with your baggage, the remains of your mind, was challenging. Yeah, you were quite the cattywhompus, playing your shattered angel bit very, very well. I guess it was your way to firewall me, to resist me, a smoke screen to keep your pretense of identity.

Too bad for you, I knew you were a blank slate and I was El Hacedor, The Maker.


For the entire story, as well as other Southeast Asian speculative fiction by E.C. Myers, Tiffany Tsao, Jerrold Yam, Tse Hao Guang, Ang Si Min, Shelly Bryant, Daryl Yam, Eliza Chan and John Burdett,  please  check out the E-book at Weightless Books.

n.b. Lontar Issue #2 was mentioned recently by Boing Boing.