As part of the release of LONTAR #1, I’ve been interviewed at the BooksActually blog:
CONVERSATIONS WITH :
Jason Erik Lundberg
Jason Erik Lundberg was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Singapore since 2007. He is the author of nearly a dozen books, including the new collection Strange Mammals; he is also the series editor of The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories, editor of Fish Eats Lion (2012), and co-editor of A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008) and Scattered, Covered, Smothered (2004).
Q: What was the inspiration behind Lontar?
LONTAR continues a project begun with my collection Red Dot Irreal (2011) and continued with my edited anthology Fish Eats Lion (2012), both also published by Math Paper Press: to increase awareness and celebrate the creation of the speculative fiction being written in [and about] Southeast Asia in English. On the world stage of speculative fiction, Southeast Asia is still largely underrepresented, both as a setting, and in terms of writers in the region. LONTAR is my attempt to shine a spotlight and bring more attention to this type of writing, and to do it in a regular periodic fashion.
Q: Why speculative fiction and what do you hope to do with that?
SF is my chosen genre, and is the only method of prose writing that allows for the literalization of metaphor in order to go beyond mere facts and examine issues at the level of truth. The fantastical tradition is the oldest storytelling convention there is, way on back to myth-making and god-creation used to explain the world, and it is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.
Q: What can we expect from following issues of Lontar?
Issue #2 contains stories that take place in the DMZ between North and South Korea, in the elevated educational society of a far-future Singapore, at a magical floating market accessible only from a village river in Vietnam, and in a mansion apartment in New York City gained by a homicidal monk and a Bangkok madam. Plus an all-Singapore contingent of poets exploring aspects of the strange in verse. Our authors will include emerging writers, a winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, and a bestselling British crime novelist.
Q: As an American living in Singapore, and as the literary fiction editor at Epigram Books, what are some of the key themes you have observed in Singapore writing which differs from American publications?
I’m not sure that it necessarily differs from American writing, but one trend I’ve seen in recent years in Singaporean prose writing is the focus on loss. As a country, Singapore continues to do well in terms of economic stability and providing a fairly comfortable existence for many of the people living and working here, but in exchange, the cost seems to have been something profound, something deep in the collective soul of the nation. There is a melancholy tone that pervades much Singaporean fiction right now, a period of recovery from that lost thing, a time of healing and reflection.
Q: What next? What can we expect to see from you in the near future?
My Babette’s Feast chapbook, Embracing the Strange, should be out sometime later in September from Math Paper Press. In October, my new collection, Strange Mammals, will be out both in paperback and as an ebook from my UK publisher, Infinity Plus Books; ∞+ is also releasing The Alchemy of Happiness and the expanded edition of Red Dot Irreal in paperback editions, after publishing them last year as ebooks. And at the Singapore Writers Festival, I’ll be launching my new anthology, The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One, as well as two other books that I edited for Epigram Books—Cyril Wong’s first novel, The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza, and Amanda Lee Koe’s debut collection, Ministry of Moral Panic.
I’m currently at work desperately trying to finish revising my novel, A Fickle and Restless Weapon, which takes place in a fictional alternate-universe version of Singapore. If you want to get a more regular dose of my fiction, I have pieces accepted for the first twelve issues of the Math Paper Press journal of flash fiction, Twenty-Four Flavours, and have made it a goal to write stories for the remaining twelve. Just recently, I received a 2013 Creation Grant from the National Arts Council to write a steampunk novella, The Diary of a Man Who Disappeared, which shares the world of my novel, and which I’ll start writing next year.