SWF 2016 Post-Mortem, LONTAR-style


The 2016 edition of the Singapore Writers Festival wrapped up last night, and it was once again a successful and energising event. If one complaint could be had, it was that there was so much to do and see that you simply couldn’t attend every panel or reading or activity you wanted to unless you split yourself four ways (which we wouldn’t recommend).

As mentioned in the previous blog post, LONTAR was featured quite prominently in two events:


L to R: Yong Shu Hoong (QLRS), Jason Erik Lundberg (LONTAR), Clara Chow (We Are a Website), Cyril Wong (SOFTBLOW, moderator)
photo by Aaron Lee, used with permission

The Role of Literary Journals

A fascinating discussion between four editors of four different literary magazines, told to a packed audience. Cyril very ably moderated the wide-ranging discussion, about the motivations for us starting our journals, the advantages and disadvantages of publishing online vs in print, the types of pieces we are most likely to accept, and self-publishing vs having a publisher. Shu Hoong is the essays editor at QLRS rather than its founder, but he still offered insight into what makes such a respected journal tick. Clara’s story about the generation of the name for We Are a Website was hilarious. And Cyril’s comment that he established SOFTBLOW as a way to feel less alone was beautifully poignant.

All four of us did an excellent job emphasising the importance of literary journals (especially in these days of waning empathy), and hopefully generated interest in submitting to all four of them.


L to R: Eka Kurniawan, Ng Yi-Sheng, JY Yang, Jason Erik Lundberg (moderator)
photo by Myra Garces-Bacsal, used with permission

The Rise of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction

The three panelists, all published in Issue #6 (among others), did a fantastic job talking about how Southeast Asian speculative fiction in English has become an increasingly important force in publishing, both locally and internationally. Eka’s story about being published first by friends and then larger publishers in Indonesia, and then translated into English and distributed worldwide (which he expanded on in his meet-the-author session the following day) was a unique look into his writing journey. Yi-Sheng presented a brief powerpoint presentation on more notable SEA SF works, and made the observation that some of the most well-known SEA writers are not actually writing about SEA in their novels (eg. Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown). JY brought up the problematic postcolonial nature of writing in the language of a nation’s former occupier, and the fact that she’s much more known in speculative fiction circles outside of Singapore.

I’d originally planned to have all three panelists read from their work, but the discussion itself was so fascinating that we continued in that manner instead. However, you can read their fiction in the pages of LONTAR and many other places just a google search away. Observations were made by audience members both during the panel and afterward that it would have been good to have a Filipino writer also on the panel, since speculative fiction is such a vibrant genre in the Philippines, and I couldn’t agree more.

This standing-room only event was the big one for us; it turned out to be so popular that even Festival Director Yeow Kai Chai wasn’t able to get a seat! This was incredibly gratifying after fears that only a handful of people would show up, and I’m very thankful to everyone who packed that room to beyond capacity. I made sure to mention our Patreon at the end of the hour, and I hope that we intrigued folks enough to both give our journal a chance and pique interest in other regional writers doing such incredible work.


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