Author Archives: Jason Erik Lundberg

About Jason Erik Lundberg

Author, editor, anthologist, sushi lover: Strange Mammals, Red Dot Irreal, BNSSS, Fish Eats Lion, Bo Bo and Cha Cha, etc. Founding Editor of LONTAR.

Behind the Scenes of Kate Osias’s “Departures”

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From issue #1, Kate Osias provides a behind-the-scenes look of her story “Departures”:

The original concept for this story was to write it from the perspective of Enzo. Unfortunately, after a thousand words in, I realized that the story was much larger than I had originally thought. Which meant I would have to commit far more than I could afford. (Because of certain practical realities, I have a day job; also, I have a five-year-old who likes to explain to me why he likes Nightwing over Batman and how he absolutely needs a cape now and why I should listen to him hum the Angry Birds tune every time he feels like it.) I decided to scrap that monster of a story and turned my attention to Carla, who, thank goodness, had a self-contained journey.

One of the short stories I’ve been toying with recently (but have not actually written) is Natalie’s point of view. In my mind—as most stories are, I suppose, when they are first conceived—it is a beautiful depiction of love and growing up and how the world moves on as a contrast to a place that doesn’t. But the words have yet to obediently find themselves on paper so all I have are visions. Perhaps someday, when I myself have grown up, I will have enough craft and skill to actually write down.

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Behind the Scenes of Ang Si Min’s “The Immortal Pharmacist”

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From issue #1, Ang Si Min provides a behind-the-scenes look of her poem “The Immortal Pharmacist”:

My friend, Hemma, and I were in Penang for a holiday. One night, she asked me to tell her a story. So in the dark, I spun a yarn about the rabbit on the moon wanting a mate. The yarn got terribly tangled and bizarre, but it stayed wrapped around my brain. When I came back, this little poem unravelled from that yarn. I’m going to keep the rest of it to myself – it was really a story for the nighttime, not for print. 😉

Conversations With Jason Erik Lundberg at the BooksActually Blog

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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.

LONTAR #1 Now Available!

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LONTAR #1LONTAR #1 is out at last!

I want to thank my contributors—Kate Osias, Zen Cho, Paolo Chikiamco, Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, Bryan Thao Worra, Elka Ray Nguyen and Paolo Bacigalupi—for being part of the inaugural issue of what I consider a very important literary endeavor; without their amazing writing, there simply would be no journal.

I also need to thank Kristine Ong Muslim for her keen poetic eye, and for being a wonderful sounding board during this entire process. In addition, thanks to Kenny, Renée, Jocelyn, and everyone at Math Paper Press for believing in the journal enough to help me bring it into being, and to Sarah & Schooling for making it such an unbelievably gorgeous physical product.

I am working to get the ebook bundle (PDF/ePub/Mobi) done by the end of the month, but it may be sometime in October before it’s ready.

We will be having a launch in mid-October at BooksActually; details coming soon.

If you’re in Singapore, you can pick up LONTAR at BooksActually; if you’re outside of Singapore, please buy it at the BooksActually Web Store.

Onward! To issue #2!

Issue #1 Table of Contents

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Since submissions were opened in June, I’ve been gratified at the interest LONTAR has received thus far, and am very happy to announce that the first issue is “in the can”. It will be released in March May 2013 by Math Paper Press; we had hoped to launch it by November 2012, but financial and editorial issues led to the slight delay.

This premiere issue of LONTAR showcases speculative writing from and about the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos, and Vietnam. Showcased are a post-apocalyptic Manila from Kate Osias, a utopian Kuala Lumpur from Zen Cho, a haunting military excursion down the Yellow River from Elka Ray Nguyen, and a reprinted novelette about a young Laotian journalist’s place in the sensationalist future of news reporting from award-winner Paolo Bacigalupi; speculative poetry from Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, and Bryan Thao Worra; and an unusual exploration of Philippine magic systems from Paolo Chikiamco.

I can’t wait to show it to you all.

Issue #1 Contents
01. Etching the Lontar | Jason Erik Lundberg (Editorial)
02. Departures | Kate Osias (Fiction)
03. Love in the Time of Utopia | Zen Cho (Fiction)
04. Philippine Magic: A Course Catalogue | Paolo Chikiamco (Non-Fiction)
05. Jayawarman 9th Remembers the Dragon Archipelago | Chris Mooney-Singh (Poetry)
06. The Immortal Pharmacist | Ang Si Min (Poetry)
07. Stainless Steel Nak | Bryan Thao Worra (Poetry)
08. The Yellow River | Elka Ray Nguyen (Fiction)
09. The Gambler | Paolo Bacigalupi (Fiction Reprint)

Please note: we’re now looking for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and sequential art for issue #2; our submissions work on a rolling basis, so we will consider them all year long. If you think you might have a piece that would fit our journal, submit that sucker to us!

Renewed Call For Sequential Art

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We’ve been getting a lot of submissions in for LONTAR, which I’m very happy to report. However, I would like to renew the call for sequential art. Singapore and the Philippines in particular boast healthy communities of comic book writers and artists, and we would love to see black-and-white contributions from all over Southeast Asia. Take a look at Sonny Liew’s Malinky Robot and some of the more fantastical stories in the two Liquid City anthologies for an idea of what I’d like to see.

Here’s one example, from “Memory” by Drewscape, published in Liquid City Vol. 2:

Invasion Preview

LONTAR Now Open For Submissions!

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LONTAR is now open for submissions!

Do please read the submission guidelines carefully at the Submittable portal, and be sure to send your very best work. There is no deadline, since we will look at submissions on a rolling basis. Be sure to give us 90 days to consider your work before querying us.

We’re hoping to launch the inaugural issue in November at the Singapore Writers Festival, so if you want your piece to be considered for our very first issue, make sure to submit it by mid-July; any later than that, and we can’t guarantee inclusion in Issue #1, even if we accept your piece.

LONTAR is a literary journal of Southeast Asian speculative fiction in English, published and distributed by Math Paper Press in Singapore.

Why “Lontar”?

Lontar“Lontar” is the Bahasa Indonesia word for a bound palm-leaf manuscript. Palm-leaf manuscripts are among the oldest forms of written media, dating as far back as the fifth century BCE and possibly earlier. They were used to record Buddhist sutras, law texts, epic mythic narratives, and treatises on a host of subjects such as astronomy, astrology, architecture, law, medicine, and music. The palm leaves were bleached of their chlorophyll, dried, trimmed, flattened, and polished smooth. Characters or images were scratched on the surface with a sharp metallic stylus and filled in with a dark pigment to enhance the contrast and legibility of the script. In order to construct the leaves into a book, holes were drilled in both sides, and the stack was bound together with cord or string.

This ancient form of writing is the perfect inspiration for the collation and curation of Southeast Asian speculative fiction. It is an early technology that revolutionized the dissemination of knowledge (it no longer had to be handed down exclusively in oral form), and it was used predominantly in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia. In addition, lontar were used as a vehicle for both epic and more mundane narratives, as well as an early form of graphic literature (classifications for the different types of lontar can be found at Wonderful Bali).

Why Southeast Asian SF?

Southeast Asia is a region that has thus far been under-represented in the more traditionally Western field of speculative fiction. Part of the reason for this in the past has been the language barrier, but this is no longer the case; with English as the lingua franca the world over, more and more people in Southeast Asia know the language fluently. And while publications such as The Apex Book of World SF and Expanded Horizons have created friendly venues for SEA writers in English, the support is largely not there for speculative writing in their own countries, because it may be deemed “frivolous” or “not pragmatic enough.”

It is true that Western writers such as Paolo Bacigalupi and Geoff Ryman have shone a speculative light on SEA countries such as Thailand (The Windup Girl) and Cambodia (The King’s Last Song), but we can go even further to promote the genre and the region. LONTAR is engaged with publishing speculative fiction, non-fiction articles, poetry, and sequential art from both SEA and non-SEA writers, in order to spread awareness of this literature to readers who might not normally be exposed to it, and to celebrate its existence and diversity within the region.