gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

A Voice In The Dark?

As I am typing this, I have just read amazing news that two Singapore women writers have their stories featured in Steampunk Revolution, edited by Ann Vandermeer. It seems that 2012 is a year when Singapore genre fiction is finally taking off with international recognition.

It was not always that peachy-keen.

Singapore genre fiction is not that well-received by its locals. Go to any bookstore and you will find a plethora of local horror, recipes, self-help (or get-rich-quick) manuals and poetry. No science fiction or fantasy written by women or men. Of course, local readers lap up urban fantasy novels written by Western women and men – but for home-grown science fiction and fantasy, no.

Singapore SFF writers are finding ways to have their fiction published. We have Dave Chua and Anders Brink – published by small independent presses who are willing to showcase local science fiction. We have the Budding Writers' League highlighting young talent. There are many writers putting their stories out there on Smashwords, Lulu and Amazon.

Yet, my focus of this blog post is on Singapore women SFF writers and to give them a voice. They are present. They are here. And yes, they are writing SFF.

You see, Singapore women SFF writers occupy an odd place. They are overlooked in the general SFF community. Southeast Asian SFF? Never heard of that. They are so rare (not) that they are like unicorns and pegasi in some mystical and mythical forest. When I started writing, I thought I was the only one. The only woman SFF writer in Singapore. It felt lonely. And trust me, I started to look for my kind as fast as I could.

I was inspired by this Singapore gem Star Sapphire. Guess what, it was written by a woman. Her nom de plume was Han May. Wow. A Singapore woman writing science fiction! I was excited. Mind you, I was only in my tweens then and about to embark on my own writing journey. As I grew up, it occurred to me that writing itself seemed foreign and distasteful to Singaporeans. Not practical. Doesn't earn money. Singaporeans are pragmatic. Writing was frivolous. My mom was dead set against me writing. She even tore up my stories in a fit of rage. I never forgave her for that.

So, I flew over to Australia for my further studies. Started writing for real there. Published my story in a non-defunct anthromorphic zine. Wrote poetry and more science fiction. It felt good. It felt very good. When I returned back to Singapore, I wanted to find people like me. However, life intervened. I had to find a job (duh, this is Singapore we are talking about!), I got married and gave birth to my first girl. Writing languished in the face of reality. My breakthrough came when I was pregnant with my second girl. I was flooded with this urge to write. I wrote and wrote.

Wolf At The Door came out of that wild exhilarating ride. Urban fantasy set in Singapore with the main protagonist being a Chinese female wolf with children. The novel was rejected initially, because it won't sell. I sent it to more publishers and Lyrical Press picked it up. Wolf At The Door was later followed by Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye. In between this intense phase, I had stories in Bards and Sages Quarterly, M-Brane SF, Semaphore Magazine, Every Day Fiction and Crossed Genres. I wrote science fiction, steampunk and things in between.

At the same time, I got to know a group of fantastic women writers: Joelyn Alexandra, Sarah Coldheart, Mint Kang, Viki Chua and June Yang. They write genre fiction. Oh my Goddess, I am no longer alone! Through Nanowrimo, I could see that there are many young women writers out there. And oh mine, they are vocal, they are creative and they have a voice to be heard.

Mind you, The Steampowered Globe, a steampunk anthology, was featured on i09 and by Jess Nevins. Suddenly, Singaporean SFF is out there, loud and clear.

I could go on and on about Singaporean SFF women writers. What I am going to do now is to list the number of publications with and by Singaporean SFF women writers.

Two Trees Press
The Steampowered Globe
Happiness At The End Of The World

In these books, we have June Yang, Joelyn Alexandra, Viki Chua, Sarah Coldheart, Mint Kang and Leow Hui Min Annabeth. Their stories range from steampunk to science fiction.

The Apex Book of World SF II (edited by Lavie Tidhar)
My story “The Sound of Breaking Glass” is in it.

Steampunk Revolution (edited by Ann Vandermeer)
“Ascencion” by Leow Hui Min Annabeth
“Captain Bells & the Sovereign State of Discordia” by J.Y. Yang (aka June Yang)

Lyrical Press
Wolf At The Door
Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye

My urban fantasy novels are under my pseud J. Damask.


So, there you have it, a rather rambling blog post on Singaporean women SFF Writers. I am sure I missed out a few writers – for that I apologize!

My hope now is to see Singaporean SFF itself take off with more recognition and attention on Singaporean women writers. I am crossing my fingers!

Psst, by the way, June and I are editing this great anthology titled The Ayam Curtain. We hope to have it out... soon. ;)

Joyce Chng writes science fiction, urban fantasy, steampunk and YA. She blogs at A Wolf's Tale. Her YA fiction is self-published – and are available on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle: Rider, Winged and Oysters, Pearls and Magic.
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