ASEAN writing: Singapore science fiction and YA

A bit belated, but finally uploading this for readers. This was my portion/piece for the ASEAN writing panel at All In!

Who am I?

I write science fiction (mostly) and YA.

What draws me to science fiction and YA?

I like the genre. Science fiction is a genre. YA is the target audience, not a genre. I like science fiction because you imagine worlds, you can write about werewolves in space and fantastic space battles. It’s basically what-ifs and futures and what kind of futures you want to see.

YA? I teach and I like teaching. My students happen to fall within this category. It talks about an interesting and not-so-easy time: the teens.

The state of sff and YA in Southeast Asia

I believe more could be done to not only promote Singaporean sff and YA, but the rest of the region. The problem is that we are all writing in English. I want to see more translation, more people taking an active interest in local sff and YA.

In Singapore, I believe it is still very nascent. We are taking baby steps. But are the publishers willing? Listening?

My thoughts as a Singaporean writer (or writer from Singapore)

SG lit is slowly taking off, though attention is still focused on foreign (re: US/UK) lit. Science fiction itself is already a niche genre. So the traction within Singapore might not be as quick or even acceptable, as readers tend to go for big-name writers (who have made it big overseas) or they stick to familiar (white) writers who are with big publishing houses.

I tend to pitch my writing overseas (unfortunately or fortunately), because there are people who want to read us. The only problem is that we might be viewed as ‘exotic’.

I have science fiction stories in US, UK and Australian sff anthologies. My urban/contemporary fantasy series are published under an independent UK sff publisher and a Malaysian publisher (only the first book, the moment). Singapore, however, seems unfriendly towards Singaporean science fiction and allocates it to small little shelves in bookstores under – you guess it – Local/Singapore Writing. It’s telling: we just can’t compete with the big boys and girls.  As a Singaporean science fiction writer (or writer, period), it is very sobering and disappointing to have people subtly and not so subtly tell you that your work does not matter enough for attention. Your work does not matter. More so if you are not an award or prize winner or anything. Not agented? You are not a real writer.


It is good that we have ASEAN lit and more better that some of us write in our own native languages.

Now the trick is to market ourselves. Are literary agents going to accept us? Are these big publishing houses going to accept us? Are there hidden (or obvious) obstacles we have to be aware of (or that we are already aware of)? How are we going to sell our books?

The Internet and social media are such powerful mediums and platforms where ASEAN writers could use to share or promote their works to a global audience. However, there is still the issue of accessibility as many writers are not tech-savvy.

Forging Ahead

What’s the future of ASEAN lit? I don’t know. As long as there are people still writing and still reading, there’s hope.


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