Singaporean writers do write fiction

Thanks to all who shared their thoughts on local fiction writing in Singapore. Today, I too shall share my feelings from a reader’s point of view.

As a fiction writer myself, I tend to write fantasy because that is the genre I enjoy reading the most. I do venture into horror, sci-fi and romance but above all, fantasy stirs my cup of tea. In fact, I owe this addiction to David Eddings whom I see as my inspiration and biggest influence. I absolutely dig his Belgariad and Malloreon series. I never get tired of his books, despite reading them for countless of times. And then there is Mercedes Lackey, Jim Butcher, and Laurell K. Hamilton. Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery were the earliest influences who got me into serious writing.

If you notice, not one of my influence is Singaporean. Why? Coz there is not a single Singaporean writer I can recall who writes fantasy or anything else for that matter. Most, if not all of them, write about all things Singaporean. Even local writing competitions require works that specifically touch on the Singapore culture.

I do not deny that we have writers who are very good at writing on those themes and they rightly deserve their awards or prizes. But can we please not have such boring themes all the time? I mean, people read so they can forget stress temporarily and immerse themselves in a magical world of imagination, right? Why would anyone want to read something that is not new to them or worse, something they experience on a daily basis?

Ahem. Yes, I know. I’m biased.

But surely we Singaporeans can imagine a world that is at least as fantastic as JK Rowlings’ wizarding world! I’m pretty sure I’m not the only fiction writer in Singapore who wants out of the “No Money, No Honey” type of books that seem to grace every shelf in the local fiction section of any bookstore.

If I have to pick a local author, I’ll go for Jason Hahn. Yes, you heard me right. The dude who writes the Saffy/Amanda column in the weekly 8Days magazine. Coz I never fail to be amazed by his deadpan humour and his rather cynical but accurate observations of humankind in general. And most importantly, his writings doesn’t sound too Singapore-ish.  Now that’s a local author I can imagine myself reading. =3

So yup…while I acknowledge that non-fiction and self-help books are more commercially viable. I believe that Singaporeans possess a piece of the imagination pie as well. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to memoirs, self-help, honest looks at Singapore’s sex trade or whatever.

It’s the same thing for local manga. Don’t limit yourself just because no one around you draws manga. Do it because you have a story to tell. You can always publish it online if you have no funds to print the book yourself.

But of course, be sure to practise quality control before hitting that publish button. =3

And to the rest of the world out there. Yes, we Singaporeans do write fiction. =)



10 thoughts on “Singaporean writers do write fiction

  1. Hallelujah. Thank you so much for bringing this up. Every time I attempt to pick up a piece of local fiction, it seems to always be ‘cryptic’ and metaphorical, and bordering between reality and fantasy, not quite daring to go full out Dungeons and Dragons, yet not wanting to be boringly mundane either. In all honest, it almost always makes me think of the colour Grey. So yes, local writers do write fiction, just not fantasy. And rarely of foreign material.

    Which brings me to another point; the setting is almost always local, and there seems to be the need to include the obilgatory ‘ah-pek’ and ‘ah-mm’ character: “Boy ah. Have you taken dinner already or not. Your Ma and Pa are nagging at me already. Hurry up and finish your food. Turning cold already”. And always with the very locally named Kar Mui or Hong Joo. Ok, I’m stereotyping…but I’m often curious…do local writers have a preference for local settings and local characters because it’s ‘writing what you know and are familiar with’? Is it something that’s encouraged, while creating a character who is not Singaporean, is frowned upon? Isn’t the fun thing about writing/creating being able to transcend boundaries and tearing down walls?

    Honestly, I’d like to read a novel that’s racy, fast-paced and fun, has an entirely foreign setting (Paris? Mexico? Taiwan?) and funny, crazy characters who aren’t grey and drab, and aren’t only equipped with that very local brand of ‘dry-humour’. They don’t have to be Angmor, but give me someone who’s genuinely interesting! Throw in valkyries, were’s, smelly boots and poisonous toads, and you’re guaranteed to have me on the waiting list. Oh and please, no more first-person narratives =( Really.

  2. For me, it’s Anne McCaffrey, Frank Herbert, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ursula Le Quin to name a few of the authors who have influenced me. The only one local writer is Han May who wrote “The Star Sapphire”.

    Good article 🙂

  3. My sentiments exactly! If I were to be a fan of a local writer who is actually BASED here, I’d say Jason Hahn hands down. Local (Or Diaspora for the matter) writers who I DO like include people like Wena Poon (who’s based in the U.S.) because they go out of the whole “Misery Life Story” theme and go into the fiction that people do want to read.

    I write Crime Fiction but I’ve been told so many times that such a theme is not suitable for the local setting and that it’s not suitable for bookstores here but it’s totally weird when the Best Sellers are all some imported writer who writes Fantasy/ Crime/ Chic Lit.

    Singapore Literature has to be so much more than whatever we’re “forced” to read during Literature classes in Secondary School.

    ~ Raven Azure

    • Ya…it’s almost as if we have to be green in order to be red. Go to other countries, get popular there, then come back to Singapore to be honoured like country treasure. Like hop over to the other side of the fence to get dyed green before coming back to Singapore to be red (“hong” = meaning popular in Mandarin). Sigh…

  4. Local writers do so write proper fiction. I stand as proof. Come read my decade-old collection of rubbish. =p (closing down Oct ‘cos Yahoo! is shutting down Geocities) (porting content from above to here v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y)

    I need some motivation to keep writing and you, dear readers, are that motivation. Without you I do not exist except as some sort of mass hallucination. =p

    “Somewhere, there was a tiny dream. Such a tiny dream it was,
    No one knew who had dreamt it. The tiny dream began to think.
    ‘I don’t want to disappear this way.
    How can I make people dream of me?’ ”
    ~ “Human Sacrifice Alice” ~

  5. Me, it’s Neil Gaiman and J.R. Ward FTW =D So am I right to say that in general, most local writers are actually made to fit into a sort of mould that publishers have cast for them? Are told what they should be writing instead of what they want to be writing? If I’m not far from the truth, the future actually seems pretty bright, with the internet and self-publishing opening doors to much more viable options. Still, there are webcomics and whatnot to compete with, so…

    Raven Azure: what about being much ‘less’ than what’s being taught in literature classes…imo, not trying TOO hard, and just letting it flow naturally. Like with art, where traditional realism is drilled into us, after which we rip it to shreds and reconstruct everything from scratch, on our own terms…to create…our own manga! Just a thought =3

    Moon: Bugger me! Anis the Unchosen sounds interesting. Gonna get a copy of that book asap xD Most probably by downloading it cos I’m always at my computer. Ebook-ing is love~

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