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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Month of Joy: "Growing Up w/ Genre and Singaporean SF/F" by Joyce Chng -- @jolantru

I grew up with genre. No, seriously, I did.

It all began with a book of children’s stories complete with shape-shifting and transformation. The girl turned into a fluffy plush-tailed cat… and I was hooked. And it just kept on coming: Star Blazers (Battleship Yamato), Battle of the Planets (or G-Force), Robotech (Macross – Southern Cross – Mospeada), Star Trek and the list continued. I fell in love with science fiction and it opened
a whole world of possibilities for a lonely little girl who had nobody but herself to amuse herself. That’s right: I am an only child.
Then as my reading hunger grew, I feasted on epic fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons. Mind you, I was the only girl in the group of boys and I played a cleric. I explored Krynn when I bought the Dragonlance books and went on further to read Frank Herbert’s Dune, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series and so on.

I thought I was the only girl reading science fiction and fantasy. I felt alone and lonely. Where in the world were the rest of my peers? Singapore seemed so dull, so empty – and I went on searching for that elusive geek girl (or nerd girl). For a while, I did find her, a good friend of mine who read the Pern series.
Around this time, I had started writing. Short stories. Fan fiction (even though I hadn’t heard of this term until the Internet came about). The stories found their way in school magazines and I had people who told me I wrote well. I started topping the standard for English composition. Yet, I still felt… alone.

Now, thinking back, I feel as if things are at least changing. There is a community of SFF writers here in Singapore. Trust me – they are elusive, like unicorns and phoenixes. But imagine my relief when I found them.

Mind you, it felt like trawling the sea for that single needle.

At the moment, Singapore SFF is slowly taking off as people find each other and their own voices.  The Singapore SFF writer seems to be a quiet breed… but we are around. When I returned from Australia after seven years of undergraduate and postgraduate study, I thought I was the only SFF writer around. That was how isolated I’d felt.

Then, I found out about the Happy Smiley Writers’ Group, got involved in Nanowrimo and suddenly, they are there! Singapore SFF writers. And illustrators. And creators. And readers.
This book came out of the Happy Smiley Writers' Group!
Singapore SFF started to coalesce a few years ago. Still nascent, still growing – but becoming stronger. My only hope is that it grows bigger and more prominent, that SFF writing (heck, writing) isn’t looked down upon or mocked at. Asian mentality sees writing as a job that doesn’t pay at all and I get those pointed questions from my folks who think that I am still going through a phase (and I am in my late thirties, for crying out loud).

As I sit before my laptop, staring out into the nightscape, I wonder how Singapore SFF would look like in five years’ time. And then, the deeper and harder questions: Will I continue writing? Will I end up throwing in the towel and walking away? These questions hover in my mind. But at present, I am happy at what I am doing: writing. Be it wolves who walk on two legs, phoenixes who hide in human form or a human A.I who pilots a warship, I will continue to create new worlds.


Author’s note: This post is a tribute to Han May, whose book Star Sapphire captured my attention a long time ago.

Joyce Chng lives in Singaporean and is proud to be Singaporean. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, M-BRANE SF and the Apex Book of World SF II. She also writes urban fantasy under J. Damask. Her writerly blog exists at A Wolf's Tale.

Editor's Note:  You can check out my mini interview with Ms. Chng for the Week of Joy feature here.

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