This second issue of LONTAR presents speculative writing from and about Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Inside these pages, you’ll find: a metamorphic love story near the Korean DMZ from award-winner E.C. Myers; a brand new supernatural crime tale from bestselling author John Burdett; a cautionary tale about Singaporean elitism from Tiffany Tsao; an examination of the illusory facets of love from Victor Fernando R. Ocampo; a haunting and beautiful evocation of a fantastical Vietnamese floating market from Eliza Chan; and speculative poetry from Jerrold Yam, Tse Hao Guang, Ang Si Min, Shelly Bryant and Daryl Yam.
Jason Erik Lundberg was born in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and has lived in Singapore since 2007. His latest publications are his first novel (and 25th book), A Fickle and Restless Weapon (2020), a related novella, Diary of One Who Disappeared (2019, recipient of a 2013 Creation Grant from Singapore's National Arts Council), and a "greatest hits" short fiction collection, Most Excellent and Lamentable: Selected Stories (2019).
He is also the author of many books for adults—including Red Dot Irreal (2011), The Alchemy of Happiness (2012), Strange Mammals (2013), and Embracing the Strange (2013); books for children—the six-book Bo Bo and Cha Cha picture book series (2012–2015) and Carol the Coral (2016); and more than a hundred short stories, articles, and book reviews. His writing has been translated into half a dozen languages, and seen publication in venues such as Mānoa, the Raleigh News & Observer, Farrago’s Wainscot, Hot Metal Bridge, Strange Horizons, Subterranean Magazine, The Third Alternative, Electric Velocipede, and many other places. His work has also been shortlisted for the SLF Fountain Award, Brenda L. Smart Award for Short Fiction, SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Award, and POPULAR Readers’ Choice Award; he was honourably mentioned twice in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
Lundberg has been the fiction editor at Epigram Books since 2012, where he jump-started the publisher's fiction line; many of the books he's edited since have won multiple national awards, and made various year’s best lists. He has also served as a prose mentor with Singapore's Creative Arts Programme and Ceriph Mentorship Programme. In addition, he is the founding editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (2012–2018), series editor for the biennial Best New Singaporean Short Stories anthology series (est. 2013), editor of Fish Eats Lion Redux (2022) and Fish Eats Lion (2012), and co-editor of A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008) and Scattered, Covered, Smothered (2004). From 2005–2008, he facilitated an occasional podcast called Lies and Little Deaths: A Virtual Anthology.
An active member in PEN America and a 2002 graduate of the prestigious Clarion Writers Workshop, Lundberg holds a Master's degree in creative writing from North Carolina State University.
While I didn't like this quite as much as the first issue, it's still a really solid, really enjoyable collection of stories and poetry. "What Is Being Erased" in particular was one hell of a sucker punch.
My favourite short stories from this edition were "The Tiger in the Forest Between Two Worlds" by E.C Myers and "Entanglement" by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo. Floating Market by Eliza Chan was also a really beautiful read!
A cool collection of stories that are either set within or inspired by SE Asian narratives; The Tiger in the Forest Between Two Worlds and What is Being Erased are the standout shorts here. The journey of realization that both stories propel the narrator on made me question the meaning of the things we do and have always done as an good true Asian (the value we place on societal achievement, the grudge we hold with family, the traditions that we blindly follow). I look forward to reading the other collections.
The poetry was a bit too out-there for me, and I did not understand it, but the styles were enlightening, and the choice of vocabulary riveting. On the other hand, the stories were deliciously indie and delightful. Each story will leave you pondering how black words on beige paper can express the vibrancy and colourful of south-east Asia.
The second issue of Lontar - again with a nice selection of SEA speculative fiction - even the non-SEA Korean one is a good read and being as such I found myself hard to be miffed that it wasn't South East Asian. Good stuff.