Saturday, October 23, 2010

GASPP at Seksualiti Merdeka

This is a basically a cut-and-paste of the blog entry I put up at my GASPP site. But I do want to reiterate what I said about KL (yeah, I'm self-quoting):

"Now I understand why Alfian and The Necessary Stage people love to go up there so much: because there's this young, idealistic community of activists and intellectuals and artists who can't afford to take for granted the values that Singaporeans are utterly blasé about: secularism, racial harmony, non-corruption, and the right to even heterosexual romance."

Unfortunately, my own photos of the Seksualiti Merdeka festival are lousy. So I'll have to rely on everyone else's photos of our event.

For instance, here's us at the Queer As Books event at 2pm, Sunday 17 Oct in the Annexe!

Remember, this was a joint launch (for us, technically a pre-launch event) of three books. So from left to right: Matahari Books publisher Amir Muhammad, Diana Dirani and Azwan Ismail, co-editors of the Malaysian Malay language queer anthology Orang Macam Kita; Alfian Sa'at, playwright of the Asian Boys Trilogy; and myself, Ng Yi-Sheng, co-editor of GASPP.

(The photographer is our own publisher, Fong Hoe Fang of The Literary Centre/Ethos Books.)

And here's GASPP itself:

We had a promotion going on: for every copy of GASPP or Collected Plays Two: The Asian Boys Trilogy we sold, you got a free copy of Charlene Rajendran's Taxi Tales. (No, she's not gay herself. But she's supportive!)

The launch was actually a private event, hence the low levels of publicity. Folks were afraid of attracting undue attention to Orang Macam Kita, a real danger since the queer Malaysian English language anthology, Body2Body, recently got pulled from the shelves after a complaint.

But still, we had readings from the contirbutors, such as Nizam Zakaria (wish my Bahasa Melayu was good enough to follow what was going on) before I goaded Alfian to go up and read something from our own book: Irfan Kasban's short prose work Dua Lelaki.

Yes, that is an expression of consternation on Alf's face. Dua Lelaki is kinda provocative.

Here's a shot of me reading from my short story Lee Low Tar, gleaned from the Facebook album of Dib Jual Kata. Yeah, we sure established ourselves as unsavoury types.

Adrianna Tan was originally supposed to come too, but she had to cancel suddenly for health reasons, so the event really ended up being quite a sausagefest. Hopefully this won't be the case for our Singapore launch!

This last shot's by Malaysian artist Jun Kit. At one point during the Q&A, I got asked whether we'd be able to sell the book openly on the shelves in Singapore. And I had to admit, well, actually, things are much easier for us in Singapore than in KL. Yes, we complain about censorship, but that hardly ever happens to books (only when important government figures get directly insulted) and what happens to plays is R-ratings and funding cuts and text changes: the whole production does not get shut down.

When we compare ourselves to London or New York or Stockholm, our freedom of speech record is lousy. But we're in a better situation than Malaysia, and we should remember that.

Plus, we should buy their books. Orang Macam Kita can be bought from Matahari Books by mail or from Amazon. Alfian's book should be available in all major Singapore bookstores, and if it's not, demand it.

And as for us, we're coming soon... :)

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