Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wot? No More Silverfish New Writing?

Meanwhile, back in Malaysia for the moment, Raman announces in the same breath the list of stories that have made it into the Silverfish New Writing 7 (and big congrats to all, new names and familiar ones) and the imminent demise of the short story anthology:
By the way, this will be the last in the Silverfish New Writing series. We have decided to stop here. There will be no Silverfish New Writing 8, nor anymore after that in the foreseeable future. To all those who have contributed in the past, thank you for making the series an unqualified success.
Very very sad. These short story collections have been extremely valuable to local writers - and I'd include myself in that (and editing Collateral Damage was a tremendous experience). There are some really heartfelt comments on the post and I really sympathise.

As Deepika Shetty points out there's a funny kind of irony here. I was sitting with her on her
veranda at the Honeymoon Guesthouse in Ubud a couple of mornings and we were talking about the series and how it had given so many writers - including myself - a start.

Sharanya Manivannan got her start as a published writer with a piece in the anthology I edited (though it would only have been a matter of time before she broke through somewhere).

And I was on cloud nine after going to Mohammad Cohens' book launch for Hong Kong on Air during the Ubud Festival (left): the first chapter had appeared as "an extract from a work in progress" and it was the first piece of fiction he had had published, a validation that he tells me he is still grateful for.

Repeat this story through the other collections - the grateful writers who got a break, who kn
ew their work was worth something because the book itself was worth something; the unsuccessful writers who kept reaching higher because the collection set the bar, and perhaps after some time reaching it.

As Deepika says:
I'm sure the reasons for this are sound. Publishing isn't for the faint-hearted and Raman did open so many possibilities for aspiring authors, some of whom are now full-fledged novelists. And for that he deserves to be applauded. I do hope that someone will see the potential of such a publication and continue what he so bravely started.
I don't know the reason behind the decision but will have a chat to Raman and find out. And perhaps there is some way to keep this anthology going, or begin to something along the same lines. We need it.


Raman says the series hasn't achieved what he wanted it to achieve when he started the project. I didn't press further 'cos I didn't want to hear any more about how terribly disappointing Malaysian writers are. And anyway, I don't believe it.


Amir Muhammad's take on the matter. Amir was the editor for Silverfish New Writing 1. He describes the move to discontinue the series as:
... an impoverishing one ...
but reckons the series would have been much stronger if the focus had remained on Malaysian and Singaporean writers.

And yes, as Amir says, Raman has probably got the next plan for world literary domination up his sleeve!

Another Postscript

From another editor, Robert Raymer, on Raman's blog:

I do hope you reconsider. This series has been a great inspiration for a lot of writers. It's the carrot on a stick that I hold out for my creative writing students (this semester I'm even teaching a class for lecturers), that by completing their story and rewriting it later they have somewhere to sumbit it too, by March 31th. That deadline gets them going! Several of my students have in fact been published in the Silverfish Series (2 in SF6!). I know I have personally benefited, both in my stories being accepted (four including two in SF7!) and also as one of the editors (SF4) who has had the pleasure of discovering some talented writers (including at least two who have popped up in SF7!


Obiter Dictum said...

Nice to see you back Sharon.

The end of Silverfish New Writing books is sad really. The number is intrigeing too, no?

It had to to stop at seven. Hope someone, something can persuade him to continue.

bibliobibuli said...

it's actually 9 books because 2 did not have numbers and came out in between

Greenbottle said...

...thank you for making the series an unqualified success....

if that is so, why stop i wonder.
i think this should continue. raman did a great job. why stop?

bibliobibuli said...

things like this take time and energy, i guess nik, and it's understandable that someone might not want to do it forever. but it would be good if someone else could continue it.

anyway lah i want to know too. there was no why in the post.

David Byck said...

Here's an idea Sharon - why don't you do it? I know it sounds daunting but I could not think of a better person to do so. It would be exciting as I'm sure your criteria may be different than Raman's. Which I believe may be a good thing.

Give it some thought,


Anonymous said...

Like Amir said,surely Raman already has something else brewing. A big mission like this doesn't just stop there. Let's wait, shall we?:)

bibliobibuli said...

am already giving it thought, david

and i am also sure raman has something else brewing as amir and anon says. we'll move some pieces around the chessboard, i'm sure. in the end the important thing is that there are outlets for writing.

Anonymous said...

I think people are still in denial. It's dead. It's not going to suddenly jump up, wave and walk away. Bury it and move on. Or start something of your own. I would, but where would I find the money ? :)

Anonymous said...

Hi! My name's Su Lynn - originally a Penang girl, but been overseas for about eight years now. I've been a wannabe writer since I was eleven or twelve; ended up writing fanfiction instead for a number of years, and and just now, tentatively, starting to pick up the old dreams.

I bought the first-ever Silverfish anthology as a teenager, and haven't followed it for years now, but only recently found out about its closing down, which prompted a discussion with a fellow Malaysian about the (small, at best, as far as we can tell from overseas) current English literary scene in M'sia. With that in mind, we were thinking of starting a biannual electronic journal to promote Malaysian fiction and poetry writing.

Is this something you think Malaysian writers would get behind? It wouldn't be intended to be a replacement for the role that Silverfish played - we're both young and with limited resources - but hopefully, it would make a contribution towards creating a cohesive Malaysian 'literary scene' to build up Malaysian writing talent.

My blog is at and my friend's post regarding the possible journal is at

- Cheah Su Lynn

bibliobibuli said...

my own impression is that there is a lot more happening than there used to be in kl and a regular live lit events calendar. though of course less in other parts of the country ...

certainly there could be more in the way of publications. i was talking to a friend over lunch who is considering starting an online journal. (will pass your contacts on to him)

suggest both of you have a chat with elizabeth wong of the inky hands website. i know that she is having real problems getting together enough work of quality. the same problem is also bedeviling some of the print publications.

this is not to dampen your spirits, just chuck in a bit of realism! the more people willing to get something going, the better.

other ideas for you - why not start a readings event like the one at seksan's? or just get writers together and dream up a project you all want to work on? it just takes someone who cares to get something good happening and make a difference.

i do wish you luck. and let's continue to talk.

Undecided Decision said...

Hello. I am actually sad that there will no longer be silverfish new writing. I honestly have read the books and most of them are good. I am currently doing my Master research and one of the books is used as my textual analysis. I am a writer myself and had posted stories online. I thought of wanting my work published but I'm afraid my stories won't get accepted because it is out of the norm. Nonetheless, if there will be a chance for silverfish books to open up again, I would sent one of my stories just to hear the feedbacks. I have read the stories from the books and some really moved me, some made me cry, some made me think. Isn't that a good thing? Writing is a platform for us to present our perceptions to the world and it can be highly influential. If a piece of writing can influence Malaysian towards betterment, why not continue?