Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Lazy Colony of Silverfish??

Article on Raman of Silverfish in the NST today. (Article behind subscription.)

Raman talks not only about his bookshop and how it's facing the challenge of larger competitors, but also about his publishing venture which has put out 14 books so far, six of them anthologies.

This from the article:
He believes there is a strong demand for books in English by local authors.

“It is an irony. We complain that Malaysian readers prefer buying foreign writers. This is rubbish. But we have to stop insulting them by offering low-quality books.”

He also feels that it is important for local authors to get their work published locally. While there is a lot of glamour in getting published abroad, it is also a make-it-or-break task.

“Britain publishes roughly 10,000 books a month. When you publish there, you are one in 10,000. Also, there is a lot of pandering to their taste and a kind of selling out. The big publishing houses want the exotic East, they are purely commercially driven,” he explains.

Raman, however, has one grouse. He is disappointed with the local writers who have contributed to his six anthologies. Discounting previously-published authors, the new writers have yet to come up with a book of their own.

“There are a lot of people calling themselves writers in this country but they have yet to become authors. We have about 50 writers (in the collections) and not one has become an author. I am very disappointed,” he says.

“They used to complain there was no platform for writers and I have given them a platform. I think they are just lazy.”
Laziness?? Is what Raman says entirely true? I know of one excellent Silverfish writer who had his manuscript rejected ... probably because it would have attracted too much controversy. (The writer is gay.) It's every publisher's right of course to decide on the type of books they want to publish. But the writer did submit his work and ergo was not "lazy".

The word "lazy" is unkind in the sense that many of the writers have gone on to achieve significant recognition elsewhere e.g. Datuk SHANmugalingam whose work has appeared in various collections of stories and poetry including the much more prestigious The Merlion and The Hibiscus (Penguin), James Lee who of course has become an award-winning filmmaker and my friend RuhayatX (whose incisive and witty articles appear in the NST and on the Malaysiakini website) has set up his own publishing company to encourage young Malay writers. Lazy, huh?

Still, I think Raman has a point and I certainly stand guilty as charged. (This is good kick-up-the-butt stuff for me - and I hope for the other Silverfish writers.) I've short stories to complete and the first draft of a novel that needs reworking. Okay, will make a redoubled effort to get down to it.

Hey guys - let's show him!


Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

i do agree with Raman. there are people who love writing, and there are people who love the IDEA of writing. just as there are people who love filmmaking and those who love the IDEA of making a film.

the latter never gets off their asses to do anything.

i am somewhere in between...i have done some stuff but have bigger ambitions but never been able to get off my ass to do it. :)

bibliobibuli said...

I seem to remember reading something on Yasmin Ahmad's website too about film-makers who don't actually get round to doing anything.

Okay now, you've made a promise to yourself that you are going to get off your ass and do something - right? Give me a kick too, wouldya?

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

i am afraid someone has gone on a rampage again. i don't understand why she says "Leave me alone". did we say something about her? she cut and pasted ur post about Rani Manicka, not about her.


and yes, no comments allowed again there. it's a "you have to accept and agree with what i say" thing.

(OK, we can be sure she is reading this and will cut and paste these comments again!)

guess we'll just let it rest huh? we are all going to be busy getting off our asses and doing something positive! heh

bibliobibuli said...

"guess we'll just let it rest huh? we are all going to be busy getting off our asses and doing something positive!"

Best policy. Because yes, we are going to get much tooo busy to take any notice.

Good luck with geting your film project off the ground ...

Anonymous said...

i agree. i'm not sure how silverfish does the screening process, but somehow when i read the anthologies, i feel many others could have been given a chance.

as for every 20-story anthology, where are the other 100 stories that got rejected (and there would have been more than just a hundred submissions, i believe). there have been multiple opportunities not to waste these works (whether or not they're works of art). sometimes, all it takes is a small recognition from a significant publishing house to fuel a spirited writer/author.

as for writing a novel, let me put it this way... i've come this far (which is not very far at all) to notice that there's a great deal of 'knowing the right people' to get that dream off the ground. Seriously.

I'm just being honest about this.

bibliobibuli said...

You make some interesting points there minishorts. Will take up the theme in the next day or two and tell you a bit about the editorial decisions I had to make when editing my anthology ...