Editor Interview: LONTAR: Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction

This interview is provided for archival purposes. The listing is not currently active.

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Southeast Asian spec fic

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: A Public Space, Monkey Business, PEN America Journal, Tor.com, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, Jonathan Carroll, Karen Joy Fowler, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Lethem, Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, Aimee Bender, Salman Rusdhie, Jeffrey Ford, Victor Pelevin, Clarice Lispector… honestly, we could be here for a while.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: There are many other venues that publish speculative fiction, and a smaller number of venues that publish writing by and about Southeast Asia, but LONTAR is the only journal the world that combines the two.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Read the submission guidelines carefully, and send only your very best work. The acceptance rate is only about 15%, which should give you a sense of the high quality writing we're looking for.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: For fiction or nonfiction: flowing prose, few if any grammatical errors, memorable characters, a solid plot, evocative imagery, a unique authorial style, and an ending so powerful that I won't be able to stop thinking about it. (I have to defer to the judgement of my poetry and comics editors in those two categories.)

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: They either don't set the piece of writing in Southeast Asia, or there is no discernible fantastical element. The subtitle of the journal is "The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction" and both of those elements must be present in any submission.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: Cover letters are important insofar as I can get a glimpse of the author's experience through previous publication credits, but the submission must still stand on its own. In addition, cover letters should *never* try to sum up the story; synopses are common with novel submissions, but a 5,000-word short story is brief enough that I don't need to be told what it's about beforehand.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: It depends, but if I make it to the end, then it's grabbed me enough that I'll seriously consider it. Which means that for most rejected submissions, I didn't get anywhere close to the end.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: For poetry and comics, my editors and I have a discussion about the pieces they want to include, but in almost all cases, I still include them. For prose, I'm the first and final word on the matter, but if the piece is treading over particularly thorny political material, I need to consult with my publisher, since we rely on grants from Singapore's National Arts Council and are subject to their rules.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: For LONTAR, it's very sporadic; we publish twice a year, and although I try to keep up with submissions as they come in, it's just not always (or even often) possible, so I tend to lag behind and then get in a panic when it's time to put the next issue together. My day job is Fiction Editor at Singapore-based Epigram Books (which also publishes LONTAR); my days consist of emailing the authors with whom I’m working to ensure that everything is coming in on time and to our satisfaction, editing the text (thank goodness for change tracking), reading and assessing other manuscripts that have been sent in over the transom for quality and marketability, drawing up author contracts, applying for publication grants, marketing and promotion for the books we've already published, and meeting with the rest of the editorial staff to discuss our production timelines.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: Very. Adapt or die. LONTAR takes electronic submissions, and is available both in beautiful print editions and accessible ebook editions.