Sunday 18 December 2011


First off: I enjoyed both Ombak Rindu and Petaling Street Warriors. And they come from different strands of Malaysian cinema.

Ombak Rindu (although it's based on a romantic potboiler novel) reminded me most of the films written by Hamzah Hussin and directed by M. Amin: Rumah Itu Dunia Aku (1963), Dosa Wanita (1967) and Sial Wanita (1969). In all of these, a virtuously suffering young heroine has terrible things done to her by Fate (in general) and a Scheming Older Bitch (in particular). The fact that the heroine is willing to endure torment for most of the movie's running time is meant to make us not only admire her fortitude but appreciate the cathartic ending even more. Thus, Ombak Rindu is a perverse paean to female masochism.

(Malay women love movies in which women get emotionally abused. Malay men don't notice, as they're too busy watching TV wrestling shows in which men get physically abused.)

There's a car-chase sequence in Ombak Rindu that recalls the end of Madu 3, but I couldn't help noticing how much freer the kebaya-wearing women in the 1964 movie were compared to the Western-garbed or tudung-clad ones in 2011. Have superficial Westernisation and Islamisation (both of which are imported values; our ancestors were neither mat salleh nor Arabs) had such a diminishing impact?

In contrast to the sentimental solipsism of Ombak Rindu is Petaling Street Warriors, which affirms that Malaysian cinema in the Chinese language is much more interested to talk about 'Malaysia' than our Malay-language cinema is. 

Although a kinetic fight sequence at the end becomes a catalogue of Chinese pop cinema (such as 黃飛鴻 and 李小龍), Petaling Street Warriors actually reminded me of the robust iconoclasm of Ali Baba Bujang Lapok. Even before the cameo by 孫文 / 孫逸仙, the movie was effortlessly political as it flipped about notions of citizenship and governance. There are even 'illegal' gatherings, and therefore terribly topical.

It's not as frisky and knockabout as Nasi Lemak 2.0 (the movie it would most likely be compared to), but it shows that a mish-mash of pop genres, when handled with wit and verve, can be utterly zany and utterly serious at the same time.

The closing scenes of both movies are significant. Ombak Rindu offers a bumigeois fantasy on a yacht (where I am sure the champagne is halal). The end of Petaling Street Warriors is in the spirit of democratic optimism: it's only when we give up inherited privileges that we can truly live (together).

I am glad I saw these two movies as a double-bill, in the spirit of 1Malaysia or 2Malaysia or oh well whatever nevermind.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Nominations for Poster Terbaik, the most important category of Festival Filem Orang Melayu

This annual event, which presumptuously calls itself Festival Filem Malaysia, looks even more parochial this year because the two most interesting films are shut out from the main nominations due to not being at least 70% in the Malay language.

The best local film of 2011 was the humane and transcendent Great Day, and the most contentious/frisky was Nasi Lemak 2.0. In normal circumstances, these two would have had several nominations each. But since they're mostly in Chinese, we are forced instead to pretend that the films which exist to shore up what passes for the Malay star system are not only worthier but more 'Malaysian'.

As for the posters: I don't think the winner is as clear-cut as the Histeria and Belukar of previous years. I think Dalam Botol is conceptually the strongest (it tells a story) but the red borders diminish its visual impact. So I'd say Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is the one that stands out.

Monday 24 October 2011

8 kelainan Buku Fixi yang ke-8, ZOMBIJAYA

1. Judul paling panjang.
2. Jumlah perkataan paling banyak di muka depan
3. Ilustrasi dan bukannya fotografi di muka depan; juga ada 28 ilustrasi di dalam.
4. Judul yang jika ditanya Lebai Google, ia tak akan merujuk kepada apa-apa selain buku ini.
5. Halaman dedikasi yang menyebut paling ramai orang (16, termasuk George A. Romero)
6. Paling ramai orang mati (i.e. jutaan rakyat Malaysia)
7. Bukan saja mengandungi perkanaan 'zombi' tapi menggunakannya 140 kali.
8. Ada kameo oleh David Hasselhoff (halaman 220-1)

Ada persaingan sengit untuk memilih kulit depan, antara dua nih:

Tapi akhirnya yang sebelah kiri menang, hasil undian ahli Fesbuk kami.

Zombijaya belum masuk mana-mana kedai. Tapi ia boleh dibeli online di Kedai Fixi.

Kalau nak datang beli sendiri dan bersua dengan penulisnya Adib Zaini, sila hadir ke mana-mana daripada 3 acara ni. (Kalau nak jadi groupie dan datang ketiga-tiga pun boley.)

Percuma. Semua dijemput hadir. Kalau datang sebagai zombi, mungkin boleh dapat buku percuma.... atau mungkin pula dipulau dan dikeji oleh tetamu lain.

Monday 10 October 2011

MALAYSIAN SHORTS (17 Oct), once again hosted by me!

Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia

Monday, 17 October
Auditorium, HELP University College

Pusat Bandar Damansara
Kuala Lumpur.

Entrance: FREE

10 new narrative Malaysian short films/videos will be shown, with most of the directors present.

1. EXHALATION/ Edmund Yeo/ Japan-Malaysia/21 min
The death of a former classmate, Yosuke, brings Naoko back to her hometown. Arriving the day before his funeral, Naoko embarks upon a road trip with her friend Sayuri. They visit the site of Yosuke's fatal car accident, and gradually, their journey turns into a surrealistic experience of bittersweet remembrances, tender secrets and unspoken regrets. Dreams become increasingly vivid, memories come in the form of ghosts. They lost themselves in melancholy.

2. SUDU GAN GARFU/ Faiq Khalifa/ 14.5 minutes
Tiada kata secantik bahasa. Menampilkan lakonan oleh Adman Salleh gittew.

3. MOVEMENT IN C/ Ali Lee/ 37 seconds
The shortest short we have ever shown?

4. MARIA/ Afiq Deen/ 11 minutes
Maria is fictional thriller film inspired by the record-breaking cases of baby dumping and abandonment by Malaysian Muslim women.

5. SIX REVISITED/ Timo/ 1 minute
The second-shortest short we have ever shown?

6. MEMORIA/ Yihwen Chen/ 9 minutes
A girl. A bicycle. And a memory.

7. JEMPUT NAIK/ Ng Ken Kin/5.5 minutes
In conjunction with this year's KL 48 Hours Film Project, we present one of last year's entries by a stalwart of Malaysian Shorts. Caution: there will be blood.

8. BROGA RENDEZVOUS/ Ridhwan Saidi/ 8.5 minutes
Teman lelaki mahu ke Broga, tempat mereka pertama kali bercumbu; tetapi teman wanita tidak ingat malah sesat ketika dalam perjalanan. Dalam masa yang sama seorang guru merindui pemergian pelajar cemerlang sekolah mereka di Broga. Sebuah filpen yang melankolik, dengan sedikit unsur jenaka.

9. LE ONION DE NOIR/ Brad Liew/ 11 min
Over a telephone call, a man can be heard justifying his actions in what he sees as a sign from the divine. As he re-accounts his actions, the lines between his reality and ours blur into a mesh of primal violence. Do we question his psychotic cruelty? Or is it truly his higher calling?

10. EPAL HIJAU DI LUAR PAGAR/ Syahrul Musa/ 26 minutes
Mamat (12 tahun) mengambil upah menjaga kambing di sebuah kawasan perkuburan Cina. Satu petang, hujan lebat. Dia membawa kambing-kambing jagaannya berteduh di tokong Cina berdekatan. Kelaparan membuatkan dia terpaksa mengambil sebiji epal hijau dari tokong tersebut dan berjanji akan membayarnya semula. Dalam keadaan keluarganya yang penuh krisis, mampukah dia menepati janjinya?


Friday 7 October 2011

Short story by Hafidz Baharom in the latest SELANGOR TIMES

Can be seen as a companion piece to his earlier driving-themed story. Is there a "Drive, He Said" compilation in the works?

Speaking of Traffic, isn't this a great song?

Sunday 2 October 2011

Fiction in Esquire Malaysia

I am now the Fiction Editor of Esquire Malaysia!

Aside from the thrill of being associated with the kind of magazine that puts Justin Timberlake on the cover, I'm happy to be able to commission and choose stories from my favourite local writers. One of my formative experiences, way back in the previous century, was reading short stories in the American Esquire by the likes of Raymond Carver and Jay McInerney. The US magazine no longer publishes fiction regularly, but I hope the Malaysian one can - in a local fashion, natch - fill this void.

Plus, haven't we heard/read so many American stories by now? Isn't it time we celebrated our own?

Speaking of celebration, the first story I chose was by Shih Li-Kow whose book Ripples I reviewed enthusiastically almost three years ago.  Her story that I chose, Hungry in Guangzhou, was indeed from Ripples, because to kick off the Fiction section I wanted to give due kudos to a book whose excellence has still yet to be discovered by many.

All subsequent issues will have previously unpublished stories. Let the telling begin!

Tuesday 13 September 2011

MALAYSIAN SHORTS is on Monday 19 Sep. Hosted by me!

It's time again to view Malaysian short films!

Most of the directors will be present, so you can ask & mingle. Most of them won't be violent:

As usual, do vote for your 3 favourite shorts of the night.
Don't vote for the ones that put you to sleep:
Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia 
MALAYSIAN SHORTS (edisi September 2011)
Where: HELP University College Auditorium, Pusat Bandar Damansara, KL

When: Monday 19 September, 8pm onwards

How Much: Free lor!

You may confirm at the Facebook event page


1) Afternoon River Evening Sky
Director: Edmund Yeo
2010, 19 min
A short film divided into two parallel stories. In Afternoon River, Grace, a waitress in a Bah Kut Teh restaurant tries to go through her mundane everyday work while ignoring the incessant ringing of her cell phone. In Evening Sky, the tomboyish Lai Fun seeks justice from an illegal DVD peddler who impregnated her best friend.

2) The Invigilator
Director: Manesh Nesaratnam
2010, 12 min
A story about two high-school teachers and their aspirations in the teaching profession. This film is at once a light-hearted clash of pedagogical perspectives and at the same time an echo of societies' frustrations with the inadequacies of available education systems.

3) Scene
Director: Soren Mohd Noor
2011/ 2 min
When a young adult receives a friend request from a “stranger” via his Facebook account, he finds himself dealing with issues of faith, principles and peer pressure.

4) Permata Bonda
Director: Fikri Jermadi
2010/ 16 min
The constant complaints and bickering between a mother and her daughter causes the daughter, Maimon, to reevaluate her life, forcing her to make a difficult decision that could change her life forever.

5) Burger Boy
Director: Timo
2008/20 min
Flipping burgers is a great way to meet people.

6) The Lims
Director: Brad Liew
2011/3 min
Inspired by Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, The Royal Lims is a satire on the nasty habit of smoking and the Malaysian government's anti-smoking campaign

7) Perempuan, Hujan & Kematian
Director: Abror Rivai
2001/20 min
Seorang pesakit delusi sedang diwarat di atas sebuah rumah di atas bukit. Dia berdepan dengan konflik psikologu apabile melihat dirinya sebagai orang lain. Siapa dia sebenarnya?

8) Hujan Panas
Director: Nadiah Hamzah
2011 / 20mins
For the longest time, Zaki has dreamed about coming to America. He enrolls himself in a business course and finds himself in New York City – in an apartment with two illegal Indonesian immigrants; Ferdy and Mira, in Flushing, Queens. As he grapples with the harsh reality of living in the city, he finds himself slowly attracted to Mira. She helps him realize the possibilities of starting life anew – possibilities that are threatened by an impending marriage and his awaited return to Malaysia.


TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 1 hour 51 min

*Photos from Perempuan, Hujan & Kematian and Afternoon River Evening Sky

Saturday 10 September 2011

Short story by Celine Tee in the latest SELANGOR TIMES

The full issue may be read/downloaded here. This is the 40th issue and almost all had short stories in them, so there's an alumni of about 30 people (some with more than one entry).

Friday 26 August 2011

Short story by Yusuf Martin in the latest SELANGOR TIMES

This is Yusuf's second story here; Click on the tag below to scroll down and read the first!

The entire issue of Selangor Times may be read/downloaded here.

Wednesday 17 August 2011


This is the first Matahari Books publication of the year, and it's already August. Gosh, we have slowed down!

Yes there will be only 3 books this year. I don't mind, because we want to spend a lot more time on each book. Plus, there's Fixi for me to do!

Growing up with Ghosts is creative non-fiction, something that I initially set up Matahari Books to specialise in. The story of Bernice Chauly's parents effortlessly becomes one of the stories that create this nation; it is about (to use the title of a previous book of hers) "going there and coming back". That it's a labour of love goes without saying. It is a quest and a valentine, and an emphatic statement of belonging.

It's also gorgeous! Flip through the pages by 'searching inside' here

The book will be in shops by the end of this month. If you'd like to order an autographed copy, do email Deadline this Sunday noon; free delivery within Malaysia.

Friday 12 August 2011

Short story by Eileen Lian in the latest SELANGOR TIMES

While we're at it, let's also find out about the wau decoration at Sunway Pyramid.

The whole issue of Selangor Times can be read here.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Saturday 30 July 2011

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Box-office figures for the first 20 local films of the year

1.  KL Gangster - RM11.74 million
2.  Kongsi - RM8.1 million
3. Khurafat - RM8.08 million
4. Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa - RM6.5 million
5. Nur Kasih - RM4.93 million
6. Great Day - RM4.5 million (estimated)
7. Karak - RM4.3 million
8. Homecoming - RM4 million
9. Sini Ada Hantu - RM1.3 million
10. Kembar Siang - RM1.2 million
11=Cun - RM1.1 million
11= Senjakala - RM1.1 million
13 Penunggu Istana - RM890,000
14 Seru - RM870,000
15 Haq - RM800,000
16 Dilarang Masuk - RM750,000
17 ... Dalam Botol - RM570,000
18 Momok Jangan Panggil Aku - RM550,000
19. Ratu - RM200,000
20 Toyol Nakal - RM190,000

Source: FINAS

Saturday 9 July 2011

Selangor Times short stories that I had missed

Enjoy :-)

The bad news is that entries have been very slow in coming. If there aren't any new stories, the Fiction section will have to be killed! Do send in stories (about 800 words) to Yes, there is pay.

Saturday 25 June 2011

Short story by Khairulnizam Bakeri in SELANGOR TIMES / Fixi in Pesta Buku Selangor

Yes! The author of Pecah (which is going to be made into a movie!) has a new, published short story. Fans of his novel will experience a few intertextual frissons of pleasure as they read this:

The rest of Selangor Times can be read/downloaded here.

By the way, all the Fixi novels (as well as a few other books of the hip & happening indie persuasion; full list of publishers here) are currently being sold at our booth in Pesta Buku Selangor.

This is the first time Fixi has its own booth so I am right chuffed. The first day's crowd was much lower than what we experienced at the KL Book Fair in PWTC, but our sales were actually 40% higher! And the hall is much more comfortable, with far fewer annoying salespeople. We still have 9 days to go, so we shall see how it goes ...

Thursday 2 June 2011

ROJAK is in the running!

These 10 books were chosen by the Popular chain based on sales figures for last year. This contest is now being held for the 4th year.

In 2010, Yasmin Ahmad's Films got 2nd place (Non-Fiction), while Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things (Vol 1) got 3rd place (Non-Fiction) in 2008.

These are the nominees for the Popular - The Star Readers Choice Awards 2011 in the Fiction category:

Rojak - Amir Muhammad
Madness Abroad - Yvonne Lee
The Rice Mother - Rani Manicka
Kebaya Tales - Lee Su Kim
Orans Asli Animal Tales - Lim Boo Liat (editor)
The Embrace of Harlots - David TK Wong
Inspector Singh: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul by Shamini Flint
Sweet Offerings - Chan Ling Yap
Under The Sun - O Thiam Chin
A Bit of Earth - Suchen Christine Lim

Voting will be by coupons in The Star and Popular bookstores in June & July, with the results announced at the KL Convention Centre in late August. Ada can ker? Ntah ler ... Either way, I am grateful for the support that has been given to Rojak. The first print run of 3,000 copies sold out months ago, and the one selling now is the 2nd print. Syukur!

It was a fun book to do; thanks to Chin Yew, Liza Manshoor, Ezra Zaid and Lori Lee. 

Monday 30 May 2011

Short story by Alfian Sa'at in the 26th issue of SELANGOR TIMES

Alfian is the most famous writer to have ever graced this fiction column! This story is from his upcoming collection Malay Sketches.

The rest of Selangor Times is here!

Sunday 22 May 2011

Short story by Al Zaquan in the 25th issue of SELANGOR TIMES

The full issue of Selangor Times can be downloaded here.

This is his second story to be published in the paper; the first was here!

And it looks like I totally missed the stories in the 23rd and 24th issues. Ah well. 

Friday 6 May 2011

Novel Fixi yang keempat

Dendam ialah novel Fixi yang keempat. Penulisnya Affifudin Omar pernah menjadi Timbalan Menteri Kewangan Malaysia pada suatu ketika dulu. Buku dalam proses printing & akan siap minggu depan. Untuk menang buku percuma, jenguklah fan-page ni hari Isnin ye!

Semangkuk INTERLOK boleh dimuat-turun dengan percuma!

Rancangan asalnya memang untuk mencetak, menjilid dan menjual buku ini dengan cara biasa. Tapi disebabkan beberapa faktor, ini tak dapat kami lakukan. Faktor utama: kami menghadapi kesukaran untuk mendapat esei yang sanggup/mampu melihat novel Interlok dengan cara yang lain daripada 'kontroversi' yang melandanya. Jadi, kebanyakan daripada 30 esei yang diterima terlalu repetitif sifatnya.

Keputusan Matahari Books kemudian ialah menjadikan buku mini ini sebagai e-book percuma yang boleh dimuat-turun oleh sesiapa saja. Sama dengan apa yang kami buat tahun lepas dengan New Malaysian Essays 3.

Hikmah format ini:

1. E-book boleh dibaca oleh sesiapa saja (dengan talian Internet) secara percuma
2. Maklumat tentang e-book ini boleh disebar dengan lebih cepat apabila blog-blog dan laman-laman web lain memberi link untuknya. (Tunggu apa lagi?)
3. Isu mengenai Interlok belum padam-padam lagi, jadi e-book ini tidaklah berupa cubaan untuk memberi 'kata muktamad', tapi sebaliknya menjadi sebahagian kecil daripada wacana yang sedang berjalan.

Terima kasih kepada editornya Hafiz Hamzah yang tall, dark and handsome; 10 penulis yang termuat di dalamnya kerana mampu berbicara dengan rancak, nakal dan tidak klise; dan Teck Hee yang bikin kulit depan dan layout. Kata Pengenalan Hafiz bermula dengan:

Jarang-jarang kita menemukan sebuah polemik kesusasteraan. Di Malaysia apatah lagi. Yang muncul di tengah-tengah khalayak juga tak selalu mengandung isi yang melapangkan, atau mengghairahkan. Yang ada, seperti yang pernah kita saksikan, adalah pertikaman lidah yang menyempitkan, menyesakkan. Barang tentu, anda yang menatap buku ini mungkin lebih arif dengan latar yang dimaksudkan.

Untuk mengulum keseluruhan buku kecil ini, silalah muat-turun PDF Semangkuk INTERLOK!

Thursday 5 May 2011

Short story by Norman Yusoff in the 22nd issue of SELANGOR TIMES

Although I am 6 days late in posting this up (blame the distractions of the Book Fair!), I am happy to see film lecturer Norman Yusoff here. It made me want to watch Anita Dunia Ajaib again, or maybe The Purple Rose of Cairo, or both at the same time!

Thursday 28 April 2011

Box-office figures for the first 10 Malaysian films in 2011

1. Khurafat - RM8.1 million
2. Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa - RM6.5 million
3. Great Day - RM4.5 million (estimated)
4. Homecoming - RM4 million
5. Sini Ada Hantu - RM1.3 million
6. Kembar Siang - RM1.2 million
7. Cun - RM1.1 million
8. Haq - RM800,000
9. ... Dalam Botol - RM570,000
10. Ratu - RM200,000

Source: FINAS

Wednesday 27 April 2011

We have reached the halfway point of the KL International Book Fair 2011

Sometimes it can be tiring and annoying (oh, those overzealous salespeople in front of us!) but the bookfest is fun because it is, at the end of the day, a celebration of the fact that we can all eventually, if we choose to, sit down and have a juicy read.

Some terrific reviews of the 3 Fixi novels have been appearing lately; do check the Fixi Facebook group for the links as they come in.

5 days to go! And this Sunday 2-4 pm might be the last chance to get all 3 of the novelists together, since they are all quite busy (at least two are working on their next Fixi novels, after all). I am grateful to them the most of all.

If you don't want to brave the crowds, all 3 of the novels are now in Silverfish, Bangsar.  Online orders are doing just fine in

Sunday 24 April 2011

Monday 18 April 2011

Buku Fixi @ Pesta Buku KL

Sesi bertemu penulis - Shaz Johar (Kougar), Ridhwan Saidi (Cekik) & Khairulnizam Bakeri (Pecah) akan diadakan dua kali:
- Sabtu 23 April 2-4pm
- Ahad 1 Mei 2-4pm. 

Selain itu, saya akan diinterbiu di booth Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia sempena Sesi Wacana Sofa Putih (juga di Dewan Tun Razak) mengenai Fixi pada
- Jumaat 29 April 3-4pm

Join fan-page Fixi di Facebook untuk tahu cara memenangi satu set buku Fixi (ya, termasuk beg!) pada setiap hari sewaktu Pesta Buku itu:

Saturday 16 April 2011

Short story by Chua They Hua in the 20th issue of SELANGOR TIMES

What a strange, unsettling little story! I am very interested to read more from this writer.

No, the Sepang Municipal Council member has nothing to do with the story, but I might as well include him in the image capture from this issue of Selangor Times so that we can Know Him!

Friday 15 April 2011

FIXI: Bila & Bagaimana & Siapa & Apa-apa

(Esei saya ini terkandung dalam press kit sidang media untuk pelancaran label Fixi semalam di restoran Teak5, Mutiara Damansara. Di acara itu, suatu MOU juga dimeterai antara Fixi dan Lightbulb Studios [label filem baru di bawah naungan Grand Brilliance]. Setiap novel Fixi akan dipertimbangkan untuk adaptasi filem oleh Lightbulb. Inilah kali pertama perjanjian sedemikian dibuat antara sebuah label buku & filem di Malaysia.) 

Idea untuk Fixi datang secara mendadak pada bulan Ogos tahun lepas, di suatu acara anjuran rangkaian buku Popular. Pihak penganjur membaca senarai 10 novel Melayu yang paling laris untuk tahun sebelumnya. Hampir semuanya ada 'cinta' atau 'kasih' dalam tajuknya. Saya terus terfikir untuk membuat sesuatu yang lain.

Di Facebook, saya menghantar mesej yang berupa Call for Entries. Mesej asalnya lebih kurang begini:

Cadangan: 60,000 perkataan (supaya buku sekitar 300 mukasurat).
Tema: Urban & kontemporari. Bahasa slanga dan celupar digalakkan tapi tidak dimestikan.
Boleh buat noir, thriller, cinta 4 segi, cyber-punk, dll.
Fikir 'pulp'.
Oh ya: judul harus satu perkataan saja.
Cadang nak buat cover gelap & saturated.

Boleh bincang lanjut kalau minat :-)

Mesej itu (lengkap dengan smiley) dihantar pada bulan 8 September 2010 kepada kesemua ahli page Facebook syarikat saya Matahari Books, lebih 2,500 orang. Daripada jumlah itu, 14 orang kata mereka nak tulis, biarpun hampir semua belum pernah menulis novel. Saya jangkakan daripada 14 itu, mungkin 7 akan siap novel mereka. Yang lain pasti pancit di tengah jalan.

Saya silap. Angka sebenarnya ialah 3. Di antara 11 yang lain tu, ada yang give up setelah 2 bab, ada yang perlu lebih banyak masa, dan ada yang terus tidak berhubung. Haih!

Jadi, orang pertama yang perlu mendapat "Terima kasih banyak" dari saya ialah Mark Zuckerberg. Tanpa Facebook, Fixi tak mungkin dapat dilancarkan secepat ini: 3 novel hanya 7 bulan setelah Call for Entries. Jika saya jumpa dia, saya akan belanja bir atau tapai. 

Ketiga-tiga novel yang pertama ini siap sepenuhnya pada bulan Mac dan dihantar ke printer lewat bulan itu. Hasilnya ialah apa yang anda dapat baca (jangan tak baca) sekarang: Pecah, Cekik dan Kougar.

Saya sangat puas dengan ketiga-tiga novel ini. Setiap satu punya kelebihannya yang tersendiri. Pecah berjaya mengatur dan menggerakkan plotnya yang kompleks dengan penuh gaya dan rona; aturan bahasanya punya ritma yang sangat catchy. Cekik yang sinis dan memeranjatkan ialah satu renungan tajam terhadap budaya konsumer kita yang membebalkan; karya Fixi yang paling edgy setakat ini. Kougar menyelami minda protagonisnya yang slinky -- dia impulsif, nakal, tapi bukannya semata-mata 'baik' atau 'jahat' -- dalam cerita yang penuh debar. Itulah dia: catchy - edgy - slinky.

Saya amat berterima kasih kepada ketiga-tiga penulis ini -- Khairulnizam Bakeri, Ridhwan Saidi, Shaz Johar -- kerana memberi kerjasama yang total. Biarpun ini merupakan novel-novel mereka yang pertama, saya harap (dan pasti) mereka akan terus menulis.

Åpabila saya umumkan pada bulan September yang saya mencari novel, saya belum ada nama atau syarikat untuk projek ini. Syarikat saya yang lagi satu, Matahari Books, lebih bertumpu kepada karya bukan-fiksyen. Saya rasa lebih sesuai jika ditubuhkan label yang baru dengan identiti baru.

Nama 'Fixi' mengambil masa agak lama juga untuk didapati. Saya tertarik kepada perkataan Bahasa Indonesia 'fiksi' (yang sudah semestinya diambil dari fiction Bahasa Inggeris, yang diambil dari...Rujuk halaman 2 mana-mana buku Fixi) kerana bunyinya ringkas dan padat. Tapi perkataan itu sendiri telah menjadi terlalu generik, jadi saya pilih Fixi kerana sebutannya sama tapi ejaannya even more ringkas dan padat. Jika anda Google "Buku Fixi", hanya hal-hal yang berkaitan dengan syarikat ini akan keluar. Berbeza dengan, contohnya, search "Buku Fiksi" yang ada ribuan hasil dari Indonesia.

Target pembaca Fixi ialah sebenarnya sesiapa saja yang boleh membaca bahasa kebangsaan kita, termasuk mereka yang selama ini lebih suka membaca dalam Bahasa Inggeris. Saya difahamkan yang kebanyakan pembaca novel Melayu ialah perempuan; ke mana perginya kaum lelaki? Saya difahamkan kebanyakan pembaca novel Melayu ialah orang Melayu; ke mana perginya kaum lain? Saya tidaklah mengatakan bahawa Fixi dapat memancing "pembaca-pembaca yang tiada" ini, tapi sekadar bertanya. Kalau tidak Fixi, mungkin ada syarikat lain dapat mengisi gap ini, dan syabas kepada mereka.

'Gaya Fixi' berbeza dengan 'gaya Dewan (Bahasa)'. Kami ingin menekankan plot dan gaya bahasa yang immediate, yang lebih in-your-face. Kami menggalakkan bahasa slanga, celupar, rojak. Di negeri omputih, gaya ini boleh dipanggil pulp fiction. Saya teringat karya-karya arwah Hamzah Hussin, yang menulis novel dengan tajuk seperti Samseng, dan juga menulis filem dengan tajuk seperti Dosa Wanita dan Sial Wanita. Ada beberapa novel arwah A. Samad Ismail terbitan Creative Enterprise yang juga tergolong dalam kategori ini.

Pulp fiction secara amnya tertumpu kepada elemen-elemen kehidupan yang gelap, samar, sensasi, panas! Biarpun begitu, cara penceritaannya haruslah bijak. Untuk memetik kata-kata Neil Gaiman, 4 perkataan yang paling penting yang harus timbul dalam benak pembaca ialah: "And what happened next?" Antara inspirasi saya, selain nama-nama yang disebut di atas, ialah Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins dan penulis-penulis murder mystery. Tiga novel yang pertama ini mungkin memberi hanya petanda awal kepada range yang mampu kami sediakan; seronok juga kalau ada yang nak tulis cerita zombi, sci-fi, psycho thriller atau sebegainya, tetapi bertempat dalam realiti masyarakat masakini. Secara peribadi saya lebih suka ayat-ayat yang berbunyi "Mereka makan di Secret Recipe KLCC" daripada "Mereka makan di sebuah restoran di salah satu pusat membeli-belah yang ternama di ibukota."

Konsep kulit buku Fixi diilham oleh salah satu label buku kegemaran saya, Vintage Black Lizard, yang menerbitkan novel jenayah. Berbeza dengan kebanyakan novel Melayu masakini, kami menggunakan fotografi dan bukannya ilustrasi. Setiap judul satu perkataan di-highlight dengan warna yang 'garang'. Kami juga akan sentiasa usha jurugambar dan model yang difikir sesuai untuk tajuk-tajuk yang mendatang.

Demi memenuhi tuntutan pasaran, setiap buku 'terpaksa' dicetak dengan kertas simili putih yang murah, untuk pastikan harga jualan setiap buku tidak akan melebihi RM20. Saiz buku pula kami tetapkan setelah mengukur saiz buku terbitan Alaf 21, yang merupakan salah satu market leader dalam bidang ini.

Cetakan pertama untuk setiap novel ialah 3,000 unit. Apabila hampir habis dijual, ia akan dicetak semula. Saya difahamkan bahawa novel-novel cinta ada yang dibuat cetakan pertama 15,000 unit, tapi biarlah kami cuba try test dulu. Kalau banyak sangat buku yang tertimbun di stor, siapa yang menyesal? Saya dan keluarga saya juga yang menyesal.


Terima kasih kepada pihak Lightbulb Studios kerana percaya bahawa Fixi dapat menerbitkan novel-novel yang dapat dipertimbangkan untuk diadaptasi ke medium filem/TV. MOU yang kami tandatangani pada hari ini ialah pertama kali suatu kerjasama sedemikian dibuat antara sebuah syarikat filem dan sebuah syarikat buku.

Sasaran Fixi ialah untuk menerbitkan sekurang-kurangnya 14 novel dalam tahun yang pertama (3 pada bulan ini dan 1 pada setiap bulan berikutnya), jadi memanglah mustahil untuk kesemua mereka diadaptasi. Sudah tentu ada yang dianggap tak begitu sesuai dari segi tema (tak cukup komersil), bajet (terlalu tinggi) atau apa-apa saja.

Sejujurnya, fokus utama saya ialah untuk memilih novel yang saya rasa berkesan sebagai novel, dengan hal kesesuaian untuk adaptasi filem/TV sebagai faktor kedua yang kuat. Fixi juga akan menerbitkan novel-novel yang mungkin akan ditolak oleh kedai buku biasa ("atas sebab-sebab tertentu") jika saya rasa bahawa karya itu tetap berkesan sebagai novel. (Buku sebegini akan dijual secara online dan di event-event tertentu sahaja, dan dibuat cetakan pertama 1,000).

Terima kasih kepada semua yang terlibat dalam penubuhan Fixi dan juga 3 novel yang pertama. Teck Hee: designer, Danny Lim: webmaster dan jurugambar, Azwan Ismail, Richard Wong dan Hafiz Hamzah yang menyemak manuskrip, Nikki Tok dalam hal urusan akaun, dan Gerakbudaya yang menjadi pengedar rasmi untuk semua buku Fixi. Dengan adanya Gerakbudaya, rancangannya ialah untuk setiap buku Fixi dijual di semua kedai buku utama di Malaysia, terutamanya Popular, MPH, Times, Borders dan Kinokuniya. Setiap buku boleh juga dibeli online di Kalau yang ovesi boleh beli di Ada ke orang kat luar Malaysia yang minat beli novel Melayu kat Amazon? Belum try belum tahu dong.


Di awal tulisan ini, saya berkata bahawa Fixi terilham apabila saya melihat deretan novel-novel popular yang hampir semuanya bertemakan cinta. Apakah ini bermakna Fixi anti-cinta atau anti-novel cinta? Seperti kata Normadiah dalam filem Pusaka Pontianak: "Oh T-I-D-U-K!" Kami amat cintakan cinta. Malah, salah satu novel Fixi yang sedang dalam peracangan memang bertajuk Cintan dan sedang diusahakan oleh penulis skrip popular Amir Hafizi. Tapi untuk mengutip kata-kata klise yang biasa diberi oleh artis baru, "kehadiran kami di sini sekadar untuk menambah variasi/pilihan/seri" kepada scene novel Melayu yang memang happening ini.

Selamat membaca! 

(*Foto oleh Khairulnizam Bakeri melalui Blackberry). 

Friday 8 April 2011

Short story by me (!) in the 19th issue of SELANGOR TIMES

Cinta Satay
by Amir Muhammad

She had six months to find him. She would be reaching a milestone birthday then and if her friends gave her another surprise cake, it would come with the customary joke that a fire extinguisher would be needed to extinguish all the candles. She didn't need a fire extinguisher; she just wanted a guy beside her to help her blow.

Getting dates was the easy part, as she was an eligible bachelorette. But each guy would need to pass the satay test to go further.

The satay stall was a semi-autonomous region across from a restaurant near her apartment. The restaurant really came alive at night, which meant that it was more fun to be there with someone else. Satay orders could be made to the restaurant staff but payment had to be made separately, upon delivery, to the satay-maker Sam. His stall closed only on rainy nights.

On a dry night in the first month, she brought a guy named Rais. He was full of florid praise for everything about her. But she noticed he didn't even look at Sam when ordering. Worse, he complained too loudly when there weren't enough
nasi impit cubes for his liking. You could tell a lot about a guy from the way he behaved to people he considered beneath him. Rais was rude, and so he didn't go further.

On a dry night in the second month, she brought a guy named Daniel. He was punctual when he picked her up, which was such a rare quality. But she noticed that he didn't eat any of the
kuah satay. When she asked why, he said, "It makes things messy." This made her look at him in a new light. A man who couldn't handle messiness would also be less fun and spontaneous later. Daniel was dry, and so he didn't go further.

On a dry night in the third month, she brought a guy named Ivan. He had great taste in clothes and aftershave. But she noticed something off-putting when he ordered the satay. "We'll have only the beef. Chicken's lame, and mutton's gross" he told Sam (and also her). She was taken aback. Did she have no say in the matter of which slain animal she might like? Ivan was inconsiderate, and so he didn't go further.

On a dry night in the fourth month, she brought a guy named Prakash. He had a very nice car, the kind she could imagine disappearing into while forgetting the congestion that might be on the road or in her head. But something happened as soon as he ordered 10 chicken and 10 mutton sticks for himself (she was not hungry this time).

"I don't really like mutton, but I make sure to always order it," he said. And he paused.

"Why?" she asked, since it seemed to be expected of her.

"It's to remind myself that, in Life, we can't always get what we want. We have to deal with even negative eventualities. So if I ordered only chicken, which is what I love, I'd be lulling myself into a false state of comfort. So I force myself to also eat mutton." He went on and on, not noticing that her eyes were glazing over. He didn't want a date, but an audience.

Prakash was ponderous, and so he didn't go further.

On a dry night in the fifth month, she brought a guy named Ghani. He was in an industry that was related to hers. So they had many matters of mutual interest, and that helped to keep the conversation lively. In fact, everything seemed to go swimmingly. She thought she'd finally found the ideal guy for the birthday party, which was only a month away. She had no problems with how he chose, ordered or ate the satay. It was only when he ostentatiously used a stick, now stripped of meat, as a toothpick that she felt dismay. He kept doing it for the rest of the conversation, which grew less scintillating as it progressed.

Ghani was gross, and so he didn't go further.

Almost a month later, she was at the restaurant alone. It was raining.

Sam, who couldn't open his stall, asked shyly if he could sit with her. She was surprised but was happy for the company.

They started talking. They'd had no reason to speak to each other before; aside from the capitalist barrier of customer/provider, she had always been busy with her dates and he with his orders. But now that they were unoccupied, she found herself having fun. She didn't even mind not having satay, because they ended up doing other things later.

Sam was sexy, and he skewered his way to the next stage perfectly.


* The rest of Selangor Times can be downloaded riiiiight here.
* This story was inspired by the Selangorlicious campaign (which I also plan to join).
* This is my second Selangor Times story, after Land Where My Blood Spills. I am happy that little idea I had (for a newspaper to have a Fiction column) has been chugging along quite well. Long may it continue!