Five Singaporeans and one Malaysian are on the shortlist for the sixth Epigram Books Fiction Prize, which will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Jan 16.
Among them are Sebastian Sim, 54, who won the $25,000 prize in 2017 for his satirical novel The Riot Act; and Daryl Qilin Yam, 29, whose debut Kappa Quartet was longlisted for the 2015 prize.
Newcomers to the award, Singapore's only prize for unpublished English-language novels, include Lasalle College of the Arts lecturer Wesley Leon Aroozoo, 36; Association of Comic Artists of Singapore vice-president Boey Meihan, 43; and lawyer Pallavi Gopinath Aney, 40.
Aroozoo, a film-maker, has published books such as the 2017 non-fiction novella I Want To Go Home, about a Japanese man who dives to search for the wife he lost in a tsunami. Boey released her debut novel, space opera The Messiah Virus, last year.
The sole Malaysian on the list is H.Y. Yeang, 70, a retiree who previously headed the Biotechnology and Strategic Research Unit at Malaysia's Rubber Research Institute. He has authored and co-authored over 200 research papers.
As the usual hotel gala ceremony had to be cancelled due to Covid-19, Epigram redirected the savings towards expanding the prize shortlist from four to six novels, increasing the pot from $40,000 to $50,000. In previous years, the prize was awarded to four novels, with one winner receiving $25,000 and three finalists each getting $5,000.
The panel of judges includes Epigram Books founder Edmund Wee; film producer and curator Wahyuni Hadi; children's book author Monica Lim; Nanyang Technological University associate professor of English Sim Wai Chew; and Mr Gareth Richards, founder of Gerakbudaya Bookshop in Penang.