Five Singaporeans, one Malaysian on Epigram Books Fiction Prize shortlist

Singaporean Sebastian Sim, who won the 2017 prize for his satirical novel The Riot Act, is among those on the longlist.
Singaporean Sebastian Sim, who won the 2017 prize for his satirical novel The Riot Act, is among those on the longlist.PHOTO: ST FILE
The Epigram Books Fiction Prize will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Jan 16 next year.
The Epigram Books Fiction Prize will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Jan 16 next year.PHOTO: EPIGRAMBOOKSHOP.SG

SINGAPORE - 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 next year.

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Newcomers to the award, Singapore's only prize for unpublished English-language novels, include Lasalle College of the Arts lecturer Wesley Leon Aroozoo, 36; Association of Comic Artists of Singapore vice-president Boey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 like 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 more than 200 research papers.

As the usual 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.

The prize, which is a cash advance against future royalties, was started in 2015 for Singapore writers and opened to writers from other Asean countries in 2018.