Making A Scene: FIXI

Amir Muhammad is something of a cultural renaissance man – the documentarian, publisher, writer, internet personality, and filmmaker has done it all and then some. With Fixi, a sub-imprint of his Matahari publishing house, Amir has delved into the world of pulp fiction. Now this doesn’t seem all that new, but bear in mind that Fixi publishes pulp fiction in Bahasa Malaysia – a genre almost non-existent in current Malay literature.

Fixi, not to be mistaken for what skinny jeans-wearing mat sikals ride (“the name is taken from the Indonesian word fiksilah“), has released 5 books written by newish writers Saifullizan Tahir, Affifudin Omar, Shaz Johar, Khairulnizam Bakeri, and Ridhwan Saidi. All pulpy lit that ranges from sci-fi-tinged noir to psycho thriller, a crazy bet on Amir’s part considering the BM novel-buying demographics are known to only buy books of the romance genre.

In fact, that was exactly what spurred Amir to start Fixi.

“Last year, I attended an award ceremony where the 10 best-selling Malay novels of the previous year were listed out. Almost all had cinta or kasih in the title. I thought: ‘Great! Let’s try something a bit different.'”

Asked about how difficult it was for Malay novelists to exist without conforming to what sells, Amir, being of the can-do demeanour, simply quips “there’s no struggle – if the avenues don’t exist, I just create them.”

That rebellious streak extends to his advice to writers seeking to get published too, quoting the Malay saying, “tepuk dada tanya selera, berani buat berani tanggung,” (ask yourself what you want to do, and be responsible for it when you do it) when asked.

It’s hard to gauge the reception of something so new, but Fixi has undeniably incited whole new demographics for Malay literature; “There seems to be a buzz on our Facebook page. There are new blog reviews practically every day, and some are by people who say it’s the first time they’d read a local novel.”

Still Amir admits, “pulp fiction is certainly not new in Malaysia; one of my fantasy projects is to adapt out-of-print pulp novels from the 1950s to the 1980s, making them contemporary.”

Pulp is not the only genre Fixi will publish, Amir is a fan of unconventional narratives; “I am also interested in stylistic experimentation. I hope to publish a novel that consists solely of SMSes, others that are completely in regional dialect, others that consist entirely of dialogue. The possibilities are there.”

You can tell Amir loves the books he published, they are all handsomely printed with appealing colourful spines. It also helps that he seems prepared to make the books a pop culture staple with a certain arrangement.

“Plus, we have a first-look movie deal with a subsidiary of Grand Brilliance, so that will help spread the word further. They have so far optioned one novel for the big screen and are studying the others.”

It would be easy to proclaim Fixi as a pioneer of a something, but Amir is more humble than that. Not seeing himself as a part of any world, he adopts a que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be) philosophy to the Malay literary scene. Alternative Malay fiction would probably make it to the mainstream with or without Fixi.

“As a dog in a Saul Bellow novel said; ‘For God’s sake, open up the universe a little more!'”

Fixi hopes to release at least 1 book a month. Find more info and get your pulp fiction fix at www.fixi.com.my.