The Ricepunk Manifesto

As a writer, I am powerless. In the face of armies and governments and media corporations with overblown pundits, I am just one beige soul with a keyboard.

But I have my words. And while I cannot dispatch these pocket tyrants, I can perhaps strike back in my own way: with stories. Adding, entertaining, exploring, taking the apathy and incompetence and the petty struggle and turning them into stories worth remembering. And because we are Homo Narrator, and not Homo Sapiens, if I can change the story, I can change how people remember us. How they react.



We are those from the teeming lands.

We are chameleons. We eat rice and burgers. We drink arrack and whiskey. We are the East and the West, the ancient and the new, the bastard lovechild of machined denim and handloomed cotton.

We are paradoxes. We live chaotic lives in chaotic worlds, born into difference, and we carry difference with us. We shift under identities that fall apart on closer examination. We take labels and discard them. We are at home in the highest office and the lowest tea-shack on the road.

We are shapeshifters. We live through freedom and intolerance; individuals and communities; unity and difference; and we thread the grey needle between these lines every day of our lives, as we have for thousands of years.

We have no American dream, no stiff upper lip, no #eatpraylove, input-output myth. We are those who are detained at airports. Our governments betray us, and those with friends in high places run amok. We live and die knowing our deepest voices will be drowned out by the shallowest of those elsewhere. When they are heard, they are pigeonholed into caricatures, robbed of all nuance.


Ever since the first days of mass media the narratives we have seen, in paper, on screen, have relegated us to the role of court jesters and zoo exhibits. Our cultures are by turns quaint and full of exotic wisdom, and in the next breath they are savage and backward. Our tales are bastardized by both the patronizing and the excessively woke, turned into cannon fodder in battles we care little for.

We are diversity taken to the thousandth power – not in the weak checkbox just-another-uniform crap of the West, but diversity born of new world orders colliding head-on with old orders that trace their roots through centuries, that embed themselves in every facet, from language, to art, to music, to politics.

We are societies bound not by one utopia, or two, but by tens, hundreds, thousands. We worship not one god, but millions. We are gleaming cities with police states and sprawling slums built by democracies.

We are pride and humiliation, scattered and united, by turns modern and advanced and by turns ancient and decrepit, an assembly of systems that stretch across thousands of years, a Frankenstein’s monster stitched at scales never fully grasped.


Our parents are people that have dwelt in our pasts; burrowing into our myths, reminiscing of times when we were great.  We are here to turn the gaze outward. To imagine multi-cultural, multi-polar worlds, not built around one truth, but several. To imagine new world orders; to describe ten thousand utopias, each different from the last; to bring variety to a world sorely lacking.

We are here to take back the narrative, to show the world our side, to break our stories out of the zoo they have been put in to and help them regain their rightful place in history. Our difference is a competitive edge, not something to be ashamed of.

We understand that this task is not easy.

We understand that much of what we want to say will not be heard. We might be born into a rigged game, where the house always wins, and the cards have been dealt.

But the rapid democratization of information, the power of social media, the ready availability of tools and technology for the production and distribution of our stories have made it possible for us, now more than ever, to fight our battles. Our stories will be heard, one way or the other.

Let us play.


I was pleasantly surprised, and then astonished at the reception that this thematic document of mine received. And of course when a document such as this receives attention from an audience of n > 1, there comes a time when some clarifications have to be made, if simply to prevent myself from being too repetitive.

First and foremost, the Ricepunk manifesto is a living document that I maintain as a useful framework for my thinking around certain types of fiction that I want to create. It is inclusionary rather than exclusionary: if you see yourself in these words, you’re welcome to hop on the wagon; if not, that’s perfectly fine.

The ricepunk manifesto encodes a couple of themes which, to my mind, are essential:

One. An examination of policy and governance, be the derived from hard law or soft; of power and the superstructures created when units of power begin to interact with each other, especially through the use of traditions or rulesets; and of the people trying to live their lives within these systems that subjugate one while privileging the other.

Two. Hybridity. The thesis here is that al,l if not most, of the inhabitants of our world are hybrids; not of one culture but of the amalgamation of several, whether by conquest or by osmosis. And as such, their habits, behaviours, identities, expressions are a mix; sometimes intentional, especially where the performance of sorts is required for them to function in the particular sub-sect of society; sometimes unintentional, brought about by the fortitous interlocking of behaviours from cultures or templates originally not designed to function together.

This I posit almost as an anti-thesis to a particular strain of the conversation on authenticity, that demands that the behaviours of people both fictional and nonfictional conform to rigidly expressed stereotypes in search of the “authentic”; a search that leaves many of us – real or fictional – painted into intellectual boxes of Orientalist nonsense. Such thinking historically has intersected with examinations of policy and governance as expressed in the point above.

These divisions of authentic/pure or not are often used as a controlling expression, often by those with power on those without; there is an intellectual link here with the systems of hierarchy and organisation that seek to control hybrid chaos, from caste systems to notions of racial and ethnic purity, to notions of ownership of facets of expression. Hybridity means that by default, we acknowledge that our cultures are proverbial boiling pots of behavior patterns; very few of us are truly authentic to anything but ourselves, being a select few ingredients floating in the mix; and we are under no obligation to be otherwise.