Southeast Asia is a region rich in cultures and mythologies woven together by migration and trade routes. Its people are both indigenous and diasporic. The countries are born from syncretism, synthesis, assimilation and integration. Likewise, there have been colonizations, wars and occupations, with all these traumatic periods impacting the psychological, emotional and cultural landscape. Our fiction is a product of these shifting tides and collective psyches, joined by the sea and grounded by the land beneath our feet. Our ideas are a mishmash of (often) conflicting identities and motives. We speak in English, the dominant tongue used by the British. Many also use Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch or French, also languages of the various colonizers who made their mark in many countries. These tongues collide with our own native and diasporic languages, producing identities that are indeed biracial, variant and syncretic.
The following Malaysian and Singaporean genre anthologies and collections are in English. They are a mixture of horror, cyberpunk and science fiction stories. Horror is wildly popular in Southeast Asia which is not totally surprising, given how bloody the region is! There is an ongoing series of ghost story collections in Singapore, ravenously consumed by fans and still garnering more readers. I might look at Southeast Asian horror and horror writers in the future.
Please bear in mind that these anthologies and collections represent only a tiny sample of the current genre markets and readerships in a specific area and not indicative of the whole genre landscape in Southeast Asia. That’s not even counting the anthologies and collections written in native and vernacular languages from the region. The Malaysian and Singapore anthologies and collections are examples of attempts by writers to challenge, subvert and examine various identities, voices and folklores. The list below is just a list of current known works and not an endorsement of the anthologies.
I will focus on the Philippines and Indonesia in the next post.
13 Moons (Eeleen Lee)
Remang: An Anthology of Ghostly Tales (Editor: Daphne Lee)
Cyberpunk: Malaysia (Editor: Zen Cho)
The Ayam Curtain (Editors: J. Y. Yang and Joyce Chng)
Fish Eats Lion (Editor: Jason Erik Lundberg)
Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore (Editors: Amanda Lee Koe and Ng Yi-Sheng)
Science Chronicles (Publisher: Agency For Science And Technology, Singapore)*
*Author’s Note: I would like to highlight Science Chronicles as it is basically a science fiction writing competition run by a local science agency in Singapore for high school and college-level kids! I was one of the judges for the 2014 competition and I was heartened by the number of GIRLS writing science fiction. They wrote with heart, weaving in science and emotion. There is hope for the future!