Retro-futurism can be anachronistic fun for the whole family, so you’d think steampunk would be a good time for all. But the big issue with the sci-fi sub-genre is its often white-centric stories, which reflect the lack of representation that has been (and remains) all too common in current-day pop culture and media. Editor of the Mammoth Book of Science Fiction Stories by Women Alex Dally MacFarlane summed the problem up when she in 2012 marked, “[It] ignores the incredibly complex, usually deeply horrendous realities of the 19th Century in favour of some kind of exotified London or Wild West with gears…[with] not a whole lot of engagement with issues like sexism, imperialism, the attempted eradication of the Native peoples of North America…”
Therein lies the beauty in The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia. The SEA is a beautiful looking anthology of short stories and art edited by Rosarium Publishing, which “redefines steampunk from a Southeast Asian perspective.” Editors Joyce Chng and Jaymee Goh, both consistent critics of the genre’s Eurocentrism, are bringing something completely new to readers. “We felt unsatisfied by representations of Southeast Asia in most of speculative fiction,” Goh says in an interview with Asian American Press, “and felt very strongly that steampunk would be a really great way of talking about the myriad histories in the region.”
And Chng and Goh aren’t just dishing out your granddaddy’s steampunk, but worlds with boat people, aswangs (ghouls from Filipino lore), spider fighting and more!
- Paolo Chikiamco, a Manila-based Filipino prose and comic writer. (Check out his interactive wrestling novel for Choice of Games called Slammed! )
- Timothy James M. Dimacali, Filipino sci-fi author and editor.
- Thriller, fantasy, and horror writer Alessa Hinlo was born in the Philippines and raised in Northern Virginia; she’s most interested in stories that reflect the push and pull of conflicting cultures and feature people who fall into the spaces between.
- Robert Liow, also known as Robert Bivouac, is a Chinese-Malaysian writer currently living in Singapore. An advocate for racial justice and diversity in media, he has appeared in the inaugural Singapore Poetry Writing Month (“SingPoWriMo”) anthology and several publications by Singapore’s Creative Arts Programme.
- Pear Nuallak is a writer born in South London of Bangkokian artists. They studied History of Art jointly with SOAS and UCL (University of London) focusing on Thai Buddhist art, hybridity, globalization, and postcoloniality. Interested in food, fiction, disruptive domesticity, and textiles.
- Award winning author Kate Osias has four Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, is a winner of the Gig Book Contest, the Canvas Story Writing Contest, and the 10th Romeo Forbes Children’s Storywriting Competition.
- And literally half a dozen more!
Each story is accompanied by a beautiful illustration created by an amazing artists: Trung Le , a Vietnamese American comic artist; Shelley Low, a Singaporean animator/illustrator; Wina Oktavia, author of a webcomic called Traceless Knight (recent winner of an award for Japan’s Silent Manga Audition); Borg Sinaban , one of the founding members of a Studio Salimbal and Stephani Soejono storyboard artist by day and comic maker by night.
There are some really sweet rewards for backing this project, like copies of the book (both e-pub and hardcopy) and copies of previous Rosarium releases. If you’ve got a bit of cash to spare, you can even be written into future stories by the likes of Eve Shi, Cecelia Tan and Nisi Shawl. Fancy having one of your stories critiqued by an honest-to-goodness writer? One of your own short stories could be critiqued by editor-in-chief of Delinquent Spice, Nin Harris!
Unlike other campaigns, the funds being raised are going directly to the editors, writers, artists and fees. If the stretch goal of $14,000 is reached, this will fund the planned follow up anthology!
Can’t wait until the release date? For those of you interested in seeing Joyce Chng speak live, she’ll be featured on the upcoming Singapore Writer’s Festival panel “Instalove—Romance and the YA Novel.” To get more of Jaymee Goh’s reviews, essays and reading lists, check out her page Silver Goggles, heralded far and wide as the antidote for the steampunk’s got too many anglophilic colonialist type guys in spats blues.