Stardust, dystopia and the Asian imagination – Kitaab, Singapore publishes major Asian speculative fiction collection


 

(from left) Kitaab’s publisher and Series Editor Zafar Anjum. Mithran Somasundrum, Rohan Menteiro, Kaiyi Tan, Timothy Yam and Chris Mooney Singh

Kitaab, Singapore, has just published an anthology—The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018, which was launched at the Singapore Writers Festival on 9 November 2018.

The Best Asian Speculative FictionThis unique anthology is being seen by industry pundits as the most comprehensive speculative fiction collection from the continent. Comparisons are already being made with time honoured works like Dark Matter, the turn of the century anthology of speculative fiction from the African diaspora. However, as the editor of the volume Rajat Chaudhuri tells us, ‘We are just making a beginning with fresh-from-the-oven stories. Between stardust and dystopias, we are offering a sampling of flavours from the infinite breadth of the Asian imagination.’

According to series editor Zafar Anjum, ‘Richness of imagination is key to this collection; we plan to make it a series.’ Tales that take off on a tangent from the real have a special appeal to readers of all ages, he says.

Chaudhuri, who is a novelist and short story writer tells us how fulfilling it was for him to put together this volume of two and half dozen stories and some more, covering countries all the way from Kazakhstan to Korea and China to Indonesia. ‘The authors of this volume are either of Asian origin and Asian descent or have been residing in Asian countries for long. Twenty countries have been covered, sixteen (counting Hong Kong, SAR) of which are in Asia, the rest accounted for by diasporas and mixed ethnicities. Also, most of the stories have Asian settings and characters. But we are neither cartographers nor accountants,’ he adds, ‘though we love variety, we don’t want to mark each page of our book with flags and numbers.’

Best Asian fiction
(from left) Timothy Yam, Chris Mooney Singh, Zafar Anjum and Mithran Somasundrum

Quoting acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh, Chaudhuri says, “The great, irreplaceable potentiality of fiction is that it makes possible the imagining of possibilities.” Explaining the selection process and some personal favourites, the editor says, ‘From the mountain load of submissions, I had begun by looking for stories that imagined possible worlds. Lopa Ghosh’s powerful story Crow depicting singularity ruling as a totalitarian dictatorship and Shweta Taneja’s darkly funny The Daughter that Bleeds about a post-apocalyptic India are from that tradition. We have of course included a ton of so-called genre stories from the stables of science fiction, fantasy and horror and then those with some of this and some of that, and things further still. Xu Xi’s engaging tale about a time-travelling ghost, Joseph F. Nacino’s spine-chilling story about AI on a singing asteroid, Eliza Victoria’s thought-provoking sci-fi Web, and Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s mesmerizing Slo-Glo are those that immediately come to mind. The spook-o-metre goes crazy as you enter the horror stable to read stories by Kiran Manral and Rohan Monteiro while Tunku Halim leads you into poetic darkness. Each story that got included here had something unique to offer while the focus on geographical diversity was also one of my considerations. It has been quite difficult for me to choose the winners.’

With the opening up of the realm of the speculative as a broad democratic platform for stories, which while rejecting the post-Enlightenment fixation on ‘consensus reality’ provide a great space for under-represented and suppressed voices, it seemed the right time to put together an Asian anthology of speculative fiction, explains Chaudhuri.

‘In an age of dizzying change and great flux, it’s no surprise that speculative stories and allied art forms like video games are growing in popularity by the day. We will be back with more,’ says Anjum.

 

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Editor’s Picks (Winners) 

Overall
 Eliza Victoria (Philippines)  

Web

Shweta Taneja (India) The Daughter that Bleeds
Eldar Sattarov (Kazakhstan; Vietnamese-Tatar descent) Mountain Maid
 Best Experimental Story
 Priya Sarukkai Chabria (India)  Slo-Glo

 

 Contents

Rajat Chaudhuri (Editor, India) Introduction
Eldar Sattarov (Kazakhstan; Vietnamese-Tatar descent) Mountain Maid
Joseph F. Nacino (Philippines) Falling through the Labyrinth
Xu Xi (USA, originally from Hong-Kong, China of Indonesian-Chinese descent) Here I Am
Gargi Mehra (India) The Society of Flower-Pluckers
Eliza Victoria (Philippines) Web
Tan Kaiyi (Singapore) The Siege
Shweta Taneja (India) The Daughter that Bleeds
Carlo C. Flordeliza (Philippines) How the Human ATM Machine Lived Forever
Timothy Yam (Singapore) Terms of Service
Lopa Ghosh(India) Crow
Soramimi Hanarejima (USA; originally from Japan) When the Ratchet Turns
Richard Lord (USA and Singapore) A Modest Disposal
BaeSuah (Korea)

(Translated by Janet Hong)

The English Garden
Mithran Somasundrum (Thailand; originally from Sri Lanka) You Must Remember This
Kiran Manral (India) Upon his Return
Lijia  Zhang (China) Sweet and Fragrant
Amritha Dinesh (India) The Garden of Unearthly Delights
Sharmilla Ganesan (Malaysia) Last Shot
Zubier Abdullah (Canada; originally from Bangladesh) The Hunt
Ravibala Shenoy (USA, originally from India) Timanna’s House
Park Chansoon (South Korea)

(Translated by Cho Yoon-jung)

The Man who Wanted to Become a Snail

 

Rochelle Potkar (India) Eternal Swirl
Samim Ahmed (India)

(Translated by Abhisek Sarkar)

The Grave
Atikah Nabilah Latama (Indonesia) The Rose Queen
Vrinda Baliga (India) The Collision of Parallels
Amish Raj Mulmi (Nepal) The Fog
Neeraj Chawla (India) The God Link
Chris Mooney Singh (Singapore; Australian-Irish descent) Dante and the Tumult Cards
Abha Iyengar (India) Birds of Prey
Collin Piprell (Thailand; Originally from Canada) Time and Time Again
Rohan Monteiro(Singapore; originally from India) The School
Tunku Halim(Malaysia) The Black Bridge
Minsoo Kang (South Korea) The Abominable Library of Black Storm
Priya Sarukkai Chabria(India) Slo-Glo

 

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