Singaporean Science Fiction & Fantasy
By Joyce Chng
Science fiction and fantasy has always been a strong literary genre and tradition in Singapore. Singaporeans love reading, watching and consuming science fiction and fantasy media. From the 1980s and 90s, with the mention of Tesseract, a quarterly magazine published by the Singapore Science Fiction Association (SFAS) to the mid 2000s, Singaporean science fiction has grown and flourished.
Tesseract was launched in 1990 with a total of 10 issues until its end in 1992. Its launch was attended by Brian Aldiss as well. The magazine published short stories and features on science fiction media. SFAS also organized an art competition for science fiction and fantasy.
There were note-worthy short stories by writers such as Gopal Baratham, Lim Thean Soo and Terence Chua. Their short stories explored a range of themes and tropes from post apocalypse to generic engineering
Two seminal science fiction novels published in 1985 and 1996 respectively are important to note: Star Sapphire and 2084. Star Sapphire, written by Joan Fong, under the pseudonym of Han May, was Singapore’s first science fiction novel that has won acclaim and commendation from the National Book Development Council Book Awards in 1986.
2084, written by Raju Chellam, is a science fiction satire set in Singapore.
2012 was a pivotal year as Singaporean sff writers began to push for more science fiction, steampunk and fantasy with the publications of anthologies such as The Ayam Curtain (eds: J. Y. Yang & Joyce Chng) and The Steampowered Globe (eds: Rosemary Lim & Maisarah Bte Abu Samah). They are then followed by Fish Eats Lion (ed. Jason Erik Lundberg) and Eastern Heathens (eds: Amanda Lee Koe & Ng Yi-Sheng). Fish Eats Lion is an anthology of Singaporean science fiction whereas Eastern Heathens is inspired by Asian myths and folklores. Singaporean science fiction is further bolstered with LONTAR, a magazine publishing Singaporean and Southeast Asian science fiction and fantasy short stories.
In between, there are science fiction and fantasy works with Rider and Speaker (Joyce Chng), The Land of Meat Munchers (Nicholas Yong), Dragonhearted (Xie Shi Min), The Crown of Earth’s Desire (Terry Ho), Uncanny Valley: A Collection of Short Stories (S. Mickey Lin) and The Infinite Library And Other Stories (Victor Ocampo).
Singaporean science fiction and fantasy authors and poets such as J. Y. Yang (The Black Tides of Heaven) and Christina Sng (An Assortment of Sky Things) have also won international acclaim and Nebula nominations. There are also more Singaporean writers submitting their stories to pro and semi-pro science fiction magazines. Their stories are recommended on the Nebula and Tiptree nominations reading list. With Mint Kang (Expanded Horizons) and L. Chan (Liminal Stores, Arsenika), Singaporean science fiction is set to grow further.
I would also like to mention Singaporean science fiction writers writing in their own languages. There are Hassan Hasaa’Ree Ali and Isa Kamari, writing in Malay. There were also science fictional plays written in Tamil and Mandarin Chinese in the 1960s and 1980s respectively.
(This article is an excerpt for a longer post.)