A Brief SEA Fantasy List

I wrote this list to accompany this thread about SEA being underrepresented in SFF! Even as publishing diversifies and we see more interest in stories and worlds that draw from non-Anglo Western canon, the bars we see move are generally still commensurate with the cultures that have more global or American cultural capital/consciousness. Asian representation, for example, is very much dominated by Chinese and maybe now Korean attention, with the K-wave. But that means Asian representation is largely dominated by East Asian faces. And as much as I’m ethnically Chinese, I’m Southeast Asian first, and I’m continually wanting to see stories that reflect more of my experience as Straits Chinese growing up in the tropics, as well as stories that draw on the rich intertwined cultures of ASEAN–not just diaspora from bigger global cultures, but local Malay, Indonesian, Filipino, Laotian, Burmese, Thai, Bruneian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Timorese, and various indigenous cultures.

I was going to just drop a few recs at the end of the thread, but then I kept wanting to add more, and so I ended up here in longform. In creating this list, I was picking specifically SFF that had explicit Southeast Asian influences on the page and in the world, as opposed to just SFF written by Southeast Asians (as much as I want to see SEA fantasy, I will also stand the ground that we shouldn’t need to write Cultural StoriesTM, but it’s not what went into this list). If you have any recommendations, let me know!! I’d love to expand. But anyway, here’s a non-exhaustive (but unfortunately more-representative-than-it-should-be) list, spanning MG to YA to adult to graphic novels and story collections:

Novels

  • Black Water Sister, Zen Cho
  • Dauntless and Stolen City, Eliza Bonnin
  • The Gatekeeper, Nuraliah Norasid
  • The Fisherman King, Kathrina Mohd Daud
  • A Wish in the Dark and The Last Mapmaker, Christina Soontornvat
  • The Tensorate series, Neon Yang
  • The Girl and the Ghost and Hamra and the Jungle of Memories (forthcoming), Hanna Alkaf
  • The Singing Hills cycle, Nghi Vo
  • Wing of the Locust, Joel Donato Ching Jacob
  • Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan
  • Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard (and other books)
  • The Ghost Bride and The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo
  • The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, KS Villoso
  • The Formidable Miss Cassidy, Meihan Boey
  • Pahua and the Soul Stealer, Lori M Lee
  • The Black Isle, Sandi Tan
  • Lalani of the Distant Sea, Erin Entrada Kelly
  • How the Man in Green Saved Pahang, and Possibly the World, Joshua Kam
  • Marikit and the Ocean of Stars, Caris Avendaño Cruz
  • Damned If You Do, Alex Brown (forthcoming)
  • She Is A Haunting, Trang Thanh Tran (forthcoming)

Singaporean indie publishers with SFF titles include Epigram Books, Ethos Books and Penguin SEA (I could be here all day if I pulled out the SFF titles from these catalogues, but I’ve included a few)

Story collections

  • The Sea is Ours: A Southeast Asian Steampunk Anthology
  • Lion City, Ng Yi-Sheng
  • Never Have I Ever, Isabel Yap
  • Spirits Abroad, Zen Cho
  • 10 issues of LONTAR, the (now closed) SEAsian SFF magazine
  • The Infinite Library and Other Stories, Victor Fernando O Campo
  • this is how you walk on the moon, ed. Patricia Karunungan, Samuel Caleb Wee & Wong Wen Pu
  • Fish Eats Lion Redux, a Singaporean SFF anthology (with me! upcoming in November)

Graphic novels

  • Trese, Budjette Tan (ill. Kajo Baldisimo)
  • The Magic Fish, Trung Le Nguyen
  • Mr Tino, Russell Molina (ill. Ian Sta. Maria)

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