Jaymee Goh on Malaysian Science Fiction


In preparation of Malaysian Science Fiction week series here is an overview of Malaysian Science Fiction. Jaymee Goh had an article on Malaysian Science Fiction a few years ago which is worth checking out. Here is an excerpt:

Firstly, our folklore is rich with talking animals, mystical people, daring adventures, and heroes. Much of it is based on animistic beliefs, leftover from the days before Islam came to our shores. (Much of what is recognized as the Malaysian peninsular was under various Hindu empires for several centuries.) As a result, myths and legends provide a rich source for imaginary romps. Unfortunately, much of these myths and legends aren’t always transmitted, as Malay supremacy, tied with Islamism, is on the rise and wants to do away with animistic traditions (our political situation is fairly fraught).

Secondly, our history of colonialism has affected us, deeply. Some of you may remember reading Deepa D.’s I Didn’t Dream of Dragons, which articulates wonderfully the wounds left on the psyche of colonized peoples long after the British empire receded from our shores. The same issues affect Malaysians.

Thirdly, it is incredibly difficult to find South-east Asian science fiction / fantasy in English. If I find something, it’s usually a collection of myths and legends, rather than a new, original novel.

If you were to wander into a Malaysian bookstore, you would find that most of the books sold are in English. Part of it is because despite Malay being our official language, much cross-cultural communication occurs in English, although we have a basilect that takes on the grammatical structures and vocabulary of Malay, Chinese and Tamil, depending on who you talk to (we Malaysians are very good at code-switching).

If you look into the science fiction / fantasy sections, young adult, horror, and romance, you would note that all books have been brought in from overseas. Tolkien is always in stock, alongside other classic fantasy mainstays. The young adult stocks all the latest books. Most of them are from U.S. American publishers. And noticeably, U.S. American white authours.

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