I picked up the anthology The Steampowered Globe, editors Rosemary Lim and Maisarah Bte Abu Samah (ASiFF, Singapore, 2012) because . . . . I don’t remember why. I read about it or saw a mention of it pass through Twitter or Tumblr, and bought and downloaded a copy on Kindle.
Then it sat on my iPad for months, unread, until I went to London Worldcon (Loncon) and had the pleasure of being on a panel with J Y Yang. She was smart and funny, and when I remembered she had a story in The Steampowered Globe, I started reading.
I’m just sorry I waited so long. Except for Yang, the authors and editors weren’t known to me so I came into the experience with, I hope, few preconceptions. This kind of anthology represents what digital publishing offers: opportunity and accessibility. Twenty years ago such a collection of seven stories by Asian writers might certainly have been published but my ability to discover it would have been limited. If the ebook revolution has done anything it has broadened the range of what can be affordably published and how much more feasible it is to get hold of things from all over the world. This is not to say there isn’t a long way to go in in the quest for diverse books, just that I’m delighted that anthologies like this exist and can be downloaded with one click.
I read the anthology back in September and this many months later I still remember what all the stories are about as well as their stimulating visions of colonialism, science, authority, work, and relationships.
I loved the rich language in Leow Hui Min Annabeth’s Ascension, with its clever alternate history of an empress and her natural philosopher.
Claire Cheong thoughtfully explores humanity, freedom, and loyalty in No, They Dream of Mechanical Hearts.
In Viki Chua Morrow’s Knight, science and superstition clash. I particularly enjoyed the way Chua lovingly describes machinery.
Yuen Xiang Hao’s Colours made me cry, and I didn’t expect that. Poignant.
The workers do not like their Union Jacker superintendent in Mint Kang’s delightful How the Morning Glory Grows. So much sardonic banter.
I can’t tell you anything about Ng Kum Hoon’s Help! Same Angler Fish’s Been Gawking for Eight Minutes! without ruining the experience of reading it for yourself. It’s so rare for this kind of story to work for me, but this did.
I asked J Y Yang if she was writing a novel in the splendid world that is the setting of Captain Bells and the Sovereign State of Discordia. I really wanted more. I still want more.
I think what I loved most about these stories was how — for me — they blended familiar sfnal elements with a non-Western perspective; it made the settings and stories feel fresh and brought interesting nuance to each individual story’s approach.