Jaymee Goh on The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia ~ Guest Blog, Interview

Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Jaymee Goh for stopping by today.


Title: The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia
Author: Jaymee Goh
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing
Cover Artist: Shing Yin Khor
Genre: Alternate Universe/Alternate World, Fantasy, Steampunk


The stories in this collection merge technological wonder with the everyday. Children upgrade their fighting spiders with armor, and toymakers create punchcard-driven marionettes. Large fish lumber across the skies, while boat people find a new home on the edge of a different dimension. Technology and tradition meld as the people adapt to the changing forces of their world. The Sea Is Ours is an exciting new anthology that features stories infused with the spirits of Southeast Asia’s diverse peoples, legends, and geography.

Editor Spotlight: Jaymee Goh

We are here today to talk about The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia. What can you tell us about it?

The SEA Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia is an anthology of 12 short stories by writers all over the world, re-imagining steampunk through a Southeast Asian perspective, curated and co-edited by me and Joyce Chng. Steampunk is usually mistaken for “Victorian science fiction.” I happen to be writing a PhD dissertation on steampunk, and I’ve never liked this definition. It’s too limiting, and without thinking about it, people will adhere to it unquestioningly just due to the amount of stuff on the market that uses “Victorian” (and all the assumptions attached to it) as the frame. So I put together this anthology with my co-editor, Joyce Chng, to show how steampunk could be done that’s not tied to colonial narratives, or at least complicating colonial narratives.

We also push back against a lot of narratives from Southeast Asia that cast us as a Third World region trying to modernize. Modernization often involves taking on the social mores of the old colonial powers and reconciling it with our own cultures, often apologizing for ourselves and our own minority groups. So my co-editor and I did our best to ensure the stories don’t apologize for anything in this anthology.

What inspired you to edit The SEA is Ours?

My MA thesis was about how steampunk could be about other milieus without looking Victorian at all, nor even heteronormative. Besides myself, there were very few Southeast Asians writing steampunk, and I really wanted to push its limits. A single author cannot truly explore the breadths of an entire continent, or region, especially a region as multi-varied as Southeast Asia. I was also very, very tired of seeing stories about SEAsia by non-SEAsians, which often tells stories from the perspective of tourists or colonizers.

What about The SEA is Ours makes you the proudest?

Oh, there are many things to be proud of! Its range, for starters. We have a mix of adventurous stories and domestic ones, and many stories include both types of conflicts. You will also recognize a lot of steampunk tropes, which are then combined with specifically Southeast Asian geographies and sensibilities.

We’re also very proud that we’ve got many contributors from Southeast Asia itself! Southeast Asians have been producing Anglophone literature in and out of genre, for a long time, and it’s great to see some new voices in our anthology. You’ll see a lot of narratives common to Asia, whether migrant, refugee, or middle-class, and I hope they surprise you.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t compromise your vision. If you want to write for the money, do it! But if you have a particular vision of how you want things to go, you need to stick with it. That doesn’t mean you should ignore craft—in fact, perfecting your craft will very much help you refine your vision. A lot of young writers want to tell their own stories without paying attention to how they are doing it, and it’s always worthwhile learning how to tear your own work apart so you can improve; that’s part of not compromising.

What is the nicest thing a reader has said to you in a review, email, in person, or on social media?

With regards to my blog, I occasionally get emails thanking me for my work on people of color in steampunk, because a lot of POC think that steampunk isn’t for them; they have no points of reference for involvement. So it’s always wonderful to get a reader who thanks me for opening new vistas for them, that they can see themselves now.

The anthology, though, has garnered a lot of positive feedback, a lot of excitement that this is a thing. We had areview from Publishers Weekly recently that said, in effect, even the stories that aren’t standouts in the anthology are very good. As an editor, that made me feel great.

What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?

Right now I am working my way through a special double-issue of Renditions, which is a journal that translates Chinese works into English. This double-issue focuses on Chinese science fiction short stories. (I especially enjoyed “The Poetry Cloud” by Hugo winner Liu Cixin.) So I guess I should read The Three Body Problem next.

Rapid Fire Time

Love Story or Thriller? Love Story.

Vanilla or Chocolate? Pfft, chocolate, always. Vanilla belongs only in smoothies.

Underwear and socks: folded in the drawer or tossed? Tossed underwear; folded socks.

Music or TV/Movies? Music.

Electronica or Jazz? Electronica.

Coke or Pepsi? Coke.

Fire or Ice? Fire!

Salty or Sugary? Sugary.

What are you working on? What is next?

Currently I am working on my dissertation! I may take time out occasionally to write some new short fiction or poetry. I have a poem coming out in inkscrawl #9: Atypical Weather. If The SEA Is Ours does well, and we fundraise to our biggest stretch goal, we may well see another volume of it out.

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About the Author

Jaymee Goh is a reader, writer, editor, and critic. She is from Malaysia, and currently lives in the United States, writing a dissertation at the University of California, Riverside. She writes the postcolonial steampunk blog Silver Goggles and her non-fiction has appeared in Science Fiction Studies and The WisCon Chronicles.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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