A straddler between worlds speaks…

As most of you will know, Singapore – the country where I was born and raised in – was a colony under the British. She became one of the most lucrative colonies and a portal for ships travelling between Asia and the rest of the world. Much of the structures here – legal, educational and thought – are legacies from that past.

For us, descendants of the migrants who flocked to her shores, we straddle very uncomfortably between the East and the West. We cannot really ignore and forget our colonial past, we the amahs, the coolies, the servants who waited at doors and tables of our colonist masters and mistresses. We loved them. We hated them. We were in an odd and precarious headspace that would take years… generations… to change.

I am a SFF writer and I write in English. I was schooled in British English and our literature texts were Anthony and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet. I thought and wrote in English. Fair enough. I also scored well for Literature in the General Cambridge Examinations, both Ordinary and Advanced Levels, both throwbacks from the British. For a while, I felt great. I was fluent in English. Yet, a trip to Glasgow changed all that. While I chatted amiably to a sales-lady about our majors (medieval history, by the way), a man came up beside and just stared as if I had just crawled out from the sewers like some crocodile monster. I was Chinese and I spoke perfect English.
The horror.

Should I blame the British colonial past? Should I hate them for turning me into this hybrid, a straddler between worlds?

When I got to know about We See A Different Frontier edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril Al-Ayad, I was excited. Finally an anthology to address the issues of colonialism and its consequences! And from the perspectives of the colonized. We SFF writers from “the rest of the world” are often termed as World SF or International SF writers – and many of us are also called post-colonial writers, simply because we all hail from countries formerly colonized by the Western nations like the British, the Dutch and the French. Not all of us like the term “post-colonialism” because it puts us in that category of fiction and stereotypes us. For me, am I going to write about weepy fiction about Chinese women leading dreary, tortured lives before being liberated (!) by white lovers? (I spoke more about this in my essay: http://djibrilalayad.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/w-is-for-world-sf.html). This is what traditional publishing wants to read. This fake voice, engendered by fake restrictions (that bind, mind you).

So, I am going to signal boost about We See A Different Frontier, because it’s time the world hears our voices.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. seantheblogonaut
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 13:50:06

    You story reminded me of a visit to our school by a group of Singaporean college age students. One of our library staff was amazed that they spoke perfect English. I had to go into the resource room to “head desk”.

    Thanks for bringing We See A Different Frontier to my attention.


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