The SEA is Ours is a set of short stories by authors from re-imagining steampunk in a Southeast Asian setting and from a Southeast Asian perspective. “Steampunk,” write editors Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng, “in our anthology, is an aesthetic that combines retrofuturism, alternate history, and technofantasy, so we wanted to know, what do these elements look like from a Southeast Asia perspective?” The resulting stories are rich, unexpected, and outstanding.
These are stories of technology in that many feature new angles on steampunk creations: Armor for fighting spiders in Robert Liow’s “Spider Here,” flying ships with unexpected power sources in Marilag Angway’s “Chasing Volcanoes,” for example, and Ivanna Mendel’s “Petrified,” or cyborg development in “Working Woman.” Over and around this, though, many of the stories focus on relationships. “Chasing Volcanoes” involves an unexpected, cross-class friendship. “Working Woman” ends up with a strange set of alliances, in part because one of the women is far more competent than anyone has given her credit for.
These stories take readers to new times and places, to alternate history and unexpected geographies. Often, mythological creatures roam the land, sometimes in the flesh, sometimes recreated from memory and story by talented builders. They are stories of dangers overcome and troubles faced. Most are complete and satisfying as single tales, though many leave the reader hoping that the author will write more in that world. Most will lead to hopeful exploring of library catalogs and bookstores for more reading.
The SEA is Ours is a powerful collection of tales recommended to lovers of myth, fantasy, and above all, steampunk.