Gayatri Pillai (PhD) is an instructor in the Department of English Literature, Linguistics and Theatre Studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). She holds a PhD jointly awarded by King’s College, London, and NUS. She was awarded the Maurice Baker Prize for her doctoral research on colonial South Indian literature. Her areas of research interest are ecocriticism, postcolonial theory, and South and Southeast Asian literature. She is co-researcher on a project for the National Arts Council, Singapore, and is the Managing Editor of The Journal of Southeast Asian Ecocriticism. E-mail: ellgtp@nus.edu.sg


The Posthuman in Contemporary Singaporean Speculative Fiction

Abstract: With the threat of climate change looming large, popular discourse in SE Asia has been increasingly preoccupied with explorations of human-nonhuman entanglements. In recent years Singaporean authors have frequently used speculative fiction to engage in posthumanist enquiries. Employing futuristic, supernatural and fantastic elements, these writers ask compelling questions about the future of humanity through depictions of fractured/alternate realities and apocalyptic ecologies. The publication of Fish Eats Lion by Jason Lundberg in 2012, touted as the first anthology of literary speculative fiction from Singapore, was a pioneering endeavor that caught the attention of the local literary community and readers. In 2013, Lundberg followed this up by setting up Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. The journal was active until 2018 and gave local authors and speculative fiction enthusiasts a much-needed impetus. Another milestone was the publication of Nuraliah Norasid’s The Gatekeeper (2016), which went on to win the Epigram Books Fiction Prize. Since then, a spate of publications in the genre has garnered popularity. These include Kallang Basin Adagio (2017) by Khor Kuan Liang, Altered Straits by Kevin Martens Wong, Beng Beng Revolution (2018) by Lu Huiyi, and Lion City (2019) by Ng Yi-Sheng. This paper explores the context of recent posthumanist articulations and how they challenge the status-quo through speculative imaginaries. The aim is to foreground the liberties the genre and its entanglements with the “more-than-human” accord authors in their engagement with a problematic present and the threat of a dystopian future.
Keywords: speculative fiction, Singaporean literature, ecocriticism, apocalyptic ecology, posthumanism