LONTAR is the world’s only journal focusing on Southeast Asian speculative fiction. The brainchild of series editor Jason Erik Lundberg, the journal is published from Singapore, first by Math Paper Press, and now by Epigram Books. Speculative fiction is a broad church, covering, but not limiting itself to sci-fi and fantasy. The latest issue even includes poetry, speculative, of course. LONTAR #4 features stories by Filipinas Eliza Victoria and Kate Osias, American Paolo Bacigalupi, Singaporeans Andrew Cheah, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, and Ng Yi-Sheng, and poetry by American Michael Gray, Singaporeans Jerrold Yam, Joses Ho and Cyril Wong.
SP is pleased to bring you the opening extract of the story by Singapore Literature Prize winner, Ng Yi-Sheng.
No Other City
by Ng Yi-Sheng
Listen: next Monday at 4.30pm, Singapore will disappear. The entire island, its earth and earthworks, its rivers and reservoirs, its megamalls and museums, will vanish, poof, like so much gun smoke. Its flora and fauna too: its orchards and orioles, its rain trees and roaches, its mosquitoes and monkeys. Its people also: citizens of all creeds and races, permanent residents, guest workers, tourists, illegal aliens. Gone in the twinkling of that old proverbial eye.
You, of course, will be spared. You’ll have accepted a job then, in Beijing or Baltimore or Bengaluru, so you’ll be only halfway puzzled when you start to notice the silence of half your Facebook friends. You’ll double-click on their profiles, see that none of them have updates beyond that specific timestamp, click around to the Singapore-hosted sites, The Straits Times and The Temasek Review, and discover that most of them are down, down, down.
What the hell? you’ll think. You’ll try e-mailing your missing compadres. No reply. You’ll try Facebook messages and phone calls and Twitter. Nothing. You’ll start to worry, especially when the few of them seconded to faraway franchises or on holiday at the Gold Coast tweet you back, saying they’re hitting the same silent wall.
Then finally you’ll get through to an ex-girlfriend who moved across the straits to Johor Bahru for the cheaper rent and commuted every day, and she’ll send you the pics: the causeways, once financial lifelines to the heart of the Malayan peninsula, now ending on cliffhanging stubs.
Water beneath. Bridges to nowhere.
Why isn’t this on CNN? You’ll turn on the TV, click, panicked. But the same placid faces on BBC, CNC World, NewsX, and Al Jazeera will stare back, reciting the old shtick about crises in the Middle East and DC and Brussels. You’ll pick up a shoe as if to hurl it, angrily, at the screen, but then you’ll stop yourself, remembering how much the TV cost. You’re still rational. You’re still a Singaporean at heart, after all.
In the evening, at dinner, you’ll ask your friends: the cool black Frenchman in IT, the quiet Korean lady in marketing. They’ll stare at you, confused. Singapore? Never heard of it. Then where am I from? you’ll ask, furious. And they’ll blink back, chewing their udon, and say, Somewhere in China? You ought to hurl the hot green tea in their faces, storm out of the ramen shop, never to return. But you don’t. You go back to your noodles. You can’t afford to lose any more friends. Not now.
You’ll go quiet. You’ll return to work as per normal, keep your head down, keep your nose clean, think as little as possible. Whenever the worm of panic creeps along your skin, you’ll recall the words they taught you in school during National Education sessions: no one owes us a living. At all costs, you must survive.
End of extract
Reprinted by permissions of author and publisher, “No Other City” appears in LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction #4, published by Epigram Books, Singapore. The e-book is available here.
Ng Yi-Sheng is a poet, fictionist, playwright, journalist and activist. He is the second-youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize, for his debut poetry collection, last boy. His other publications include the bestselling non-fiction book SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century, and a novelisation of the Singapore gangster movie Eating Air. He also co- edited GASPP: A Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose, and Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore. He has recently completed his MA from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing programme.