Back in July, we invited you to submit your reimagination for Southeast Asia in the form of a 300- to 500-word work of fiction. We asked you to imagine: If you weren’t so restricted by the various concerns and political conditions that we have today, what kind of Southeast Asia would you like to see?
We received over fifty stories, detailing your creative vision regarding this little corner of the world we call home. While we could not respond to every single submission, we’ve carefully read through every single one. Many have moved us, and even more have impressed us.
It was a tough decision, but we settled on eight pieces that we have spent the past month developing, editing, and translating. In no particular order, here are those eight pieces:
[Re:] #302: Happy Birthday! (6)
When envisioning the theme “Reimagine Southeast Asia”, we deliberately did not set boundaries on what this reimagination could be. We were pleasantly surprised by Pychita Julinanda’s work due to its blend of vast sci-fi world-building and the warmth of daily life. What would a post-revolution, post-climate crisis Southeast Asia look like, where artificial intelligence and food sovereignty outside of capitalism become our daily reality?
Annisa Dinda Mawarni
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a story that reimagines the present—something that can happen, right here, today. Annisa Dinda Mawarni’s KTP is touching in its beautiful simplicity. Sometimes, all we want is no more than state apparatuses who are not nosy to our private concerns, especially in our religious decisions—such as whether or not we would like to wear a hijab. If only making peace with the state in regards to our life’s decisions could be this easy.
Speaking of life’s decisions, raising a toddler, pursuing a career of scientific innovation, and being active in social communities seem like a series of impossible demands for one woman. But in Inez’s work, all of these roles weave into each other seamlessly as we visit a food-sovereign community with no gender discrimination. How nice would it be if every woman could access this kind of role in our society?
Setelah Tanda Tanya
From a story of a mother, we move to a story of a teenager. K. Biru’s story captures how every movement for a better world starts with a faith in its possibility. In “Setelah Tanda Tanya” (meaning “After the Question Mark”), a messenger from the sky assures a queer teenage girl that a better world is possible, in this country. Such a simple yet powerful dream.
Writing the Future Through Queer Intimacy
Another queer-related reimagination of Southeast Asia, this story managed to bring us something that’s painful but hopeful at the same time. Himas Nur’s work underlines something so close, so pertinent, but remains obscure from so many: how queer solidarity and intimacy can become a strong, liberating exploratory force. Sometimes, that’s all we need to create a warm, welcoming home in Southeast Asia.
Of course, a warm and welcoming home must be available to everyone, regardless of their economic status. The idea of foreign domestic workers having the same rights, opportunities, and welfare as the rest of us is something that should have been a given in any decent society. Agatha Celia’s piece, elegant in its simplicity, makes us wonder why this dream still seems so far away.
Ida Bondoc Palo
Another simple yet radical dream is the idea that one day the indigenous people will really get their land back. Told through a conversation between two children, Ida manages to highlight the striking innocence of this imagination.
is utopia a mere pipe dream?
Finally, we sit with our pensive musings of all of these imaginations. Adania Saraswati’s story—deliberately typed in all lowercase letters—is beautiful in its poetic imagery and deliberate ambiguity. Its title speaks to its interrogative nature, a question that we all have and perhaps will never be able to answer. Nonetheless, we march forward.
Imagination is a powerful tool. For us, these eight pieces have sparked joy and inspired hope in the way we see our home. Some of them portray worlds that are so close, while others seem so far away, but they are all connected by a single thread: a yearning for a better world. And to quote K from K. Biru’s story:
All artworks for this project were created by Azisa Noor.