Interview #101 – Author, Editor, Academic, Jaymee Goh, Part 3

Welcome back for part three in our talk with Jaymee Goh , co-editor of The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk SEAsia.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.


Airship Ambassador: What is some of the feedback about this anthology which you’ve heard about?

Jaymee Goh: Lots of people seem to like us, which is nice. Most people have favourite stories, and then people will have criticisms of specific stories, which does happen. Can’t expect everyone to love everything, after all.


The most interesting statement I’ve heard is that it’s “not really” steampunk. Because I’m not an asshole, I didn’t respond to the review, but I have to say I’m incredibly interested in what makes it “not steampunk”—is it the lack of steam? Is it the lack of industrialization? Is it the type of stories that have been chosen to showcase Southeast Asia? Who knows. It’s just very fascinating—I am a scholar of steampunk, after all, as in, my PhD study is, actually, literally, in steampunk, and part of my study is in how readers determine steampunkiness and what the implications are in these determinations. So when I hear a judgement of whether something is steampunk or not, my ears practically beg to hear the reasons behind it.

My favourite review, however, remains the one-star review whereby the reviewer lamented that she couldn’t get into the anthology, because she couldn’t recognize the Asia in the stories. And she had lived in Asia for quite some time, so she was fully expecting to enjoy the book, but alas, it did not cleave to her expectations of what stories set in Asia should have been like.


AA: Can’t please everyone, especially when they have expectations. If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like The Sea Is Ours. What is “X”?

JG: I could be totally arrogant and say, “X is nothing. X is nil. There is nothing like The Sea Is Ours.” But that would not be true, and in fact, The Sea Is Ours owes its existence to many fine anthologies that come before it. One’s work must always be in conversation with one’s peers. I was greatly inspired by Grace Dillon’s Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, and in fact, owe a lot of my approach towards technology towards her and her amazingly talented daughter, Elizabeth Lapensee, who writes comics based on indigeneity and was a contributor to the recent indigenous comics anthology Moonshot. Beth set a high bar in truly re-imagining steampunk, from an indigenous perspective! And of course, one must always nod to one’s elders, and to me, that would be Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, by Sheree Renee Thomas.

Contributors to our anthology are themselves editors of other fine anthologies: Paolo Chikiamco edited Alternative Alamat: Stories Inspired by Philippine Mythology and Kate Osias edited two Philippine Speculative Fiction Annuals, #6 and #7. Not only that, but artists of our anthology are comics creators in their own right! Stephani Soejono, who illustrated Olivia Ho’s “Working Woman” recently got her graphic novel The Tale of Bidadari published by Maple Comics. Writer Paolo Chikiamco and artist Borg Sinaban (who also illustrated zm quynh’s “The Chamber of Souls”) collaborate on a comic called Muros: Cemetery Girl. (Paolo also wrote a comic set in the same world as “Between Severed Souls.”) And of course, my co-editor Joyce Chng is collaborating with illustrator Kim Miranda (“The Women and the Insects Sing Together” and “Life Under Glass”) on Sun Dragon’s Song. If you like the art in The Sea Is Ours, then please support our artists!

A couple of upcoming anthologies which will be quite marvelous and have nothing to do with The Sea is Ours, but are similarly rooted in non-Eurocentric contexts, are New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean and Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation.


AA: Thanks for adding so many new books to my list! Amazon is going to be busy, lol. If The Sea Is Ours had a soundtrack, what would it be like?

JG: Oh, probably a lot of gamelan. But that is because when I was copyediting the final drafts, I had gamelan music in the background a lot. The Sea Is Ours does begin and end with music: Timothy Dimacali’s story is about how music vibrations literally help ships fly and the main character plays first the kubing, and then the viola, and Pear Nuallak’s story has men and women singing to each other, a lot of verbal teasing and smackdowns. The stories with more clockwork or automaton features, I imagine angklung music. (Examples, here is a cover version of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” on an array of angklung. Cool, no? How about Beethoven’s 5th?)


AA: As the co-editor, what was your publishing experience like for The Sea Is Ours?

JG: S-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l-!!! Rosarium is a very small outfit, but with very big ambitions. So as editors not only did we have to pull our weight to make the anthology the best it could be—and as folks know, people of color have to work twice as hard to get half as much—we also had to strategize and market hard the IndieGoGo campaign, which was emotionally exhausting. Our project was delayed a couple of times, because life interfered, which was really frustrating. And even with a marketing intern, our publisher, Bill Campbell, ran himself ragged trying to get the notice of the big markets so that bookstores would carry the anthology. When our anthology was finally out, it was Bill who personally sent out all the IndieGoGo paperback rewards. I get to help him sell books here and there at conventions, but as an editor, there’s not much I can do beyond yell at the world, BUY OUR BOOK!!!!


AA: OK, readers, you know what to do! How long did it take to gather the authors, their stories, and make the final selections? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

JG: Let’s see… the submission guidelines went up at the beginning of February 2014. We kept the submissions open until the end of June. This gave writers time to work on their stuff, and besides which, I wouldn’t have had the energy to look at submissions until the end of June, since I had my PhD qualifying exams at the end of May. (I passed.) Joyce and I spent July picking at the submissions, making decisions on what was good and what needed more work, and sending out rejections. Google Docs is the collaborators’ friend!


In July 2014, I went home to Malaysia and began the tedious process of editing the stories. Some stories required major rewrites, some needed cosmetic changes here and there, and there were a couple which we weren’t even sure we wanted to keep without hefty changes. I met with Joyce sometime during my trip back to Malaysia (Singapore is only a causeway away!) and we determined the order in the table of contents together in the Esplanade Library.

By January 2015, the manuscript was by and large done, I was poring over everything with a fine-toothed comb for copyedits, and we delivered by the end of the month. Then came the frustrating wait because, as I said, small publishing outfit, which was also doing another anthology project at the same time. I took the opportunity to start making noise for the anthology and get the okay from the publisher to solicit art. We assigned the artists the stories, to be delivered by July (or so).

In September 2015, we had the IndieGoGo campaign, and by this time the manuscript was about ready. We did have a couple of SNAFUs in the background, but by October, we were set to print. We released this book into the wild in November!


We’ll pause here in our chat with Jaymee. Join us for part four when she talks about recommendations and personal reading.

Keep up to date with Jaymee’s latest news on her website, blog, and on Twitter.

You can support Jaymee and our community by getting your copy of The Sea Is Ours here.

Also, check out her exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.

Published in: on January 3, 2017 at 8:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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  1. […] Read Part Three here. […]

  2. […] Read Part Three here. […]

  3. […] Read Part Three here. […]

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