Issue Two of Truancy takes us on an adventure through dreams, through visions and hallucinations, and nightmares.
I’ve been calling it our psychedelic issue for good reason. It is also an issue that evokes both the fluidity of water, along with the menace and the seduction of scales.
Jaymee Goh’s lyrical retelling of Sang Kancil kicks the issue off in “Anak Sungai“. The tales of this cunning mousedeer are familiar to most Malaysian children who grew up either reading or watching variations of the folktales on television. Sang Kancil is only one amongst a cast of various anthropomorphised animal and inanimate characters found in Malay folklore. Jaymee’s tale takes us through a landscape both dear and familiar to many Malaysians, and packs a punch of a message within its lyricism. Next up is Sarah Yasin’s delightfully creative romp through the rainforest via the eyes of a crocodile, with snippets of the Maleku language of Central America in a style that evokes Lewis Carroll: “Paco and the Arco Iris“. The third story is Vajra Chandrasekera’s thrilling “Song to the Sun“, an ominous tale of a Rusalka which features classical music, the theatre, plus an ambiguous ending which troubles the senses and leaves the reader with many questions. It is definitely a story that begs revisiting and much thought — which is what I expect of every piece of writing brought out by this brilliant author. Mari Ness’s bewitching and equally dark narrative, “The Huntsmen“, is an innovative retelling of a not so well-known fairytale. When it arrived in my inbox, I knew I could not let it go, so we will be featuring this story in two parts.
Both of the reprints are Malaysian, and both are more SFnal in nature while still containing the spirit of folklore and myth that is at the heart of the Truancy ethos. First, we have Sukhbir Cheema’s Vedic cyberpunk adventure through the streets of a futuristic Kuala Lumpur, “320 Hz“. Sukhbir tells me that this is part of a bigger world that he’s writing about so we will have more to look forward to reading. We finish up this issue with a reprint from Eeleen Lee’s collection of dark speculative fiction and horror, 13 Moons, out from Fixi Novo. “Bone Torpedoes“ is a story set in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. It is full of the kind of dissatisfaction and angst familiar to many workers in this Malaysian metropolis. However, at the heart of this tale that is part literary fiction, part SFF, and part folklore is a very human message, that of redemption. I’ve always found this to be one of Eeleen’s strongest tales, and I think it is a fitting place to end this edition of Truancy.
Finally, a word about all of the glorious art for this issue. Our featured artist is Winnie Cheng (ERYN) who recently had an exhibition at Publika. ERYN is interviewed by Billie Blue Blackstone, daughter of Karen Nunis Blackstone who was featured in Truancy 1. I met Karen and Billie by accident during an arts-and-crafts market at Publika in 2014. ERYN’s Rising Above, which is the cover art for this issue displays the depth and complexity of her visual imagination as well as the many influences behind her work. Akira Lee, on the other hand is a multi-talented young Malaysian who attended the Genre Writing Workshop I ran in 2015. Blown away by Akira’s manga-inspired art, I commissioned some black and white illustrations for this issue. Akira proceeded to astound me with illustrations that showed a depth of research as well as an outpouring of artistry.I predict many future commissions for this brilliant young person.
These works of art, these connections, and these stories are what I want Truancy to come to represent for all of us. I want Truancy to be about dialogues, connections, and a space for inclusion that is populated by a mix of individuals. There’s a lot of talent in South East Asia and the rest of the global South, and I’d like to see that talent surfacing on this publication, showing us in as many ways as possible that these stories, these “folklores”, these wonder tales, do not exist in the same way for all, do not operate in the same way for all.
The secret of knowing, as I have maintained from the beginning of my adventure into the forests of folk-and-fairytale editing, is in the connections and in the intersections between cultures. Between tales, between individuals, even as we dive into the oft-unsafe waters of our imagination and our subconscious where the crocodiles lie in wait.
Much Love and Happy Reading,
Nin Harris, PhD
Nin Harris is a Malaysian poet, writer, and a literary Gothic scholar. Nin writes Gothic fiction, cyberpunk, nerdcore post-apocalyptic fiction, planetary romances and various other hyphenated weird fiction. Nin’s publishing credits include: Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Giganotosaurus, Lackington’s Magazine and more.