SARE: Southeast Asian Review of English is an international peer-reviewed journal founded in 1980. It publishes scholarly articles, interviews, reviews, and other valuable and lively interventions.

Serving solely as an open access electronic journal from 2016, SARE aims to be a key critical forum for original research and fresh conversations from all over the world on the literatures, languages, and cultures of Southeast, South, and East Asia. It particularly welcomes theoretically-informed articles on the literary and other cultural productions of these regions.

SARE has been committed from its inception to featuring original and unpublished poems and short fiction.  





As a nascent field of inquiry, subcreation studies is rooted in the creation and exploration of imaginary worlds. Relegated to the background of narrative-driven cultural productions, subcreation studies focuses on the frameworks created by storytellers that allow for imaginary worlds to come to life. Imaginary worlds refer to the fictional worlds in which the stories take place.  It is the creation of an imaginary world, or what Tolkien refers to as a “Secondary World”, that compels an audience to fully immerse itself in expansive, multi-volume texts or episodic media franchises.

Subcreation studies is particularly interested in “worldbuilding”, or the processes by which creators craft the details and events of an imaginary world that may not necessarily advance the story, but provide what Mark J.P. Wolf describes as “background richness and verisimilitude to the imaginary world” and that usually take place outside the main narrative. These acts of creation, according to psychologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, enable the simulation of unusual situations through association, thus allowing for experimentation as well as empathy and the development of important cognitive systems that let us participate in expansive and future-forward endeavours. These skills give us the capacity to imagine, and to even work towards, the kind of world we want to live in, and the kind of systems of living that we want to create in the real world.

However, subcreation studies also allows for a re-examination of how these imaginary worlds are created, presented, consumed, and even subsumed by corporations and institutions. For instance, it is not surprising that many of these popular imaginary worlds are coming out of significantly developed countries that have the resources to create, market, and expand on intellectual property. Given their immense cultural significance – think of story franchises such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Disney's never-ending parade of sequels/prequels/midquels, the Marvel and DC Multiverses, Star Trek, and Star Wars, among others –  there needs to be an examination and interrogation of how these imaginary worlds present and represent concepts and ideas about the world in which we live. As these worlds are representative rather than mimetic, there are myriad ways to read these imaginary worlds in terms that call to mind the struggles and hopes of our world: the violence and the victories, the despair and hopes of many, the ways in which societies struggle, perform, and aspire to surpass their own tragedies and triumphs.

This Special Issue on worldbuilding focuses on regional texts and creators, and on how Asian imaginary worlds have been conceived, crafted, and released, how they have interpreted or re-interpreted source materials, and how they have been received or engaged with by their audience. As speculative fiction writer Jeff VanderMeer points out, “The places and spaces in which a story occurs are not inert or merely backdrops to action... worldbuilding is not just about creating colorful stages for your characters — worldbuilding can be part of what is taking place.” These imaginary worlds may be in any form, medium, or genre – from Zen Cho’s The Pure Moon Reflected in Water to Ken Liu’s The Dandelion Dynasty series; Studio Ghibli’s fascinating fantasy worlds, such as in Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro to the bleak horror of Train to Busan; episodic narratives such as the acclaimed historical zombie series Kingdom or the modern fantaserye world of Encantadia.

The focus of this Special Issue is the critical analyses of the production and consumption of imaginary worlds, with other elements such as plot or character being of secondary importance. It is the hope of this Special Issue that by examining the rise and structure of Asian worlds, the practice of world-building, and the audience’s reception of imaginary worlds, we can reorient  the world beyond that which we experience today.

The topics that can be explored for this Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Creation and/or destruction of secondary worlds
  • Imagined cultures and societies
  • Creating new races, languages, or creatures
  •  Gender and sexuality
  • Adaptations of myths and legends
  • Textual retellings, revisions, and updates
  • Historical re-imaginings
  • Narratives and narratology
  • Transmediality, transnarrativity, trans-authorial texts
  • Textual productions and reproductions
  • Genre studies
  • Creative writing studies
  • Media studies

Abstracts of 200 words (maximum), along with a 50-word author bio, are to be emailed to The Editor, SARE at, with a copy to the Guest Editor (, by 15 November 2020.

Decisions will be sent out by 30 November 2020.

The deadline for the submission of full papers (6000-7000 words) is 1 March 2021.  Submissions should be in English and uploaded to the SARE website through the “Make a Submission” portal at

Further submission guidelines can be found on our website.

Publication date: July 2021

If you have any questions related to the special issue, please direct your inquiries to The Editor, SARE at or

Some sources that can be referred to in preparation for this special issue include:

  • Boni, Marta, ed. World Building: Transmedia, Fans, Industries. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017.
  • VanderMeer, Jeff. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. New York: Abrams Books, 2013.
  • Wolf, Mark J.P. Building Imaginary Worlds: The History and Theory of Subcreation. New York: Routledge, 2015.
  • —,  The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds. New York: Routledge, 2018.


About our Guest Editor

Gabriela Lee is Assistant Professor at the Department of English and Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines Diliman. Her research interests include creative writing studies, children’s and young adult fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and Philippine speculative fiction in English. Her fiction has been published in the Philippines and elsewhere, and in journals such as LONTAR: The Southeast Asian Journal of Speculative Fiction (Singapore), Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Canada), Heat: An Anthology of Southeast Asian Urban Writing (Malaysia), Kaleidoscope: Speculative Fiction for Young Adults (Australia), and The Dragon and the Stars (United States). She has also regularly contributed to collections such as the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies and the Filipino Fiction for Young Adults series. Instructions on How to Disappear (2016) is her first collection of short fiction. Her second collection, A Playlist for the End of the World, will be published in 2021 by the University of the Philippines Press.

She has contributed scholarly articles to several journals such as Kritika Kultura and The Likhaan Journal, as well as a chapter on young adult speculative fiction in the Philippines in Asian Children’s Literature and Film in a Global Age: Local, National, and Transnational Trajectories (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). She is currently working on an academic sourcebook for Philippine speculative fiction, as well as on her own writing. 

Gabriela is the inaugural recipient of the Jose Y. Dalisay Professorial Chair in Creative Writing at UP Diliman (2017–2020), and her research as Professorial Chair focuses on worldbuilding and speculative fiction. 





Editorial:  "Light"

Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia



“Unspoken Affection”: Articulating Friendship in Gladys Ng’s The Pursuit of a Happy Human Life

Carissa Foo, Yale-NUS College, Singapore


"Only Strange Flowers Have Come to Bloom": Identity Crisis in Northeast India through the Poetry of Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih

Neeraj SankhyanDr. Y. S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, India
Suman Sigroha Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi, India


Evolution of a Borrowed Genre in Malay Literature (1922-1941): The Case of Crime Fiction in Malaysia

Evgeniya S. Kukushkina,  Moscow State University, Russia 


Colonial Medicine and Cholera: Historicizing Victorian Medical Debates in J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur 

Prashant Maurya and Nagendra KumarIndian Institute of Technology  (IIT) Roorkee, India



Ten Questions for Bernice Chauly

Carol Leon,  Universiti Malaya, Malaysia 


Poetry and Fiction

Galera Point

Keith Jardim



Ngoi Hui Chien


Family Tree


Esther Xueming Vincent


Mak Wok, Spice Mistress

P. Lim Pui Huen


Book Reviews

Kenneth Y.K. Chan,  Chrita-Chrita Baba: A Collection of Short Stories in Baba Malay

David H.J. Neo,  Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia


Anitha Devi Pillai and Puva Arumugam, From Kerala to Singapore: Voices from the Singapore Malayalee Community

Shaila Koshy


Gina Apostol, Insurrecto: A Novel and Dominic Sy, A Natural History of Empire: Stories

Christian Benitez, Ateneo de Manila University, the Philippines


Ho Sok Fong, Lake Like a Mirror: Stories

Keith Jardim, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia



Salleh Ben Joned (1941-2020)

Malachi Edwin Vethamani, University of Nottingham Malaysia


Notes on Contributors 





Cover image: Jackie Hinkson, "Swallows Morning", 2015.

We are very grateful to Jackie Hinkson for his permission to reproduce two of his watercolours in this issue. 

Published: 2020-12-18
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ISSN 0127-046X | Affiliated with the Council of Editors of Learned Journals

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