In December 2019, I started work on a story for The Birthday Book 20/20. The theme for this year’s edition is ‘seeing clearly’. Gaining sight and clarity is precisely what questions are for and what Smol Tok is about. Knowing that didn’t make the writing any easier.
I realised a few things that might even be truisms:
It’s hard to start but it’s even harder to finish a piece of creative work.
Seeing is believing but believing can lead to seeing.
What I eventually put down on paper is a piece of Singapore-centred sci-fi. That’s how I would describe it. But beyond the science or the fiction, it’s my confession of hope for the future. It's titled, "The Second Reclamation".*
By March 2020, I made my final edit and was ready to submit. By this time, the coronavirus was exploding across the world and Singapore was just about to enter into circuit breaker mode. However, you won’t find any mention of Covid-19 in my story. That’s intentional. We will survive the pandemic. The bigger question is, how will we thrive?
First published in The Birthday Book 20/20: Seeing Clearly edited by Selina Chong and Chua JunYan (Singapore: The Birthday Collective, 2020)
If you're curious about what the other 54 diverse authors have to say in this anthology, get The Birthday Book 20/20.
About the Birthday Book
First published in 2016, The Birthday Book is an annual anthology of essays examining emerging challenges and opportunities for Singapore. Released to coincide with National Day, the number of contributions matches Singapore’s age. Contributors span the diversity of Singaporean society, and have included local poets, academics, business leaders, non-profit founders, tech entrepreneurs, civil servants, migrant workers, and journalists.
About the Birthday Book 20/20: Seeing Clearly
What does it mean to see clearly? This anthology challenges what we think we know about Singapore. Between the covers of this year’s book lie tales of personal triumph and tragedy, visions of Singapore seen through fresh eyes, and voices which tease out the complexities of our society. This year’s edition also contains a number of “birthday surprises,” which will hopefully challenge how readers think of an anthology.
About the Birthday Collective
The Birthday Collective aims to be a “Brain, Heart and Hand Trust” for Singapore as it deals with an increasingly unpredictable and complex external environment, and increasingly acute domestic constraints. Both the external and internal challenges pose risks but also opportunities, if we remain optimistic and are creative in our approaches.
As a Trust, the Collective focuses on the gifts it can offer to future generations. Unlike usual brain trusts, which tend to be mostly about talk, The Birthday Collective’s focus on the Heart and Hand emphasises that ideas are important but not enough; they need to be acted on, to create a sense of national drive and belonging even as individual aspirations are nurtured and lived out.