Fri. Jun 21st, 2024


Spirits Abroad

Zen Cho


This collection of short stories is a fabulous entry for western readers into the world of Malaysian culture and folklore and its various possible adaptations into the future. I would say many of the stories are in the style of magical realism, as practised by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others, rather than straight science fiction or fantasy. The bonds of family and ancestry and the need to adapt are frequent themes here, best exemplified in the standout stories, The House of Aunts, and The Four Generations of Chang E. Zen’s exotic language is often beautiful and her characters’ speech is littered with native Malaysian words and slang whilst still being perfectly comprehensible to western readers. The book’s proud publishers, Fixi Novo, refuse to italicise Malaysian words, as they say in their manifesto, included, ‘italics are a form of apology’.

Story and Author

Tags/Hub Areas

Therapeutic Tags

Personal Rating

The First Witch of Damansara

Magical realism, witches, spirits, vampires, Malaysia

Acceptance, ancestral connection


First National Forum On the Position of Minorities in Malaysia

Invisibility, invisible spirits, orang bunian, Malaysia, politics

Love, women’s rights, ‘invisible’ minorities, tolerance


The House of Aunts

Vampires, Malaysia, pontianaks, ancestry, coming of age, horror

Love, solidarity, compassion, community


One Day Travelcard For Fairyland

Fairies, British private school, telepathy, fantasy

Humour, ingenuity


Rising Lion

Lion dance, ghosts, dance troupe, ghostbusters, Chinese traditions

Compassion, belonging


The Mystery of the Suet Swain

Orang Minyak, loser ghost, supernatural creature, stalker, social media, dating, horror

Ingenuity, community


Prudence and the Dragon

Magical realism, human-dragon hybrid, dating

Humour, whimsy


The Earth Spirit’s Favourite Anecdote

Animism, spirits, toyol, business, exploitation, pagan return, magical realism

Love, language, personal boundaries, home



Magical realism, pineapple spirit, nuguo, ancestors, transmogrification

Love, home, release, death


The Four Generations of Chang E

The Moon, Earth exodus, immigration, radiation mutation, inter-species relationships, rabbit people, adaptation surgery, evolution, genetic manipulation

Adaptation, mutability, survival, acceptance of change