From issue #1, Zen Cho provides a behind-the-scenes look of her story “Love in the Time of Utopia”:
What first sparked “Love in the Time of Utopia” was the idea of someone saying to someone else, in horror: “You can’t message her on Facebook! That would be so forward!”
I liked the idea of writing a story about the interaction of Regency novel norms and modern social media. But as I tried to work out why you would have those sorts of norms in a near-future version of Malaysia, the story became more about the idea of meritocracy than about etiquette. “Meritocracy” is a word we throw around a lot in Malaysia, as a remedy for all our ills, but the story examines what it might mean if we did implement a strict meritocracy based on, say, academic achievement.
(I originally set the story in Singapore, but for some reason that didn’t work.)
So it’s kind of a gentle satire, but it’s also just a love story, and a coming of age story. Hopefully it works on at least one of those axes.