Letter from the Editor

by Meera Velu
Issue 14: Megacity

When the human population hit eight billion, many of us panicked. Living in a world of finite resources, increasingly imperiled from climate change, news of our species’ growth forced us to contemplate the limits of our survival.

At Speculative City, we became intrigued by how an expanding population could spatially manifest. And that’s how we stumbled into the theme of megacity. Taken at the morpheme-level, megacity simply means “large city.” The word has also come to define a densely inhabited space with a staggering number of residents—over 10 million.

In the works selected for this issue, the megacity occurs as a construct to amplify or reveal the distinct dynamics that arise when one must share space closely others. In this way, the featured stories and interview also play with the question of survival.

We begin our exploration of this question with Hien Nguyen’s “The Living City,” which introduces the city at a physical scale that underscores the diverse ecologies it can hold, reminding us that the space we inhabit has a life of its own. Notably, the story asks us to consider what our landscapes have inherited and, ultimately, the impact of that legacy on its health.

We zoom inside the city with “Mise en Abyme” by Mia Xuan, a story that focuses on inhabitants of a city of “one, and not one,” who find themselves literally mirrored in one another. Confronted with countless self-replicas, the individual is compelled to find ways to become singular, as failing to do so will reveal their inherent redundancy.

Harrison Demchick likewise examines what makes one belong in a space with “Rent Control.” Employing trademarks of the Weird, the story presents us, at first, with a familiar setting—a city where, similar to many in our lived realities, landlords surprise tenants with unreasonable rent hikes. When the protagonist receives one such prohibitive rent increase, we then follow her into a scenario both nightmarish and absurd, where escape is only found after determining what to sacrifice in exchange for fair rent.

Sigrid Marianne Gayangos closes out the issue’s fiction with “Clear as Water, Red as Ruin,” a piece that explores the cost of expansion. In it, an unexpected lifeform makes an imposing visit to Dumaguete, driving the city’s residents to challenging, sometimes violent negotiations to preserve their customs, cultural histories, and minds.

To conclude the issue, we discuss the role of culture and history in writing about cities with author Samit Basu, whose stories take place in some of the worlds’ largest and most well-known megacities. These “bottle universes,” as Samit calls them, contain multitudes of environments and lived experiences and act as ideal settings to reflect on our hopes and fears. In this conversation, we confirm fiction’s strength in investigating some of the difficult questions of survival.

We hope this issue plays into some of your similar curiosities. And don’t stop speculating.