In 2015 it was virtually impossible to set foot in Singapore without being exposed to the government-led 'SG50' campaign commemorating the island nation's fiftieth year of independence. All over the country the 'little red dot' logo appeared on everything from double-decker buses and A380s to festive Chinese moon cakes and special-edition Tiger Beer bottles. In reality, of course, Singaporean identity is far more complex than is communicable through any multi-million-dollar patriotic branding exercise – which is why Union was such a refreshing inclusion in the abundance of golden-jubilee-related products that surfaced last year.
A dual anthology of Singaporean writing from the past fifty years and of works from Drunken Boat (the New York-based electronic arts journal), Union was conceived at a panel discussion during the 2013 American Writers Festival in Singapore. During the talk, Drunken Boat founding editor Ravi Shankar and Singaporean poet–editor Alvin Pang were prompted to draw parallels between Singapore and the USA. The conversation eventually made it out of the festival and into the pages of Drunken Boat 's twenty-first issue in April 2015; later in the year, they released Union, a 640-page anthology on the same theme.