Archive for November, 2009

Top 10 Scariest Filipino Monsters

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 30 - 2009

Via Charles Tan, there’s a list of Top 10 Scariest Filipino Monsters posted by gabi319 over at Listverse. Not really sure about the creatures being “scary” although I like the fact that the Kumakatok are high up there. I’d probably take out the Kapre and Tikbalang (especially after Dayo :P ) and put in the Mambabarang and the Pugot. A Mananaggal has too many weaknesses in my opinion to ever win top honors in a scare-fest (compare to the Black Court vampires in the Dresden Files).

I do wish that the author was more consistent in giving attribution to the sources/creators of the images used though… But one thing I’m happy to have discovered thanks to the list is  a rendition of a Tikbalang by the awesome Keith Thompson, illustrator of Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan YA novel (which I loved and ought to review soon). He’s even got a little fictionalized, anthropology-style description of the creature to the right of the pic.

[Images in slider sourced from Listverse and attributed to  http://mangtas-nga-ayam.blogspot.com/ and www.keiththompsonart.com]

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz Remembers Clarion West

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 27 - 2009

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Filipina author and Clarion West alumni Rochita Loenen-Ruiz guest blogs over at Jeff Vandermeer’s Ecstatic Days and she takes the opportunity to look back on her Clarion experience (in a manner that makes me dearly wish we had something like it here). Here’s an excerpt:

An online friend told me that going to Clarion would be a life-changing experience. Five months after,  I am still thinking of what I’ve learned, and I can’t help but agree with her statement.

Perhaps one of the gifts that the Clarion experience bequeaths on those who attend is the ability to understand the role of mentors and comrades better. In those six weeks, my classmates and I were comrades and mentors to each other.

When I look back, I see how the exercise of scrutinizing our work and each other’s works, the act of giving words of encouragement and words of criticism, these were acts and exercises that served to strengthen our camaraderie.  Through the giving and receiving of  healthy criticism, we were able to help each other to move forward beyond the wall that kept our stories from achieving their full potential. This community we belong to is not a very large one, but it’s filled with warm and wonderful people who share generously of their knowledge and their experience.

You can read the rest of her post here. If you’ll note at the end, she mentions an anthology called “Ruin and Resolve” and that’s going to be released by none other than Rocket Kapre Books. More on that at a later date. ^_^

Business World Feature and Usok Review

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 27 - 2009

To those of you who have a copy of today’s (27 November 2009) Business World, you might be surprised to find a familiar piece of awesome SF artwork in the Weekender section… yes, opposite the articles on Susan Boyd and Adam Lambert ^_^:

Johanna Poblete of Business World has a feature on Rocket Kapre and excerpts from an interview with me, as well as her review of Usok 1. For those of you who can’t snag a copy of the paper, you can catch the article and the review at Business World’s site here. The review comes after the feature article. As with any print interview, there was more to the conversation than what made it into the final version, so when Johanna puts the full Q and A up on her site, I’ll let you all know.

While most of the sites/publications mentioned in the article should be familiar to you guys, for any newcomers to the site drawn here by the article (welcome lords and ladies!) here’s a quick rundown:

Philippine Speculative Fiction V Update

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 25 - 2009

The Bibliophile Stalker and Philippine Genre Stories have posted a tentative list of stories for the upcoming Philippine Speculative Fiction V anthology, along with the short list. Over at PGS, Kyu gives an explanation:

I received an email from Kestrel DDM, the publisher of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies. The email contained the following: the tentative Table of Contents for PSFV, as well as the shortlist (which are the stories the editors wish could be printed but can’t take in for lack of space). Some of the shortlisted tales can still make it into the TOC if any of the originally accepted stories has to be pulled out for whatever reason…

And now, here’s the list:

‘A Game of Quam’ by Andrew Drilon
‘A New Hospital’ by Raymond G. Falgui
‘A Yellow Brick Road Valentine’ by Charles Tan
‘Carbon’ by Paolo Gabriel V. Chikiamco
‘Death and Noy’ by Fidelis Angela C. Tan
‘Embedding’ by Aileen Familara
‘Eyes as Wide as the Sky’ by Gabriela Lee
‘Heart in the Flesh’ by Mia Tijam
‘If We Catch Fire’ by Marla Cabanban
‘Just Man’ by Rica Bolipata-Santos
‘Keeper of My Sky’ by Timothy James Dimacali
‘Leg Men’ by Dominique Gerald Cimafranca
‘Monsters’ by Eliza Victoria
‘New Toy’ by Joseph Anthony Montecillo
‘Rogelio Batle and the Curse of the Crimson Court’ by Alexander Osias
‘Sink’ by Isabel Yap
‘Strange Weather’ by Dean Francis Alfar
‘The Autochthonic War’ by Joseph F. Nacino
The Creature’ by Christine V. Lao
‘The Goodlyf’ by Kate Aton-Osias
‘The Left-Behind Girl’ by Veronica Montes
The Sparrows of Climaco Avenue’ by Kenneth Yu
‘There’s a Waterfall in Your Rainbow’ by Ejay Domingo
Three Stories’ by Angelo R. Lacuesta
‘Very Short Fairy Tales’ by Apol Lejano-Massebieau

Shortlisted
‘A Novel Escape’ by Celine Roque
‘Bio Notes’ by Monique Francisco
‘Beyond Flight’ by Kristine Draei Dimalanta
‘Carnivale’ by Sarah Catherine Ureta
‘Moving Houses’ by Oscar Bryan Alvarez
‘Robots, Eyeballs, and a Slice of Pizza’ by Raydon L. Reyes
The Beloved Servant’ by Elyss Punsalan
The Void’ by Spencer Simbulan
‘Under a Mound of Earth’ by Celestine Trinidad
‘Upstaged’ by Gerard dela Cruz
Watchmen and Puppetmaster’ by Erica Gonzales
‘Wolf Man’ by John Philip Corpuz

Usok Interview: Kenneth Yu

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 25 - 2009

I’ll be doing some interviews with several of our Usok authors, to get some insight as to their lives as writers in general, and their stories in Usok in particular. First up, and rightly so, is Kenneth Yu, editor of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories which is, I’m not ashamed to admit, the lineal ancestor of Usok. Kenneth is the author of “Mouths to Speak, Voices to Sing“.

Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.

There is, somewhere in Quezon City and owned by an old Tsinoy businessman, a large house overflowing with antique Chinese pottery and vases. This old Tsinoy has spent years collecting them; and they come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. I’ve never seen the collection, but some friends who have been to that house have. They were the ones who told me about it, and they were awed at its quantity and extent. The old Tsinoy knows the story behind each of his acquisitions, and my friends estimate that the worth of his antiques could reach the tens of millions of pesos. Over time, this value is bound to increase. This old man was described by my friends as being a nice guy (“mabait” to use the Tagalog word), and quite generous, though they met him only a few times.

My mother owns some antiques herself, but nowhere near the level and scale that this old man possesses. As a kid I would often peer curiously into her vases, wondering what was inside. I never found anything, other than dead cockroaches and a bit of dirt, but in the way that you can hear strange echoes and sounds–voices, maybe music–when you put your ear to a seashell, the same sounds can be heard inside these vases.

Two curiosities I explored in this story: What kind of “mabait” and generous old Tsinoy businessman would collect antique vases and why; and what would these vases be saying if they really could talk. Throw in a little bit of Chinese mythology, and the story somehow formed into what it is.

What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?

Trying to find the right sequencing of scenes, for one. Maintaining a consistent point-of-view, for another. It was a bit of a challenge shuffling sentences and paragraphs around, trying to find the best mix. I spent some time moving words around, adding here, removing there, and gauging the effect. I’m glad for the advice of the Usok editor in sorting this out. His comments were a big help. And I did warn him when he asked me for a story that the one I would be sending him was only in its first draft. ;-)

[Ed. Note: Usok editor pats self on the back. :P ]

Do you remember the first short story you ever wrote? What was it about?

Oh, no, I don’t, though an old friend told me recently that he remembered reading a story I wrote when we were 12 or 13, something about a “house on a hill”. I suppose it was a mystery or a ghost story of some sort. I have a feeling it was inspired by, of all things, a Choose Your Own Adventure book I liked very much: The Mystery Of Chimney Rock, a book about, er, a spooky house on a hill. I remember that book fondly, and the Choose Your Own Adventure series was a big hit when I was 12/13 years old, so the logic adds up. I have that title somewhere on my shelves still, I’m pretty sure.

Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?

Occasionally. I’m a Tsinoy, influenced by Filipino and Chinese culture. And there’s no escaping the influence of Western culture, given its pervasiveness on TV, radio, in movies, and books. This influence comes out every now and then in what I write. I suppose it depends on what grabs me at the moment of writing, though it’s been pointed out to me that I did write some stories that are culturally “neutral” (“House 1.0″ from The Town Drunk and “Beats” from Philippine Speculative Fiction IV were the examples given by those people).

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?

Ah, it’s “Read”. Read, read, read. This advice has stuck with me, and of all things, I received it in such an impersonal way.

Years ago, during the martial law years in the Philippines, when Ferdinand Marcos was still president, the newspapers reported that famous author James Michener stopped by Manila for a few hours, en route to some other destination (I think he was on his way to Japan from Hawaii, or maybe it was the other way around; or maybe I’m completely wrong about where he was going and where he came from, I’m really not sure). His book “Shogun” was a big bestseller back then. Being a celebrity, he was interviewed at the airport and featured on the front page. I forget what the rest of the article was about, but I do recall the last question they asked him: What advice would he give to aspiring writers? He said, quite succinctly, “Read.” I’ve taken that to mean “Read a lot” or “Read as much as you can” or “Read about everything and anything you can get your hands on”; and so, I have.

There is another piece of advice that seems to work for most writers and that seems to run consistently with the most successful ones that I know, and that’s to be disciplined and set aside a regular schedule for actual writing everyday. I don’t know whether I heard it or read it somewhere, but I remember this quote: “The only way to write…is to write.” Makes sense to me. If you have time to read, and want to try the other side of the coin and write, then you have to set aside regular time for both activities.

Thoughts on Magical Realism

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 23 - 2009

…not from me, thankfully, as I am willfully ignorant of the genre. Reading Barbara Jane Reyes’ post on Magical Realism, Mythopoetry and Speculative Fiction so soon after Jorge Volpi’s speech on “The Future of Latin American Fiction” (I mentioned it here and I’ve been updating that post as further parts of the speech are added) was enough to pique my interest though, so I decided to do some quick research, through some old Bibliophile Stalker links and a quick query to Master Google, and thought I’d point any interested parties to some links on the web.

[Long post warning dear readers. Also, please note than any emphasized text in the excerpts will come from me, not the originals.]

Definitions of Magical Realism:

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As befits the modern age of convenience, we start with the Wikipedia definition: magical realism, is “an artistic genre in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even “normal” settings… As used today the term is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous: Matthew Strecher has defined magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something ‘too strange to believe’.” Second on Google is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s page on the Modern World / Macondo:  “Literature of this type is usually characterized by elements of the fantastic woven into the story with a deadpan sense of presentation. The term is not without a lot of controversy, however, and has come under attack for numerous reasons. Some claim that it is a postcolonial hangover, a category used by “whites” to marginalize the fiction of the “other.“”

In a 1993 essay published in the Science Fiction Studies Journal entitled “Carlos Fuentes and the Future” Ilan Stavans uses Fuentes to show one way of distinguishing between SF and magical realism (or mythic writing):

Even though the art of Stanislaw Lem and Isaac Asimov does not interest him, the Fuentes oeuvre is useful in distinguishing between SF and mythic writing (also called “magical realism” when speaking of Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, or Salman Rushdie). The one, as defined by Darko Suvin, is marked by the interaction of estrangement and cognition and has as its main formal device an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment;4 the other is an exploration of elements taken as expressing, and therefore as implicitly symbolizing, certain deep-lying aspects of human and transhuman existence. Sometimes the two intertwine, but it is obvious nonetheless that we are dealing here with different modes of literature: one concerned with some sort of scientific knowledge, the other involved with absolute truths. It is therefore not casual that the Americas below the Rio Grande prefer the latter while the industrialized nations prefer the former.

Of course, as with most classifications that try to define something aesthetic or literary, entire books can and have been written on the subject and its associated works.You can also find an article by Allena Tapia exploring the topic in the context of trying to decide whether or not magical realism is a mode for you, as a writer. Still, one aspect of the many definitions that I find interesting, and troubling, is the importance given to the geographic/cultural origin of the writer, so let us deal with that next…

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FHM Interviews Budjette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 20 - 2009

Budjette Tan has an interview up on FHM, which deals with his writing in general, as well as Underpass. You can find it here (somewhat NSFW of course, unless your boss will really believe you were at a Men’s mag site for the articles) or on Budjette’s blog here.

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[Picture of Budjette sourced from the abovementioned FHM interview.]

Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award for 2009

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 20 - 2009

The UP Institute of Creative Writing and the Madrigal-Gonzalez family have just announced the nominees for the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award for 2009, and we’re pleased to see recognition to the first Trese graphic novel (by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo), Murder on Balete Drive…  albeit the announcement/post up on Panitikan.com.ph seems to imply that it was not an easy decision (or at the very least whatever committee decided this knew that it might be taking some heat):

This year’s selection mirrors the changing landscape of Philippine literature as it includes the bestselling graphic novel Trese, a collaboration between Tan and Baldisimo—a possibly controversial inclusion among purist circles.

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Also up for the award is Spec Fic author (well, more like “Boundaries? What boundaries?” author) Adam David’s “The El Bimbo Variations.” From Adam’s twitter feed, it also appears that this is also the first time a self-published book has been nominated. Changing landscape of Philippine literature indeed…

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Congrats to Budjette, Kajo and Adam, as well as all the other nominees. You can see the full list here.

Dean Alfar, Kevin Lapeña and Barbara Jane Reyes on Io9

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 18 - 2009

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Io9, one of the most popular SF sites on the web, just ran a post on Dean Alfar, praising his story “Six from Downtown” (which you can read here at Charles Tan and Mia Tijam’s Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler):

“Six From Downtown” definitely reminds me of Link at her best, with its stark, dreamlike imagery. But it’s more brutal, with a host of images including a man fishing for mermaids (and then grilling them), and another man working as an exotic dancer and showing off his prehensile tail (and then using it to strangle a customer). The exotic dancer segment is also reminiscent of Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, for obvious reasons. And in the last section, a man comes home to find his wife’s upper half has flown away.

The post also features artwork from Usok 1 cover artist Kevin Lapeña (and pointed me to a keen interview with Kevin at The Design Inspiration), and cites a discussion by Filipina poet Barbara Jane Reyes on Magical Realism (something I’ll comment on in a post all its own, since it mentions Usok. Yay!) For now, let me just congratulate Dean, Kevin, and Barbara, and thank Charlie Jane Anders of Io9 for shining a spotlight on some deserving individuals.

Anvil Book Sale ’09: A Primer

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 18 - 2009

As you might know from Kyu or Jessica Zafra, Anvil Publishing, one of the leading (and certainly one of the most prolific) Philippine publishers is holding a big bargain book sale from November 17 to December 12. I trooped on down yesterday morning, and thought I’d get this guide up for all of you who are planning to launch raids of your own.

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The first step of course is that you need to find the place. The sale is being held at Anvil’s office along Pioneer Street, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig–I’ve included a picture of the gate above for reference. It’s along the same road as Pioneer Supermarket and Robinson’s Pioneer (or, “the Forum” as they’ve taken to calling it. If you’ve ever been to one of the Powerbooks warehouse sales or the Regalong Pambahay outlet store, those are also along Pioneer street. Usually the quickest way to get there if you’re coming from EDSA (going north) is to take a right into Robinson’s Pioneer or right after it, but recently there’s been some construction in the area, so there might be cases when that road is closed off. Another way to get to pioneer would be to take Shaw, then take a right at Pioneer Street (there’s a Caltex station at the corner). If you’re coming from Edsa and you hit the rotunda you’ve gone too far.

Parking might be a bit of a doozy, but the guards are helpful and they’ll allow you to double, as long as you promise to pull yourself away from your book binge when someone needs to get out.

After the cut I’ll post a few pictures and give my impressions of what awaits you, but if you’d like to “see” things for yourselves, here’s a video (with those new annotations youtube allows) I took of the booksale area. It’s not a big place but there are a lot of books to sift through:


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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.

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