Oh, hey, look whose turn it is on the other end of the (figurative) microphone? Fantastic Filipina writer Rochita Loenen-Ruiz ( who is currently guest blogging at Ecstatic Days) interviewed me, and Lavie Tidhar posted the conversation over at the World SF News Blog. Here’s an excerpt:
Q: What do you think are the obstacles or challenges that we face as Filipinos writing in a field that’s dominated by the West?
The first challenge is that, as I touched upon a little earlier, most of us Filipino speculative fiction writers are ourselves products of that domination. The books we read in our youth gave us many of the tools and techniques that enable us to be writers, but which, at the same time, might not be right for the kind of stories we now want to tell–at least not without some adaptation. Even the language many of us write in, which approximates American English, while serving as the basic tool of our profession, seems to add a layer of alienation any time we choose to write certain types of stories. You see that a lot in the komiks scene here, particularly the local superhero scene, where you can see creators struggling to decide when to use English, or when to use Filipino, or how to translate a concept or experience from one context/language to another.
There was a recent discussion with regard to the viability of the classic superhero in the Philippines–the type who only focuses on halting crime rather than effecting any social change–given that the scale of problems such as poverty and corruption here. And yet, classic superheroes are exactly what many of the creators grew up wanting to do. In the same way, I grew up wanting to write The Belgariad, or the Wheel of Time, but now that I’ve realized I want to write stories influenced by the historical Philippines rather than historical Europe, I find that there is no great body of fiction that I can turn to and build upon. (Which is one of the reasons I’m all for discovering Philippine myths and legends.) It’s a blank slate, and for a writer that is both exciting and terrifying.
The other challenges are more practical in nature, and apply more specifically to Filipinos who live in the Philippines and want to publish novels. While the short story market is becoming more and more accessible to writers from across the globe, it’s still difficult for someone who doesn’t live in the West to get a book published in the West, even when we just factor in logistical matters, such as the fact that a writer who lives in the Philippines is less likely to be able to network at a convention, or attend a writing workshop like Clarion. The sad thing is, it’s not any easier for a Filipino writer to get a spec fic novel published here in the Philippines. Most publishers don’t appear interested in spec fic in general, and spec fic novels in particular. There are no literary agents here, nor conventions where an aspiring writer can approach an editor or publisher. That’s one reason why I believe that many authors in the future will take the self-publishing route–they simply don’t have a way to get the attention of publishers. I hope that Rocket Kapre can help change that in the future.
You can read the rest of the interview here.
Thanks to Rochita for taking time from her writing to interview me, and thanks to Lavie for sharing the interview.