Archive for May, 2012

Ebook Launch: Philippine Speculative Fiction volumes 3 and 4

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 29 - 2012

Continuing the digitization of the first and longest running Philippine published speculative fiction anthology, volumes 3 and 4 of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology have now been released by Flipside Digital Content.  (Volumes 1 and 2 were released  in April.) I remember PSF4 very well, because it’s the first PSF launch I attended. It’s also the first anthology I attempted to review (never did finish it, but here are parts one, two, and three.)

Here are the descriptions and TOCs from Amazon:

PHILIPPINE SPECULATIVE FICTION 3 (Dean Alfar, Editor.)

A diet drug gone wrong; A boy born with winged feet; A murder mystery set in a refrigerator. The Philippine Speculative Fiction series are anthologies that showcase the rich variety of Philippine literature: between these covers you will find magic realism next to science fiction, traditional fantasy beside slipstream, and imaginary worlds rubbing shoulders with alternate Philippine history — demonstrating that the literature of the fantastic is alive and well in the Philippines.

Contributors include:

  • MRR Arcega
  • FH Batacan
  • Joanna Paula Cailas
  • Ian Rosales Casocot
  • Dominique Cimafranca
  • Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon
  • Timothy Dimacali
  • Andrew Drilon
  • Raymond Falgui
  • Sarge Lacuesta
  • Apol Lejano-Massebieau
  • Joseph Nacino
  • Alexander Marcos Osias
  • Elyss Punsalan
  • Rodello Santos
  • Yvette Natalie U. Tan
  • Charles Tan
  • Mia Tijam
  • Marianne Villanueva
  • Alfred A. Yuson

[PSF 4 after the cut.]

Read the rest of this entry »

PSF6 Review: “The Kiddie Pool” by Kenneth Yu

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 28 - 2012

Kyu’s strength as a writer lies in the details.

That sentence made me pause and go into a trance, there’s a load of insight right there haha.;)

[Pao: That's what I like about you Mia--you always think I'm smarter than I actually am :P ]

——Awww, you’re selling yourself short, man. Shucks, such charming humility. :p

One of the most difficult skills to learn as a writer is how to include enough detail in a scene to make it feel like it’s occurring in an actual place, to make the characters and actions take on enough substance in the mind of the reader that he/she has a foundation for his/her imagination.

Ah the anchors for the imagination— I say let the imagination fly, oh beauty, fly!

[Pao: Heh. Savants aside, most of us still need some solid ground from which to launch ourselves. Or maybe it's just lazy readers like me :) ]

This is particularly important when you’re dealing with a mundane setting, such as the public pool or a dim corridor, and Kyu does a good job putting in enough detail so that I see an image, and not a string of words.

Well, the title makes it all obvious— of course it will involve swimming and pool and how much detailing do you need for that— and so predictability comes after.

But yeah stories with that kind of treatment ensure that readers will see the same things that the storyteller wants us to see. This story is very clear and given the detailing then we do move from one scene to another. Smooth. Experiencing it though the way the storyteller wants the reader to experience it— or how the story should be experienced— is the challenge.

I also enjoyed the reveal of the ghost of the woman, since it captures the feeling I’ve had before while swimming, that the surface world would change once I turned my attention back to it.

Hey, I like any story that captures the sensation of swimming or being underwater, that sort of sensory deprivation. But even that ghost-woman’s revelation’s predictable and flat. I felt that there was nothing horrifying or even any uncanny sensation that should have been triggered by how one’s senses change in and upon surfacing from deprivation, that synesthesia that could make anyone believe that hearing unto seeing a ghost is normal. The foreshadowing was literally there but it was just too there therefore did not build up the way it should. It’s all in the details.

[Pao: But didn't it seem like the intent was to divest the change/revelation of that horror, that sense of wrongness? I mean, this is clearly not a traditional horror story. If anything, it seems intent on domesticating the supernatural element, so that "flatness" may have been the aim.]

Some of that detail, however, is fleshed out within sentences that feel rather awkward, like they go on for just a few words too long. This issue with sentence structure, compounded by some odd word choices, bleeds into a more serious concern: the protagonist does not sound like a young man. (This was particularly problematic since it was told from a first person perspective, where the assumption is that the narration is in the POV character’s own words.)

Haha besides the issues with the comma use that was making me sing ala Boy George “Comma, comma, comma, comma, commaleon, you come and go!” and the misuse of the quotation marks in dialogue— usually if the next paragraph’s still part of one character’s dialogue, then one doesn’t end the paragraph with a quotation mark; one keeps it open because otherwise the next paragraph with a quotation mark signals that the line is being made by another character so that really threw me off (see page 106)—

There are ways that one can pull this off, but that dissonance should be contextualized, or at the very least acknowledged–I could see the strange manner of speaking/thinking of the protagonist to be one of the factors that alienate him from his peers, but that’s me retconning (short for “retroactive continuity”, or “the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work” – Mia made me explain this) what was not implied by the text.

Use the full term nga kasi haha. Anyway, precisely. I saw it as the POV-POSSESSION-PROBLEM i.e. Parang sinsasaniban yun “I” with the “S/H/It” hahahaha. Meaning, the story was using the First Person POV for internal and external reality but it would unwittingly switch to 3rd Person POV for the external reality WHILE trapped in the I-POV. That created the dissonance which cast doubt on the authenticity of the characterization of the main character.

Simply: The main character’s a male tween or maybe a male young adult BUT his mind, his reactions, his language are of a much older adult… Exorcise the Author from the Character hahahaha.;)

If this were told in the 3rd Person POV then it might have worked better.  Or since the story really wants to tell the story from the perspective of the tween male, then the perception: language: narrative should be of the character.

[Pao: I have to agree, this was a third person POV story in 1st person clothing to me.]

The other primary issue I had with the story is a bit harder to quantify, so bear with me as I feel my way through this. It just didn’t seem… substantial. (No, that’s not a pun on the fact that the story involves a ghost.) I didn’t get the feeling that what happened in the story really mattered to the protagonist–the story is bookended by two encounters with the opposite sex (one taking place just before the story starts), and the protagonist’s emotional state in both situations is almost identical.

Maybe this shows one snapshot of the state of folks nowadays: it’s a very “whatever” reaction. (That word has my derision. Next to “thingie”.)

[Pao: Wait, you lost me a bit. Who are the "folks"? The youth in the story? The reader?]

——Folks= World. But let’s make it more specific so I’m referring to people in the Philippines.  Yeah, that includes the youth in the story and maybe even the reader. Hahaha, let’s just go back to folks= world.

Yes, the outcome is different, but the immediate cause of that seems to be the advice given to him by the lifeguard–which means that you can cut out the bulk of the story, which contains the speculative element, and have the same ending.

Hahaha, Pao, the real advice from the lifeguard that altered reality is this: Kid, dealing with girls is like dealing with ghosts. Just say “Hi” and they’ll talk to you. Katakot hahahaha.

[Pao: Ah, Mia, I take it you've never been to a Xavier-ICA Acquaintance Party? Sometimes the "Hi" is what initiates the ignoring…]

——Hahahaha 1) Last time I checked I didn’t attend ICA nor Xavier. 2) I skipped high school          boys and went straight to college dudes and yuppies hahaha so that I won’t have to go               through that kind of high school horror. 3) I went to a high school for aliens nga eh.

Add to this how, during his encounter with the speculative, the protagonist is emotionally detached and is somehow made to act rather than acting intentionally (he takes a route “for some reason”; he knows “somehow, not to rush”) and I just don’t feel connected to the events of the story, or invested in how it will turn out.

It’s the predictability that comes from the narrative being too telling and not showing or leaving some things unsaid that led to a reader’s detachment. Welcome to clinical horror that makes horror literal and not cerebral nor visceral (and man I keep seeing this in local short-fiction “horror” stories/collections).

[Pao: But is this a horror story? I don't think that was the aim at all. I think that this was the mainstream literary "revelation during an ordinary day" story, with ghosts.]

——Hahahaha, and here come my bitch-ass:

——1) The hell was it doing in PSF 6 then if its identity is just according to what you             stipulated? Ah, there seems to be a precedent for this emerging trend in this volume (and    previous volumes). Which is why there’s been a call for a more specific definition of what                is “speculative fiction”.

——2) It’s “Horror” according to the “Best Horror of the Year” volume 4 honorable mentions          by Ellen Datlow.

——3) Welcome to the discourse on horror now being officially opened: What is/was        horror? What has been “horrifying” in the “horror” stories published since 2005? What are          the elements of horror? What is horror in Philippine Speculative Fiction?

——4) The gates of that heart of darkness are now open: abandon luck ye who enter here,            the horror, the horror, bwahahaha.

Going back to Kyu’s Kiddie Pool,  the reader’s detachment is already staged given the protagonist’s detachment.  For reference, see paragraph with “I was not so much afraid as I was curious about the woman…” on page 104.

I usually try to avoid mentioning/comparing previews works of the author, but I did review Kyu’s PSF4 story, “Beats”, and that had a similar vibe to this one (down to the strong role of water), and yet it worked much better for me. I like the quiet stories where the surface calm can still give the impression of deep, churning, currents (again, not making any puns here) but “The Kiddie Pool” just didn’t make me feel that there was more to it than met the eye.

Hahahaha! Pao! I’m so not gonna edit out that comparison (boils and gels he edits out my comparisons because they do make things bloodier) but what I do like about Kyu’s stories is that they experiment with the story-language that is rooted on the character’s language/reality therefore making his stories distinct from the lot.

Hey, the tween/young adult from the story did advise that it’s good to hug out things so let’s hug this out.;)

And, regardless of the fact that the story didn’t quite work for us, congratulations to Kyu for making Ellen Datlow’s Honorable Mention list for “The Best Horror of the Year” (volume 4) with this story!

 

Kwentillion is Coming

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 24 - 2012

EDIT: Just received an update from Komikon that our stage time has been moved from 300pm to 330pm. Please adjust your schedules accordingly :)

I’m proud to announce that the first issue of Kwentillion, a young-adult themed comics+fiction+features magazine (print only as of now, but digital in a few months) that I’m co-editing with Budjette Tan (Trese), will be launched this Saturday, 3:00 3:30 p.m. at the Summer Komikon, and will be available in stores soon after (we’ll hopefully have a few copies to sell at the Komikon, but that’ll only be a handful.)

This run is something of a test, and if the issue performs well, it could become a regular magazine. I’ve talked about this project a bit on Facebook and Twitter, and in a recent Buhay Indie post,but I haven’t had the time to plug it yet here on Rocket Kapre.

Kwentillion is a bi-monthly (eventually, we hope), black and white magazine (with an eight-page colored spread every issue) that features reviews and previews of young adult books, interviews with creators, and articles which tackle a wide variety of topics of interest to the YA community. For this issue, the story contents are reprints:

  • For comics, we have “The Last Datu” by Budjette Tan & Kajo Baldisimo, “Poso Maximo:A Fair Trade” by Robert Magnuson, “High Society” by myself and Hannah Buena, “Skygypsies” by TJ Dimacali and JohnRay Bumanglag;
  • For prose, we’re reprinting Andrew Drilon’s “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man”.

We have interviews with Chester Ocampo (who also did the cover – you can see a draft below), and Manix Abrera, YA book previews from YA book bloggers Chachic Fernandez and Tina Matanguihan, a discourse on the benefits of fanfiction by Anna Sanchez, and the first of what I hope will be a regular column from YA advocate and blogger Tarie Sabido. We’ve got a feature on Filipino artists to follow online, showcasing their art as part of the 8 page colored spread. We also have resources for aspiring writers and artists: “How to Draw a Tikbalang” from Trese artist Kajo Baldisimo, and a primer on Philippine Folk Magic, written by me and illustrated by our Alternative Alamat artist Mervin Malonzo.

Kwentillion, I think, could be a great boon to Filipino readers and creators. It’s important that Philippine comics be regularly and widely available, in a quality printed format. It’s important that more Philippine young adult content be created, so our young people have the option of reading about heroes/heroines who are more like them. It’s important that a publication exists that treats those popular yet oft disparaged genres – YA, science fiction/fantasy, comics – with an enthusiastic heart, a respectful attitude, and a critical eye.

I’m sure the first issue isn’t perfect – I promise you we’ll do everything we can to improve every issue, but to do that, we need this small 3,000 print run to be a smashing success. If you’re a fan of YA books or comics, an avid SFF reader or an aspiring creator, if you feel the same gnawing hunger I do when I look at the bookstore shelves and dream of what could be there… now’s the time to be heard.

Summer Komikon, Bayanihan Center, Pasig City. Saturday, May 26, 3:00 p.m. See you there.

Here's one of the work-in-progress sketches Chester (Ocampo) sent us. The official cover will be revealed on Saturday.

 

Talking Points: Decolonizing and World SF

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 21 - 2012

There were several posts that went up last week dealing with matters that will be of interest to Philippine SF writers and readers. Couple this with the recent discussion on diversity, and you’ve got a very enlightening series of articles on the state of the genre. Check them out:

  • World SF Blog‘s Non-Western SF Roundtable (Part One) (Part Two). Participating authors are  Aliette de Bodard (France), Joyce Chng (Singapore), the controversial blogger known as Requires Hate (Thailand), Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines/The Netherlands), Ekaterina Sedia (Russian/USA) and Rachel Swirsky (USA, in Part 2).

Excerpts:

Aliette: … There are lots of factors at play that explain why outsider narratives are more popular; but one of the main reasons is one of audience: as Ekaterina mentions in her blog post: at this junction in time, the dominant audience in the field is Western (of US/European culture), and outsider narratives have a better grasp of how to present (ie exotify) elements of a setting in a digestible manner for the mainstream (White) audience. This is very much regrettable, and I really do wish that people would stop using the word authenticity altogether, as it’s either used as an exclusionary factor, to police who within a community has the right to write about the culture (something I find utterly fraught with problems); or as a well-meaning but somewhat hollow reassurance that the writer’s world feels real (the only ones equipped to judge authenticity of, say, a story set in Brazil are Brazilian people, and I certainly would never dream of qualifying someone’s story set there with that word!).

xxx

Ekaterina: Another point is that the insiders will disagree. Some will like it, some won’t, and some will hate it because it is by an outsider. And the lesson for the writer there is not to say “Well, screw it, haters gonna hate, I’ll just write whatever because you cannot please anyone”. You’re still responsible for doing as good a job as you can. And accepting that your best might not be good enough for some people, and their opinions are also valid. Don’t trot out the natives who loved your work, don’t tell people who dislike it that they’re wrong because another person from the same culture liked it. So really, if you want approval, stay out of other people’s cultures. Nations won’t get together to sign waivers that say that you are free to appropriate whatever and no one can say anything about it ever. People will be angry, and they will be right to be angry. If it upsets you, reconsider your motivation.

Rachel: … Speaking as a western writer, and as someone who has attempted to engage in writing with other kinds of privilege, I am inclined to agree that it’s inescapable that a privileged person will write a narrative that is rooted in their privilege. One can minimize exoticism, I hope, but I don’t think it’s possible to erase it.

As a writer of science fiction, particularly, though, I see myself as having an obligation to present a future that is, as Joyce says, for everyone. As I should have said in the other roundtable, despite the American propensity (including mine) toward tunnel vision, reality is global, and (barring certain speculative scenarios), the future should be global or globally influenced as well. I think there’s an obligation for Western writers who work within science fiction to engage with both western and non-western cultures. Otherwise, we do end up with white-washed (western-washed) futures and I think that the effect of this on the cultural imagination is wholly negative; the future isn’t just for white westerners. I think it’s a particularly pernicious form of erasure.

Excerpt:

In “Betraying the Babaylan,” Araneta Cruz describes the technique of divide and conquer which the Spanish employed to disempower the Babaylan and effectively erase them. The first thing that the Spanish did was to alienate the effeminate Babaylan from the women priestesses. They also gained the support of the tribal elite in their cause to wipe out the Babaylan through the use of bribery and promises of power. With the male Babaylan and the elite on their side, the Spanish friars went on to accuse the Babaylan of being of the devil and of practicing witchcraft.

While I narrate events that are specific to the Philippines, I find myself wondering if such events were also mirrored in countries that were colonized by foreign powers. How pervasive is that other culture? How much has it stolen from or killed of the original culture?

When I look at my country, I see how much these things have harmed our psyche and I also see the resilience of our culturebearers who employed whatever means was at their disposal to preserve our culture. Even so, the wounds have spread deep and there are certain things that demonstrate to us how deeply rooted colonialism is.

Even to this day, we see young women buying whitening creams because white is perceived as the ideal color. I long to tell my fellow Filipinos, there is nothing more beautiful than kayumanggi (brown).

Call for Submissions: Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 8

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 18 - 2012

 

Editors Dean and Nikki Alfar invite you to submit short fiction for consideration for Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 8.

Philippine Speculative Fiction is a yearly anthology series, which collects a wide range of stories that define, explore, and sometimes blur the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all things in between. The anthology has been shortlisted for the Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award, and multiple stories from each volume have been cited in roundups of the year’s best speculative fiction across the globe.

First-time authors are more than welcome to submit; good stories trump literary credentials any time.

Submissions must be:
1. speculative fiction—i.e., they must contain strong elements and/or sensibilities of science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, alternate history, folklore, superheroes, and/or related ‘nonrealist’ genres and subgenres
2. written in English
3. authored by persons of Philippine ethnicity and/or nationality

Submissions are preferred to be:
1. original and unpublished
2. no shorter than 1,000 words and no longer than 7,500
3. written for an adult audience
In all cases, these preferences can be easily overturned by exceptionally well-written pieces. In the case of previously-published work—if accepted, the author will be expected to secure permission to reprint, if necessary, from the original publishing entity, and to provide relevant publication information.

Submission details:
1. No multiple or simultaneous submissions—i.e., submit only one story, and do not submit that story to any other publishing market until you have received a letter of regret from us. We don’t mind if you submit to contests.
2. All submissions should be in Rich Text Format (saved under the file extension ‘.rtf’), and emailed to nikkialfar@gmail.com, with the subject line ‘PSF8 submission’.
3. The deadline for submissions is 11 p.m., Manila time, September 15, 2012. Letters of acceptance or regret will be sent out no later than one month after the deadline.

Editors’ notes:
1. Please don’t forget to indicate your real name in the submission email! If you want to write under a pseudonym, that’s fine, but this can be discussed upon story acceptance. Initially, we just need to know who we’re talking to.
2. If you’d like to write a cover letter with your brief bio and publishing history (if applicable), do feel free to introduce yourself—but not your story, please. If it needs to be explained, it’s probably not ready to be published.
3. We advise authors to avoid fancy formatting—this will just be a waste of your time and ours, since we will, eventually, standardize fonts and everything else to fit our established house style.

Authors of selected stories will receive Php500 pesos in compensation, as well as digital copies of the book.

Please help spread the word! Feel free to copy this and paste it anywhere you see fit that happens to be legal. :)

Thanks,
Dean and Nikki Alfar, co-editors

Join us… Jooooiiiin uuussss… *hiss*

TOC: Horror – Filipino Fiction For Young Adults

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 17 - 2012

Editors Dean Alfar and Kenneth Yu have announced the table of contents for their upcoming young adult horror anthology:

Honesty Hour – Gabriela Lee
Eat Me – Kally Hiromi R. Arsua
Mommy Agnes – Vince Torres
The Running Girl – Elyss Punsalan
Education By Ate Flora – Renelaine Bontol
The New Teacher – Alexander Osias
Gago’s Got Your Back – Andrew Drilon
Dan’s Dreams – Eliza Victoria
Itching To Get Home – Joseph Montecillo
Lola’s House – Fidelis Tan
A Yellow Brick Road Valentine – Charles Tan
Lucia, The Nightmare Hunter – Kate Osias
Frozen Delight – EK Gonzales
Misty – Isabel Yap

Congratulations to all the contributors, and the editors as well!

Fully Booked FCBD 2012 + Comic Odyssey at Fort

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 15 - 2012

As is their usual practice, Fully Booked will be celebrating FCBD a few weeks later than everyone else, and this year that date is May 19. There will be free comics available at many Fully Booked branches, but the place is their flagship store at Bonifacio High Street, where a new Comic Odyssey branch is set to open within the Fully Booked premises itself. You can go to the Comics Cube for the details.

Why Is Diversity Important? Discussion at The Cogsmith

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 14 - 2012

A bit late to this, but over at The CogsmithDjibril Alayad and Fabio Fernandes (you may remember them from the “We See A Different Frontier” project) have compiled comments made in an online discussion about diversity in speculative fiction. As one might imagine, that’s a subject of particular relevance to me, and to readers of the site, not the least of which because Charles Tan was one of those who weighed in. Check it out here, and make sure to read the comments too (Filipino author and Alternative Alamat contributor Rochita Loenen Ruiz weighs in there)!

A Tour of the Philippine Fantastic (2 of 2)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 12 - 2012

Part 2 of my article on the Philippine fantastic for the “World Tour of Wonderment“ feature of Fantasy Faction is now up. (You can find part one here.) In this post, I give a brief primer on the fantastic in prose fiction and comics, by talking about prominent creators/projects in these fields. Check it out!

The Mind Museum Promo for International Museum Day

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 11 - 2012

Click for larger version

The Mind Museum is celebrating International Museum Day on May 18 with a cool little promo, with all day passes going at a discounted price of PHP500, and several special science events (some are free with the day pass, but for others you need to purchase access separately). The special all-day passes are limited in quantity, and they just went on sale today, so make haste if you want to reserve your tickets.

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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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