Archive for the ‘Slider’ Category

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:


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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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 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.


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…


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

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.


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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Interview with Kevin Lapeña

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 17 - 2009

Kevin Lapeña is the artist behind the awesome cover for Usok # 1 and he took some time to answer some of our questions, and shed some light on the process behind his art, both in general and with regard to the cover of Usok’s maiden issue.

So, tell me, when you were a little kid, were you the type who’d take a bunch of crayons and draw on the walls and floors?

Never! I was taught early on that drawings belong on paper (or whatever is the proper canvas), and not on walls, floors or furniture! (I was given tons of scratch paper to work with.)

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James Jean in Manila: Schedule and Contest

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 17 - 2009

James Jean, awe-inspiring cover artist for the Fables series from Vertigo, will be in Manila from November 20-23, courtesy of Fully Booked. Fully Booked has a page set-up with a schedule of events for (and leading up to) Jean’s visit, and you can check it out here. Of special interest is a contest (well, basically a raffle) that Fully Booked is running along with UNO Magazine–basically just leave a comment on the UNO Blog (somewhat NSFW of course) here answering the question “Which is your favorite James Jean masterpiece and why?” As of right now there are 52 comments, so those are still decent odds. Deadline for entries is November 18, 11:59, so post soon if you’re interested. Lord knows I am… if I ever get to be President of the Philippines, I’m flying him back here to do my official portrait.

Will post James Jean’s schedule and guidelines (from the Fully Booked site) after the jump, for your reference. Note that the talk at La Salle Benilde seems to require reserving a slot via email, and that registration is also required prior to the signing events.

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Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 16 - 2009

Joey Nacino (the man behind Estranghero Press) has been contributing flash fiction stories to a new music site,, in a segment called Literatune. When Kyu posted that a new story had gone up, I figured it was about time we pointed readers in the direction of Joey’s project, and to an earlier post on his blog where he explains what it’s all about, and why in the heck he’s posting zombie fic at a music site:

What’s it all about?

Well, thanks to duskwatcher, I got to meet an extraordinary bunch of people who really dig music and who wanted to share the love around. These people set up a site called allmusicjunkies and started writing a lot of music-related stuff they thought people would interesting.

They also asked me to write little fictionlets– similar to my 15-minute writing exercises– that riff on the first lines of songs.

Hey Joey: could I request Du Hast for your next fic? Or, if not, I’d settle for Chumbawamba… ;)

How to Read the Next Generation

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 12 - 2009


Kyu of Philippine Genre Stories attended the recent NBDB talk (in the Galing Pinoy, Basahin! Lecture Series) entitled How To Read The Next Generation (Fiction), which featured Dean Alfar, Angelo Lacuesta, Edgar Samar, Tara FT Sering (moderated by Charlson Ong) and he’s posted a summary of the event on his blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Jun Balde raised some interesting publishing figures. He cited that millions of books are sold each year in the Philippines (I forgot the exact number he mentioned, but it was a considerable amount), so it’s not right to say that Filipinos don’t read. Rather, it’s more interesting to parse just what kinds of books are being bought. The bulk of books that are being bought are paperback romance novels, humor books, how-to’s, and textbooks. Jun Balde said that fiction actually ranks in the top five of the types of books being purchased and read, and if any type of book-type has not been selling well, it’s poetry.

And on the topic of workshops and the writing process:

There, too, was an interesting question about the creative process of each writer, and another about the role of workshops and classes to improve one’s writing. All the panelists spoke of discipline and setting aside time to write. Sarge mentioned that writing for him is an obsession; it is something he has to do, wants to do with a passion, and that’s something anyone who really wants to write has to ingrain. With regard to workshops and classes, Dean made a good analogy about the Pinoys who sing well: some are trained, some are self-taught. Some from each group go on to become world-class talents. Those who are trained learn a bit more technique and craft, but that’s not to say that those who don’t can’t perform. The same, for writing. Ed Samar mentioned his staying up till the wee hours of the morning just churning out words, implying the amount of work and effort involved.

You can check out the rest of the post here.

Usok #1 is Live

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 11 - 2009

Usok, Rocket Kapre’s webzine of Fantastic Filipino Fiction has officially launched!

What are you waiting for? Check it out here and tell us what you think.

With the first issue out the door, we are now open for submissions.

I hope to hear from all you writers soon (or at least as soon as you recover from NaNo ^_^).

Talecraft Character Building Workshop: A Report

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 9 - 2009

For those of you, like myself, who were unable to attend the recent Character Building Workshop sponsored by Talecraft, author Erica Gonzales (who you might know from her Jumper Cable stories from the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and Philippine Speculative Fiction IV) has graciously agreed to give us the low down on last Saturday’s event:

The Talecraft Character Workshop was held last November 7, 2009, at Powerbooks Greenbelt from 1-5 pm. Sponsored by Talecraft creator Ria Lu, it was graced by guest speakers Budjette Tan (best known for the “Trese” comic series), and Taga-Ilog (creator of the “Pasig” series in Culture Crash).

Budjette Tan spoke first and gave an example of a great character he admired as a child: Wolverine. The mysterious background and the antihero personality appealed to him, as well as to friends and classmates he met over the years. He discussed character development through various methods: making characters real; making characters do what you dream of doing yourself; and taking cues from conversations and personalities in real life.  Mr. Tan then used personal examples of his own adventures in character development: how Alexandra Trese is an amalgamation of heroes, how the Kambal were unconsciously derived from himself and his brother. [Ed. Note: Which makes me wonder which one Budjette takes after...]

Taga-Ilog also took this route in his own talk. He openly admitted that his routes to character development have not been conservative, but they worked for him nonetheless. He described his method in this way:  Environment, situation, and millieu came to him first, followed by the need for characters in the setting. He then talked about the common, time-tested character archetypes, giving examples from his childhood (which fortunately were also part of the childhood of many in the audience, who knew his references to Sailor Moon, Avatar, He-Man, and YuYu Hakusho / Ghost Fighter). He also gave examples of how element types can be used as a start for characterizations, and how twists in the archetypes can be utilized.
For this writer, at least, the examples were a great treat. Characterization comes from various inspirations and influences, and rarely in an organized manner. It was a wonderful thing being assured by those examples, that it’s perfectly alright to go about the process in your own way. It is a matter of knowing what to look for in a character, and using it when the right character comes.

Riu Lu gave the more nuts-and-bolts character development factors (physical features, base archetype, motives, etc.) and cited common mistakes in character-making, through a workshop. The participants were grouped together and given a set of Talecraft archetype cards and character
profile sheets. Using other methods or the provided card, participants are told to create characters that will form a team. Each group throws ideas and concepts, helping each member with their characters, making for interesting conversation and even more interesting characters.

It was a simple and informal workshop, yet meaningful and well-organized. It was a great way to spend an afternoon, meeting new creators and learning from more seasoned ones. I have hope that at least some of those wacky characters will find homes in stories and comics.

Many thanks to Erica for the guest post, and to Talecraft for what was apparently a very useful (and timely, what with NaNoWriMo) workshop.

Komix 7107: Issue 1

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 6 - 2009

Komiks creators Budjette Tan, Kajo Baldisimo (Trese), Ian Sta Maria, Mervin Ignacio (Skyworld), and Paolo Fabregas (Filipino Heroes League) have put up a new blog called Komix 7107, a site where they will be posting their creations (samples, old projects, and new experiments) for free online. Three works are currently up in their first online anthology:

The complete first issue of SKYWORLD.


The complete story of THE LAST DATU, a project that Budjette and Kajo worked on before Trese

I’m glad to see komiks creators using (or continuing to use, as with the Trese gang) the web to gain greater exposure for their work. It’s also good to see the Last Datu more widely available. Best of luck to the creators and here’s hoping we can see more of their work online in the days to come.



About Me

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.