Archive for the ‘Slider’ Category

Friday Focus: Revisiting Usog, Pasma, Kulam

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 18 - 2009

Friday Focus segments can be reviews, recommendations or retrospectives of works that could be of interest to readers and writers of Speculative Fiction. If you’d like to volunteer to do one on a book, game, or what-have-you close to your heart, drop me a line at rocketkapre[at]g m a i


You know that a book has been criminally under-promoted on the web when the only copy of the title page you can find is over at Kinokuniya Japan. That’s a shame, because Micahel Tan‘s “Revisiting Usog, Pasma, Kulam” is one of the most thoroughly researched books I’ve found to date on Philippine folklore and magic.

The irony is that this book was originally aimed at health professionals, not for the curious public (and snoopy writer). As the author states in one of his Inquirer columns, the book is “actually a substantial revision of “Usug, Pasma, Kulam,” which was first published in 1987 by AKAP, a medical NGO working in communities and deals with the everyday concepts Filipinos have about health and illness in general. It tries to systematize these concepts, explaining some of their origins and how they continue to evolve.”

It is in that attempt to order the vast and varied beliefs across the archipelago into a coherent–albeit an always porous and ambivalent one–system that the utility and beauty of this slim volume emerges. Whereas many of the published folklore studies are content to bury a reader under reams of lists and scatter-shot data, Tan’s book maps consistencies and contrasts between the different illness-related belief systems of the pre-hispanic Filipino (and how these have evolved and carried-over to our modern age) which can be a godsend to a writer who is, say, trying to come up with a Philippine-folklore influenced magic system, but who is overwhelmed by the sheer variety of pre-Hispanic beliefs; examples of this are when he analyzes the nature of “contagion” in folk beliefs, and when he clarifies that the pre-Christian understanding of mystical retribution was not rooted in an external, vengeful God, but in the belief that some actions carried disaster as a natural consequence.

I haven’t finished the book myself yet–it’s a dense read and, to the horror of my wife, I’m taking notes–but I’ve read enough that on this Book Fair Weekend-eve, I can heartily recommend it to anyone interested in Philippine folklore, especially writers. I saw copies at the UP Press booth, so if you’ve got the time and the cash, try to grab a copy.

A Spec Fic Guide to the MIBF 09

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 17 - 2009

If anyone had told me when I was young that I would be getting paid to do coverage of the book fair, I would have laughed in their face—I mean, I’m all for impossible dreams, but that’s a bit too much to ask for isn’t it? Heh, life. My article for the POC should be out either today or tomorrow is up right now and that gives a more general blow-by-blow (you can also see a Day 1 post at Bookmarked!), as well as an aisle-by-aisle break down of significant booths, but for Rocket Kapre readers I thought I’d write a piece that focuses more on our peculiar interests.


Anvil, of course, had the most number of Philippine Spec Fic books: “Waking the Dead” and “A Time for Dragons” could be found on several racks, since they are 2009 releases. They also had posters/tarps for those two books hung up around the booth. Dean Alfar’s “Kite of the Stars” was a bit harder to find, but  I discovered it near the section with the special signed books (to the left of the booth, if you’re coming from the direction of the MIBF entrance). Marianne Villanueva’s collection, “The Lost Language” was also on display. I found it both on the 2009 rack and, strangely enough, with the books classified as “Essays”—don’t know if that has since been corrected.


The Spec Fic book I was most looking forward to was the third volume of Trese—it’s not out yet but I did troop down to the Visprint booth to pre-order. Visprint has some directions for how to get to their booth, which would have been helpful for me to read before I went to the book fair–don’t make the same mistake! After you fill up the form and pay your measly 180 bucks, you’ll be given a receipt and the calling card of a person at Visprint you can contact to check on the status of your order. You can also get a four page teaser as well… with our first glimpse of an important figure in Trese’s life. The previous volumes were there as well, plus the rest of Visprint’s excellent komiks and book line (including the books of David Hontiveros). Visprint has a schedule for their author appearances here. Kudos to Visprint on their wall-art… there’s something awesome about seeing Trese and the Kambal sharing space with ZsaZsa Zaturnnah.


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Writer’s Wednesday: PSFV Edition

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 16 - 2009

While we’re always keen to post helpful links for writers here at Rocket Kapre, we thought we’d devote the Wednesday of each week to a more concentrated form of writing goodness. Our Writer’s Wednesday posts will contain three parts: the first part will be a set of interesting links for those in search of Internet-enabled inspiration; the second will be a writing tip culled from research or personal knowledge; and the third will be a writing prompt for those who want to exercise those prose muscles.


WW is an experiment and work-in-progress so please let us know what works for you and what doesn’t in the comments ^_^.

Today’s Writer’s Wednesday is brought to you by… the need to cram submissions for Philippine Speculative Fiction V. Yes folks you officially have less than a month to go so those “oh, I’ve got plenty of time” excuses don’t hold water anymore.

Stuck for ideas? Never fear, Writer’s Wednesday is here!

Baiting the Muse (LINKS):

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On the Far Shore: Interview with Crystal Koo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 16 - 2009

“On the Far Shore” is what I’m calling this series of interviews with the authors/editors of “The Farthest Shore” an anthology of secondary world fantasy from Filipino writers. The anthology is available here. Today we speak with Crystal Koo, author of  “Wildwater.”

Tell us a bit about your story “Wildwater”:

As far as theme goes, it’s about an emigre who returns to his homeland with an misdirected sense of responsibility and an inferiority complex regarding his own people which goes too far.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

I check on Dean Alfar and Joey Nacino’s blogs and they had posted calls for submissions.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Plenty of them. The first serious one I had written was way back in high school, in sword-and-sorcery, Middle-Earth fashion complete with mythologies and family trees and kingdoms that rose and fell; that was the only kind of fantasy I knew how to write then and I wrote those kinds of stories in a series. Since then I’ve been focusing on other kinds of fantasy writing as well but I still regularly write secondary-world stories, though I’ve moved away from the sword-and-sorcery genre.

I think we read the same kinds of books/series when we were young then. Do you think you’ll ever revisit those earlier works, spruce them up with your knew writer-ly skills and send them out? I’d love to read a Filipino made sword and sorcery series myself.

Haha, if I ever do revisit them, I’d have to do a complete overhaul. They were all very derivative of Lord of the Rings and Greek mythology.

How long did it take you to write the story?

It took me around a week to write and edit the story into a first “final” draft. Then I left it alone for a few months and tinkered with it here and there afterward.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Lots, actually. One is that the story is structured as a letter addressed to members in a court of law and is clearly meant to be
persuasive, which made the story easier to write because of the clear direction. The other is that the protagonist comes from a race of “gilled” humans – like the sort that pops up once in a while in provincial gossip back home in the Philippines, along with babies born with webbed feet. I also enjoyed writing about the orinu, which I imagined to be scaly killer whales, and the orinu trade.

How in-depth do you develop a secondary world before you tell a story in it? Do you flesh out a history and a culture first before you start on characters and plot, or does the world grow from what you need to tell a particular story?

It grows from what I need to tell the story. Otherwise I get too caught up in inventing histories and cultures that the plot finds itself all of a sudden in the backseat, which I try to avoid.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Cooking up a credible way [Ed. Note: spoiler deleted for your safety dear reader] without making it overly melodramatic.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

I wrote the story in 2007, when I was still studying in Sydney, and the concept of studying abroad as a first step to immigration was a constant preoccupation for me because Australia is such a hotspot for Asians who are looking to do that sort of thing, particularly in my university, hence the theme. Stylistically, I’d say maybe Ursula K. Le Guin.

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

Yes. I’m in the middle of revising a short story called “The Startbox” for the Usok e-zine [Ed. Note: Watch for it this October folks, here at Rocket Kapre], and also a short story called “The Likeness of God” which I’ll be sending out to the market soon in hopes of a possible publication. I’m also working on a collaboration for a second play to be performed onstage in Hong Kong.

If you could write in a secondary world created by another (literary, television etc.), which world would that be? What kind of story would you write? (‘cors if you’ve actually written secondary world fanfic, feel free to plug it here ^_^)

As a teenager, I wrote Lord of the Rings fanfics and a boatload of anime fanfics that included the secondary worlds of Vandread, Gensoumaden Saiyuki, and (I’m clearly not holding back here) Akazukin Chacha, as well as stories that were blatant rip-offs of Star Wars. I haven’t written fanfics for a while, but I’d probably enjoy writing in Neil Gaiman’s The Dreaming from the Sandman series, if that can count as secondary despite its connections with the primary world.

Vandread! OK, I totally need to search out your fanfics now. One final, very important question then: Dita, Meia or Jura (If you answer Misty I shall be forced to kill you)?*

So unfair, that’s not a very representative range of choices! Very well, Meia then, though I still think she broods more than necessary.

Thanks for agreeing to do the interview Crystal! You can find a list of Crystal’s published works, including some that are available online, on her Author’s page here at Rocket Kapre.

*Ed. Note: These are the lead female characters of the Vandread anime. Sorry guys, I just had to ask.*

Komikon Kontenders: Best Web Comic

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 15 - 2009

Voting for the 2009 Komikon Awards ends in less than a week, on 20 September 2009, and while it might be hard to scrounge up copies of all the nominated physical komiks, the magic of the Internet means that it’s easy for prospective voters to bone up on the nominees in at least one category: Best Webcomic. (Webkomik?)


I thought I’d do my part to promote voter education (practice for 2010 maybe?)–especially since all of the nominees have some Speculative Fiction elements–so here are links to the nominees, as well as some sample panels, because we’re all such suckers for good visuals. I’m also including a bit of personal analysis for each, but please don’t take my word for the quality of the works–just click on the links and discover these worthy kontenders for yourselves. (Yes, that was an intentional misspelling in the post title guys ;) )

Warning though: Kubori Strips for the Soul are NSFW and NSF-Minors, whether or not you’re at work.

What the Cigarette Said by Andrew Drilon

Language: English

Speculative Elements: Without spoilng anything… Philippine mythology and folklore is present. And oh, a talking cigarette.

Andrew is, as might be obvious from some of the answers in our first Rocket Round Table, one of the most admired storytellers in the country today, whether the medium be prose or komiks, since he’s as adept with words as he is with art. When he combines those two talents, as he does in “What the Cigarette Said”, the effect can be magical: Andrew uses words and images to give a dream-like quality to a surreal love story. One advantage this has over the other nominees is that WTCS is not a serial webcomic but a 12 page mini-comic that tells a complete story. Even if you’ve already voted or have no interest in the awards, taking the time out to read this comic will be minutes well spent.

By Moon Alone by Hai Ibardolaza

Language: English

Speculative Elements: Magic, demons, prophecies, and an entire secondary world. (Or is it?)

Hai is another of that rare creative breed who has mastery of both prose and art. It is the latter that will first strike you however, and how–I can honestly say that Hai is one of my favorite artists, local or foreign, webcomic or no. The way he portrays emotion on a character’s face, the vivid aesthetics of his coloring, the splendor of his set pieces… and when he does his one panel “splash” pages… wow. (His recent strips showing a city under siege by giants are some of his best yet.) While the art lures you in though, it’s the writing that elevates By Moon Alone from “pretty pictures” to “awesome comic”–there is a wounded-ness to his main characters, a sense of impending tragedy that makes me read each new strip with a mixture of excitement and dread. At this point there’s no big “payoff” yet–I get the feeling we’ve barely scratched the surface of this story–but what’s there is mesmerizing.

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Manila Int’l Bookfair Schedule

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 14 - 2009

EDIT: Note that the Book Fair schedule has had some changes since this was posted–the latest can be found at the Book Fair site.

Hey there book lovers, it’s that time of the year again… You know the one, where you feel your hearts lighten with delight–while your wallets bleed money.


Yes, it’s the Manila International Bookfair starts this week, this Wednesday to be exact. While we’ve already mentioned the Hunger Games LARP, Bookmarked! has posted a full schedule of events. You know that an event will be educational when you can learn things just by reading it’s schedule:

  • Goodwill has a website.
  • “Cocktails for English Proficiency”–must be an awesome way to learn the language.
  • There is such a thing as a “Temporary Hairspray Demonstration Contest.”

As for me, I’ll probably try to catch the Hunger Games LARP and attend the Fandoms and Literature discussion on Sunday. Too bad I won’t be able to attend Bookselling 101 or the Star Wars Costume Making panel. What about the rest of you?

10 Questions on 10 Stories: Yvette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 11 - 2009


Yvette Tan’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared in so many venues online and offline that I truly believe she could put together an entire magazine all by her self. Her stories have been recognized by the Palanca Awards, the Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards and the 2008 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Anthology. Her first short story collection, “Waking the Dead,” was released just last month to stellar reviews, and when she agreed to this interview, I decided to ask her one question for each of the stories.

The Child Abandoned: Have you ever attended the Feast of the Black Nazarene?

[Note: You can see a flash photo-essay of the Feast (with audio) at the GMA News website.]

The nearest I’ve gotten to the feast is watching it on TV. There’s something raw about it, something that transcends time. Sure, the celebrants are all wearing t-shirts and pants and have cellphones (which, for their sake, I hope they left at home), but you get the feeling that they could be wearing pelts. They have that sort of energy. People have gotten killed during the festival and yet it endures, as glorious as ever. Right now, I don’t think I want to attend the festival for real (mostly because my mom would have a conniption if she found out) but should I get a chance to do so, I would not say no.

The Bridge: You’ve met quite a few celebrities haven’t you? Which meeting left you the most star struck?

It’s tough to choose just one because I’ve interviewed so many interesting people. If my high school self saw me now, she would be squealing with delight. Here are the first 3 that comes to mind:

Pilita Corrales - One of the most amazing people I have met. She used to be a big star, and still is in some parts of the world. Did you know they named a street after her in Sidney? An interview consists of you sitting down and her telling you about her life story in fascinating detail.

Gary Barlow - One of the guys from the now defunct Take That. He called me at my house. I took the call in my parents room like a giggly teenager. He was very nice. Answered all questions about himself, his music, his family. Knows how to make fun of himself, too. The thing with a lot of foreign artists is that they take themselves too seriously, refuse to answer questions that don’t have to do with whatever it is they’re promoting at the time. Gary wasn’t like that.

Imelda Marcos - I didn’t really interview her but I got the chance to interact with her for the Terno episode of the first season of Project Runway Philippines. What a fascinating woman! She revolutionized the terno, taking it from a bulky three-piece into the streamlined one piece that is our national costume today. She my not have come off as nice in “The Bridge” but really, the story is more a tribute than anything else. If I like you enough, I’m going to make you a monster.

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Everything Happens At Once: An Interview with Maria Isabel Garcia

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 10 - 2009

Maria Isabel Garcia is the author of “Science solitaire: essays on science, nature, and becoming human“, a science writer for the De Rerum Natura column of the Philippine Star, and curator of the upcoming Mind Museum. She’s also agreed to shed some light on matters of science for our readers here at Rocket Kapre, but today we speak to her about the Mind Museum.


Could you tell us how you became involved in the Mind Museum project? I know a few people who’d consider that to be a dream job!

I’m a science writer and I’d started to do what I call “Inspirational Science Workshops” for public school science teachers when the project proponents of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc., called me to ask if I would be interested to be involved in the project. I agreed to be part of the project on a permanent basis only if we saw eye to eye on the kind of science museum that would be put up—I am sure that there are many ways of presenting science to the public, so I wanted to be sure we shared the same vision. We did.

I do not believe in “dream jobs” because that somehow implies, for me anyway, that I wanted the job badly. I believe in passion and discipline:  passion to set your soul on fire and discipline to use that fire to illuminate, and not simply attract attention and burn itself out. I am constantly grateful that I am able to do what I love most, which is to promote the public understanding of science, to avoid making beggars of the public when it comes to the gifts of understanding that science offers. Whether it is through my writing or through a science museum, I don’t consider one or the other as more or less of a dream job.

From the way the project is presented at the website, it seems to be an ambitious undertaking. What will make the Mind Museum different from other science exhibits in the Philippines?

We were conscious that we finally had the chance to give our country the science museum it deserves. If we thought “small” then that would speak of how little we thought of the capacity and desire of our own people to understand the world through science. We would be belittling the vast imagination and creativity of people like yourselves. So we looked at science in all its fields, at where they are now, and figured out a way of presenting science to the Filipino public in the most fascinating way.

The Mind Museum will dispel notions of science as being only mechanical, only for “geeks”, only for the irreligious. It will make the Filipinos lock eyes and shake hands with science as a way of knowing, as being intertwined with human identity as much as music and dance.

Having to do something as extensive as this required a lot of resources. It is a billion peso project but after just over a year of fund raising from the private sector, including individuals who thought this was an idea whose time had really come, , we were able to raise over 80% of our fund raising target- a clear signal for us to start construction this year.

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RRT: Favorite Philippine Speculative Fiction Story

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009
RRT: Fave Pinoy SF Story
RRT: Fave Pinoy SF Story

Taking our cue from SF Signal, in Rocket Round Table, we pose a single question to those who toil in the fields of Philippine SF. Our aim is to promote reflection and discussion, as well as to simply compare notes on the genre we know and love. This month we ask the question:

What is your favorite Filipino-created Speculative Fiction story?

The story can be prose or komiks, a movie or a television show… any medium by which a narrative can be told is fair game. One caveat though: let’s limit ourselves to works whose authorship is certain, and not Philippine myths/legends. In other words, Florante and Laura qualifies but “Ang Alamat ng Pinya” doesn’t. Let’s leave those for another day. ^_^

Here are the first batch of answers–I’ll compile any further replies in a subsequent post.

Adam David: [Blog]

==Indie publisher, published author, opinionated blogger. He recently released “A Week of Kindness” - seven works from seven writers written in seven days revolving around seven images/elements/themes.==

Barring my own set of scintillating sensurround scifi scintillations, the best Pinoy SpecFic story would be the unfortunately still largely unread “Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon. It was supposed to be part of Drilon’s Kare-Kare Komiks print remix a bunch of people – me included – tried their best to make manifest around the middle of 2008. I was the layout artist so I was privy to the actual finished pages – “actual finished pages” being actually “virtual” as Drilon assembled everything on computer – and I was one of maybe ten or so people who have seen the whole book (maybe I still am). The publisher ran out of money, so the project didn’t push through. The book was 96 pages of Drilon’s full-colour ChemSet strips, and a handful of new ones to round off the collection, some of which already saw publication in places, but not “Pericos Tao” for some reason.

“Pericos Tao” is one of those too few gay stories that’s ABOUT being gay and at the same time ISN’T in the sense that it isn’t pushing an agenda. It’s about a young man trying to escape the past, and, unsuccessful, finally decides to come to terms with it in his own terms. It makes use of a few characters/creatures from Visayan tradition and somehow making them not clunky as how most of these things are on the page more often than not. It also employs some formal play by way of recreating the young man’s Visayan childhood via impeccably mimicking Larry Alcala’s unmistakable cubist brushstrokes, while the present rendered as how Drilon renders his usual, only slightly better, all of these things running in synch all focused on telling the story, and telling it well. Of everything I’ve read by Drilon, or any one else’s in SpecFic for that matter (and I’ve probably read about 90% of what’s been published so far as of 05:04AM of 7 September 2009), “Pericos Tao” remains to be the most honest and most complete and most heartfelt and really just one of the best stories I’ve ever read, printed (or not) on paper. It’s really all just downhill from here for Drilon. I hope more people will get the chance to read “Pericos Tao,” before he decides to sell out and go manga on everyone. Make it so, Andrew!

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On the Far Shore: An Interview with Kate Aton-Osias

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009

“On the Far Shore” is what I’m calling this series of interviews with the authors/editors of “The Farthest Shore” an anthology of secondary world fantasy from Filipino writers. The anthology is available here. Today we speak with Kate Aton-Osias, author of “Light.”

Could you tell us a bit about your story “Light”?

The story is essentially about unrequited love and knowing your place in the world (although both I had hoped to present in a different way). It started as a writing challenge to write in ‘traditional’ fantasy (that is to say to use tradfan tropes) without it being too ‘traditional’ or common.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

From Dean Alfar’s blog.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Nope (unless you count futuristic fiction which, I would argue is a secondary world, but I know I’m severely outvoted in the literary world).

Ah, but dissent enriches discussion, so fire away! How would you describe a secondary world story?

A world that is not known by people living in the present. Which is why I don’t count alternate histories (unless it is sufficiently removed from actual history) as second world. If it’s futuristic fiction, how could anyone ‘know’ it? I understand though, that certain kinds of futuristic fiction – especially the ones that only project less than a generation ahead – is too close to the present to be considered secondary world. But fiction that deals with things that common people right now find fantastic – robots (even if they already exist), androids, a clean Philippines (haha) – I think that could count as secondary world.

How long did it take you to write the story?

A little under a month.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Reading the first draft. :)

Really? Hm. Your first drafts must be much nicer than mine are. How many drafts do you usually go through before you submit a story? Do you have anyone else read them first?

Not really. Actually, they’re quite horrid. But the first draft is my first taste of completion. After that, I can edit and polish (and edit, and polish), but I already have something. Anything before the first draft is incomplete, and potentially, will never be complete. The first draft makes the story ‘real’. As for number of drafts – I would prefer to go through a zillion drafts, but I’ve realized lately that my stories receive better comments when I stop at 3. Generally speaking, my husband reads the draft to check for any obvious grammatical mistakes, and then I’m on my own.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Trying to incorporate traditional fantasy tropes.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

Dungeons and Dragons source book! (the spells, the spells)

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

Yep, for the LitCritter deadline in October as well as (hopefully) SpecFic. [Ed. Note: Philippine Speculative Fiction V]

If you could write in a secondary world created by another (literary, television etc.), which world would that be? What kind of story would you write?

Hmmm… this one’s tough. My first answer is unfair since I would like to write for a fantasy setting that a close friend of mine had built for the solitary purpose of a role playing game (which I’m actively playing right now). For a more accessible reference, I think I would like to write a story for the Fading Suns RPG.

Have your experiences during gaming, say the settings, adventures or the characters, spill over or influence your writing?

Most definitely. I learned a lot about characters, and dialogue, through gaming (it doesn’t hurt that our GM is an award winning playwright and fictionist). I try not to write it down directly, though, because I prefer to write something out of my own imagination – or at least, my own interpretation of it (which goes beyond simply using the same characters and exactly the same setting with a different plot) – rather than play in someone else’s sandbox. That is not to say I’m against fanfiction, but its just a personal choice to challenge myself to do something different.

Where else can we find your work?

Bewildering Stories, Magical Realism Online, A Time for Dragons, Spec Fic 2 and 4.

Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Kate!



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.