Launch: “Scheherazade’s Facade” anthology now available digitally

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 7 - 2012

Scheherazade’s Facade, the U.S. anthology of gender-bending/cross-dressing/transformation spec fic that I’m a part of, is now out in digital form. You may remember it from the successful Kickstarter or the positive Publisher’s Weekly review it received (where my story “Kambal Kulam” got mentioned, woohoo!). It’s a great anthology, a different type of anthology, and I hope you all give it a try.

Contributors include Tanith Lee(!), Sarah Rees Brennan, and Aliette de Bodard, and it’s edited by renowned reviewer (and now renowned editor?) Michael M. Jones. The print copies will arrive in stores (in the U.S. I assume) soon, but for now you can find it at these fine establishments:

As further incentive, here’s an excerpt from my story in the anthology, “Kambal Kulam.” It takes place in a world much like our own, except that sorcery is common enough that one can make a living from the curse-protection racket. “Kambal Kulam” is about desperate sorcerers, a Quiapo fortuneteller, and why you should never assume that a curse is meant to kill…

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Amazon’s “The Big Deal” Sale: Genre Books

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 22 - 2011

One of the advantages to owning a Kindle which I hadn’t anticipated is the fact that Amazon’s Kindle Store seems to go on sale with delicious regularity, and genre books tend to be well represented. Currently, Amazon is holding a sale it’s calling “A Big Deal“, and this ends on July 27. As with the previous “Sunshine Deals” sale, I trawled through the 900+ books on sale and picked out titles that seem to fall within the speculative fiction genre, or which would be of interest to the spec fic fan. (Quite a few of the Smart Pop YA series’ are on sale.) Pyr Books is once again participating, and there are a lot of the Classics+Supernatural mash-up books on sale as well. I’ll start with the books I’ve heard good things about, but first let me mention a book that isn’t part of the Big Deal but is on sale nevertheless–Yukikaze, from Haikasoru.

Now, on with the spending show!

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, The (Burton & Swinburne) by Mark Hodder

Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation (Angry Robot) by Justin Gustainis

Hunter’s Run by Gardner Dozois, George R. R. Martin and Daniel Abraham

Blood of Ambrose by James Enge

Archimedes to Hawking : Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them by Clifford Pickover

The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki by Dani Cavallaro

Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge by Lou Anders, Kage Baker, Stephen Baxter and Elizabeth Bear

The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games by Michael J. Tresca

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Amazon Sunshine Deals: Genre Books

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On June - 5 - 2011

So it’s summer in the US, and Amazon is promoting the Kindle by slashing the prices of over 600 books to 0.99, 1.99, or 2.99 for the first two weeks of June. It’s called the “Sunshine Deals” promo and while the bigger US publishers don’t seem to be part of the promotion, don’t make the mistake of thinking there aren’t a few gems to be found.

There are a pair of Pyr Books titles on the list and they’ve seldom steered me wrong before, and I’ve been eyeing that Story Engineering book for a while. I looked through the list and figured that, while I was at it, I might as well put together a list of titles that might interest a Rocket Kapre reader. So without further ado:

Review: From Darna to Zsazsa Zaturnnah…

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 11 - 2011

Few people are more keenly aware of the rift between “literary/realist” and “popular” than genre authors and komiks creators. For those who would like an overview of that debate within the Philippine context, from an academic perspective that is sympathetic to the possibilities inherent in non-realist forms, I recommend From “Darna to Zsazsa Zaturnnah: Desire and Fantasy” by Soledad S. Reyes. My review of this collection is up on Filipiniana.net, and I hope it leads more readers to Reyes’ essays–particularly the abovementioned genre authors and komiks creators.

[Image from Goodreads.]

The 2010 Philippine Spec Fic Review Roundup

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 30 - 2010

This post continues my 2010 roundup of reviews that may be of interest to Rocket Kapre readers. A few days ago I posted my list of 2010 komiks reviews, whether or not the komiks were speculative in nature. Today I’m doing the same for reviews that came out this year for books by Filipinos in the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres (regardless of the publication date of the book – it’s the date of the review that matters). The list is much shorter than that for komiks, but then, there are fewer works of prose speculative fiction than there are komiks. I do hope that this changes in the future, both in terms of content and commentary, but I’m heartened that we have a very active book blogging scene here, and Chachic over at Filipino Book Bloggers notes when someone has reviewed a local book. With due respect to Bob Ong, I believe that both reviews and critiques (two different things, really) play a part in both improving the quality of fiction and increasing public awareness of a book, something which is very helpful to writers who aren’t residents of the bestseller lists. All of the book bloggers and reviewers I’ve met do what they do out of love, and I agree with Marianne Villanueva when she says that every review is a service. I hope that those who provide these services, whether they be bloggers or academics, receive more respect in the future.

Now, on to the list. As always, if I missed anything, please let me know in the comments section.

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:

MRslider

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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On the Far Shore: Joey Nacino

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 27 - 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 Joey Nacino, one of the anthology’s two editors, and also the author of “Brothers-in-Arms“.

joey_nacino_bio_photo2How did you come up with the idea for “The Farthest Shore”? Why focus on secondary world fantasy?

As I’ve talked about in the book’s introduction, Dean and I were talking about our love of secondary world fantasies and how as Filipino writers we couldn’t write about them because of the lack of Filipino elements in such stories. So we decided to hell with expectations and come up with an anthology of secondary world stories written by Filipinos.

I came up with the title “The Farthest Shore” in honor of Ursula K. Le Guin’s third Earthsea book and thought it apt given her definition of what ‘the farthest shore’ meant. Likewise, I thought the title evoked the feeling of islands, which is really what this is all about: secondary world stories from the Philippine islands, as far as it can be from the US or international readership.

How did you go about defining “secondary world fantasy”?

The basis of our definition of secondary world fantasy stems from the epic doorstoppers like George R. R. Martin’s and Robert Jordan’s works, as well as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. However, we also thought that this kind of definition is somewhat limiting given the other kinds of secondary world ideas, i.e. the portal-to-a-fantasy-world like Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books or the new weird stuff like China Mieville’s Crobuzon tales.

So we thought of making the definition a little vague in order to give our writers free rein to interpret what secondary world fantasy could mean. Hence, in this anthology you will find stories about pseudo-Filipino myth-laden realms (like Rod Santos’ “Queen Liwana”), a girl’s imaginary world of justice fulfilled (like Eliza Victoria’s “The Just World”), a New Weird-ish story of generational turtle ships (like Dom Cimafranca’s Rite of Passage), etc. Of course, those descriptions are my reading of the stories and may not apply to others. *wink*

You’re obviously well versed in some of the classic secondary world stories. Do you have a few more obscure secondary world favorites to recommend? Those that deserve more attention and acclaim?

Well, people can always try the late Paul Zimmer’s Dark Border novels (“The Lost Prince”, “King Chondo’s Ride” and the stand-alone “A Gathering of Heroes”) and P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath books (“God Stalk” and “Dark of the Moon” which was later collected in “The God Stalker Chronicles”; “Seeker’s Mask” and “To Ride a Rathorn”, which was collected in “Seeker’s Bane”). Zimmer’s books chronicles a cold war fantasy world wherein evil is just a border away. However, though the heroes of the Dark Border are quite compelling, they’re also tragic. Istvan the Archer is a famous swordsman who foreswore the bow after a massacre that made his name. Hodgell’s books are similar in that evil also lies over another border but her adventure stories of Jaime are leavened by a sly sense of humor. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but overall, they made quite an impression on me—especially since I managed to acquire copies of these more-than-likely-out-of-print books at secondhand bookstores. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Dark Borders books anymore since Zimmer—the brother of fantasy granddame Marion Zimmer Bradley—died in 1997. Fortunately, Baen Books have been publishing omnibus copies of Hodgell’s books and it looks like a fifth one is in the offing.

In the course of putting together this anthology, what was your biggest challenge? Your biggest surprise?

For myself, the biggest challenge was having enough stories that fit the bill to fill the anthology. Despite the popularity of fantasy/SF books in the Philippines, it seems like Filipino writers aren’t as keen to write about non-Filipino stories. Or maybe that’s just my perception. The biggest surprise? Filipino writers can write good secondary world stories.

Ah, now there’s a statement that might be misconstrued. How was that a surprise? what were your initial expectations when you and Dean began the project?

Well, the submissions did open my eyes to what could be considered as secondary world fantasy. Prior to this, my perception of a secondary world story was limited to the Western type ( i.e. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth or George R.R. Martin’s Westeros to China Mieville’s New Crobuzon) though I never realized it. Good thing I found myself seeing past this as I read stories that were non-Western– sometimes non-Filipino– but still apply a very Asian context to the idea of secondary worlds.  An example would be Crystal Koo’s “Wildwater” story about a poor yet ambitious fisherman who goes off to find fame and fortune in the big bad empire. Ironically, Charles once pointed out one time that the submission guidelines describing the secondary world theme as “too vague”.  Good thing that worked out to our advantage.

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On The Far Shore: An Interview With Rodello Santos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 20 - 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 Rodello Santos, author of “Queen Liwana’s Gambit“.

Could you tell us a bit about your story?

Absolutely. My story is about a young boy who wanders the countryside unsupervised with his best-friend, a chubby yellow rodent who shoots electricity. No wait, that’s Pokemon. Okay, now I remember. My story is about an old woman who bargained with dark powers in her youth and who must now face the consequences. It is based loosely on my own experiences pretending to be an old woman.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

Some of the voices in my head are psychic. Or perhaps I read it on Charles Tan’s Livejournal.

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

Yes, the majority of my stuff is speculative fiction set in secondary worlds. This world is far too boring.

How long did it take you to write the story?

That’s a tough question. The first incarnation of this story was written in 2006 for one of the weekly Flash Challenges at the Liberty Hall Writers’ Forum. For these challenges, writers are given a “trigger” and 90 minutes to write a story. The trigger can be a word, a picture, lyrics, or whatever. So, it took it me 90 minutes to write the first draft, then three years to complete the final revision. :)

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

The final draft. By that time, it just required some fine-tuning, and I could enjoy the story without having to make any major choices.

How do you know when a story is “ready”, that it’s time to stop making those minuscule corrections?

When I run face-first into the submission deadline (I can be a terrible procrastinator). I don’t know that one can ever stop tinkering with a story. If I do a few read-throughs and nothing leaps out at me, that’s one sign that it’s about ready. Of course, an author is often the worst judge of his/her own work. Getting feedback from other writers can be invaluable.

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On The Far Shore: Mia Tijam

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 13 - 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 Mia Tijam, author of  “Spelling Normal.”

Could you tell us a bit about your story, “Spelling Normal”?
I don’t know how to answer the question without preempting the story (and consequently ruining the whole Big Buddha Bang Theory and propagating the Cliff Notes Virus).

I think I had a bad case of that virus in High School (mixed with Acute Bluffititis).
Hahaha, I had the latter when I was studying Shakespeare and almost contracted the former when I was studying— yeah, Shakespeare. It was all cured by a doctor in Shakespeare named Ick.

So, how did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?
I have Elves and they have special ears. The Web Elf told me about it. I said, “How far is that from my Native Shores?” Then Agent Elf sneaked the story out of my factory and here now is Secondary World History.

Man I wish I had a story factory. (Mine’s more of an outlet store.)
Hahaha, not a bad outlet store since it landed you a Palanca. Hey, let’s do a comparative analysis on the production from a factory and an outlet store, hahahaha. But the damn factory is a sweatshop with an agoraphobic Torquemada as its supervisor: woe.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?
By the gravitas of the definition and tropes of the term “Secondary World”? Nope. But I always consider any work of fiction as secondary world isotopes, hehehe.

Ah, that pesky definitional issue. How would you define a secondary world story then? (The image of an isotope is an intriguing one.) I confess I’m not very adept at making distinctions myself, not in the field of art at least.
Lexical and semantics gymnastics: What is pesky? What is an issue? What is an isotope? What is a distinction? What is art? What is a box? What is a line? What is a point?
What is a definition: you write it and the editors and critics do the labeling. On with the smashing discourse yo!

How long did it take you to write the story?
Eight years. Seriously.

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Writer’s Wednesday: Fantasy Edition

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 7 - 2009

WriterWednesdayBaseSm

Today’s Writer’s Wednesday is brought to you by… The Farthest Shore. We’ll focus on fantasy today (the secondary world sort at least), although there’s always an overlap with other branches of SF. We’ve got links to a pair of resources you might find useful for world building as well as a list of fantasy-relevant writing tips, old and new.

Baiting the Muse (Links):

  • Let’s start with this great list of world-building questions posted by Patricia Wrede over at the SFWA site, which are meant to help authors create believable worlds for their stories.
  • For worlds patterned after the pre-hispanic Philippines, Filhistory.com is a fairly new site that covers Filipino history and weaponry (not just of the pre-hispanic kind). We’ll also be doing a series of posts on pre-hispanic Philippine weapons in our upcoming Talasalitaan segment.

Consulting the Muse (Tips):

Testing the Muse (Prompts):

Think of a trope or a cliche (note: not the same thing) in the fantasy genre which you are tired of, and write a scene (or hey, an entire story) which breaks away from that.

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.

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

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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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