PSF6 Review: Carpaccio (or, Repentance as a Meat Recipe) by Arlynn Despi

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 17 - 2011

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

—Ugly title.

I’m probably not the ideal reader for this story, given that my appreciation for the fine art of cooking is limited to my enthusiastic consumption of its more fattening products.

—-Haha dude, the unisex battle with the gut (and the thunder thighs and the flabby arms) is like the law of gravity especially when you hit the 30’s.

[Pao: Bah, I knew I should have pigged out more in 2008…]

Hahahaha! Man you just crack me up!

Nevertheless, I have to say that this being the first story I’ve ever read from Despi, I’m looking forward to reading more from her. She’s skilled at slipping the appropriate details into a descriptive sentence, to make a setting more concrete.

Yeah, it did make me initially hungry then it made me feel like I was watching a dragging cooking show because of these details. And because of the latter, the story lost its gruesome effect, that macabre effect in delicious cannibalism. C’mon, I wanted it to make feel “Yuuuuuuuuck…Sarap!” Just the way every time I watch Hannibal Lecter eating brain makes me want to eat Isaw or Ox Brain or Sisig.

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PSF6 Review: “Ashland” by Elyss Punsalan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 10 - 2011

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

This is probably my favorite story in this volume of PSF6. “Ashland” is the story of a widow who is assigned to monitor an area where a strange type of ash falls, an ash that consumes sound. We’re never quite sure if this is a place on Earth or beyond it, but that just heightens the feeling of isolation that is essential to the story.

Really? I thought it was about ash. I’m kidding! I’m kidding! This is a good example of a story that is anchored on setting.

What I like the most about “Ashland” is how well the core concept of the story pulls all the other aspects of the story together. One of the things that distinguishes the best fiction from real life is the ability to create a sort of unity to events, a commonality of theme: as you might guess from the synopsis, most of “Ashland” revolves around sound, both its presence and its absence.

—- Aaaaw Counsel you’re getting poetic right there— the absence that is a presence and vice versa—- But yeah, I like the attempt of this story on deconstructing “sound”.

[Pao: Just goes to show how far I usually am from "poetic" if my using that kind of juxtaposition merits an "Aaaaw" ^_^]

— Hahahaha!

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PSF6 Review: “Alternative Histories” by Ian Rosales Casocot

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 3 - 2011

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

—Title’s obvious.

If you’ve ever witnessed our #RP612 Twitter fiction events, you know that Twitter-length alternative history stories are right in my ballpark.

So that’s what it’s called? Twitter fiction? Twition? Twitfic? Twific? And if it’s good do you say “Tweet!” And when it’s bad twitter fiction— what do you call it? Finger fart? Twit? Twat? Just asking.

The key to really short stories, from what I’ve seen, is to be able to construct them in a way that they read as something immediate, as opposed to something academic. Jotting down a one sentence summary of a story idea is not the same as crafting a piece of microfiction.

— It’s the whole application of 140 max characters as the constraint. In Media Res at its core. Question is was this constraint maximized?

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PSF6 Review: “The Big Man” by Asterio Enrico N. Gutierrez

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 27 - 2011

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

— The title? It just made me shrug. What do you think of it?

[Pao: A nice play on words, since that's a common term in basketball.]

Gutierrez’s story has been the most well received by readers so far (it recently won first place in the coveted Palanca Awards, in the Short Story in English category) and there is a lot to like in the story.

I see why this one won the Palanca. The crafting of the story is right up that award’s alley. It has that polished/smart/epic feel to it and brought median reverberations of Douglas Candano and Pocholo Goitia stories. If it is the most well received by readers then it’s because the whole thing just flows (right after you get into the groove of it by page 3) on the readability radar.

As an old-school PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) fan–I started way back during the Tanduay-Ginebra feud, when my Mom worked at La Tondeña and I wouldn’t shake Robert Jaworski’s hand even if I was paid to–I appreciated the level of research that went into the story.

I’m not a basketball fan though I remember that period. And it’s good that the detailing in the story provides that grounding in history… And this story is way better than the Ronald Cruz basketball mascot story in PSF 4.

That degree of detail helped immerse readers in this alternative Philippines, and on a more mundane level, the world of the PBA, which may as well be a secondary world to quite a few readers nowadays, considering the dip in the league’s popularity in recent years.

— Haha, yeah, it sure made me feel my aging in this alternative Philippines. And in real-time Philippines, Big Bird is a PBA player.

I also appreciate the feat Gutierrez was able to achieve in making a story about a kapre basketball player be about basketball, and not about the existence of kapres.

Definitely the story puts all those lectures I attended on sports writing when I was in high school in mind. So, hey, kids who are in the sports writing category in the Secondary Schools Press Conference— You can write speculative fiction and win a Palanca someday! Yay!

It brought also to mind how non-spec readers who love basketball would appreciate this story (Paging Leo Malapo! Paging Leo Malapo! The book is available in Fully Booked for 350 pesos! Buy now!)

The fantasy becomes the idea of a Filipino player in the NBA, not the reality of a mythical creature–or as the story put it: “Sure, the kapre is real, but is he for real?” This helps create the normalization of the fantastic that is important to an immersive, secondary world fantasy (and that’s the kind of story I think that “The Big Man” is, even if it’s ostensibly set in our world), but the manner by which this technique is deployed here is also one of the problems I had with the story: “The Big Man” normalizes the kapre by bracketing its supernatural qualities, precisely what makes the kapre a fantasy, and placing them aside.

— Tadadun…There goes the bomb!

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KyusiReader Reviews PSF6

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 1 - 2011

Over on his blog, “KyusiReader“, Peter Sandico has a review up of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. In the review, Peter mentions how he discovered the book when fellow blogger Honey picked it for the August Book of the Month of the Flips Flipping Pages Shelfari book club. Peter goes on to talk about a few of his favorite stories, and calls the anthology as a whole “a very satisfying read”.

It was a pleasure to discuss the book with Peter and other Flippers during the book club discussion a few weeks back. The story that emerged as a fan favorite was “The Big Man” by Asterio Gutierrez. Other members of the Flippers have also expressed their thoughts about the PSF6 stories in this forum thread.

It’s always great to see what Filipino readers think about Philippine spec fic. If you have a review of PSF6, or any work of Philippine science fiction, horror, or fantasy, drop me a line and I’ll post it here on Rocket Kapre.

Videos: PGS Crime Issue and PSF 6 Issue Launch

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 31 - 2011

Here are videos from the joint PGS Crime Issue and PSF6 launch. First up is the PGS Crime launch in its entirety, split into two parts.

Don’t let Kyu’s modesty fool you, PGS is a very important part of the local genre scene, and I’m personally thrilled to see it online and reaching a wider audience.

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PSF6 Launch Photos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 29 - 2011

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The launch for the sixth volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction took place last Saturday, with the inimitable Dean Alfar once again serving as master of ceremonies and all-around entertainer–the PSF launches usually turn into roasts for the editors and contributors (and being absent is no defense) and a grand time was had by all. I’ll have videos from the launch and the earlier launch of the crime issue of Philippine Genre Stories later this week, but first here are some photographs from the event.

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In spite of the rains, (and some *ahem* premature storm warnings), the UView Theater of Fully Booked was jam packed–this photo is from early in the proceedings, and by midway people were lining the walls, in spite of the addition of the monobloc cavalry. The downside to that is the volume sold out minutes after the launch was over–if you want another print run, make sure you make your voices heard!

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Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias Talk PSF6

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 26 - 2011

The latest installment of the Philippine Speculative Fiction series will be launched on Saturday (5PM at the UView Theater, Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street, for those interested–it’s also the launch of the PGS Crime issue). Volume 6 is the first to be edited by two women, Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias, and they graciously agreed to a short interview leading up to the launch. We spoke about how the series has evolved through the years, the difference between being an editor and a contributor, and what makes this volume special.


For those unfamiliar with the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, could you explain briefly what the series is?

Nikki Alfar: Philippine Speculative Fiction is the annual end result of our yearly semi-open call for submissions of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and related sub- and cross-genre short stories.

We say ‘semi-open’ because contributors must be of Filipino ethnicity and/or nationality; by soliciting and consistently publishing their work, our goal is not just to provide a medium for these authors to reach a reading public, but also to chart and, hopefully, nurture the ongoing evolution of speculative fiction in the Philippines.

Philippine Speculative Fiction is published by leading Philippine specfic advocate Dean Francis Alfar, through his company Kestrel DDM.

 

Kate, you’ve been a contributor to the anthology before, but this is your first time in the editor’s chair. What was the experience like from the other side, so to speak? Is the grass really greener?

Kate Aton-Osias: Editing has its own challenges, different from writing. The most difficult part for me was in being able to articulate acceptance and rejection letters well. I believe in being transparent; I also believe that authors deserve to know what made their stories work, and why it did not. But the sheer physical limitations of an email, as well as constraints of time and language (People have varying degrees of literary vocabulary; I, for one, know less of the formal terms used for literary criticism than I would like) makes it difficult to convey how we, as editors, felt about a work of fiction. Though I only wrote 3-5 sentences per story, it was still a struggle to get those 3-5 sentences out, especially when rejecting a story that had solid technicals, but was ultimately turned down because of our poetics (see below for definition of ‘Poetics’).

That being said, the process has been extremely helpful (My own submission letters will never be the same again!), illuminating, and of course, satisfying. It was good to hear from the authors – whether or not they were accepted – that they appreciated our comments and compliments.

 

Nikki, you’ve been involved with PSF from the very beginning, and have been both a contributor and an editor. How has the anthology changed from volume one to the present?

Nikki: I’ve actually been copy-editing (meaning checking for typos and grammatical errors) the series since volume 1, though I didn’t start content-editing (working with authors on a story level, as well as actually selecting the stories) until Dean formally asked me to co-edit, on volume 3. (Yes, I’m married to our publisher, which never helped get me published, but which did help him get me to copy-edit, haha!) So I’ve read nearly all the submissions, published and unpublished.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the goal of the SpecFic series is to chart the development of Philippine specfic writing, and if you look back at the previous volumes of the antho from the beginning, you can see that themes seem to emerge every year. Early on, our authorship seemed to be primarily concerned about romantic love, but as you go forward through succeeding volumes, you can see that the contributors and their concerns are maturing, with later themes more focused on subjects like loss, family, identity, and so on.

Thankfully, as well, there’s been a marked reduction in stories which are basically “I will write a fanfic based on my favorite anime, just change the names, and submit that.” We used to get a huge chunk of those in the first few years—and I’m sure these texts have their market, but it is not Philippine Speculative Fiction; we are simply not interested in stories that explore someone else’s already-well-developed milieu—but nowadays it’s down to just a few.

So, in sum, I’d say the anthology has progressed as the field seems to be progressing; there’s significant improvement, year after year—not just in terms of what Filipino specfic practitioners are writing about, but in the quality and experimental nature of how we are writing it.

 

Is there anything about this volume that makes it different from the others?

Nikki: We’ve been laughing for some time over this being the very first “two-chick SpecFic”! This is the second time that Dean has not been directly involved in the selection and editing process, the first having been last year’s volume 5, which I co-edited with Vincent Michael Simbulan.

As publisher, Dean has been changing up the mix of co-editors, because he doesn’t believe that Philippine speculative fiction (neither the antho nor the field) should be an exclusive reflection of one person’s (or two people’s, counting me) poetics. (A very simplified definition of ‘poetics’, in case anyone should be wondering, is ‘the kind of writing an individual prefers’.)

So 2010’s SpecFic was a reflection of Vin’s and my poetics—which are diametrically opposed in many aspects, by the way—whereas this one is Kate’s and mine, which tend to be more harmonious, but also (we found out!) startlingly different in various ways. With Dean and me having nailed down the foundations of the series’ style and substance in volumes 1 to 4, we feel that keeping the editorial mix fresh will continue to keep the anthology fresh and exciting.

Speaking of which—there’s going to be a possibly surprising announcement at the volume 6 launch, so don’t miss it! ;)

 

We have a lot of science fiction, fantasy and horror readers in the Philippines, but few are familiar with the works of local spec fic authors. Speaking to this typical reader for a moment, why should he/she check out PSF6?

Nikki: I doubt that many people know this, but Philippine speculative fiction (again, both antho and field) is getting a lot of positive attention from speculative fiction writers and editors around the world. Many stories from several of the volumes of SpecFic have been cited and/or published by some of the most respected names in the field, and members of the international writing community are actually quicker than our local audience to tell us that the next volume is taking too darn long!

In this upcoming volume alone, we’ve got stories about a basketball-playing kapre, a Muslim artificer (shout-out to you, Paolo!), and a therapist to aswangs and diwatas. These are just the most obvious examples of why Filipino specfic is special—it’s been (frequently!) recognized to be on par with global standards in terms of quality, yet with a fresh perspective, a fresh approach; and it’s all ours.

Launch: Philippine Speculative Fiction 6

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 1 - 2011

I’ve just received word that the sixth volume of the annual Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, edited by Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias, and published by Kestrel DDM, will be launched on May 28, 2011, Saturday, 5PM at the UView Theater, Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street.

If you’re at all interested in science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by Filipinos, do try to come — it’s one of the rare times local authors, editors, and fans are gathered in one place. The launch also traditionally occurs before the volume sees widespread distribution, so if you want to snag a copy, this is the best time to do so. The launch itself is an informal, informative, and typically hilarious affair — you can check out some videos I took of last year’s launch to see for yourselves.

The anthology includes my steampunk (woodpunk?) story “On Wooden Wings”, which is set in the same world as the upcoming “Kataastaasan” comic. Here’s a complete list of the contributors to this volume (or you can go here for a text version):

Philippine Speculative Fiction 6 Table of Contents Announced

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 24 - 2011

The lineup for the next volume of the annual Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology (this time edited by Nikki Alfar and Kate Osias) has been announced. I’m happy to say that my story, “On Wooden Wings” (set in the same world as the Kataastaasan comic) made the cut. Here’s the entire table of contents, as announced at Kate’s blog, Wishcatcher (head there for more statistics on the stories in this volume):

  1. Alternative Histories by Ian Rosales Casocot
  2. Strange Adventures in Procreation by Andrew Drilon
  3. Lament of the Counselor by Jay Anyong
  4. The Grim Malkin by Vincent Michael Simbulan
  5. A Smell of Mothballs by Mailin Paterno
  6. Ashland by Elyss G. Punsalan
  7. Carpaccio (or, Repentance as a Meat Recipe) by Arlynn Despi
  8. Eternal Winter by Maria Pia Vibar Benosa
  9. From the Book of Names My Mother Did Not Give Me by Christine V. Lao
  10. Hollowbody by Crystal Koo
  11. Offerings to Aman Sinaya by Andrei Tupaz
  12. On Wooden Wings by Paolo Chikiamco
  13. Prisoner 2501 by Philip Corpuz
  14. Resurrection by Victor Ocampo
  15. Simon’s Replica by Dean Alfar
  16. Break in at Batay Street by Francis Gabriel Concepcion
  17. The Big Man by Asterio Gutierrez
  18. The Bookshelves of Mrs. Go by Charles Tan
  19. The Impossible and the R.S.C. Gregorio del Pilar by Alex Osias
  20. The Kiddie Pool by Kenneth Yu
  21. The Storyteller’s Curse by Eliza Victoria
  22. Villainoguing by Joseph Montecillo

Congratulations to all the authors, and to Nikki and Kate!

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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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