PSF6 Review: “Villainoguing” by Joseph Montecillo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 9 - 2012

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 traditional (think Golden/Silver Age) superhero story is one of those story types that draws from a small pool of highly recognizable elements, and requires a very healthy suspension of disbelief.

— sigh, I wish we weren’t gonna do this to this one… but hell yeah, especially if the reader were me, ayayay

That’s not to say that I don’t think you can write a good, straight-up one–Lou Anders’ “Masked” anthology has a few–but simply that few writers make that attempt. It’s tough, like writing a straight-up humor piece.]

— An attempt at a straight-up humor piece about superheroes and villains = ridiculous and funny reality. Right.

I think that it’s this combination of factors that makes it so common in contemporary literature/media to see attempts at deconstructing the genre and its tropes. In movies, this frequently takes the form of light-hearted parodies (Megamind, Despicable Me) where the ridiculous nature of many of the genre’s tropes are used for comedic effect (even works that aren’t straight up parodies take pains to draw a line between what works in a 1940s Batman comic, and what would work “in real life”–see the treatment of capes in The Incredibles).

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PSF6 Review: “A Smell of Mothballs” by Maria Elena Paterno

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 2 - 2012

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.

Except for a jolting transition after the 3rd paragraph on the first page and “dull thud” making my bell wince, I found the story smooth, short, and sweet. There were still cliché phrases but this story showed when such articulation is just appropriate like in the usage of “woke with a start” or “…looked at him uncomprehendingly”. Because to do otherwise would make the story’s language suddenly turning verbose. Though the latter is still kind of making me wince given that it is an isolated line and therefore draws implied significance.

What I enjoyed craft-wise in this story was the ability of the author to hone in on very specific environmental/sensory details in order to give more reality and particularity to a scene. “…[s]troked the space between the inside of the elbow and the surgical tape that held the tube down…” If you’ve been in the hospital much/recently, you know exactly where that spot is. Another: “There was a smell of old coffee beans and spiders lurking in corners.” (I’d like to think that last is intentionally ambiguous.)

Man you haven’t been to old houses in the provinces much, huh? There’s a smell exactly like that in bodegas (or what we call in Bicol as zaguan). Can also be smelled in old aparadors. Think of the smell of old spiders as a thicker smell of dust, add that smell of coffeebeans, et voila! C’est par la:  It doesn’t make you sneeze.

[Pao: Our “ancestral home”, so to speak, is on a farm. I guess the spider smell was overpowered by the chicken poop, er, coop.]

One thing that bothered me about the opening scene–I’ve mentioned this before–is the non-identification of the POV character with a proper noun until the third paragraph. As I said, maybe it’s a bias from my time in the slush fields, but if basic information is withheld from me, I expect it to have been done for a reason, and there didn’t seem to be any need not to just say “So Simeon woke with a start…” (And I don’t think you sacrifice in media res by a clear identity.)

Double-checked that. The way I see it, if proper noun were used in the first paragraph, the beginning would lose that sensation of emerging from sleep. The use of proper noun would make the POV too conscious, because as it is the POV’s panning from internal subconscious to waking to groggy alertness.

[Pao: Ah, I see your point. But then why not introduce it in the second paragraph? Protagonist seems fully aware by then.]

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PSF6 Review: “Prisoner 2501″ by Philip Corpuz

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 26 - 2012

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 a story by a (publishing) virgin… Congratulations young dude, you are not a virgin anymore! And you win the award for the most marked so far (see http://aremantha.blogspot.com/2011/11/rhum-coke-night.html#more for exhibit A, first page. You should see pages 48 and 50.) Let’s start with the POV: the “I” here is a schizo, it swings from and to—

A) I-as-3rd-person omniscient (the “I” speaks like the narrator)

B) I-as-1st-person-limited (the “I” speaks of internal reality/train-of-thought/the character)

C) I-as-Author (it’s the author unaware that he has become the storyteller acting as the storyteller with an “I”)

Examples:

A)    The first line of the story; in fact, the first couple of paragraphs in the story.

B)     Page 46, after the first Click, the lot of those paragraphs.

C)    Once the furor died down. See that’s the language/vocabulary of the author, not the “I” character.

What say you, Counsel?

For me, this was overshadowed by other concerns during the first reading, but on second reading I see that schism, though I’d conflate (A) and (C) into one–not sure that I know enough about the POV character to have a firm grasp about what is or is not in his vocabulary. (Though that’s not to say some word choices didn’t jar me – the use of reclusion perpetua, for instance, since that’s a legal term that doesn’t gel well with an “eternity” of punishment…)

It’s the difference in the constructs of the “I”. Think of I as A, B, C— these are three different characters/realities/perspectives. The problem then is that the story is using “I” and an “I” intrinsically will only have one identity unfolding that identity’s reality. But the “I” here is playing Holy Trinity, hahahaha.

It’s less of a POV issue for me, as it is an immersion issue.

Dude, POV is immersion. Latter is dependent on former. How in the world can a reader be immersed in the story without the POV?

[Pao: You need a POV for any story of course, but I think you can be immersed in a story with a mishandled POV. I don't think it'll happen often, but it is possible, if the thoughts/reactions that the reader is shown remain authentic.]

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Table of Contents: Philippine Speculative Fiction 7

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 3 - 2012

Co-editor Kate Osias has just revealed the table of contents for the seventh volume of the annual Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology from Kestrel DDM. I’m also pleased to announce that my superhero(ish) story, “Oblation”, was selected for this volume. You can see the rest of the lineup at Kate’s blog. Congratulations to editors Kate and Alex Osias (on both the selection and the fact that your marriage seemed to have survived the process) and the contributors!

Kate is also running a bit of a guessing-game contest, where winners will receive copies of the previous volume (PSF6) at the PSF7 launch.

Alternative Alamat: A “Notable Book” of 2011 (GMA News Online)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 1 - 2012

We’d like to thank GMA News Online, particularly writer Meann Ortiz (who just last week gave her positive early impressions of “Alternative Alamat”), for including “Alternative Alamat” on their list of Notable Books from 2011. Amongst the other local speculative fiction books mentioned are “Philippine Speculative Fiction vol. 6″, “Heartbreak & Magic”, and “Trese 4: Last Seen After Midnight.” Here’s how Meann describes “Alternative Alamat”:

Philippine mythology isn’t just about aswangs, duwendes, and kapres; there exist pantheons of deities and a deep well of other legends and myths that we were never taught in school. Alternative Alamat makes some of these lesser-known tales and characters more accessible to modern readers with 11 engaging re-tellings. The book also includes interviews with scholars of Philippine mythology, a reference guide, and a list of notable deities accompanied by illustrations by Mervin Malonzo. This is only available as an e-book, though, so I hope that the publisher will consider releasing it in print so that it will be accessible to more readers. Because of efforts like this anthology, it won’t be long before we find our own local Rick Riordan who will successfully skyrocket this aspect of our culture into the popular consciousness.

As always, remember that you can purchase Alternative Alamat at any of the following vendors:

Note: Posting this a bit earlier in the week as there will be a major announcement on Thursday. We’ll also be holding off the PSF6 reviews for December but will resume in January.

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.

And so… Paging Adam David, look oh, more of your demand for experimentation in Phil Spec Fic!

I know that this is not your favorite, Counsel, because it’s non-linear hahahaha! See, I think most would react to this story, after reading it, with “And so?” Yeah, what’s the point, right?

Objection! I didn’t find the format difficult, but I think that’s because it was fairly obvious once I started the piece that I wasn’t supposed to find any narrative linking the segments, each of which was self-contained, and linear. I think my difficulty comes more from the experimental stories where I know (even if I’m wrong) there’s supposed to be an overarching narrative somewhere, and I just can’t seem to find it.

—-Haha, okay, okay!

I appreciate this kind of story being included in PSF anthologies because: 1) It challenges the reading-linear-habit which kind of breeds lazy-reading. 2) Because it does, then the brainwaves are exercised when it comes to perspectives and understanding of meaning, of what the story is really about.

As someone who has never been a fan of difficult to read fiction (as opposed to non-fiction), I feel the obligation to state that lazy reading is a perfectly viable state of being a reader-for-pleasure.

—-Hahaha, riiiiight. Like Lazy Boy and TV, hmmm?

Intrinsically, this story is what you call playing on motif. So the question is: what is the motif? What is common among all the names? What connects them? Because the usual reader might think that they are not connected, as if the names are just slides in projection or just weird episodes (and the weirdness making it all under “speculative”).

By “usual reader” that’d be me I think. I already said that I didn’t see the need to draw a narrative connection between each segment, but as far as a common theme, my anchor was the title itself: each segment used the idea of alternative names to show alternative realities (in my reading, all the protagonists are the same woman, in different worlds), and within each segment, the etymology of the name was interpreted through a short narrative.

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PSF6 Review: The Grim Malkin by Vincent Michael Simbulan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 24 - 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 story opens with a cliché— literally— illuminated by multiple flashes of light, in quick succession. And in succession, the story makes use of cliché articulation like reduced to rubble, yawning chasm, one fluid motion, clenched teeth, struggled to catch his breath, dangling in midair and so on. Now in my head there’s a bell that clangs for each cliché phrase that I read so that can be a distracting turn-off from the reading. Seriously, imagine “TENG!TENG!TOINK!” going off like a fire alarm in your head.

I’ve got an odd sort of relationship with medieval fantasy stories (read as both sword and sorcery and epic fantasy). It’s sort of comfort food, and in a strange way, it’s one of the genres where I tend to be more forgiving of an overabundance of common genre tropes. In fact, sometimes I find myself resisting deviations from the “traditional”–I never got into “A Game of Thrones”, for instance, and while I’ve heard good things about the “The First Law” books, the fact that they’re viewed as somehow genre-subversive makes me wary.

— I understand about these types of comfort food stories and sometimes it’s like a no-brainer-break in my own speculative reading. Like romance novels hahaha. And you haven’t read “Game of Thrones?” Dude, you’ve got time to make a change, just relax, take it easy hee-hee-hee…

[Pao: I read the first three books. I just sort of lost interest with each succeeding one…]

So, while I do agree that some ubiquitous turns of phrase were used, I’m not sure about whether or not that was a conscious choice to surround a traditionalist genre reader with the familiar, a shorthand way of making the reader feel that he/she knows the setting and the characters, although little is actually revealed. The problem with this strategy, if it was in fact adopted, is that you’re targeting a very narrow segment of readers, I think. After all, those who like the comfortable and traditional aren’t likely to shell out money on a non-themed short story anthology with a lot of first time authors.

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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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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.

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