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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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.

Philippine Spec Fic Review Roundup (as of July 2011)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On July - 7 - 2011

Charles Tan has a review of Heartbreak & Magic by Ian Rosales Casocot at his site, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to point to a few reviews of Philippine speculative fiction (prose-form) and related books that I’ve seen this year. If anyone knows of any more, please feel free to add them to the comments.

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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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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