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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“Alternative Alamat” on the Nook and Three Reviews

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 17 - 2012

Good news for Barnes & Noble Nook readers–”Alternative Alamat” is not only available on the Nook, it’s also been discounted there to US$3.99 (B&N’s decision, not ours) so now would be a great time to check it out, or spread the word to a Nook loving friend.

I’d like to point to three recent reviews of “Alternaitve Alamat”. The first is by Filipina writer Kristine Ong Muslim, and is on the Amazon page of “Alternative Alamat”, Kristine calls it “fine volume which showcases the contemporary retelling of Philippine myths” and gives it 4 out of 5 stars. Thanks Kristine!

The second review comes from GMA News Online (courtesy of Melay Guanzon Lapeña), and it’s a very positive review, and she calls the book “an impressive collection of stories”.  Of Rochita Loenen Ruiz’s “Harinuo’s Love Song”, Melay says it is “[b]eautifully told, the words swirl as the story unfolds” and she also says that “[f]ans of Budjette Tan’s hit graphic novel “Trese” are in for a treat” with the Trese prose story, “Last Full Show”. Melay takes the time to say a little something about each story, even if it’s just a brief description, and that’s greatly appreciated. Thanks Melay!

The third review comes from book blogger (and fellow lawyer!) Monique, who gives the book a perfect 5 out of 5 rating, and calls it “[d]ifferent, but clever. Brilliant.” Thanks Monique!

Don’t forget, you can find Alternative Alamat at these fine establishments:

High Society: Book Page and Reviews

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 10 - 2012

While it’s not a Rocket Kapre release, “High Society“, my steampunk comic book with Hannah Buena, is getting a book page on the site, to give me a central hub to post purchasing information (now that it’s available from four different online retailers), as well as reviews. One notable review has come from Frida Fantastic, over at Adarna SF. Here’s an excerpt:

The comic does a good job of immersing the reader in the setting while still keeping it accessible for readers who aren’t familiar with the Philippines. I love details like the use of Filipino sound effects (e.g “bog!” instead of “wham!”).

xxx

Buena’s art is expressive and dynamic, with a subtle manga influence that makes everything extra adorable. It has a bit of of a sketchy feel because some of the pencils are visible, but it I think it’s aesthetically pleasing.

It’s also relevant to mention that “On Wooden Wings”, my short story in Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6 that is set in the same world as “High Society” (and which will become the first part of the “Wooden War” series) was the subject of an in-depth review/analysis by Jha over at Silver Goggles. It’s very interesting to read impressions of that alternative history from a reader who is not Filipino but who is a fellow Southeast Asian.

Catherine Batac Walder Reviews “Alternative Alamat”

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 9 - 2012

Filipina writer (and Ruin and Resolve contributor) Catherine Batac Walder has a wonderful story-by-story review of Alternative Alamat (now updated with her comments on Mervin Malonzo’s artwork) up on her blog. Here’s what she has to say about some of her favorite stories from the anthology:

“The Alipin’s Tale” is very rich both in Philippine mythology and historical characters. Endlessly fixated on Greek mythology, this is the first time that I remember encountering a Filipino story that reads like one…

“Keeper of My Sky.” Alternate realities, a series of what could have beens, like reading Einstein’s Dreams, trying not to kick up dust. This has to be my favourite in the volume. Beautiful.

“Conquering Makiling” is sharp, witty and sexy. I felt I was invited by friends for a climb up Makiling and instead of getting nervous and tired, it became a walk in the park and just that – a gathering with friends. (Damn I didn’t realise Philippine myth is this hot haha).

Thanks for the review Catherine! As always, remember that you can purchase Alternative Alamat at any of the following vendors:

Tina Matanguihan Reviews “Alternative Alamat”

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 2 - 2012

Reviews of “Alternative Alamat” are starting to trickle in (we were in the Philippines Graphic last week), and I’m happy to say that so far they’ve been of the positive variety. The latest comes from Tina Matanguihan (One More Page, PinoyWriMos) and she gives it a 5/5. You can read the full review at her book blog or on Goodreads, but let me just say that when I reached the part where Tina goes “I felt that this book and the stories in this collection were mine”, my head swelled to the size of the Lion’s Head at Kennon Road.

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

Initial Thoughts on “Alternative Alamat” from Meann Ortiz

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 22 - 2011

I mentioned that Meann Ortiz of New Worlds was reading “Alternative Alamat” and posting a running commentary as she made her way through the text. Well, Meann has finished the book, and has posted a summary of her impressions, with a full review to follow. Meann gave it 5 stars (although she’s rounding up from 4.5–which, hey, I’ll take any day) and enjoyed all the stories, even if she felt there were similarities in theme and a somewhat somber tone.

I’d encourage readers to look at Meann’s comments during her reading, which you can find in a timeline on the same page as her general impressions, as these go into greater detail about her reactions to specific stories, or lines from the book.

It also amuses me that, like many women before her, she was intrigued by the great hero “Kudaman” (mentioned in my interview with Professor Zialcita), and his, er, giant bird:

The Philippines Graphic Reviews Alternative Alamat

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 21 - 2011

Angelo Ancheta reviews our new anthology, “Alternative Alamat“, in the latest issue (Dec. 26, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012) of the Philippines Graphic. The review is very positive, even though Ancheta wishes that the book was available in hard copy, to better appreciate Mervin Malonzo’s artwork. Ancheta calls the anthology “a treasure trove of Philippine myths and legends reexamined and rendered for modern readers.” The review isn’t available online yet, as of this writing, but he finds T.J. Dimacali’s “Keeper of My Sky” to be “lyrical, heartbreaking” and the stories of David Hontiveros “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan”) and Dean Alfar (“A Door Opens”) to be “ground-breaking, earth-shaking…” He does wonder, however, about the absence of male deities from most of the stories.

Still, I think it’s safe to say he liked it, no? Also, Meann Ortiz of New Worlds is currently reading “Alternative Alamat” and putting up comments  as she progresses. She’s about half way through so far, and you can read her comments either on her Twitter feed or at Goodreads.

So if you haven’t picked up a copy of “Alternative Alamat” yet, why not click on over to Amazon.com or Flipreads.com and snag a copy for yourselves, or for your friends/family. Nothing like waking up on Christmas day to find some mythology under your tree!

RK Recommends: “Writing the Other” by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 20 - 2011

I bought a physical copy of “Writing the Other” last year, but now that there’s an ebook edition out, I decided to write a review that will hopefully encourage more people to buy and read this very important writing. book. We Filipino authors especially should never forget that, as the book says, “difference is not monolithic.” You can find the review at Fantasy Faction, or just read on for the text:

I’m a Filipino, and a geek, but I’m not used to feeling like an Other, like I’m not a part of the mainstream. I live in the Philippines, so I am, in fact, part of the majority, and my geek-ish pursuits tend toward reading books, watching anime, and playing video games, all of which are activities I can indulge in by myself.

But in the world of mass media, particularly genre media, my race ensures that I’m not part of the majority. I know what it feels like to read a story where my country is never mentioned, or watching a movie when the only character that is Filipino is a maid. While I’d wish it were otherwise, I don’t generally view stories created outside of my country to be the venue where I’m going to find plentiful and authentic representations of Filipinos and Philippine culture. As a Filipino writer, I think that’s one of my responsibilities.

But as I mentioned, in the Philippines, I am part of the Dominant Paradigm, the person of Unmarked State (we’ll get to that later). The Philippines is home to many indigenous communities that have often been marginalized by both our local media and popular culture–as a contrast, I live in Metro Manila, “Imperial Manila” as some of our southern brethren call it, who grew up pretending to be part of G.I. Joe or one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, instead of being a Tikbalang or the hero Lam-Ang. And yet, as often as I can, I try to tap into the rich intangible heritage of our indigenous mythologies when I write… and, while I do it out of love and in order to promote those myths, it often scares me out of my mind. When I recently put together “Alternative Alamat“, my greatest fear was that I would be engaging in a form of colonization or appropriation (especially since the anthology is in English). And yet, I know that there are stories that need to be told, even if I’m not a member of the Ifugao, or the Mangyan, or the Tausug.

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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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