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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RK Recommends: Horn by Peter M. Ball

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 22 - 2011

My review of “Horn” by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press) is up on Fantasy Faction. I enjoyed the novella, even if I had a few issues with it, and it’s well worth the read if you’re interested in something darker than your usual urban fantasy fare, with a distinct heroine and a dash of subversion. Here’s an excerpt:

Unicorns. They’re a staple of the fantasy genre, and while there are many works that treat the unicorn with respect, they are also regularly dismissed in popular culture as being representative of the flighty, whimsical, and escapist character that, in the eyes of opponents of the genre, make it possible to take fantasy seriously. Or, as the tongue-in-cheek jacket copy of “Zombies vs. Unicorns” puts it: “Unicorns are sparkly and pastel and fart rainbows.” (An awareness of why it can be hard to write good unicorn stories is part of what makes that anthology so much fun.) Unicorns, the argument would go, belong with fairy godmothers and magic spindles and princes-turned-into-frogs, the objects of fairy tales which we put aside along with the rest of our childish things, once we grow up, once we become adults and the world loses its luster, the wonder in our souls replaced by a gnawing cynicism…

But what if we take the concept of the unicorn, and re-imagine it within the confines of the “adult” world, a seedy world of crime and debauchery, where innocence is a technicality and the only happy endings belong to the man with the gun? What it we take a unicorn, and place it into a piece of noir fiction?

You can read the full review here.

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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High Society News: Giveaway, Komikon, iTunes, Reviews

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 15 - 2011

Bonus Art from "High Society" artist Hannah Buena

 

Some news on the High Society front: first off, the comic is part of the Kindle Komix Krazy giveaway of Flipreads. You can click the link for more detailed  instructions, but basically all you need to do is send in a picture of yourself using a Kindle or a Kindle App, write a bit about your love of local comics, and you’ll get High Society on the Kindle for free. If you’d rather pay for your copy–and hey, I certainly wouldn’t turn that down–High Society is also currently going for a reduced price of $0.99 (US price) for a limited time.

Edit: If you’re reading this before November 18, Tina is also giving out a free Kindle copy of High Society to someone who comments on her review of the comic.

If you’d rather get your copies from the iTunes store,you can get your copy here. As I also mentioned yesterday, you can also get an ePub or PDF copy from Flipreads, the new Philippine digital bookstore, here.

Of course, there are also readers who’d prefer a physical copy of High Society (whether instead of or in addition to the digital one), and if so, do pass by the Flipside table at this Saturday’s (November 19) annual Komikon, at the Bayanihan Center in Pasig. We’ll be selling a limited number of photocopied versions of High Society, and Hannah and I should both be at the table at some point (probably not for the whole day) for anyone who wants signed copies. And hey, you know what? If you bring your digital copy of High Society on your ereading device (Kindle, iDevice, Android, Laptop, etc.) I’ll sell you the physical copy at a discounted price.

For prospective readers still on the fence about whether or not High Society is for them, you can check out reviews from some of the country’s most popular komiks review sites: Flipgeeks has comments from Norby Ela and Earl Maghirang; Mark Rosario, on the other hand, reviews High Society at Planet Markus.

Edit: We’ve also begun to receive reviews from intrepid book bloggers, such as Tina over at One More Page, one of the few readers who’ve seen both the old and new versions of “High Society”–lucky for us, she liked both versions.

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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RK Recommends: “Child of Fire” by Harry Connolly

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 26 - 2011

I’m contributing monthly book reviews over at Fantasy Faction, a fast-growing hub for fantasy fans that updates daily with writing tips, interviews, and reviews. My first assignment is Harry Connolly’s highly enjoyable first novel in his Twenty Palaces series, “Child of Fire.” You can read the review here. Let’s have an excerpt shall we?

“Child of Fire” is the first novel in Harry Connolly’s “Twenty Palaces” urban fantasy–well, perhaps urban horror would be a more appropriate term–series (three books long so far), featuring ex-convict Ray Lilly and the precarious situations he finds himself in due to his association with the Twenty Palaces Society. The Society is a group of mages who are less like benevolent protectors of humanity, and more like an autonomous black-ops crew. The Society eliminates magical threats, and damn any collateral damage to innocents or allies or poor ol’ Ray.

The thing that surprises me the most about “Child of Fire” is that, on paper, it should not be the type of book I enjoy.

I’m not a big fan of horror in general, and Lovecraftian horror in particular, that subgenre of horror which deals with the insignificance of humanity in the face of unknowable cosmic entities. There are a lot of well-written Lovecraftian tales out there, but I’m simply not the target audience, given my taste for stories that focus on human agency, on people and their choices. (That and I’m a scaredy-cat.) However, while “Child of Fire” borrows liberally from aspects of Lovecraftian horror, with creatures and scenes which I found to be viscerally disturbing, it also allows the actions of human beings to matter, and allows them to push back against the darkness.

Go here for the full review, but if you haven’t read the novel yet, I urge you to check it out. It’s only US$0.99 on the Kindle.

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.

PGS Issue 4 Review at Black Gate

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 15 - 2011

Over at the online magazine Black Gate, C.S.E. Cooney has reviewed The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories #4, and has a lot of good things to say about the issue, particularly “Psychic Family,” by Apol Lejano-Massebieau, and the two Forlorn stories, “The Last Stand of Aurundar” by Vincent Simbulan and “In the Dim Plane” by Dean Alfar. (PGS has since gone online, if you’ll recall.) Another reason to find complete your collection of PGS print issues, if you haven’t already, and hey, while you’re at Black Gate, why not see if any of their issues appeal to you?

As an added note, reading about how Ms. Cooney received her copy of PGS (and Philippine Speculative Fiction VI) through the efforts of Charles Tan serves to remind us all why the success of the World SF Travel Fund (which will send Charles to the World Fantasy Convention) isn’t just good news for the Bibliophile Stalker, but for Philippine speculative fiction (prose and komiks) as well. Charles will be The World SF Travel Fund’s first beneficiary (the Fund was set up to enable one international person involved in science fiction, fantasy or horror to travel to a major genre event), but if you want to help ensure that World SF is better represented in future major conventions, feel free to keep the donations coming.

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.

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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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