Komik Review: Askals by Dodo Dayao and Bong Leal

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 26 - 2010

The POC’s Metakritiko section has my review of “Askals” by Dodo Dayao and Bong Leal. Here’s an excerpt:

What makes Askals more than the sum of its parts for me is that it achieves a sense of time and place that is absent from many other works. The problem with some stories (komiks and prose) is that they never seem to feel like they’re occurring in a real place, even if they are set in an actual location, such as Manila; they give off the sense that they were fabricated on a nameless soundstage, with two dimensional backdrops and cardboard cut-out people. Askals is grounded in its chosen setting–Quiapo, circa the late nineties/early 2000s…

Safe to say, I liked this one very much. And it always feels great to have a new komik to recommend with little reservation. While I take it Leal is based abroad at the moment, I hope to see more from these creators soon.

Oh, and yes, it has a central speculative element (it’s not obvious from the cover).

EDIT: Budjette Tan kindly pointed out to me links to a few sample pages of Askals here and here.

Horror is Transgression: An Interview with Karl De Mesa

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On June - 21 - 2010

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I did a quick-and-dirty interview with Joseph Nacino when Demons of the New Year first launched, and now I have an in-depth interview with his co-editor, horror scribe Karl De Mesa, up at Pinoy Pop–not just about Demons of the New Year, but his life and his newly released book “News of the Shaman”, published by Visprint. You can see the first part here, and the second part here. An excerpt:

Did they know from the start that you were a writer, and that you tend to write about people around you?

Yes, although maybe some of them would be surprised to see themselves in my fiction. But a lot of my friends aren’t really big fiction readers. My family doesn’t read my fiction for the most part. I’d tell them about a launch and they’d say “okay” but not show up, which is a good thing in general, because some things I’ve written, especially my non-fiction essays about growing up in the Philippine left, might make them angry.

Is it a different experience, writing about these experiences without even the venner of fiction?

Very. People have asked me why I don’t just become an overtly political writer. The truth is, hindi ako natutuwa sa ganoon eh. That’s actually the feedback I received from writing workshops: “Ikaw, ang dami dami mong material, bakit hindi ka na lang magsulat tunkol sa status ng Pililipnas?” Eh hindi talaga ako natutuwa eh.

When you’re dealing with taboos, with that kind of transgression, you take the reader far beyond their comfort zones. How do you ground them?

You ground them with characters who are real people, with sympathetic concerns and motivations. This is something Philip K. Dick was great at. Even monstrous creatures can have drives that people will understand: hunger, for example, is something we’re all familiar with–I used that for my were-dog story in “Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy”. Other creatures can be motivated by a need for control, say a Tikbalang in a crime family. The characters can be inhuman, but their motivations can still be human. They may have special needs, but that’s still a motivation that can be sympathetic.

I think this is one of the powers of horror: defamiliarization. That can also work to make the central form of a metaphor stronger.

You might also want to check out Fidelis Tan’s two part review of Demons of the New Year itself. Part one / Part two.

World SF Needs Your Help

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 20 - 2010

… specifically, the excellent World SF News Blog, an excellent source of news, interviews and features (we’ve linked to them many times) which casts a spotlight on speculative fiction and comics worldwide, especially works from authors/or which originate from places beyond the traditional bastions of the genre in the U.S.A. and the U.K. (Yes, that includes us here in the Philippines, as Bibliophile Stalker Charles Tan is one of the contributors.)

The WSNB is a companion blog to the Apex Book of World SF and now they’re asking for some help from readers in order to sell 92 more copies of the book by the end of January, as a way to support the site. In case you didn’t know, and could use another reason to support the site and the book, the Apex  Book of World SF contains “The Kite of the Stars” by our very own Dean Alfar.

The book has received good reviews so far–here are a few I found online:

(Image source: Amazon.com)

Ruin and Resolve Reviewed in Business World Weekender

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 16 - 2010

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Business World writer Johanna Poblete, who previously featured and reviewed Usok, gives Ruin and Resolve the same treatment in the pages of this week’s Business World Weekender (it’s a Friday-Saturday edition, so it should still be available today. Minor spoiler warnings apply.). While she has details her favorite stories in the review, as well as those that didn’t quite work for her, she seemed pleased overall with the charity anthology:

But outside its being a charitable donation, this newest [Spec Fic] anthology isn’t a throwaway piece of literature; it’s worth buying for its own sake — lending credence to the publisher’s self-effacing introduction of “we hope our stories and poems make you feel all the happier to have helped those in need.”

Credit once again goes to all our generous authors, as well as the Artspice! crew, who provided me with the art which I incorporated in the cover. Please continue to spread the word everyone–I’ve received news that some of our less Internet-savvy readers are a bit intimidated by the Smashwords registration process (a few have just given me cash in person @_@) but the process is actually very simple, and I’ve made a small walkthrough of the process here.

Business World Feature and Usok Review

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 27 - 2009

To those of you who have a copy of today’s (27 November 2009) Business World, you might be surprised to find a familiar piece of awesome SF artwork in the Weekender section… yes, opposite the articles on Susan Boyd and Adam Lambert ^_^:

Johanna Poblete of Business World has a feature on Rocket Kapre and excerpts from an interview with me, as well as her review of Usok 1. For those of you who can’t snag a copy of the paper, you can catch the article and the review at Business World’s site here. The review comes after the feature article. As with any print interview, there was more to the conversation than what made it into the final version, so when Johanna puts the full Q and A up on her site, I’ll let you all know.

While most of the sites/publications mentioned in the article should be familiar to you guys, for any newcomers to the site drawn here by the article (welcome lords and ladies!) here’s a quick rundown:

Review of Usok 1 by Charles Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 16 - 2009

Over at the Bibliophile Stalker, Charles Tan turns his steely gaze on the first issue of Usok. You can check out the review here. Thanks for the review Charles, and I hope we can win you over in the future ^_^

Chained Links: 12 November 2009

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On November - 12 - 2009

Fell a bit behind on the news linking this week, so  here’s a handy grab bag of some interesting links from this week, for your weekend reading pleasure:

Locus Reviews PSFIV and A Time for Dragons

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 4 - 2009

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The July 2009 issue of Locus, the U.S. magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, carried a pleasant surprise for fans of Philippine speculative fiction: a review of not one, but two local anthologies, namely “Philippine Speculative Fiction IV” and “A Time for Dragons” by Rich Horton.

The two reviews are not available online, but with the help of relatives I was able to order a copy (which became a less arduous  task when I called off the bookstore hunt after I learned that Locus wasn’t being sold in brick-and-mortar stores @_@). I just got my hands on it this weekend and thought I’d share some of the contents of the review, given the fact that an issue of Locus can be a tad difficult to chase down.

In his dual review, Mr. Horton stated that “[i]n feel these two books are entirely consistent with similar products from the American and English small press” and the fact that many stories are set in the Philippines makes these stories “just unfamiliar enough to most readers to pique additional interest.”

Mr. Horton went on to name a few of his favorites from each anthology, which I’ll list here along with any comment he might have had that didn’t involve a summary of the story. Note that some of the praise he had for these stories was tempered by less positive comments, usually having to do with predictability, but since he did cite them as the best stories, I’m probably safe in assuming that the good he saw in each outweighed the bad.

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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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