Philippine Speculative Fiction 6, editors Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias

Something peculiar happens to stories when they are housed in the same anthology, especially when an overarching theme or rubric comes into play. Aside from the sensibilities of the editors informing the curation process, the stories themselves cease to become autonomous units of narrative. Difference in writing styles become sharper by contrast, premises are either reinforced or disputed by the stories that come before or after it.

In Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology Volume 6, editors Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias continue the annual tradition of gathering short fiction in with a speculative vein, with works of publishing newbies mingling with those by seasoned, award-winning authors. Kapres, supervillains, galactic warship captains, and (alleged) cannibals are among the archetypal characters featured this time around. The stories that stand out for me explore the unease that is often overshadowed or glossed over by the flashier aspects of science fiction, horror, and fantasy.

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Day 14 – Favorite foppish wizard

Day 14 – Favorite character in a book

Jonathan Strange from Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I have already written about some of my favorite characters in my previous meme entries (Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, Chabon’s Sam Klayman, Frances Hardinge’s Mosca Mye). Jonathan Strange and his quest to save the woman he loves is the driving force behind Susanna Clarke’s sprawling doorstopper of a debut novel.

In the book, I loved the anecdotes of Strange gallivanting around Europe trying to help the English forces defeat Napoleon. He is made of both genius and madness, a man who managed to show up Lord Byron. Just when you have him pegged as a dandy seduced by the prospect of magic but who is ultimately not taking it seriously, a personal tragedy adds layers to his character.

Day 02 – Ray Bradbury fanclub, party of one

Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes

This is such a pretty cover, I wish my copy has this. Anyway, the short lifespan of his blog has already demonstrated my affection towards Ray Bradbury and his works, and I’m going to do more of the same today. Something Wicked is part scary story, part coming-of-age tale about two boys on the cusp of adulthood who find themselves confronting the burden of growing up and shedding the innocence that they’ve always enjoyed. It also features the scariest way to utilize a carousel ride ever. EVER. I stake my reputation on that.

I feel like Ray Bradbury’s works, with the exception of Fahrenheit 451, have been largely overlooked, mostly because he opts to write using old fashioned, nostalgic language. His subject matter is also significantly less “edgy” than SFF authors like Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. Still, if you want a good horror book, or a poignant tale of childhood and what we leave behind, I totally recommend this.

The Melancholy of Cultural Identity in Dean Alfar’s Short Fiction

I made this in early 2007 I think, since we were studying post-colonialism. I wanted to frame this kind of critical thought around the two stories by Dean Alfar that really struck me for their themes. This is only the first part and it’s horribly incomplete; I seem to remember that this paper came to a total of 9 pages. There was even a specific reading of L’Aquilone du Estrellas and The Middle Prince that has seemed to be lost within the bowels of my hard drive.

Looking back on it three years later, I can see a lot of difference in the literary climate today. For one, there’s a mention of the lack of printing venues for fantasy and science fiction aside from indie publishing. I mentioned that in the essay but that was before Anvil released it’s own line of Fantasy titles. I’m pretty sure many of my former assumptions have changed (or have been modified, at least) since then.

In his introduction for Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 2, editor and writer Dean Francis Alfar discusses the category “Philippine Speculative Fiction.” Presented with the demand to define it, he gives a simple answer: “[It is] speculative fiction written by Filipinos (“Introduction” ix).” He then asserts that as more Filipinos write science fiction, fantasy, and other genres in between, the “Filipino perspective” will sharpen, moving towards the ultimate goal of developing stories that can be seen as distinct products of the Filipino imagination. He then articulates the Filipino spec writer’s “anxiety about [their] national identity (x),” especially when confronted with the question of “Filipino-ness” in terms characters, settings, and even themes.

This clamor for definition is a legitimate one. Recently, there have been several forays at publishing “genre fiction” by Filipino writers, demonstrated by publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Story Philippines and the various titles produced by Psicom Publishing. It’s not that Filipinos haven’t been writing such stories until now. Filipino pop culture is riddled with such characters as Darna, Captain Barbel, and Pedro Penduko, and few can dispute how their storylines fit neatly under this umbrella term. However, as interest in genre grows and its practitioners attain higher levels of sophistication, the question of authenticity in these works as Filipino creations comes into question.

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