Thursday, July 20, 2006

sick + observations

I'm sick but still working. My back feels like it has been pummeled repeatedly by Macho Libre but there are still presentations to make and projects to manage and things to write.

I hate the flu. I really do.

I hope that tonight, Lit Crit Night, I still make some sense. We're discussing AS Byatt's "A Stone Woman", Stephen Baxter's "The Raft", Paul di Filippo's "The Reluctant Book", and KJ Bishop's "The Art of Dying".

There's been lots of talk (online and off) about the quality of the finalists and the eventual winners of the Fully Booked contest, and several people have canvassed mine and asked why I don't post about it.

In a nutshell: With the exception of the two winners and "Atha", I didn't care about the finalists. "Atha" could be better improved with judicous rewriting and editing; "The God Equation", same thing; "A Strange Map of Time" will be incredible when cut down to around 5000 words (LOL Ian, knowing my preference for works in the 5000 word range, gleefully told me that the 28-page version that won was already the shortened version, already cut by 8-10 pages).

My big issue is with how the entries were shortlisted. The way I understand it, the three judges shortlisted and then sent them to Gaiman to rank (I could be wrong - if so, apologies, no one explained the methodology to anyone I know). None of the three judges (with the exception of Greg Brilliantes) strike me as writers of works that are primarily speculative fiction in nature (as in short stories - not plays or films or poetry), unless Tony Perez and Peque Gallaga have collections of short fiction that are fantasy, scifi, horror, etc. that I am unaware of (and if so, then apologies again, that's plain and simple ignorance on my part). All three judges strike me as more leaning towards the social realist bent in terms of positioning and taste, which accounts for the oh-so-Filipino themes of the most of finalists. Arguably, there were no pure "imaginary worlds" stories selected, for example (though it could be a case of no good ones were submitted) - all had the Philippines in one form or another or some reference to it. While that is fine, what it did was convert the contest to a variation of the Palanca Futuristic Fiction category (which, by the way, will be gone next year). I would have encouraged the judges to seek instead the Filipino of the imagination, where the Filipino is part of a greater universal thing, rather than something forced to steep in the waters of locality. In that contest, Filipino-themed stories would compete against works of pure imagination, which would make it more interesting. What I'm saying is that Philippine speculative fiction does not necessarily have the Filipinos or the Philippines or jeepneys in it. And for spec fic contests, get spec fic writers for judges. In the case of the comics contest, the only judge that made sense to me was Arnold Arre, who both writes and illustrates his work.


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