Wednesday, February 27, 2008

fantasy & enchantment

"Tales of Fantasy and Enchantment" is the new anthology edited by Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo (Milflores Publishing, 2008). By next week, it should be available in all National Bookstore and Powerbooks branches nationwide. Nikki and I are delighted to have a story each in the book, alongside imaginative fiction from a variety of Filipino writers. Of particular note is Ian Rosales Casocot's wonderful "The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak", which I think is one of his best (if not his best) stories - easily a shoo-in for any Year's Best-type book for later this year.

Many, many thanks to Jing and Milflores!

Manananggirrrl by Marivi Soliven Blanco
The Sniffles by Carljoe Javier
Some Kind of Noir by Karl R. De Mesa
A Tidy Little Tale by Jose Claudio B. Guerrero
Graveyard Shift by Andrea L. Peterson
Haunted by BJ A. Patino
The Haunting of Martina Luzuriaga by Vicente Garcia Groyon
Monkey Watching by Romina Ma. Gonzalez
Martines by Anna Felicia C. Sanchez
The Stranded Star by Nikki Alfar
The Middle Prince by Dean Francis Alfar
The Sugilanon of Epefania's Heartbreak by Ian Rosales Casocot
Green Girl by Cyan Abad-Jugo
The Gyutou by FH Batacan
Mallina the Lovely by Tara FT Sering
The Other Daughter by Daryll Delgado
Orange by Natasha B. Gamalinda
A Secret Affair with Basti Artadi by Samantha Echavez
War Zone Angel by Emil M. Flores
The Fortune Teller by Gizela M. Gonzalez

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america is in the heart

Go and check out the latest issue of Our Own Voice.
Nikki's piece, "Dear D / Dear Carlos", recreates the correspondence between Carlos Bulosan and Dorothy Babb.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

manong/growing up filipino

Ever since my younger siblings started talking, their default name for me was "Manong". When the girls were in grade school and high school, even their friends called me "Manong". Even now, when chance places one of my sisters' friends in my path (and mind you, they are no longer the giggly little girls they were then), the inevitable "Hi, Manong!" comes my way. I am everyone's "Manong" (or these people actually think it's my real name).

"Manong" means elder brother, elder uncle, elder man, as well as (to me and Nikki) taxi driver, security guard, carpenter, gardener, waiter, gas station attendant, cigarette vendor, policeman - generally anyone who is older, whose name you do not know, that you want want to speak directly and respectfully to.

With the combination of our household with the step-household (in principle, if not in the actually moving-together-in-one-house manner), my sisters experienced the addition of several brothers and sisters, all but one older than me. These boys also ended up being called "Manong" too - but with each of their names appended Manong JayJay, Manong Ricky, Manong Roly, Manong Michael, Manong Joel. I fully expected to become Manong Dean or Manong Deanbo. But my sisters and youngest brother continued to simply call me "Manong".

One time, I asked one of them why. I think it was Maureen or Reb who said "Because you're the original Manong."

Just like buko pie, I guess.


Cecilia Manguerra Brainard has announced the roster of contributors to her new anthology "Growing Up Filipino II", which includes Amalia Bueno, Leslieann Hobayan, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Paulino Lim, Marianne Villanueva, Jonathan Jimena Siason, Veronica Montes, Edgar Poma, Tony Robles, Kannika Claudine Pena, Erwin Cabucos, Aileen Suzura, Jaime L. An Lim, Elsa Orejudon Valdimiano, Dolores De Manuel, Maria Victoria Beltran, M. G. Bertulfo, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Katrina Ramos Atienza, Oscar Penaranda, Geronimo G. Tagatac and me.

The Young Adult antho will be published by Anvil and PALH later this year.

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likhaan 2

From our friends at UP (and don't be afraid of Rio Alma - send him spec fic, in English, and see what happens):

For its second issue, Likhaan will accept submissions in the following genres, in both English and Filipino: Short stories ranging from about 12 to 30 pages double-spaced (in 11-12 points Times Roman, New York, Palatino, Book Antique, Arial or some such standard font). A suite of short prose pieces will be considered.A suite of four to seven poems, out which the editors might choose three to five. Long poems will be considered in lieu of a suite. Essays (critical, scholarly, and/or creative nonfiction), subject to the same length limitations as short stories, above. Excerpts from graphic novels, or full short graphic stories, for reproduction in black and white on no more than 10 printed pages, 6” x 9”. Excerpts should be accompanied by a synopsis of the full narrative.

All submissions must be original, and unpublished anywhere else.

All submissions must be accompanied by a biographical sketch (no more than one or two short paragraphs) of the author, including contact information (address, telephone number, e-mail address).

Submissions may be e-mailed to, or posted to The Editors, Likhaan Journal, UP Institute of Creative Writing, Rizal Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 1101. The Issue Editor is National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario.

All submissions should be received (whether by e-mail or post) no later than May 31, 2008.

All submissions will undergo a strict pre-screening and blind refereeing process by the editors and a panel of referees composed of eminent writers and critics from within and outside the University of the Philippines.

Writers whose work will be accepted for publication will receive a substantial cash payment and a copy of the published journal.

The editors reserve the right to edit any and all materials accepted for publication.

The editors may also solicit or commission special, non-refereed articles for publication outside of the aforementioned genres and categories to enhance the editorial content and balance of the journal.

Please direct any and all inquiries to the editors at

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


This week (Open Session at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Emerald Ave - 4PM)

The Man Who Loved the Moon by Zarah Gagatiga
Galactic Vinyl by Elyss Punsalan
Beats by Kenneth Yu
The Quest for Memory by Charles Tan

Last week:

The Carpetmaker's Son by Adreas Eschbach
The Infinite Monkey Theorem by Marshall Moore
Gillian Underground by Michael Jasper, Tim Pratt & Greg Van Eekhout
Don't Ask by Mary Rickert

Next week:

The Shelter of the World by Salman Rushdie
For Solo Cello, op.12 by Mary Robinette Kowal
Fire in the Lake by Chris Roberson
Pervert by Charles Coleman Finlay

The LitCritters are a group of writers who read and readers who write. We read a wide range of texts (from realism to speculative fiction and things in between) to improve our craft and seek to develop well-told stories. The LitCritters are based in Manila and in Dumaguete City (headed by Ian Rosales Casocot). Among our numbers are unpublished authors and multiple award-winners, young people and older folk, students and professionals who all love fiction. If you're interested, drop by one of the Open sessions which we hold twice a month (usually on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays).

You can sign up here and get discussion copies of the stories scheduled for critique.


palanca site

Here's the new website for the Palanca Awards. In a bit, you should be able to download rules for competition (but you can get the authorization and entry forms now).

The stunning feature is digital submission of entries - you can upload your stuff (but I think you'll still need to send in your notarized form somehow - must read the rules when they're up).

You can also download winning works from 2006 including Nikki's "Life After Beth" and one of my stories.

The deadline looms, if you plan to enter this year.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I've got a crush on you.

Happy Birthday, Beloved!


Monday, February 18, 2008

reader's best

Don, over at Electric Twilight Boogaloo, has posted his Top 10 listing of the best spec fic stories of the past year. I'm happy to have been involved in some way with half of them (the Casocot, the Nacino, the Lacuesta and the Tijam from Philippine Speculative Fiction III and "MaMachine" from my Kite collection).

Here's his list. Thanks, Don!

And earlier (thanks to Kyu), Charles posted his picks - with Nikki's "Beacon" from PGS and the Osias, the de Leon and the Falgui from PSFIII. Salamat, Charles! His thoughts on publishing a "Year's Best" are over here.


Friday, February 15, 2008


That's Lan Medina's cover of the upcoming 4th issue of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, featuring a scene from Vin Simbulan's "The Last Stand Of Aurundar". The issue's stories include "Psychic Family" by Apol Lejano-Massebieau, "Chimaera" by Yvette Tan, and "Blink, Wake Up" by Mia Tijam - quite a lineup by editor Kenneth Yu. My own piece, "In the Dim Plane", is in the fantasy mode, with a sprinkling of other genres.

Both Vin's and my stories are part of the Forlorn Cycle, a world Vin and I are tearing down and plunging into ruination bit by bit. It is no secret that I despaired of writing any more pure fantasy years ago, before the realization that I didn't have to follow any tired tropes or mechanisms or styles that I didn't want to. Thus freed from the shackles of what I thought must be the Ways of Fantasy, I could write the fantastic in any way that appealed to me, both as a writer and as a reader. PGS#4 should be out late Feb/early March.

This afternoon, the National Book Development Board Book Club discusses my collection "The Kite of Stars and Other Stories." It'll be interesting revisiting all those stories. Tara FT Sering moderates, so if you are in the area, drop by. Here is how to get there.

Nikki and I received pre-release copies of the new antho of contemporary Philippine fantasy where we each have a story appear. I promise to post more when the book is available at bookstores (in just a couple of weeks).

Which reminds me of the three deadlines I have before the month ends. Gah. Sometimes, I just want to sleep, haha.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

daddy's little girl

Sage turns 6 years old today, and I can't help but remember how I felt when I first saw her in the operating room, wrinkled and messy and absolutely gorgeous. Through the years she's grown into a fiercely intelligent young girl with a sense of humor and a love for stories. She brought a new kind of love into my heart (the likes of which people without kids cannot ever imagine), giving me a new role in life - that of a father.

She continues to amaze me, and through her eyes I experience wonder all over again.

Happy birthday, Sage!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

times are changing

While trawling through the net while waiting for my iPod to disgorge its music into the new laptop (the best way without third party software, by the way, is to link up the iPod, treat it as an external device and view the hidden files - which is where all the music is - and copy-paste everything into the destination iTunes), I found an article by Elmer Ordonez about last year's PEN 50th anniversary.

"Fifty years ago the first national writers conference organized by Philippine PEN had for theme “The Filipino Writer and National Growth.” Times have changed. Where nationalism was the overriding concern of writers of the fifties, now the writers particularly the younger ones, are into literature without frontiers, novel ways of writing like “speculative fiction,” literary blogs and the migration of at least eight million Filipinos working abroad.


On one hand, it's great to note that we're being noted. On the other hand, it's amusing to note that some people consider genre fiction a novel way of writing. Fantasy, science fiction and horror have been around much longer than 50 years, after all. But what matters to me is that spec fic is being written today, in all its different forms. There are markets (magazines, periodicals, anthologies) that are growing (and while it isn't spec fic, crime fiction is clearly genre fiction, and PGS is prepping a special issue guest-edited by Ichi Batacan, author of the prize-winning "Smaller and Smaller Circles") and being read and talked about. I especially like the fact that it is younger writers who are doing most of the writing. Hopefully, in generations to come, there will less and less angst and guilt about writing spec fic (in the context of national literature).

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Monday, February 11, 2008

apol of our eye

Much of the editing for the anthologies Nikki and I put together is done remotely - which means that all communication between the writers and us is done via email. Granted, it's speedy and efficient. But many a time have we longed to put face and personality to a story we've enjoyed.
Apol Lejano-Massebieau is one of the most gifted writers we've read. Her fiction is always thoughtfully crafted (check out her delicious "Pedro Diyego's Homecoming" in Philippine Speculative Fiction III and you'll see what we mean).

So it was a pleasure to actually meet her, have lunch and get to know her a bit more while she sojourned in the country (she's based in France). The LitCritters and I chose Via Mare at Rockwell (to which Apol replied "I love Via Mare!").
Tabletalk was wonderful as we shifted between being writers and foodies and shared stories. Alors! If only we had more time (and multiple tickets to the south of France)!


litcritters open: a new home

Every other Saturday, the LitCritters hold an Open session wherein everyone is invited to sit in - or better yet - participate in story discussions. Last year, we held majority of these over at Serendra. But with a new year comes a new home.

Beginning February 23, the new home of the LitCritters Open will be The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, along Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center in Pasig City (several hops and skips from the Podium and SM Megamall). Set in Ortigas Park, this Coffee Bean branch offers a lovely view of the Ortigas Park (and there is excellent parking right next door).

We return to our normal alternating Saturday schedule (usually 1st and 3rd weekend of the month).

For the first Open session of the year, we will critique 4 original Filipino spec fic pieces; two weeks after that, we'll discuss 4 more. These stories are written by young authors, published and unpublished, all raring to tell stories.

Here's the schedule:

LitCritters Open - Feb 23, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Emerald Avenue

The Man Who Loved the Moon by Zarah Gagatiga
Galactic Vinyl by Elyss Punsalan
Beats by Kenneth Yu
The Quest for Memory by Charles Tan

LitCritters Open - March 8, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Emerald Avenue

The Man on the Moon by Miguel Escano
A Night with Candlelight and Amber by Blue Soon
The Shearing Time by Martin Badoy
The Hand of the Evil Eye by Charles Tan

The LitCritters are a group of writers who read and readers who write. We read a wide range of texts (from realism to speculative fiction and things in between) to improve our craft and seek to develop well-told stories. The LitCritters are based in Manila and in Dumaguete City (headed by Ian Rosales Casocot). Among our numbers are unpublished authors and multiple award-winners, young people and older folk, students and professionals who all love fiction. If you're interested, drop by one of the Open sessions. You can also sign up here and get discussion copies of the stories scheduled for discussion.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

ateneo heights and high school

These past two week have seen me over Ateneo twice, both times to talk about Speculative Fiction.

The first was at the invitation of the Ateneo Heights and I was accompanied by Kyu (of Philippine Genre Stories fame). The talk was fun and open and I think I said most of what I wanted to say about spec fic (at least for one session - people who know me know that I have quite a bit to say on the matter). It was a wonderful intelligent audience (and quite a friendly one - I was especially happy to note multi-awarded playwright Glenn Mas, the best dramatist of my generation as far as I'm concerned). After the talk, I signed books and answered some more questions.

The next week I was at Ateneo High School, speaking in front of an English class - once again a wonderfully intelligent and insightful audience (can the old La Salle boy in actually have praised Ateneo folk twice in one post? But it's all true). At the invitation of Enzo Dayrit and his beautifully named partner Francis Dean, I talked about fantasy, horror, scifi and magic realism and encouraged the young men to write fiction that engaged them, stories that matter to them. They have a writing assignment - and guess what? It's speculative fiction! I said I'd publish the best and so my toes are crossed.

Talking to young people about something I'm passionate about is really rewarding. I hope to influence even just a handful, even just one person, to pick up the pen and start writing spec fic and contribute to the growing literature of the fantastic in the Philippines.

Earlier, that was what Kyu and I were talking about. Change cannot come overnight. It will be long and gradual process. Even if I'm not there when things are as we dream, I'm more than happy to help out in my small way, as much as one man with a loud voice can do, haha.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

princes of the sultanate

(illustration by Andrew Drilon)

My story "An Excerpt from “Princes of the Sultanate” (Ghazali: 1902); Annotated by Omar Jamad Maududi, MLS, HOL, JMS." appears in the latest issue of Story Philippines, available now. The story, about politics and love in a reimagined Lanao, is told mainly in scholarly-ish footnotes.

The magazine was supposed to have come out late last year but issues with printing caused delays. "Princes" was scheduled to first appear there (Story bought it long before) then subsequently collected in "The Kite of Stars". But "Kite" came out first, so instead the reverse is true (but in my collection, Story Philippines is credited with first publication).

I'm delighted to be in the same issue with a couple of contributors to Philippine Speculative Fiction: Jonathan Siason and MRR Arcega. The cover, by the way, is astounding. Go, pick up a copy now.

Thanks to Vanni and Jade for buying the story (as well as another one, coming in some future issue: "Strange Weather", a high fantasy story).



My new Pavilion dv2503TX arrived today and I'm beginning the process of migrating all my stuff to it. The Vista OS will take some getting used to though, but this beauty is so sleek it makes my heart weep.


Thursday, February 07, 2008


"Peekli", Andrew Drilon's gently nuanced piece of speculative fiction involving a semigod's investigation, can be read over at Bewildering Stories (and made the Editor's Choice list in last year's Quarterly Review). Nikki and I loved this story (it's anthologized in Philippine Speculative Fiction III).

Don Webb is the managing editor of Bewildering Stories, and though BS (now in its sixth year) isn't a paying market, I fully support him and the site (Gardner Dozois, of The Year's Best Science Fiction antho series has identified BS as a source of good stories). Two of my earlier stories have appeared there (The Middle Prince and Into the Morning) with a third coming soon (The Maiden and the Crocodile).

It's a great place to read and share stories.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

coming in september

Last year, Nikki and I decided, was our last chance to have another child. Nikki is near the age where having children courts increased health risks for both her and the baby. By the start of December, when there was no child, we accepted the fact that Sage would be our only child - which isn't bad, not at all (I grew up as an only child for 9 years and during those years didn't feel a desperate yearning for a sibling - I was happy with my books and Lego).

We spent the holidays in Florida, and while Sage played with her Grandma, Nikki and I played with each other (wink, wink).

In my mind, here's what happened.

ELDER SPERM (TO YOUNG SPERM): You are our only hope. December is almost past..

YOUNG SPERM: I sure as hell will try, though I do not know the way!

ELDER SPERM: Just follow the path and do not stray. You will know the way...

YOUNG SPERM: I have so many questions, Master-

ELDER SPERM: The legendary Egg must be found...


ELDER SPERM: Now, now is the time!


ELDER SPERM: Godspeed... There must be a new Alfar...

Yesterday, we got confirmation that we're having a baby! I am both delighted and anxious - all over again. You'd think that having gone through this once before I'd be okay with the process, but no. I'm delighted, no, excitedly rapturous, because this child is new to the universe, unique and blessed and wondrous. I'll be honest and say that I wish it is a boy, but will be happy regardless. I look forward to discovering who this new little person is, in the same way that Sage revealed herself. And we'll have two children, which to me, is so perfectly right.

The anxiety, of course, is there, unfolding in multiple layers. Health: Will the child be healthy? Will s/he have some disorder? Economic: How do we pay for two kids in school (I swoon at the thought of coming up with something like P200k every June)? How do we stretch the budget to accomodate a new nanny? We need to get layette stuff and a crib and diapers and and and... Should we move? Social: How will Sage take to the existence of a new little Alfar (Well, she's as happy as we are right now)? Purely Selfish: Gah, I can't smoke in the house anymore (Nikki has quit). How will I write?

But I know everything will be all right. All these anxieties and worries are nothing new (but I'll have a heart attack if somehow they're twins - twins run in both our families). We'll get by.

It turns out that my big creative thing for 2008 is a child! Already we're thinking of names.

Have I said that I really really really hope it's a boy?

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Monday, February 04, 2008

on things we’ve done, done well, and done right

Butch Dalisay's Feb 4 Penman column in the Philippine Star on animating literature in our country is an interesting read (full article here). Along the way, he cites "things we’ve done, done well, and done right in the Philippines to promote literature", mentioning big publishers like Anvil, the work of the National Book Development Board, the advocacies of Read Or Die, as well as the success of Carl's Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah and Panitikan. He also talks about new literature:

"This brings me to the emergence and the growing popularity of new kinds of literature in the Philippines—genre fiction, speculative fiction, graphic or comic-book fiction, creative nonfiction, chick lit, performance poetry—all of which offer writers, especially new and young ones, some alternatives to mainstream realism. These genres don’t lack for enthusiastic supporters who will go out of their way to promote their favored schools of writing. One young entrepreneur, Kenneth Yu, took it upon himself to publish the slim but groundbreaking Philippine Genre Stories, now on its fourth issue. A prizewinning novelist, Dean Alfar, leads a group of young writers called Lit Critters, who meet regularly to discuss both local and foreign stories that might help them in their own work. Both Kenneth and Dean have extensive online networks. (And here, the formula seems to be alternative + young + Internet + network.)"

There's a lot of work to be done, true. But I'm happy to note that there are many willing helping hands. Thanks, Butch (of course, Kyu and I are somewhat delighted at being considered 'young' LOL)!

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(Originals, scifi)

Down the Double Curved City by Andrew Drilon
OpPlan Sanction by Alexander Osias
The Millenia Bloom by Vincent Simbulan
Sleeping Beauty Syndrome by Kate Aton-Osias
Selected Transmissions from Synthesized Human Emulation Mk.8.014b, Otherwise Known as Katey by Nikki Alfar
Report HC-IK017785A-0097B-006 de Ocampo: Survey of Artifacts Found in the Derelict Vessel The Malaya by Dean Francis Alfar


Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel
Mars A Traveler's Guide by Ruth Nestvold
Tonino and the Incubus by Peg Robinson
The New Mother by Lucy Lanr Clifford

This week:

Philologos by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald
Urchins, While Swimming by Catherynne Valente
Retrospect by Ann Miller
Metal More Attractive by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Upcoming (Originals)

The Man Who Loved the Moon by Zarah Gagatiga
Galactic Vinyl by Elyss Punsalan
Beats by Kenneth Yu
The Man on the Moon by Miguel Escano
A Night with Candlelight and Amber by Blue Soon
The Quest for Memory by Charles Tan
The Shearing Time by Martin Badoy
The Hand of the Evil Eye by Charles Tan

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Friday, February 01, 2008

vignette: creche set-up

Ho! Look at Pam’lhee all a-twitter, furry eyebrows risen full mast on her foreridge, mandibles lickerish sweet and pungent, chartreuse mottled thorax constricting her folded wings, all certain signs of excitement. And why shouldn’t she be? In her forelimbs rests a bundle, still sap-papered and sealed, surface etched with the marks of subdued impatience. She thrills and croons, ecstatic at the promise kept hidden, for the moment, only for the moment, by the bundle’s outer covering. It is a credit to her temperament that she does not rip it open immediately like some dung heap cannibal, rip tear shred as they do with abandon. She would never do such a thing, never, not even if there was no one else to see. No, no, it is a moment, her moment, to savor and savor it she does, having waited for so long, scratching grooves on her favorite honey sac, counting cycles of the sun of the moon and the comings and goings of everyday occurrence, extending the exercise of patience to new lengths. She lifts the small bundle, inhales the scent of hope made real, and a-trembling extends her tongue to lick the surface, just a little, just for a taste, just with the daintiest tip, but knows that the time to see the future is neither here nor now, neither now nor hers.

Ho! Look at Cik’zhee all a-quiver, the tiniest hairs on his shiny abdomen erect as if they were not miniscule, colors speckling chocolate sweetness, almost oblivious to the buzzing of his wings. He, too, is excited, and rightfully so. His stomach growls at the thoughts that circle his horned head. It has been cycles since his last mating and he know, he knows, that within him is lies the potential of life, a life he needs a mate to make whole and true. He watches the movement of his new neighbor with eyes that compound her beauty, so vigorous, her scent so vital, that it takes all of his self-control not to just launch himself at her across the abyss across the air without a care, not to give in to the imperative of life of time and the universe. Instead, he stifles his desire, stiffens his resolve, and scratches once twice thrice on smooth leaf he sits on, eking grooves that bleed sap while he watches and waits for the right time.