Wednesday, September 17, 2008

wanted: critic

It has been, still is, and I suspect will always be, my position that writers should be in the business of writing. In the context of my interest, this is to say that Filipino writers of speculative fiction should be working writers: continuously producing (writing and publishing, in print or online) texts that, eventually, in its variety of voices, approaches and authorial poetics, describe Philippine speculative fiction. This means that the creatives should focus on the matter of the story, exploring the vistas of fantasy, science fiction, horror and other non-realist genres that imagination permits, at same time articulating who they are as writers, as Filipinos, as Filipino writers of the marvelous, and as Filipino writers of the marvelous in their current socio/political/cultural milieu, wrestling, as they will, with issues of personal /authorial and national/post-colonial identity as they contribute texts and locate themselves (or define space for themselves) in Philippine literature.

The interest in spec fic in the recent years has led to new texts by new authors, most of them of the younger generation. This development is noteworthy because it has always been part of my desire to see new stories by new writers (after all, all my generation and older will one day fade away). In these wild and woolly days, these stories are happily, wonderfully all over the place in terms of genre, subject matter, and theme, as these writers experiment without fear (unlike the older writers, or those with an academic background, who find themselves immediately struggling with issues of relevance and gravitas and "literariness") and produce texts that would be unacceptable to the realist literary critics (such as a second world text, bereft of anything Filipino – no Filipino characters, settings, themes or such, perhaps apart from cosmetics such as the occasional pinoy word, name or descriptor). As I mentioned earlier, these are not just acceptable to me, but a necessary and vital part of speculative fiction, as our ability to imagine elsewheres should not be constrained by socio-political chains (we need to give our writers the freedom to create Middle Earth or New Crobuzon or a new planet - in time, their Filipino nature will creep into their texts anyway, because we cannot escape who we are, especially in writing).

So I am not concerned, at this time, that there are not enough writers of spec fic (which is not to say that I think we have an abundance, no , I will always want more: more women, more young people, more in Filipino and regional languages, more, more, more). I am more concerned with the fact that we have no spec fic critics.

Everyone wants to be a writer, nobody wants to be a critic – this is how things are. But we need to accept that vitality, growth and expansion of literature needs writers who write, readers who read and literary critics whose multiple functions (permit me to grossly oversimplify) include analysis, articulation and guidance (and, in some instances, the deflation of writerly egos) as they help push the genre towards the future.

Right now, there are no literary theorists in the Philippines devoted to spec fic (there are those who may think they are, but their tools are not, their critical frameworks are borrowed and ill-fitting, their agenda and ability to speak about spec fic remains in doubt). We need Filipno critics who will develop a critical framework specifically for spec fic, specifically for Philippine spec fic, someone who understands and values the conventions and tropes of the various genres, who will champion spec fic as a different way of seeing, who will help shepherd thoughts and discussions in conversations (and yes, arguments) with spec fic writers (like me), who will help describe what we are doing and why and help us understand our place and our potential better.

I want someone who can think and argue and wrestle and articulate, who is not necessarily another writer like me, whose notions are founded on the reading and study of spec fic, specifically spec fic by Filipino writers, who does not kneel before the gods of Western spec fic canon (these pseudo-critics immediately exalt the Western writers and unabashedly worship at their feet – they are hardly critical), whose poetics are, at the very least, glocal (because while we need to be who we are, we also need to be citizens of imagination, for whom geography, in this world where borders and boundaries fall every day, means little).

I cannot be this critic. I choose to write, to happily produce, instead.

Maybe you?

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