Wednesday, June 28, 2006

business tomorrow

The Year of the Dog is the year of change, and in my case, so far, it's been positive.

Businesswise, we're looking at setting up a new branch of the pet store, which is quite exciting as the new location means a new market, which permits us the freedom to do thing we couldn't do at our SM Megamall branch.

My business partner and I are also looking at starting one or two new businesses this year, neither of which has anything to do with either intergrated marketing communications or animals. It's too early to say, but I'm rather gung-ho about the first one, which is smack dab in the center of my interests - and, in the long term, will help push my personal writerly agendas (or so I tell myself).

The other potential business is retailed-based and is also close to my heart. This one is slower in coming together because of a variety of factors. My only fears are that the window of opportunity may close unexpectedly or that I will lose interest (and from an entrepreneurial point of view, loss of interest is fatal).

In considering new business ventures, I simplify first before I get to the details. The venture has to be something of interest with room for me to contribute something more than just cash (time, talent, experience, connections, knowledge). The business needs to have the potential for growth. I need to be sure of who I go into business with - who you partner with is vital. And finally, it needs to be something I can afford to invest in since I don't have much money.

I'd rather invest a larger amount of money in a business with a small number of partners than invest a small amount and have ten partners. Apart from the fact that board meetings are easier with fewer partners, the returns - once dividends are paid - are larger. However, if I had more money (and could afford a loss once in a while), I'd consider the opposite model. I can imagine investing in ten businesses with ten partners each at less than 10% shares. At the end of the year, I'd have ten dividend payments, one from each of the businesses, which more or less equals full ownership in one business. The issue there, of course, is control. But I can cede control (and direct involvement) in exchange for regular cash.

My preference though is to be involved. I like being in the midst of things. Or at least I did. Nowadays, I'm feeling a lot older and less enthused about going out and handling clients and projects. I'm getting tired of thinking for other people, but have learned to deal with my fatigue so it doesn't affect my work. Part of me just wants to write or spend time with my wife and daughter, or play games with friends, or eat. Ideally, in a few years I'll have several businesses that do not require my direct involvement on a daily basis, and I get to putter around a smaller business, something I wouldn't mind spending time on like a small bookstore or a cafe.

notes on speculative fiction in the philippines

There are many challenges that face the growth and development of speculative fiction in the Philippines. (Forgive lapses in spelling and grammar - I'm writing this guerilla-style. I'll edit later.)

Lack of Speculative Fiction Writers

While it is true that some Filipino authors, from time to time (or as anthology calls are sounded) write fantasy, horror or science fiction, majority write in the realist mode. Realism, among its many strengths, carries the force of verisimilitude, a sense that what is written about is true. Observations of the human condition are evoked in stories that deal with families and relationships (domestic realism) or in stories set against the greater backdrop of Philippine history or politics (social realism). These stories are powerful because they are perceived (and positioned) as relevant. Fiction that adheres to the truths about Philippine life and daily struggles, big and small, is the dominant mode. This is the kind of writing that we, as young writers, readers and students, are taught to admire and emulate. And there is nothing with that. Except that it is assumed that everything else that is not realism is somehow inferior, not literary, not relevant, not important not crafted, and ultimately not worth reading.

(insert Dean’s long-winded defense and rationale of speculative fiction here).

Writers, being writers, are capable of writing whatever they please. Or whatever moves, makes sense, or excites them. Writing speculative fiction is a choice Filipino writers can make (and do make from time to time). What is lacking? Dedicated Filipino spec fic writers.

Lack of quality fiction

Because of the privileging of realism, there is a misconception that speculative fiction is easier to write. After all, how difficult could it be to write escapist fantasy, visceral horror and future imaginings? Certainly it does not require any craft or techniques beyond a funky idea, exotic vocabulary, lots of action sequences and a mind-shattering sense of wonder? Certainly anyone can write the crap we see on TV as fantaseryes? Perhaps convert my D&D campaign and characters into prose, emulating the multi-book drivel they see on bookstore shelves?

This is the kind of reasoning, this self-fulfilling prophecy, that continues to perpetuate the impression that spec fic is inferior. In the past few years, there have been a spate of poorly written and edited horror anthologies and novellas, obviously put together to take advantage of the spike of reader interest. There is also no movement (or set of writers or groups) that privileges speculative fiction and publishing stories regularly. Stories are sparse and, for the most part, of low quality.

All spec fic should be well-written, with all the craft a writer can muster, paying attention to all things that make fine literature – because spec fic is literature. I disagree with the concept of creating a spec fic "middle ground" - unless what is meant by "middle ground" is actually writing for a target audience. Catering to a specific audience does not entail dumbing down, writing less well, writing like an idiot for idiots (this is the fallacy that most first-time authors of children’s literature need to address: look at the best books for young readers around the world and you will see none of the sad “talking down”). Writing for a young audience requires just as much craft as writing for adult sensibilities.

Writing good spec fic take time and effort, from idea to execution to polishing to publishing. What we Filipino spec fic writers lack is discipline and dedication to craft – which, thankfully, can be learned and practiced. Every story we write must be treated like the last story we’ll ever write, combining talent, ideas, techniques, time and discipline to forge something worth reading. It must be the best we can write.

Only then can we create literature that can stand toe-to-toe with fiction written elsewhere. A third world country should not be constrained to write third world literature, especially since at its core, speculative fiction is all about imagination – possession of which has nothing to do with social realities.

Lack of Markets

Assuming that there is interest in the genre (either by established writers wanting to cross the gulf or by new writers willing to dedicate themselves to spec fic because of whatever reason), they will quickly realize that there is very little out there in terms of local markets. Markets are publications that publish stories (magazines, journals and anthologies included). While markets abroad abound, markets in the Philippines are very few and none of them are dedicated to speculative fiction.

Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, and Story Philippines (a true rarity, being an all-story magazine) are the three magazines that immediately come to mind. All are receptive to speculative fiction (I’ve been published in two) but are not devoted to genre literature. Story Philippines is the prettiest and pays the best (I got PHP 5,000 for “The Maiden & The Crocodile”), one month or so after publication. Free Press’s literary section is helmed by Paulo Manalo, who is no stranger to strange writing. After Nick Joaquin’s death, I do not know who the literary editor of Graphic is.

The recent call for submissions for a journal was for UP Creative Writing Center’s Likhaan, sounded by Butch Dalisay. He promises excellent pay. I do not recall the frequency of this publication.

Anthologies can offer some payment or copies of the book as compensation. Anthologies by big publishers like Anvil offer money; small press efforts as well as university anthologies offer books. Getting into big publisher anthos is difficult; take a look at any big publisher antho and you’ll see a list of mostly established writers – but it is not impossible. These anthos are usually themed and rarely, if ever, is their theme spec fic (except for horror, which publishers like Psicom, have made democratic – but in a terrible way – bad writing, bad editing).

There is also self-publishing (offline) and blog or digital publishing (PDFs for download, for example).

None of them will replace your day job. There aren’t enough markets.

And there is no publisher that focuses on spec fic. (For now – stay tuned for some interesting news sometime this year).

Lack of Dedicated Readers

Due to the scarcity of quality content and places to find them, there is a lack of readership. People will read what they want if they can find it; otherwise, they’ll pick up what is there. Hence, the awful books to be found on the fantasy, scifi and horror sections of National Bookstore or Powerbooks. We cannot replicate the rabid fan base that science fiction had in America in the golden age, when fans, writers, editors and publishers created their own landscape. Having a dedicated magazine or publication that pays would be fantastic.

The lack of dedicated readers is not equal to a lack of interest. On the contrary, there is great interest in things spec fic (look at the popularity of spec fic films, comics, TV series, etc.). But somehow we need to lead them to better work, to quality stories, to be more discriminating – for example, there is more to fantasy than imagined world novels populated by elves.

Education is the key. Talks, symposiums, lectures, radio and TV guestings, blogging, bookstore tours, classroom discussions, contests – all of these, and more, can be tools. We can also invade writing workshops, teach spec fic directly as college courses, and basically act as ambassadors, evangelists or mesmerists as situations dictate.

We need to overcome the deeply ingrained bias of Filipino readers against Filipino authors, the entire “Stateside” mentality that privileges the West above all. The quality of Philippine speculative fiction, once developed, supported, critiqued and disciplined through craft, can be just as good as or better than our Western counterparts. (On a side note: we also need to print better-looking books, as the generally dismal appearance and paper quality of our local books make us look like lepers next to imported books).

So it is a seemingly endless series of uphill battles to get to where I want Philippine speculative fiction to go. But the thing about impossible obstacles is that with the right people, mindset, tools, resources and timing, they are not truly insurmountable. And we sure as hell will try to do something.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

salamanca reviews

Vince Groyon (DLSU, author of "The Sky Over Dimas", Palanca novel winner 2002) writes:
This slim novel won the Palanca Grand Prize last year. It's a love story with a gay angle that spans several decades, told magical-realist style. There are numerous striking images, characters, and scenes piled one on top of the other, like a flying encounter in the midst of a whirlwind, a profanity-spouting missionary, and a hut turned to glass by a woman's beauty, all rendered with precision and skill.

The Varsitarian (official organ of the University of Santo Tomas - which is, incidentally, Gaudencio Rivera's alma mater) review is over here.

I'm tickled by this: "Alfar relays the love story of Gaudencio Rivera and Jacinta Cordova without cheesy idylls, using reverie rather than sentimentalism."

One of the things the reviewer wrote: "readers must have a minimum knowledge of contemporary history in order to appreciate the book’s historical reference."

And you know, I wouldn't have it any other way. ;)

Monday, June 26, 2006

jolo, 1913

Once in a while I get email from readers asking what a comic script looks like. The truth is that there is no "right" format. Each author has his or her own way of writing a script. Here's one of the ways I write mine (I usually tend to more descriptive than this), my abecedary story from Siglo: Freedom. It was illustrated by Andrew Drilon.

Jolo, 1913 (Dean Francis Alfar/Andrew Drilon)

h&-'lO, 'an-(")drü,

For the rendering of this story (part-abecedary, part-narrative), imagine each page divided into 4 equal horizontal zones (for the purpose of internal page notation, let’s call them z1, z2, z3 and z4).

For the first 8 (and part of 9th) pages, z1, z2 and z3 will contain the following, going from left to right:

1. letter of alphabet with kiddie illustration
2. panel with face of boy
3. dialogue in word balloons between the BOY and an unseen VOICE. The VOICE speaks like a pronunciation guide.

No backgrounds, just clean white space.

z4, borderless, will be where the narrative is located, usually just a few sentences.

Hope you have fun.



TITLE: (on the right margin: Remember to make space.)

z1: A – Apple







z2: B – Ball





'ver-E 'gud.

z3: C - Cat




'nO. 'kat.




CAPTION: We moved to Jolo from Pampanga when my father was promised land. While my parents went about their new lives, I went to an American school to learn a new language.

It was important to my father that I learned to speak English.


z1: D – Dog





z2: E – Egg

Huevo! eh…ggg?





z3: F – Fox




Fox... 'hwät Fox?


an 'a-n&-m&l, 'lIk a 'wulf.



CAPTION: Learning a new language was not easy for me. While I knew what some of the objects in the picture book were, my tongue often betrayed me.

It felt like I was fighting to breathe.


z1: G – Giraffe




'hwät is?


an 'a-n&-m&l, 'wi[th] 'A 'lo[ng] 'nek, 'sE? 'nekst.

z2: H - Horse




'nO. 'hors.



z3: I – Ice Cream


Ah… 'hwät is?


Is-'krEm. ik-'spen-siv. Is-'krEm.






CAPTION: Majority of my classmates were also new residents of the island, coming from parts of Luzon and the Visayas.

None of the Muslim children went to my school. Maybe they attended a different one or learned directly from their parents. At that time I didn’t understand why.

I considered them lucky.


z1: J – Jam





z2: K - Kite




'nO,'nO. 'kIt.



z3: L – Lion


'[th]is 'w&n?




'nO. 'lI-&n. 'sA “'lI-&n”.




CAPTION: I never liked school. The long hours spent repeating things over and over seemed like a waste of time.

What I wanted to do, what I really wanted to do, was to run outside. Just run and shout and play.

We were never allowed to, of course.


z1: M – Mouse




'li-s&n. 'maus. 'maus.



z2: N – Nest





z3: O - Octopus




'äk-t&-p&s. 'yü 'Et '[th]is, 'rIt?



'äk-t&-p&s. 'its 'nät 'härd.

CAPTION: My parents told me to be careful because there was trouble. Trouble with the Muslims. About how they felt bad about the Americans.

I remember thinking that maybe it was because there were no Muslim children in school. I was wrong, of course.

It was more than that.


Z1: P – Parrot





Z2: Q – Queen


'[th]is 'w&n.





Z3: R – Rabbit








CAPTION: I remember one day when our classes were cut short and my father came to fetch me. We saw smoke some distance away, and my father would stop from time to time as if he was trying to hear something.

My mother told me that night that something was happening at Bud Bagsak, at the cottas of the Muslims.

I thought that maybe they were being forced to learn English.


Z1: S – Snake




'snAk. 'lIk 'A 'lät 'of 'pE-p&l 'hir.



Z2: T – Tiger






'nO. 'tI-g&r. 'tI-g&r.

Z3: U – Umbrella


'don’t 'yü 'nO 'hwät '[th]is 'is?






CAPTION: The next few days were fearful. I had to stay at home with my mother. People were talking about all the soldiers that arrived in great numbers. From my window, I could see much running around but never a battle.

Maybe we were too far.

At night, I closed my eyes and imagined gunshots.


Z1: V – Violin




'ar 'yü 'stü-p&d?



Z2: W – Whale


'ar 'yü 'stü-p&d? 'shO 'mE.



Z3: X – Xylophone


'shO 'mE.




'ar 'yü 'krI i[ng]?


CAPTION: At the end of that long week, my father told us it was all over. Things went back to normal and once again I went to school. Whatever happened suddenly seemed so distant.

The Americans looked very happy.

Everyone else tried to look happy.


Z1: Y – Yam


'ar 'yü 'stü-p&d? 'is '[th]at'hwI 'yür 'krI i[ng]?


No, no.

Z2: Z – Zebra


'dü 'yü 'wänt 'tü ri-'mAn 'stü-p&d?

Z3: Panel of BOY, looking straight out of the panel.


'[th]is 'is f&r 'yOr 'fyü-ch&r, 'yü 'nO.


Yes, sir.


CAPTION: It was back to learning English for me and my classmates.

The language of tomorrow. The new language of my life.

Once I learned it, I would have the chance to be somebody.

Because, they said, it was the language of dreams.


(Andrew, just a single panel with the BOY looking out the window or somesuch.)

CAPTION: But when I look outside the school window and dream of running, I’m not certain what words I’m shouting.

And I think

I think maybe it doesn’t really matter.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

writers' night

A couple of nights ago, we braved the wilds of Manila to celebrate Mom Tiempo's award. Along the way, we couldn't help but marvel at the neon signs along the narrow roads of Malate, a stunning variety of clubs, restos, bars and places that promised a good time (actually, I was on Strumpet Watch, and I gleefully pointed out the ones I presumed were practioners of the world's oldest profession).

We arrived at Penguin Cafe and linked up with fellows there - Tara, Abby, Doug, Andrea, Patricia, Noel - and happily sat down on mats and pillows. Krip arrived and shared a smoker's secret with us. We could smoke inside the airconditioned resto! joy beyond compare for four smokers - Vin, Andrew, Nikki and myself. A sudden surge of excitement herald Mom's arrival and I helped escort her to her area, and soon more and more people arrived, old friends and new: Susan, Marge, DM, Jimmy, Gabby, Ginny, Vince, Butch, Alma. Sevreal Dumaguete batches were represented, including the Orphan Batch of 2001 (Mom went to Iowa and so they were Tiempoless). In the midst of things, I tried calling Ian to tell him how we missed his presence (but you never answered, Ian!).

I was particularly pleased to see Tim Montes, whom I had wanted to speak to for the longest time. Tim and I were fellows in 1992, and had lost touch since then. "Mr Alfar!" he greeted me and I immediatel asked him for a story for the antho - so much for small talk. He told me he had his PhD to complete but would take up the challenge anyway - huzzah.

I also got to finally meet Janet and her husband The Coach and we got talking about spelling bees and children and writing. I was happy to see Alvin again and will definitely watch his play at the CCP. I spoke to Ginny about her surreal fiction, Doug about condom use, set a date with Patricia, made arrangements with Tara for our secret thingie, speculated with Abby and Susan over the gender of the bartender, and watched the exhausted Marge just rest for a while (you try teaching for hours on end and see if that doesn't tire you out).

DM Reyes told me that Ateneo had announced that I'd be teaching writing and that students were disappointed when I ultimately declined. I do want to teach, but my work schedule prevents me from going full-time, since I cannot predict when I'll need to meet with clients. But I told DM that I'd happily teach from time to time, by invitation.

Vin and I fell head over heels in love with Penguin Cafe's Rumaki (liver wrapped in bacon) and between us ordered three plates of it (as creatures of appetite, writers are hard to beat: we need to devour to create, so smoke, food, alcohol are all fair game).

It's amazing to see how many writers Doc and Mom Tiempo influenced, inspired and encouraged over the years.

Some pictures:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Alvin, Janet and The Coach

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Me and Tim Montes

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Ginny, someone's back, and Grizzly krip

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Patricia crowning Ino (the city of Manila gave all the awardees sampaguita-festooned crowns)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Vince and DM

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Susan in mid-sentence (sorry Sue!)

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Midnight outside The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

tiempo con tiempo

What I look to forward most this week is dinner with Dr. Edith Tiempo who'll be in town briefly to accept an award. I got a text from Susan Lara and then this email from Krip Yuson:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
On Thursday, June 22, Dr. Edith L. Tiempo, National Artist for Literature and Mom E. to us all, will receive the Gatpuno Antonio Villegas award from the Manila Mayor as part of the Gabi ng Parangal for the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan awardees at Manila City Hall.

Mario Miclat is the Literature or Panitikan awardee this year, while Elynia Ruth Mabanglo is the Tanging Pagkilala awardee. Mom Edith’s award is one of the three special awards other than the regular Patnubay awards that go to winners for each genre.

The invitational Parangal starts at 6pm and will likely end by 8pm, at which time Mom’s special entourage or cordon sanitaire — composed of her official escort Atty Ernesto Superal Yee, together with Dr. Marjorie Evasco, Susan Lara and Danny Reyes, and security agents Dr. Jimmy Abad and Col. Krip Yuson — shall convoy to Penguin Gallery Café on Remedios st., off Remedios Circle, in Malate.

KKB dinner and drinks will follow, with Mom possibly holding court to receive your felicitations should you wish to join the merrymaking. It may be brief, however, with Mom Edith’s presence possibly lasting only until 10:30pm, as she and Atty. Yee have to take the dawn flight back to Dumaguete on Friday.

Dumaguete workshop fellows of all batches and ages are most welcome to join the Penguin get-together the following night.

Come one come all.

A double dose of Mom in the span of year - certainly not to be missed.


One of my responsibilities for Lit Crit Night is providing the readings. For the past couple of months, I've been looking through my own collection of books as well as trawling through the net, questing for interesting stories. I want to share not just stories that I personally liked or enjoyed, but stories that the group and I can learn from, in our dual roles as developing writers and critics. The latter sort of story includes texts that are so poorly written but somehow published - there is value in seeing taking apart something to see how it works or doesn't work, and how our own writing can be improved.

One of the nice things about going through my collection of books and magazines at home and shifting through online sources is that I'm reading more than I used to. As part of screening, I need to read the text, and because of that I discover wonderful new stories as well as rediscover old ones that I loved (my astonishingly poor memory is a blessing in this case, because I reexperience both a thrill and a subdued sense of wonder when I encounter something familiar).

While most of the readings of the group is speculative fiction, I make sure to include doses of realist literature and Philippine lit. In fact, in the many weeks of reading, the group enjoyed Albalucia Angel's "The Guerillero" the most - the very first story we took up. Since then, we've had stories by Kelly Link, Christopher Barzak, Jeffrey Ford, Gavin Grant, Anna Tambour, Samantha Henderson, Ian McLeod, Karen Joy Fowler, Greg Van Eekhout, Teodora Goss, Chuck Palanhuik, Eleanor Arneson, Avram Davidson, Suzette Halden Elgin, John Varley and more. We also spent two weeks critiquing our new fiction - six stories by the six Litcritters, something we'll do again next month, to show that we're not only about reading and learning, but also about writing and producing.

In the coming weeks, the lineup includes Haruki Murakami, Greg Brilliantes, A.S. Byatt, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian Casocot, Rosario Cruz-Lucero, James Patrick Kelly, Tim Pratt, Ray Bradbury, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Joseph Conrad, Krip Yuson, Ursula Le Guin, Harlan Ellson, Gene Wolfe, Sarge Lacuesta, David Moles, Luis Katigbak, Terry Bisson, Michael Chabon, Bing Sitoy, Margo Laganan, James Tiptree, Jr., Vince Groyon, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow... And that's just my list - participants may submit stories for the group to read and learn from.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Yesterday was Father's Day, which Sage interpreted as something equivalent to my birthday. We had planned to spend the day outside, looking for videos, visiting bookstores, dining and generally bumming around, but a very pleasant sense of lethargy took over us and we lounged around the house instead (though at first I thought I was getting sick, since the inactivity bothered me initially).

Sage and I cut out parts of birds out of a variety of colored paper and assembled them - in flight, at rest, singing. For a 4 year old, her manual dexterity is commendable. She knows how to wield her scissors carefully, cutting around edges and corners with great skill. She only got exasperated when she tried to cut out her drawing of a multi-pointed sun which even I had difficulty getting right. Soon birds were everywhere (as well as a lot of discarded colored paper, like failed confetti).

We ordered in - pizza and chicken - and gorged ourselves while watching Simpsons DVDs (Season 17 is a hoot), but only after we picked out all the green pepper on the pizza. Up to this point, I don't see why people put green pepper on pizza, apart from the aesthetic angle. There are ways to enjoy green pepper (stuffed, for instance), but on pizza it's just bitter and irritating. Instead, we praised the mushrooms. Mushrooms are good.

I heard my laptop calling to me throughout the day: "Hey! Hey you! Get your ass over here and finish the stories you started! Bastard!"

But I was too immersed in love to care.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

neato father's day gift

Rich Horton, in his annual Market Summary for the Speculative Literature Foundation, gives a thumbs up to "Terminos", from Rabid Transit: Menagerie.

Happy Father's Day to all dads!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

respite: blue coral

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
For the annual Kestrel company outing, we selected the Blue Coral resort in San Juan, Batangas. As is tradition (in the spirit of the classic JLA/JSA team-ups), my brother's architectural company, JKF-DDC, joined us for two days of fun and sun. Of course, the trip there nearly slew all my brain cells because I loathe protracted road trips. We left Manila at 6:30AM, stopped for breakfast along the way, and got to the resort at half past ten.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
It was lovely (I'd say worth the trip but people will interpret that as a go-signal to coerce me to tag along - but it was wonderful). Camera in hand, I walked around the entire place, wanting to improve my meager skills as a photographer. This monkey was a great subject.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Feeling like a nature photographer, I got up and close with the various creatures. I just feel bad that my shots of the eagle and the frenzied carps did not turn out as well as this one. I like the colors and the irridescence.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Sage wasted no time getting into the water, determined to make the best sand castle in the world. With her water wings, she serenely floated in the sea.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I indulged Vin's fantasy of renting a jet ski by art directing the shot. We didn't, of course, given the astronomical sum - P3,500 per hour. But the Japanese visitors plowed the water with abandon.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Nikki took time off from the sun to do some work. She's judging entries in a literary competition.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Rickey, my brother, is loads of fun and is one of the best traveling companions.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I love taking pictures of my little girl.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Hiyas, Gabby and Desire

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Tanned and happy

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Vin took this shot of me.

I'm tired but recharged!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

anti-social in the stairwell + no to doggerel

i vant to be alone

When I go off into the stairwell for a smoke, it's not because I feel a sudden need to socialize. I stand there, ciggie in hand, to think.

Recently though, a new tenant moved into the building, and one of owners of the business is a smoker like me. Inevitably, we ended up smoking together. The first time was fine, intros, what-do-you-do's, oh-maybe-we-can-work-together's, yada yada. Fine. But the guy must have misinterpreted my politeness for a desire to be friends. And so every time I step out to smoke, if he's there, he pounces on me, inflicting conversation and small talk.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy talking to people. But not when I'm trying to think about a new campaign or problematizing about how to handle the DTI or stuff with the pet store or the uncooperative levitating Princess story.

So now, when I see him there, I give a dazzling smile and go down another flight.

To smoke and think in peace.


Butch announces the new Likhaan journal. Here are details (including the submission guidelines and instructions to "spare us your high-school doggerel").

It's a great opportunity, very competitive - what's not to like? So submit, submit.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

two sentences

Twenty four words.

That's how far I am into my 35,000 word count goal for the writing project I'm supposed to complete by Thursday, two days from now.


Failure is so irksome.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Shut up and write.

Monday, June 12, 2006

fiction: gumamela & rosang taba

Two of my older stories, both from the Hinirang cycle, can be found over at Panitikan (an online resource center for Filipino writers and readers).

"Gumamela" was previously published in ab ovo 2 as "Hindi Ako Gumamela (I Am Not Fringed Hibiscus"). It's a small tale in English with some Tagalog dialogue about a girl named Aponikalandao.

"She told her mother about her dream and her mother told her of the secret bond between the gods and the women of their tribe, the reason she and all other women before and after her would bleed, why that blood must never touch the earth, and the choice she had to make. And she cautioned her daughter never to tell any man about the things she shared." (read more)

"How Rosang Taba Won A Race" is previously unpublished in print (but has prior online incarnations). I retooled it as a short story for children (simply as "Rosang Taba") but it is the original version that appears at Panitikan. Too bad the footnote attributions vanished - but the footnotes themselves can be found at the end of the story.

"This is the story of Rosang Taba (who gained a certain notoriety among the pale-skinned elite as Rosa Gordura, and among the foreign merchants and traders as Rosa the Fat) and how she won a footrace against Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal - champion fencer, marksman, runner, swimmer, horseman, and the pride of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang." (read more)

Friday, June 09, 2006

daughter time and new books

I have a temporary new business partner who sits next to me in my office - Sage. This morning she called me:

SAGE: Dad?

ME: Sage? Hi, sweetie. What's up?

SAGE: Dad, I'm going to take a bath first.

ME: Ok. Before what?

SAGE: Before I visit you.

ME: At my office?

SAGE: Yes, Dad. I want to play there.

ME: But Daddy's working.

SAGE: I'll be good.

ME: Okay, then. I'll wait for you.

She arrived in a flurry of pink and commandeered my absent partner's seat. As I handle phone calls, answer emails and compose campaign elements, she stamps, draws, cuts, folds, staples, measures, laughs, asks questions, spins, laughs louder, tells stories and makes my life beautiful.

Just before she arrived, a package from Amazon appeared on my desk. I am starting to no longer to shocked by the incredible logistics of this company. I placed an order on May 29, was advised I'd get it in July, and here it is. I opened the box with glee and leafed through my new additions to the bookshelf at home, single author collections that I can't wait to devour:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The Emperor of Gondwanaland by Paul di Filippo

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The Shadow at the Bottom of the World by Thomas Ligotti

Three new books and a wonderful daughter. Now that's the good life.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

song-in-your-head syndrome

Right now, it's "Still on Fire" by Aztec Camera. It's so bad that I hum it as I fall asleep. A few weeks ago, it was "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips. At least they're both pleasant.

Unlike Sage's new faux Spider-Man movie laptop that loops a single bit from the chorus of this very insipid (and, frankly, debilitating) Vengaboys song:

Hey now, hey now, here's what I say now
Happiness is just around the corner

Over and over and over and over again.

In car. With a little girl happily singing along. For hours and hours and hours.

Even Mr. Happyland himself wanted to hurl the laptop out of the car.

Instead, we decided to critique the lone lyric fragment and talked philosophy, over the killer beat, waiting for the battery to die.

fiction: six from downtown (excerpt)

"Six From Downtown'
by Dean Francis Alfar

The Housing Projects

I WAKE UP from a troubling dream and realize my wife has left again without telling me. She’s dealing with the anxiety of our inability to have a child in her own way – there, I’ve said it, it’s out in the open. Seven years of trying nearly everything wears anyone down. I check near the window and see she’ll be back before the sun rises. She’s never completely gone.

Unable to return to sleep, I decide to go out for a drink and a massage, leaving at just past midnight. I lock up, walk a bit in the gentle drizzle, and wait for a cab.

Once in a while, I do this: find a friendly bar, have a couple of beers and just vegetate. It’s important that I’m alone. I do not want or need conversation and I certainly don’t want to think. On occasion someone comes over to talk. I don’t respond. I am not in the mood for someone else’s story, whether it is as banal as a prostitute with a heart of gold, as artless as a philandering man, or as half-flattering as some guy who thinks I’m cruising the bar for some action. I wear a mask of stupidity, of being unable to comprehend complicated sentences, and radiate a zone of general antipathy in the blue cloud of my cigarette smoke.

After I pay for my drinks, I take another cab. The dark streets offer no traffic, glistening with the dull sheen left behind by the superficial rain. At the Korean bathhouse I frequent, I check in, strip and take a bath while sitting on a small wooden stool. Then I immerse myself in the hot waters of the main pool, oblivious to the amiable argy-bargy of the other men around me, Filipinos and foreigners, simultaneously exposed and cloaked by steaming water. I soak until I feel the alcohol in my system flushing out via sweat. Then I go for my massage, hoping that the lady I like is present. She is, and soon her iron fingers wedge themselves into the knots of my aching back, shaking my body’s dalliance with sadness with redemptive pain.

Afterwards, I go up to the bar in my robe and have a glass of Shiraz, mellow and with a hint of tartness, and look beyond the glass walls and out into the street below. I think of nothing, not work or children. For a while I pretend to be consumed by nothing, no cares, no worries. Just for a while.

Before 5AM, I ride a third cab home to the condo. I check to see if my wife is back but she isn’t. The lower half of her body is still standing where she left it, next to the window, wearing only the floral patterned panties I don’t like very much. I look out the window of our 33rd floor unit and see the grey skies slowly changing hues.

I know she’ll fly back. She’s on her way home.

I realize that I am desperately hungry, that everything in my system since midnight has been smoke and alcohol. I make scrambled eggs the way I like them (heat the pan with a little oil, dump the eggs, whisk briskly to separate the mass, then on to a plate – the entire process takes only a few seconds) plus a couple of links of sticky longganisa.

My wife arrives in a rustle of wings. I look up from my early breakfast and she is there, framed by the bedroom doorway, flushed and glowing with perspiration.

“You’ve been out,” she says, kicking out the kinks in her legs which had gone asleep while she was away.

I nod. “A couple of beers and a massage.”

“Good, good,” she says, moving to the kitchen counter for a glass.

“Hungry?” I ask, pointing to my half-eaten meal.

“No, thanks,” she says, filling her glass with water from the dispenser. “I just ate.”

Later in bed, after she showers, I lean over and kiss her.

“You want to try again?” I ask, tracing the contours of her face with my fingers.

In the light of dawn, she turns away to hide her tears.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The rest of the story appears in the June 10, 2006 issue of Philippines Free Press.

dean: 0 story: 1

Sometimes, in the process of writing, I end up wrestling with a story.

For instance, I have been problematizing about the "Princess Karnak" story. I started basically with an image of a tired-looking woman in heavy stage make-up levitating under a magician's hand. I started writing without an idea of plot and wrote a scene. It looked good and I decided to use it for the end sequence. Then I changed my mind, rewrote it as a prolepsis and put it at the start so that I could use the flashback technique. Then everything stalled.

I stepped back for some time and let the story flop around in my mind, teasing it a little bit here, poking it a little bit there. Soon, three characters came to light; two women and one man. I looked at them and found myself in conflict with one of them. I preferred to limit the story to two characters, but the third one wouldn't go away. Fine. So I started writing again, junking the initial scene I wrote a while back and crashed into the issue of POV (point of view).

Initially, I thought the story would be told in third person omniscient, but suddenly it seemed incorrect, a wrong fit. I was irritated because suddenly the character I didn't like got to "speak", in terms of being a narrator (this happens when the things are decentralized). So I stepped back again and let the story ferment.

A few days ago, in the midst of writing something else, the story came back - completed in terms of plot, narrative, tone and character. All I needed to do was to write it down and do my usual tinkering.

The problem was I didn't like the story. I didn't like the tone, I didn't like the structure, and I was still cold to the third character (I feel she's just a token character with no real function except to provide another perspective in terms of narration). Furthermore, the story had lost its magic, the very "speculative-fiction" nature of it. It was a realist thing about choice set during a magic show/performance, and apart from the cosmetics, there was no real wonder. I could approach it from a language perspective (to "wonderize" it) but it was not the story I thought it would be.

So that's the status quo. I have a story in my head but feel loathe to set it down. I feel somewhat piqued and bit disappointed (like I was expecting to taste chocolate but got a mouthfull of something savory instead).

I started to write anyway, in bursts of words, but I could feel my lack of interest in the entire thing; I could see it in my word choice, in my truncated sentences that held little adventurousness, in the less than inspired dialogue, in the lazy description, and in the way I just wanted to hurry and get it over with.

Where is the love? I don't know.

I plan to finish it anyway, exorcise it, and then see if it is something I can grow to like. If so, great. If not, I will strip it down and rewrite it until it becomes the story I intended it to be in the first place.

Sometimes though, this is a futile exercise. Certain stories get written exactly as they should be (I know, it sounds freaky, as if I subscribe to the notion that there are fully formed stories floating around the ether, waiting to be expressed - I don't), while certain stories are more agreeable to being tweaked and molded to the author's will or agenda. Some stories have a definite personality from the get-go, others do not (just like writers, haha).

It is a case of author versus story (which should make an interesting story in itself, but I'm sure it has been done before), and currently, the advantage is to the story.

So how will it all turn out? We'll see. But in the meantime, I'll write it and get to work on the other stuff on the writing totem pole.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

things I can live without

Cockroaches – These creatures are filthy and when they take wing, I am reduced to a quivering pile of evaporated testosterone. The cockroach flies in an erratic circular pattern that suddenly changes at whim. When I was young and still wore pajamas, I was victimized by one that decided to invade my top. The resulting frenzy of it zipping all over my skin while I frantically tore off my pjs is the reason I sleep almost naked. It isn’t logical (because a cockroach can still decide to crawl on my exposed skin) but it feels right. If I see one on the floor I will immediately step on it. However, I am more cautious if I notice one clinging to a wall – because it could fly.

Time-consuming elevators – I cannot stand slow elevators. I live on the top floor of a condo building and quietly gnash my teeth when it stops at every floor. Often it is because people need to get off or on. But sometimes it is because someone presses a button in error. That person will inadvertently turn to someone else in the lift, sometimes to me, and smile sheepishly. During those times, I want to strike them with my laptop bag repeatedly but decide not to act since the contents of my laptop are more important than annihilating that person. There are times when one of the elevators is being repaired, which forces everyone to fight for space in the available lift. Those times are truly hellish, to the point where I consider taking Nikki and Sage away and checking in a hotel until the repairs are completed.

Overland travel – Extended land travel in whatever vehicle is painful. I’m okay for around 30 minutes then get antsy, bored, tired, irritable then murderous. I don’t care about “the journey”. I don’t care about the sights or the majestic vistas or whatever – if I truly cared, I’d read a travel guide or watch Discovery. I just want to be there. When I was a teenager, my mother forced me to take a bus ride from Manila to Ilocos province. It took me 80 years to get there, stuck with vomit-prone children and their heavily perfumed mothers. I’d rather pay through the nose and get a plane ride.

Slow service providers – It never fails. I always get the slowest possible waiter or order taker or cashier or salesperson that most likely has most terrible neurological condition that I should be sympathetic about but am not. In addition to moving like snails, these people invariably get something wrong. I try to be patient (I can sense my wife laughing) but I'm cursed, I think.

Hurry up and wait – As can be gleaned from other entries, I’m big on time, so one of the things I cannot stand is being on time for a meeting only to have to wait for a tardy client, supplier or friend. In the recent years though, I’ve begun to accept the situation (keyword: begun) and try to do something useful. I once completed a short story in the hour or so I had to wait for a hotel client (at least I was in a hotel). Scratch that. I’m lying. Having to wait for tardy people still really pisses me off. I’m getting an apoplexy just thinking about it. Ack,

Wretched fiction – I read a lot, particularly short fiction, for pleasure or when I’m wearing my editor/anthologist hat. The sheer amount of poorly written prose is depressing. Terrible grammar, mangled subject-verb agreement, stories that aren’t stories, the list goes on. I don’t expect everyone to write superbly (hell, I cringe at my own stuff), but I wish people would take more time to polish and edit their work. In the case of published prose, I blame the editor more than the author (and I know this because I’ve had my share of oversights). On the other hand, no spit-and-polish or editorial prowess can save a truly horrible story. Dr. Tiempo likes to say “Never abandon a story”. To a certain extent I agree. But once in a while, a story is written whose very existence is a blight to the fundamental order of the universe. Those stories must be hurled into oblivion.

Love handles – Because I hardly exercise, I’ve developed a paunch and love handles. While it can be argued that these things are status symbols (Oh look! Dean is so well-fed, he must be successful!) or a reaction against the entire starving-writer thing, I’d prefer my lean look – but not the walking-stick look I affected during most of my high school years, when an errant breeze could threaten to blow me away to China. Part of me has given up on hoping to be slim – because hope without action is truly pathetic (and believe me, I’m not acting). And yet the escalating waist line is appalling. Therefore the only possible action point for this lazy writer is liposuction, courtesy of one of Vicky Bello’s clinics (I saw one at the Podium the other day) – if only I had the money and could stand the pain. Since I fail both conditions, I will have to diet and climb 36 flights of stairs on some schedule without killing myself in the process. Sigh.

Cinnamon – The most offensive smell known to man (well, this man, at least). I cannot stand the stench of cinnamon. It makes me want to faint or hurl or run away screaming. And naturally, I find cinnamon rolls an abomination, a work of the devil, one of the signs of the upcoming apocalypse (it is 6/6/6 today, right?). My wife and friends have to consume this terrible substance in secrecy, or when we’re separated by time zones. But even then, I can tell, and I always feel…betrayed.

Work-related stress – Oh my, there are too many examples to list, and I could lose accounts. Therefore I will vent obliquely: the world would be a better place if certain people simply vanished. There. Elegant and presented in vague yet effective language.

The Amoeba Overlords – These guys have been residents in my system for years. We exist in a delicate détente reminiscent of the Cold War years. For as long as I do not touch milk or raw seafood, they are content to play Sid Meier’s Civilization in my intestines. When I do choose to defy them (and it had better be a deliberate choice rather than accidental unwary consumption) I need to be near a bathroom. Or I die. Simple as that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

fish, filipiniana and fiction

the wet market

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Here's a wonderful illustration mailed to me by artist Cev Ruiz. I love fantastic imagery and I think it's perfect for my story "Six From Downtown".

Thanks, Cev!

rizalistas, take heed

A friend has put up a new small indie press - Quatre Gats.

And look! An open call for submissions:

Tropics of Love (An anthology of fiction based on Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo").

Deadline for submission of stories is on November 1, 2006. Listed below are the submission guidelines.

1. Stories must range between 2,000 to 10,000 words.

2. They may be written either in English or in Filipino.

3. Stories must contain or reference characters, scenarios, storylines and themes from either the Noli or the Fili or both.

4. Only writers based in the Philippines are allowed to submit.

5. A writer may submit only up to two stories for consideration.

6. All submissions must be sent as attachments (in Word or Rich Text File format) to

philippine sf blog

"The Fantasy, Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction in the Philippines weblog is a repository of thoughts re: SSFF (speculative, science fiction and fantasy) productions made within the Republic of the Philippines, or by Filipino writers."

I'm uncomfortable with using "SSFF" (“Speculative, Science and Fantasy Fiction”), preferring instead plain old "Speculative Fiction" which I feel is a better umbrella term - but that's just me.

The site announces markets and other calls for submissions which, I hope, encourages more spec ficionists to write and get published.

Monday, June 05, 2006

a broken time machine

I'll be on the Writers Panel next month during The 4th Annual Philippine Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. The 2-day event, "New Worlds 4: A Broken Time Machine" is presented by The New Worlds Alliance and Fully Booked. The winners of The First Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards will be announced then, so it should be quite exciting.

As for the panel I'll be on, it's envisioned to be something like "an intimate conversation among fans about inspiration, creativity and craft."

It'll be on July 15 and 16, 2006 at The Rockwell Tent, Powerplant Mall, Rockwell, Makati City.

I'm happy to have an opportunity to celebrate speculative fiction in its varied forms.


New Worlds Alliance Philippines LJ Community
New Worlds Alliance Philippines Website (in the works)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

assorted delights

chicken joy

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Once in a while, a comic book comes along that blows everything else out of the water by the virtue of its excellence. This time around, it's "Elmer" by Gerry Alanguilan.

"Elmer" tells the story of a chicken caught up in the realities of life, deftly presented by Alanguilan whose storytelling prowess is at its finest. The textured nuances of his characterization permit observations and explorations into the themes of loss and longing, love and duty, differences and commonalities, and the confusing complexities of familial relationships. In the same manner that the Pulitzer-award winning "Maus" managed to evoke the human condition via the travails of mice, Alanguilan's anthropomorphized poultry provides a mirror for us to look at ourselves and our common concerns.

What sets this comic book apart is the author's matured storytelling, fulfilling the promise of his earlier work and continuing the natural evolution of his artistic growth. On the graphic side of things, he balances technical challenges (using a 9 panel grid, or anatomically accurate poutry) and creative expression (showing emotions in the faces and body language of his avian characters) and presents a final product that I can only imagine would be stunning in full color but works nonetheless in stark black and white.

Easily the best comic book I've read this year (including both local and imported comic books), "Elmer" is something you must read.

After reading and reading the book, I consider the author the most talented creator in the industry today, which is only fitting because Alanguilan is also the caretaker of the past of Filipino komiks. He admirably bridges the past, present and the future of Filipino graphic fiction. It is with "Elmer" that Alanguilan truly makes his mark, raising the bar high for all who would follow after.

I'm proud to have worked with him - and to call him both friend and comrade-in-comics.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
With Gerry Alanguilan ("Elmer")

"Elmer" is available at ComicQuest, Comics Odyssey and Druid's Keep (P50).

my heart's joy

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Nikki Alfar, wife, lover and best friend (hard to believe we're celebrating 11 years of marriage this December)

After watching "Doubt" (made potent by the performance of Cherie Gil but marred by he ill-suited casting and atrocious accent of Niccolo Manahan), we headed off for after-dinner coffee and cake at Max Brenner's, where I caught my favorite subject (she's tied with Sage, my daughter) in natural light. Sitting outside in the cool air generated by the rain, we spoke of literature with friends, savoring cigarettes and conversation.

joyful words 1: regarding salamanca and the philippine novel

In the latest issue of Panorama magazine, Dr. Cirilo Bautista writes about Salamanca (thanks to aa and Alvin for the headsup). An excerpt:
Dean Francis Alfar's novel, Salamanca (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006) is now available in bookstores. It won last year's Palanca Contest for the novel in which we were the chairman of the board of judges. We found it way above the other entries for its linguistic competence and artistic merits. Later, as a reader assessing its worthiness for book publication, we gave it a positive recommendation. For Alfar has created a love story that is memorable for its emotional restraint, sustained interest, exceptional characters, and well-conceived plot. The narrative moves at an appropriate pace to render [a] unique interpretation of a slice of Philippine life. The title [says] it all - there is some magic determining the relationship of the main characters Gaudencio Rivera and Jacinta Cordova, and Alfar does sleight-of-pen that attempts to draw us into an enjoyable spell.

He goes on to write about how magic realism has influenced a number of Filipino authors, which is no surprise, because we "possess a consciousness which is a source spring of the unusual and the grotesque. Our geography and climate encourage extreme imagination." He cautions against it's unconsidered use, writing about the necessity of reinventing magic realism, "Filipinizing" it so that it reflects our sensibilities and not South America's. To which I heartily concur.

It's important to understand that the manner in which a story is told is just another item from the toolkit of a writer - but it is a loaded one. We need to shape the style into something that approximates the Filipino condition understanding, at the same time, that there is a certain universality to the experience of the human condition that we tap into regardless of language or culture.

Over lunch one day with writer Ian Casocot and poet Larry Ypil, I was asked: "Where are you taking the Filipino novel? Where is it going?". I never considered myself an authority on such big questions, and certainly having written a single novel does not qualify me to provide an unassailable answer. I am not the first and certainly not the best writer. However, I do have an opinion.

Kailangan unahin ang kwento at hindi ang nais ituro ng may-akda.

We need to valorize story and position it above didactic agenda. That is the direction I'd prefer our novelistic literature to head towards, regardless of how the narrative is presented to the reader (magic realism/speculative fiction is just one of many, all of them valid for as long as they prioritize story). Stories that move readers, characters that breathe and long for something, settings that become real in the mind's eye - the lessons will follow.

I would prefer to read a Filipino novel whose words, be they sad or strong, mundane or fantastical, bring me joy as a reader - by telling a story in the best way that suits the story.

And if I can contribute in that direction, I will.

joyful words 2: regarding terminos

Over at The SF Site, Rabid Transit: Menagerie (edited by Christopher Barzak, Alan DeNiro and Kristin Livdahl) is reviewed by David Hebblethwaite.

Regarding my contribution, he writes:
Now on to what, for me, is the best story in the book -- "Terminós" by Dean Francis Alfar. Mr. Henares is a merchant of time: if you have any unwanted memories, or time to spare, or futures you'd rather not experience, he'll take them off your hands. Miguel Lopez Vicente is a writer who has run out of ideas. On his 32nd birthday, he visits Mr. Henares, saying, "I have come to trade away all my days." We then follow Miguel back through his life, as he tries to find a suitable ending. Alfar's writing is very beautiful, lending the story an authenticity that draws the reader in. A wonderful tale.

I'm thankful for the kind and generous reading of my work.

(As for me, I found Vandana Singh's "The Sign in the Window" and Rudi Dornemann's "The Sky Green Box" the best stories of the antho. Thanks all over again to Chris, Kristin and Alan for the opportunity.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

working writers

For the past two weeks, our lit crit/writing group has been critiquing original fiction by the writer-members. The overall quality of the six pieces discussed and workshopped is quite good. Two of the stories are ready for publication, while others will soon be so after some tweaks and rewrites. In a few weeks we'll be critiquing a new set of stories by all of us, written in June/July. I'm happy that we are all gungho on writing and open to critiques that lead to improvements in terms of craft.

It is a learning process for all of us, as we deal with the dual modes of writer and critic, and it leads to long and interesting discussions. Last night, for example, we spoke about point of attack, literary aesthetics, the subjectivity of subject matter, thematic patterns, expository techniques, surrealism, psychological space, the unreliable narrator, story structure, prolepsis/analepsis, and several other craft-related things. It is important for writers to understand what they are doing and how they go about it. At certain point, you do not just "write a story", you create it using tools of craft with a lot of thought (which is not to say you cannot just write when you're in "the zone", but certainly in the post-zone rewrites, craft comes in).

The best thing for me, in the midst of all these writerly concepts, is reading new fiction - seeing the first draft worked until it tells the story in the best way it can. And knowing that the writers have more stories to tell.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

story lengths

I've been asked how many words make up a short story or a novel, and what is the difference - in terms of length - between a novella and a novelette.

For peace of mind, I use the word counts used by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA):

Vignette - under 1,000 words
Short Story - 1,000 - 7,499 words
Novelette - 7,500 - 17,4999 words
Novella - 17,500 - 39,999 words
Novel - 40,000 words

Personally, my short fiction usually falls in the 3500 - 6000 words range. I don't plan the length ahead of time but my stories usually end when they want to end, way before 7,499 words.

I'm very uncomfortable with novelette and novella length (though maybe I can write a novelette). My thought process is "might as well go for full-length novel while I'm at it."

open call for submissions: philippine speculative fiction vol.2

(I will repost this at the beginning of each month until September.

And to answer a couple of FAQs: while there is a minimum word count of 3000 words, if you feel your piece is strong, send it in anyway; and here's a handy definition of speculative fiction.

Feel free to cut and paste this announcement - in fact, I'd appreciate it. Hope to read your work soon!).

I am now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology "Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol.2". Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, magic realism, surrealism or falls into the cracks in-between.

1. Only works of speculative fiction will be considered for publication. As works of the imagination, the theme is open and free.

2. Stories must cater to an adult sensibility.

3. Stories must be written in English.

4. Stories must be authored by Filipinos or those of Philippine ancestry.

5. Preference will be given to original unpublished stories, but previously published stories will also be considered. In the case of previously published material, kindly include the title of the publishing entity and the publication date.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the initial volume, there was a near 50-50 split of established and new authors.

7. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 3,000 words and no more than 5,000 words.

9. All submissions must be in Rich Text Format (.rtf – save the document as .rft on your word processor) and attached to an email to this address: Submissions received in any other format will be deleted, unread.

10. The subject of your email must read: 2nd Philippine Speculative Fiction Submission: (title) (word count); where (title) is replaced by the title of your short story, without the parentheses, and (word count) is the word count of your story, without the parentheses.

For example - 2nd Philippine Speculative Fiction Submission: The Last Siren 4500.

11. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes your name, brief bio, contact information, previous work (if any).

12. Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2006. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

13. Target publishing date is December 2006/January 2007.

14. Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology.

Dean Francis Alfar, editor

Notes from the Peanut Gallery

behold; i burn with the fury of a thousand suns

And I will wrap you in my fiery embrace!

(Just venting a bit, after a ridiculous rollercoaster morning dealing with erratic clients, arrogant government agencies and petulant suppliers.

And there's still an entire afternoon to deal with.

I will go for a smoke now, before I tear out my beard, hair by hair.)