Tuesday, July 17, 2007

thinking2: towards philippine speculative fiction

See this earlier post for the caveats and context. In a future post, I'll deal with authorship as a means of identifying Phil Spec Fic.

B. Non-Philippine Setting + Philippine Characters = Philippine Spec Fic?

In the totem of pole of discourse elements, authors are free to prioritize whichever element they feel is most important to the particular story at hand (and as authors - for example, there are authors for whom world building is the number one priority, always). Majority of writers I know prioritize character, and spend the most amount of writing time on this aspect - the argument, after all, is that it is through the actions, reactions, dialogue, mindscape, and lives of the characters that the story is anchored in terms of being able to provide observations of the human condition.

If the characters are Filipino (or a mix of Filipinos and non-Filipinos) then it seems reasonable to think that the text would be an example of Philippine Speculative Fiction (the basic assumption is that there are spec fic elements in the first place).

But why do we immediately assume this? Is it a fair assumption? Does the Filipino character have to do something instrically Filipino to merit the label? Does the character have to exhibit identifiable Filipino traits? Think like a Filipino? Act like a Filipino? Or is the direct label (or even a suggestion of nationality or country of origin) enough? Is it enough to reference that Pedro came from Manila and then have Pedro act as any other character would? Or is Pedro required to act in a manner that is distinctly pinoy? And if so, then what do we mean by this? Should we adopt the existing stereotypes or create new stereotypes?

Non-Philippine Setting + Philippine Characters = Philippine Fantasy?

This type of story is easy to imagine. We can use the basic trope of the "Portal" and shunt, for example, a bunch of Filipino students to an otherworld. The interaction of the Filipino characters as they adjust/adapt to the new environment would make interesting reading, especially as magic and new races are bound to be involved. There are many many many ways to tell fantastic stories with this formulation.

The burden also rests on the non-Philippine setting. The easy way out would be to kowtow to the Western influence and have castles and kingdoms in peril - as if these kinds of settings are the automatic default. This tendency (to equate fantasy with forests and burrows and mountain peaks and mystic lakes and such) is derived from the Western books we've read, the movies we've seen and the powerful combination of pop culture + the colonial mentality that exists in the country (wherein America/the West is the land of plenty/opportunity, and anything imported "must be good").

I feel we should, given this opportunity, create new settings that are not derived from the West. We should create a sense of Place that can override this default kind of thinking. Some people I've talked to balk at this notion, because of the impression that the ancient Philippines had nothing (or very little) of value to provide as a setting. After all, the argument goes, we had no castles and such, and lived in tribes. We had no ancient civilizations, no sexy pantheons, no artifacts, etc, etc, etc. It's tiring to counter and I can see the what the ultimate point is: a sad sense that we have nothing comparable to the West. The better question is: so what? With the power of fiction we can take what there is (or not) and craft and spin and create some Place new, which is ours, and hopefully, in the course of time and usage, be the dafault for Filipino writers, and Asian writers, and anybody else who wishes to come to play in our Place.

We need a Place, people. And by Place, I do not mean a definite place (like Camelot or Middle Earth). I mean the sensibility of a Place, a set of motifs that determine it as definitely ours, perhaps new tropes that do more than suggest or imply, but slap you in the face with the fact that this here is our Place. Yes, in the end, the non-Philippine setting needs to be, somehow, Filipino too (sense of Place).

Non-Philippine Setting + Philippine Characters = Philippine Scifi?

I think we can construct science fiction along this formulation for as long as the characters are strong and the idea is strong. We cannot segregate the notion of "the idea" from science fiction. But also, I think we cannot prioritize "the idea" over character. A combination of character and the conceit will carry the story.

"The idea" can be universal; science after all is universal, but it's impact on the Filipino characters is what makes it Philippine Science Fiction.

It can also be argued that the genesis or origin of "the idea" can come from a Filipino and therefore the entire text is immediately Filipino.

More on this as I ponder.

Non-Philippine Setting + Philippine Characters = Philippine Horror?

All the more the onus is on the characters, because if you can simply substitute someone else (of another country of origin or ethnicity) for the main character and your story still works - then having Filipino characters in the first place was not important.

What kind of story is this? Maybe OFWs in the Middle East dealing with monsters there - there are many ways to tell a frightening "fish/Filipino out of water" stories.

Character is vital, and having Filipino characters in this formulation is what makes it work. Stories must achieve the point where they will fail IF the characters are not Filipino - in the context of determining if they are examples of Phil Spec Fic.


C. Philippine Setting + Non-Philippine Characters = Philippine Spec Fic?

D. Non-Philippine Setting + Non-Philippine Characters = Philippine Spec Fic?

E. Filipino author = Philippine Spec Fic?

F. Non-Filipino author = Philippine Spec Fic?

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home