Monday, September 24, 2007

a wondrous can of worms

I am, of course, delighted with all the discussions on just what the hell "Philippine Speculative Fiction" is. Kyu has a list of people expressing opinions left and right, with very interesting and strongly-worded stances from Bhex and Tin and Sean.

It reminds me of the fact that I was supposed to be ruminating about this thing myself (started here with Parts One, Two and Three, limiting myself to two discourse elements first: character and setting) before real life and work took over.

I'm happy that there is impassioned discussion because it shows that there are people who care about this thing. Yes, I subscribe to the "write the story first and let the critics do what they do best but dammit write" but I am also a card-carrying member of the "you are responsible for what you write and it is your responsibility as a writer to know just what it is you're getting yourself into", as well as of the school of "the story doesn't come out of nowhere but is a text constructed by the author, which means that there are no accidents where it matters", and the "shut up, suck it up, grow up, you overly sensitive moronic writer" philosophy. I also pay dues to: "no one tells me what to or what not to write", the "literature must 'help' others", "language does not equal nationalism", "at a certain point, enough of this postcolonial anxiety, just write", and I have a blood-stained pin from the "show me what you mean - write a story that conforms to the theory you espouse; if you can't put up, shut up".

Oh, and I am a Filipino who writes in English (it seems that the order of the day is define, define, define).

Now the wonderful thing about this can of worms is that writers are being forced to consider issues that they normally are unaware of (or choose to ignore). Writing is political (yes, I get monthly magazines from "the personal is political" club too), and a writer's life does not begin and end purely with the text he or she produced.

It would seem that I am expected to weigh in on the issues discussed. To a great extent I have, though as I have posted before, I am not 100% persuaded by my own reasoning (there's lots to consider). I will write more on these subjects - soon.

In the meantime, I encourage more people to weigh in. Nothing is set in stone. Do not be intimidated by the academic-sounding articulations of some bloggers (they can't help their background, as they razzledazzle you with theory and jargon - their hearts are in the right place).

My only contribution at this time is to define (there it is again) how I view the big picture. As the co-editor with Nikki on an anthology called "Philippine Speculative Fiction", I am more descriptive than prescriptive.

Tin Mandigma writes: "People might say that making prescriptions and definitions is a critic’s job, as if writers sleepwalk their way through their stories, and as if speculative fiction writers, especially, are exempt from the responsibilities of writing literature because they claim to simply be ‘telling stories’ (excuse me)."

Wearing my editorial hat, I do not believe, at this stage in the development of PSF, that prescription is the best way to get excellent spec fic from a variety of writers. In the context of the annual antho, I'd rather present a variety of stories, including the occassional one that challenges what I think spec fic is. We need to see what grows, reading new stories every year, each story contributing to the definition. The answer to "What is Philippine Speculative Fiction?" is "A definition in progress". At this point, I'd rather err in terms of being inclusive than exclusive.

So I am anti-prescriptive, yes.

But wait! I am also pro-prescriptive.

As a writer, I firmly self-prescribe when I develop a text. My story needs to satisfy the unwritten rules of my own personal writing aesthetics, gently but truthfully represent my literary (and other) politics and sensibilities, be of a certain quality I personally judge to be acceptable (mas maganda sa Pilipino: yung hindi naman nakakahiya ipabasa sa iba), and, of course, tell a story.

And now, off to do some writing.



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