Friday, April 25, 2008

vignette: sunboy

Jerry loves the sun, fucking loves it like no one’s business. Mornings, he stays by the window in the living room, tracking the sun over the course of hours, adjusting his position on the floor incrementally, minute by minute, like a beatific sunflower in slow motion. Lunchtime finds him in the kitchen where the kitchen jalousies convert the sunlight into blurred gems of muted colors splayed on the floor and walls, transforming the metal cookware into magical artifacts. Afternoons, he begins to cry. At first, just moisture in his eyes as he watches the sun go lower and lower from his vantage point in the garage, then as the fading brilliance turns into shades of orange, he mutters to himself, exactly what who knows. Sunboy sits on his wheelchair amid the skeletal remains of Dad’s Ford Fiera, he mourns the dissolution of his solar empire, his agitated mumblings rising in volume as he weeps inconsolably.

Mama and I gave up trying to comfort him at sunset, surrendered a long time ago when we realized that there was really nothing we could do, nothing we could say to persuade him that it was only temporary, that there would always be another dawn, another day, to look forward to, that the sun would be back, back in the fucking sky for him to love and adore all over again. We just leave him alone, switching on the garage fluorescent when it becomes too dark for us to see him, and wait for him to come back into the house.

Sunboy rolls in, a zombie on a second-hand wheelchair, head bowed low, snot running down his nose, his face muddied by the track of tears. He joins us at the dining table and eats his food quietly, for even sun lovers know they need something in their stomachs – at least in that regard Jerry never gives us problems. When dinner is done, he waits for me to carry him to his bedroom. There were times when I didn’t want to pick up his skinny frame, just a bag of bones, but it became routine and because it became routine it became somewhat okay to do. Besides, he’d grown too big for Mama and there’s really just me.

Jerry isn’t afraid of the dark, doesn’t give a shit if the lights are on or off. He just sits there, whispering whatever it is he says to himself to get him through the night. It’s like some kind of punishment for him, for failing to keep the sun alive with his love. Having stubbed my toes more times than I care to remember carrying him into his room, I pause at the entrance, shift his head from one shoulder to another and turn the lights on. If the sun suddenly really vanished, Jerry’s room would provide untold generations that followed with a shrine of memory. Posters cover the wall, each one of them of the sun, from high resolution photos from spacecraft to artist’s renditions, all of them blazing, shining and impossible to ignore. Mama got him sun-themed bed sheets, the crappy kiddie kind that has Mr. Sun with a fucking smile. Jerry adores them and refuses to have them changed. We had a small problem with that until I came up with the obvious solution and got him another set so Mama or I can change his beddings while he communes with his superheated friend in the sky.

When I set him down he turns his face toward me.

“I’m going to die tonight,” he says. Or “Goodbye, goodbye.” Or “The sun needs me.” Or some shit like that. Once, just once, I wish he’d say something like, “Thanks for carrying me, Kuya.” Or, “I’m sorry I fucked up your life and Mama’s too.” Or, “Hey, this is the last time you’ll have to do anything for me because, you know what? I’m cured! I’m normal! I can wipe my own ass from this moment on.” I wish.

Tonight Sunboy just says, “I’m going after the sun.”

And I say “Right.” Then, “I’ll be back to brush your teeth.”



With all the juggling between three days of lectures at AIM on direct marketing, brand valuations, predictive modeling and such, along with the usual project workloads (launching a new restaurant, consulting for internet companies, prepping for fall-holiday campaigns, generating leads and pitching to new clients), I am usually close to braindead, creatively, when I get home. Not in the sense that I cannot enjoy time with my lovely pregnant wife and "Love And Berry"-addicted daughter, I can and do, with sense of humor intact. But when everything quiets down and I have a moment to myself, all the discipline in the world delivers the smallest amount of words. My writing has bogged down.

It's easy to list rationalizations: fatigue, humidity, distractions, disengagement with subject matter. I put myself on a self-imposed story-a-day regimen - it worked for a couple of days, producing a couple of defensible stories, but when the demands of business spilled into my disciplined writing time (as a business owner, I have "homework"), I could not focus on short fiction, much more the novel.

I despise my turtle-pace. It's back to guerilla writing.


Monday, April 21, 2008

litcritters open session

Everyone is invited to join us as we talk about stories and writing this Saturday, the 26th, at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center). We'll be discussing the following stories (join the LitCritters group and download reading copies):

Thousand Year Eve by Sarge Lacuesta
A Godmother's Gift by January Mortimer
A Princess of the Earth by Mike Resnick

These past few weeks, we read, critiqued, blissed out on - or went on terrifying rants against - the following stories:

Giving Birth by Margaret Atwood
Lambing Season by Molly Gloss
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde
The Gentle Brush of Wings by David Wilson
Appleless by Aimee Bender
Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley
Jack's House by Jay Lake
The Fool, the Stick, and the Princess by Rachel Pollack
Found Objects by Jennifer Egan
A Place I've Never Been by David Leavitt
Fire-bringer by Nick Mamatas
Linkworlds by Will McIntosh
A Light in Troy by Sarah Monette
There's No Light Between Floors by Paul Tremblay
Man in the Mountain by JM McDermott

We love to read, we love to write and believe we learn how to write better stories by both reading and writing. Discussions about stories and writing should not be boring and stuffy and only for the privileged theorists - it should be fun and always looked forward to, something enjoyable, educational and social (reading is private, talking isn't).


Friday, April 18, 2008

spec fic on tv

Finished taping segment for 'Korina Today", a talk show of Korina Sanchez. We talked about spec fic, "The Middle Prince" and writing, and I was freezing my balls off (nobody told me that the studio would be so cold). With me were fellow contributors to Jing Hidalgo's antho "Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy" Carljoe Javier and Samantha Exchavez. I'm delighted that Jing's book was featured. My hope, of course, is that it encourages more people to write the literature of the fantastic. The show airs today at 6PM and 11PM today, ANC.

I also got invited by Linda Panlilio to contribute to her next antho (her previous antho, "The Manila We Knew", won the National Book Award last year over -sob- PSF2), which has a very interesting premise and an formidable roster of contributors - but it should be fun.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

open call for submissions - philippine speculative fiction IV

It's hard to believe, but it's that time of year again (even harder to believe that this is our 4th year)!

Nikki Alfar and I are now accepting submissions of short fiction pieces for consideration for the anthology "Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol.4".

Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism 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. However, if you have a Young Adult story that is particularly well-written, send it in.

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. Kindly state also in your cover letter that you have the permission, if necessary, from the original publishing entity to republish your work.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. In the first three volumes, there was a good mix of established and new authors. Good stories trump literary credentials anytime.

7. No multiple submissions. Each author may submit only one story for consideration.

8. Each story’s word count must be no fewer than 1,500 words and no more than 7,500 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: PSF4 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 - PSF4 Submission: Magdalena Brings Fire 3500.

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

12. Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2008. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

13. Target publishing date is December 2008/January 2009.

14. Compensation for selected stories will be 2 contributor’s copies of the published anthology as well as a share in aggregrate royalties.

Kindly help spread the word. Feel free to cut and paste or link to this on your blogs or e-groups.

Thanks,Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar

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Friday, April 11, 2008


Regret nothing.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

album cover mania

Secretly, one of the things that consumes my time when I'm online is looking for album art for the songs on my iTouch. I didn't care much about album art when I had a regular iPod Video, but with the iTouch's swivelly album selection interface, suddenly I am distubed by the blank spots - hence, the quest for all the album covers in existence. I am enslaved by the need for everything to be pretty (sigh).

This addiction began rather innocently. I thought I'd spend an hour and be done with it. But no. Alternate cover from different releases, promotional art, band pictures and such all presented themselves (even the choice of the cover of the single versus the album cover caused great angst). There was also the matter of getting images of sufficiently high resolution (I made the error, early on, of just getting the first image I found, which inevitably was low res, which looked god-awful ugly on the iTouch). Soon, it became an obsession, triggering my powerful collector mentality, especially when I found out that I could have multiple art or images per song.

It also caused me to face the fact that I had too many songs I didn't really care about (why bother looking for the perfect cover for something by The Cocteau Twins when I don't like the song anyway?). Which lead to massive purgings as I trimmed down my library to half (I'm down to around 12G), which still seems excessive to me (but the collector in me cannot give up any more).

I'm almost done, but am now thinking about doing it all over again since the quality of the images are not all the same, and in some cases, I gave in and used the wrong album cover simply because it looked better. I know, I know, but I justify all this puttering around as stress relief (so I don't feel so guilty).


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

we *heart* ranma

Over the weekend, I got myself multiple episodes Ranma 1/2 - one of the very very very few anime series that I enjoyed back in college (because honestly, a lot of it is poorly written drivel). I remembered the cleverness of the series and the over-the-top characterizations that somehow manages to still be very human and quite engaging.

Nikki and I started watching, and our laughter attracted Sage who eventually sat in - and fell in love with the show. Now my daughter is an addict to a show whose main character is sometimes male, sometimes female (depending on the temperature and availabity of water). She loves Ranma (the boy) of course and hopes he gets together with Akane, dislikes Ryoga but finds P-Chan insanely cute, and despises Kodachi the Black Rose, the maniacal rhythmic gymnastics martial artist who happens to be my favorite character.

It's wonderful how the material can still provoke me to laughter- and now I get to share it with Sage.



I'll be reading from my collection, as well as signing copies, as part of the upcoming Dia del Libro over at the Instituto Cervantes on April 19th. My publisher, Anvil, will be there, as well as booksellers and booklovers. Huge discounts on all sorts of books - come on over.

On my personal reading list, a friend just added Greetings from Lake Wu by Jay Lake and Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand to my growing pile (seriously, I am a manic book buyer who has less time for reading) of anthos and collections. These days I'm a grazer, unable to commit to reading a novel - the last one I tried and abandoned was the abyssmal The Dragon's Nine Sons by Chris Roberson, an author who writes excellent short fiction (oh, and I am making progress on my guerilla reading of my Jose Saramagos).

It's short fiction that I consume the most, really.

The last non-fiction book I finished (overnight) was Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything: Duct Tape, Airport Security, Your Body, Sex in Space...and More! - just the sort of thing that perks me up in the wee hours of the morning when stories refuse to cooperate (haha).

The latest story I listened to was Nikki reading from the kickass The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar, a hefty hardcover that can kill a man by sheer weight. Last night was "Bluebeard", the night before featured my personal favorite fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon".

Nikki consumes something like a novel every two days (she reads inhumanly fast). Sometime last week, I saw her with The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne Valente. Recently,she gave in the persistent movie trailers (even I am sold - it appeals to some of the things I enjoy most in a narrative) and is now reading a copy of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

the vaporous novel

Gah. There are times the words simply refuse to cooperate, when every sentence seems banal or trite or forced or constructed, when restatement is on a half-holiday with characterization and plot somewhere cold.

Deadlines loom and what little I've written is so displeasing to me.

Can discipline really pull a rabbit out of a hat?

It seems impossible.

But we'll see (yes, that's the part of me that stubbornly refuses to give up just yet, but may be in for a reality check by next week).


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

and the upcoming alfar is...

Yes, a healthy baby girl is on her way to us! Nikki and Sage called from the hospital right after the ultrasound.

While my bid for the family name to live on comes to an end (cue violins), the quest for the perfect name for the littlest Alfar begins in earnest. So do we continue with the flora-inspired nomenclature (there are lovely names like Rowan) or go with something else? Our preference is for a short single first name (like Sage) - which means it is time to hit the baby books as well as scour the internet.

I admit that I secretly hoped for a boy but am perfectly happy to have a healthy girl coming my way. Every child is a gift, and I am stoked at the prospect of discovering who this little person is, what she'll be like, how she'll talk and think and act.

It's still around 4 months away from her arrival, but I am already a bundle of nerves. I am aghast at the upcoming expenses (caesarian section for Nikki plus hospital bills can go up to 100k, plus milk, diapers, medicine, nanny, etc.) but somehow I know we'll pull through for this littlest Alfar. Anxiety, I've come to accept, is part and parcel of being a parent, which means worrying about everything, most of the time, ahead of time (Sage starts big school this school year, which means tuition and uniform and books).

The important thing for me, as I deal with all these challenges (not just financial, because I also worry if I'm being the best dad I can be in all other aspects), is not to lose sight of why I am anxious in the first place: to give the best of myself for my two little girls; one on her way, the other holding my hand and her mother's as we wait.

Oh, and now that I know her gender, I can proceed to assemble her layette and other stuff!

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palanca rules and forms

A big "thank you" to Penman Butch Dalisay for securing the 2008 Carlos Palanca Awards rules and forms and sharing them.

Go on over to his website or download the zip file here.

Butch says: "The folder contains the rules, the entry form, the authorizaton form, and a map of location of the new Carlos Palanca Foundation offices in the Fort Bonifacio area. (The Palanca Foundation provided Page 1 of the 2-page rules as a big .JPG file with logos, making this a 2.4-MB download; I’ve asked them to provide a plain .DOC version for easier downloading.)Take note that the deadline, as usual, is April 30.Good writing, and good luck!"
Also, if you didn't already know, the Gawad Likhaan deadline has been extended to April 30, 2008

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