Thursday, September 25, 2008

reportage: spec fic at UP

(Alex, Kate, Dean, Andrew, Vin & Nikki - photo by Kenneth Yu)

The LitCritters were invited to speak on “The New Philippine Fantastic” by the UP Writers Club yesterday, so we made our way to the Claro M. Recto Hall, joined up with PGS publisher Kenneth Yu, and parsed our talk in this way (be warned, assorted plugs for books abound!):

Kenneth Yu spoke about genre and why/how he started the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. We’re always happy to have Kyu speak about his advocacy for genre, in particular his love for crime and mystery stories. PGS remains one of the consistent markets for spec fic, with an open editorial policy that favors genre stories that entertain. Two issues are slated for release this year: a special horror-themed issue guest-edited by Yvette Tan (who is coming out with her first collection from Anvil soon – watch for it) and a regular issue this December. Another special issue to look out for early next year is one guest-edited by Ichi Batacan, with a focus on crime fiction.

Nikki Alfar spoke about folklore, its origins, importance and relevance. She pointed out that we need to write/rewrite these stories to make them “sexy”, not in an erotic sense, but in terms of discourse and engagement. These stories from across the archipelago are part and parcel of our cultural heritage and are lovely besides. She also advised against talking down to younger readers by dumbing down writing – “kids are short, not stupid”. I wholeheartedly agree (this later brought us a memory of Zarah Gagatiga, LitCritter and Palanca judge, telling us to “make them (the kids) suffer” in the stories). Nikki is finalizing her manuscript and will have her first collection of spec fic out next year, via Milflores.

Vin Simbulan's topic was epic fantasy and secondary worlds, how these subgenres of fantasy inspire imagination and have value beyond simple escapism – by enabling adult readers to reclaim their sense of wonder. Vin’s love for traditional fantasy is infective, this is truly one of his passions. His anthology, “A Time for Dragons”, comes out from Anvil late this year or early next (with quite an interesting lineup and story mix).

Kate Aton-Osias tackled the issue of writing spec fic and being Filipino, a burning issue that provokes questions and discussion. Kate’s take on things is very “Olympics” (not Olympian) in approach – your writing is Filipino if you are Filipino. Later, she would field the question on fantaseryes and reveal her consumption of Dyosa (watch this trailer).

Andrew Drilon was in charge of contemporary fantasy, which gave him a perfect opportunity to speak about the work of Kelly Link, Jeffrey Ford, Aimee Bender and other writers, as well as interstitial fiction, describing the blurring of boundaries between genres. Andrew’s recently completed comics oeuvre is lying in wait for the right time to reveal its presence to an unsuspecting world (check out his latest Kare-Kare Comics!)

Alex Osias's talk was about scifi and mythmaking, positing that scifi is an excellent vehicle for the same themes that myths have, as well as being a way for us to deal with our anxieties concerning the rapid advance of technology, and attendant sociological effects to boot.

I wrapped things up by talking about spec fic, how it flourishes outside of academe, why we should disempower and reclaim “entertainment”, why description is preferred to prescription, and vocalized my desire for the development of spec fic criticism.

Q & A followed and many things were discussed and we went back to our lives happy to have shared our thoughts and passions – not as authorities, of course, but as working writers of spec fic in the Philippines.

I got a chance to chat afterwards with Luna Sicat who asked for a venue for spec fic in Tagalog (sige, gagawan ng paraan), with Adam David (whose critical stance on what we’re doing is certainly welcome), Carljoe Javier (who heroically restrained himself from answering my demand for spec fic to be required in UP classes – because he already includes spec fic in his syllabus), and MaryAnne Moll (one of our favorite LitCritters from our days at Serendra, who is, happily, writing more – huzzah!).

Many thanks to Anne Lagamayo and the enthusiastic members of the UP Writers Club for having us over (and for the good eat, siyempre naman)!

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