Friday, January 30, 2009

baguio in summer

A bit of happy news: I just got an invitation informing me that I was selected as a Fellow for Fiction in English of the 48th UP National Writers Workshop set in Baguio City this coming April. I happily accepted, of course.

I don't know what it'll be like. The last workshops I was a Fellow in were both in 1992, when dinosaurs ruled the earth - in Siliman and UP Diliman (gah, 17 years ago). This one is different though, with the fellowship specific to "mid-career" writers (the others were for new writers).

"Mid-career". Middle-aged is more like it, describing me. I look forward to listening and learning, eternal student of writing that I am. One of the interesting things is that I'm required to give a presentation of my aesthetics as well as my writing history. Now those endless conversations with the LitCritters on poetics will have some use.

So in mid-April, spec fic slams into academia. I'll make sure to bring my ray gun (or reveal my sinister genetic link to the Deep Ones).


Thursday, January 15, 2009

philippine speculative fiction IV

Philippine Speculative Fiction IV
Edited by Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar

Book launch: February 28, 2009 - 5:30PM
U-View Theater, Fully Booked High Street
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City

You are invited, of course :)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

no more year's best fantasy and horror

The sad news is that after twenty one years The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is no more.

This antho meant - still means - a lot to me, and to a lot of readers, writers and editors around the world.

Thank you to Ellen and Terri, Gavin and Kelly, and Jim. Every year, you gave me a wonderful book to look forward to, and every year, you delivered.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Stella Kalaw is set to have her one-woman show "Family Spaces" at Silverlens Gallery. Opening reception is on Jan. 8 (I really hope to make it, so I can give Marianne Villanueva a hug - for all her lovely fiction).

Edgar Samar's novel "Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog" (Anvil) is now available over at Powerbooks, with National Bookstores to follow in a bit.

John Grant gives his thoughts on "Salamanca".

Got my hardcover copy of "Exotic Gothic 2" in the mail from Ash-Tree Press. There is nothing like holding a real book, the heft of it, the smell of new pages, and the senses-shattering knowledge that something you wrote is within. Oy, my writerly ego is pleased (LOL).

Taboan, the First Philippine Writers' Festival, takes place on February 11 to 13, 2009. I'll be there, as delegate, panelist and moderator, and see what happens.


call for submissions: the farthest shore

Secondary fantasy worlds are well-written fantasy stories that take place in a self-contained and self-consistent fantasy world created by the writer. These can be epic fantasy, high fantasy, or even dark (horror) fantasy.

The Farthest Shore: Fantasy from the Philippines, edited by Joseph Nacino & Dean Francis Alfar” will be published electronically to make this collection of stories available to a wider international audience. Through this anthology we will be able to show the world that the Filipino writer can create worlds with the best of them.

Combining these two ideas—the short story and secondary fantasy worlds—is well-within the Filipino author’s ability. As a guideline though, we are not looking for treatise or travel guide books of the secondary fantasy world. In the end, a good story and the humanity of the characters in them must take precedence over the well-formed setting.

In keeping with the concept of fantasy secondary worlds, stories based on Filipino mythology are acceptable.

Submission Guidelines:

1. Only works of secondary worlds in the mold of epic or traditional fantasy 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. We will accept only original unpublished stories.

6. First time authors are welcome to submit. 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 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: F2W 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 – F2W Submission: The Sword of Ivatan 4500.

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

12. Deadline for submissions is April 15, 2009. After that date, final choices will be made and letters of acceptance or regret sent out via email.

13.This anthology will be made available online via PDF file. Target publishing date is May 2009.

14. Compensation is Php500 for every accepted story.

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


banzai cat

Dean Francis Alfar

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

when your heart is first broken

For Sage, Age Six
(To be read when your heart is first broken)*

Dear Sage,

As I am writing this, you are six years old – already fiercely bright, beautiful and a wonderful conversationalist. We just got back from our regular Father-Daughter Day, our special time during the weekend when we go out to raid the bookstores (you love to read, just like your mom and me), catch a movie (you’ve become quite the little critic) or grab a bite to eat (of course you share my love for fried chicken). Over lunch, you told me about the naughty boy in your first grade class who likes to kiss all the girls, how he’d rush over with his “yucky lips”, and how you and your friends would run screaming away from him.

If you’re reading this now, then you’re probably a teenager already, and you’ve met a boy, fallen in love, but now, for one reason or another, he’s out of your life.

I know you’re hurting right now. It probably feels like it’s the end of the world, of every possible happy moment in existence. In your mind, you’re asking questions – “Who’s to blame?”, “How did this happen?”, and most importantly “Why?” More likely than not, the answers you come up with are unsatisfactory, offering only more pain.

Sometimes, in life, there are no satisfying answers. Sometimes, you just have to move on.

I know how difficult it seems – he was cool, he was smart, he understood you. It is impossible to imagine anyone taking his place, his smile, the way he laughed, the way you two shared a togetherness that was unique in all of creation.

You need to understand two very important things, two very vital truths that I learned the hard way when I was growing up.

First, there will be someone else. Yes, that someone else will not be precisely him – it will be someone better. First loves are powerful things, it’s true, but as you grow older you will meet people who will understand you so much more. You are never alone, unless you choose solitude.

Second, you are worth the universe. Do not think yourself a failure because of your heartache. There are things within you, beyond your looks and smarts, that make you sublime – the beauty of your spirit, the strength of your will, the fierceness of your personality, the memories of every single one of your experiences, your ability to pick yourself up, dust off sadness and live life with joy - everything that makes you who you are. Only the blind, the foolish or the very young are unable to see these things.

Now with all the heavy heady stuff out of the way, here’s a bit of practical advice (you know me, Mr. Action Point, of course):

1. Put away the pictures and videos of him and you, and get rid of the lovey-dovey blog posts. For a fresh start, it is always better to freed from the past. Be strong in those moments when the memory of him threatens to overwhelm you, when something reminds you of the color of his eyes, of the way he looked at you, of the sound of his voice. Whoever he is – whoever he was – forget him and move on. Don’t worry, when you are much older, you can unearth the photos and retrieve the blog cache and have a good laugh.

2. It’s okay to cry. So go ahead and do so. Go ahead and wallow in sorrow – because something did end, and you were invested in it, and no pretty words can take away your pain right now. Go on. Part of being strong is knowing that you’re human too. But permit yourself no more than three days of darkened rooms and sad music. There is the rest of your life, after all.

3. Get yourself something nice. Indulge a little. You deserve it.

4. Write about it. I’ve found that doing so helps me deal with pain and disappointment. By reducing it to words, you not only exorcise your grief but end up with a story or a bit of creative non-fiction (yes, we writers profit from every experience).

And come to me and tell me about it.

And I will beat him up.

You will stop me, of course, embarrassment red on your face.

And we will laugh together, you and I – because we know that nothing in the world can take away the power of tomorrow.

Of hope.



*first appeared in Smart Parenting, December 2008


litcritters session - jan 17

Hey, LitCritters!

The next session is set - Jan 17, Saturday, 2PM, at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Robinsons Galleria.

Here are the three stories for discussion (just click on the link and get reading):

Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan
The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics by Daniel Abraham
The Biography of a Bouncing Boy Terror by Ysabeau Whilce (pdf)

Make sure to read up and we'll see you there.


Monday, January 05, 2009

sage, rowan, hector and the bigger kids

In the last few days of last year, Alex and Kate treated us to a pictorial - for our kids (their son, Hector, and our daughters Sage and Rowan) of course; but we bigger kids naturally got into the act as well.

(Just kill the music; something in the way I uploaded must have gone haywire, sorry.)

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bahala na

It's the first day of the working year and I'm spending it by identifying what needs to be done for various clients and projects, devising strategies and approaches based on last year's learnings, compartmentalizing tasks so things are not so overwhelming, and allocating resources (including myself) to start getting things done. Several items on my task list are ongoing concerns, which means there is the necessity of thinking months ahead, while others, somewhat routine in aspect, need a jolt of freshness in terms of thinking and execution.

It's no secret that many companies in Manila (in the country, in the region, in the world) view 2009 with anxiety. Some predict worsening economic realities. Stability can be replaced by the simply need for survival, as a number of companies in my area have shut down or downsized. It is vital that we do what we can in terms of intelligent preparations for the slings and arrows of (outrageous) fortune.

Being Filipino, part of me is influenced by "bahala na". The English translation "come what may" does not begin to articulate the meaning of "bahala na". It is a unique mix of Pinoy pragmatism, optimism and cynicism, finding expression in a certain cavalier, devil-may-care attitude. For some, "bahala na" seems like acceptance of defeat in the light of inglorious circumstances. But for me, "bahala na" is about taking action, about calculated risks and motive force, about going for something and not simply sitting down. My "bahala na" is uttered with a growl, understanding that while hope may be cruel, things do not miraculously get better on their own, and that problems can be tackled as segmented challenges, a bit at a time, with industry and clear thinking.

Similarly, part of my writing attitude (and certainly part of my poetics) is "bahala na". It means trying my hand at a genre or writing manner I've never done before, refusing to accept that I'm anywhere near "good", continously attempting to tell different stories in different ways and learning from the good and bad experiences. It means embracing the realities of being a working writer, of needing to publish, of understanding that my writerly life measured in words. It means continuing to encourage others to tell stories, sharing what little I've learned so more people take up the pen, and educating myself by reading, getting what works and integrating what feels right into my writing. All of this without needing someone to validate my entire approach or process ("bahala na", indeed), but also working to reach the high acceptance standards of various publications here and abroad.

Despite my age (and yes, I'm finding that forty is sexy), I still consider myself a young writer, especially in terms of output. I like to imagine that I have more to tell, and that if I keep trying I'll improve. The proof, for me and for all other working writers, is in what we put out and publish, and I hope to have some good stuff this year.

Maybe a second collection. And a novel.

Bahala na.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009


And here I am, forty years old.

Growing up, this age seemed so infinitely distant, the domain of the elderly, and of course like all callow youth I thought I'd be young forever. But time is relentless, and with every year that breezes by I realize more and more how precious everything is. We act like everyday is a given, when in truth every day is a gift and we need to make the most of each one.

Do I feel any different from 39? No, not really. If anything, I actually feel empowered, like I suddenly crossed the threshhold into serious shit - but of course I get to bring what makes me me along for the ride, all my eccentricities (yes, I get to call my quirks that now).

I celebrated quietly, with family and friends, over lunch and dinner, books and conversation.

Andrew, Vin, Nikki, me, Kate and Alex

Thanks to everyone who wished me well - I appreciate your remembering!

Two of the most wonderful gifts I received (and I'm delighted to get more than my fair share from my girls and friends and family - salamat!) have me pumped early in the new year: a story sale to a Philippine antho edited by Ruey de Vera, and an invitation to be part of an international antho. Huzzah!

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

new year with family

Jo, Nikki & Rowan, Reb

Sage and Nikki

Me, Nikki, Maureen, Jo, Johnny, Reb, Dondi
Jess & Sage, Mama & Rowan

The Alfars (missing the littlest one)