Monday, September 28, 2009

Everyone Okay?

Is everyone okay? Man, that was one helluva storm. Reminds me of Typhoon Milenyo, but where the latter devastated with winds, Ondoy did it with water. May it never happen again. Leave a comment to say that you're fine. If you're okay, reach out and help those you can.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rebound Magazine Issue 2

Just another quick post: Rebound Magazine Issue 2 is now out (Issue 1 may still be available). For basketball fans out there among PGS readers, check it out!

Knowledge Tax

Just a quick post: an opinion piece which doubles as an update on the book blockade issue, Knowledge Tax. An excerpt:

IN JULY THIS YEAR PRESIDENT MACAPAGAL-Arroyo tried to take credit for settling a problem she had allowed her own people to create. In her State of the Nation Address, Ms Arroyo virtuously declared that she intended to increase taxes on tobacco but the government should not be in the business of taxing minds. She was referring to her administration’s flirting with rogue-state status by violating the Florence Agreement and its accompanying Nairobi protocols.

The Philippines, from the Quirino administration onwards, had pledged to support an international policy promoting the duty-free entry of books. Until, that is, the Department of Finance decided it should put the squeeze on book lovers, in its eyes perhaps a minor source of new revenue, but still, a source to be squeezed like any other.

The DOF didn’t count on opposition being not only loud and sustained and, just as significantly, being broad. There were legal objections: the country had long been dutiful about its international obligations, and it was shocking to see the administration’s domestic contempt for covenants and legality infecting its behavior internationally. There were jurisdictional and policy disputes: the National Book Development Board and Unesco Philippines versus the DOF and the Bureau of Customs. There were public opinion and sectoral concerns that found book lovers and booksellers united in common opposition to the state.

It was public opposition that galled the bureaucrats the most, so the President’s intervention, which was in reality a retreat, was portrayed by her allies as a concession to booksellers. Ms Arroyo glibly declared that no tax would be imposed on knowledge while the bureaucrats offended by her pronouncement grudgingly complied in terms of the booksellers who resumed duty-free imports of books, while continuing their illegal extortion activities with respect to ordinary citizens.

Click here for the whole piece.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gene Yang's American Born Chinese

Taking some time from my hiatus to make a quick post: I'm not much of a graphic novel reader, but I'm intrigued by and interested to read Gene Yang's American Born Chinese.

I've read the author's interviews (here and here), and many of his personal experiences somewhat echo mine as I was growing up, even if this is the Philippines and not the USA. For example, he mentions being embarrassed as a kid to be associated with what he calls the F.O.B.'s, while I recall feeling the same way about my fairer skin and slanted eyes whenever others would use words like "Int**k b*h*" in my presence. One of my relatives was called "Demonyong Int**k" while I was within earshot, too. I was very young, of course, and my reaction was to hate what I was and to wish that I was part of the in group. It seems that Gene Yang explored these same feelings with his graphic novel through the eyes of his older self, and I have a feeling I might find some understanding about this through his work, even if our conclusions or epiphanies on our experiences may not be exactly the same.

Plus, I saw some sample panels, and The Monkey King comes out. He's always fun.

Okay, just had to blog about this. Have to head back to hibernation. I'll be back to blog regularly as soon as I can. TY!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Well, not really, though it would be nice if I really were. Oh, wait. I'm not really that fond of fishing. "Gone to play tennis" would be more fun, but I'm not doing that either. "On Vacation" would be quite nice too, but no, I'm not. :D

Just got a lot on my plate right now. Will update the blog when stuff blows over. See you! And keep reading!

Monday, September 14, 2009

50 Amazing And Essential Novels

Here's someone's list of 50 Amazing And Essential Novels to Enrich Your Library.

Share some of the novels, books, or anthologies that you feel are essential for your library; maybe you can help fellow readers by recommending something good to read. Provide links too, if you can, to reviews or sites about these books. If the titles fall into the public domain, then please provide a direct link. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fantasy Magazine Halloween Flash Contest

Rae Bryant, Assistant Editor for Fantasy Magazine, announces here on her blog a Halloween Flash Fiction Contest. Her post:

Upcoming Submission Window: October 1st to Friday the 16th, midnight.

Choose a graphic image as a prompt then start writing! Less than 1,000 words. Yes, 1,001 is more than 1,000. Story content should relate directly to the graphic of choice and should also follow the content guidelines as posted on our Fantasy Magazine guidelines page. $50 award for first place. More details coming soon at Fantasy Magazine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ebooks: Tasting Blood In The Water

Found this article, Ebooks: Tasting Blood In The Water, over at The Scholarly Kitchen--What's Hot And Cooking In Scholarly Publishing. It analyzes and makes some predictions about the current trend in reading devices. An excerpt:

The e-book and e-reader space is beginning to feel like the handheld business did a few years ago — a lot of companies jockeying for position, adoption rates that get your attention, deals being struck for long-term plays, and yet a sense that the mainstream breakthrough has not quite arrived.

But it feels closer than ever — approaching slowly, swimming constantly, seeking, sensing. A fin on the horizon? USA Today now includes Kindle sales in its bestseller lists. Another? A group of authors recently banded together to send free copies of their books to US troops who have Kindles.

The stakes were raised recently by two moves — Sony’s introduction of two new, wireless-enabled e-readers, and Barnes & Noble’s deals with Smashwords and Plastic Logic to create a reader/content storefront capable of rivaling Amazon’s in some respects.

There’s even a rumor that Apple and Verizon are teaming up on a reading tablet.

It’s particularly interesting to see what Barnes & Noble is doing — opening up the platform, pushing to have 1 million e-book titles in their store, selecting AT&T as their partner so that Europe and parts of Asia can get e-books through them, partnering with an e-content partner (Smashwords) that has rapidly become a favorite among independent and entrepreneurial authors, and partnering with a device that has been lurking like a Great White shark in the shallows, possibly to make the kill — the Plastic Logic reading device.

The amount of money at stake is growing. The players are bringing more to the battle lines.

To quote a popular ad, “Oh, it’s on!”

Night Shade Books' Jeremy Lassen on the Future of Book-Buying

As seen via The Bibliophile Stalker's Twitter: Night Shade Books' Jeremy Lassen on the Future of Book-Buying. An excerpt:

Do you think e-books are the future of science fiction publishing?

JL: The distribution mechanism for books has been broken for a long time. Books on the midlist have gone from selling 200 thousand copies 20 thousand because the distribution network doesn't get them in front of people's eyes. There is no distribution outside bookstores.

So I think ebooks are the natural successor to disposable mass market paperbacks. Mass market paperbacks are just not cost effective today. It used to be that you'd go to a grocery store and there would be an aisle of mass market paperbacks. That aisle is now cheap DVDs. Publishers just don't have access to the mass market.

What e-books share with the mass market paperback is cheapness - and their sense of intangiblity is similar to mass market paperback. What I mean is that you don't make an attachment to it as a physical object. Some people do horde mass market paperbacks, but most see them as ephemeral.

I think the mass market is going to flip on a generational basis. Everybody I talk to says "I love paper and the feel of it." I get that, but it's a generational thing. My brother consumes all his media on his computer screen on his mobile. That's where he consumes his media. He doesn't watch movies or TV either - he downloads stuff. Makes sense that he'd consume books the same way.

So how do we solve the distribution problem with e-books?

You need to grow the market for fiction by getting e-books in front of people who don't normally see books. When a kid buys Bioshock 2 on Amazon, then Amazon puts in link to Tor's new Bioshock book by John Shirley. You could see this happening in the context of movies or other pop culture stuff, too. You say find me a zombie movie, and Amazon comes back with a recommendation for some, plus here's some zombie fiction too. There are so many opportunities with the internet because you're not limited by category. You get people consuming videos or comics or movies to find novels that they would find interesting too. Which they don't find now because they're in bookstores, also known as "that store I don't go into."

Bookstores are confusing to people – they don't get the idea of authors, because movies are filed by title. Bookstores are intimidating. Amazon is great because they can buy books they know they want. You want to replicate that browsing experience in other environments, get people to stumble on the book they didn't know they wanted. There's a kid out there who didn't know there was a Bioshock novel by John Shirley and now he does.

That's where I see that recommendation engine being valuable – if it's only books leading to recommendations of other books that's reinventing the wheel. To be revolutionary, you need these books to reach a wider audience – the people who go to Amazon to buy a videogame and find a book.

How do you think people will read e-books? Kindles?

I don't think dedicated e-book readers [like the Kindle] will work. The Kindle takes all the wrong lessons from the iPod. When people want to apply lessons of digital music to e-books they aren't very smart. People desperately demanded e-music. Nobody is demanding e-books. People aren't jumping up and down to spend 400 bucks on a device to hold books. Sure there's always a niche market, but that's not enough. The Sony e-book reader? Talk about a fucking dead end. That's just not a mass market device.

Here's my wet dream e-book partner: Nintendo DSi online store. Package me up some titles and put 'em for sale on the Nintendo Store. The audience is already consuming scifi and they don't go into bookstores. Put my books for sale there and I'll be happy as a pig in shit. That's my example of going out and getting my books in front of people who wouldn't normally see them.

And that's on a generic device – not an e-book reader. These kids are already buying these devices. That's where I see future of e-books going.

SAGIP Children's Storybook Writing Competition

My thanks to Village Idiot Savant again for forwarding me this email:

11 September 2009,

Dearest Friends and Family,

Together with the PTC-CSJ Foundation, we are launching another
project, SAGIP a storybook writing competition, open to all ages.
We're particularly excited about this, beyond the fact that there is
no age limit (haha, yes we've heard all your feedback on this), it is
something that a lot of people can be involved in. We only need a
500-750 word kids' story, on the theme SAVING OUR SEAS. It will be
illustrated by one of our awesome artist-advocates.

We strongly encourage non-writers to join. 40,000 goes to the grand
prize winner
. The books will be judged by Two-time Palanca awardee and
founder of award-winning publication The Junior Inquirer Wilbur
Victoria, Metrobank Foundation's Outstanding Teacher awardee and
INQUIRER Learning columnist Queena Lee Chua, and bestselling author,
founder of KERYGMA magazine and evangelist, Bo Sanchez.

The winning book will be published and donated to the various public
schools around the Philippines, to enhance their English Literacy
Program, and will also be sold exclusively at POWERBOOKS.

Deadline for submissions is NOVEMBER 30. To help us out, send this
email to your friends and family who might be interested.
For more details on the project, visit

Liyab Pilipinas!

Rinka Romero-SyCip
Executive Director

Liyab Pilipinas! Reigniting passion for the Nation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An Aggressive New Short Fiction Magazine

I found this article, Electric Storytelling, over at Future Perfect Publishing, a site that explores new trends and possibilities in book publishing. The article mentions a new magazine, Electric Literature, which they say "may represent the future for literary fiction in the age of new media". An excerpt:

The publication is a bi-monthly anthology of short fiction. The magazine’s structure is very basic; each issue has just five short stories, anchored by big-name authors. The goal according to founders Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum is to “facilitate a renaissance of the short story.” As Mr. Hunter remarked in a recent interview with Ron Charles at the Washington Post:

If there’s any kind of hesitation, it’s from people who don’t really believe that a literary publication is viable. We started this publication to prove them wrong. There’s a human need for storytelling that hasn’t gone away just because print is having problems. We want to bring short fiction to an age that’s more mobile and doesn’t have the time to settle into a long text.

Electric Literature has a novel business model. The magazine subscription price is based delivery format – $5 for the online version and $10 for the print version. The magazine is also available now on the iPhone. The publication’s circulation target is 20,000.

But what sets Electric Literature apart is what it pays its authors – $1,000, a fee certain to attract top writing talent. The mostly electronic delivery and POD print model helps hold down production costs.

Click here to read the whole article.

A Dual Screen eReader

My thanks to Village Idiot Savant, who emailed me this link about a dual screen ereader. With a foldable spine, this gadget may read like a regular book! It also claims to be the cheapest ereader in the market. An excerpt from the article:

Unlike current ebook readers, which take the form of a single flat screen, the Asus device has a hinged spine, like a printed book. This, in theory, enables its owner to read an ebook much like a normal book, using the touchscreen to “turn” the pages from one screen to the next. It also gives the user the option of seeing the text on one screen while browsing a web page on the other. One of the screens could also act as a virtual keypad for the device to be used like a laptop. Whereas current ebook readers have monochrome screens, the Asus would be full colour. The maker says it may also feature “speakers, a webcam and a mic for Skype”, allowing cheap phone calls over the internet.

The budget version of the Asus ereader will be more in keeping with the Taiwanese company’s reputation for producing cut-price gadgets. Dubbed the Eee Reader, after Asus’s cheap-as-chips Eee PC netbook range, it is likely to take on the competition on price rather than features. The cheapest rival on the market is the Cool-er, which costs £189. Asus is thought to be aiming nearer the £100 mark.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Reader's Manifesto / A Reader's Revenge

Saw this via Blissery's Twitter: A Reader's Manifesto by B.R. Myers, on The Atlantic. It's subtitled, "An Attack On The Growing Pretentiousness Of American Literary Prose". An excerpt:

Nothing gives me the feeling of having been born several decades too late quite like the modern "literary" best seller. Give me a time-tested masterpiece or what critics patronizingly call a fun read—Sister Carrie or just plain Carrie. Give me anything, in fact, as long as it doesn't have a recent prize jury's seal of approval on the front and a clutch of precious raves on the back. In the bookstore I'll sometimes sample what all the fuss is about, but one glance at the affected prose—"furious dabs of tulips stuttering," say, or "in the dark before the day yet was"—and I'm hightailing it to the friendly black spines of the Penguin Classics.

I realize that such a declaration must sound perversely ungrateful to the literary establishment. For years now editors, critics, and prize jurors, not to mention novelists themselves, have been telling the rest of us how lucky we are to be alive and reading in these exciting times. The absence of a dominant school of criticism, we are told, has given rise to an extraordinary variety of styles, a smorgasbord with something for every palate. As the novelist and critic David Lodge has remarked, in summing up a lecture about the coexistence of fabulation, minimalism, and other movements, "Everything is in and nothing is out." Coming from insiders to whom a term like "fabulation" actually means something, this hyperbole is excusable, even endearing; it's as if a team of hotel chefs were getting excited about their assortment of cabbages. From a reader's standpoint, however, "variety" is the last word that comes to mind, and more appears to be "out" than ever before. More than half a century ago popular storytellers like Christopher Isherwood and Somerset Maugham were ranked among the finest novelists of their time, and were considered no less literary, in their own way, than Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. Today any accessible, fast-moving story written in unaffected prose is deemed to be "genre fiction"—at best an excellent "read" or a "page turner," but never literature with a capital L. An author with a track record of blockbusters may find the publication of a new work treated like a pop-culture event, but most "genre" novels are lucky to get an inch in the back pages of The New York Times Book Review.

Everything written in self-conscious, writerly prose, on the other hand, is now considered to be "literary fiction"—not necessarily good literary fiction, mind you, but always worthier of respectful attention than even the best-written thriller or romance. It is these works that receive full-page critiques, often one in the Sunday book-review section and another in the same newspaper during the week. It is these works, and these works only, that make the annual short lists of award committees. The "literary" writer need not be an intellectual one. Jeering at status-conscious consumers, bandying about words like "ontological" and "nominalism," chanting Red River hokum as if it were from a lost book of the Old Testament: this is what passes for profundity in novels these days. Even the most obvious triteness is acceptable, provided it comes with a postmodern wink. What is not tolerated is a strong element of action—unless, of course, the idiom is obtrusive enough to keep suspense to a minimum. Conversely, a natural prose style can be pardoned if a novel's pace is slow enough, as was the case with Ha Jin's aptly titled Waiting, which won the National Book Award (1999) and the PEN/Faulkner Award (2000).

The dualism of literary versus genre has all but routed the old trinity of highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow, which was always invoked tongue-in-cheek anyway. Writers who would once have been called middlebrow are now assigned, depending solely on their degree of verbal affectation, to either the literary or the genre camp. David Guterson is thus granted Serious Writer status for having buried a murder mystery under sonorous tautologies (Snow Falling on Cedars, 1994), while Stephen King, whose Bag of Bones (1998) is a more intellectual but less pretentious novel, is still considered to be just a very talented genre storyteller.

Click here to read the whole article.

Check out this link as well, A Reader's Revenge, which expounds further on B.R. Myers' argument that the time has come for readers to stand up to the literary establishment in America. His main arguments are summarized in this:

...that the typical "literary masterpiece" of today is usually in fact a mediocre work dolled up with trendy writerly gimmicks designed to lend an impression of artsy profundity and to obscure the author's lack of talent. An affected, deliberately unnatural prose style, banal pronouncements intoned magisterially as if they were great pearls of wisdom, relentless overuse of wordplay, and the gratuitous inclusion of foreign words are just a few of the affronts to good writing of which Myers finds several well-known authors guilty.Though readers don't tend to get much pleasure from the books that are selected for literary stardom, they usually wrongly attribute the problem to themselves, Myers explains, assuming that if a critically celebrated work fails to speak to them, it must point to their own lack of taste or limited understanding. Compounding the problem, he argues, is the fact that today's critics—most of whom are novelists themselves—try to foster the idea that good writing is recognizable to sophisticated literary connoisseurs but is beyond the ken of ordinary folk.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Pinoy Story Writing Contest

My thanks to Village Idiot Savant for emailing me about this: In celebration of the 13th Philippine Book Development Month, the NBDB is sponsoring a Pinoy Story Writing Contest. First prize per category is P15,000.00, and the deadline is 5 p.m. on October 5, 2009. Some other details:

- The contest is open to Filipino citizens, eighteen (18) years old and above.

- Only one author of the submitted work is permitted, which may be of novel length or an anthology of several shorter works from that form a collection

-Each entry should have a minimum of one hundred (100) pages letter-sized bond paper, double-spaced, using 12-pt font Arial, Times New Roman, Times, or Book Antiqua.

-The NBDB will accept only original and unpublished works in the following categories: Tagalog/Filipino Romance; Horror/Crime or Suspense; Chick Lit in English; A collection of short stories or a novel in English, Filipino, or any of the regional languages provided a translation in English or Filipino is provided.

Click here to read the complete guidelines.

Rocket Kapre -- Fantastic Filipino Fiction

PGS contributor Paolo Chikiamco, of Bahay Talinhaga fame, has launched his new website, Rocket Kapre--Fantastic Filipino Fiction. He's put up an interview with another PGS contributor, Kate Aton-Osias, and a round table discussion asking, "What is your favorite Filipino-created speculative fiction story?". Make visiting Rocket Kapre a daily habit!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gig Book Storywriting Contest Winners

Congratulations to PGS contributor Kate Aton-Osias who is one of the winners of the Gig Book Storywriting Contest. The full list of winners here.

Edgar Allan Poe Article In The New Yorker

Found this article, The Humbug, over at The New Yorker. It's about Edgar Allan Poe, and he's presented as quite the character (I first heard of and read his work as a high school student). An excerpt:

Poe didn’t write “The Raven” to answer the exacting demands of a philosophic Art, or not entirely, anyway. He wrote it for the same reason that he wrote tales like “The Gold-Bug”: to stave off starvation. For a long while, Poe lived on bread and molasses; weeks before “The Gold-Bug” was published, he was begging near-strangers on the street for fifty cents to buy something to eat. “ ‘The Raven’ has had a great ‘run,’ ” he wrote to a friend, “but I wrote it for the express purpose of running—just as I did the ‘Gold-Bug,’ you know. The bird beat the bug, though, all hollow.” The public that swallowed that bird and bug Poe strenuously resented. You love Poe or you don’t, but, either way, Poe doesn’t love you. A writer more condescending to more adoring readers would be hard to find. “The nose of a mob is its imagination,” he wrote. “By this, at any time, it can be quietly led.”

This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of Poe’s birth and the publication of two collections of gothic tales produced by the Mystery Writers of America. “On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe” (Harper; $14.99) contains stories by twenty mystery writers, including Mary Higgins Clark. “In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe” (William Morrow; $25.99) pairs Poe’s best-known stories with modern commentaries; Stephen King muses on “The Genius of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’ ” There’s also a sensitive and haunting brief biography, Peter Ackroyd’s “Poe: A Life Cut Short” (Doubleday; $21.95), that offers a fitting tribute to Poe’s begin-at-the-end philosophy by opening with his horrible and mysterious death, in October of 1849. Poe, drunk and delirious, seems to have been dragged around Baltimore to cast votes, precinct after precinct, in one of that city’s infamously corrupt congressional elections, until he finally collapsed. From Ryan’s tavern, a polling place in the Fourth Ward, Poe was carried, like a corpse, to a hospital. He died four days later. He was forty years old.

Click here to read the whole piece. Click here for links to his biography and to the body of his work.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Library 2.0

Found this link over at School Librarian In Action: The Future Of Libraries, With Or Without Books. It's related to my previous post about a school library that went all digital, and also talks about the current evolution that libraries--and librarians--are undergoing in this digital age. An excerpt:

The stereotypical library is dying -- and it's taking its shushing ladies, dank smell and endless shelves of books with it.

Books are being pushed aside for digital learning centers and gaming areas. "Loud rooms" that promote public discourse and group projects are taking over the bookish quiet. Hipster staffers who blog, chat on Twitter and care little about the Dewey Decimal System are edging out old-school librarians.

And that's just the surface. By some accounts, the library system is undergoing a complete transformation that goes far beyond these image changes.

Authors, publishing houses, librarians and Web sites continue to fight Google's efforts to digitize the world's books and create the world's largest library online. Meanwhile, many real-world libraries are moving forward with the assumption that physical books will play a much-diminished or potentially nonexistent role in their efforts to educate the public.

Some books will still be around, they say, although many of those will be digital. But the goal of the library remains the same: To be a free place where people can access and share information.

"The library building isn't a warehouse for books," said Helene Blowers, digital strategy director at the Columbus [Ohio] Metropolitan Library. "It's a community gathering center."

Think of the change as a Library 2.0 revolution -- a mirror of what's happened on the Web.

This shift means the role of the librarian -- and their look -- is also changing.

In a world where information is more social and more online, librarians are becoming debate moderators, givers of technical support and community outreach coordinators.

They're also no longer bound to the physical library, said Greenwalt, of the library in Skokie, Illinois. Librarians must venture into the digital space, where their potential patrons exist, to show them why the physical library is still necessary, he said.

"I came into libraries and it wasn't about books," said Peter Norman, a graduate student in library and information science at Simmons College in Boston who says he's most interested in music and technology. "Sure I love to read. I read all the time. I read physical books. But I don't have the strange emotional attachment that some people possess."

"If the library is going to turn into a place without books, I'm going to evolve with that too," he said.

Click here to read the whole article.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

"When I Look At Books, I See An Outdated Technology"

That's an actual quote from headmaster James Tracy of Cushing Academy. That's why he's transforming his school's library into one without books. Instead, they're going digital. An excerpt from the article, A Library Without Books:

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks - the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a “learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by and Sony. Administrators plan to distribute the readers, which they’re stocking with digital material, to students looking to spend more time with literature.

Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will be expected to do their research and peruse many assigned texts on their computers.

Click here to read the whole piece.

Frankly, I'm not sure about this move. I don't know if people are ready to go full digital yet, but still, I do hope it works. They've already given away many of the books they used to have, and it's going to take a lot of time and effort to rebuild an old-fashioned library if things don't work out as they hope.

Google To Draw Up New Privacy Policy For Books

In the continuing "saga" of Google's releasing of books, here's the latest: Google To Draw Up New Privacy Policy For Books. An excerpt:

Google has agreed to draw up a separate privacy policy for its digital library in response to a request from the Federal Trade Commission.

The concessions come amid a growing outcry among critics who believe a class-action settlement with U.S. authors and publishers will give Google too much insight about the books that people are reading online.

Previous posts on this issue here and here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Two PGS Contributors In The Dragon And The Stars (DAW Books)

Great news! Stories by PGS contributors Crystal Koo and Charles Tan have made it into The Dragon And The Stars (to be published and released by DAW Books in 2010). The Dragon And The Stars is an anthology edited by writers Derwin Mak and Eric Choi which will feature "science fiction and fantasy stories written by ethnic Chinese writers outside China". Congratulations, guys!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Ruiz Zafón dismisses divide between high and low art as 'cultural fraud'

I enjoyed reading this article over at The Times Online very much. Here it is:

One of the world’s most popular authors has entered the debate over high and low art, saying that there is no such thing as good literature, only good writing.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, whose literary thriller The Shadow of the Wind is the best-selling Spanish novel after Don Quixote, suggested to an audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival that “the invention of the highbrow and the lowbrow is the greatest cultural fraud of the 20th century”.

“It’s a marketing device — it’s a way of telling people who consume specific cultural products that you are smarter because you are buying this,” he said.

He later added: “I’m not interested in having a snobby thought police that would tell me what is good, what is bad, that I cannot listen to a Britney Spears record if I feel like it or I cannot read Dan Brown or whatever. I think we all have a brain between our ears and we can find our own way.”

Ruiz Zafón was partly responding to an interview in The Times last week with Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, the three-week celebration of music, opera, theatre and dance which 62 years ago established Edinburgh’s reputation as the cultural capital of the world every August. Mills said that far too many Britons never stretched themselves culturally, subsisting on an artistic diet of “white bread without the crusts.”

While sport and pop culture had their place (he supports Chelsea and loves Bob Dylan) there should be a premium on entertainment that challenged an audience to think. Making the case for serious, highbrow and experimental work in an increasingly “trivialised” national conversation, he said that he was concerned about what would happen “if as a society all we do is entertain ourselves rather than nurture our spiritual, intellectual and emotional needs”. His views split opinion in the city, with one leading Fringe venue owner calling him “intellectually precious” and another defending his right to protest at the lack of adventure displayed by the “TV generation”.

Ruiz Zafón’s riposte has now drawn its own reaction. Rose Tremain, a serial winner of literary awards whose novels include Music and Silence and The Road Home, said that Ruiz Zafón’s argument ignored the meaningful difference between books intended purely for entertainment and “serious fiction that’s going beyond telling a story and is trying to make you think about the human condition”.

At their best those novels transcended narrative to “deliver to their readers things that they never considered that they then take into their personal psychology, that moment of revelation that you occasionally get from a book”.

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency and scores of other works ranging from legal text books to a series of novels about a Scottish-American moral philosopher, agreed that there was obviously a difference “between Mills & Boon on the one hand and Madame Bovary on the other.” However, he was wary of the literary snobbery that led people to say “the most extraordinarily condescending things” to him about his own novels when they have not read them or to overlook the psychological insights and sense of place in the crime novels of Patricia Highsmith.

He believes that such prejudice would have hobbled some of the greats of the past. “Somerset Maugham would be described as a middle-brow novelist now. I suspect there would be many people who would be sniffy about Dickens. I don’t think Dickens would win many awards.”

That is Ruiz Zafón’s point, too. “We tend to forget that the vast majority of what we consider the classsics were the popular fiction of their day,” he said.

“From Cervantes to Dickens to Shakespeare. . . they were so popular and their work was so powerful that it transcended its time.” Despite his commercial success, literary editors tend to like Ruiz Zafón, partly because both The Shadow of the Wind and his new novel, The Angel’s Game, are explicitly concerned with the processes of reading and writing.

His non-hierarchical view of literature can be traced back to his childhood, where Harold Robbins nestled naturally next to John Steinbeck on the shelves at home and he learnt English by reading Stephen King novels.

“To me art is about execution, not pretension,” he said. “There’s good writing and bad writing and you can find good writing in genre fiction, in literary fiction, in mainstream fiction and you can find bad writing there as well. You may aspire to be very deep and profound and smart and refined. Actually that doesn’t matter. A crime novel may be much better than a lot of very pretentious and self-important literary works and the other way around.

Many people never appreciate that because they “are racist when it comes to books”. “One of the things I try to communicate is a respect for books of all sorts.

The Manila International Book Fair

Just to remind book lovers that The Manila International Book Fair is from September 16-20, 2009, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, Manila. They're also offering free tickets (thanks to Blissery's Twitter for the link).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Congratulations To The Philippines Free Press Awards Finalists And Winners

Congratulations to the finalists and winners of the Philippines Free Press Awards! Among them are PGS contributors Sharmaine Galve, Mia Tijam, and Dean Francis Alfar. Kudos too to online buddy Eliza Victoria. Here's a link to an entry on Eliza's blog about the event. Great work, guys!

Fil-Canadian Film Critic Alexis Tioseco Shot

We're in the middle of this year's Chinese ghost month (on the western calendar, it began on August 20, the fifteenth day is on September 3, the last day is September 18). Just before ghost month began, this happened. Early into the month, there was this. Now, film critic Alexis Tioseco (1981-2009), who has shared with us his many movie reviews, has passed away. He died in his residence on Times St. in Quezon City (yes, the same street where President Cory Aquino lived). I really do hope the perpetrators of the crime are caught and brought to justice. Here's a letter he wrote to his partner, Nika, who died with him.

The Impact Of Laws On The Publishing Industry

The Bibliophile Stalker shares his essay, The Impact Of Laws On The Publishing Industry, with us. An excerpt:

When talking about the publishing industry, it's also important to bear in mind that it's not a free market. There are other factors--some transparent and predictable, others not so--that come into play which could be either beneficial or detrimental. One good example is Venezuela where a policy implemented by government a year ago might spell the end of import books in a few month's time. One would expect that it'll take years before citizens would feel the effects of such a ruling but that's not the case. Publishers, distributors, and retailers are scrambling to stay in business and honestly, defeat appears inevitable unless the laws themselves are reversed.

The Philippines faced a similar situation a few months ago, although perhaps not as catastrophic as Venezuela's situation. The Department of Finance decided to tax import books, and those who failed to comply were swallowed by red tape and storage fees. To the common Filipino, this was a cold war between distributors/retailers and the government. Thankfully, through action by various organizations and individuals (government officials, Unesco, the National Book Development Board, writers, bloggers, etc.), the policy was suspended. Unfortunately, I don't think the public realizes how close we came to losing that battle, or the impact it has on their lives. When it was brought to the attention of the media for example, more than a few were okay with the idea of taxing import books.

The latest plot by the Department of Finance is to tax individual citizens whenever they claim books from the post-office. What used to be an arbitrary, illegal implementation (technically, they shouldn't be charging citizens although some do end up paying while others not) has now become a codified and systematic policy. Unfortunately, unlike the previous scenario, there is no buzz in the media, and while we have defenders striving to combat this injustice, there's simply not much awareness on the issue by the public.

Click here to read the entire essay.

I strongly suggest that you regularly visit The Bibliophile Stalker's blog. His links alone are worth the click, and are bound to keep you updated and informed.

Congratulations to PGS Image Inspiration 1 Winner Anne Lagamayo

Anne Lagamayo, Image Inspiration 1 winner, won 2nd place at the 2009 Palanca Awards for short story in English. She joins two other PGS writers, Kate Aton-Osias and Paolo Chikiamco, both of whom I blogged about here. Congratulations, Anne!

The complete list of winners is here.