Thursday, August 30, 2007

Image Inspiration winner for Issue 2

A committee of readers of various ages, interests, preferences, and backgrounds has decided: the winner of Issue 2's Image Inspiration Writing contest is John Philip Corpuz! His story, Muse, inspired by this image (by Andrew Drilon), can be read in the just released issue 3 of The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories.

Congratulations, John!

In addition, the tallies of the judges' scores showed that two other entries came in fairly close, so though John has won the main prize, we're going to give a free copy each to the authors of these two other entries! Their work can be read below, and drop them an email to let them know what you think of their stories! So congratulations also to Erica Gonzales and Blue Soon!

Two Birds by Erica S. Gonzales

The large birdcage owned by the guardian of the mountain was different this morning.

Normally it had two lovebirds inside, a male and a female, which happily chirped in the mornings and sang a few songs before sleeping at night. This morning, it housed a white male lovebird, and a small fair-skinned female, completely naked and shivering in the morning breeze.

“Maya…” the female said.


“Why didn't you tell me that humans MAKE their coverings?” She shivered from within the cage, her new legs bent at the knees to cover her new body.

“I thought you knew that by now,” her mate flapped his wings and answered.

“I had this idea that dresses came with humans, the way we have feathers and dogs have fur. They just molt every night and on special occasions. That's why they have new dresses every day.”

“You haven't been a bird for that long, haven't you?” Maya tsk-tsk-tsked.

Another breeze passed through the house. The female hugged her new legs even closer. “Please, Maya, I don't want to be like this anymore.”

“It's your fault for making incomplete wishes from the master,” Maya chirped beside her. “You said 'I want to be human'. But that's all you said. “You should've thought of asking to be a human of a human size and outside this cage and in a dress. But no. All you asked was to be human. In our master's supreme wisdom, he did just that.”

She sighed and buried her head in her arms. “I just wanted to be like the master.”

“It'll take more than that.”

Maya flapped his wings and sang his saddest song, lamenting the loss of his mate.

First Contact by Blue Soon

Finally! The writer was back!

Kyrielle excitedly stood up on the flimsy perch, jostling the sleeping maya who shared it.

It had been one whole day in this stupid birdshit-spattered prison with this schizophrenic

sparrow, waiting. At last the nightmare would end.

It really was that featherhead Falla’s fault, panicking and crashing the spacecraft when they wormholed into the planetary atmosphere. If the idiot hadn’t been killed in the crash, Kyrielle would have skragged her herself.

The malfunctioning cloaking field was the only thing she had been able to salvage. Damn thing was permanently stuck to sparrow disguise setting.

“Hello, little birdies!” the writer said, “Give me a few minutes and I’ll be right with you.”

Dizzy from the crash, Kyrielle had no defense. The birdcatcher’s slingshot had gotten her easily. At the pet store, keeping the vicious birds she shared the cage with at bay using telepathy had exhausted her.

But soon she would be free. She was rested and at her full strength. All she had to do was wait for the writer to get in range.

“Hungry?” he asked, walking up to the cage on his desk.

Before the maya could wake and start its abominable twittering, Kyrielle killed it with a contemptuous flick of mindpower. As the bird tumbled to the floor, the dismayed writer rushed to open the cage.

“Oh no, what happened?”

Kyrielle gathered herself and unleashed her deathstroke at the human.

The writer blinked, and smiled. “Sorry, immune to telepathic attack, necromancy does that.” A wave of his hand and her sparrow guise evaporated.

Picking up an incredibly sharp letter opener and an empty ink bottle, he said, “I usually need two live birds to work my Spell Against Writer’s Block, but I guess one alien will work just as well.”

PGS3 Erratum

A portion of the Author's Notes for Homer's Child by Paolo Chikiamco was inadvertently left out of the printing. We are reproducing it here in full, with the missing portions in bold.

Author's Notes for Homer's Child:
"My stories usually come from two sources: my desire to escape into a world or a character, and my desire to say something through the story. Homer's Child was a mixture of both. At the time I was very much caught in the grip of Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files) and Aleksandra Trese (Trese) and I wanted very much to have my own "Imbestigador" protagonist to play around with--but as the private investigator field seemed to have too much competition, Basil became a reporter, and a Storyteller, inspired by the theory that 'Homer' was not actually one man but many--a society of poets called the Homeridae. It was an easy jump from this to the Homeridae as 'chldren' of Homer who shared his gift. This particular adventure of Basil's (and there are many) was told because I believe that words, that stories, can influence the world around us...and that there are no more powerful stories than the ones that we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Muppet meanwhile, merely came from a...really weird dream."

Things happen, sometimes, but that's no excuse. So to further correct this, we will also issue an erratum in the upcoming PGS4.

Apologies to all the readers and to Paolo.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Issue Number 3

PGS3 is now available at the Anvil Publishing booth at the Manila Book Fair, August 29, 2007 to September 2, 2007 (here's a link to a map for how to get there). The Fair is being held at the World Trade Center Manila, Gil Puyat Avenue corner D. Macapagal Boulevard, near Roxas Boulevard. By late next week PGS3 will be at our regular distributors' outlets. Click here to read excerpts of the stories in PGS3.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Scoring Ennio Morricone

This CNN article features Ennio Morricone, a prolific composer whose movie music has been heard by millions. My personal favorites are The Mission, Cinema Paradiso, and The Untouchables, but over the decades he's released so much more than just the music for these three movies. He and John Williams (Schindler's List, Back To The Future, etc.) take up significant space in my iPod.

From the CNN article:
"I would recommend the young composer practiced (sic) in all genres of music, all: rock, pop, exotic. A composer must be able to write a string quartet, a symphony, a song, a bad piece, because even to write something bad can be useful, and also a beautiful piece, of great breadth."
I bring this up because it's almost the same advice Stephen King gives in his book, On Writing, about writing; that you can learn as much, maybe more, from bad writing than good.

The same, I believe, can be said, for reading. Short-stories or novels, much can be learned from the bad as well as the good, or at the very least, make one appreciate the time spent reading a good one versus a bad one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On A Brighter Note

Like many parents, I am forever grateful to J.K. Rowling. Because of her, my daughter is reading.

In just a couple of months, more or less, my eight-year-old has gone through Ms. Rowling's seven Harry Potter books. No mean feat, in my opinion. I didn't start reading till I was ten (I started with the Greek myths, then C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, and next jumped into J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings; every book thereafter, no matter the subject or genre, was a target).

At first I thought she was just scanning through, but my wife asked her some detailed questions about the story and my daughter could answer them all. She wasn't just scanning through. Mom and Dad are proud.

I remember telling myself that I would offer the Narnian books to my daughter once she hit ten, but I also remember feeling dismayed that she would ever be interested because she didn't seem taken by books in general (notwithstanding the fact that her parents always seem to have their noses in books, and diligently read to her until she was five). Then of course Harry Potter came along and she got swept into the whole marketing blitz and popularity of it all, felt the peer pressure from her classmates, and got into it.

So, once she was done with Hogwarts, I passed on to her my old Narnian books, two years earlier than planned. She started last night and finished two chapters before bedtime (yes, I snuck a look at where her bookmark was placed while she was sleeping). She's reading those books for sure. Actually reading.

After she's done, should I give her Siddhartha next? Too big a jump, maybe? How about Jane Austen? My wife likes Jane Austen and her Victorian chick-lit tales (can't say I'm a big fan, but I've gone through them). Maybe my kid will too. Still too big a jump? Maybe Roots? I've always liked Alex Haley's Roots.


"Artemis Fowl muna," my wife said, so that's that.

"Fine, fine. I'm good with that," I replied. "Just remember how I gave in to you this time the next time you call me 'unreasonable.'"

Mom and Dad are proud.

Now, to work on my second daughter.

Is Reading Dying?

Yahoo news has posted a revealing article about reading habits in the U.S.

It's probably much worse here in the Philippines.

Here's a quote from the article that echoes what someone here also said to me some months ago:
"I just get sleepy when I read," said Richard Bustos of Dallas, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify.
And here's another quote:
"Fiction just doesn't interest me," said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Ala. "If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie."
Perhaps that's it. Reading as a form of storytelling has been overtaken by other forms (film and video, to name them, and perhaps soon interactive versions of the same via computers).

In America, the mail carriers of the Pony Express lost their jobs and became a footnote in history when the railroad was built during the Wild Wild West. Years later, the trains had to go through tough economic times and had to rebrand themselves to survive when long distance buses started plying their routes. The buses lost a lot of business when sales of cars reached commercial levels and air off. Though the trains and buses are still there, they're not what they once were because of cars and planes.

It's not a perfect analogy. Reading isn't the same as horses, trains, buses, or cars. But sometimes it sure feels like Reading is going the way of the Pony Express, slowly being replaced by film. Nothing against film; it's a wonderful medium for telling a story. It's just sad that another medium has to fall by the wayside. Perhaps that's just evolution at work.

Nevertheless, it's sad, and I felt pretty bad after reading the Yahoo article this morning. Argh. What a frickin' way to start the day.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Editorial, Philippine Star

An interesting opinion, "Losing the Workforce", in the August 19, 2007, Philippine Star.

While the nation suffers from an acute lack of schoolteachers and deteriorating English proficiency, Thai students are learning English – from thousands of Filipino teachers. A recent report said about 3,000 Filipinos are currently teaching in Thailand,...

Some More Good News

Ian Casocot and Sarge Lacuesta have also won Palancas this year.

Updates here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Not Onli In Da Pilipins

Well. This seems to be everywhere now.

British Teacher Appalled by Spelling Errors

Here's a quote:

Text messaging or an increasing reliance on computer spell checkers have also been cited as a major reason for the rise in spelling mistakes.

To protect the English language, some sticklers have set up groups, including The Apostrophe Protection Society.

There is even a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek group on Internet social networking site Facebook called “If you can’t differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ you deserve to die.”

I'm not as rabid as some are against text-speak or chat-speak, but there is a place for it: on the cellphone and on messenger programs only. Otherwise, nothing should stop one from using full words and sentences.

One solution (among many): Read more!

Monday, August 13, 2007

2007 Palanca Awards (updated)

Wonderful news!

Dean Alfar
has won second prize at this year's Palanca Awards for his story, "Poor, Poor Luisa" (Short Story for Children in English category). This is his 10th Palanca award overall. Dean is also the editor of the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies, and the author of Salamanca, a Palanca award winning novel. He's also won the National Book Award (and is nominated twice this year, so he could win more). He is the prime mover of Speculative Fiction in the Philippines.

Also, Crystal Koo has just emailed me that she's won third prize for her story, "Benito Salazar's Last Creation" (Short Story in English category). This is the first time she's won, and also, the first time she's ever joined. Crystal just finished her Masters in Creative Writing at New South Wales University, Sydney, Australia, and is currently based in Hong Kong teaching English at an International School. She also just won first prize in the postgraduate poetry category of her University's student literary journal.

(update) And this just in! Apol Lejano-Massebieu has also won her first Palanca! She won second prize for her piece, "Culture Shocked: A Story of Recovery" (Essay in English category). Since leaving the publishing industry in Manila and moving to Provence, France, with her husband a couple of years ago, Apol has turned to writing fiction, and has seen her work published in The Philippine Free Press and in Philippine Speculative Fiction, Vol. 2.

(update) Two-time winner Ian Casocot has also won his third Palanca award. He bagged third prize for "The Last Days of Magic" (Short Story for Children in English category). Ian is based in Dumaguete where he teaches. He also heads the Litcritters group there.

(update) Sarge Lacuesta, the Literary Editor of the Philippines Free Press, is this year's first prize winner in the Short Story in English category for "Flames". Sarge has won a number of Palancas before, as well as the NVM Gonzalez Award, and the National Book Award twice.

Dean's story, The Middle Prince, was PGS's first ever feature story and came out in PGS1. He has another story, one in the high-fantasy genre, slated for PGS4.

Crystal had her story, a fantasy-romance entitled The Scent of Spice, published in PGS2, her first published work of fiction. We're looking forward to more from her!

Apol, who submitted a ghost story to PGS some months ago, will see that submission published also in PGS4, along with Dean's.

Ian has promised in the comment section of this blog's "Crime Does Not Exist" post that he "feels the challenge" and might send a crime story in soon.

When we met and spoke in the recent past, Sarge promised me a scifi story for PGS. Though he's very busy, and has other writing assignments to finish, I'd gladly wait in line for one of his subsmissions.

Congratulations to Dean, Crystal, Apol, Ian, and Sarge!

Are there any more PGS contributors out there who have won this year? Please let me know so I can update this post!

(update) In other news about other PGS contributors:

Celestine Marie G. Trinidad and Elyss Punsalan, whose stories are in PGS2 and PGS3 respectively ("Beneath the Acacia" and "Twinspeak"), have also had their work accepted in another publication by Cozy Reads. They're the first two names mentioned on the link. Congratulations!

At about the same time PGS2 came out with Chiles Samaniego's "The Saint of Elsewhere", another of his stories, "Troll's Doll", also came out in issue four of Story Philippines.

And Joseph Nacino, whose story, "Insomnia", was published in PGS1, is moving up in his work as the web editor of a prominent Philippine newspaper!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Crime Does Not Exist (updated)

(new links have been added, with more to come as they crop up, and further updates too down below at the end of the post)

Indeed, it doesn't:

To the Tale, and Other Such Concerns
Accidents Happen 1, 2
Bibliophile Stalker
The Grin Without A Cat 1, 2
Notes From The Peanut Gallery
Jessica Rules The Universe
Read Or Die Weblog
Electrick Twilight Boogaloo

Being a fan of many types of stories, the dearth of Filipino crime/mystery/suspense submissions to PGS has been quite disappointing. What could be the reason?

Having gone through the submissions list of PGS many times and seeing hardly any for this genre, I've been lamenting this predicament for some time now. Months, in fact. My lamentations have become borderline rants, and I'm afraid that I might already be offending my friends by sounding like a broken record (or CD, or corrupted audio file, for those who don't remember vinyl; you want some scratch?). I'm glad to see that others in the blogosphere have noticed this too. Perhaps all this discussion might spur writers to give this genre a try, following in the footsteps of FH Batacan (Smaller and Smaller Circles). We won't know how far we can progress in this genre without trying.

Disregarding attempts at cross-genre (infusing some supernatural or fantastical element), crime/mystery/suspense stories are decidedly realist, something readers here should be familiar with. The tension and drama (trans. "blood and violence") behind unlawful acts committed against another person or against society can lead to stories with interesting explorations of the human condition. Even the absence of trustworthy law enforcement agencies and figures--as some have pointed out to be the reason behind the lack of such tales--would, or rather should, make for a different point-of-attack for writers making an attempt in this genre.

Maybe the reason is as simple as this: the genre just isn't popular at all in this part of the world. In other words, such stories just don't catch the fancy of enough people here. I would imagine that air conditioners wouldn't be as popular in Anchorage the way they are in Manila, though it wouldn't be impossible to consider that there are air conditioners there, somewhere. But something inside me rebels against such simplistic reasoning. We can easily surmise why air conditioners are unpopular in Anchorage (the whole place is a giant ice cube!). It's not as easy to deduce why this genre doesn't resonate with Filipinos. Which leads us back to just what the real cause behind this dearth could be. It's not like we haven't been exposed to work in this genre through books (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Jane Marple, anyone?), film (The Silence of The Lambs, Se7en, The Godfather, and Goodfellas), and TV (The Sopranos, Prisonbreak, C.S.I. in all three of its incarnations, and the riveting variations of Law & Order). All the theories I've heard posited by different people sound plausible, and ultimately and unfortunately, unprovable.

Maybe we can just forget delving for reasons, and just write, just tell, our stories.

Can you imagine a very Filipino story with jueteng as the backdrop, perhaps told from the point-of-view of a runner? Or how about a story that takes off from a theft from a hotel room safe by one of the hotel staff (do you remember that? It was a big issue in the papers some years ago). A celebrity caught in a compromising and unlawful situation becomes fodder not only for the gossip columnists but also for corrupt law enforcement or an obsessed fan-stalker. What would someone in the household staff of a rich politician do if he or she had evidence of a crime done within the premises of her employer's mansion? Carnapping, kidnapping, thieves boarding jeeps, taxis, and buses, laptop theft,...the list goes on. And Lord knows there have to be stories around all those murders of journalists around the country. Or how about a simple petty-crime story around a stolen cellphone that contains incriminating data, or around fake diplomas and government forms (Recto St in Manila is famous for this), or pirated music, software, and film discs ("dibidi, dibidi, boss, X, X, gusto mo? Meron ako dito, sariwa pa").

(Brief Aside, lest this post end up much too dry: speaking of sariwa, I suddenly recall this old movie that came out when I was just twelve going on thirteen, and it made an impression on, and a memorable introduction to, my teenage years. It was directed by Joey Gosiengfiao and starred a very young Dina Bonnevie. The film is entitled Katorse. What a title! They don't make movie titles like they used to! And you should say it right, the way the voice-over announcer did on the trailer back then (kailangan tigasin mo ang dila mo: "Ka-TOORR-se"). Dina really looked***...eeep...'di na bale. Holy Freudian slips, Batman! Quick! We have to get back to the Discussion! Before The Riddler gets away! End of Aside.)

If these U.S. circulation figures (circa 2004) are true, then it's worth noting this reversal in North America: the combined circulation of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine is almost one million. In contrast, the combined circulation of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction comes to about two hundred thousand. I don't know the circulation figures of Realms of Fantasy and Fantasy Magazine, but I think if you add them into the mix it still won't reach a million (I'd love for PGS to have just 10% of the circulation figures of Hitchcock and Ellery Queen). These circulation numbers however don't take into account science-fiction, fantasy, horror, or crime/mystery/suspense e-zines, but it is logical to assume that the ratio of North American readers would be more-or-less the same (figures taken worldwide would surely skew the ratio; but for or against which genre?).

I've enjoyed reading all these publications since I was young (the first five I mentioned above, in particular), and I always scour the second-hand bookstores for their back issues. In fact, these magazines were the inspiration behind PGS, an idea that's been gestating for years until I worked up enough courage to give it a try last year (hoping against hope that I can somehow make PGS last and not just flash briefly). It was a simple enough thought: "Why can't there be similar digests like these here in the Philippines? Such digests could help promote literacy and Filipino storytelling, couldn't it?" I didn't expect though that crime/mystery/suspense fiction would have little or no presence once the ball started rolling.

In a country full of crime, crime fiction doesn't exist (except for that one, notable exception).*

Isn't it ironic? Don't you think? Yeah, I really do think.

Onli in da Pilipins.

*It has been pointed out to me that there is another crime story written by a Pinoy. The story is entitled "Voyager", is set in 1883 on a ship coming in from Hong Kong, and features a Manila police officer assigned to assassinate a rebel onboard. It's included in the book, "Penmanship and Other Stories" (1995). It was pointed out to me by no less than the author himself, sir Butch Dalisay, who was once a reporter on the police beat for a newspaper. Eep. Sorry, sir Butch. Quick, everyone! Get a copy! Might be easier said than done given that it's out-of-print, but still, try! Of course, if there's anyone who would have done everything already, including crime fiction, it would be sir Butch. Nonetheless, crime/mystery/suspense stories by Filipinos have been few and far between.