Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shaping Young Minds

Here's an interesting article: Children's Books Become Ideological Battleground In Sweden. Some excerpts that struck me:

"Our goal is for all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or other such things, to have the freedom to create their own identity and be respected for their personal qualities," said Karin Salmson, the co-founder of the new Vilda publishing house.

But several critics are outraged, saying they are simply pushing propaganda disguised as literature.

Vilda and another small publisher, Olika, both opened their doors last year with the express aim of making children's books that promote liberal values and challenge traditional views on gender, race and sexual orientation.

The publishers' philosophies are largely in line with ruling attitudes in this Scandinavian country, which is widely considered a world leader in gender equality and minority rights.

But critics have challenged their methods.

"For both Vilda and Olika, their values are the top priority ... and I think that is simply the wrong approach when you want to make good children's books," says Lotta Olsson, a literary critic at Sweden's paper of reference Dagens Nyheter.

If the whole aim of a story is to promote an idea and alter children's behaviour and attitudes, the artistic and literary side of the book tends to suffer she insists.

"You cannot write a book simply because you want it to be gender equal. You can however write a good book that is gender equal, but as soon as you can see the thought behind the book, I think the artistic side has failed," she tells AFP.

Both Tomicic and Salmson, however, dismiss the criticism as "cultural elitism," pointing out that they have received an overwhelmingly positive response from parents.

Olsson rejects that notion, maintaining that the problem with the new publishing houses is their "prerequisite that they only take in authors with the same perspective. That affects their access to books in a way that just isn't good."

"I don't think it works either," she insists. "Children do as we do, not as we tell them to do. If you look around and see women being treated worse than men, it makes no difference that you've read a children's book in which the mother goes to work and the father stays home with the kids."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This Made Me Laugh (Updated)

Caught Sir Butch Dalisay on ANC yesterday morning. They were interviewing him (along with Teddy Boy Locsin) regarding the State Of the Nation Address that had been scheduled for yesterday afternoon. The interviewers wanted to know what went into the writing of a S.O.N.A., as Sir Butch had helped in the drafting of the speeches of Fidel Ramos during his administration (Teddy Boy Locsin had done the same for Corazon Aquino during her time). When asked whether he had helped in the writing of yesterday's S.O.N.A., Sir Butch said:

"No, I've gone back to novel's honest fiction."

Whereupon everyone on TV started laughing.

I couldn't help but laugh myself. What Sir Butch said works on a number of levels, doesn't it?

This post serves too as a reminder for the launching of Soledad's Sister on July 31, 2008. Click here for the details.

Update: I found an online article about this, "Writing S.O.N.A. Is Like A Jigsaw Puzzle". An excerpt:

Meanwhile, amid scepticism about the truthfulness and accuracy of the SONA, Locsin clarified that the data used in SONAs are usually accurate but that these are inadequate.

“Every boring fact, and figure is a fact. Every bridge that is mentioned was there. The question, ‘If that is the truth, if I am poor, if that is the truth, how come I still feel bad? How come I’m still hungry?’ It [figure] doesn’t say it’s lying; it only says it's inadequate,” the lawmaker said.

For the congressman, the fundamental mistake in almost every SONA is that the leaders of the country reflect in their speeches the advice of foreigners on how to run the economy.

More than the facts and figures, Dalisay said that a SONA should be inspiring and sincere.

“No matter how good the speech writer is, if the audience feels they’re being had, it's not going to work,” he said.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Free (And Legal) E-Books, a science fiction and fantasy publisher, has made available some of their titles for free and legal download. Hurry up, as this is only for a limited time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

While In Line At The Movie Theatre Ticket Booth -- A True Story

Again, not related to books, reading, writing, or literature, but I feel the urge to post this. This post is for all PGS readers who are Batman fans.

Scene: Me in line, before lunch, waiting for my turn to buy tickets for an evening screening of The Dark Knight. In front of me are a man and a lady; behind me are two ladies.

Lady In Front: Ano'ng papanoorin natin?

Man In Front: Meet Dave nalang. Ayoko nang mabigat.

Lady In Front: Sige.

(When it's their turn, they move forward. I'm next.)

Lady #1 Behind Me: Tingnan mo nga yung schedule.

Lady#2: Asan?

Lady #1: Ayun o! (they both read)

Lady#1: Bakit walang Batman?

Lady#2: Oo nga! Sabi ni Lia now showing pa rin ang Batman.

Lady#1: Ano'ng pinapalabas?

Lady#2: Cinema 1 The Flood, Cinema 2 Meet Dave, Cinema 3 Prom Night, Cinema 4 The Dark Knight

Lady#1: Bakit walang Batman? 'di ba bagong labas lang 'yan?

Lady#2: Ewan. Tanungin nalang natin.

Lady#1: Kung wala, ano'ng gagawin natin?

Lady#2: Pili nalang tayo ng iba.

Lady#1: Ano?

Lady#2: Yung Prom Night. Tapos panoorin natin yung part two, yung Dark Knight.

Lady#1: Sige.

Cashier behind the counter, tapping the window: Sir? Sir?

Me (understandably dazed): Uh...hmm?

Cashier: Sir? Ikaw na. Bibili ba kayo ng ticket?

Me: Sorry. Kanina ka pa ba tumatawag? Sorry. 'di kita narinig.

Cashier: Okay lang. Ano pong papanoorin niyo.

Me: Yung Batman. Dalawang ticket, please. (I point to our seats, and to the evening show on the cashier's monitor)

Cashier: Dark Knight?

Me: Umm...yes, si Batman.

(I pay, get my tickets, then step aside and turn around to fix the change in my wallet, preparing to leave. I hear the two ladies behind me place their order)

Lady#1: Miss, dalawang ticket sa Prom Night, tapos dalawa sa kasunod na showing sa Dark Knight.

I walk away quickly before I can say anything.

Launch of Soledad's Sister by Butch Dalisay

The launch of Soledad's Sister by Butch Dalisay begins at 4:00 p.m. on July 31, 2008, at the Pulungang Claro M. Recto Conference Hall (U.P. Faculty Center) at U.P. Diliman. Soledad's Sister has been available at National Bookstore for more than a month now. Here's the program:

"Novels In progress: Writing Long Filipino Fiction In English" by Dr. Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. (a lecture in fulfillment of the U.P. Alumni Association of America Professorial Chair Grant)

Opening Remarks:
Dr. Naida Rivera, Chair, U.P. Department of English and Comparative Literature

Dr. Patricia May Jurilla
Dr. Rosario Cruz Lucero

Yvette Tan Horror Writing Lecture at U.P.

One good thing that came of being lost yesterday at U.P. was seeing some posters announcing a series of lectures sponsored by the U.P. Writers Club. Here's the full announcement of their Turn Write Lecture Series on their blog.

Unfortunately, my posting about it here is too late for the first two lectures (on chic-lit and graphic novels). However, the third lecture is still coming, on July 30, 2008 in fact, from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. at Room 508 of the College of Arts and Letters. The speaker will be Yvette Tan, the PGS Special Halloween issue guest editor and author of "Chimaera" from PGS4. She'll be talking about horror writing.

Yet More Book Sales!

I blogged about the first book sale here, then the second one here. A friend told me about the ones I'm writing about in this post, the third and fourth ones, respectively.

The Fully Booked store at Fort Bonifacio Global City is currently having their anniversary sale at this branch. It'll last until August 3, 2008.

The Fully Booked store at SM North Edsa will also be having a sale from August 1 to 3, 2008.

So there, four sales to look for titles at lower prices. It's a good time to be a reader. Have fun folks!

Lost (Updated)

Being unfamiliar with U.P., I got lost on my way to Sir Butch Dalisay's Crime Fiction class yesterday afternoon. He had graciously acceded to my request to visit his class and invite them to submit their stories to the PGS Special Crime Issue. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, ended up talking to a number of security guards, students, and staff, before finally finding the right building. Walked into the third floor classroom sweaty, flustered, and embarrassed; it doesn't help that meeting people for the first time and public speaking aren't my strengths. Anyway, I'll make a brief blog entry about Sir Butch's class soon. I knew I should've taken a left turn at Albuquerque.

Update: It just struck me: I had been to that same building before, back when I visited Professor Emil Flores' class. I've become so forgetful. Now I feel even more embarrassed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Inaccuracies In Movie Storytelling

Only mildly related to books, but I had a blast reading these two links:

Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies
Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Movies

Some of the books that were made into movies that made these lists are: Jurassic Park, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Starship Troopers, Memoirs Of A Geisha, 300 (in this case, the source was a graphic novel, which in turn took for its source The Battle Of Thermopylae as detailed by Herodotus), and Total Recall (in this case, the source was a short novelette, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", by Philip K. Dick, and then the movie was turned into a novel by Piers Anthony).

Man Asian Article

Here's an article about the Man Asian Literary Prize from The Guardian: Man Asian Favours The Philippines by James Wignall. (Currently, it's spelled "Phillipines" in the article's title, but I expect this typo to be corrected). The complete longlist is here.

Thanks to Zen In Darkness for the link.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Nameless

Kudos to Chiles Samaniego, author of "The Saint Of Elsewhere" from PGS2! He has a new story out in the July 19, 2008 issue (vol. 99, No. 29) of The Philippines Free Press. The title of the story is "The Nameless", and he blogs about it here. In fact, he had another story, "Screws", published earlier in the same mag, which wasn't announced before because I failed to see it (sorry, Chiles! Must've failed to visit the bookstore that week.). Better late than never. Kudos again!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


From this earlier one, to the one today: Nikki Alfar (author of "Beacon" from PGS2) and Dean Francis Alfar (author of "The Middle Prince" from PGS1 and "In The Dim Plane" from PGS4) are proud parents again! They now have two girls: Sage, and just this morning, Lily! Congratulations!

Correction: The baby's name is Rowan, not Lily. Nikki and Dean changed it from the last time I spoke with them.

Ladlad: From Literature To Life

Danton Remoto, Ateneo professor, co-editor of Ladlad: Anthology Of Philippine Gay Writing (with Neil Garcia; Danton writes a bit about the anthology here), and editor of Afraid: The Best Philippine Ghost Stories (here's a review by The Bibliophile Stalker), has had his speech (delivered before the College Editors' Guild Of The Philippines National Conference last May 22, 2006) published online at ABS-CBN News Online.

"Gay writing is no longer outside the house. It stands in the center of the room.

Words are deeds, as the philosopher Wittsgenstein has said. But in Philippine politics, words are not deeds. Words have no currency after the last polling station has closed, the last vote counted, the new winner proclaimed. Worthless are the words. They just crumble in the dry wind.

Deeds are what we need. But beyond the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges and school buildings; harbors, piers, and airports, we also need the spiritual infrastructure.

The spiritual infrastructure is anchored on the belief that our leaders are the ones we voted for; the knowledge that our country can stand on its own two feet again; the hope that, one day, we can ask the more than 8 million Filipinos abroad to return home if only for a while, to savor the sun and the sea and the sand, the company of parents and relatives and friends, bask in the reality that this beautiful country is finally moving forward, the way it did in the 1960s.

This is the stark point taught to us by all great political movements. To paraphrase the German writer Goethe: "There is nothing as powerful, there is nothing as invincible, than an idea whose time has come."

Let us allow Ang Ladlad to have its Brokeback Moment in government. We promise grammatical English, good fashion sense, and short speeches—shorter than this one I was asked to deliver today."

The Bibliophile Stalker Interviews Komikid

After interviewing Joseph Nacino, The Bibliophile Stalker now interviews Andrew Drilon (author of "Thriller" from PGS1, and winner of the comics category of the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards). This is part of The Bibliophile Stalker's special feature posts on the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. The full interview can be found here.

Signs Of Print's Future II

From this old post, Luis Is Listening has sent in a fresh link: I Read The News Today...Oh Boy by Eric Alterman. It's so fresh, the article is said to have first appeared in the August 4, 2008 issue of The Nation, almost two weeks from today. An excerpt:

The more one listens to the men and women at the top of the industry, the more it becomes obvious that the survival of the newspaper--the primary information-gathering and knowledge-disseminating instrument of American democracy--is going to have to come from somewhere else. Sure, the blogosphere makes some invaluable contributions and a few foundations are rising to the challenge of funding investigative journalism. Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian recently suggested to me that universities might attach a small fee to their students' tuition--like an activities fee--to pay for the newspaper subscription of their choice. This would improve the newspapers' bottom line, give their advertisers access to a coveted demographic and, if successful, would inculcate in the students the habit of newspaper reading as they approach maturity as voting citizens. It's a great idea, and unlike most of what one hears at these conferences, it is on scale with the problem. Unfortunately, young people do not appear to want to pick up a newspaper, even for free. They often leave them lying around, even at journalism schools, where they are distributed gratis.

I don't have a better idea, except to repeat, again, the following: the loss of daily newspapers is a significant threat to the future of our democracy. It is far too important to be left in the hands of a bunch of clueless media moguls and their "chief innovation officers."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Sale!

The Powerbooks Warehouse Sale will be from August 1 to August 3, 2008 (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) at the Powerbooks Outlet Store (#25 Brixton St., Capitol Subd., Pasig City). For inquiries, please call 4901158.

2008 Man Asian Literary Prize Longlist

Here's the longlist, which was released from Hong Kong just today:

Tulsi Badrinath, Melting Love
Hans Billimoria, Ugly Tree
Ian Rosales Casocot, Sugar Land
Han Dong, Banished!
Anjum Hasan, Neti, Neti
Daisy Hasan, The To-Let House
Abdullah Hussein, The Afghan Girl
Tsutomu Igarashi, To the Temple
Rupa Krishnan, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Murong Xuecun, Leave Me Alone, Chengdu
Kavery Nambisan, The Story that Must Not be Told
Sumana Roy, Love in the Chicken's Neck
Vaibhav Saini, On the Edge of Pandemonium
Salma, Midnight Tales
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, Lost Flamingoes of Bombay
Lakambini A. Sitoy, Sweet Haven
Sarayu Srivatsa, The Last Pretence
Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado
Amit Varma, My Friend, Sancho
Yu Hua, Brothers
Alfred A. Yuson, The Music Child

The shortlist will be released this October. Congratulations to all longlisted writers, most especially to Pinoy writers Ian Rosales Casocot, Lakambini Sitoy, Miguel Syjuco, and Alfred A. Yuson! Hopefully one, some, or all four of them will be shortlisted, just like Butch Dalisay was shortlisted last year for Soledad's Sister!

More details can be found here.

Epic Pooh

That's how multiple British Fantasy Award winner Michael Moorcock (of Elric and Eternal Champion fame) describes J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings. And not just. He includes C.S. Lewis' Narnian Chronicles and Richard Adams' Watership Down in the mix, and calls Lloyd Alexander's writing "flaccid". He identifies these works as "the prose of the nursery room", A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (which he also doesn't like) posing as an epic. Instead, he cites the works of Alan Garner, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Susan Cooper as better choices.

He's quite harsh on Tolkien, to wit:

"I suppose I respond so antipathetically to Lewis and Tolkien because I find this sort of consolatory orthodoxy as distasteful as any other self-serving misanthropic doctrine. One should perhaps feel some sympathy for the nervousness occasionally revealed beneath their thick layers of stuffy self-satisfaction, typical of the second-rate schoolmaster so cheerfully mocked by Peake and Rowling, but sympathy is hard to sustain in the teeth of their hidden aggression which is so often accompanied by a deep-rooted hypocrisy. Their theories dignify the mood of a disenchanted and thoroughly discredited section of the repressed English middle-class too afraid, even as it falls, to make any sort of direct complaint ("They kicked us out of Rhodesia, you know"), least of all to the Higher Authority, their Tory God who has evidently failed them."

I never liked A. A. Milne, even when I was very young. There is an element of conspiratorial persuasion in his tone that a suspicious child can detect early in life. Let's all be cosy, it seems to say (children's books are, after all, often written by conservative adults anxious to maintain an unreal attitude to childhood); let's forget about our troubles and go to sleep. At which I would find myself stirring to a sitting position in my little bed and responding with uncivilized bad taste."

As a child, I found that these books did not show me the respect I was used to from Nesbit or Baum, who also gave me denser, better writing and a wider vocabulary. The Cowardly Lion was a far more attractive character than Aslan and Crompton's William books were notably free from moral lessons. I think I would have enjoyed the work of Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and Ursula Le Guin much more. They display a greater respect for children and considerably more talent as writers."

"There are a good many more such fantasies now being written for children and on the whole they are considerably better than the imitations written ostensibly for adults. Perhaps the authors feel more at ease when writing about and for children - as if they are forced to tell fewer lies (or at least answer fewer fundamental questions) to themselves or their audience."

Of the children's writers only Lewis and Adams are guilty, in my opinion, of producing thoroughly corrupted romanticism - sentimentalized pleas for moderation of aspiration which are at the root of their kind of conservatism. In Lewis's case this consolatory, anxiety-stilling "Why try to play Mozart when it's easier to play Rodgers and Hammerstein?" attitude extended to his non-fiction, particularly the dreadful but influential Experiment in Criticism. But these are, anyway, minor figures. It is Tolkien who is most widely read and worshipped. And it was Tolkien who most betrayed the romantic discipline, more so than ever Tennyson could in Idylls of the King, which enjoyed a similar vogue in Victorian England."

The commercial genre which has developed from Tolkien is probably the most dismaying effect of all. I grew up in a world where Joyce was considered to be the best Anglophone writer of the 20th century. I happen to believe that Faulkner is better, while others would pick Conrad, say. Thomas Mann is an exemplary giant of moral, mythic fiction. But to introduce Tolkien's fantasy into such a debate is a sad comment on our standards and our ambitions. Is it a sign of our dumber times that Lord of the Rings can replace Ulysses as the exemplary book of its century? Some of the writers who most slavishly imitate him seem to be using English as a rather inexpertly-learned second language. So many of them are unbelievably bad that they defy description and are scarcely worth listing individually. Terry Pratchett once remarked that all his readers were called Kevin. He is lucky in that he appears to be the only Terry in fantasy land who is able to write a decent complex sentence. That such writers also depend upon recycling the plots of their literary superiors and are rewarded for this bland repetition isn't surprising in a world of sensation movies and manufactured pop bands. That they are rewarded with the lavish lifestyles of the most successful whores is also unsurprising. To pretend that this addictive cabbage is anything more than the worst sort of pulp historical romance or western is, however, a depressing sign of our intellectual decline and our free-falling academic standards."

Thanks very much to Zen In Darkness for sending in the link to Michael Moorcock's complete essay. Click on the link to read the whole article, and to learn of the other books Moorcock likes and dislikes in the fantasy genre.

(May I point you to the PGS blog mirror of this post on Multiply? The discussion over there on this topic is quite interesting.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Seek Ye Whore"

Yvette Tan, author of "Chimaera" from PGS4, and guest-editor for the Special PGS Halloween Issue, has a story out in Rogue Magazine's July Anniversary issue: "Seek Ye Whore". It's now available at all leading bookstores. An excerpt:

She's hot,” he exclaimed before he could stop himself.

Isn't she?” Donovan agreed. “She's perfect.”

How did you get her to marry you?” Foster asked. “No offense Don, but she seems way out of your league.”

Found her on the internet,” Donovan said.

You mean you met her on the internet.”

No, found. She's a mail order bride from the Philippines. You know how hot those third-world chicks are to marry white guys. I picked her out, paid for her to come over, married her and now I live like a king.”

His statement didn't sit well with Foster. How pathetic did you have to be to buy a bride online? But as one side condemned the practice as subhuman, another part of him was thinking about what a good deal it was.

What's the URL?” Foster asked.”

Seek Ye Whore?” Foster repeated. “This isn't a pr0n site, is it?”

It's a province in the Philippines, a**hole,” Donovan said. “Go ask Santiago.”

Santiago was the Auditing Department's token Flip. He had been initially brought in to fill the government quota for minority employees but was soon doing better than most of the department. He was up for a promotion next month, just after a year in the company.

Foster didn't want to ask Santiago about something as silly as a province but he wanted to make sure that Donovan wasn't pulling his leg, either. He excused himself and found Santiago just coming into the office after lunch.

Hey Santi,” he said, falling in step with him.

What's up, Foster?” Santiago asked. “Looking for the files on the Thompson Account?”

Nothing like that,” Foster said, then paused. “It's not work related.”

What is it then?” Santiago asked.

You grew up in the Philippines, right?”

No,” Santiago said carefully, “I grew up in Georgia. My parents brought me here when I was two. What's this about?”

Have you ever heard of a province called Seek Ye Whore?”

Santiago thought for a minute, then said, “Yeah, my parents used to scare us with it when we were kids. It's famous for being bewitched. People believe that everyone who lives there has some nasty occult stuff going on. Why?”

Helping my niece with homework,” Foster said. “Thanks, man.”

Santiago shrugged. “Not a problem.”

That's how Foster found himself checking out

And that's when he decided that he wanted to get married.

From The Bibliophile Stalker

A Different Bookstore is on sale from July 11 to September 15, 2008. Merchandise is at least 30% off (via The Bibliophile Stalker's entry).

In addition, Charles Tan's story from PGS3, "The Devil Is In The Details", is available at Anthology Builder. He blogged about it here. Other PGS contributors whose stories are available there are Alexander Osias and Dean Francis Alfar. Here are Anthology Builder's Writer's Guidelines.Those of you with published stories from paying markets may wish to submit your tales to them.

Lastly, The Stalker has also blogged about the Submission Guidelines to Warrior Wisewoman 2, in case anyone is interested to submit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Description In Fiction

Thank you very much to a PGS blog reader who wishes not to be named and who sent in this link on Description In Fiction Writing: How Much Is Enough? An excerpt:

"A talent for creating descriptive detail is a must for any fiction writer. You not only have to tell the reader what is happening to your characters, but you must be able to provide descriptions for their actions and surroundings. Description in fiction writing is complicated, however, because you also need to know how much is enough.

The fine line between providing too much description and providing too little is easy to cross either way. While you want to paint a lifelike picture for your reader, you don't want to bog them down in description of every little thing your characters see.

So how do you know when you've given enough description?"

Take from the article what can help you, folks.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Not Really Books To Movies

More like "Other Media To Movies", including long awaited sequels.

I've long wanted to write a post about what I think are pretty good or pretty bad movie adaptations of books, but I don't feel confident enough. My movie watching tapered off sometime in the mid-90's, giving way to more book reading.

But getting back to "Other Media To Movies", can you believe I only saw Spiderman 3 when it came out on cable a few weeks ago? And 300 just a few months before that? I've missed Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, feeling more glum about forgetting the latter than the former because I grew up on the first three Indiana Jones films. There's a new Incredible Hulk movie, and I haven't even seen the one before that. It took me months to finally get to the Star Wars prequels, and I have yet to see Peter Jackson's King Kong, or anything by Hayao Miyazaki. With regard to prose, I did finally get to see Brokeback Mountain a few months back, but then, I haven't read the story it was based on yet; so much for making a comparison there. I did not miss Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice, but that's because someone in my family wouldn't let me (you know who you are! Man, as if the 6 hour BBC version wasn't enough!). That reminds me: I've yet to see Atonement also. I've set a date to see The Dark Knight, (and yes, I've seen Batman Begins, as well as Tim Burton's versions, and even Joel Schumacher's, but more on him later). But who knows? I just might forget that one too. I'm so out of it. Thank goodness for cable and DVD's.

Which makes this discussion I had with that same relative who dragged me to Pride and Prejudice all the more ironic.

Me (reading entertainment news off the computer monitor): Hey! You've been watching that TV show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, right?

Relative (watching TV): Yes?

Me: Here's an article that says they're going to make it into a movie!

Relative: Yeah! Who's in it?

Me: Hmm. I'm not sure, but I think no one's been casted yet, not in this report. But they have a director.

Relative: Who?

Me: M. Night Shyamalan.

Relative: What? Nooooo...

Me: Mmm? Why don't you like him?

Relative: He'll turn it into something too sappy, like The Lady In The Water, and probably miss out on the humour and the adventure.

Me (who hasn't seen The Lady In The Water or Avatar to form an opinion): Hmm. Oh well.

Relative (resumes watching TV but seething slightly): grrr.....

Me (after a while): Oh no!

Relative: What? Someone's been casted! Don't tell me, it must be someone awful!

Me: No, that's not it. Joel Schumacher wants to direct a movie of Neil Gaiman's Sandman!

Relative (who has not read Neil Gaiman's Sandman): Oh, so?

Me: Have you seen Batman and Robin? Schumacher wrecked the franchise! That movie was horrible.

Relative: Now we both have something to be angry about.

Me: I hope Schumacher doesn't get the job.

Relative: It's worse for me then, 'coz Shyamalan's already the director.

Well, one day maybe I can make a "Books To Movies" post, severely limited as it'll be. I'm hoping that others will be able to share their thoughts and opinions about their "Books To Movies" too. I'm going to need help there.

Relatedly, Accidents Happen and I have been having fun playing casting director via email for the coming Sherlock Holmes flick. We both know that Iron Man's Robert Downey, Jr.'s got the part, but we were bandying names of British actors who could've played the role. I tell you, Accidents Happen knows even the most obscure actors. She says it's a sickness, obscure actoritis. I think it's a gift. With that kind of recall for names and faces, she would've made a good detective. :D

Call For Submissions From Three-Headed Monster Publishing

Ria Lu, creator of Talecraft, gave me permission to repost her email about this call for submissions here on the PGS blogspot and multiply:

"Hi all! Some people I know are looking for writers. Good opportunity.
Submit kayo.



So, you think you can write? Well, we're a new player in the industry,
and we're looking for a few good Romance Stories.

What we're looking for: Really good Romance Fiction, especially
Fantasy, Sci-fi, Paranormal, and Historical Romances. We're looking
for stories with new ideas. We're NOT looking for stories that
resemble those that are already often being published in popular
romance pocketbooks. There's too much of those already.

What we're giving:
1.)A royalty of 30% of what we make from your story. In other words:
(Selling_Price – Bookstore_Commissio n) * 30% = Writer's_Royalty.
2.)International Exposure. We will be selling internationally.
3.)You get to keep your copyright. We only ask for non-exclusive
rights to publish.

Submission Guidelines:
-Works must be in English, 50,000 – 100,000 words.
-Initially, submit a 1-page summary of your story, and the first 3
chapters. Don't submit the complete manuscript yet. If we like your
story, we will contact you for the full manuscript.
-Make sure you self-edit your submission before sending it to us.
-Works must be submitted in RTF format, 8.5" x 11", 1-inch margin on
all sides. Font must be Arial or Times New Roman, font size 12, double
-Send summary and first 3 chapters to inquiry(at)3hmpublishing(dot)com. Don't
forget to include your full real name, pen name (if any), address,
landline number, mobile number, and a little information about yourself.

At the moment, we are only accepting Novel-length Romance Fiction. We
encourage mixing Romance with other genres like Fantasy, Sci-fi,
Paranormal and Historical. But if you think you have a contemporary
romance story that has an interesting plot, by all means, submit.

For questions and inquiries, don't hesitate to email us at
inquiry(at)3hmpublishing(dot)com. We look forward to hearing from you."

"Creepy Tower"

Here's a link to a site which has pictures of a television tower in the Czech Republic that has ten large statues of babies with, um, "uncommon" faces, crawling all over it. I'm sure one could use this as a prompt and come up with a speculative fiction story about the tower and the statues, but the truth behind these babies is more real-world and mundane. Click here to read the entire article and to see the pictures.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Bibliophile Stalker Interviews The Grin Without A Cat

Here's a short interview of Joseph Nacino (author of "Insomnia" from PGS1 and winner of the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards for "Logovore") by The Bibliophile Stalker. Let Joseph know too what you think of the photo; he wonders about it here.


K. Osias (author of "The 101st Michael" from PGS2) and Alexander Osias (author of "Inhuman" from PGS1) are now proud, first-time parents. Welcome to the world, Hector Osias, number one son! Congratulations!

On Literary Education In The Country

M.R.R. Arcega, author of "The Magic Christmas Box" from the PGS Holiday Issue, has written a blog entry: "On Literary Education In The Country". It's an English translation of award winning author and poet Roberto Anonuevo's post, "Kung Paano Pumatay Ng Mga Manunulat Ng Panitikan". An excerpt:

"Over the years I've ranted so much about the lousy educational system in the country, and very little has changed. Finally it's sinking in that I don't even have the right to rant, because I'm not in education. I don't know exactly what difficulties our teachers have to face. I suppose this goes for every other industry that frustrates me - the publishing industry, the healthcare industry, the mass media, and the maritime travel industry among them...

...However, there are certainly other people who are more respected in their chosen fields, whose words bear more weight than mine, and who are blessed with much greater eloquence. Award-winning author and poet Roberto Anonuevo is one of them. This is why instead of posting my own rant about the poor state of literary education in the country, I'm borrowing his words - in a sense.

The original Filipino version of this post is on his blog, Alimbúkad. I apologize if a lot was lost in my translation. I welcome corrections.

How to kill writers of literature

It is easy to kill writers of literature, and you don't need armed assassins. This happens everyday, and because literature is not prized in our country, permit me to impart some observations on how writers are killed inside and outside the classroom.

1. Erase the decent novelists, storytellers, poets, and playwrights from textbooks. Don't include in textbooks the likes of Ed. Regalado, Lope K. Santos, Julian Cruz Balmaseda, Valeriano Hernandez Peña, and even the high-caliber Rene O. Villanueva, Rio Alma, Mike L. Bigornia, and Teo T. Antonio. Don't study the long history of Filipino literature in the Philippines. Use textbooks with erroneous contents. The more mistakes, the quicker the killing of writers of literature.

2. Related to what was said above, replace them with authors or educators who pose as writers, and it's even better if the author of the textbook is also the one who will write the poem, story, play, essay et cetera in order for the publisher to cut costs.

3. Choose only the frail works of the canonical writers, like Lazaro Francisco, Efren Abueg, Liwayway A. Arceo, and Amado V. Hernandez. And if you are the publisher, also meddle in the contents of the book, even if you don't know a thing about literature."

Click here to read the whole entry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crime Prompt: F.H. Batacan Blogs About Crime And Music

From my previous blog entry, we're now back to reading and writing.

Plus: we're not letting go of the music just yet.

Accidents Happen posts:

"I love the Detectives Beyond Borders website for many reasons -- chiefly because it has such great leads on terrific crime writers to follow, but also because it's fun and smart.

Now the blog has exceeded all my expectations with a post that brings together two of my favorite subjects: crime and music. Read through the comments section for some fantastic suggestions on songs that could be turned into crime stories."

Her entire entry is here, The Hurt In The Song.

Sample Rainy Day Music

Pardon me while I step away from books and words in this post. The torrent outside has slackened to a gentle drizzle, and the gale has slowed to a pleasant breeze. As if on cue, my mp3 player, which is on shuffle, started playing Rickie Lee Jones' On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 (Rickie, in my opinion, is grossly underrated). So I'm taking a two-and-a-half minute break to listen to this song (and to blog about it) before it ends, before the downpour resumes, or the drizzle and the breeze stop and this moment is gone. It's not Saturday afternoon, and we're decades from 1963, but heck, we create our own here and now's that help us remember where we came from and to get through our days.

Okay, song's over. Back to life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On The 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards

Via Azrael's Multiply Land (thank you very much!):

How Not To Be The Next Neil Gaiman -- Win His Graphic/Fiction Awards By Being Truly "Pinoy". A quote:

“One thing we can tell you not to do is mimic a Gaiman story. We get a lot of entries that are just versions of Neil’s stories with Filipino names in it,” says Diaz.

Many have made the mistake of hewing the clichés of science fiction, epic fantasy or supernatural genres. Romulo says, “The worst ones are those with a very narrow view of what science fiction or speculative fiction represents—the wizards and the dwarves, the shades and the trench coats of the Matrix guys, the twist endings and the angst-ridden urban alienation stories. Some have a lot of the style but no substance. We need to establish a serious literary award. Not just fan fiction or a geek boy thing.” He observes, “The ones that managed to win brought something really Pinoy.”

The full article is here.

Stolen Words

A crime may just have been solved!

Man Held Over Theft Of Rare Shakespeare Folio.

LONDON (Reuters) - Police are quizzing a man over the theft of a rare collection of works by William Shakespeare stolen from Durham University 10 years ago.

The first folio edition of the Shakespeare works, published in 1623 and said by police to be worth 15 million pounds, was among items taken during a break-in at the university library in December 1998.

Thieves had forced open glass-top display cases during an exhibition of English literature dating back to the Middle Ages.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Dictionary Words

Not that we don't already have enough words to use, right? Or that we know all their meanings already. But then, it's always nice to learn something new, and to have new toys to play with when we read or write.

Merriam-Webster Unveils New Dictionary Words. Some quotes:

"Merriam-Webster Inc. has added more than 100 new entries to its new edition of the Collegiate Dictionary.

The wordsmiths at the Springfield, Mass.-based dictionary publisher say they picked the new entries after monitoring their use over years.

"As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language," said Peter Sokolowski, an editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster. "If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it's ready to go in the dictionary."

Many of the new entries reflect the nation's growing interest in the culinary arts,...Others reflect current events and much-discussed news topics,...

...And then there's "mondegreen" (1954). In a category of its own, it describes words mistaken for other words. A mondegreen most often comes from misunderstood phrases or lyrics.

Even Sokolowski, a word expert by trade, has a favorite mondegreen: "Lucy in the sky with diamonds," as sung by the Beatles in 1967, made obvious sense to the preteen Peanuts comic fan as "Lucy in the sky with Linus.""

So that's what it's called! When I can't understand the warblings of a singer, or try vainly to remember famous quotes and phrases, I end up filling in my own words, most of the times wrong. And they're called "mondegreens"! Well! (I hesitate to share my lapses; they would be downright embarrassing. But do feel free to comment and share yours, those of you who can bear the shame).

Even "Air quotes", the "gesture made by raising and flexing the index and middle fingers of both hands, used to call attention to a spoken word or expression", has made it into the dictionary. I've been guilty of doing that a lot, but I've learned to cut down, much to the relief of my friends. "If you use air quotes again," a friend once told me, "if you dare to use a word that is obviously in quotes, even if you don't waggle your fingers at me...I swear I'll kill you. Slowly."

Some other words that have made it into the dictionary:

Fanboy (1919): boy who is an enthusiastic devotee, such as of comics or movies.

Infinity pool (1992): outdoor swimming pool with an edge over which water flows into a trough, but seems to flow into the horizon.

Dirty bomb (1956): bomb designed to release radioactive material.

Dark energy (1998): hypothetical form of energy that produces a force that opposes gravity and is thought to cause the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Malware (1990): software designed to interfere with a computer's normal functioning.

Jukebox musical (1993): musical that features popular songs from the past.

Mental health day (1971): day that an employee takes off from work to relieve stress or renew vitality.

Malware. Now that's an irritating word. Should've made the dictionary a long time ago. Makes you want to set off a dirty bomb near where malware writers live. I could also use more mental health days. Couldn't we all?

Click on this link to read the whole article.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another Crime Prompt From the PGS Guest Editor

Accidents Happen writes:

"Seeking glamour. Finding death.

A sad and terrible story -- and one that's likely repeated anywhere there's a modeling industry.

Haven't done one of these prompts in a while. The deadline looms."

As a bonus, I also received this email from The Grin Without A Cat:

"From Jessica Zafra's blog:

The Monster of Florence, a serial killer who's still on the loose.

And if you ever read (or watched) Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose: Ink May Have Poisoned Monks (from The Discovery Channel)."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Father Uwem Akpan, S.J., Writer

I learned of Father Uwem Akpan, S.J. from Dogberry's blog entry, and forthwith read about him on the link Dogberry provided to the International Herald Tribune. I then found this article about him and his stories at the Times Online. Intrigued and curious, I used a search engine to look for his stories to read, and decided on this one, "My Parents' Bedroom", over at The New Yorker.

To use the word "grim" is insufficient as a description. As I wrote in the comments section of Dogberry's post, I found myself alternately chilled and heartbroken. This story was so cruel; as cruel as, perhaps even more cruel than, "Mateo Falcone", one story that I revisit often if only to remind myself of one of the earliest kicks a story has ever delivered to my gut. "My Parents' Bedroom" delivered the same. In "Mateo Falcone", there is a savage nobility and brutal code of honor that offers some understanding, a form of redemption, warped as it is. There is no such understanding or redemption in Father Akpan's tale. In Prosper Merimee's short story one senses that there are lines in life that still won't be crossed. Such lines are obliterated completely in Father Akpan's.

It has been several hours since I finished reading, and the story's climax is still fresh in my head. Tales of the Holocaust and the Nanking Massacre are the first that come to mind that can deliver and rival the pain of this story. Father Akpan has been to and knows of darker places than many of us, and it can only remind us that despite all the troubles we are going through, truly terrible as they are, we are still luckier than those he writes about. The story is told from the point of view of a child, and it is when that child's purity collides with the worst of mankind's moral putrescence, that puzzlement mixed with repulsion sets in. We are certainly lucky to have the luxury of contemplating that puzzlement.

The title of Father Akpan's recently published collection of stories, "Say You're One Of Them", was taken from what the mother in "My Parents' Bedroom" tells her daughter, a command to save her life. As I read through the articles, I note that many of the descriptions of the stories mimic the most impoverished situations in this country. We don't have to go far to find the same kind of trouble that Father Akpan narrates.

It is easy to be swept away by the sorrow, so I'll try my best to dwell on the positives: here is a man who, despite what he has seen, been through, and writes about, can still carry himself with dignity, strength, and--based on the anecdotes in the articles--humour; here is a man who is brave enough to tell such tales to the world despite the danger it must mean to himself; here is a man who has told a tale that reaches a reader's humanity, as all good stories should on some level; and on a personal note, this story tells me I am not yet that old, jaded, or cynical, as to be unfeeling and devoid of empathy. Would that I never become that way.

(Here is another online story by Father Akpan: An Ex-Mas Feast)

From The "Let's Not Take Things Too Seriously" Department

From Failblog (thanks to Sensibilities, Panda In Canda, and The Garapata Can Multiply Too for blogging separately about the site and sharing the humour).

I think it's called a library.

And here, it's called a "d".

From "All In A Day's Work" in the July 2008 issue of Reader's Digest Asia:

Scene: The bookstore where I work.
Dramatis Personae: a father and his son.

Son: "Dad, does it really tell you how?"
Father: "How to what, son?"
Son: "How to kill a mockingbird?"

--Theresa Fine-Pawsey

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Proposal For A Novel-Writing Project

Ria Lu, creator of Talecraft, (and whom I wrote about here, here, and here), emailed me with an idea for a novel-writing project. She writes:

"Kumusta? Busy ka? I'd like to bounce an idea off you if I may.
I think kulang talaga ng novels dito sa Pilipinas. (A few days ago, I was reading a book review magazine and inggit na inggit ako na they have enough books to actually hold a 5-day booklovers convention filled with workshops, talks, and the coolest authors and publishers in their town).
There are a lot of aspiring writers who have potential. I've seen several in the Talecraft Group, in fact. But they haven't published any novels. The most common reasons why this is so are: novels are too long to finish, and they're good but not good enough.
So, I thought, maybe if we had a sort of coaching program they'd be able to produce a decent novel. That way, the aspiring writer would have the drive to finish a novel (kung may kumukulit sa iyong editor, it's hard to ignore your novel), and the coach could help him/her polish it so that it's good enough for publishing.
Here're my thoughts: Published writers/editors volunteer to be coaches. Aspiring writers sign up for the program by submitting a summary of the novel they want to write and an excerpt from their novel. Published writers choose which story they want to coach. For the month of October, published and aspiring writer teams work on story, plots, characters, etc. Whether it's online or face-to-face, whether it's everyday or every week, it's up to the teams. Whatever works for them. By November, have aspiring writers join NaNoWriMo so they finish writing their story by the end of November. December is editing. January is polishing. February is finalization. And by March, aspiring writers should have a manuscript good enough and ready for publishing.
Then maybe we could team up with local publishers to have how many novels produced from this program published.
The program is voluntary/non-profit. It's just a way to help our fellow writers finish something and increase the number of novels the country produces in a year.

What do you think? Will this work?"

Playing the devil's advocate, I emailed back that I believe that writing is something one does alone, and it's the self-discipline that guarantees output. I also wondered about getting enough experienced writers/editors who will do the coaching, or enough aspiring writers to do the writing, that it might be easier to gather the former and not the latter, and that this all could be very time-consuming.

But I also said that any form of encouragement in the writing of a novel ought to help!

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this. Ria's idea certainly sounds like it could generate results if enough determined writers and editors work together. Perhaps you could even help with Ria's project (she can be reached here).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Teaser: A Special Crime/Mystery/Suspense Litcritter Open Session

The past weekend was quite exciting, sports-wise: there was the all-sister ladies' finals at Wimbledon, Venus vs. Serena Williams, both of whom seemed to be following the same strategy (Plan A: hit the ball hard; if that doesn't work, then go to Plan B: hit the ball harder); there was the UAAP season opening (Philippine equivalent of the U.S.'s NCAA) where the fans are like rabid dogs (some of them are my relatives, the fans I mean, not the dogs); and there was the epic Wimbledon gentlemen's finals between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal! Five sets of top tennis! That was one match that was, to use ESPN-Star Sports' announcer Vijay Amritraj's favourite adjective, "glorious"! For long time aficionados like me (I've been following this sport since the mid-70's), it's a great time to be a tennis fan! I can't wait for the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. Open!

Besides these, and the rest of the usual stuff, something else happened in the middle of last weekend. Hmm, what was it? Oh yes, now I remember. :D

I was lucky to find the time to attend the Manila Litcritters session at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Robinson's Galleria last Saturday afternoon. During a break, I suggested to them that maybe, in addition to the usual speculative fiction pieces and the occasional realist tale, it would be nice to take up crime/mystery/suspense stories. Even if this genre is outside most of their comfort zones, they agreed! And I'm grateful.

The story requirements, as stipulated by the Manila Litcritters moderator, is one canon piece (most likely from way in the past), one from the mid-past (I'm guessing mid to latter-mid 20th century), and one more recent piece (mid-1990's to present). There have been many wonderful suggestions of authors and stories to take up, many of them no less from the guest-editor of the PGS Special Crime/Mystery/Suspense issue, who just may "attend" this special session via Live Chat (someone has to bring a laptop with robust specs, and I hope the Wifi will also be fast enough at the venue).

For the first requirement, I'm thinking of choosing a Poe, Doyle, or Futrelle. One member also suggested Maurice LeBlanc's Arsene Lupin burglar stories. For the second requirement, the guest-editor has suggested stories by Shirley Jackson, Ed McBain, Susan Glaspell, and Jose Luis Borges. In addition, The Bibliophile Stalker has provided a trunkful of stories from Agatha Christie; I'm considering of course a short-story with either Poirot or Marple. I would have liked to choose Three Blind Mice (the story from which the long-running play The Mousetrap was based on), but it might be too long for the time given. The third requirement will take some doing, but it'll be fun to choose a story from my crime and mystery anthologies and magazines that were recently published.

Consider this post a teaser, folks. The session is scheduled for sometime in August, most likely in the last two weeks of the month. There'll be an announcement here on the PGS blog once the date and time is set. The Manila Litcritters Open Sessions are just that: open to the public. You don't need to join in the discussion if you don't want to. You can sit-in and listen, if you're all right with that. Just make sure to read the stories beforehand so you know what's going to be talked about. It's free to join the online group; that way you'll have access to the readings. All you need to do is email the Manila Litcritters moderator your request and query. His email is dean(at)kestrelddm(dot)com. Thanks a lot! Looking forward to seeing a lot of you there!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Book Sale, A Call For Submissions, Etc.

Via The Sumatra Woman's Brew:

Award-winning books: 25% off for July

In celebration of National Children's Book Day and the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, all Adarna House books with an award from the PBBY will be on sale at the showroom for a 25% discount. The titles to be on sale for the month of July include Ang Itim na Kuting, Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Raquel, Bakit Matagal ang Sundo Ko?, Bru-ha-ha-ha-ha-hi, Bru-hi-hi-hi-hi, Chenelyn! Chenelyn!, Ang Kamatis ni Peles, Papa's House, Mama's House, The Yellow Paperclip with Bright Purple Spots, and Tight Times.

Call for manuscripts for 2009 storybooks

Adarna House is looking for storybook manuscripts bearing one or more of the following themes: first day of school, honesty, health, Chinese-Filipinos, classroom situations, death, music, children with working parents, rhyming / repetitive style of writing, legends, fathers, grandfathers, citizenship values, peace and tolerance, diligence (sipag), personal hygiene, sportsmanship, value of reading. Submissions may be in Filipino or English. Call 3723548 local 122, or look at our FAQs for the submission guidelines.

Raising Readers: A Lecture Series on Libraries

Adarna House and Ortigas Foundation invite librarians and booklovers everywhere to Raising Readers, which will be held from July 18 to 19 (Friday and Saturday) at the Ortigas Foundation Library. A lecture series on libraries, Raising Readers will give participants ideas on how to enhance their efforts in encouraging children and young adults to discover the joys of reading. With points of discussion ranging from personal growth to community development, the series will also feature practical activities and workshops.For further details, click here. Or contact Ergoe through, 3723548 local 122, or 0917-3722639.

Her complete post is here.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Elyss Punsalan, author of "Twinspeak" from PGS3, has a story, "Thirty-Two", out in the latest issue of Story Philippines. Here's an excerpt.

The Manila Litcritters will have another open session at 2 p.m. on July 5, 2008, at The Coffee Been & Tea Leaf, Robinson's Galleria. This is free and open to the public, and you can just sit in to listen if you don't want to join in the discussion.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

PGS3 Review

Sharmaine Galve, author of "Y" from PGS3, pointed me to this review of the same issue over at Hyperboreal. The reviewer really likes "Y", but also does make mention of "Homer's Child" by Paolo Chikiamco and "The Devil Is In The Details" by Charles Tan.

The reviewer also raises questions about PGS's cover/looks, and its price. I'm aware that a lower price would be better. But given how everything's going up nowadays because of rising oil costs in the world market, I don't know if it's possible to bring down PGS's price, given too the difficulties of reaching a balanced economies-of-scale. Nevertheless, I'm open to comments from others on how to get the price down or on PGS's layout/looks; I just can't promise that I can act on any or all of them. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Two Links About Writers

First, taking off from here, here's an article about age-banding (and other things), Endpaper: The Age-Old Question.

Second, here's what's happening at a Swedish literary meet.

Age-specification and censorship. Sounds very similar to the situation with movies.

What if the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) becomes the MTBMRCB (Movie, Television, Books, and Magazines Review and Classification Board)?

Just thinking.