Friday, November 28, 2008

Aliens! Squids! Alien Squids!

The title of this post, and this link (with video!), Alien-like Squid With "Elbows" Filmed At Drilling Site, was sent in by Banzai Cat. An excerpt from the article:

A mile and a half (two and a half kilometers) underwater, a remote control submersible's camera has captured an eerie surprise: an alien-like, long-armed, and—strangest of all—"elbowed" Magnapinna squid.

In a brief video from the dive recently obtained by National Geographic News, one of the rarely seen squid loiters above the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico on November 11, 2007.

The clip—from a Shell oil company ROV (remotely operated vehicle)—arrived after a long, circuitous trip through oil-industry in-boxes and other email accounts.

Banzai's email:

This is so utterly cool and utterly creepy. I don't have audio in my office PC so it's weird watching the video as I can imagine my own voice/dialogue track to it.

"Perdido, what is that?"

"I don't know. Focus on it."

"Oh my God..."

"We're getting a closer look."

"Perdido, your signal's breaking up..."

*signal ends*

Naming Your Characters (Updated)

This link was sent in by someone who wishes to remain anonymous: Five Tips For Naming Your Characters In Fiction.

Naming your characters when writing fiction can be both fun and frustrating. Some names come to you right away, even before you have any idea about the actual plot of your book. Others are peskier, more elusive. Here are five tips for naming your characters in fiction.

Click here to read all the tips.

Only mildly related to the topic: There are periods when I suddenly become a news junkie. I'm in one of those periods now, and it's been an extended one. It's lasted since September, since the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign. I've gotten quite familiar with the CNN Anchors/Reporters, and I find their names quite interesting: Eunice Yoon, Isha Sesay, Hala Gorani, Rosemary Church, Soledad O'Brien, Guillermo Arduino, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, etc.

My friend who likes to read over my shoulder is standing behind me (I mentioned him in this post, too, some time ago). He's not a news junkie, but he is watching me as I make the links to the names of the CNN Anchors/Reporters. When he saw Isha Sesay's photo, he said, "Hey! She looks HOT!". And so I say to him again, "Get out of here!" (But I know that he's not the only one who thinks Isha Sesay is hot. :D).

Update: Still on names, what type of nicknames did you bestow, or get bestowed with, as kids? There are emails circulating about how Pinoys have such unique names, like Ding, Dong, Bing, Bong, Ping, Pong, Ting, Tong, etc. (and that's only using the -ing and -ong suffix). I've got a funny nickname myself--Kyu, which means "9" in Japanese, I think (though perhaps pronounced differently), and is also used as a term for the gradations in belt colors in martial arts.

I know my friends from high school by their teenage nicknames. Even if people they meet after graduation know them by other, more respectable names, to fellow batchmates they will always be known by whatever they were christened with in the early to mid-teen years.

The surname is the most common, and the easiest, nickname. Take "Teng". He has a regular first name, but somehow or other, his surname stuck from constant use, and to us he will always be "Teng". Story goes that his wife tried to get batchmates to call him by his first name, but failed. As one batchmate said, "Sinong _____? Wala kaming kilalang ______! Si "Teng" 'yan!" We have a "Ting" too, and as far as we can tell, his wife doesn't mind the name.

"Kaw" in Fookien, when said with the proper intonation, means "dog". One of my batchmates' surnames is "Kaw". Unfortunately for him, just "Kaw", unlike "Teng", would not suffice. High schoolers being what they are, my batchmates added the word "sai" to the end. "Sai" means "sh_t" in Fookien. So, "Kaw-sai", or "dog sh_t". You could imagine the hilarity that ensued when one classmate shouted out "Hoy! Kaw-sai!" at him from outside the school's gate one afternoon at dismissal, not knowing that "Kaw-sai's" mother was nearby, within earshot.

So my batch has these other names still in use: "Fish", "Herbievore", "Kepweng", "Horse", "Gorio", "Gobs" (it's not what you think, but I like how you think :D), "Supot", "Bubu", "Bahu", "Lolo", "Deech", "Andork", "Baron Asler" (a two-faced character from an old Japanese robot cartoon called Mazinger Z, and he was so named because half his face is darker than the other), "Lager" (which suits him fine, 'coz the guy drinks beer like a fish drinks water, though his story is unique in that he was initially named "Laglag", but once we saw how he could down San Miguel Beer, well...). I'm not sure, but I think we even have a "Baog" somewhere in there (or was that another batch?).

For me, the name that takes the cake in my batch is "Ebak". He was so named because his skin complexion was a perfect match for the color of sh_t. You can imagine the puzzled faces of those not in the know whenever all of us meet up in public and we address him as "Ebak". Sometime in the last decade, when many of us were getting married (stuffy and formal occasions, mind you), the faces of our elders and our wives/girlfriends would scrunch up in confusion and even disgust whenever we called him by his nickname. "Kumusta ka na, Ebak?" He's not ashamed of his name, I can tell you that. The man knows who he is.

I bring this matter of high school names up, and consequently updated this post, because quite serendipitously, I received an email today that "Ebak" is being egged on by everyone to take a leading role for our batch in our high school's alumni matters. He's already our batch representative to the alumni office, but we want him to run for President of the Alumni Association. His name is perfect for a campaign slogan the batch wants to use: It's time for change! Vote for "Ebak" Obama!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Malaya

Dean Francis Alfar (author of "The Middle Prince" from PGS1 and "In The Dim Plane" from PGS4) has a new story out, "The Malaya", in the November 29, 2008 issue of The Philippines Free Press. Congratulations!


The Kindle and the Sony Reader aren't easy to acquire here in the Philippines, but this country is nothing if not cellphone-mad; iPhones--as well as its sister product, the iTouch--abound. So this video might be of some help to those iPhone and iTouch owners who are also avid readers.

The video explains how to turn your iPhone or iTouch into an e-reader with the help of two applications (Stanza and eReader) and a website (Fictionwise). From what I understand, all you need to do is download the applications into your gadget and then you'll have legal access to the e-books on those sites, as well as ebooks on other sites (as long as the format, usually text files, are compatible). You'll have to pay for some of the files, as you would if you were buying a regular book from a brick-and-mortar, but a lot of free and legal novels are also available.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a bit of a luddite, so I unfortunately don't own either an iPhone or an iTouch; otherwise I'd be able to tell you how easy (or difficult) it is to make the applications work, and whether reading off those gadgets is worthwhile. If any of you own either of those gadgets and are planning to try and turn them into e-Readers, please drop a note and let me know how it goes.

Manila Litcritters Open Session

From Notes From The Peanut Gallery: The next Manila Litcritters Open Session is on December 6, 2008. All the stories are available online. The links to these stories, as well as other details, are here.

Polluto. The Anti-Pop Culture Journal

Zen In Darkness sent in this link: Polluto. The Anti-Pop Culture Journal.

Polluto is the Spectrum Fantastic Arts award-winning magazine which tries to form a dialogue with popular culture and traditional genres. It is our intent to question and subvert, satirise and critique.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Mystery Of The Piano In The Woods

Hey, click on this link: Mystery Piano In Woods Perplexes Police.

Someone, or maybe more than one person, left a fully functional and serviceable piano in the middle of the woods. It wasn't a run-down instrument meant to be chucked aside; all the keys were working, and the finish still looked okay.

I'm fairly sure this was just a prank of some kind, but wouldn't it be cool to let the imagination go nuts and come up with some elaborate tale around how the piano got there? :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Filipino Novelists In Singapore

Hey, hey, hey! Filipino Novelists Land On The Bestseller List In Singapore!

FILIPINAS never cease to amaze. They amaze with their talent. They amaze with their style. As proof of their exceptional ability three Pinay authors have done the country proud by making it to the bestseller list of Kinokuniya Bookstore in Singapore: Noelle Chua at number 2, Maya Calica at number 3 and Tara Sering at number 5.

These three savvy, cosmopolitan and bestselling Filipina novelists were likewise handpicked by International Publisher Marshall Cavendish to launch the first “Asian Chic” Lit books. Asian Chic is about Asian women set within the panorama of Asian locales and takes a lingering look at their distinctly Asian lives. And it’s absolutely thrilling that this new literary genre is spearheaded by Filipinas.

The chick lit hits that were recently launched under the Asian Chic banner are “Undercover Tai Tai” by Maya Calica, “Amazing Grace” by Tara FT Sering, and “Mrs Mismarriage” by Noelle Chua.

Click here for the entire article.

Random House To Digitize Thousands Of Books

Somewhat related to this post, here's an article: Random House To Digitize Thousands Of Books. An excerpt:

With e-book sales exploding in an otherwise sleepy market, Random House Inc. announced Monday that it was making thousands of additional books available in digital form, including novels by John Updike and Harlan Coben, as well as several volumes of the "Magic Treehouse" children's series.

Random House CEO Markus Dohle said in a statement that "more people everyday are enjoying reading in the electronic format and Random House wants to extend our reach to them with more of our books."

The publisher already has more than 8,000 books in the electronic format and will have a digital library of nearly 15,000. The new round of e-books is expected to be completed within months; excerpts can be viewed online through the publisher's Insight browsing service.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Eight Original Stories

This article was written more in relation to movies than books, but it's still an interesting read: "The Eight Original Stories" by Scott R. Garceau of The Philippine Star. He writes how he can relate any movie to one of eight classic stories, and says there are templates--cookie-cutter stories--that keep coming back. An excerpt:

“Go ahead. Give me any movie. And I’ll tell you where it comes from.”

It sounded like a party game, some drunken bet shouted out from the end of the bar, or raised in the middle of a cocktail party by some boisterous boor. But I felt like I could knock any takers out of the ballpark.

“Surely you’ve heard about the eight original stories? The fact that 99.9 percent of Hollywood scripts and movies derive their basic plots from Greek mythology, folklore and well-known fairy tales?” I was being relentless, obnoxious. I was sick of hearing people describe such-and-such a movie in breathless tones and tacking on, in apparent reverential disbelief, “How did they ever come up with that story?”

Well, it’s easy when there’s only eight of them.

Let’s face it. You get a little tired of Hollywood product after a while, after three or more decades of watching the stuff, and you begin to realize there’s a certain template — not just genres like “horror,” “comedy,” “mystery,” but actual templates: cookie-cutter stories that keep coming back, season after season.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Computers, The Internet, And The End Of The World In Short Fiction

This post, The Internet Foretold (check out the Multiply mirror for the discussion), garnered a comment from To The Tale, And Other Such Concerns:

I must point out that Asimov used Multivac in at least one other short story: The Last Question, in which the little Internet-like abstract grows to become a godlike existence.

I looked for that story, read it, and responded:

I found that story, The Last Question, the one you recommended. Read it already. Interesting. It reminded me of two other stories.

The first tale that came to my mind is a popular (in its time) and very, very short story (flash fiction length, about 300 words) by Fredric Brown entitled, quite coincidentally, Answer. I first encountered Brown's story in an anthology called The Monster Anthology Of Monsters. So Brown's story was labeled as a "monster" story and not a "sci-fi" story, though I'm sure it could've worked the latter way if seen from a different point of view. Try and look for it to read, if you have time.

Reading The Last Question and Answer one after the other can give you an impression of how two authors see the end of the everything, especially with computers playing a big part in the stories.

And just for good measure, throw in Arthur Clarke's The Nine Billion Names Of God. Make it the third story to be read after those first two mentioned above. It is, again, another story about computers and the end of the universe/entropy, with mankind caught in the middle.

Thanks again for the recommendation. Hope you enjoy these other two stories I've enumerated. :)

Asimov's "Anniversary" was published in 1959, "The Last Question", in 1956. This latter story is considered by many (including Asimov himself) to be one of his best, and is mentioned alongside the canonical "Nightfall" as one of the best science-fiction short stories of all time.

Brown's "Answer", found print in 1954. I quote from Scifipedia: "perhaps the most famous sf story ever, and one that has made it into the popular culture."

Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names Of God", was printed in 1953. It was the winner (in 2004) of the retrospective Hugo Award for Best Short Story for the year 1954.

Hehehe. What is it with me and the apocalypse? :D

Please feel free to recommend other short stories about computers and the end of the world, no matter how new or how old. :)

Fully Booked Bloggers Event

Fully Booked is holding a bloggers event that aims to encourage reading and blogging about what you've read.

They said you have to read more books than blogs, but how about the idea of reading books and blogging about them at the same time—now, that sounds better.

Calling all bloggers and bookworms out there. Feed your mind and give it some intellectual exercise on November 28, 2008 as Fully Booked opens its door for a wonderful afternoon of fun learning, good books, and exciting prizes.

Reserve a slot now and be one of the first 100 bloggers to bring home FREE books from “Your bookstore of choice” Fully Booked.

Click here for more details.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Las Obras De Robert Bolaño

This link, from Zen In Darkness: Enormous Review In The Nation, from Las Obras De Robert Bolaño. An excerpt:

Shortly before he died of liver failure in July 2003, Roberto Bolaño remarked that he would have preferred to be a detective rather than a writer. Bolaño was 50 years old at the time, and by then he was widely considered to be the most important Latin American novelist since Gabriel García Márquez. But when Mexican Playboy interviewed him, Bolaño was unequivocal. “I would have liked to be a homicide detective, much more than a writer,” he told the magazine. “Of that I’m absolutely sure. A string of homicides. Someone who could go back alone, at night, to the scene of the crime, and not be afraid of ghosts.”

Detective stories, and provocative remarks, were always passions of Bolaño’s–he once declared James Ellroy among the best living writers in English–but his interest in gumshoe tales went beyond matters of plot and style. In their essence, detective stories are investigations into the motives and mechanics of violence, and Bolaño–who moved to Mexico the year of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre and was imprisoned during the 1973 military coup in his native Chile–was also obsessed with such matters. The great subject of his oeuvre is the relationship between art and infamy, craft and crime, the writer and the totalitarian state.

Click here to read the whole post.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The 10th Annual Alitaptap Storytelling Competition For Children

From the email inbox (sent by Ria Lu of Talecraft):

The 10th Annual Alitaptap Storytelling Competition for Children
"Pag Binasa Ni Tatay, Mga Kuwento'y Nabubuhay."


· To promote love for reading among children by exposing children to a storytelling event where reading is demonstrated as fun and exciting.

· To introduce to the Filipino children the modern approach to public speaking where the young speaker is relaxed, conversational, casually interactive with audience, and completely confident.


Registration: November 15-December 5, 2008

Orientation/ Workshop: November 15, 22 and 29, 2008

(exclusive for coaches) 9:00am-5:00pm

Executive Lounge,
The National Library of the Philippines

Elimination Round: December 6, 2008 Saturday

For Level 1
8:30am-12:00nn (tentative)

For Level 2
1:30pm-5:00pm (tentative)

The National Library of the Philippines

Final Round: December 7, 2008 Sunday

Cultural Center of the Philippines


· Registration form can be requested by email through

· A Registration Fee of P300 shall be charged per student contestant. The fee covers the one day book-based storytelling workshop (for the coaches) and elimination program. The fee shall be used to defray the cost of mounting the competition.

· All participating students shall be required to present a valid ID and registration form,
birth certificate, and submit a photocopy of both, during the registration to avoid technical conflict after the competition.

· All coaches of participating students must contact Alitaptap to confirm their attendance in the Orientation at least one week before the Orientation date.


· Only published Tagalog story books by local writers can be used as a "story piece". Stories read from textbooks will not be allowed. Stories read by previous champions and commonly performed by Alitaptap will no longer be accepted. The list will be given on the orientation day.

· The piece should not exceed 8 minutes, but contestant will be instructed to finish their piece. Points would be deducted from overall score (5 points per minute).

· Contestants must wear only plain white t-shirt and maong or khaki pants.

· Contestants must adhere to the book-based storytelling style and technique. (Thus, the storytelling workshop is imperative)

Alitaptap Storytellers Philippines



The Trend Continues. Hmm.

PC Magazine Dropping Print For Online.

NEW YORK (AFP) – PC Magazine, which has documented the explosive growth of the personal computer since 1982, announced on Wednesday that it was dropping its print edition next year and going online only.

PC Magazine publisher Ziff Davis Media, which recently exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy, said in a statement that the final edition of the iconic magazine would be the January 2009 issue.

Ziff Davis said PC Magazine, which has suffered a steep drop in advertising as scores of competing publications cropped up on the Internet, will go "all-digital" at

"Moving our flagship property to an all-digital format is the final step in an evolutionary process that has been playing out over the last seven years," Ziff Davis Media chief executive Jason Young said.

The Editor's letter is here.

I also read this article yesterday: Pulp Magazines Struggle To Survive In Wired World.

Is the Philippine situation the same as in North America and Europe? I'm not sure, as this article about a science fiction magazine in China (with a circulation of 300,000) may show. Perhaps the issues the Philippines face are much different. Food for thought.

(thanks to The Bibliophile Stalker, from whose site I learned of some of the links).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Internet Foretold

Yesterday, I read an Isaac Asimov story entitled "Anniversary", which was first published in Amazing Stories in 1959. It's a story of the get-together of three friends, shipwreck survivors all from twenty years earlier. In any case, I found this part of the story--which reminded me of the internet--quite interesting (I removed certain paragraphs, retaining only the portions dealing with the world wide web):

"Ask Multivac," said Brandon.

Shea's eyes opened wide. "Multivac! Say, Mr. Moore, do you have a Multivac outlet here?"


"I've never seen one, and I've always wanted to."

"It's nothing to look at, Mike. It looks just like a typewriter. Don't confuse a Multivac outlet with Multivac itself. I don't know anyone who's seen Multivac."

Moore smile at the thought. He doubted if ever in his life he would meet any of the handful of technicians who spent most of their working days in a hidden spot in the bowels of Earth tending a mile-long super-computer that was the repository of all the facts known to man, that guided man's economy, directed his scientific research, helped make his political decisions, and had millions of circuits left over to answer individual questions that did not violate the ethics of privacy.

Brandon said as they moved up the power ramp to the second floor, "I've been thinking of installing a Multivac, Jr., outlet for the kids. Homework and things, you know. And yet I don't want to make it just a fancy and expensive crutch for them. How do you make it work, Warren?"

The spaceman said, "How does it answer? Does it talk?"

Moore laughed gently. "Oh, no. I don't spend that kind of money. This model just prints the answer on a slip of tape that comes out of that slot."

Interesting, isn't it? And this was in 1959.

Online shopping was predicted in 1968, about ten years after the story was published.

But this has got it all beat: it seems that the internet was predicted with astonishing accuracy back in 1934.

And now, we have some saying that the internet (as we know it today) will die by 2012. Others say it will die, and then evolve into something else. And still others say that unless expensive upgrades are begun today, in less than three years the internet will run out of numerical protocol addresses, which will result in data transfer speeds slowing down to the speed of molasses.

Monday, November 17, 2008

'Meh'. Whatever.

Apathetic Expression Enters Dictionary.

LONDON – At least someone is excited about "meh."

The expression of indifference or boredom has gained a place in the Collins English Dictionary after generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm among lexicographers.

Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary's 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.

The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.

"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.

The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."

Click here for the article.

PSF IV Publication Date Moved

From Notes From The Peanut Gallery:
Due to timing, scheduling and production issues, Philippine Speculative Fiction IV's publication is moved to February 2009.
More details here.

Manila Litcritters Open Session

The next Manila Litcritters Open session is at 2 p.m., November 22, 2008. Click here for details.

Chickened Out

A friend who read this post challenged me to use my manual typewriters for all my printing needs for a couple of weeks. He said he'd treat me to a restaurant of my choice if I succeeded.

I was tempted since the bet was over food, after all, but I didn't bite (pun intended--sorry, sorry).

I knew I'd lose. I am a bit of a luddite, but not to that extent. And I don't want to become a junkie for correction fluid fumes. :)

How Piracy Hurts Writers

We've all heard about how piracy is hurting those in software, film or TV, and music. Here's a link taken from The Bibliophile Stalker that talks about piracy from a writer's point-of-view: Heartsick, Depressed, and PO'd As Hell, from Jack Fleming's Journal. An excerpt:

Brace for incoming kvetching. I don't have the energy to rant. I'm too tired and depressed.race

I've lost a lot of writing time in the last few days.

Blame e-piracy.

Yar, ahoy thar, me hearty, here's some free books to download, enjoy!

Yep, nothing like a free e-book, right?

Only it is not free.

I was sent notice that ALL my novels had been put up on some mega-douchbag's website for free downloading. My books and those of 100s of other writers were up.

How this asshat thought he could get away with it for long is a mystery. Why he did it is a bigger mystery, 'cause I didn't see him getting any income for it. In the Elrod-verse "just because" is never a good excuse.

I notified my editors. One told me she'd already gotten mails from 10 other writers concerning that site.

There are other sites. I went to several, and put in the formal request to each that my books were up in violation of the Digital Media Copyright Act, please take them down, thank you. The hosts don't make it easy, either. I'm the only one who can legally do this, since I'm the copyright holder.

It's like playing Whack-a-Mole--take one down and more pop up. It eats my time. I'd rather be writing, dammit.

SFWA got involved, and someone on the host server yanked the jerk's website down as it was in violation of their TOS, not to mention the DMCA.

This was just one moron offering books he neither owns nor has a right to give away. He has friends. They proudly proclaim themselves to be e-pirates. Yar.

Sounds sexy, adventurous, fun--but let's remember that the old time pirates were only badly dressed, rather smelly thieves, just as scummy as any skank shoplifter taking a five-finger discount from a store. Nothing fun about 'em, and yes, it IS a crime.

They can holler and scream all they like about how cool it is to share information freely, but down and dirty--they are thieves pimping to other thieves. Downloading a book without paying for it is theft.

Ironically, fans are stealing from the very writers they profess to love so much.

Guess what--that kind of thing can wreck a career. Specifically, MINE.

Here's what happens when people download books illegally instead of (gasp) buying a download from Amazon or B&N or even getting a temporary download via the public library.

An illegal download is not recorded as a sale for P.N. Elrod. The publisher's bean-counters notice this when sales of my books don't happen. "Hey, Elrod's books aren't moving, we better not buy new ones from her. Call her editor, get those titles remaindered, and cut that deadbeat loose."

(For those who have trouble finding my books, it is because slow sales sent them out of print and into the remainder pile. They're still to be found on Amazon and in used stores, I don't have a problem with any of that. I don't have a problem with you loaning books to each other. As some point in its life it was bought and the sale was counted.)

But a lot of mid-list writers like me are getting the professional chop due to low sales. I've been afraid myself. I am STILL afraid. My next book could be rejected, not because it's a bad book, but because my sales figures aren't up to snuff.

Click here to read the whole post and the comments.

So, think twice about downloading e-books illegally (but if these e-books are released with the full permission of the author and the publisher, that's fine). You may think it's all right, but really, it's not. You're hurting publishers and writers, and all those connected to the industry. Think of the printing machine operators. Think of those who supply ink, paper, and other items to the operators. Think of those who do the lay-outs. Think of the administrative and logistical staff at publishing houses. Buy the books and magazines, please. I'm not sure if a 2nd-hand book or mag is given sales credit (probably not--seems to be that would be a double-count), but at least you're buying the physical item, and it's nice to think that another person is using the product the way it was meant to be used (in a way, it's like recycling). And if you do wish to download, then download the legal file and pay for it as you would a regular book or mag.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Case For "The Education Of The Imagination"

Check out this post from Dogberry, an English teacher: "Poetry, The Education Of The Imagination, And The American South".

He shares with us an essay by Billy Collins which he requires his students to read before he starts his poetry course, and he makes a strong argument for literature and why we take it up in school. In fact, it's a strong case to continue our reading even after school is done. An excerpt:

To study literature is to learn to imagine the life of the other....When we read a story written by someone different from us — someone from another time, place, or culture — we learn to accommodate that person's humanity in our own. We broaden our hearts to allow that person, no matter how different in outlook of perspective, a place in them. This, I think, is what Collins refers to as "intellectual openness" and "conceptual sympathy," and fostering these values and habits of mind and heart in students is an essential part of a liberal education. We're not in the business merely of preparing kids for jobs.

Dogberry relates this to the election data of the recently concluded U.S. Presidential elections. I heard a CNN reporter say on TV that taking the U.S. as a whole, race was not the major issue that some thought it would be (it was the economy). But in studying how demographics reflected voting trends in the American South, and disregarding the rest of the country, race was a stronger factor. Dogberry goes on:

These places are on the whole "less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas." We might say that, in the words of Billy Collins, the people in these places are lacking in "intellectual openness" and "intellectual sympathy." In simpler terms, these folks had a hard time accepting the idea that a black man would make a good president.

No surprise that racism goes hand in hand with religious bigotry, the arrogance that comes with the certainty that one is on God's side. It is the illusion of a startling clarity spawned by moral blindness.

Such blindness is what an education of the imagination seeks to combat. The report above reminds us how important the struggle is, and what hangs in the balance.

Click here to read his entire post.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Full Grinch Mode

Yes, I've been hearing carols on the radio and the TV since early September (I just change stations).

Yes, I've been hearing the same on piped-in music, be it in stores, elevators, or public transportation (I leave as soon as I can, or turn up the volume on my iPod).

Yes, the tinsel, wreathes, and what-have-you have been up everywhere since mid-October (I choose to ignore them).

But when I came home the other day and discovered that some members of the household took it upon themselves to put up what decor we owned? Well...

As with last year, and every year, I am now in Full Grinch Mode! Grrr...

Who's with me?!

(There is one Christmas CD that I still enjoy, even up to today, but I'll listen to and blog about it in December, the proper time for it).

Miguel Syjuco Wins 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize

From the Man Asian Literary Prize website:

Hong Kong, 13 November 2008 – A panel of three internationally acclaimed authors and experienced literary judges named Filipino author Miguel Syjuco winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize for his novel Ilustrado, a fictional account of a young Filipino caught within a notorious scandal spanning over the Philippine history.

The panel of judges for the 2008 prize praised Ilustrado:

"The shortlist for the Man Asian prize testifies to the great vitality of the novel in Asian societies undergoing hectic and unexpected transformations. In the end, we had to choose; and Ilustrado seems to us to possess formal ambition, linguistic inventiveness and sociopolitical insight in the most satisfying measure. Brilliantly conceived, and stylishly executed, it covers a large and tumultuous historical period with seemingly effortless skill. It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humour."

The prize winner was announced at a celebratory dinner at The Peninsula Hong Kong. Miguel Syjuco was awarded USD 10,000.

Ilustrado was selected from shortlist of five:
Kavery Nambisan, The Story that Must Not be Told
Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay
Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado
Yu Hua, Brothers
Alfred A. Yuson, The Music Child
Read an excerpt here.

Wonderful, wonderful news! Congratulations!

The Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler

Mia Tijam (author of "Blink, Wake Up" from PGS4) and Charles Tan (author of "The Devil Is In The Details" from PGS3 and "The Jar Collector" from The Special PGS Horror Issue) are the co-editors for The Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, which has just been launched.

The Introduction (by Charles Tan):

My first and foremost goal in setting up this website is to promote Philippine literature, specifically those who write in the field we call speculative fiction. In the past four years, it seems like there's been a huge boom in this category, whether it's the appearance of publications like Philippine Speculative Fiction, The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, and Story Philippines, or the emergence of competitions like the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.

However, as prolific or talented Filipino writers might be, one of my concerns is that their work doesn't get read outside of the Philippines, or even Metro Manila for that matter. And in this day and age of the Internet, it's not an impossible hurdle to overcome. That's not to say Filipino writers aren't being published abroad or online. They're even being acknowledged in anthologies like The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. In case of the former though, that only accounts for a small percentage of our output and in the case of the latter, prospective readers don't really have convenient methods of reading the said work.

Thus me and my co-editor, Mia Tijam (a talented writer in her own right and perhaps even a keener literary critic) selected various locally-published stories which might serve as a sampler of sorts. As much as possible, we avoided texts that were readily available online, and we looked through publications printed in the past four years to limit our scope. What we hope is a selection of stories that both Filipinos and readers abroad can appreciate.

It's not only Mia and Charles who are familiar names from PGS involved with this project. I see Dominique Cimafranca, Andrew Drilon, M.R.R. Arcega, Michael Co, Dean Francis Alfar, F.H. Batacan, and Apol Lejano-Massebieau.

Click here to visit the site and read the stories!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free And Legal Audio Short Story

Check out the "Luck Of The Draw" audio link over at The New Yorker. The free audio file is a reading of Shirley Jackson's most famous short story, "The Lottery", which was first published in The New Yorker in June, 1948.

Another Foot Found

Holy crow, this is still going on: Apparent 6th Severed Foot Found In British Columbia.

What appears to be a separated human foot inside a shoe -- possibly the sixth discovered in Canada's British Columbia in the past 15 months -- has been found on a riverbank, Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Wednesday.

The shoe -- a left New Balance running shoe -- was found about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on the south arm of the Fraser River by a Richmond, British Columbia, couple, police said.

It was turned over to the British Columbia Coroners Service for examination and DNA testing, authorities said.

Before Tuesday, five feet -- all inside running shoes -- had washed ashore in southern British Columbia since August 2007. One of them, a right New Balance shoe, was found May 22 on Kirkland Island. That foot was determined to belong to a female, authorities said.

Click here to read the whole article.

Gawd, what a mystery, and what a crime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Oxford Word Of The Year

And the winner is...

Hypermiling: to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.

A suitable word of the year, given how high gas prices became, and still are.

Some interesting contenders:

Frugalista: person who leads a frugal lifestyle, but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying second-hand, growing own produce, etc.

Wardrobe: has become a verb, as in: Ms. Mendes has a long-standing relationship with the house of Calvin Klein and has been wardrobed by Calvin Klein Collection.

Rewilding: the process of returning an area to its original wild state/flora/fauna etc.

With my habit of guessing meanings of words and terms before looking them up, this last one definitely got me thinking:

Topless Meeting

I will not provide the definition. You can just read the whole article about the 2008 Oxford Word Of The Year for yourselves, if you wish. (But make a guess first before clicking, just for fun.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy And Unhappy Jobs

From the site, The Work Buzz, I found this article: Happy Jobs: Job Satisfaction Survey. It lists the ten happiest and unhappiest jobs from their survey.

Happiest Jobs:
1. Clergy
2. Physical Therapists
3. Firefighters
4. Education Administrators
5. Painters/Sculptors
6. Teachers
7. Authors
8. Psychologists
9. Special Education Teachers
10. Operating Engineers

Unhappiest Jobs:
1. Roofers
2. Waiters/Servers
3. Laborers
4. Bartenders
5. Hand Packers And Packagers
6. Freight And Stock Handlers
7. Apparel Salespersons
8. Cashiers
9. Food Preparers
10. Expediters.

Note #7 under "Happiest Jobs".

So, is the image of the tortured writer carrying the burden of his art, his stories, his view of the world, more the exception than the rule? Is the picture of him tearing his hair out and slaving the loneliest of his hours away in search of the perfect word, sentence, paragraph, not the norm? :)

If you're a writer, are you happy?

I notice #4 under "Unhappiest Jobs": Bartenders. I guess the weight of carrying all the problems of their drinking customers can be quite a burden. I'm sure they wish they could charge by the hour, like psychiatrists. I mean, bartenders can say, "So how does that make you feel?", just like anyone else. :D

Three Links From The Bibliophile Stalker

Here are three interesting links I picked up from The Bibliophile Stalker's blog:

1. How the New York Times See SF/F (c/o Ms. Ellen Datlow's blog). An excerpt of the various quotes:

"Maybe the right question to ask about Neil Gaiman isn't ''Why is he so
fixated on dreams?'' but ''Why aren't more of his fellow fantasy writers as
obsessed with the topic as he is?'' After all, dreams would seem to be the ideal
subject matter for any author of speculative fiction."
---"Dreamland," Nov. 5, 2006

" 'Dune,'' published in 1965, remains a perfect, self-contained work of
science fiction."
---"Dune Babies," Sept. 24, 2006

"HERE'S a question I don't expect to come anywhere close to answering by the
end of this column: Why does contemporary science fiction have to be so
---"It's All Geek to Me," March 5, 2006

"Even in a science fiction writer´s most inaccurate predictions, there are
sometimes valuable truths to be gleaned."

---"Alice's Alias," Aug. 5, 2006

"I sometimes wonder how any self-respecting author of speculative fiction
can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers."
---"Elsewhere's Children," Feb. 3, 2008

2. Guest blogger Matthew Cheney: "If I'd Only Known: Writing Advice To My Younger Self". An excerpt:

I've been to all sorts of different writing workshops over the years. I'll probably go to more in the future. I like being around people who care about writing, and I love talking shop. But when I started going to workshops, and at first when I was an undergraduate in NYU's Dramatic Writing Program, I thought workshops would teach me The Secret. I'd read the writing guides -- heck, I'd memorized them! -- and I hadn't learned what The Secret was, so I figured it must be kept by the teachers of writing workshops.

Here's The Secret: There is no Secret.

I really learned that when one of my NYU teachers, a wonderful writer himself and a marvelous teacher, asked me how I wrote so consistently. I was flabbergasted. "Practice?" I said sheepishly. "I thought so," he said, apparently disappointed. He thought I'd found The Secret and could tell it to him.

Publication can be fun, but I don't think a healthy psyche finds it much more than that. If you haven't been able to find balance and contentment in your life, publishing won't help you, and, if anything, it may hurt. It may encourage arrogance or it may cause new neuroses -- the common fear, for instance, among many successful artists of all sorts that one day somebody will find out "the truth" and prove to the world that you are a fraud.

There's more to life than writing, but writing can be a way to discover life. Use it for that, and you'll surprise yourself sometimes with what you find. Those occasional moments of discovery make all the false starts, clunky sentences, discarded pages, missed opportunities, embarrassing mistakes, and creative failures disappear just long enough to stop stinging.

3. The Internet Vs. Books: Peaceful Coexistence. An excerpt:

In theory, a tool like Google should free us to be more creative. In reality, there are pitfalls.

Jan Frel is an editor at the progressive news site AlterNet and a cultural critic who takes a wider perspective, holding that writing in general, rather than a reliance on oral tradition, has had a deleterious effect on culture. "This is a weird aberration," she says, "all these people writing instead of one story being written by many people."

Frel likes the open-endedness of an Internet where "you can imagine knowledge and then find it." But there is a downside, which, according to Frel, is rather dire: "Pretty good has become the new perfection."

When Alexander Solzhenitsyn memorized passages of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," he had no choice but to enact the modernist version of oral traditions. This was not an expression of collective culture so much as an extreme example of what T.S. Eliot called "the individual talent."

Today's blogs are a mutation of Solzhenitsyn's modernist mythmaking -- where the merely personal becomes a matter of permanent record. Increasingly, mainstream writers cite blogs. Political journalists use them as sources. According to, 74% of journalists recently surveyed regularly read blogs, and 84% "say they would or already have used blogs as a primary or secondary source for articles."

Books require a different sort of communion with one's subject than the Internet. They foster a different sort of memory -- more tactile, more participatory. I know more or less where, folio-wise, Eliot gets nasty about the Jews in his infamous 1933 lecture series "After Strange Gods," but I always have to read around a bit to find the exact quote, and the time spent softens the bite of his anti-Semitism because the hateful remarks were made amid smart ones. For literary works, books are still, and most likely always will be, indispensable.

"The Internet is a volume in our library," Ackerman says, "a colorful, miscellaneous, and serendipitous one -- but not a replacement for books, and certainly not an alternative to spending time in the world and just paying attention to things." Moulitsas believes it's the future, and the old guard needs to get with the times.

For the time being, both of them are right.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Going Old School (Sometimes)

Last week, late one afternoon, just as I had powered down my computers and switched off all the lights, I suddenly remembered that I needed to print a short business letter, and had forgotten to do so. Tsk-tsk. Such an old man.

Normally, I print my correspondence on an inkjet or a laser, or even on my twenty-year old Epson dot-matrix, which has served me well and still does; it works without a hitch, just as it did when it was brand new. But did I turn the computers on again? Naah. I was too impatient, especially for a simple six-sentence business letter; typing the darn thing would probably be quicker than waiting for the computer and printer to boot up. This wasn't the first time this had happened to me, so I knew what to do: I still have in my possession two manual typewriters, and one of them was coming to my rescue in my fateful, forgetful need!

To be honest, I still use these typewriters from time to time, to make short documents, and yes, even to write; it's fun to hear the physical clickety-clack of the keys. As my lawyer friend once told me, a document manually typed is just as good and legal as any printed via computer printer.

I brought out the smaller typewriter first from its hiding place in the closet behind my desk. It's an early 1970's Brother, a brand known more for their fax machines nowadays. It once was used in an office in Binondo until the owner closed shop and migrated; it found its way to my family sometime after. I placed it on an empty table and was about to insert a sheet of paper into it when I noticed that the main roller was wobbly.

Oh-oh, the old cylinder had come loose, and the paper wouldn't catch. I didn't know how to fix it, but that was okay. I still had another typewriter to turn to, one given to me and my siblings by my parents for our schoolwork. It's a bigger, heavier machine, a bulky Olympia, the Brother's junior by about a decade. We used this quite often for many, many years, even after we already bought our first computer (which had come with the Epson).

The Olympia sat on a corner table, forgotten by everyone except me. I walked to it, took off its cover, inserted a sheet of paper, and pulled up a chair; I started to type. I can't be certain, but as I clickety-clacked my way through the letter, I wouldn't be surprised if someone would have caught me smiling.

Problem was, about halfway through the letter, something jammed. The carriage moved along normally, but the ribbon turner stayed stationary. Something was wrong with the Olympia, and the ribbon wouldn't turn and transfer its ink to the paper. In other words, I was typing, but nothing was printing (the computer equivalent is a busted keyboard). Argh. What to do, what to do. The ribbon itself was pretty dry and old already, so there was nothing for it but to remove the cover and rewind the spool manually (try and do that with a computer keyboard). So I did this, and finished typing my letter, but it grated on my nerves that both my manual typewriters were clearly busted. No! How could such old, reliable friends have broken down at the same time? The office gremlin was behind this, I'll bet; I reminded myself to deal with him later.

I succeeded in finishing my letter, but I didn't want to leave my typewriters marginally unusable. I still remember basic typewriter troubleshooting, but sadly, to repair them was beyond my skill. In this day and age of high-end electronic thingummies, there was only one place to bring such old contraptions to be fixed. I put both machines in my car's trunk and headed for Sesame Street, to The Fix It Shop, where I lugged them in to Maria and Luis, who welcomed me like an old friend (which, in fact, I am). Though their specialty is pop-up toasters, they also knew what to do with manual typewriters. Of all people, surely they could fix them!

After greeting each other and laughing about old times, I told them about my typewriters. I placed them on their worktable, they pored over my machines, and said that they just needed to replace the broken ribbon-auto-reverse-thingamajig in the Olympia, and to tighten some loose screws in the Brother. At the mention of loose screws, Oscar walked in, and we all giggled to ourselves, and he got grouchy at us, but we didn't let on what the laughter was about. They also advised me to bring them some fresh ribbons, which I did after a quick trip to Mr. Hooper's Store (yes, they now sell office supplies): P43.00 for two typewriter ribbons. To think the cost of a new inkjet cartridge is about P1,000.00. And Maria and Luis didn't charge me much for their services either, certainly much, much less than the cost of a new inkjet cartridge. But they did extract from me a promise to visit Sesame Street more often, and to take care of my typewriters because, after all, they can still do the job right. No sense letting stuff go to waste, even if they're old, as long as they still work.

We talked a bit more, and when we ran out of old memories to smile about, we waved goodbye to each other, leaving Oscar still wondering what the joke was about. Now I'm back, and my manual typewriters are in working order once more. I will keep my promise to take care of them and to use them more often (but I have to admit that correcting typos and other errors is so much easier on the computer, and you don't have to deal with messy correction fluid on your fingers). Nevertheless, they still work, and that's what counts.

A final note: I've talked to the office gremlin and made him promise not to do anything to any of the machines in the office again, even the typewriters. He grumbled a bit at this, but brightened up when I handed him a small scrap of paper with the address of a competitor written on it. "We hate to see you go," I told him, "but you're too good at what you do to be limited by our small-market company. You deserve to play in the big leagues." So he left, and we shook hands with full respect for each other, but I could see he had tears in his eyes as he was leaving, the softie. For his sake, I pretended to shed some myself.

Seth Godin On Free Content And Publishing

Seth Godin, a writer of bestselling business books, shares his thoughts on free content and the publishing industry. An excerpt from his interview:

If everything is free, how is anyone going to make any money?

First, the market and the internet don't care if you make money. That's important to say. You have no right to make money from every development in media, and the humility that comes from approaching the market that way matters. It's not "how can the market make me money" it's "how can I do things for this market." Because generally, when you do something for an audience, they repay you. The Grateful Dead made plenty of money. Tom Peters makes many millions of dollars a year giving speeches, while books are a tiny fraction of that. Barack Obama used ideas to get elected, book royalties are just a nice side effect. There are doctors and consultants who profit from spreading ideas. Novelists and musicians can make money with bespoke work and appearances and interactions. And you know what? It's entirely likely that many people in the chain WON'T make any money. That's okay. That's the way change works.

How do you think publishers and authors could work more productively together?

Publishing is far too focused on the pub day. The event of the publication. This is a tiny drip, perhaps the least important moment in a long timeline. As soon as publishers see themselves as marketers and agents and managers and developers of content, things change.

What's the most important lesson the book publishing industry can learn from the music industry?

The market doesn't care a whit about maintaining your industry. The lesson from Napster and iTunes is that there's even MORE music than there was before. What got hurt was Tower and the guys in the suits and the unlimited budgets for groupies and drugs. The music will keep coming. Same thing is true with books. So you can decide to hassle your readers (oh, I mean your customers) and you can decide that a book on a Kindle SHOULD cost $15 because it replaces a $15 book, and if you do, we (the readers) will just walk away. Or, you could say, "if books on the Kindle were $1, perhaps we could create a vast audience of people who buy books like candy, all the time, and read more and don't pirate stuff cause it's convenient and cheap..." I'm a pessimist that the book industry will learn from music. How are you betting?

Click here to read the whole post.

A Writer's Letter To The Recently Elected

Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, writes a letter to U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama. There is much in the letter for us regular folk, too. An excerpt:

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

Click here to read the rest of her open letter.

Vituperative, Abstemious, Amaneunsis

The 7-chapter article I read here (and which I mentioned here) from Newsweek had me reaching for the dictionary more than once, moreso on those three words in the title of this post.

I kinda' had a hint as to what "vituperative" meant, but only from from context. The second one, "abstemious" I more or less gleaned, also from context, but also because it's close to "abstain", which is near to what it means. The last one, "amaneunsis", left me groping (I thought it was a disease of some sort).

Thanks to Newsweek reporters I learned three new words last week, and a few more. These are all words that I doubt I will ever use in normal conversation. I think only the Queen of $5.00 words (author of "Beacon" from PGS2) would know the definitions of these words without needing to look them up.

Interesting Post On History Revisionism

From Zen In Darkness, this link: Remembering The Battle Of Manila, posted by Nontrivial Pursuit. An excerpt:

Just watched Remembering the Battle of Manila, a two-hour documentary on the 1945 battle produced by Japanese television network NHK and aired on the History Channel.

Most troubling about this documentary is that it's primarily meant for a Japanese audience, being translated into English after it was made. If PBS made this documentary for an American audience it would be a soul-searching second look at America's actions in Manila deserving of a commendation. But it's not. The documentary was made by NHK for a Japanese audience, making it an exercise in washing their hands of guilt. Far from just "remembering the battle of Manila", this looks and feels more like a jab at self-vindication, as if saying, "Hey, the Americans killed more Filipinos than we did; we were just defending ourselves." To lay the blame for the destruction of Manila and the death of 100,000 civilians at the foot of the Americans with only passing mention of Japanese atrocities is, to say the least, dishonest.

Click here to read the whole post.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Photoshopped Classic SFF Book Covers

From M.R.R. Arcega (author of "The Magic Christmas Box" from the PGS Holiday issue), three links to funny book covers of familiar titles. :) Warning: some profanity involved. Her post:

I’m sorry, this isn’t related to Philippine speculative fiction, but it’s too funny not to share (and I want to be more active in this blog, anyway). I’m sure a lot of us grew up reading these books, so please take a peek if only for the nostalgia value :P

MightyGodKing Versus His Adolescent Reading Habits (part 1)

MightyGodKing Versus His Adolescent Reading Habits (part 2)

MightyGodKing Versus His Adolescent Reading Habits (part 3)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Oh Yes, This Is How It's Done

Or as Zen In Darkness, who sent the link in, says, "This is how you burn."

From the blog, ghost light, this post. An excerpt:

Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art. Do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. Giacometti’s drawings and paintings show his bewilderment and persistence. If he had not acknowledged his bewilderment, he would now have persisted. A twentieth- century master of drawing, Rico Lebrun, taught that “the draftsman must aggress; only by persistent assault will the live image capitulate and give up its secret to an unrelenting line.” Who but an artist fierce to know — not fierce to seem to know — would suppose that a live image possessed a secret? The artist is willing to give all his or her strength and life to probing with blunt instruments those same secrets no one can describe in any way but with those instruments’ faint tracks.

Admire the world for never ending on you — as you would admire an opponent, without taking your eyes from him, or walking away.

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Click here to read the whole post.

A Literary U.S. President-Elect

Writers Welcome A Literary President-Elect. An excerpt:

Last winter, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison received a phone call from Sen. Barack Obama, then the underdog to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama had contacted Morrison to ask for her support. But before they got into politics, the author and the candidate had a little chat about literature.

"He began to talk to me about one of the books I had written, `Song of Solomon,' and how it had meant a lot to him," Morrison said in a postelection interview from her office at Princeton University, where for years she has taught creative writing.

"And I had read his first book (`Dreams From My Father'). I was astonished by his ability to write, to think, to reflect, to learn and turn a good phrase. I was very impressed. This was not a normal political biography."

For Morrison and others, the election of Obama matters not because he will be the first black president or because the vast majority of writers usually vote for Democrats. Writers welcome Obama as a peer, a thinker, a man of words — his own words.

"When I was watching Obama's acceptance speech (Tuesday night), I was convinced that he had written it himself, and therefore that he was saying things that he actually believed and had considered," says Jane Smiley, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Thousand Acres" and other fiction.

"I find that more convincing in a politician than the usual thing of speaking the words of a raft of hack speechwriters. If he were to lie to us, he would really be betraying his deepest self."

"Until now, my identity as a writer has never overlapped with my identity as an American — in the past eight years, my writing has often felt like an antidote or correction to my Americanism," says "Everything Is Illuminated" novelist Jonathan Safran Foer.

"But finally having a writer-president — and I don't mean a published author, but someone who knows the full value of the carefully chosen word — I suddenly feel, for the first time, not only like a writer who happens to be American, but an American writer."

Click here to read the whole article.

And here's a quote from Newsweek's Special Election Project Report:

Obama was something unusual in a politician: genuinely self-aware. In late May 2007, he had stumbled through a couple of early debates and was feeling uncertain about what he called his "uneven" performance. "Part of it is psychological," he told his aides. "I'm still wrapping my head around doing this in a way that I think the other candidates just aren't. There's a certain ambivalence in my character that I like about myself. It's part of what makes me a good writer, you know? It's not necessarily useful in a presidential campaign."

These candid remarks were taped at a debate-prep session at a law firm in Washington. The tape of Obama's back-and-forth with his advisers, provided to NEWSWEEK by an attendee, is a remarkably frank and revealing record of what the candidate was really thinking when he took the stage with his opponents.

On the tape, after Obama's rueful remark about the mixed blessings of his detached nature, there is cross talk and laughter, and then Axelrod cracks, "You can save that for your next memoir."

Quite engaging. How often do you find a world leader, or an athlete, or a captain of industry, who reads, and reads a lot? Not very often, I think.