Monday, August 31, 2009

Avid Reading Tennis Belle (Updated)

I'm a tennis nut as much as I am a book nut, so when I read that former #1 tennis player Ana Ivanovic was an avid reader, I became even more of a fan (and of course I was a fan for her tennis; the fact that she's also a hot babe is just happenstance--yeah, right :P). She's not doing well right now, but I'm pulling for her all the more that she can get back to winning. An excerpt from the article I read:

FHM magazine ranked her the sexiest woman in sports. A reader poll in Germany’s biggest newspaper determined she has the most beautiful body in sports. Lustful viewers helped make her website the most visited of any female athlete in the world.

Apologies to the faithful fans of Danica Patrick, Maria Sharapova and Natalie Gulbis, but we’re talking about tennis player Ana Ivanovic, who also happens to be an avid reader.

Her recent choice of books, “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, was especially fitting. While reading the harrowing account of an ascent of Mount Everest, Ivanovic had embarked on her own climb back to the figurative mountaintop from which she fell.

Click here to read the whole article.

Update: Arrgh! Ana Ivanovic just lost in the 1st round of the US Open to Kateryna Bondarenko; her tennis troubles continue. Kudos to Bondarenko, who came from 1 set down and 1 break down in the 2nd set to come back and win 9-7 in the 3rd set tiebreak.

9/9/09: The Future Of Pinoy SF Wants You

From Bahay Talinhaga: 9/9/09: The Future Of Pinoy SF Wants You. An excerpt:

On 9 September 2009, our new imprint will launch its website/blog dedicated to all things relevant to the readers and creators of stories of the Philippine Fantastic. Our aim is that the site can serve as a launching pad for great Filipino SF, and also a venue for a greater understanding of the magical, speculative and scientific aspects of our culture and heritage. But most of all, want we want the site to do is create a community, and for that we need your help. We want to hear what you guys want in a site that aims to be something akin to the io9 or of the Philippine Fantastic. Tell us: what kind of topics would you like to cover? What kid of features or posts would keep you coming back?

Click here for more.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Attention: Comic Strip Artists (Updated)

Andrews McMeel Publishing, with host Amazon, are sponsoring an international search for the next popular comic strip artist called The Comic Strip Superstar Contest. An excerpt:

Are you the next Comic Strip Superstar? There's only one way to find out--enter an international search for the next popular comic strip artist, sponsored by Andrews McMeel Publishing and hosted by The winner will receive a publishing contract from Andrews McMeel Publishing, a $5,000 advance from Universal Uclick, and a monthly stipend for the development of 20 comic strips that will be considered for syndication.

More details here.

Update: Arrgh. Didn't see the clause pointed out in a comment here by Luis Katigbak.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Google Opens Up 1M Books For Free

We now have 1M books for free download care of Google. They are in the EPUB format, sort of what the mp3 format is for music. An excerpt from the article:

Google just announced that it will now allow users to download over 1 million public domain books in the EPUB format. Google had already made this archive available to some of its partners, including Sony and Barnes and Noble, but until today users weren't able to download these free EPUB texts from Google directly. Google will continue to make PDF versions of these books available for download as well, but users with eReader's will find the new EPUB files far more useful.

Click here to read the whole article.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marking Time

Only for forty-somethings, or those who feel like forty-somethings. ;-P

"Marking Time" by Dogberry, an essay on entering the four-oh's. An excerpt:

Last year my fortieth birthday came and went, and just a few weeks ago my forty-first birthday whizzed past too. So far I am happy to report that I have not gone out and bought a shiny new saxophone or an expensive sports car, or hooked up with a skinny 22-year-old model.

I remember welcoming the arrival of the year in which I officially would become a fortysomething with the enthusiasm one reserves for visits to the dentist or to one’s in-laws, or to one’s dentist who also happens to be an in-law. In my mind I was okay with the arrival of the big Four-O. But as the weeks went by and the fateful day approached, I became increasingly anxious. What exactly was bugging me? I thought I had made my peace with one’s inexorable march toward old age (assuming I got there in one piece) and ultimately oblivion. Friends tried to console me. “Fifty is the new forty,” one said, which only made me anxious about one more thing, the big Five-O that loomed in the distance. “You don’t look a day over thirty-seven,” chuckled another, which should have been funny because it’s something I might have said. Nothing made me feel better.

My wife, sensing the arrival of one of my dark moods (during which I am absolutely no fun to be around), suggested a trip out of town. So just a few minutes after the clock had struck twelve on the inevitable day, we were on an express bus to Baguio, and I was trying in vain to get some sleep. We arrived at five in the morning, and I’d forgotten how cold it could be up in this mountain city. One’s amorphous angst is easily overcome by whip-slappingly cold air.

One of the images from that day that has stayed with me: sitting in a restaurant on Session Road looking out a window at a hazy, rainswept afternoon while the smell of bangus sinigang and sizzling pusit filled my nostrils. It was a Saturday in the middle of August. For someone who hadn’t been to Baguio in years, and whose trips always coincided with summer, the wet weather felt strange, as if I had walked into a house a day too late for a party. I wondered, as we ate our hot lunch in the middle of the afternoon (we napped from mid-morning till past noon), if this—the rain, the overcast sky, the sight of people huddled under the awning just outside the window to keep dry—meant anything.

Click here to read the whole piece.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If It Happened In Venezuela, It Could Happen Here...

Found this link via The Bibliophile Stalker: Venezuela Strangles Book Imports, Bankrupting Bookstores And Publishers. An excerpt:

In bookstores all over Venezuela the bookshelves are emptying. Readers’ hunger for new and classic titles is as strong as it ever was, but a policy change that the government made over a year ago is gradually choking off the flow of imported books, which make up 80% of the market in Venezuela, resulting, naturally, in fewer and fewer books to sell.

It seemed like a minor bureaucratic change at the time: in March 2008, the government led by president Hugo Chávez downgraded the import status of books. Once listed as “essential goods”, all imported books would now require government certification, either demonstrating they were not produced domestically, or else not produced domestically in sufficient numbers. In practice, this means that for all titles they want to import, publishers or distributors have to submit an application describing the books in question and request that a share of foreign currency be allocated for their import. (In Venezuela, the government regulates the use of foreign currency for imports.) These applications are then reviewed by a government bureaucrat, who has the power to decide how many copies will be imported.

The decisions the government has made over the year that the law has been in force seems somewhat arbitrary. For example, the international bestseller The Secret could reasonably be expected to sell ten thousand copies or more, yet only several hundred were approved. What’s more, publishers must then wait six months to reapply to import additional copies — by which time demand may have dropped.

The result of this policy has been a catastrophic shortage of books.

Click here to read the whole article.

Get informed on what has been happening in the Philippines, then compare it with what has happened in Venezuela: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Fantasy Versus Science-Fiction?

Found the link to this essay, Fantasy vs. Science-Fiction, over at The Bibliophile Stalker, who promptly gives his rebuttal in Never Fantasy Vs. Science-Fiction.

An excerpt from the former:

Fantasy is about a small, simple, magical world. This is the world of the child, but also the world of the past. Looking back things become simple and romanticized. The concept of the Golden Age is as old as we are.

Fantasy worlds operate as cartoonish backdrops for personal dramas and interpersonal narratives. There is often little explanation of how things work or any real consciousness of the larger objective reality. There is a narrowness of perspective that often dictates a flatness and reliance on cliche that relegates fantasy narratives to the ghetto of genre fiction. Fantasy narratives like The Lord of the Rings occasionally break out and do something impressive, but only by taking on greater reality and connection to the real world. Much of LoTR is inspired directly by Anglo-Saxon and Germanic history and much of its resonance is due to its connection to this world, also referred to as “Middle Earth” in Norse myth.

Science-fiction is about the future from the perspective of the present. It is not really about the future itself. This is why science-fiction often ages badly. Science-fiction seeks to enlarge the compass of the known. It is speculative. And, in speculating it is often laughably wrong. But, it also points the way and suggests possibilities for how the present could develop along its current course. Science-fiction is prophetic where fantasy is sentimental. Science-fiction, since it encourages a more broad perspective, is more creative and interesting. Fantasy is referential and narrow and as soon as it becomes unmoored from cliche it ceases to be fantasy and becomes science-fiction or speculative fiction.

An excerpt from the latter (to whose side I lean, frankly):

As someone who's read a lot of fantasy and science fiction (admittedly more of the former than the latter), one can't make sweeping generalizations of either. There's lots of material in both that spawn numerous genres and sub-genres, in addition to interstitial work that cross boundaries and accepted definitions. What might be true of one title might be the opposite in another. Suffice to say, while I have guidelines for what constitutes fantasy or science fiction, they are not parameters set in stone and chances are, have been subverted by various authors.

So it's a pet peeve of mine when I come across an essay entitled Fantasy vs. Science-fiction. While there are possibly good arguments for the fantasy vs. science fiction debate, this article isn't one of them. In fact, it is, in many ways, contradictory. For example, in the second paragraph, it describes Lord of the Rings as "regressive and nostalgic" but praises the same series in the third paragraph, stating "Fantasy narratives like The Lord of the Rings occasionally break out and do something impressive..." Make up your mind, will you. Is Lord of the Rings praise-worthy or not? Even worse is the numerous exemptions the authors make, especially when it comes to science fiction...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Submit To The #VSS Anthology

Heard about this via The Bibliophile Stalker's Twitter: A call for submissions to The #VSS (very short story) Anthology. Any tale in 140 characters or less is welcome. Deadline is September 30, 2009. Guidelines here.

Mae Astrid Tobias 1979-2009 (Updated)

Over Saturday dinner at a friend's place, someone said, "Come Monday, stocks are sure to go up 'coz of the Wall Street rally. No ghost month this year!" Sure enough, the local stock market did go up yesterday by about 5%.

So maybe the stock market is finding traction even in this lousy economic climate and during ghost month, but the local writing community is not, having lost another young writer, Mae Astrid Tobias (as learned via The Spy In The Sandwich), following on the heels of this earlier loss.

My condolences to her family and friends.

Update: Some added info from School Librarian In Action:

"Her remains lie in state at the Paket Santiago Memorial Homes in San Roque, Marikina City. KUTING, the premiere organization of children's writers in the Philippines, will be in charge of the necrological services tonight. There will be a mass at 7 PM after which, the program remembering Ms. Tobias' life and works will commence. She was KUTING's President from 2004-2006."

Further info here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pitik Bulag: Letra At Liwanag, GSIS Museum Of Art

Maryanne Moll, who is now connected with the GSIS, is inviting everyone to Pitik Bulag: Letra At Liwanag at the GSIS Museum Of Art. Details:

Museum of Art
National Artist Virgilio Almario
cordially invite you to the

PITIK BULAG: Letra at Liwanag
A Celebration of Contemporary Filipino Art and Poetry

Opening Reception
On Tuesday, 25 August 2009
6:00 in the evening

GSIS Museum of Art
Diosdado Macapagal Avenue
Pasay City

The exhibition will be on view until December 5, 2009.

Featuring the works of Artists: Leonardo Aguinaldo, Virgilio Aviado, Manuel Baldemor, Elmer Borlongan, Salvador Ching, Charlie Co, Fil Dela Cruz, Edgar Fernandez, Jose John Santos III, Steve Santos and Poets : Teo Antonio, Rebecca Añonuevo, Roberto Añonuevo, Mesandel Arquelles, Romulo Baquiran Jr, Michael Coroza, Jerry Gracio, Vim Nadera, Fidel Rillo, Edgar Samar, Marne Kilates & National Artist Virgilio Almario

R.S.V.P. Leslie / Mayette (GSIS Museum) Tel. No. 479-3588 / 859-0395
Cellphone: 0929-171-4091 Email: museum(at)gsis(dot)gov(dot)ph

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Google Book Project Faces New Hurdle

Here's a news article, Infotech Giants To Oppose Google Book Project. An excerpt:

Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo! are reportedly planning to join several library associations and non-profit groups in opposing Google's settlement with authors and publishers which would allow it to digitize and sell millions of books.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal said the technology heavyweights have agreed to form what is tentatively being called the "Open Book Alliance" to challenge the Google Book Search project.

Google reached a class action settlement in October of last year with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to a copyright infringement lawsuit they filed in 2005.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

CRV Library

Found this site, CRV Library--Your Access To Free eBooks. As far as I can see, it's a legal site. Check it out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

An Open Letter To The Congress Of The Philippines...

...On Taxes, Duties, And Fees On Books (seen over at Filipino Voices). An excerpt:

So I did what any person of the 21st Century would do. I googled the said laws. In my search, I found these salient points.

(I am neither lawyer nor do I aspire to be one so pardon me, If I get my terms mixed up)

1) The Tariff and Customs Laws of the Philippines section 105 on Conditionally Free Importations, subsection s says:

Philosophical, historical, economic, scientific, technical and vocational books specially imported for the bona fide use and by the order of any society or institution, incorporated or established solely for philosophical, educational, scientific, charitable or literary purposes, or for the encouragement of the fine arts, or for the bona fide use of and by the order of any institution of learning in the Philippines: Provided, That the provisions of this subsection shall apply to books not exceeding two copies of any one work when imported by any individual for his own use, and not for barter, sale or hire. Bibles, missals, prayerbooks, koran, ahadith and other religious books of similar nature and extracts therefrom, hymnal and hymns for religious uses, specially prepared books, music and other instrumental aids for the deaf, mute or blind, and textbooks prescribed for use in any school in the Philippines: Provided, That complete books published in parts in periodical form shall not be classified herein.

2) 30 Years ago, on 7 August 1979, the Philippines became a signatory to the United Nations (UNESCO) Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials which says that:

Contracting States undertake not to apply customs duties or other charges on, or in connection with, the importation of books, publications and documents; educational, scientific and cultural materials.

3) The National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 Section 109, “Exempt Transactions”; subsection q and y respectively:

(q) Transactions which are exempt under international agreements to which the Philippines is a signatory or under special laws, except those under Presidential Decree Nos. 66, 529 and 1590;

(y) Sale, importation, printing or publication of books and any newspaper, magazine review or bulletin which appears at regular intervals with fixed prices for subscription and sale and which is not devoted principally to the publication of paid advertisements;

What is made clear by Manolo Quezon’s column is that:

The point, of course, is that no such exemption is even called for. No taxes on imported books are supposed to be assessed. The government supposedly scrapped a policy that was illegal in the first place, and then tried to appear responsive to public opinion. Its too-late-the-hero posturing already gypped many citizens during the time finance and customs levied the illegal book tax; and citizens continue to be gypped by customs assessors in various post offices.

This time around, since the commercial bookstores are still in the clear, it doesn’t look like any official will take up the cudgels for the consumer, whose existence was studiously ignored by the DOF in the first place. So if the book tax is to be truly eliminated, citizens will have to get together with fellow citizens and organize themselves.

As a citizen, I interpret these three things to mean: that the Government of the Philippines can not charge:

  1. customs duties on imported books and similar material,
  2. fees associated with books and,
  3. Value Added Tax.

Often, a citizen such as myself lament how broken our nation is. The Great Book Blockade is not a scandal of an official stealing from the treasury. It isn’t a scandal in the sense that an official of the government would spend an exuberant amount on food or travel. The Great Book Blockade is neither sexy nor newsworthy for many people.

The reality is that the Great Book Blockade is a scandal. The Philippines is breaking international law and that a country that values education so heavily as our culture and society does, can so easily make it difficult for its citizens to enrich themselves and disregard the value of reading.

Perhaps it is a misunderstanding of what education and what intelligence means.

Click here to read the whole entry.

Legal Analysis Needed!

From MLQ3's Twitter:

"Would appreciate analysis of this by lawyers. Seems to me DOF didn't get the point they violated Florence Agreement."

The "this" MLQ3 is referring to is this, an email from Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores of the NBDB:

Dear Manolo:

First of all, thank you for your column today regarding the complexity of the process that individuals have to go through to get books out of the post office duty-free. I had a conversation with a DOF official this afternoon, and I assure you that they are sympathetic to the plight of individuals getting their books through the mail. However, I was told that they are constrained by law (the Tarriff and Customs Code of the Philippines) to charge those administrative fees. The fees are not import duties, nor are they the VAT (and I would really check if I were the individual assessed that I am not charged VAT because it does sometimes happen though perhaps this is inadvertent). The DOF shares the view that books should not be charged VAT; it’s in the National Internal Revenue Code after all (Sec. 109 I think).

At the moment, the Bureau of Customs, absent a DOF certificate of exemption, will assess the individual or the commercial importer duties; it’s their mandate. So at the moment the fees are there because it’s in the TCCP—and everyone, especially the big importers are subject to these fees. Of course the big importers are used to this and regularly apply for exemption. But I know it is a hassle for individuals for the few titles that come in now and then.To resolve the matter, the DOF and the NBDB will work together to remove these fees for individuals, a lot of it is in the details because not all books that come in through the mail are apparently for non-commecial purposes.

The President did mention in her SONA that books are duty-free and, as you know, there is a suspension of the application of the duties for books. The NBDB, DOF and the Tariff Commission are working together on this to make it a permanent thing because of the President’s directive. For our part, the NBDB has submitted a petition to the Tariff Commission to zero-rate the tariff for books (and not just for printed books, but books of all kinds like audio books and such). I think the DOF has a similar petition with the TC. Let me stress that the DOF is open to discussing how to fix the waiving of the administrative fees with us.So I’d like to ask for a little more patience while we discuss the details…

In any case, let me assure you that we hope to resolve the matter soon.

Best regards,

I suppose you can get in touch with MLQ3 by leaving a comment on his blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Official Persecution Of Readers

MLQ3 has a new blog entry up: Official Persecution Of Readers. Here's an excerpt, and his suggestions for action:

Book lovers expressed satisfaction when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, during her ninth State of the Nation Address, stated her administration’s policy as follows: “Taxes should come from alcohol and tobacco, and not from books. Tax hazards to lungs and livers, do not tax minds.”

Two months before her speech, Makati Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. had hailed the President for instructing the Department of Finance to rescind Department Order No. 17-09 dated March 24, 2009. DO 17-09 provided the legal basis for the Great Book Blockade of 2009, and officialdom was surprised when the imposition of taxes on imported books provoked opposition from book lovers from all walks of life. Citizens joined hands with booksellers, the National Book Development Board and Unesco Philippines in expressing indignation over an arbitrary and patently illegal tax.

In response to the public furor, the Department of Finance issued Department Order No. 27-09, dated May 25, 2009, saying it had received letters from the NBDB and the Philippine Book Publishing and Development Federation while ignoring Unesco and the citizenry. The officialese used in the new order was pouty: DO 17-09, it said, was “hereby suspended pending resolution of the issues raised.” The phrasing was good-naturedly ignored by many book lovers celebrating what they thought had been a kind of successful People Power; the general, and magnanimous, opinion at the time was that the bureaucrats in the Department of Finance and Bureau of Customs had to save face.

However, between the time the book tax was “scrapped” (according to the Palace) or “suspended” (according to Finance officials), troubling news began to trickle in that the bureaucracy apparently had a mind of its own and fully intended to defy the President and keep on putting the squeeze on the public.

This time around, since the commercial bookstores are still in the clear, it doesn’t look like any official will take up the cudgels for the consumer, whose existence was studiously ignored by the DOF in the first place. So if the book tax is to be truly eliminated, citizens will have to get together with fellow citizens and organize themselves.

How can this be done?

1. Tell RockEd Philippines you want to help by e-mailing info(at)rockedphilippines(dot)org, or contact them via these numbers: (632) 709-0792; (63916) 409-2378; Telefax: (632) 376-2184.

2. Try to take photographs of the customs assessors, post office employees, etc. and document your case and inform chingbee.cruz(at)gmail(dot)com who has been in touch with UP College of Law dean Marvic Leonen since last May. Leonen has been compiling evidence for the filing of appropriate legal cases.

3. Be prepared to call the attention of Jaime Regala of the BOC IIPD-CIIS (Internal Inquiry and Prosecution Division-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service) or complain to him personally at tel. 527-4522 once RockEd and Leonen have a clearer idea of the scale of the illegal duties being assessed.

Previous entries on the latest developments here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Number To Call Re: Book Duties

Bookmarked! left a comment here with regard to the duties still being levied on books. She said:

Hi, you should not have to file for exemption for items that are non-taxable. From my understanding, exemption is only filed if you or your organization is tax-exempt.

Please call Mr. Jaime Regala of the BOC IIPD-CIIS
(Internal Inquiry and Prosecution Division-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service)
(632) 5274522

So there, a number we can contact whenever something like this comes up. Thank you, Bookmarked!

And do check out her site as well. Bookmarked! seems to be a voracious reader (as voracious as The Bibliophile Stalker), and like him, regularly reviews the books she reads.

A Practical Approach To The Duties On Books

The Bibliophile Stalker shares his practical approach to those duties still being levied on books brought in from abroad by individual buyers. An excerpt:

There are some things which I want to clarify: this is not (just) the book blockade. For the most part, the book blockade centered on importers of books, namely the distributors and bookstores. That aspect was successfully fended off (for now). The issue of arbitrary taxing of individuals at the post office is a separate issue, and was not championed by Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr.

Instead, the cause against this arbitrary taxing was taken up by UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen. Unfortunately, this case hasn't been resolved (and with the news, it seems that people intending on taxing citizens for books have escalated the conflict). Chingbee Cruz and Dean Marvic Leonen needs your receipts for proof against this corruption. Sadly, after the "success" of repealing the book blockade, coverage on this issue died down (and few people listened to me when I said that these are two separate issues).

I'd like to think I'm a practical person so here are my solutions to the "problem", depending on what you want to accomplish:

Click here to read his whole piece.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Free eBooks Should Be Part Of The Plot For Writers

Here's an article, Why Free eBooks Should Be Part Of The Plot For Writers, by Cory Doctorow. An excerpt:

You might know that I'm a science fiction novelist and that I release all my books online for free (using the excellent, free and simple Creative Commons licences) simultaneously with their print publication by mainstream publishers (HarperCollins in the UK, Tor in the US).

I've explained at length elsewhere exactly why I do this, so I won't go into detail here, except to summarise by saying I don't think we can stop others from copying – it's a lost cause. Copying is actually wonderful, and I have copied my head off since I first snuck into the photocopy room at my dad's office in 1980. My problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity, and free ebooks generate more sales than they displace.

With that out of the way, let's get down to cases.

Click here to read the whole piece.

Two Local YA Books

Thanks to this SMS, and to the relative nearness and accessiblity of the venue, I attended the Buklat Bulilit Children's Book Festival last August 1, 2009, at Trinoma, sponsored by, among others, the PBBY and the NBDB.

During the afternoon seminar, publisher Ramon V. Sunico and two of his writers, Perpilili Tiongson and G.T. Los Baños, talked about writing young adult novels to a fairly large group of listeners. They said that the approach to writing such stories is different, as the concerns of young adults are different from adults, but they also emphasized that the need for characters and situations that are believable and that come alive to a reader is the same, as with any story aimed at anybody.

They also said that there aren't that many YA novels by Pinoy writers about local characters in a local setting, which was why they wrote the books they did. Perpilili Tiongson wrote the book "I Hate My Mother", a story of the relationship between a Pinoy daughter and her mother; and G.T. Los Baños wrote "Playing It Safe", a love story set against the backdrop of sports and university life. Give these local YA books a try; they're available at Powerbooks, where I bought my copies.

Reviews of these two books can be found here and here, at Into The Wardrobe.

Winton Lou Ynion 1981-2009

I learned of this via The Spy In The Sandwich: Palanca-winning poet Winton Lou Ynion passed away a few days ago.

According to the Inquirer news report, he died in his condominium unit along Esteban Abada St. in Loyola Heights.

Some have speculated that this may be a hate crime and not just a simple robbery.

I hope that justice is served.

There is a call for donations for his wake here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On The Great Undead Blockade

Bahay Talinhaga, in his irrepressible style, dissects what was blogged about here, Extra Information On The Book Blockade, in his own blog entry, On the Great Undead Blockade. An excerpt:

So a commenter over at the Philippine Genre Stories blog has raised the specter (pun not intended) of a necromantic revival of the Great Book Blockade (credit for that particular metaphor goes to the New Worlds Alliance twitter). You can get a summary of these new developments at the aforementioned PGS post, or over at the Philippine Online Chronicles.

While it is clear that once again there are forces once again attempting to keep the precious pulpy goodness from our grubby hands, and this is something we should not stand for, it would be best to know whom it is we’re actually fighting.

The Problem: People are being asked to either pay customs duties on imported books, or get an exemption from the DOF.

We can divide the problem in to two aspects then: (a) The duties; (b) The exemption requirement. In each case what we need to ask is a question every reciting law student dreads to hear: “What is your legal basis?”

[Legal analysis. Oh, what fun!]

Click here to read his whole entry.

Three Calls For Submissions

Here are three rather early calls for submissions which I saw via Vera Nazarian's Twitter. The reading periods have not yet opened; good, all the more time for you to get started on writing. I'm sure you didn't plan to start writing your story only when you could submit, right? ;-P

Scheherazade's Facade. Fantastical Tales Of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing And Transformation. Submissions open on Nov. 1, 2009, and close on Feb. 28, 2010.

The Ladies Of Trade Town. An anthology of original science fiction, fantasy, and related genre short stories about the world's oldest profession. Opens January 5, 2010, closes June 9, 2010.

Warrior Wisewoman 3. An anthology series of science fiction featuring powerful and remarkable women. Opens on September 1, 2009.


Via The Bibliophile Stalker: Congratulations to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who is this year's 2009 Octavia E. Butler Scholar. Details here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Extra Information On The Book Blockade

Recently, Ronaldo C. Ramos left a comment on the PGS Multiply post on The Book Blockade. He said:

Is this law really repealed? I tried to claim books sent to me by my gf, and the Mandaluyong Circle Customs Officer - Amer Adnon Azis assessed me taxes and duties almost equivalent to 100% of the value of the books. He even included the shipping cost in his tax calculation. His boss, Susan Calves confirmed that taxes needed to be paid. I tried to explain the Florence agreement and that I am not an importer, she insisted that I get an exemption from the DOF. Calling the DOF they in turn insist that I appear personally at the Roxas Office to file an affidavit for the exemption. Has anyone also been assessed taxes on books lately? The assessment was made August 11, 2009.

I said I'd ask around, and so I turned to The Curious Couch, leaving a comment on her post One For The Books! She graciously replied and said she'd contact the NBDB. Here's her response:

Here’s the lowdown on the DOF exemption.

According to the NBDB, the individual book buyer must apply for duty exemption at the DOF. You get the exemption the same day you apply for it; you have to apply for an exemption every time you have books coming in. It’s just how it is right now.

An EO zero-rating books is in the works and it just might make our lives as individual book buyers much easier. But we still have to wait and see.

Please feel free to spread the word and to link to this post, so we can get this info out there for those bringing books in.

My grateful thanks to The Curious Couch for the help. :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Manila International Storytelling Festival

The Manila International Storytelling Festival will be held on August 28 and 29, 2009, in Makati and Alabang, respectively. From their site:

Legends and myths of pirates and princesses, tales and chronicles of fairies and fantasy will come alive in Manila during this festival of adventure and excitement comprising two full days of storytelling performances and workshops.

Be spellbound by mythical tales, and learn about empowerment through storytelling with the arrival of a star-studded cast of international storytellers in Manila’s inaugural International Storytelling Festival 2009.

Paying special tribute to this oral tradition, the Festival will see the best of international storytellers joining their Filipino counterparts in showcasing their art through live storytelling performances.

Targeted not just for children, the festival offers a wide array of seminars for educators, parents, librarians, social workers and other professionals. Focusing on the craft of storytelling, these seminars use words as a medium to motivate, challenge and excite participants.

Through an exciting cast of globe-trotting storytellers, MISF is set to ignite the imagination with worlds woven into existence through words!

MISF is organized in conjunction with the National Book Development Council of Singapore which will also present the Singapore International Storytelling Festival that begins on 31st August 2009.

Click here for more details.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Overheard this question posed to a group of writers:

"Which would you prefer, to be critically acclaimed, or to be popular and well-read?"

I couldn't hang around to hear the discussion that followed, but my initial, internal reaction was, "Does it have to be an either/or?", but given that yes, it has to be, which one then? I'd like to hear from the writers among you, if that's okay. :D

Maryanne Moll's Typewriter

I like typewriters, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one. Writer Maryanne Moll blogs about her typewriter, an Olympia SM-1. An excerpt:

I’m trying not to get intimidated by the recent discovery that I use the same typewriter as William Faulkner used to have, which is an Olympia SM-1 dating back to the late forties. Mine is in a sexy cranberry color, while Faulkner’s, I assume, is black. (Although with writers, one never really knows, and there are no photos of his Olympia SM-1.)

Of course he was also known to use other typewriters, such as the Remington 12 – presumably as his desktop typewriter – and the Underwood Standard Portable – presumably as his portable. I, on the other hand, have noticed that I have twice in my life ended up with Olympias.

Click here to read the rest.

I wonder: Are there any other writers out there, young or not so, who would like to share their experiences with typewriters, good or bad? I'd like to hear your stories about these writing machines.

Incidentally, Maryanne also blogs about the PSF4 launch.

The Mildura (Australia) Writers' Festival

Three Pinoy writers went to the Mildura Writers' Festival recently, and one of them, Exie Abola, wrote about it. An excerpt from "In And Out Of Oz":

“We were treated like kings,” Rofel Brion says when friends ask how our trip to Australia was. “And fed like them, too,” I add. In the middle of July 2009 three Ateneo de Manila writers—Rofel, Cyan Abad-Jugo, and myself—went to Australia to attend the Mildura Writers’ Festival. I had never heard of the place or the event, but when Marlu Vilches, dean of the School of Humanities, asked me if I would consider going, I said, “When do we leave?”

Mildura (mill-JOO-ruh) is an inland city in a mostly agricultural region more than 500 kilometers northwest of Melbourne. Known for its produce (such as dried fruit, grapes, citrus), Mildura is also a center of arts and culture. The Mildura Writers’ Festival, a celebration of Australian writers and renowned for being perhaps the most convivial and friendly literary event in that country, was going on its 15th year. Writers from all over Australia, and a few from abroad, were flown in to Mildura for the nearly week-long festival. We were the only foreigners.

Our involvement in the festival was a result of Ateneo de Manila’s linkage with La Trobe University, an education partner of the festival and one of its sponsors. We arrived in Mildura on July 16, Thursday, just in time to attend the opening of “Clandestine,” an art-installation exhibit by Neil Fettling, one of our hosts. Fettling, who teaches at La Trobe University, has been artist-in-residence in Ateneo, his work shown at the Ateneo Art Gallery in January 2007 in an exhibit titled “Noosphere.”

Asia Literary Review

As seen over at the submission guidelines for Asia Literary Review.

Asia Literary Review publishes fiction, non-fiction, reportage, memoir, travel writing, literary essays, humour, documentary and themed photographic essays, photography, art and poetry from and about Asia.

Pieces should be a minimum of 3,600 words and may range up to 16,000 words. Shorter ‘sketches’ and ‘vignettes’ will be considered. ALR does not publish academic work, book reviews, or travel writing without a narrative focus. Excerpts and adaptations from longer works should stand alone, complete in their own right. Simultaneous submissions and translations are acceptable.

Submissions are preferred by email as a Word attachment to subm(at)asialiteraryreview(dot)com, formatted in Times New Roman 12pt with 1.5 line spacing. Poems may be sent directly to Martin Alexander (martin(at)alexander(dot)org).

Click here for more details.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Common Format For eBooks?

Sony is going to try to set an open standard for digital books. The format is called ePub. An excerpt from the article:

On Thursday, Sony Electronics, which sells e-book devices under the Reader brand, plans to announce that by the end of the year it will sell digital books only in the ePub format, an open standard created by a group including publishers like Random House and HarperCollins.

Sony will also scrap its proprietary anticopying software in favor of technology from the software maker Adobe that restricts how often e-books can be shared or copied.

After the change, books bought from Sony’s online store will be readable not just on its own device but on the growing constellation of other readers that support ePub. Those include the Plastic Logic eReader, a thin device that has been in development for nearly a decade and is expected to go on sale early next year.

Sony’s move comes amid mounting concern about Amazon’s market power in the budding category of electronic books. E-book sales in the United States hit a record $14 million in June, a 136.2 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Amazon does not divulge its e-book revenue, but analysts say it most likely accounted for a majority of those sales.

Companies like Sony and Adobe do not want to abandon anticopying measures, fearing that piracy of books would run rampant. Rather, they want to push the e-book industry toward common standards to avoid a replay of Apple’s domination of the digital music business.

For Sony, which introduced its Reader devices more than a year before the Kindle arrived, the move to open formats is part of a strategy to make up lost ground. Sony recently introduced two new, less expensive devices and announced it was dropping its price for new releases and best sellers to $9.99. Later in the year, the company will begin selling a third Reader that will, like the Kindle, allow users to buy e-books wirelessly.

Amazon, for its part, believes it can go it alone, without embracing industry standards. An Amazon spokesman would not comment for this article, but Mr. Bezos has said before that his goal was to “make Kindle books available on as many hardware devices as possible.” That suggests it will soon introduce versions of its Kindle software for the Palm Pre and other reading devices.

Allen Weiner, an analyst at the technology research firm Gartner, says there is one more company that must declare its allegiance to either an open or closed world for e-books: Apple.

If, as expected, Apple soon introduces a tablet computer that can function as a reading device, and if it embraces an open standard like ePub, Amazon will have to reconsider its closed approach, Mr. Weiner said.

“If you see some Adobe executive up on stage with Steve Jobs when they announce the tablet, at that point Amazon has a lot to worry about,” he said.

Click here for the whole article.


More reasons to read: Feedbooks.

On Feedbooks you'll discover thousands of public domain books and original books from new authors that you can read on any mobile device.

Turn your book into a high quality e-book with our publishing service or contribute to our collection of public domain titles.

Feedbooks can distribute e-books to a whole ecosystem of reading platforms and reach a global audience of millions of users.

Here's their blog.


Rejected writers--Doesn't that go without saying? Aren't all writers rejected at one time or another?--you have my permission to take heart from this: 11 Reasons Writers Know More Than Publishers. It enumerates 11 instances where editors rejected or made negative comments on works that went on to become well-read.

More Austen Monsters Are Coming Our Way

Talk about an unlikely publishing success story: Jane Austen Meets Zombies In Monster Mash-Up. An excerpt:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Jane Austen novel in possession of added gore will be a surefire best-seller.

That's the conclusion reached by publishers since the success of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," an unlikely literary sensation created by adding dollops of "ultraviolent zombie mayhem" to Austen's classic love story.

"Zombies" — billed as 85 percent Austen's original text and 15 percent brand-new blood and guts — has become a best-seller since it was published earlier this year, with 750,000 copies in print. There's a movie in the works. And it has spawned a monster — or, more accurately, a slew of literary monster mash-ups.

Next month, "Zombies" publisher Quirk Books is releasing "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters," which adds giant lobsters and rampaging octopi to Austen's love story. Out this week from another publisher is "Mr. Darcy, Vampyre," a supernatural sequel which portrays the aloof hero of "Pride and Prejudice" as an undead bloodsucker. Later this year comes "Jane Bites Back," in which the author herself develops a taste for blood.

Even Austen purists admit a grudging admiration for the "Zombies" concept.

"In publishing terms, it's brilliant," said Claire Harman, a Columbia University professor and author of "Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World."

"Why did I spend three years writing a critical book on Austen? Why didn't I just think of that?"

Click here to read the whole article.

Free (And Legal) eBooks Last Call

Suvudu has announced it last call for free eBooks here. Get 'em while you still can!

Book View Cafe's New Twitter Fic Contest

Saw this via Twitter:

"Twitter fiction contest # 4 continues. Theme: spiders & space stations. Rules at"

Good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ooo! I Like!

Boy, do I like! But no, I'm not getting it. I also didn't get a pre-WWII Underwood I saw for sale some months ago at half the price of this one, as tempted as I was at that time (just like I am so tempted now). I'm just saying that, you know, "I like." :D

Verb Noire -- Call For Submissions (YA Anthology)

Discovered via Bahay Talinhaga's Twitter: Verb Noire -- Call For Submissions (YA Anthology). An excerpt:

Right now I'm having a brain storm and so we're putting out a special call for submissions. In my head I'm imagining retellings of things like Anansi, Baba Yaga, American folktales (with an eye toward Spanish, Native American and/or African American focused stories), Chinese, Japanese, or Korean folktales. We'd also welcome other non-Eurocentric retellings (Middle Eastern, South American, Maori, etc.) of folk tales. Now, this isn't going to be an anthology of those original tales (though I do want copies of the source material so I can give the audience some background) instead I want to see them twisted.

Click here for more details.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Creating Better Magazines (And Anthologies)

K. Tempest Bradford shares her thoughts on what for her is needed to create better magazines and anthologies. An excerpt from her post at Tor:

A couple of weeks ago at Readercon I was on a panel called “The Future of Magazines.” Actually, I was on the second part of this panel focusing on online magazines since the premise aimed at pitting print and webzines against each other. Granted, when talking about new vs. old models of publishing the divide often does come in the form of print or online, but not always. In my summation I said that the real issue is not print or online, it’s that SF needs better magazines, period.

This ties into the latest iteration of “Oh My God there are no female authors in that anthology, and oh look no writers of color, either” that Arachne pointed to last week. There are more layers to what’s going on with the Mammoth book than just one editor’s massive fail. More than just his failure to find and include women (which he has already attempted to pass off as a matter of taste, the first fallback position of fail-prone editors). More than just his failure to include writers of color (which he has, as far as I know, not attempted to explain away). This anthology, like so many others, like so many magazines, is lacking several other less-obvious minorities: LGBT, non-American/Western European, differently-abled, just to name those that come to mind. Obviously I can’t say for sure that there aren’t any authors in the book that come from those groups, and the reason is that you can’t always tell by the name. But considering the lack of attention paid to the more obvious exclusions, I feel safe in betting that there’s a severe (but perhaps not total) lack of the others, too.

Before you start yelling at me about quotas and affirmative action, let me explain that I do not consider the above as some kind of checklist. Editors need not collect one of each like Pokemon or something. No one is advocating for editors to engage in tokenism. We blew past the point where tokenism was useful about 30 years ago — some genre editors must have missed that memo. What people are advocating for is a change in the way editors think, the way they make decisions, in the way they see their jobs. It is not merely a matter of taste, anymore. It’s a matter of not having a small mind or narrow vision.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Flash Me Magazine Fantasy Issue Guidelines

I picked this up from Bahay Talinhaga's Twitter: Flash Me Magazine Fantasy Issue Guidelines. An excerpt:

FLASH ME MAGAZINE will be doing another ALL FANTASY ISSUE October 31, 2009. Special guidelines apply and any submissions received that do not follow these specific guidelines may be rejected outright.

All stories submitted for the fantasy issue must contain some element of fantasy and be 1,000 words or less. Stories with excessive gore, violence, profanity, or sex are not appropriate for Flash Me Magazine. As a magazine geared towards readers of all ages and beliefs, we reserve the right to decline stories based on their content. We do not publish poetry.

*Submissions for the fantasy issue will be accepted between April 30, 2009 and August 31, 2009.* Stories received outside of these reading dates will be rejected outright. The fantasy issue will be published October 31, 2009.

Click here for more details.

Congratulations to Kate Aton-Osias and Eliza Victoria

Congratulations to PGS contributor Kate Aton-Osias for winning 1st place in the children's short story in English category at the 2009 Palanca Awards! Congratulations too to Eliza Victoria for winning 2nd place in the poetry in English category! They join Paolo Chikiamco, whose win I blogged about here.

"Dead" And Loving It

Here's a review, "Dead" And Loving It, of Yvette Tan's new book, "Waking The Dead", which will be launched on Aug. 15 (click here for details). An excerpt:

Tan’s narrators and protagonists are mostly young yet transcendent, and perhaps the most fascinating thing about “Waking” is how all of Tan’s stories seem to occur in the same parallel Philippines: “Making one’s way through a Quiapo crowd is never easy, especially today. At one point, I found myself in the arms of a tikbalang. Legend has it that before the saint gave life back to the river, the city belonged only to humans. Sta. Teresa’s miracle had opened the doors for the folk of the Other Country… until Quiapo became a melting pot for different species.”

Tan’s stories rise like the enchanted river to meet their readers, the words like brackish water suddenly turning clear. Something is awakened in this book, an irresistible trap of terror and talent from Yvette Tan, whose seductively scary stories will make readers glad they acquiesced when offered this fateful bargain: “Drink, and your eyes will be opened.”

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Notes On The 2009 National Artists Controversy

Via Manolo L. Quezon III's Twitter, I found and read this insightful piece over at Meat And Marginalia: Notes On The 2009 National Artists Controversy. An excerpt:

Contrary to statements that have been made deploring the “politicization” of the Order of National Artists (ONA), the ONA is, with or without the participation—or interference, perhaps—of Malacañang, always already political, woven inextricably into and constitutive of the very fabric of power relations of the art world. In any case, the President is not explicitly forbidden from making selections of her own—given that she is the head of state, and that the ONA is a state title, I do believe that she should have some control over the process, at least until a law is passed prohibiting her from doing so.

One need only look back three years ago, when Philippine Star columnist Alfred “Krip” A. Yuson, passive-aggressive beerhouse rhetorician extraordinaire, blasted the selection of Lumbera as National Artist over his bet, Cirilo F. Bautista, describing Lumbera as “the communist candidate” and “a second-tier citizen in the republic of arts and letters”, while disingenuously disclaiming that such assertions were in fact attacks. (Some of the responses to Yuson, of which my personal favorite is by Rosario Cruz Lucero, have been compiled in this blog entry by University of the Philippines professor Jose Wendell Capili.) In that same article, Yuson quotes Gémino H. Abad as saying that, had he been aware of the way the deliberations were going, he could have made a stronger case for Bautista. While it may well be that artists can make the most credible and authoritative judgments about their peers—a point that I do not necessarily agree with—the ONA is, in a sense, a glorified culturati cockfight, with each faction rallying behind and lobbying for its respective rooster. The art world is not a rarefied sphere of civility, courage, and goodness floating autonomously above the rest of society—artists are every bit as petty, as contentious, and as malicious as government officials.

The comments of Caroline S. Hau in Necessary Fictions, if limited to Philippine literature, are nevertheless illuminating, and her description of it as incestuous could tentatively be applied to the cultural scene as a whole:

The so-called literary scene in the Philippines is characteristically small, and although a number of literary biographies have been produced in recent years, the main form in which information circulates within that scene has been gossip, which is woven out of the threads of personal relations linking writers to writers, and writers to critics (who are often writers, too). It also means that writers pat each other on the back and give each other awards, and that younger writers get their chance and opportunities through the beneficence or patronage or praise of older, established writers. Come Choosing-the-Canon-Time, who else but their friends would these write-professors nominate?

…the Philippine literary scene resembles a hamlet patrolled by small, overlapping bands of writers who conduct their feuds and rituals, if not in full view, then at least within gossip’s range, of each other.

Therefore, Caparas has a point when he deplores the snobbery underpinning the criticism he has received as a result of being proclaimed National Artist. While Caparas is wrong to reduce the controversy to the classic—and ultimately unfruitful—oppositions between high culture and low culture, between fine art and popular art, and between the elite and the masa, the ONA is, by its very nature, elitist. Notions of honor, of prestige, of merit, and of taste are not free-floating, abstract, innocent, democratic concepts, but ones that cause the inclusion and legitimization of certain activities and phenomena at the expense of others, and with specific material effects over and above whatever honors and privileges come with any given award or title—effects that, I suspect, many National Artists would disavow. Consider, for instance, that the goal of many a serious collector of Philippine art is to own at least one work by every National Artist, which means that such works tend to fetch astronomical prices on the market. Even ephemera that were never intended to be exhibited or sold—e.g., sketches, studies, and memorabilia—can be very costly, particularly if the National Artist is already deceased. And what the National Artist cannot gain in monetary terms, he/she gains in terms of authority: his/her very presence and opinions are inevitably considered weightier and more significant than those of others.

I would like to underscore that even when the choice of National Artist is relatively uncontroversial, it is only because that artist is acceptable to a broad consensus of the artistic community, which is hardly representative of the Philippines as a whole. In a country where over nine million families recently rated themselves as poor, I doubt if art exists in the lives of the majority at all, and yet it is this same majority from whose pockets the ONA is funded. Do our National Artists truly belong to and engage with the public, or do they merely delineate a self-contained, masturbatory economy exclusive to the cultural cognoscenti? (I think it fair to ask, for example, where our National Artists for Literature were when the Department of Finance levied a tax on books earlier this year.)

Lest I be branded a cynic—or worse, an apologist for Caparas—what I have been trying to do here is to lay bare the tensions roiling beneath the surface of what may seem to be a fairly simple dispute over protocol and transparency.

If, as UP professor and Star columnist Butch Dalisay asserts, “no true artist needs an award, especially one granted by a government whose credibility and sincerity many artists will or should find trouble with“, then I have to ask why the artistic community bothers with the ONA in the first place? That Dalisay resorts to a romantic idealization of the ONA is, to my mind, rather disingenuous: “The National Artist Award was meant to rise above petty politics, to give some material recognition and sustenance for our most creative and most productive imaginations—a vain hope, as it turns out, in this politically besotted and benighted country.” If the ONA has now been corrupted, as many protestors allege, then why did the National Artists stop at a symbolic burial of their medallions? Wouldn’t the truly meaningful gesture be to relinquish their titles, return their medallions, and give up whatever privileges the ONA accorded them? Or why not set up a private award-giving body to confer the National Artist Award? Doesn’t the Manila Critics Circle give out National Book Award?

Click here to read the whole blog entry.

Friday, August 07, 2009

One Of Aesop's Fables May Be Rooted In Fact

Do you remember Aesop's fable, The Crow and The Pitcher? That story may be rooted in fact, as explained in this article. An excerpt:

From the goose that laid the golden egg to the race between the tortoise and the hare, Aesop's fables are known for teaching moral lessons rather than literally being true. But a new study says at least one such tale might really have happened.

It's the fable about a thirsty crow. The bird comes across a pitcher with the water level too low for him to reach. The crow raises the water level by dropping stones into the pitcher. (Moral: Little by little does the trick, or in other retellings, necessity is the mother of invention.)

Now, scientists report that some relatives of crows called rooks used the same stone-dropping strategy to get at a floating worm. Results of experiments with three birds were published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology.

Rooks, like crows, had already been shown to use tools in previous experiments.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Congratulations to PGS Contributor Paolo Chikiamco

Congratulations to PGS contributor Paolo Chikiamco, who won 3rd place at the 2009 Palanca Awards in the Short Story For Children category!

Philippine Public Service Announcement -- Voter Registration Verification

If you're of voting age, check to see if your name is in the registry. If not, then check the main website to find out how to register.

The National Artist Issue On ANC -- Confirmed (Updated)

What I blogged about here is confirmed: Sir Butch Dalisay will be coming out on ANC (Ch. 27, Skycable) tonight, 8-9 p.m., to talk about the National Artist issue with Cheche Lazaro on her show, "Media In Focus". The other guests are Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Carlo J. Caparas, NA Eddie Romero, and CCP Chair Emily Abrera.

Update: blogs about his thoughts on the show, including many clarifications.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

HarperCollins Short Story Competition

Thanks to The Bibliophile Stalker for this link: HarperCollins Launches Short Story Competition. An excerpt:

HarperCollins has launched a short story competition offering writers a chance to have their work featured in a title published by its Angry Robot sci-fi imprint.

The three winners of the competition will have their stories featured in Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, which is scheduled for publication in May 2010.

The competition will be launched this Friday (7th August)...

Click here for all the details.

Brief Lives: A Writing Contest

An Exercise In Youthful Blasphemy is sponsoring a writing contest called Brief Lives. Deadline is August 11, 2009, and the prize is a hardcover copy of Mirrormask. Click here for more details.

New Sony E-Readers Confirmed

What I wrote about here is now confirmed. Sony has officially released The Pocket and The Touch, and the online e-bookstore has also lowered its prices. The costs of the gadgets are $299 and $199 respectively. An excerpt from the article:

The company just went official with the PRS-300 and 600, which will more affectionately be known as the Pocket and Touch editions, respectively.The latter is the 6-inch resistive touchscreen model replacing the PRS-700, with Memory Stick / Duo and SD card slots. The backlighting layer from its predecessor has been dropped to improve touch responsiveness and to alleviate concerns of glare. It also comes packing a stylus and a digitized copy of the Oxford American English Dictionary and will be available in red, black, and silver. The Pocket Edition, on the other hand, is your standard fare with no touchscreen or expandable disk port, and palettes including blue, silver, and rose. Both models have USB 2.0, 512MB internal memory, and no WiFi whatsoever -- Sony assures us a WiFi version is coming and there'll be news on those coming soon, but this isn't it.

"Humans Have Entered A New Stage Of Evolution"

So says physicist, Stephen Hawking, and he says this stage is an external one. An excerpt:

But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.

"I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race," Hawking said.

In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, "an external transmission phase," where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. "But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage," Hawking says, "has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes."

The time scale for evolution, in the external transmission period, has collapsed to about 50 years, or less.

Meanwhile, Hawking observes, our human brains "with which we process this information have evolved only on the Darwinian time scale, of hundreds of thousands of years. This is beginning to cause problems. In the 18th century, there was said to be a man who had read every book written. But nowadays, if you read one book a day, it would take you about 15,000 years to read through the books in a national Library. By which time, many more books would have been written."

But we are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls "self designed evolution," in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. "At first," he continues "these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression."

If the human race manages to redesign itself, to reduce or eliminate the risk of self-destruction, we will probably reach out to the stars and colonize other planets. But this will be done, Hawking believes, with intelligent machines based on mechanical and electronic components, rather than macromolecules, which could eventually replace DNA based life, just as DNA may have replaced an earlier form of life.

Click here to read the whole article.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

World Fantasy Award Nominations

The World Fantasy Award Nominations have been released.

The National Artist Issue On ANC

Sir Butch Dalisay will be on ANC "Media In Focus" this Thursday, 8-9 p.m. to talk about the National Artist issue. Cecile Alavarez, Carlo Caparas, and Virgilio Almario have also been invited.

How Can The Human Race Survive The Next 100 Years?

It's a question that requires a lot of speculation, and it was asked by physicist Stephen Hawking. His full question is "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?" From a lot of surfers he received a sackful of answers, some of which may be familiar to those who read a lot of science fiction. Click here to read what people had to say.

Gabriela Lee Interview

Here's a link to an interview with Singapore-based Filipino author Gabriela Lee, for her story, "Hunger". It's found over at By Blood We Live, the site of the anthology of the same name, where Lee's story shares space in the pages with stories by other authors like Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Joe Hill, Jane Yolen, Anne Rice, Garth Nix, and others.

Thanks to The Bibliophile Stalker for the link.

As Strong As...Myth?

Make no mistake, stories have strength.

There are stories that have come down to us through history that we now take as gospel truth. These stories are larger than life, and the maxim "truth can be stranger than fiction" can be applied to them. Now, we have these two articles that debunk twenty of these historical stories, showing that, in fact, they were all fiction to begin with.

Still, it was fun knowing the myths, and then reading the more mundane truths behind them. :)

Top 10 Common Historical Myths

Another 10 Common Historical Myths

Monday, August 03, 2009

Catherynne M. Valente On Writing SF

Writer Catherynne M. Valente On Writing SF. An excerpt:

Over the weekend, my second SF story, The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew, was published at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Oh, I know. It's not hard SF. Somehow we'll all survive. But it's been quite a journey this year, learning to change over my thought processes to SF even for those two short stories. Reader, I won't lie, it was hard. Not because SF is inherently more difficult or brainier, but because when one has practiced and worked at writing one kind of literature until you were reasonably good at it, launching into a new kind sort of spins you around and knocks you for three kinds of loops.

Yes, in the end, the aims of every story, no matter the genre, are the same. Characters one cares about, interesting plots and locales, emotional moments and climaxes, all that jazz. But while I've gotten very used to inventing on the folkloric level, to creating fantasy worlds and situations, it really is a different thing to suddenly apply that skill set to SF, which has a whole other set of reader demands and expectations.

Click here to read the entire blog entry.

Learn About Your Favorite Fairy Tales

If you want to become like PGS contributor Nikki Alfar and turn into a fairy-tale fount of knowledge, check out this site, SurLaLune Fairy Tales. On its home page, it says:

SurLaLune Fairy Tales features 49 annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, modern interpretations and over 1,500 illustrations.

Also discover over 1,600 folktales & fairy tales from around the world in more than 40 full-text eBooks. A discussion forum is also available.

Please visit Introduction to Fairy Tale Studies and Frequently Asked Questions if you are new to the site.

Learn about the different versions of your favorite fairy tales, study how they've evolved over time, imbibe them in their original forms, and see how much their modern versions have been rewritten.

The Love Eaters by Andrew Drilon

Check out this comic by PGS contributor Andrew Drilon: The Love Eaters.

Need A Monster For Your Genre Piece?

Need a monster for your genre piece? Get some inspiration from these 5 real-life horrifying bugs. Man, one of them is as big as a human's thumb! And another was the terrifying monster in this classic action/suspense story by Carl Stephenson. My skin crawled as I read this piece.