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Filipino Unrealism Becoming a Literary Reality
by Don Jaucian

The Speculative Fiction market in the Philippines went to a wider standpoint this year. Neil Gaiman and Fully Booked launched the first Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards which gave a long needed breather from the suffocating reach of Filipino Realism. He noticed the rich imaginative culture of Filipinos and encouraged the venture towards Filipino Unrealism. The short-listed entries were a lot of hallucinatory, thematic and sometimes derivative short fiction showcasing the Filipino talent and imagination.

Before the end of last year, Dean Alfar released his long awaited second volume of Philippine Speculative Fiction. Kenneth Yu also opened a market for genre suckers with his Digest of Philippine Genre Stories released also later this year. PsiCom also released its SF anthology with Pinoy Amazing Adventures that contained the Palanca winner Lunes, Alas Diyes ng Umaga by Vlad Gonzales.

There was an ongoing rumor that the Futuristic Fiction category in the Palancas would be gone next year. The word still needs to be confirmed.

Whether it is the need for a new escape or the desire to promote higher perspectives, one thing is clear: Philippine SF just got bigger. No more is it confined to horror anthologies and children's books. With all these new markets for SF writers and readers to burrow on, I decided to put up a list of the year's best SF stories. It can also serve as a 411 for those wanting to know how well SF is doing in the Philippines. Read more...Collapse )

Death by Paper: A Look at the World of Shinigami, Detectives, and Lethal Notebooks
(Part 2 of 3)

Divine Light of Vengeance
The story begins when shinigami Ryuk drops his extra Death Note (one is for work, and one is for fun) in the human world. It is picked up by genius high school student Yagami Raito (Yagami Light in some translations, apparently better fitting the author’s original intent, but I will refer to him as Raito for the remainder of the article), who thinks it is nothing more than an ordinary notebook. He then reads the rules text and thinks it’s some kind of joke, but he decides to try it out anyway, just in case. Of course, his first victim must be some sort of evil person, thereby justifying his actions, and it must be somebody who does not attract much attention. One such petty crook appears on the evening news, and Raito decides to try his newfound puppy out. To his surprise, the incident occurs exactly as was described in the rules, and that’s when Ryuk pops in from the window, right on cue.

This chain of events raises a score of questions to Raito’s mind, but from the get-go, it is clear which path he will follow: he will use the Death Note to punish the most heinous of criminals, creating a new world order with himself as judge, jury, and executioner. Within days, he makes good on his intent and has killed a score of criminals, so many that even the public has begun to notice. A number of people decide that, indeed, somebody is behind these killings, somebody that they refer to as Kira (apparently based on the word “killer”). It is under the guise of Kira that Raito acts towards accomplishing his ultimate goal.

As the public has begun to notice, it is only natural that the police have noticed as well. Interpol decides to acquire the aid of L, the world-famous detective who has solved many difficult cases in the past. By way of a bold and clever ploy, L deduces several things about Kira: that he can kill without direct contact, that he needs to at least see the person to kill him, and that he resides somewhere in the Kanto area of Japan. This sequence invokes the ire of Raito, and his intent is clear: the hunt begins.

We’ll talk more about L later. For now, let’s focus on Raito. Read more...Collapse )

Death by Paper: A Look at the World of Shinigami, Detectives, and Lethal Notebooks
(Part 1 of 3)

Imagine the one person that you hate the most. The very thought of him or her frustrates you to no end. In an act of utter desperation, you grab a notebook and write that person’s name in it, detailing the most gruesome manner of death you can think of, half-hoping that your wishes come true in the end. In a matter of seconds, you are informed that the person in question dies in exactly the manner you’ve described. It takes a while, but the implications hit you with all the force of a speeding truck. This notebook somehow killed the exact person you were thinking of and in the exact way that you detailed the death. What should you do? To be specific, what should you do with the power that this strange notebook grants you?

Welcome to the world of Death Note. Read more...Collapse )

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03 August 2006 @ 11:27 pm
A Familiar Kind of Sadness
by Angela Solis

Sekai no Chushin de Ai o Sakebu is roughly translated as Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World, and is the title of one of the bestselling novels in Japan 1. This novel is also called Sekachu, and it is written by Kyoichi Katayama.

Last year, Viz Media decided to release the licensed manga version of this novel, and it was called Socrates in Love. Now, I’m kind of wondering why they used that title when there’s really no reference to Socrates in the story. Viz also handled the translated version of the novel, also bearing the same title. I acquired a copy of the manga recently despite my reservations towards the story.

The story isn’t that unique. It is about middle school and high school sweethearts Aki Hirose and Sakutaro Matsumoto. They faced a very difficult situation when Aki was confined in the hospital and was later diagnosed with leukemia. The couple has to struggle to stay in their relationship despite Aki’s slim chance of recovery. Kinda like A Walk To Remember, no? Read more...Collapse )
08 July 2006 @ 11:23 pm
Dracula Among the Living
by twistedxfactor

Since I could remember, vampire stories have circulated in horror stories throughout the centuries. Great characters of literature like Bram Stoker's Dracula and Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat inspired our imaginations as far as what these creatures looked like. Movies like Van Helsing and Interview with the Vampire provide a vivid picture of what our imagination tells us. And although considered fiction, most vampire stories owe their existence to one Count Vlad Tepes, better known as Vlad the Impaler of Transylvania (now known as Romania).

For four days, I've drowned myself with the knowledge of the horrors of the past while reading Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. It tells the story of a journey of a family of scholars intertwined by their interest of Vlad Tepes and how they searched through history in order to know his whereabouts in the present. The story ultimately revolves around stories of how Vlad Tepes still lived among the living, how he recruits minions, and how fond he was of historians because he, by his own account, created history. His life in the 15th century was filled with chaos and death, but he claimed that his prized achievement was the improvement of the modern world. He was well-known in history for impaling people on stakes (hence the name) and brutally killing people using several different means of torture that he learned from the Turks. 1 Read more...Collapse )
08 July 2006 @ 11:18 pm
The King of Pulp
Stephen King Pays Homage to the Genre

by Jose Carlos Malvar

Make no mistake. There is no story in Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid.

Published under Hard Case Crime (see www.hardcasecrime.com), The Colorado Kid is a never-before-published hard-boiled crime fiction from the master of the macabre himself, Stephen King.

The Colorado Kid is the quintessential pulp fiction: hard-boiled, fast-paced, and cynical. Furthermore, it’s quintessential King as well: the characters are vividly rendered, the plot draws you in to the point that you suddenly realize that it’s already dawn and you have spent the night reading, and it has that same element of subliminal fear and fascination. The Colorado Kid is King’s special way of saying thanks to the genre that created him as a writer.

Yet, the book is more than King writing pulp fiction. It is King writing about pulp fiction. Read more...Collapse )
08 July 2006 @ 11:14 pm
Night: A Review
by Jose Carlos Malvar

There is nothing to enjoy in Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel's magnum opus. There is nothing to savor in this "slim volume of terrifying power" (New York Times). Nothing. Nothing, especially since the new translation by the author's wife, Marion Wiesel, brings the text "closer the the original" with the translator's intimate and personal familiarity with the author's voice. Yet even so, Night is definitely a compelling read.

Make no mistake, within the pages of Elie Wiesel's powerful record of his memories in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, readers won't find any redemption. That may sound a little like a passage lifted off of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and it would have been just as funny, only I am serious, and to call the events unfortunate would be a grave understatement. Read more...Collapse )
Defining American Culture Through an Anthology of Short Stories
by cbs

The Best American Short Stories of the Century
John Updike & Katrina Kenison, editors
(Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999)

Thomas Harris depicted Hannibal Lecter as a highly cultured romantic with his proclivity for giving women a bottle of wine produced in the year of their birth. Somehow I can match his taste, class for class, for a lesser price, if women find the same grandeur in literature and can take the vote or veto of John Updike as romantically acceptable. All I have to give them - thanks to the accessibility of The Best American Short Stories of the Century - is a great American short story published in the year of their birth.

But not so fast; the truth of the matter is that The Best American Short Stories is a tale of poor proportion, though not of selection, that tends to undermine - ironically - the significance of American contribution to the world of letters in the past century. Look at the ratio and find your discrepancy. Fifty-six stories to a hundred years means a lot of years unrepresented, and if you're a woman born in, say, 1952, you will end up not getting a short story from me for two reasons: first, 1952 is one of the years not represented, and second, romance is out of the question if you were born in year 1952.

Seriously, the fifty-six stories (Updike mentioned fifty-five in his Introduction; he can write, I can count) only provided a frustrating chasm, a temporary void, in our journey from the past to the recent to view the evolution of this American literary form. The short story, after all, is America's finest contribution to literature and having chosen only fifty-six from an initially nominated two thousand plus does not speak highly of this contribution.

Despite these kinks, almost everything is markedly superb. Read more...Collapse )
'Yan ang Pinay Series - The Pinay In Philippine Children's Literature
by Zarah Gagatiga

Image hosting by Photobucket Most Filipinos are familiar with Mars Ravelo's komiks hero, Darna. My mother's generation saw Vilma Santos portraying her in several movies during the mid 70's. I, in turn, saw Nannete Medved and Sharon Cuneta essay the role in the 90's. Pinoy kids these days are watching Angel Locsin fight the bad guys and the nasty female villains on Pinoy national TV. Generations of Pinoys have watched their own versions of the movie and TV Darna, and we can't help but compare how different their personalities are. Each actress bring something new to this comic book character that has evolved into a modern day metaphor for the Filipina.

For Pinoy writer and poet, Edgar Samar, Darna is your typical OCW - a domestic helper based in Hong Kong.

Samar wrote the story, Uuwi na ang Nanay kong si Darna, as an entry to the Alfredo Salanga Writing Competition. Sponsored by the Philippine Board on Books for Young people, it won him the prestigious award in 2002. Read more...Collapse )
28 February 2006 @ 02:16 am
A Hundred Tales of Medieval Satire
by Julius dela Cruz

If you think Medieval Literature is boring, this should dispel that notion. Thanks to King Arthur and Dante Alighieri, we tend to think of Medieval lore as painstakingly boring, spiritually polite and full of old English yarn. We conjure ideas of princesses with pointed hats being rescued from dark castles by prince charming, or the Robin-hood like chivalry and cavalierism during those times. However, we must remember that the Black Death ravaged most of Europe during the Dark Ages and the Crusades disrupted the flow of medieval life. But thanks to Giovanni Boccaccio (whom Chaucer based his stories from), we have a rather entertaining glimpse of the reality of his age.

Giovanni Boccaccio wrote during the 14th century, a hundred-tale compendium consisting of the hilarious and naughty side of medieval era. The Decameron follows ten young men and women of Florence who escape from the Black Death by retreating to an Italian villa in the countryside. At the villa, they keep each other entertained by telling one new tale of adventure and romance each night for the 100 days they are in seclusion.

This classic shows the bawdy, humorous, satirical and farcical side of the Medieval Era. It's never about noble knights searching for the holy grail or battles fought for love (ala Romeo & Juliet) or philosophical monarchs going murderously mad (ala Hamlet & Macbeth), but rather, it's about the daily activities of the common people. Yes, these are the tales of the peasants, the farmers, the rich clergy, the merchants, and the petty thieves. I have to admit, the greater majority of the population in that era seem really impoverished. Not everyone is in the church praying and kneeling before the pews while feeling pious. Most of the time they eat, feast, fornicate, blackmail, gamble, fornicate, elope, cheat, fornicate, murder, get drunk and fornicate endlessly... just like the way things are today. Dover Publications wrote that The Decameron is "vast in scope, teeming with colorful characters, and rich in worldly wisdom. Folk tales, ancient myths, fables and anecdotes range from earthly and irreverent satires of hypocritical clergy, to gripping tales of murder and revenge, to stories of passionate love, both adulterous and faithful." Read more...Collapse )
19 January 2006 @ 10:26 am
Faves & Raves: Read or Die Book Club
by Angela Solis

The name of their club sounds dangerous, but it’s all in the name. While some book clubs require their readers to read a particular book before their usual gathering, Read or Die allows its members to take charge of what books to present and introduce to their fellow members. Read on as Pinoy Book Reviews interviews Tin of the Read or Die book club.

Pinoy Book Reviews: Please tell us something about yourselves and the Read or Die community. Why is it called Read or Die in the first place?
RoD: "Read or Die" is a book club which I founded with a few other friends last year. We had our first meeting in the Araneta branch of "A Different Bookstore" on November 20, 2005, though the livejournal community had already been existing for a few weeks before that.

The club holds monthly meetings in different locations all over Manila, usually in bookstores. In lieu of a seated discussion this February, however, we'll be taking a day excursion in Recto.

"Read or Die" is the title of an anime/manga series that is pretty famous in Japan. It's the story of a substitute teacher who loves books and, in her spare time, works as a secret agent of the British Library Task Force.

Rotch magnetic_rose, my co-moderator in the club, came up with the idea of using "Read or Die" as the name for the book club. The initial members of the club are all anime/manga fans -- in fact, most of us primarily knew each other through online fandom -- but choosing that name didn't really have anything to do with it. We just couldn't think of anything else, and I think "Read or Die" might appeal even to people who aren't into anime and therefore won't get the reference, but who are nonetheless book lovers, which, after all, is the demographic we're aiming at. Read more...Collapse )
19 January 2006 @ 06:52 am
(Not) Everything is (Quite So) Illuminated
by e1essar

On the insistence of a friend, I hurriedly bought and read Jonathan Safran Foer's widely-acclaimed first novel. My friend told me that when he was reading the book, entitled Everything Is Illuminated, he "couldn't put it down," and added that I should read the book now in the event that I "might die tomorrow and regret not having read it!" How can you argue with a statement like that? So, naturally, I read the book as soon as possible! I really didn't know what to expect from it. My initial impressions were based mostly on the short blurb found at the back, which tells us that it is a book about a man's (Jonathan Safran Foer) journey to the Ukraine to find the girl who saved (or didn't save) his grandfather during the war. Jonathan's only clue to his search is an old photograph of his grandfather with the girl and the name "Augustine" printed on the back. Upon reaching the Ukraine, Jonathan is aided in his search by Alex, a `translator' who talks like a thesaurus, Alex's grandfather (who thinks he is blind) and Alex's grandfather's `demented' seeing-eye dog, Sammy Davis Jr., Junior.

But what the blurb doesn't tell you is that the chapters in this book alternate between the present misadventures of Jonathan, Alex, Alex's grandfather and Sammy Davis Jr., Junior and the book which Jonathan is writing about his grandfather and other ancestors. The present story is narrated by Alex, Jonathan's `translator.' Alex writes like a student who is learning English as a foreign language. He translates words and phrases literally and has no inkling about the proper usage of idioms and verbal phrases. His narrations style is quirky, entertaining, and a lot like listening to a foreigner tell you a story using his English dictionary, who tries to use `big' words correctly so as to impress his listener (or in this case, reader). You will stumble on words like `carnal' instead of `sex' and `miniature talking' for `small talk.' It is in this manner that Alex recounts their search for the elusive Augustine. Read more...Collapse )
19 January 2006 @ 06:40 am
Siren Song of the Nymphet
by Angela Solis

A number of emotions and ideas came up as I was reading Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita. First, what was he trying to say? Should I look at this book in a psychoanalytic view and consider this work as a form of release? Does this mean Nabokov himself fancies pre-pubescent girls? Does this book elicit fear, as I try to remember my own pre-teen years? What is this book all about?

Lolita is about the account of an old man named Humbert Humbert and his ‘love’ towards the young Dolores Haze, who is his landlady’s daughter, whom he met when he was invited to move to America. The book started with Humbert’s beginnings, including his discovery of the opposite sex, his first love Annabel, and how her death haunted him for several years. As he grows older he discovers that he has an eye for pre-teen girls, whom he calls ‘nymphets’. He characterizes these nymphets as young girls “between the age limits of nine and fourteen” (16) and who “reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac).” (16) These ‘nymphets’ are not necessarily good looking, however, they have that “elusive, shifty, soul-shattering, insidious charm” (17) that distinguish these young girls from other girls their age. In order to spot a ‘nymphet’, one must notice the “the slightly feline outline of the cheekbone, the tenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness… the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them…” (17) The sight of these ‘nymphets’ knocks Humbert off his feet, with pictures of desire and lust playing inside his mind. Read more...Collapse )
19 December 2005 @ 04:38 am
A Book of Her Own, A Book for Us All
by Jaykie Lazarte

I didn’t really know what to expect before reading A Book of Her Own: Words and Images to Honor the Babaylan. I knew it was about Filipino culture, sure, but I had assumed it would mostly be appreciated by readers of a more feminine nature. That’s what the title seemed to imply. Nonetheless, I opened up my copy and read on.

Surprisingly, a lot of my preconceived notions were shattered after reading the first few pages. Indeed, one does not need to be female to appreciate this book. Any Filipino who wishes to get in touch with his or her roots has a medley of images, poems, assorted articles, et al. to munch on.

Ms. Leny Mendoza-Strobel has mentioned that some people feel that A Book of Her Own is better suited for Filipinos living in the US (or in other countries for that matter). This is perhaps the case, since Ms. Strobel herself lives abroad, and therefore that will inevitably have some influence in her writing. However, I feel this is more so an effect of the Pinoy’s inherent longing for home when he or she is somewhere far, far away. Anyone who’s been on a trip to some other country should know what that’s like; imagine how much stronger it must be for our brethren who haven’t even set foot on the Philippines yet. Read more...Collapse )
19 December 2005 @ 01:35 am
Mapanlinlang na Paghahabi
by Alexia Castro

Nitong nakaraan ay natapos kong basahin ang librong Fall On Your Knees ng Canadian na si Ann-Marie MacDonald. Aaminin ko, isa ito sa mga nakakagambalang librong nabasa ko, lalo na’t sensitibo ako sa isyu ng incest.

Mapanlinlang ang librong ito. Makapal kasi ito (mga 500+ na pahina) kaya naman unang tingin pa lang, marahin ang unang maiisip ng isang mambabasa ay nakakaantok ang aklat na ito. Noong sinimulan ko itong basahin, natagpuan ko ang aking sarili na inaabandona ang nasabing aklat. Bakit? Una, nakakaligaw ang kuwento. Hindi ko alam kung sino ang nagkukuwento; si MacDonald ba, o ang isa sa mga tauhan sa libro. Pangalawa, hindi ako masyadong interesado setting nito na "naganap" noong 1900s. Pangatlo, masyadong mabagal ang daloy ang kuwento.

Pero ang kakaiba sa librong ito ay sa unti-unti kong pagbabasa, doon ko nalaman kung gaano kaganda ang nobelang ito. Napahanga ako sa may-akda dahil kahit ang haba-haba ng kuwento ay nahabi niya at napagdugtong-dugtong ang lahat. Ang sinumang magbabasa nito ay hindi mamumulat kung ano talaga ang sikreto ng pamilya Piper hangga’t hindi niya naaabot ang katapusan ng libro. Read more...Collapse )