Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting a good dose of speculative fiction

If it weren't for Honey's wonderful decision to have Philippine Speculative Fiction 6 as the book of the month for August, I wouldn't even have bothered to pick this up. Good thing she did, for this turned out to be a very satisfying read, especially since I've been craving for fantasy and science fiction lately.

Now speculative fiction isn't just about sci-fi and fantasy, mind you. According to Honey, it can be any of the following genres:
  • Alternate History
  • Apocalypse/Holocaust
  • Coming of Age (as a species)
  • Contemporary Fantasy
  • Cyberpunk
  • Dystopian
  • Fairy Tales
  • Fantasy
  • First Contact
  • Horror/Dark Fantasy
  • Magical Realism
  • Science Fiction
  • Slipstream
  • Steampunk
Speculative fiction does appear to cover a broad spectrum, no? Except for slipstream (which I have yet to Google), I think I've read at least one fictional work for each of the sub-genres mentioned above. But it's my first time to read any of these within a Philippine context.

I would have to agree that almost all of these stories have a strong Filipino element, whether evident in the use of the language, the setting, the history, and the characters. The first story, "The Big Man" is wonderful in a very unconventional way. It presents a fictionalized account of an outstanding basketball player who might be, for all intents and purposes, be a character in Philippine folklore called the kapre. For a short story, it's quite lengthy, but the personal history that the writer has come up with is rich in detail.

My favorite story, however, is "The Grim Malkin" for it does not take itself too seriously. Compared with "The Big Man" which has a very pedantic feel to it, "The Grim Malkin" is pure geekiness. It's about a mismatched couple who go on a quest and manage to resurrect a cat-like entity who makes it clear that it's no big deal if it kills the couple. It's high fantasy on drugs. The banter between the cat and the man and woman is so humorous it begs for canned laughter.

Other notable stories (IMHO) are "Alternative Histories," "Ashland," and "On Wooden Wings." "Alternative Histories" is presented as a series of tweets from personalities in Philippine history if they had accessed to that social networking site. "Ashland" is marvelous in the writer's portrayal of a world so gray and silent. "On Wooden Wings" can be categorized as cross-over, for it works for both adult and young adult readers. And it's setting is a place where writers in this genre seldom touch on -- the Philippines' Islamic provinces.

I have yet to read the first 5 volumes of this series. But if they're just a fraction as good as the 6th volume, then I know I'll be happy. It's just too bad that the publishers only printed a few hundred copies of PSF 6, and that the earlier volumes are out of print. More people should read these.

Read this book if:
  1. You're into speculative fiction.
  2. You love suspending disbelief.
  3. You're curious how Filipino writers would write in this genre.


ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ said...

i may have to do a creative blog post inspired by your review.

Peter S. said...

You should, line of flight!

mel u said...

Great post spot lighting some very interesting sounding stories-as you said it is too bad they are almost preset to have a small audience-

Peter S. said...

Hello, Mel! I think this anthology deserves to have a wider audience. Most of these stories are very well written. Some stories are even well researched. I just hope that they continue on with this series.

mel u said...

Peter-I have posted on a few Filipino short stories from the pre WWII era that were quite good

Kate said...

Thank you for the review and the support! :)

Paolo Chikiamco said...

Thank you so much for the kind words Peter. We're always happy to hear about it when people read our stories, but especially when those readers are fellow Filipinos. Thanks for taking the time to read PSF6, and going above and beyond by writing about it :)

P.S. I hope you can make it to the PSF7 launch next year, and I can introduce you to Vin Simbulan--you can bug him about making more stories in that universe :)

Peter S. said...

@Kate: Credit should go to you and your team. I'm so happy I read this!

@Paolo: You're welcome! I would love to meet Vin Simbulan!