Thursday, February 05, 2009

Filipino Speculative Fiction 2009 Part 1

Here's a crazy attempt to document and review various speculative fiction written by Filipinos:

Publication: Rogue Magazine February 2009

"The Cheap Legend of Juana Chupacabra" by Benito Kampf

Benito Kampf is not without talent and it is evident in the first paragraph of the story as the author paints this scene which is a combination of gruesomeness and eroticism. The reader is assaulted by tantalizing and visceral descriptions and this would have otherwise fit in perfectly with some of the best-written porn if not for the usage of one of the country's most iconic horror monsters. But this is not a story about an aswang assaulting a hapless prey but instead the relationship of two lesbian lovers.

Unfortunately, word play and sensual stimulation seem to be the strongest points of the piece and as we move into the rest of the narrative, it feels like eating eating bread and butter for dinner after having lobster as an appetizer. Which isn't to say it's horrible but rather everything else--including the plot--is awfully mediocre after such a strong opening. It would have been forgivable had this been longer (it straddles the border of flash fiction and the minimum of the short story) but as it is, it's the equivalent of riding a pornography roller coaster: exhilarating during the act but leaves a void when it comes to mental satisfaction.

Kampf gains bonus points for creative usage of old tropes and wonderful imagery but it isn't enough to elevate this story beyond fanciful language. I think most of my disappointment stems from the format, flash fiction, as this story feels like it still has so much to tell. I consider this a good read, mind you, but it's material you take with you to the toilet rather than the couch. And if you're just looking for erotic speculative fiction, Kampf has my erect member. There are horror elements to "The Cheap Legend of Juana Chupacabra" but if you judge it by those standards, it's stale and predictable.

Publication: Fantasy Magazine February 2, 2009

"Teaching a Pink Elephant to Ski" by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

While the epistolary format isn't anything new, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz uses it to create a story that's simply fun, as can be derived from the title. The writing style isn't particularly praise-worthy as it's more functional (this is an epistolary after all) but what instead comes across to the reader is the heartfelt personality of the characters involved. While little is directly said about our protagonist, a lot can be inferred from the text and that's the beauty of "Teaching a Pink Elephant to Ski," not that it's a story about elephants but it's a story about people. In certain ways, the elephant element could easily have been swapped for children and you'd still get the same story, albeit one with less laughs. The fact that Loenen-Ruiz actually uses elephants elevates this piece as she makes the most of the metaphor.

One complaint however is that while reading through the story, I feel that the author explained a bit too much, as if she was afraid the reader might not grasp the subtleties of the piece. This could use some snipping to make it tighter and while one could make the argument that it's better to err in favor of making the story clearer, I honestly don't feel that way.

"Teaching a Pink Elephant to Ski" isn't aiming to be this revolutionary story and succeeds in being a light and enjoyable piece. Characterization is at its heart and that's not an easy thing to accomplish considering the lacuna technique Loenen-Ruiz uses to tell the narrative.


rcloenen-ruiz said...

Thanks for your kind words on Teaching a Pink Elephant how to Ski. You've got it spot on when you say this isn't meant to be a revolutionary thing. Indeed, it was meant to be a light and enjoyable piece.

Seign0m said...

"Benito Kampf is not without talent and it is evident in the first paragraph of the story as the author paints this scene which is a combination of gruesomeness and eroticism."

Over-written sophomoric drivel.