Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 30, 2011 Links and Plugs

Might not be updating tomorrow as I'm coming home late today and have to get up early for an early pictorial the next day...

Also just a reminder about Apex's crowd-sourcing project. They're still a third of their goal with only thirteen days left. And let's put it this way: for $1,000, you get to own EVERY book Apex has published and will publish in the future (Apex Book of World SF 2 *cough* *cough*).

Interviews

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News

Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plug: Sci-Fi & Fantasy meets Western: Webcomic Peacemaker has it all!

Acclaimed Australian author, Marianne de Pierres, and award-winning comic artist, Brigitte Sutherland, have teamed up to produce a new and exciting online comic. Entitled Peacemaker, the web-comic combines the supernatural, the futuristic, the Wild West and the Australian landscape in an exotic blend of storytelling.

Peacemaker introduces readers to park ranger, Virgin Jackson, and US cowboy, Nate Sixkiller. Dead bodies, missing spiritualists, an imaginary eagle and a wholly psychotic businessman, Joachim Spears, are just some of the things that force the two into an uneasy alliance to save Park Western from being closed. Trapped in the heart of a sprawling Australian super city, Park Western is the only piece of natural landscape left in the entire country, and Virgin will do anything to preserve it.

Marianne de Pierres has won awards for her science fiction and crime novels and had her work adapted for RPG and animation. Peacemaker is the result of Marianne’s long term romance with Westerns, which started many years ago when her father gave her a copy of Light of the Western Stars by Zane Grey. It was only a matter of time before she wrote one herself.

Brigitte Sutherland’s award-winning comic art has featured in numerous anthologies across the world. Brigitte recently released her first creator-owned graphic novel, The Adventures of a Homunculus. Peacemaker allows UK–based Sutherland to share the beauty of the land she grew up in while indulging in high adventures starring a sassy heroine!

Peacemaker is available for download from de Pierres’ website www.mariannedepierres.com/ peacemaker. There are plans for a limited edition soft-cover to follow. It is published under de Pierres’ own branded creative co-op, MDPWeb.

June 29, 2011 Links and Plugs

Interviews

Advice/Articles

News

Heartless by Gail Carriger

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    June 28, 2011 Links and Plugs

    Interviews

    Advice/Articles


    News

    Martin H. Greenberg Tributes

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    June 27, 2011 Links and Plugs

    Oh, I just wanna plug Philippine Genre Stories's latest story, "The Confessional," by Cyan Abad-Jugo (who was my former English teacher) (part 1, part 2).

    Interviews

    Advice/Articles

    News
    Martin H. Greenberg Tributes
    Hyperpulp #1

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Plug: If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds

    Underland Press and Jeff VanderMeer are building a book called If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds.


    You can help with the book by nominating your favorite secondary-world. The form is here.

    June 24, 2011 Links and Plugs

    Interviews

    Advice/Articles

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     Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Plug: The Alchemists of Kush by Minister Faust

    The Alchemists of Kush by Minister Faust

    About the Book:

    The Alchemists of Kush is about two Sudanese “lost boys,” both who lost fathers to war and mothers to exile, both who were hunted and forced to become vicious hunters, and both who met mystic mentors who set them on the path of transforming themselves and the world.

    One lost boy is Raphael Garang, who lives in a North American inner-city and is known to the streets as the Supreme Raptor. The other is Hru-sa-Usir, who lived 7,000 years ago along the Nile and was later known to the Greeks as Horus, son of Osiris.

     From Minister Faust:
    If my novel enters the Amazon Kindle Top 100, I will donate $500 to ship university textbooks to the Doctor John Garang Memorial University in the nascent country of South Sudan. That university’s library has no books. I’ve already contributed to this international book drive by donating around 300 books from my own collection, running a radio and print story on the book drive, and designing a poster for it. South Sudanese university students need our solidarity to build their economy and democracy, and I’m proud to do what I can.

    LINKS

    Video:

    Audio:

    Text:

    June 23, 2011 Links and Plugs

    Interviews
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    Deadline by Mira Grant

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    June 22, 2011 Links and Plugs

    Interviews

    Advice/Articles


    News
     The Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011

      June 21, 2011 Links and Plugs

      Got to interview the awesome Genevieve Valentine here.

      Interviews

      Advice/Articles

      News
      Happily Ever After edited by John Klima

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      June 20, 2011 Links and Plugs

      Congrats to the Bram Stoker Awards winners and nominees!

      Interviews

      Advice/Articles

      News
      The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals by Rae Bryant

      Sunday, June 19, 2011

      A Bibliography of Female Filipino Speculative Fiction Writers

      One of my biggest frustrations is that it's difficult to track down--or even record--Philippine Speculative Fiction. It's not just the print aspect (where periodicals have print runs of a few hundred and distributed in obscure venues) but even online publications are susceptible--even my old archives are irrelevant now as Geocities has closed down (taking with it a few important sites) as well as various magazines (which have either closed down themselves or transferred webhosts without re-archiving the old material).

      Anyway, for the past two weeks, I've been trying to compile the bibliography of female Filipino speculative fiction writers. It's incomplete. Not everyone writer is covered. It's a work in progress and authors can help complete it by emailing me (charlesatan[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject "Bibliography"). (Male authors can also send me their bibliographies for a future archive.)

      Publishing it today seems apt considering everything that's happened in the past week and the occasion today. It's not everyday that I manage to promote several agendas. I don't have all the answers but hopefully this is a start (and the bibliography list is awfully short considering the wealth of female writers that we have--please email me your bibliographies).

      Again, A Bibliography of Female Speculative Fiction Writers. I do hope readers, writers, editors, and fans check it out (although I am aware of the paradox that for those books or stories without online links, obtaining them outside of the Philippines will be difficult).

      Friday, June 17, 2011

      June 17, 2011 Links and Plugs

      Plugging the Clarion Write-a-Thon.

      Interviews


      Advice/Articles

      News

      Icarus Summer 2011

        Thursday, June 16, 2011

        June 16, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Interviews

        Advice/Articles


        News
        The Alchemists of Kush by Minister Faust

        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

        June 15, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Once an Educator on Better reasons for using tablets in Philippine schools.

        Also plugging Apex's crowdsourcing.

        And a not-so-random shoutout to Twelfth Planet Press.

        Interviews


        Advice/Articles



        News
        Back in print, now available at Fully Booked from what I hear.

        Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 6 edited by Nikki Alfar & Kate Osias

        Tuesday, June 14, 2011

        LitCrit Manila 2011 Updates

        For the schedule, you can check here:


        LitCrit Session Dates (Last Saturday of each month at 2:00 PM):

        Jun 25, 2011
        Jul 30, 2011
        Aug 27, 2011
        Sep 24, 2011
        Oct 29, 2011
        Nov 26, 2011

        Venue: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (mostly at Robinson's Galleria)

        For the primer, you can read it here. Also an important article to read is "Explaining Why The Author Is Dead for Face-to-Face Sessions".

        The June readings are:

        "Maneki Neko" by Bruce Sterling
        "I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno" by Vylar Kaftan
        "Angry Birds – Letters from the Front Lines" by Chris Riebschlage

        June 14, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Interviews

        Advice/Articles


        News
        The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        June 13, 2011 Links and Plugs

        I got to interview Daniel H. Wilson over at SF Signal.

        Also excited about Ian Rosales Casocot's upcoming short story collection.

        Crystal Koo's latest short story, "Downfall", is in this week's Philippines Graphic.

        Interviews

        Advice/Articles

        News
         Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

        Thursday, June 09, 2011

        The Clutch Novel

        A lot of fandoms has this myth: that there is one book or show or movie or song that will convert anyone to their cause. It's a tempting theory and I've succumbed to this paradigm on more than one occasion. The cassette tape generation is quite familiar with this concept as audiophiles distribute mix tapes that's supposed to convey "this is who I am," the story of my life in two half-hour segments. Last month, I was told by two friends that Asterios Polyp is enjoyed by readers who don't usually read comics (and more than a decade ago, I gave away around a dozen copies of The Dream Hunters to friends and acquaintances). There will be multiple variations of this: "D&D introduced me to RPGs," "My Neighbor Totoro is universally loved," "The Lord of the Rings got me into fantasy," "If you're into horror, you must watch Ringu or read Uzumaki".

        When it comes to genre fiction, the book you can recommend to anyone is the Holy Grail. Sorry, as much as I love Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tokien's writing was a poor fit for me. C.S. Lewis felt too didactic. Philip Pullman too polarizing. Some found J.K. Rowling too mainstream (as if that's a bad thing), too young adult (whatever that means), too mediocre (fair enough). For quite some time, A Game of Thrones was my go-to-book--until my Filipino teacher said he hated it because the modern language proved too jarring for his suspension of disbelief. Nowadays, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana are the books I give to people who are looking for epic fantasy without the investment of reading a decade's worth of fiction. On second thought, Dune might come in handy as well.

        But the problem is that none of those books will work for everyone. Different stories call out to different people. If I'm in the mood for love and a sense of loss, I recommend Tim Pratt's "Little Gods" or Dean Francis Alfar's "L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)" (although Peter M. Ball's "Say Zucchini, and Mean It" is catching up on that list). I can recommend Kij Johnson but each story works for a different reason: "Spar," "26 Monkeys, also the Abyss," and "The Empress Jingū fishes." There's also lots of short story authors (who are personal heroes) that I'd recommend--each one different and contributing something unique to the field: Mary Robinette Kowal, Jeffrey Ford, Claude Lalumiere, Paul Tremblay, Karen Joy Fowler, Theodora Goss, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Elizabeth Hand... (and I haven't even gotten to the local authors we have here that you never heard of: Nikki Alfar, Andrew Drilon, Crystal Koo, Francezca Kwe, Mia Tijam, Kate Osias, Ian Rosales Casocot, etc...)

        Lately, I've been more of the type that gives a wide variety of books or comics, and then narrow down my recommendations based on how they react. Like Kelly Link? Maybe you should try some Aimee Bender of Theodora Goss. Like George R. R. Martin? Have you tried Robin Hobb or Daniel Abraham? Unfortunately, this also entails a lot of rejections. Sorry, that wasn't my type of book. It bored me. Not my genre. And you know what, that's fine. Don't take it personally (that's also valuable advice to writers). The point is to explore the boundaries of your friends and acquaintances, discovering what really interests them, or better yet, introduce something new to their diet. (Unfortunately, this results in me lending out or giving away a lot of books, with my intentions sometimes suspect.)

        So, my question is, what are your favorite books that you automatically recommend to everyone you meet? Or are you an astute bookseller, probing for their tastes and interests before recommending a book?

        June 9, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Interviews
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        Lightspeed June 2011

        Wednesday, June 08, 2011

        June 8, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Signal-boosting Femmes Fatales submissions.

        Interviews

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         Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg

        Tuesday, June 07, 2011

        More Random Thoughts on Philippine Speculative Fiction 2011

        When I worked on The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009, I was limited by the fiction available that year. When I worked on The Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, I was able to cherry pick stories throughout the years, and that's important for me because not everything published (especially here in the Philippines where you can have a print run of a hundred copies or less in a limited location--such as a convention) gains the attention it deserves.

        For example, it was only last year that R. Zamora Linmark (buy his latest novel) informed me that Jessica Zafra released an issue of Manila Envelope, a literary journal, which had a special section on speculative fiction back in 2006 (the only online evidence I have is this post by Budjette Tan).

        It's exciting finding these discoveries but it can also be disheartening as you realize you can't share it with the world (and such publications or stories aren't eligible for consideration in Year's Best's anthologies because, well, their date of publication has passed). A story might have originally been published several years ago but as a reader, it only matters that I've encountered the story today for the first time (some stories of course date themselves but some stand the test of time, or at least the initial decade).

        I bring this up because Heights, the literary journal of my alma matter (I never became part of the organization), has made some of its issues available online. It's a lot of material to go through but so far I've only read the 2011 issues and they're fantastic. (Of course I'm also interested in digging through previous issues and hopefully find notable stories from authors I've previously encountered like Fidelis Tan and Isabel Yap.) It's exciting discovering new and unfamiliar names (although it begs the question, how do I encourage and nurture them, especially since I'm a complete stranger) but at the same time, you also realize this is occurring everywhere (Ateneo is not the only university with a literary journal) and this is one of the problems of "world sf".

        Anyway, tracking all of this seems futile as crowd-sourcing a database for local speculative fiction isn't that effective--at least coming from me, and I've been attempting to do so for the past three years--mainly because I'm unknown in this part of the world. If you're so inclined to help, here's the form and here's the list for 2011.

        The Philippines Graphic as of late seems to be delinquent in updating its literary section which is a shame. Anyway, I hope you check out the archive of the Heights Folio, and here's the list of this week's recommended stories:
         (And some self promotion the reprint of my story, "The Jar Collector," up at Philippine Genre Stories.)

        Praise for the Coode Street Podcast

        I just want to give a shout-out to the Coode Street Podcast, which has released several phenomenal episodes this year. Now I've been listening to them ever since they debuted last year, and as much as I enjoy Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe's conversations (which is very much a tribute to the late Charles Brown), they hit their groove when they have guests on the show, and the dynamic changes dramatically.

        Here's my top three episodes which I think everyone should listen to, at least if you're interested in what's happening around the world (and not just the US), gender, and literary criticism:
        1. Live with Gary K. Wolfe, Eileen Gunn, Ellen Klages, and Geoff Ryman! (a.k.a. The Tiptree Awards episode)
        2. Live with Gary K. Wolfe and Karen Lord! 
        3. Live with Gary K. Wolfe, Farah Mendlesohn, and Tansy Rayner Roberts (a.k.a. the real Diana Wynne Jones episode)

        June 7, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Interviews

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        News
        Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Karen Haber

        Monday, June 06, 2011

        June 6, 2011 Links and Plugs

        Have to plug the lone local genre fiction podcast, Pakinggan Pilipinas. The latest story, "Kara's Place," is up.


        Also check out Crystal Koo's link compilation of Philippine Genre Stories: Crime & Philippine Speculative Fiction 6.

        Interviews

        Advice/Articles

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        The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2011 Edition edited by Rich Horton

          Sunday, June 05, 2011

          Essay: Do the Details Matter?

          How many times have we heard the statement saying that "I'm only interested in looking for a good story," with politics, agenda, race, culture, and author not factoring into the equation? Various critics, editors, and writers are baffled by the pervasiveness of this ideology (Nick Mamatas has a brief discourse on why a "good story" is not good enough). For me, it hearkens to one of the common tools (perhaps erroneously) still used in literary criticism and theory: Formalism. You only need to read the text itself; author, history, and context is discarded.

          It's a lazy approach yet it has a certain appeal. After all, when we approach an unknown author or book--especially from a genre or field we're not familiar with--this is the paradigm we're working with. I don't care who the author is, when the story was written, or what the background of the material was. All I have to work with is simply the text. This was, for the most part, also the norm half a century ago, considering the unavailability of the Internet, and how the positive effects of globalization have yet to take place.

          To a certain extent, "blind" readings also attempt to work within this framework, as the author's name is stripped from manuscripts and the reader or juror only has the text to wrestle with. The value of blind readings for me, however, is discovering the context of the story once you've accepted it as a "good" story. Who is the author? Under what scenario was it written? What was the agenda? It's also a great tool to expose the claims made by people like VS Naipaul. Naipaul's argument for example isn't new: science fiction already witnessed--in print--the folly of Robert Silverberg when it came to James Tiptree Jr.

          But.

          Formalism is an old theory and with it comes a certain idealism that is impractical. It assumes that there is a certain level of objectivity that can be attained when reading a text, perhaps the same assumption people have when it comes to history ("it's fact!") and the news ("gee, your choice if headlines is not biased at all"), when that's not the case.

          Let me sum it all up with one word: Baggage. We all have baggage (emotional, cultural, political, religious) and this informs how we read texts. An atheist for example might interpret the Bible as fiction at worst, or mythological history at best. A fundamentalist Christian, on the other hand, will read the Bible as truth more factual than the latest scientific discoveries.

          Allow me to spell it out for you: there is no objective story, whether it's fiction or non-fiction. It's not just in the way it's written but in the way we read it.

          For example, if an alien suddenly arrived and acquired our literature (assuming it understands our language--and that's a big if in itself), the way I read The Lord of the Rings will be very different from the way they'll interpret it. Will they consider it as fact instead of fabulation? Or perhaps they'll root for Sauron instead of Frodo. Or maybe they'll just find the work simply too long and futile.

          Just look at the headlines from a hundred years ago. What was deemed important at the time is irrelevant by today's standards.

          I bring this up because I just watched X-Men: First Class last Thursday (warning: spoilers), and while it has a few flaws in logic (Cerebro, Magneto's helmet, the missiles at the end), it is for the most part an enjoyable film with lots of relevant highlights (the characterization, the interplay between Mystique and Beast, etc.). It has one significant problem though, although for most people (and reviewers, apparently), this is a minor detail. Which begs the question, how important are details?

          My one problem with the film--and this is ironic considering the theme of X-Men is that they represent the outsiders of our society (I once saw a blog post label the series as racial minorities and gay people if they were White)--is how the people of color are treated. Guess what, they either die or join the evil side. It's not new politics but one that has been in place for the past few decades and its recurrence starts to become a pet peeve once you notice it. Some people will brush off this detail as a "minor flaw" in the story. Others, those who've either experienced this problem firsthand or witnessed this too often, will not simply let this slide as the dilemma jars them from the entire movie experience.

          Another, more personal experience for me, is Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, which is either the bane or the blessing of science fiction Filipino fans. On the surface, it's a book to be praised (pro-war politics aside), since it's one of the first science fiction novels to feature a Filipino protagonist (and this was how I felt when I first read it). Over time though, I started questioning this assumption. For example, the hero's culture is never revealed until the very end, although occasional irrelevant-to-the-story hints have been dropped here and there. If we strip out the character's name--let's make it Rick--there's really nothing there to suggest that he would otherwise be a Caucasian American. The only moment of Filipino-ness is his awareness of Philippine trivia, namely that one of the spaceships is named after a Filipino president. As far as the novel is concern, the character's cultural heritage (at least the part that's not American) did not have any impact at all (others are, of course, welcome to debate this thesis). Most non-Filipinos will probably skim this part of the book, but it's an important detail to me, as a Filipino.

          Formalism has its place in critical theory but it's not the only tool we should be using, nor should it be an excuse not to eschew other paradigms. At the end of the day, I say Fuck good story, because that phrase doesn't really articulate what kind of stories interest you. It's like reading a book review that simply says the book is either good or bad.