Monday, December 31, 2007

Wizards of the Coast: Discoveries Plug

There are a couple of books I'm looking forward to in 2008 (such as the Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and The Best Science-Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 2 by Jonathan Strahan) but a new line I'm anticipating is Wizards of the Coast's Discovery line which will feature a variety of well-known and not-so-well-known authors and hopefully an even wider variety of fiction (that's definitely, at the very least, different from their usual D&D-fare fiction). I'm rooting for these guys because they could easily be the sleeper-hits of 2008.

One of the authors I'm eagerly anticipating in that particular line is JM McDermott and Last Dragon is going to be his first novel. I have an ARC copy of the book with me right now and I'm 3/4 through the book but I fell in love with it in the first few pages and it's honestly a great and unconventional read. You can read more about his experiences with the book here. Be sure to watch out for it in February!

Richard Dansky is the first author in the line who's getting published and his book Firefly Rain will be out by January 8, 2008. There's are book reviews over at Horror Reader and Library Journal. Over at Storytellers Unplugged, Dansky expounds on his experience being two weeks away from publication.

Come April is Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers. There are a couple of articles on his novel out there in the wild such as, The Monster Librarian, and Publishers Weekly. You can ask him questions about the book over at his blog.

Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem won various awards for their novella The Man on the Ceiling and it's now expanded into a novel. The book will be coming out on March 4, 2008.

There might just be four books listed at the Wizards of the Coast site so far but there's at least one more book in the same line that's going to be published next year. Ari Marmell, an author whose made a name for himself in the RPG industry, will be having his non-Ravenloft novel Shades of Grey published. You can read more about it in his blog post and watch out for it in August of 2008.

Book Review: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

I managed to acquire a copy of The Gods Themselves after several friends recommended the book for its inclusion of aliens with more than two genders. For me, I find that Asimov writes best in the short story format rather than his longer novels and The Gods Themselves manages to incorporate more of the former than the latter as the book is neatly divided into three sections which narrate the experiences of three perspectives in different parts of the universe. Asimov does a lot of experimenting here in terms of the book's division but I feel it is appropriate, especially considering the topic being discussed. As for the prose, this novel is probably the most scientific yet of all the Asimov books I've read, but is nonetheless quite accessible if you take the time and effort. For me, one of the strengths of Asimov after all is his ability to talk about concepts and explain them clearly to the lay man. But what stands out in the novel is Asimov's characters and how they explore the psychology of humanity and the very relevant concern of finding an alternate power source. The experience was a stimulating read and I'm sure this is an essential book in any SF fan's collection. As for the lay man, Asimov for me has always been one of the most accessible authors of the genre and while it's not the first book of Asimov's I'll recommend (the honor goes to Foundation), it won't be too much of a stretch for them to give this novel a try.

Rating: 4/5.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Resolutions for 2008

There's something artificial about time, or rather how we keep track of it. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years--they're all human constructs after all yet I think people would go insane without keeping track of it all. So here I am, less than 48 hours away from 2008, an arbitrary time span yet one I accept for it's as good as any. All stories have a beginning and an end and while real life isn't as definite as that, we nonetheless try to make sense of the world and assign beginnings and endings to our own stories.

I was looking back at my entries from last year and I don't think I really publicized my resolutions for 2007. I faintly remember promising myself to read 60 books this year, a task I failed, unless I can read nine books in 24 hours. But I don't mind. 50+ books is a nice number I can be content with. Another resolution I managed to dig from my archives was promising to write 1,000 words a day. I don't think I was able to live up to that resolution, at least during the early months of the year. A lot has changed in the second half of the year however and as I started keeping a regular blogging schedule, well, 1,000 words doesn't seem all that hard.

Resolutions for me are important because it's one way to maintain growth. The worse thing that can happen I think is to remain the same, to stagnate, to cease changing. That's simply death. Another important aspect about resolutions is that it's a goal and one of the reasons I'm publicizing my goals right now is so that I don't forget and by next year, I can keep track whether I succeeded in them or not. Another value about resolutions is that in pondering what my resolutions are, I learn more about myself. I begin to realize what my new priorities in life are and how they affect me. For example, two years ago, I remember one of my resolutions was to stay fit and healthy by exercising regularly. This year, while I want to stay fit and healthy, that goal isn't as important, or at least it's not on my priority list (and never mind the 30-minute I take going to the office). Tell me what your goals in life are and I'll tell you who you are. In my case, here's my resolutions for 2008:

1) Read one book a week. Reading has always been one of my resolutions for the past few years and I don't see a need to change that goal. Last year I aimed for 60 books a year and now I'm cutting it back. 52 books a year isn't so daunting when you break it into one book a week and I think that's enough time to read a book despite all my other, new responsibilities.

2) Blog regularly (Mon - Fri). I actually managed to accomplish this during the latter half of the year. Let's see if I can do it for an entire year. I'm also interested to see the content I'll be developing to keep this quota. So if you've been reading this blog for the past few months, well, as usual, you can expect something to be posted on weekdays, barring some catastrophe.

3) Get three fiction pieces published. This year, I only had two stories published, an improvement over the previous years which numbers zero. And while a couple of my writing is being published elsewhere, it's not my fiction that's being published. Honestly, fiction writing isn't my strongest suit and all the more reason to hone that particular skill.

4) Deposit P50,000 ($1,200) in the bank. That might not seem like a big amount but that's what you get for living in a third world country. Been lax in terms of my savings this year and I'd like to start accumulating money in the bank.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Some Anime Musings

Steve Fritz over at Newsarama just posted his retrospective on the animation industry in 2007 (and raises some interesting points such as animation writers and the WGA). At the bottom, he ponders on the implications of the demise anime distributor Geneon and I do think it's a valid concern. I mean when Viz sent a cease-and-decease notice to various groups fansubbing Death Note, the reactions of some fans were furious--to the point that some declared that they'd never buy the originals from Viz (whether they're actually the type that buys originals to begin with or lived up to their threat, I don't know). Some even theorized that it was a money-grubbing tactic by Viz. Suffice to say, it was very much the dark side of fandom. (If you want my theory on why Viz sent a cease-and-decease notice, you can read about it here.)

Year End Thanks

I'm not really a Thanksgiving kind of guy mainly because it's a foreign holiday although that doesn't mean I'm not grateful. I usually just save it for the New Year. In no particular order, I'd like to thank the following:

1) The Lit Critters, Philippine Genre Stories, and the other Filipino authors and artist friends out there: without you guys, I wouldn't have been published. And it's easier to write when you have company (not physically being there but supporting each other).

2) The various podcasters: podcasting is my new vice and one of my more popular page visits comes from my weekly round-up of podcasts. But you know what, I can't have a list of podcasts without the podcasters. I'm like the Magic: The Gathering card Regrowth or Demonic Tutor. Or in D&D, the spell Limited Wish. I'm only useful because you're out there. No podcasters and no weekly list. It's that simple.

3) Various international authors and editors and publishers: you know who you are and you really made my year great. Just the fact that you're commenting on my blog or that you're replying to my comments on your blogs is a great boost to my spirits. Just keep on writing/publishing and I'll keep on supporting you. Oh and thanks for the books!

4) The New Worlds Alliance et all: it's nice to know that I can sum up my various fandoms under one umbrella organization instead of naming them individually. Thanks for all that you've done for fandom so far, thanks for all your activities, thanks for all your support, thanks for publishing my articles, and thanks for letting me hang out by your booths.

5) Anansi Girl, for letting me hijack her podcast. =)

6) Various people, websites, and organizations who've offered me more writing opportunities (alas, they don't pay but beggars can't be choosers; we have to leave something to be grateful for next year!).

7) My friends over at Livejournal, who give me insights into their personal lives and leaves me with something interest to read every day.

8) My readers. No readers = no blog. =)

Top 10 Best-Sellers as of 2007/12/23

From USA Today's best-seller list (you can find out their basis here):

  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham
  3. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
  4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
  5. Double Cross by James Patterson
  6. The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden
  7. The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
  8. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  9. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  10. You: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007/12/27 Fiction/Writing and Tabletop RPG Podcasts

Every Thursday, I post links to various podcasts that deal with the topic of fiction, writing, and tabletop RPGs.

Last week, Jay Lake gives us some insight on building your writing career and determining success. On the RPG side, you might want to check out The Digital Front's interview with Phil Reed. Also, I get Christmas presents in the form of new podcasts: check out The Wandering Men and Secret Life of Girl Gamers. It might have been the holidays but the podcasts are still coming in.

Fiction/WritingTabletop RPG (Mostly)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

1UP Call for Submissions

From Banzai Cat:

"This is a call for submissions for 1UP. 1UP is a multiformat collection of works by writers of the video game generation. Submit your fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comics, and any other form that the video game generation might choose to tell its stories to and"
What's not mentioned is that the deadline is on Jan. 31, 2008.

Essay: Post-Christmas Reflections

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

I find it ironic that after months coming up with essays on a weekly basis, I've run out of ideas for a topic. Well, that's not quite true--I have lots of essays I want to write about but I'm either saving them up for a different segment or they're commissioned for other publications. And all this time, I wanted to avoid talking about the elephant in the room--namely Christmas and the recently concluded holiday.

It's not that I don't like Christmas--I do. In fact, it's the perfect excuse for me to greet people I wouldn't otherwise have greeted and give my friend gifts (because some people decline gifts unless there's a special occasion). Rather, I find the topic of Christmas to be too cliche, too expected, too predictable. But at the end of the day, one cannot avoid writing about it, whether you're for it or against it. It's simply an influential part of our culture which one can't ignore simply because we want to. At the very least, it's a day away from the office or a day one returns to your family. I have friends who've lived separately from the parents and siblings only to return these past few days as if two days in a year makes up for the other three hundred days they're away (and sometimes it does).

For me, gift-giving has been an integral part of the holidays mainly because I am genetically inclined to express my love and enthusiasm through gifts: I'm the type that believes the one who receives the most joy isn't the recipient but the giver. Last week, I was racking my brains for the perfect gift for friends--not necessarily the present that they want but rather something they never realize they wanted yet makes perfect sense when they receive it. Can't say I always succeeded in that endeavor but when all else fails, I can always give them something that's on their wish-list.

The Chinese, on the other hand, have a more practical, if sometimes counter-productive, attitude towards gift-giving. It's been a tradition to give money--yes, actual cash--as presents. The only qualification is that you put them inside red envelopes which signify good luck and prosperity. Forget about gift certificates which is really money in disguise, you give cash so that the recipient can buy themselves the gifts that they really, really want. And best of all, there's no guilt attached to the fact that you're giving actual money. I mentioned that it's sometimes counter productive mainly because in the context of the family, everyone else is asking how much the other person gave. For example, my aunt might give me P120 for Christmas. My mother would then ask me how much my aunt gave and she'd match that amount when she's giving money to my aunt's child. You can think of it as the Law of Conservation at work--except it applies to finances. The money we give out literally comes back to us--or at least we keep it in the family.

As for me, I spent most of Christmas, well, writing. There's five days to go before the end of the year and you'd think it should be a time to relax. Yet for me, that's five more days of reading books, writing reviews, finishing essays, and hopefully start a few short stories. Christmas typically warns me that the year is over yet these past few days, I know it isn't. I also ponder on the morbid possibility that I might not live long enough to witness 2008 and try to get as much things done as possible. The latter half of 2007 has been a big turning point for me but that doesn't mean I should stop there and simply be content with that. That's not to say I'm not taking the time to breathe and appreciate what I've accomplished so far but there's also a feeling that there's more I can still write about, there's still more that can be achieved.

And in case you haven't heard it from me, happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Manga Review: Eyeshield 21 Vol. 17 by Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata

Every Tuesday I'll post either an anime or manga review. This might be my last manga review as I'll be contributing reviews to Comics Village next year.

It's only lately that I've been paying much closer attention to the detail and extras of Eyeshield 21. The devil bat segments at the end of each chapter is, as usual, funny and gives comedic relief to what can sometimes be a very serious comic. The same goes for the extra strips, such as Shin attempting to break the Nintendo DS Stylus. But moving on to the manga itself, the art is gorgeous as usual although that makes it a tragedy when some of the panels crossover to the next page and it is slightly covered by the binding. The details quite expressive, especially in one scene where half of Kurita's face is crying while the other half is burning with passion. Since this is in the middle of a game, most if not all of the panels are quite kinetic and there's never a dull moment. As far as the story goes, the Devil Deimon Bats are currently fighting the Seibu Wild Gunmen and are trying to make a comeback from a 20-point deficit. There's a quick summary of the events and an introduction to the cast of characters in the page preceding the first chapter but Inagaki has really assembled quite a cast that it might simply be an info dump to the uninitiated. Anyway, if you read the previous volume, this is the action-packed conclusion to the Devil Bats vs Wild Gunmen game and it doesn't disappoint. The strength of Inagaki is that he manages to make both teams impressive and appealing even if the game has a clear winner and loser. When I first read this volume, how the game ended shocked me considering all that our main characters have been through but Inagaki ends it with a satisfying moment. If you've been following this series, Eyeshield 21 Vol. 17 is a must-have. Otherwise, I really recommend starting from the beginning or at least the volume preceding this as there's not much story in this particular title but it's full of explosive action and sports drama.

Rating: 4/5.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3 at Fully Booked

From Dean Alfar:
Philippine Speculative Fiction III is now available at all Fully Booked branches in the Mega Manila area (Bonifacio High Street, Rockwell, Greenhills, Gateway).

Make sure to get a copy - it makes a swell gift, I tell you.

Book Review: Logorrhea edited by John Klima

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.
Anthologies usually revolve around a particular theme, some more peculiar than others. Logorrhea tickles my senses in the fact that it uses prizewinning spelling bee words as the basis of its stories. The question foremost in my mind however is whether it works or not. And I think for the most part it does. That's not to say that there are no unfavorable stories in the collection, which is the case when you're tackling a variety of authors, but rather there are more stories that I enjoyed than not. Perhaps what's interesting to read is how the various words are incorporated into the story. Some explicitly mention the word while others revolve around its definition. Most use elements of the fantastical. There are twenty one stories in this collection but I'll tackle the ones that stand out the most for me. "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham is perhaps my favorite story in the collection. As can be derived from the title, the story reads like a fairy tale albeit one with adult sensibilities. The prose remains consistent all throughout and the spelling bee word, cambist, feels natural. But the strength of the story I think are our two very human and cunning protagonists, the Cambist and Lord Iron, and their relationship. As for second place, I'm tied between Alex Irvine's "Semaphor" and Jay Lake's "Crossing the Seven". The former is more of a coming-to-terms realist story that uses fantastical elements while the latter is a full-blown fantasy/science-fiction mini-epic. What I like about "Semaphor" is the characterization of the protagonist as the heart of this short story is our main character, of how he copes with loss and comes of age. Irvine even manages to incorporate the theme of a spelling bee in his fiction. "Crossing the Seven" on the other hand is this unapologetically gritty genre story that follows the typical quest format. But Lake doesn't simply recount a flashy fantastical tale but rather one with gravity. In passing, I'd like to also mention "Appoggiatura" by Jeff Vandermeer which uses all the spelling bee words in the collection but at the same time being relevant to his particular word. Having said all that, which story stands out in the most negative way? As much as I enjoy Michael Moorcock's Elric, he simply doesn't fit in this anthology. "A Portrait in Ivory" in my opinion reduces insouciant to a mere adjective and unfamiliar readers will not be sympathetic to the plight of the main character--at least in this particular anthology. Nonetheless, this anthology is a great find. It's not easy reading but neither is it the most difficult of texts. Speculative fiction fans might treasure this anthology the most but it's honestly an accessible short story collection that's a treasure trove of interesting and unique stories if nothing else.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Booktopia Year-End Sale

Booktopia started its year-end sale that'll last until January 15, 2007. It's also a great place to acquire Moleskine notebooks as the huge ones are priced at P850 each.
ALL books (old and new, big and small) are on sale. New arrivals at 10% off and the rest at 20% off. We have a special sale on books in our Children’s Books shelf and our big General Fiction shelf (there is a small one) — Buy ONE and get the regular 20% discount, buy TWO and get 25% off, buy THREE or MORE and get 40% off.

Top 10 Best-Sellers as of 2007/12/16

From USA Today's best-seller list (you can find out their basis here):

  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham
  3. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
  4. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
  5. Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
  6. The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden
  7. Double Cross by James Patterson
  8. You: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz
  9. T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
  10. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2007/12/20 Fiction/Writing and Tabletop RPG Podcasts

Every Thursday, I post links to various podcasts that deal with the topic of fiction, writing, and tabletop RPGs.

A couple of podcasts are taking their Christmas breaks. Outstanding podcasts last week for me was Fear the Boot's episode on RPG Maps with veteran cartographer Keith Curtis as a guest host.

Fiction/WritingTabletop RPG (Mostly)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where To Avail of Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3

Just another last minute plug, if you want to a copy of Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3, you can get them either from me (charlesatan[at]gmail[dot]com) or from Banzai Cat. They won't be in bookstores until next year. Another source is Dominique Cimafranca who has them available in both Dumaguete and Davao City. Retail price is P300.00.

Social Dynamics of Success and Failure

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

Society has played an integral role in determining the value of what it is like to succeed. While some people might value success as an end in itself, it is usually society's recognition of our triumph that makes the endeavor worthwhile. Imagine yourself successfully climbing and surviving Mt. Everest: I'm sure it's a great feeling and a big ego boost to your self confidence. Now imagine yourself never telling anyone about it (either implicitly or explicitly). The sense of worth is still there but for some people, there seems to be a missing element. It is pride without the bragging, respect without the acknowledgment.

If you're like me, you might feel guilty about this fact. We've been raised after all to value humility. But if we look at it from another perspective, we discover that it's a natural condition, the need to tell others about our accomplishments. It's not just about pride and sin but rather that we're social beings and we need something to give us an advantage when it comes to socializing with other people. One careful look at society reveals that this is what makes or breaks our relationships and how this is encouraged in our culture. Take a look at your family: didn't we as kids try to impress our parents? We might tell them "I did this" or "look at what he did wrong", especially the latter when it comes to our other siblings. Take a look at your school, at how we reward the smart or talented kids by giving them awards and praising them. Take a look at your office, especially if you're an employee. Sometimes more than the money, people are dissatisfied with the company when their efforts aren't acknowledged and some people do use their salary as a gauge of how much they are valued.

If you want to see how social dynamics affect success, just look at NaNoWriMo. It's not the first time people have attempted to write a novel. In fact, there's nothing stopping people from writing during the other eleven months in a year. But why have people jumped on this bandwagon? Mostly I think because of the community that surrounds it. Some people might perceive NaNoWriMo as putting nothing on the line--after all, it's not like money is involved whether you succeed or not--but that's not quite true. Your reputation is on the line, your commitment to finish the novel along with other people in your community is at stake. Not that there's a penalty for failing to write that novel because NaNoWriMo wasn't designed to be that kind of organization but there is peer pressure of some sort. And honestly that's quite peculiar because writing has usually been a solitary act (once you've finished writing it is another matter) although writing is indeed a social endeavor. The social element of NaNoWriMo is what sets it apart from the other months of the year and might be that extra incentive people need to write as well as give them a venue to air their success without sounding arrogant.

Another way to look at it is from the perspective of its opposite: failure. I don't think failure is bad--failure enables us to learn. But that's not how society views failure: you're a loser, a pariah of a sort, even if making mistakes is the most natural thing in the world. Honestly, as children, how else did we grow up to become who we are? We tripped, we fell down, we made the wrong choices yet we somehow survived it all. That's not to say we should look forward to screwing up but rather we shouldn't be disheartened by not succeeding. It only starts to become unbearable when our failure is publicized. One example I have is my passion for games. As a kid, I loved trying out new games, especially video games. I enjoyed playing Super Mario Brothers, even if I never finished it by my own efforts alone. In fact, I probably died a million times. But that didn't stop me from continuing to play the game. Perhaps one reason for this is that I was playing the game privately or at least if I had an audience, they knew they wouldn't fare any better and kept silent about it. Now compare that to the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution. It certainly piqued my interest especially with its "unconventional" controls (which has now become quite conventional) but I didn't try playing it in public because well--people would see me fail. And Dance Dance Revolution is the kind of game that draws a crowd and some people use it as a venue to show their skills that it becomes embarrassing for newbies to try out (fortunately it was ported over to home consoles). Another example I have goes back to school. Why are some students afraid to volunteer or to raise their hands and answer the teacher's question? It's because they'll stand out and there are social consequences for getting it wrong or worse, for getting it right. I don't know about you but during my high school, the students laughed at you if you got the answer wrong, and then became jealous of you if you always answered correctly. I think that's why some people dislike the smart kids in school--because they embarrass the less smarter ones. School is the perfect example of an environment where other people's opinions matter. Grades might matter to teachers and parents but to students, what's important to them is what their fellow classmates think of them. It isn't failure that they fear but rather embarrassment.

Having said all that, how does this all relate to real life? Well, it helps us become more conscious of our motivators. The reason you might be dissatisfied with your work environment might not necessarily be the pay but the lack of acknowledgment. Or perhaps you don't like a certain sport not because you're not good at it but rather because you think other people will chide you for your mistakes. Some people try to meet it halfway: they attempt something but once they accomplish it, are afraid to show the results. Aspiring writers are one example of this: they finished writing a manuscript but are hesitant to show it to anyone else (and perhaps burn it at a later date). And while I've mentioned that such attitudes are perfectly normal, sometimes we have to go beyond them. Galileo might have acquiesced to the demands of the church but that's not what the likes of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King did: they all went against the current paradigm of their society even amidst ridicule and social ostracism.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Random Links

Haven't been doing some linking as of late mainly because I haven't had time to randomly surf the Internet. Anyway, managed to sneak an hour of doing so today and here's some tidbits I found interesting:

A Song of Ice and Fire fan trailer (From George R. R. Martin) - Some fans make a trailer used footage from existing fantasy films.

Anthology Builder (From Mary Robinete Kowal) - Create your own anthology! Now I can publish that library-themed speculative fiction anthology...

Thai Drag vs Japanese Drag
(From Vertical Weblog) - Oh no... those Thai girls are men?

Oliver Burkeman's Stance on Copyright and Poetry - Well, to be honest, I'm not really a fan of poetry... or Western music for that matter.

Manga Review: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 5 by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki

Every Tuesday I'll post either an anime or manga review.

I never thought I’d see a pink-colored manga cover but Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service proves me wrong and does it in a stylish way. So far, this series has been quite consistent, mainly because with the exception of one volume, all the stories are self-contained stories which is friendly to new readers. There are four chapters in this particular manga as well as a comprehensive glossary. Most of the chapters are your standard fare Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service story, which is to say they’re weird and bizarre. What’s remarkable however is the first chapter which makes good use of Yamazaki’s art style in particular. Otherwise, this volume follows the old formula although Otsuka drops more hints towards the origins of the powers of our main protagonist. My only complaint about the entire series is that it’s already the fifth book and I’m getting tired of these episodic stories. Give me the big, overarching story arcs! The build-up has been slow and steady and while some people might see that as a good thing, I’m honestly getting impatient and I can’t help but wonder whether the payoff is worth it. As usual, if you liked the previous volumes, don’t hesitate to grab this volume. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a drastic change of pace or climax, no, it hasn’t happened yet.

Rating: 3/5.

Monday, December 17, 2007

CharleSATAN's Snarky Bibliophile Fights

It's Christmas, I'm biased, but I'll try to be entertaining (or failing that, just plain mean). Hopefully both publishers will not get offended. But seriously, buy all of the publications mentioned. At worst, they're great Christmas gifts that'll make you look smart.

Round 1: Expeditions Vol. 1 vs Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3

Expeditions Vol. 1

Pros: It has a friggin' introduction by Neil Gaiman! And artwork by Leinil Yu!

Cons: 9 short stories for P500. And not all of those stories are that great.

Why You Should Buy It: If you're planning on participating in next year's competition, this is probably the type of fiction that the judges will like. The book has Neil Gaiman's signature on it ('nuff said).

Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3

Pros: I'm in it. It's the biggest local speculative fiction compilation yet.

Cons: You can't get it at bookstores. It has an ad at the last page.

Why You Should Buy It: Get this book if you're a Filipino who wants to read sci-fi or fantasy without feeling guilty. Also, this book is cheaper.

The Final Verdict:

On one hand, you have a book that doesn't have my name on it. On the other hand, you have a book that does.

That aside, Expeditions costs P500 at least and gives you nine stories. Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3 costs you P300 and gives you 21 stories. What's my point? I don't know, I'm not a math genius. All I care is that I'm a Neil Gaiman whore so I'm buying the former.

Round 2: Story Philippines vs Philippine Genre Stories

Story Philippines

Pros: It's huge!

Cons: It's huge!

Why You Should Buy It: To show everyone in the MRT that you're a literary snob and that you love reading.

Philippine Genre Stories

Pros: It fits in your pocket.

Cons: What does the publisher/editor know about fiction anyway?

Why You Should Buy It: If somebody asks, the cover is misleading enough that you can claim you're reading komiks.

The Final Verdict:

It's a David and Goliath fight! Story Philippines is run by an actual staff while Philippine Genre Stories is being published and edited by one man. But their dark secret is that they're both part of the Chinese publishing mafia. They're both graduates of Xavier! Do you think you have a choice? They've already monopolized the market!

Round 3: Salamanca vs The Kite of Star and Other Stories


Pros: It won a Palanca!

Cons: It's a novel!

Why You Should Buy It: Because it's a Philippine novel that's not required reading for class.

The Kite of Stars and Other Stories

Pros: It doubles as a romance collection because half the stories deal with either love or heartbreak.

Cons: You're only willing to pay for the cheaper version when the more expensive one is the only copy available.

Why You Should Buy It: It's a collection of local speculative fiction short stories that's not published by Dean Alfar himself.

The Final Verdict:

Who is the better Alfar? One is published by Ateneo University Press, the other by Anvil Publishing. Alfar, Ateneo, Anvil--all begin with the letter A. It's another conspiracy I tell you!

Fully Booked Promo

Dropped by Fullly Booked today and they have various promos which involve you buying books for them. For example, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is being sold for P750 if you buy anything else with a minimum purchase of P100.00. Other items that involve a similar promo are the Marvel Encyclopedias (Hulk and Spider-Man).

Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

It's only recently that I've been discovering Guy Gavriel Kay, gobbling up the books people recommend such as the Lions of Al-Rassan and avoiding the reputedly not-so-enjoyable ones. Tigana was one of the books highly recommend although obtaining a copy was ever elusive. I finally managed to acquire Tigana--purchasing it without hesitation--and it didn't disappoint.

There are several things going for Kay. First is that the novel is working with a big concept, that of memory and history. It is the shadow that haunts every character for good or for ill and I think Kay manages to strike a balance between the two. The second is the characterization and this in my opinion has always been Kay's strength. For a book published in the 90's, it has so much depth and complexity that many modern writers are trying to emulate. The protagonists are well-rounded and while they are noble, they are not without flaws. The antagonists are fleshed out and do not suffer from the evil overlord syndrome but are characters--even sympathetic characters--in their own right. The third is that this is easily a fantasy epic narrated in the span of one novel. It begins with a large cast of characters and some seemingly unimportant events but Kay manages to wrap it all up and tie it together in the last 100 pages or so. Fourth, the prose is endearing. Kay is no Ellen Kushner or Patricia McKillip, but he is a cut above most writers and more importantly, his story doesn't need to be told in such a melodic form. However, Kay does sprinkle in some poetic irony whenever he can and it gives the novel that extra layer. Fifth, there is magic in the book and it's somewhere in between Gandalf the Gray's subtle machinations and Fizban's fireball. Its presence is undeniable but it is neither flashy nor obvious. People who enjoy fantasy because of the unique magic system of fictional cultures might want to give this book a look for Kay's unique take.

Having said all that, is there nothing not to like? Well, the book is quite thick and might daunt unfamiliar readers. The novel also begins with different points of view and seemingly unrelated characters but once you manage to glean over that, it all starts coming together. Tigana is not an easy read but neither is it difficult. Overall, the novel has adult sensibilities and I'd like to think you don't need to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy this book. Tigana is easily a classic, one of the best fantasy epics I've read in quite a while.

Rating: 5/5.

Praise for A Kite of Stars and Other Stories

Jeffrey Ford is one of my favorite short story writers and I'm glad to hear he likes Dean Alfar's A Kite of Stars and Other Stories as well as mentioning that the Philippines has "a few very distinct voices" when it comes to speculative fiction.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Coyote Wild Plug

Hi! Aspiring speculative fiction writers can also submit to the online quarterly magazine Coyote Wild which accepts, fiction, flash fiction, poetry, essays, and artwork/photography. The guidelines can be found here.

While I'm at it, also want to plug Last Dragon author JM McDermott's short story Last Star. I've been plugging Last Dragon to some of my friends but the book not yet being out and all, can't really gauge how good the novel is but hopefully his short fiction will give us a taste of what he can do.

2nd Toys and Collectibles Christmas Fair 2007

December 21 - 23, 2007
10 am - 10 pm
Mega Trade Hall 2, Bldg. B, 5th Level
SM Mega Mall

The Mech Warrior Movie That Could Have Been

This is mainly for my non-Filipino readers but here in the Philippines, we've done a couple of movies and TV series's which have been ripped off from existing brands. We've had a Batman and Robin movie in the 80's, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clone ("Pandakekoks"), etc. Also during Christmas is our annual Manila Film Festival so we miss out on all the foreign movies and instead the theaters only show all local movies so December is like movie release month in the Philippines. Here's one of the movies that's going to be shown starring one of our local action movie stars/politician (he's not governor but...)

The film's website can be found here.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gerry Alanguilan at Pasko ng Komiks

From Gerry Alanguilan:

Sorry, forgot to plug Read or Die's Pasko ng Komiks last December 11, 2007. Anyway, a recording of Gerry Alanguilan's talk can be found here (you'll need a Multiply account though).

Azrael, on the other hand, has some video coverage of the symposium which includes a variety of local comic creators.

On Gleemax: Problems and Possible Solutions

Gleemax being in its alpha stage has a lot of problems, mostly dealing with navigation and user interface (UI). I'll be tackling what they are, suggestions how they can be improved, and what are "band-aids" or temporary solutions to them as of the present.

For the most part, Gleemax actually has a robust and unique programming behind it. Unfortunately, those two factors are insignificant if users can't navigate the site or utilize it to its full potential. The current Gleemax has two main sections: the forums and the blogs. The former is doing well as far as forums go. No breakthroughs in forum design but it's also perfectly servicable (and in fact is my preferred forum interface as far as tools are concerned). The blogs however is where everything collapses.


The biggest problem of Gleemax is navigation. They can be described by the following:

  1. Lack of aggregated posts aside from the front page. Honestly, aside from the main page where the general announcements are posted, how do I navigate the site or discover all the other blogs? It's not that Gleemax doesn't have good blogs but it has a problem of aggregating it.
  2. The Monday - Friday Syndrome. This is a term I'm inventing. Right now, while there is some method of filtering posts (i.e. sorting them by board game, card game, reviews, etc.), what it lacks is a way to look at older posts: there is no "Older Posts" or "Previous" button. So theoretically, if I post an entry on Monday, somebody who checks the board only every Friday will never see my post because Gleemax only shows the 6 most recent posts in any one category (the only exception to this are the personal pages) and chances are, there are enough posts during Tuesday through Thursday so that by the time the Friday visitor checks, all traces of Monday posts are gone unless they're one of the chosen posts on the front page.
  3. Lack of "Favorites List" support. Thankfully, Gleemax has a "Favorites List" to navigate and theoretically compile the blog entries that interests you. My main problem is that finding the "add to my favorites" button isn't readily apparent (and I can't seem to find it now) and finding my own favorites list is also quite a hassle (I just discovered I have to go to my own personal page to see it). (Edit: Found the Add Favorite button. Needs to be more visually apparent.)
  4. Too many clicks. In most other blogs, it takes me anywhere from two to three clicks to get where I want to. In Livejournal, I just click on my Friends Page and I get to read all the blogs that I want. In other services like Wordpress or Blogger, I usually have a link on my blog and I click that link (click 1). I'm where I want to be. In some cases, if it's linking to an aggregation site like SF Signal, that's the second click arises. In Gleemax, from the main site, I have to click to my Personal Page (click 1). From there, click on somebody from my Favorites List (click 2). From the profile of anyone on my Favorites Lists, I have to choose a post and go to "Read More" (click 3). If I want to view his other blog entries, I'll have to go back and more clicking ensues. Honestly, some people are turned off with this as it takes too much effort than it needs to be.
  5. Too many buttons in the wrong places. As I'm currently navigating through Gleemax, I'm finding that some of the solutions I want already exists in Gleemax. The problem is that the buttons that lead to those solutions are difficult to find and are scattered across different pages. A unified menu or navigation bar would be helpful, instead of finding a solution in page A, and then finding another solution in page B. Too many buttons also confuses users.

Current Solutions:

  1. Because of the current problem with navigation, one of the more popular blogs are those that aggregate information. Users like Crazy_Monkey1956, Solice, and KJW are trying to compile a list of interesting blogs through entires like Monkey Monday News, Friday Favorites, and Great Reads respectively. Also, Wizards of the Coast has its own aggregated list of designer blogs and RSS feeds of the latest forum post but it's not on the Gleemax site: Community. This solves issues #1 - #4 but who's going to put up such blogs to expand those not covered by the already existing bloggers?
  2. Stickied Table of Contents. It was Crazy_Monkey1956's idea to use this and it's a great idea. Make on sticky post on your blog and it links to all your other entries. This also solves the lack of readily apparent "Older Posts" on Gleemax. The bad news is that not every user will do this and worse, needs to be maintained (whenever you have a new post, you have to edit your sticky post). The truth of the matter is while this is a solution, this is more of damage control since dedicated blogging sites like Wordpress or Blogger does this automatically (they're called Archives, Tagging, etc.).

Patches to Hope for in the Future:

  1. Place a link to the Community page at the front of the Gleemax site for God's sake. I mean you already have a working solution, you just need to integrate and promote it.
  2. Add a "See Previous" button so that if I'm someone who checks the site only Fridays, I can actually find posts last Monday.
  3. Better aggregation methods such as a Favorites List that mimics RSS Feeds or Friend's List (from Livejournal). (Edit: I found a similar feature in the Control Panel but this button needs to be more visible, not hidden!)
  4. Ditch the "Read More" button in each member's profile page. Just show the posts in their entirety. Don't give us the trimmed-down version that forces us to hit the Read More button and takes us to a new page. Remember, the fewer clicks it takes to read something, the better.
  5. Add a more visible "Add to My Favorites" button. Make it a mainstay in the menu, please! Make it big or an icon! There's already too much text on the personal profile pages that the Add Favorite link is camouflaged.
  6. An RSS feed for the blogs. If people don't go to you, let your content go to them. Don't force them to go to your site and they'll naturally go to yours.

What They're Doing Right:

  1. Recent Posts is actually a good section and enables users to discover and find new blogs. However, it is hampered by the fact that it only shows the most recent entries (giving birth to the Monday-Friday syndrome) and could use a better filtering system.
  2. Sticky Posts are great since it gives at a glance the important entries a user wants to showcase.
  3. Blog coding is done correctly. I can easily copy/paste my Blogger blog entry into my Gleemax blog entry.

What I'm Hoping for in the Future:

  1. Better integration between the Forums and the Blogs (since they're still part of the Gleemax umbrella rather than a different section of the parent company). Having a Send Private Message button in one's Gleemax profile would be helpful for example instead of going to the forum and then clicking Private Messages. Also, finding the profile of a poster in the forums and finding the Add Favorite button to include them in my Favorites List for the blogs (remember, less clicks, better interface!).
  2. A way to copy/paste my blog posts into forum posts and vice versa while retaining the formatting (links, font style, etc.). Granted, this is a tall order (since many have attempted this and none yet to perfect success) but it's something to aim for considering Gleemax is both a blogging and forums site.
  3. Other blogging services such as the ability to upload photos, videos, sound clips, etc. without relying on external sites.

Blogging Content

In one of the message board threads, I mentioned one of the four possible blogs entries that will arise in Gleemax (if you have more to add, feel free to comment). I'll elaborate on them further here:

News/Aggregation Blogs:

These are blogs which typically links to other blogs/sites and reports on news. Examples of this are Monkey Monday News and my own Fiction/Writing and Tabletop RPG Podcasts. On one hand, "success" here is mentioned by how useful your news is, and how many people actually get to read it (mostly the former exists to draw in the latter). Feedback (i.e. comments) here isn't as readily important. I mean I really appreciate the "thank you for posting this" feedback but at the end of the day, that's probably the end of the discussion. People really won't debate why I am posting this or that or vehemently agree/disagree with my post. The most feedback one will probably get in such a site is why this news tidbit wasn't included or something. All News/Aggregation Blogs include some editorializing of some sort (in my case, the first paragraph of every post) but it is conceivable that some such blogs are hybrid blogs--that is they cover much editorial content. An example of this is a highly detailed tournament coverage blog. A strictly News/Aggregation Blog will just give you the score (i.e. Player X goes 2-1 against Player Y) but those that feature in-depth coverage usually throw in writing of their own and might generate feedback (i.e. "I don't think Player X should have done that..", etc.).

In the scale of popularity, News/Aggregation Blogs probably has the widest demographic as most people will have a use for it, even if they'll seldom comment on it. As far as interaction with the readers go, it's the least since it's not the type that generates debate (also the specific news/links it contains might generate debate). In Magic: The Gathering terms, News/Aggregation Blogs are like the Tutor cards or cards that retrieve cards from the Graveyard. In D&D terms, it's like the Limited Wish spell. They're not valuable in itself, but are valuable because of the subject matter they cover (rather than create). Without quality content from other sites, there is no point in having a News/Aggregation Blog because there is no such news to aggregate/cover.

Reviews Blog:

People usually tend to love reviews since it gives them a guideline as to whether to buy and support a product or not. What has changed with the Internet is that reviews aren't solely being written by people in the publishing industry but by anyone. Contrary to popular belief, I don't subscribe to the idea that there are inherently bad reviews and inherently good reviews (although I do believe in a well-written review and a not well-written review). There are simply reviews which are more similar or dissimilar to the tastes of the reader. So in many ways, the diversity of reviews works well. The problem will be finding a reviewer who has the closest approximation to your preferences and covers the particular product you're looking for (i.e. books, board games, card games, etc.). As far as demographic goes, in a perfect world, you'd have several reviewers each catering to a different niche in the market. For example, at ENWorld, we have John Cooper who gives "crunchy" bits in his RPG reviews, citing all the errors and unofficial errata he'd give to monster/NPC stats. Obviously, rules-intensive gamers will find such a review useful, while more streamlined or storytelling-orient ed gamers might prefer a different reviewer.

I'd think that each gamer will probably subscribe to one or two review blogs, but no one will really like read all the reviews that's published out there (although that is a possible idea for a News/Aggregation Blog). As far as interaction with readers go, it's flexible. I mean readers might ask questions to clarify certain opinions of the reviewer or flat-out praise him/her. On the other hand, if the reader has a different paradigm with the reviewer, he might complain about the review and antagonize the reviewer. (My advice there is that as a reader, find a reviewer that's more attuned to your tastes so that such debates don't occur! Or better yet, write your own review if you disagree so much.)

Game Report Blogs:

This is usually relegated to one's own personal experience, either a tournament they participated in or last Saturday's campaign session with your gaming group for the past 20 years. This is a precarious sort of blog because I think it's hard to get readers, at least as far as RPG sessions go. Have you ever heard of the statement that your campaign is interesting to you and your gaming group but not to other gaming groups? Well, that's true to a certain extent but that's not an absolute. Compelling writing or ideas might draw in other readers even if they're not part of your existing campaign (and might entice them to join yours). For example, I usually read Jeff's Gameblog and I think the guy carries the blog entries with his personality and unique preferences. Another time that Game Report Blogs might be popular is if you're covering a big event (i.e. D&D 4E Playtest, Pro Magic Tour, Gen Con, etc.) or if you're a celebrity (either a real celebrity, a game designer, or something interesting unique quality that keeps people hooked [The Wandering Men comes to mind]).

A segment of the gaming population that might be interested in such reading material are game designers who are interested in getting feedback with regards to playtesting about their games. Another hybrid might be Original Content that keeps the game report enticing. Examples of Original Content/Game Report hybrids are potential strategies one could have employed in D&D Miniatures. You're not only reporting about the tournament but giving feedback of your own on what should have been done or what could have been done. Aside from those factors, it's usually compelling writing, character, or some strange quality that will sustain your reading demographic. Otherwise, it's more of a private record for you and your gaming group.

Original Content Blogs:

This I think is why most people go to blogs--and generate much discussion (either positive or negative about them). Original Content I'll use very loosely. It can be anything from your own opinions on the industry (i.e. Ryan Dancey), musings on game design (or creating new "crunch" so to speak), or anything else in between (this very blog entry is an example). Honestly, the reason why I read blogs is for Original Content. And in many ways, most blogs incorporate Original Content in some way or the other--it's just that they're qualified by something. Reviews Blogs and Game Report Blogs are really narrow, focused Original Content Blogs with a particular theme or subject. I'd like to think however that the reason why people go to Gleemax is to find Original Content Blogs (and in fact many of the designer posts entries fall under this classification). This is also the most pivotal opportunity for blogger to interact with their readers. They can usually ask a question and receive feedback. Sometimes, they don't end with a question but readers will give them feedback either way, either agreeing/disagreein g with their point of view or point them to a related topic.

Gleemax has the potential to house gaming-related Original Content Blogs but the current problem that aside from the game designer blog entries, there's really no way of efficiently digging through the archives and finding the good original content blogs. It's not that I don't that they're not out there, but if one was ever written, it's damn difficult to sort them out from all the other posts.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 10 Best-Sellers as of 2007/12/9

From USA Today's best-seller list (you can find out their basis here):

  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham
  3. Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
  4. T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
  5. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
  6. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  7. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
  8. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Kootz
  9. Double Cross by James Patterson
  10. You: Staying Young by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz

A Long Random Musing on Reading vs Writing, Guilt, and Others

My friend Bhex is currently in New Zealand and she has a long entry on her encounter with the library there. What I like about Bhex is that we can peacefully contradict each other and bounce off each other's ideas.

Like her, I share her frustration with the country's seemingly inadequate libraries (but to clarify, that's not to say that we don't have good libraries lest I offend my librarian readers; it's either they simply don't suit my particular tastes, they're difficult to get to, they're not well publicized, or there's a significant bar of entry such as enrolling in a private school or university). And honestly, I don't have a practical solution to solve that dilemma. If it's any consolation, there are librarians out there discussing about the matter such as The Filipino Librarian and Zarah (check out her coverage of the Spec Fic talk at Xavier's Library [1, 2, 3]). And as I've written before, emerging technologies is making education a lot easier such as the potential of eBooks (to which Bhex will contend that not every Filipino can afford a computer--which is true--but I think the potential is for future libraries to stock computers where documents can be read).

Another of her complaints is the lack of "customer-friendly sales schemes" from bookstores and publishers but I think the lack of customer service is a symptom of the Philippine culture as a whole rather than limited to the book industry. One thing I noticed in comparison to my travels abroad is that the Philippines has good human customer service--that is the employees go out of the way for you and is evident by our lack of self-service gas stations (there's always somebody there to refuel your car) but we lack good product customer service. What's good product customer service? Things like refunds or -gasp- customer satisfaction. I mean in countries like the US, there is such a thing as returning a commodity because it didn't meet customer satisfaction. There's nothing wrong with the product but it was returned nonetheless. Of course I don't blame Filipinos for lack of such a service. The Chinese businessman in me is wondering at all the potential abuses of such a policy. Suffice to say, other cultures trust their customers and we don't (it's best left to your opinion whether that's true or not).

But my main point however is that despite both conditions, it's not an excuse not to develop good writers. Now Bhex believes that in order to develop good writers, people need to read good books. Numerous times in my blog, I've espoused writer, write, and write. But at the end of the day, I'm not contradicting Bhex's idea. I mean what inspires people to write after all is to read. And Dean said it himself in his novel-writing seminar that seminars and the like don't teach us to write but we all subconsciously learn how to write by reading. Yet I also think there are limitations to simply reading in the same way that a teacher can be good at teaching (how to write) yet never be a great writer himself and a great writer never being able to become a good teacher. Suffice to say, reading is not writing. I can read all the books in the world and never become a competent writer. Likewise, I could have read little or a lot of "trashy" books yet become a competent writer. There are several explanations for this, everything from the act of writing hones your craft to becoming conscious of the act of writing. But let me simply say this: in order to be a good writer, one must strike a healthy balance between reading and writing. I can't imagine a writer who never reads although I can imagine a prolific, talented writer who seldom reads just as I can imagine a prolific reader who seldom but skillfully writes. The thing is, there are several avenues to becoming a good writer and there is no one formula to guarantee success for everyone. The best anyone--including myself--can give are suggestion and hopefully it applies to you. And here's a secret: not all avenues to writing have been discovered. In fact, the "rules of writing" are really just guidelines. New techniques, new methods are being discovered as different writers try out new stuff--sometimes out of ignorance. But yes, I have a bias on writing as opposed to reading. Because I've been stuck on the latter in the past. You might have read all the important books that need to be read and gained the knowledge how to write the best novel--but until you actually write it down, all that potential is useless. And let me tell you, at least for writers like me, we always feel inadequate, we're always worried that what we write is never good enough. And so we might never write what we want to write, or worse, write it down but never show it to anyone else, perhaps hoping that one day it will be discovered and published by one of our friends and relatives and be a famous writer post-mortem. Or I could make do with what I have now--insufficient as it may seem--and start writing, other people's opinions be damned. It might not be the perfect document but at least it's something. And if I don't get it right now, I'll try again. And again. And again. (To sum it up, it's Gabriel Marcel's primary reflection vs secondary reflection.)

This essay however isn't simply about promoting my writing beliefs and agenda. Rather, it's to explain at how not to make excuses for one's self. I do think that if you're really determined to become a writer, you'll find a way to acquire the books you need to read (whether it's taking a part time job, borrowing it from a friend, talking to a mentor, etc.) or in the event that you can't, try your hand at writing anyway. It's about taking a pro-active stance (and what I mean by pro-active isn't necessarily being hard working in persistent but more of creating opportunities instead of waiting for them) although that's probably hypocritical of me as I'm not pro-active at least as far as my writing is concerned. And then I can very well imagine my heritage being levied against me: how easy it is for me to say that considering that I'm not poor, that I had XX years of private education, that I met the right people at the right time, etc. That's all true but as I also said, that's my heritage just as you have yours. I mean sure, I have certain advantages, but I also carry my own weaknesses and burdens, just as other people have theirs. There have been nights that I've wondered if I could only have been more talented, perhaps born in an earlier or later era, etc. I can wonder about all these what-ifs and they'd probably make a great story but it does little to help my current situation. Maybe you're more talented of a writer than I am: that's your advantage. Maybe you're more experienced in the ways of the world, you can relate more with the common reader: that's your advantage.

Last but not least is the feeling of guilt. Bhex in her entry narrates at how she feels guilty about enjoying all the reading privileges in New Zealand. But my question is, aside from writing about it, what good would it do to dwell on the fact? It's not like you can suddenly juxtapose yourself with an impoverished youth just dying to read all those books. And honestly guilt plagues a lot of local writers, whether it's authors feeling the need to write about social realism or socially relevant texts to including Filipino locales, characters, or events in the works they write. I feel that guilt but it shouldn't stop me from doing what I need to do. Some writers, they get over this guilt and write what they want to write. Others, they reconcile themselves with this guilt and incorporate their agenda in their writing--some to their success, others to their detriment. For the most part, I don't think we should be hampered with guilt: either get over it or do something with it but don't wallow in it.

Before I end, I have two more statements I want to say but Dean said them better. In his paper on speculative fiction, Dean says that while realism us to write literature that matters (to which I disagree because speculative fiction can matter), it is the reader who selects what literature matters to them (which is something I cannot disagree with because as much as insightful or not this post might be, it's my readers or non-readers who decide its value). And in his talk on Read or Die's seminar, Dean says "It is one thing to be a lover of reading, like I am, like you are. But if we were all readers, there would be nothing to read if no one were to write."