Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Paizo Looking for the Next Game Designer

From Paizo

The competition starts October 31, 2007 on

Paizo Publishing is proud to announce its new RPG design contest: RPG Superstar™. Starting at the end of October, will host the first adventure game industry design contest voted on by the fans, aimed at finding the next hot new talent.

"With the end of the print editions of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, Paizo has lost a conduit to find new talent," said Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo Publishing, "so we decided to launch an RPG design contest similar to American Idol, giving unknown talent a chance to get noticed!"

Starting October 31, 2007, any eligible person will be able to submit an entry into the contest. For the open call, that entry will be a wondrous item using the 3.5 SRD. Each entry needs to be 200 words or less, and must include all of the proper mechanics and flavor. Judges will announce the top 32 entries on November 28; those contestants will advance to the first round of public voting, where they will be assigned a new design task, and their entries will be posted on for the public to read, critique, and vote on. The designers garnering the most votes will continue to subsequent rounds, and the ultimate winner will earn a paid commission to write one of Paizo's upcoming GameMastery Modules!

Paizo has gathered together three judges to oversee the competition. Paizo's publisher, Erik Mona, will share the spotlight with fan–favorite author and Kobold Quarterly publisher Wolfgang Baur, and Necromancer Games' head honcho, Clark Peterson. Each round, the three judges will critique the entries before the public vote.

You heard that right—the fans themselves will decide which talented designers go on to the next round by casting a vote on for their favorite contestant. Each round includes a 6–day window for fans to discuss the entries and cast their votes.

Complete rules are available at Answers to frequently asked questions about the competition, entering the contest and voting are at

Writing Journal: Unreality Bites #11

I'm planning to participate in Fully Booked's Graphic/Fiction Contest and this is a peek at my writing process.

The entry was actually submitted yesterday. So why this blog entry? Well, who said the process was over?

After printing out the manuscript and lugging it around for half the day, new ideas came flooding into my mind, phrases that would have made the story better. They say hindsight is 20/20 but unlike other crafts, in writing, you can actually go back in time and add in those post-writing ideas. It's what we call editing.

But as far as my official entry to the contest goes, it'll remain what I wrote it yesterday. It'll have to do and stand on its own. But during the time I'm waiting for the results, I can revise the manuscript and make it a better story. If the story wins, well and good. I'm sure the publishers will be open to revision. If it doesn't, well, no one else except the judges and the Fully Booked staff saw the document. If it gets published in the future, it's the final revision that they'll read.

What bothers me though was that I forgot to use something as inane as the spell checker. Watch out for typos!

Time Distortion

Every Wednesday, I post an essay or two that relates to anything from reading/writing to gaming to anime to life in general.

God might have created the world in 7 days (6 if you don't count the Sabbath or the Lord's Day) but the actual craft of creation takes longer. For example, a short story might take me days to write but a reader will finish reading it in the span of a few minutes. A novel might take a year (or a month if you're the NaNoWriMo type) but it's a product that's consumed in the span of a few days at the most. And this isn't something that merely applies to the craft of writing. Working on a movie easily takes up half a year (if not more) and consumers watch it in the span of what, two, three hours? How many hours are spent editing a one-hour podcast? Even game design is affected by this as days and weeks and months of playtesting are put into a product which might only be an hour's worth of casual play. Suffice to say, there is simply a disproportion of time when it comes to manufacturing something and consuming something.

That's not to say creators should give up at the futility of it all. For the most part, life follows that pattern. People work five days a week so that they might enjoy the weekends. Musicians practice and repeat their performance until they get it right for their recording. The cliche for writing is that it's 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Everyone devotes time when it comes to their passions. But time isn't always working against you. There are, I think, two ways in which creators "distort" time.

First is immortality, or rather the next best thing. A piece of work can easily outlive it's creator's lifetime. To this day, we still talk about Citizen Kane, Lord of the Rings, or Gandhi's teachings. People might have spent years producing those works yet it's lasted decades (and perhaps even stretch to centuries). Of course not all work endures. A lot of novels are published every day and not all of them sell profitably or catch the eye of the critical reader. But that's the risk every creator makes and why it's important to give it everything you've got.

The other way to distort time isn't necessarily to make your work enduring but to facilitate its distribution. Arguably a band might be able to perform live to thousands of people. But in terms of circulation, nothing beats musical distribution through CDs, mp3s, records, etc. The same performance might reach the ears of millions and played over and over at their whim--surpassing the human limitations of a five-man act. The same goes with this blog entry. Had I not published it on the Internet, I might show to five people a print-out of what I've written and it takes them 5 minutes each to read its entirety, even if it took me half an hour to write this. But circulating it on the Internet takes me what, 5 minutes, and hopefully more than 5 people read this. It's not about making my work enduring (I doubt if people will be reading this particular blog entry ten years from now) but rather distributing my work so that a lot of people might read it. It might just take them 5 minutes to read this but if 100 people read it, that's already 500 minutes of consumption into something I wrote. Of course like immortality, if I write crap, no one will read my crap in the future. Quality is still important but the bar perhaps isn't as high as making something a classic.

At the end of the day, we're all human and limited by temporal physics. But through the act of creation, we somehow work around that fact.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards Part II

Just got back from Fully Booked and the date of the awarding will be on November 24, 2007 from 11 am - 1 pm at Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street.

And those counting the dates, Neil Gaiman is scheduled to speak at the 20th Advertising Congress on November 22, 2007 from 9:10 am - 11:10 am. You can do the math.

Writing Journal: Unreality Bites #10

I'm planning to participate in Fully Booked's Graphic/Fiction Contest and this is a peek at my writing process.

I woke up at 6:15 am, putting the finishing touches to my manuscript. I honestly wish I had more time to polish the document but that's just a fact I'm going to have to live with. I feel that my first few pages are stronger than the ones I end with but we'll see on how the story fares.

Changed the title again and my final word count is nearly 4,000 words. Now it's time to check for the requirements, making sure of those 1" margins and page numbers. There's also the form to fill out, the resume to include, and of course printing out four hard copies.

Good luck to those who are joining!

Author Question

I was listening to the Geeks are Evil podcast wherein they were interviewing Katrina Ramos Atienza. I was shocked to find out that the author's contract with PsiCom Publishing is that the latter gets the first option to publish all future manuscripts. Do you think that is a "fair" deal?

Filipino Slang: Province

This is the last of a series of blog entries that will attempt to tackle various Filipino slang words that have their roots in English but have been appropriated for our own. I am no logophile though so if you have something to add on my subjective history, feel free to comment. Next week, I will have a new feature replacing this segment.

During one of my fiction classes, the writer Alfred "Krip" Yuson reminded us about the nuances of Philippine English and how it's not 100% identical to American English. Case in point is how we use the word province. There are I think two Filipino cultural attributes to take into account when hearing the word province. One is that the Philippines is Metro Manila-centric, which is quite an urban setting. The other is that many Filipinos weren't born in Metro Manila and still retain their houses in the province. Strictly speaking, we're not using the word province incorrectly, but it does carry with it a certain connotation that others might miss. When Filipinos mention "I'm going to the province" or that they're taga-probinsiya ("from the province"), the American English equivalent would be that they're going to "the country" or that they're country-folk. When we use the word province, it's really more a comparison to the busy urban activity in the metro and the province is more of a tranquil, laid-back lifestyle which is why Filipinos use the word in romantic, utopian tones.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Writing Journal: Unreality Bites #9

I'm planning to participate in Fully Booked's Graphic/Fiction Contest and this is a peek at my writing process.

I spent the entire day re-writing my short story and managed to finish it at 3,500+ words. It was more of sleep, write, eat, write, read a short story, write, etc. I plan to hopefully wake up early enough tomorrow morning to begin my edits before I officially submit the short story. There's lots of room for improvement, such as a better title.

Anyway, I also looked at the contest details again and aside from printing multiple copies of the story, I also need to learn how to write a resume. =)

Those Who Repair History

Every Monday, I write an essay on libraries. This will be the last set of essays. Stay tuned next week for something different.

Oral history has its own charm but the problem with such a method is that we usually end up with different versions of the same account. Written history has the illusion of permanence, or at the very least the differences and nuances can be spotted more easily. So what does this have to do with libraries? Well, the purpose of the first libraries wasn't necessarily to provide provide the public with books but rather to archive documents. And while these days we have devices such as CDs, DVDs, and MP3s, for the most part libraries continue to be an archive of printed work. And as much as that's a good idea, the reality is that while books are sturdy enough to last for years, they won't last forever. What good are archives if they won't last long? Which is why librarians are usually trained in one skill most people never notice: book preservation and repair.

I've noticed that in some libraries, the covers all look the same. In certain ways, this discouraged me from picking up the book (as much as we constantly utter the cliche "don't judge a book by its cover", that's still how people choose which books to read and it's honestly difficult to differentiate one book from another if they all look alike). The library book covers somehow look subdued (at least compared to their commercial covers, even as we might talk about horrible book covers) and it was only later on that everything made sense: someone repackaged the book, obtained a new cover for it, and then rebound it. Now as a book collector, I know that books undergo wear and tear. And that's me as an individual. What more when possibly hundreds of users borrow the book? And let's admit it: as much as I take care of my books, I don't see other people taking as much care of books that aren't theirs. I've witnessed some book horrors that make me want to swipe away the book from the reader, such as opening the book more than 180 degrees. Think of the binding! And in most cases, the binding is the first thing in a book that gets wrecked (I'm looking at you Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, and my various RPG hardcovers!).

Thankfully librarians come to the rescue. As much as bookworms love the written word, they need a medium to read it. I think we've all had experiences with the matter: some people find it discomforting to read from a screen, while others don't like reading photocopies. A "real" book in which you can turn the pages is currently the paradigm of how we should comfortably read something. A book with weak binding might end up losing pages or nigh unusable because it takes too much effort. Or the book might survive the current reader but not the next. So changing the book's cover wasn't the intent as much as rebinding the book, although I find that adapting a standard book cover helps police which books belong to the library and which don't (when it comes to book security).

I was looking at A Simple Book Reapir Manual and so far, I have no real objections to the principles of such a practice:
  1. Reversibility
  2. Do No Harm
  3. Expediency
  4. Preservation of the Order of Pages
  5. Books Must Have a Cover

Unfortunately, loose binding is not the only damage a book might sustain. A small tear in a page for example might end up ruining the entire page eventually if it is not remedied. Then there's the issue of spilling your drink on the book. And honestly, there will be times when the book will be too fragile for public handling in which case it's time to turn over the book to the special collections section or find some way to reproduce it (i.e. microfilm). It makes me wonder and appreciate the tools that a librarian might possess in order to revive an injured book. And this becomes quite important to libraries because well, they are monuments of history. A bookstore can simply stock the latest books available. A library on the other hand is not only limited by budget but it honestly has to keep a record of old work, texts that you wouldn't otherwise find anywhere else except in museums and other libraries. Reproducing digital copies might alleviate the problem in the future but as far as the present is concerned, repairing and preserving books is the domain of the library.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Brief History of Hobby and Fandom Conventions in the Philippines

I'm fresh from the New Worlds Alliance 5 Convention where various local fandom groups converged. In the days prior to the event, one email I got from the mailing list I was part of is that someone was baffled at how a convention could be held in a mall of all places, as he was used to US events were most conventions were hosted in a hotel or some similar location. Now that fact I take for granted but it made me realize how different--and unique--the Philippine hobby and fandom culture has become. In this essay, I'll attempt to tackle the evolution of the local convention industry, at least as far as fandoms and hobbies are concerned.

The first question I think we have to ask is why hold a convention? Of course each sub-culture has reason to congregate in large numbers and meet with like-minded people. In the case of the hobby and fandom convention, there were clearly precedents abroad (with science fiction conventions and all) but what would entice local fans to hold such an event? One of my longest passions has been anime and as much as I want to attribute the origins of the local fandom conventions to it, I can't. If there's anyone to blame, it's my retired hobby of Collectible Card Games (CCGs), Magic: The Gathering.

As early as 1995, the CCG Magic: The Gathering was a big hit in the country. For those unaware, Magic: The Gathering is a game played by two people, competing in a chess-like environment except instead of chess pieces, one uses cards. Of course like chess, there are professional tournaments where cash prizes can be won (and the champions are even sent abroad to compete). In the late 90's, the game was slowly becoming more and more popular with official and non-official tournaments held on a regular (at least monthly) basis. Novelty Entertainment, the company that was distributing the CCG (and would later import other CCGs as well), was heavily marketing these tournaments and there was a point when turn-outs at such tournaments numbered in the hundreds (either as participants, friends keen on watching the games, or independent vendors looking to sell/trade cards at the last minute). At the time, there were no hobby stores that could accommodate such numbers so the organizers usually held the event at malls, renting the space where mall events usually occur (anywhere from masses [yes, Filipinos hold mass at malls] to bingo games).

I forgot the exact year, whether it was 1998 or 1999, but Novelty Entertainment would later push for a bigger event: a Collectibles Convention where various retailers could peddle their wares all in one place. Unlike the conventions of the current decade, the highlight of such conventions back then wasn't cosplaying but rather the CCG tournaments they would host. Of course the question again was where would such a convention be held? Unlike the previous tournaments where all you needed were some tables and chairs, running a convention was an entirely different matter. Aside from a huge space, larger than what was taken up by tournaments, running a convention would need sound systems, electrical outlets, and booths that could be managed by individual retailers. One of the largest and most popular malls at the time, SM Mega Mall, had a venue for such an event. In fact, it was a hall rented out to various non-hobby related conventions and for quite some time, was the venue of the Philippine Book Fair. It was the Mega Trade Hall, 3 modular halls that could accommodate a huge number of people. All 3 halls were usually rented (depending on the budget) and the place was divided among the retailers. It was a bazaar of sorts as not only CCGs were sold but any shop that was closely related to the hobby such as comics, anime, and toys.

The convention enjoyed some success, at least enough to perpetuate it several times. I remember working for one of the retailers during the 3rd such convention and it was easily the place I satiated my desire to meet fellow anime fans. Unfortunately, Novelty Entertainment would later fold as a business and with it this massive, multi-hobby convention. That's not to say there weren't events that attempted such a convention. I faintly remember a Star Wars mini-convention at the smaller Shangri-La atrium although I never really got to attend the event. And then there was this Otaku Rave anime party hosted by Sterling Animation but it lacked a certain excitement for me and was more of a rave party for anime fans.

Of course in 1999, it was at that time that pockets of anime culture was being cultivated. Not only was anime hitting it mainstream thanks to Yu Yu Hakusho ("Ghost Fighter" is the local dub of the show) and Gundam Wing, but smaller events such as an anime film showing was behind held by various groups (I cleary remember the Anime@Arki shows in UP as well as the OraCafe screenings by Anima Anime). And then in 2000, the wish of every anime fan came true: we had a convention that was solely devoted to anime. The name of the event was entitled Anime Explosion 2000 and was held at the SM Mega Trade Hall over the span of three days (it was a weekend and semester break for the students to boot). What made it different from the previous Collectibles Convention is that this garnered much publicity, supposedly over 11,000 people in attendance, in spite of the entrance fee (P100.00 or around $3.00 at the time).

Now before I continue, I'd like to tackle the economics of such a convention. One reason why such conventions were held at the Mega Trade Hall wasn't simply because it was the only place such a convention could be held, the organizers (I assume) also want to garner a lot of foot traffic and make it affordable. In the US, conventions are usually held at hotels and there's lots of pre-registration. In conventions here, there's less pre-registration and more of impromptu walk-ins. I don't remember if the Collectibles Convention charged for its entrance but if there was, the cost was minimal. For the most part, the attendees of the Collectibles Convention were by people aware of the event or simply people interested in buying toys (be it kids or adults). Anime Explosion 2000, on the other hand, seemed to attract a wider demographic despite its narrower focus. I'm sure some of the attendees heard of the event prior to that day but it's also not uncommon for anime conventions both present and future to attract the attention of people who didn't even know there was such an event going on by its sheer location (usually malls). I've attended conventions that weren't held in malls but the result of such events is that it tends to be inclusive--that is the only participants are the die-hard fans themselves who have heard of the event previously. Such events are minimal in attendance (hundreds at most) but I think that is the target market of the organizers. Rather than simply attracting numbers, they're more focused on the quality of the participants.

Anyway, moving back to the topic, the 11,000 attendance was a strong indicator that organizing such an event was feasible, and made it look like a worthwhile endeavor to sponsors. In many ways, Anime Explosion 2000 was the first event of its kind and in my opinion was perhaps one of the best conventions ever held. However, not all of its elements would be retained in future conventions: First and foremost, Anime Explosion 2000 introduced cosplay to the Philippines. That's not to say there weren't any cosplay events here in the Philippines prior to that event (we held one at Anime@Arki even before Anime Explosion 2000), but that was the time when it hit mainstream consciousness. I'd like to think the cosplay event was the main attraction of the convention and in retrospect, is one of the legacies of the con that's still being put into practice today, irregardless of whether you're an anime convention or not. The second was the special guest: Anime Explosion 2000 featured Yuu Watase, creator of the manga/anime Fushigi Yuugi. Now in US cons, I'm sure they usually have a special guest, whether it's an actor, the dubber, or the seiyuu or a particular fandom. In the Philippines, honestly, that doesn't happen often. Most conventions are more of an event by fans for fellow fans, and so special guests aren't always possible. That's not to say there haven't been special guests in conventions such as artists and designers from Japan but that seldom happens. Anime Explosion 2000 was marketed as the first appearance of Yuu Watase in the Philippines but the special guest feature isn't replicated in subsequent cons. The third factor which was important for me was that for the most part, a lot of related industries were united. The event was backed up by cable channel AXN for example. There was also the participation of the various animation groups in the Philippines (ArtFarm Asia and Toei comes to mind). For the most part, I think everyone wanted this to succeed. Later conventions, in my opinion, seemed to have splintered groups participating in the event. Instead of a united front, the various institutions held their own convention, such as the AXN holding its own AXN Convention (I'm not saying that this is a bad thing or that it could have been averted, merely that it's different). The last legacy is the specialization. While The Collectibles Convention was a hodgepodge of various interests, Anime Explosion 2000 was focused on one medium. This is perhaps the other element that is retained in present conventions: focus.

As successful as the Anime Explosion was, it wouldn't be replicated until a year later. Since then, there seems to be an anime convention being held every year under one organizer or another. Of course it wouldn't only be anime that would cash in on this market. Over the years, several "specialized" conventions would pop up: video games, comics, toys, jpop/rock, etc. Instead of this melting pot of various groups and fandoms, local conventions these days seem to be drifting towards a specific agenda. The one exception I think is the New Worlds Alliance. They first popped up in 2003 and what's peculiar is that they're not quite specialized. Instead of merely focusing on one fandom, the New Worlds Alliance is a combination of sorts, drawing in various related fields such as anime or a particular cult title. Perhaps its one concession is that on some years, each event is "hosted" by one fandom group, such as Star Wars when the Episode III movie was debuting in that particular year. Another highlight of such conventions, as I said before, was the cosplay aspect. Whether as a formal event (a catwalk on stage) or an informal one (where fans merely pop up in costume), cosplaying seems to be prevalent in conventions (no doubt due to the cosplayers who have developed into a fandom of their own and desire to appear in costume, accommodating the themes of the various events). In the formal cosplay competition, this can be observed by the fact that the catwalk is usually the "prime time" slot of most conventions, anywhere from mid-afternoon to early in the evening, capping off the event. Of course cosplaying is also audience friendly as many people will ask people in costume if they could take their photo with them. And a couple of fandoms such as Harry Potter, Star Trek, and Star Wars don their costumes like uniforms, identifying their particular allegiances.

Currently, there's almost like a convention-like event occurring almost every month, with various hobbies and interests being promoted as well as cosplay competitions being a vital part of the program. As for Magic: The Gathering and other CCGs, tournaments are still being held at the mall regularly although the local distributor stopped adopting the convention model for such events. That's not to say they didn't attempt one before and it seemed an enjoyable event in itself. But as far as conventions are concerned, a variety of events are popping up, so much so that they even surprise me. Which is probably a good thing.

Filipino Awareness

Here's some food for thought. After the Science Fiction panel at the New Worlds Alliance 5, I managed to join emcee Tobie Abad together with the other speakers at the forum: Kenneth Yu of The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Joey Nacino, and Professor Emil Flores. One thing Professor Emil Flores brought up was how several local productions are hitting it big in other nations: Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa are big in Malaysia, Christian Bautista is making a name for himself in many Asian countries, Pinoy action films and shows are developing a cult following in the US (Weng Weng comes to mind but also the fact that Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of local films), the film Gagamboy (along with Vhong Navarro's other films) is lauded, and many Filipino action stars can stand toe to toe in film with other Asian martial artists. I think the problem with our nation isn't that we're not developing astounding products but rather that there's a lack of awareness of it (me being previously relatively aware of the anime industry, I know it's not common knowledge for example that many Filipinos are involved in the animation industry). That and our local films lose their mysticism because they are local and mainstream (in the same sense that many non-French are impressed with Amelie).

Science Fiction Panel at NWA 5

Kenneth Yu has photos of the event but in the meantime, here's a recording of the event which was nearly two hours long. I have to warn you though, the sound quality is terribly awful, and I've experimented with various technical techniques to no avail. The biggest problem is that the microphone was causing too much reverberations when used too close and while it probably would have been better if the panelists didn't use the microphones, well, you know what they say, hindsight is 20/20 (it's either that or maybe my recorder was too close to Kenneth and produced a double echo of sorts).

Anyway, here's some details on the event. We had writer/artist Tobie Abad as the emcee for the event and was one of the panelists in last year's event. We started with two panelists, Kenneth Yu of Philippine Genre Stories and Joey Nacino. Later on, we were joined with Professor Emil Flores of UP Diliman.

As far as the audio quality goes, it's audible for the most part but unfortunately, Kenneth, who probably talked the most during the event, sounds like mumbles due to the microphone (and not because he has a Chinese accent). Emcee Tobie Abad kept the mike at a distance so he's the most audible while the participants in the forum and Professor Emil Flores could be made out. (Just bear with the recording. Or fast forward to around 28:00 or 58:00 to hear the more audible parts.)

If you want the panelists to clarify or expound on a certain subject (or simply have a question), you can reach them via their emails:
  • Kenneth Yu: pdofsf[at]yahoo[dot]com
  • Joey Nacino: estranghero[at]gmail[dot]com
  • Professor Emil Flores: flores[dot]emil[at]gmail[dot]com
Anyway, here's the link to the recording which is 47 MB and 103 minutes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weirdest Blog Moment Yet

So far, my weirdest blog phenomenon has to be The Lit Critters and Philippine Genre Stories. I had less than 200 visitors that day on my blog yet according to zshare, there were nearly 300 downloads of the recording. The even weirder part is that in the past, I've been advertising in the Lit Crit mailing list whenever I uploaded a recording of a session yet they've never really broken the three digit barrier. This time though, I didn't advertise it in the mailing list. The most I did was email those present in that particular session. So why the sudden interest in a 3-hour session? There's a part of me that's theorizing that it's because the file is so huge that people failed to finish downloading the file that they have to restart again. It's either that or both Elyss and Miggy have lots of fans! (No, it's not me because I'd think people will drop by my blog more than actually wait for a 70+ MB file to finish downloading and hear me speak--because I sound nasally awful, a male Fran Drescher).

Format Change

I find it strange that once upon a time, I hated doing homework. No, I don't have homework from my day job (most of the time). But updating this blog is homework. Remember those 500-1000 word essays your teacher assigns you? Or those reflection/reaction/research papers and outlines? The only difference it seems is that no one's out there to grade me. I can give myself an A+ for effort.

Anyway, moving back on topic, I'm thinking of doing a format change soon (you know, my Mon - Fri blogging schedule), mainly because there's some other things I want to write about and there are some things I've running out of ideas on. I'm about to run out of Filipino slangs (every Tuesday) to cover for example and I have no more library essays in the can (I write them on Sunday, a day before publishing on Monday). I'll definitely be keeping the Fiction/Writing and Tabletop RPG Podcast round-up every Thursday but aside from that, what else interests you or what would you like to read about? Here's some ideas I have in mind but feel free to suggest anything else that might interest you:
  • Book/Magazine Reviews
  • Comic/Manga Reviews
  • Essays (-insert specific topic here-)

Friday Bibliophile News

In case you're bored, here's some interesting tidbits I found to be interesting:
  • It's not news to me but Seth Godin talks about the New York Best-Seller List (no, it's not really based on the best-selling books). I first got wind of this a few years ago while randomly channel surfing (back when I was still watching TV) and CNBC was interviewing this author and he cited that the New York Best-Seller List isn't really a best-seller list (he then recommends USA Today, which is what I use, but I honestly don't know how accurate it is).
  • Self Publishing on the other hand talks about bookstore revenue from advertising books. Certainly book placement in a bookstore matters: you'll most likely see a book in front as opposed to whether the book is placed in the back. I've suspected that some bookstores might charge publishers (or publishers offer the bookstore to "pay" to be in front) but the actual numbers is beyond me.
  • Technaeum has a video on Why Libraries Should Game. Too slow for my tastes but the idea is innovative, especially if you're stuck in the conservative librarian mindset. Still, I'm sure there will be proponents of keeping video games away from the library.
  • The Vertical Weblog talks about the Japanese best-sellers. You know the Japanese are crazy, read up on what they're reading (and why we think they're crazy).

Top 10 Best-Sellers as of 2007/10/21

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

  1. Become a Better You by Joel Osteen
  2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
  4. Deceptive Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld
  5. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  6. Clapton by Eric Clapton
  7. The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northup
  8. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
  9. Cross by James Patterson
  10. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Adarna Submission Guidelines

From Budj

You can check out Adarna House's submission guidelines for manuscripts. The site also has details on art submissions and graphic novel submissions for its Anino Comics Imprint.
Guidelines for Submitting Manuscripts
  • All submissions must be original and unpublished.

  • All manuscripts should be typewritten on short bond paper and accompanied by a one-page literary bio-data of the writer.

  • Three (3) copies of the manuscript should be submitted.

  • Indicate which genre the manuscript falls under on the first page of the manuscript (e.g. submission for storybook/young adult fiction/poetry”).

  • If the manuscript has won any literary contest, please indicate it on the first page of the manuscript.

  • Adarna House prefers storybook manuscripts bearing one or more of the following themes:

    • first day of school

    • honesty

    • health

    • Chinese-Filipinos

    • classroom situations

    • death

    • music

    • children with working parents

    • rhyming/repetitive style of writing

    • legends

    • fathers

    • grandfathers

    • citizenship values

    • peace and tolerance

    • diligence (sipag)

    • arrival of a new baby

    • personal hygiene

    • sportsmanship

    • value of reading

  • For YA fiction, Adarna House prefers manuscripts written in Filipino with a horror or murder/mystery theme.

  • A writer may send more than one manuscript.

  • All manuscripts should be accompanied by a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope to facilitate return to their respective authors after being screened.

  • All manuscripts must be sent through postal service to ADARNA HOUSE, 2/F FSS Bldg., 20 Scout Tuason cor. Scout Castor Sts., Brgy. Laging Handa, Quezon City

  • Submissions may be in Filipino or English.

Fiction/Writing and Tabletop RPG Podcasts for 2007/10/25

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

I personally enjoyed the interview with Andrew Kimbrell last week which tackles genetic engineering, corporations, and politics. On the gaming side, maybe it's just because I'm plain weird (even by gamer standards) and interested in business models, I was eager to listen to the GAMA Trade Show recording of how to buy/sell old merchandise.


Tabletop RPG (Mostly)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Save or Die!

Every Wednesday, I post an essay or two that relates to anything from reading/writing to gaming to anime to life in general.

"Fiction should always make sense even if reality doesn't."

In the Dungeons & Dragons RPG, gamers have come up with the term "Save or Die" spells. Basically, it's a spell that can spell instant death for any character unless they roll particularly high on the dice. Now some gamers enjoy this part of the game (but then again, they're probably the demographic that enjoyed going through the Tomb of Horrors). I'm not one of them and I think this boils down to the elements of a story. Now I must clarify: playing tabletop RPGs is not the same as writing fiction. But there is some overlap in the sense that both are trying to tell stories.

In fiction, there should be no coincidences. Every word, every phrase is consciously planted by the author and every detail has to be significant, even if it's just to act as a red herring. It might be surprising to tell gamers that RPG games should have no coincidence (especially since a lot of game systems have a luck factor) but for the most part, I think that's what players are expecting. It's okay for characters to die as long as it was a meaningful death. Save or die spells have that feeling that it was mere coincidence that the character died... or that the players won. That's not to say that doesn't happen in real life. In reality, the most unexpected circumstances might occur for no reason at all. A coconut might fall on a person's head and kill them in an instant (in fact more people die by falling coconuts than by shark attacks). Or people simply get hit by lightning. But pulling off those events in either fiction or tabletop RPGs wreaks of deus ex machina, unless we're working with a genre convention (getting hit by lightning might be perfectly normal for a superhero origin story for example). Imagine encountering the main villain of the story and you've been building up this scene for quite some time. But instead of this epic battle between the heroes and the villain, a stray arrow from the nearby battle kills the villain without any planning or action on the part of the heroes. Suddenly, the plot crumbles. (Having said that, that particular scene would have worked if it was the beginning of your story rather than your climax.) In a game, it didn't make sense for the Game Master nor did it make sense for the players. In fiction, many readers will simply deem it unfair. Why take us for this entire roller coaster ride if it's not going to make sense?

Or put it in another way, what if lethal misfortune happens to our players that's not tied to the plot? A freak traffic accident might end up running down one of the characters. Or there's an explosion in front of one of the players and it's not a conspiracy. I've seen Game Masters use a lot of tables to generate lots of random effects but I don't think Game Masters are using a table of random lethal accidents that do nothing to push the story forward. And it's the same with fiction. You don't build up a character with several loose threads hanging only to abruptly kill them. You tackle their loose threads and then you kill them, not before. But quite frankly real life doesn't work that way. Many people die without relaying to their love ones what they truly fear, or perhaps what they've been working on for the past decade remains unfinished. And there are a lot of meaningless and random deaths in the world but that doesn't mean they have to be in your game or in your fiction.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dragonlance Trailer

Here's the first cut of the trailer. Alas, we only get to hear Keifer Sutherland.

From Dragonlance Movie Site:

"Dragonlance fans -- We’re sorry that it has taken this long to get a trailer out. We had been waiting in hopes that we could show you the final trailer but unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e. key talent issues etc) we have not been able to cut the final trailer together and get 100% approval. Ever since we showed this piece at GenCon and DragonCon there has been a huge demand to see the trailer so we figured it’d be best to show you the rough version instead of having everyone wait even longer. We appreciate your patience. Enjoy!"

Script Cops

From John August

There's more: episode one, episode three.

On a side note, I'm currently writing a comic script for a friend and my biggest difficulty is that I don't usually think visually. With prose, I merely have to think of the words. With a comic script, the visuals need to be an integral part to go along with the text. The topic, however, is right up my alley: romance.

Filipino Slang: In Fairness

This is a series of blog entries that will attempt to tackle various Filipino slang words that have their roots in English but have been appropriated for our own. I am no logophile though so if you have something to add on my subjective history, feel free to comment. Also, I am constantly looking for words to tackle so if you have suggestions, just leave a comment. Currently scheduled to appear every Tuesday.

One of the ways we've managed to bastardize English is our use of the slang "in fairness". Strictly speaking, the correct usage would be to say "to be fair" but casual talk drops that formality and instead uses "in fairness" as a precursor to a compliment after giving criticism to someone or something. One of the more interesting developments in my opinion is how the term has evolved in local gay lingo. Another alternative to "in fairness" is "in Fairview", where Fairview is a location in Metro Manila.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Remembering Ana

My first day in Ateneo de Manila University wasn't spent in a classroom. Instead, I was among the hundreds of clueless freshmen who were being indoctrinated the school's policies, practices, and ethos in the event that was called ORSEM. I remember my emotions then: one part exulting in the freedom--freedom from the conservative all-boys Catholic school I was affiliated with for thirteen years--and another part that despaired as 99% of the faces I saw were complete strangers. Worse was the fact that I had yet to meet my blockmates, my would-be classmates for the next four years. I imagined our meeting would be a soiree of sorts where we'd be paired off and if you lucked out, well, you were stuck with them for your entire college life.

On that first day, I didn't immediately get to meet my classmates in Creative Writing. Instead, our seating arrangement was dependent on our English class. My section was labeled R01--the first group in the regular class. In many ways, I wondered if I was in the first English class because of the degree I was pursuing. R01 was my English Block, people I'd be stuck with for an entire school year. Finding R01 was neither too difficulty nor too easy: it was located at the left-most column of the gym and I merely had to wade through the crowd. As I was bumping into people and avoiding eye contact, I realized one thing: I wasn't in high school anymore and I'd actually have female classmates! The shy part of me felt trepidation but the heart-broken part (I got turned down by my crush that summer) of me saw it as an opportunity for a second chance at romance. Me being a guy, I was hoping for someone cute to be in my class. When I finally got to R01, everyone was sitting down and facing the opposite direction. All I saw were people's hair and it was from that vantage that I deduced who was female and who wasn't. As far as I could tell, all of them were girls (and in fact I'd later find out that in a class of 30+, there would only be six of us who were guys). Moving to the side, I tried to catch a glimpse of their faces and I thought I'd approach the prettiest one. For some strange reason, girls tend to pair up with other girls so the lone, vulnerable girl in the group was nowhere to be seen. By approaching one, I approached her partner too. The one that caught my eye was this petite girl with the most optimistic of eyes. I gathered my courage and introduced myself. "Hi, I'm Charles, and I'm one of your new classmates," I said. She turned around and had a voice that was even more pleasant than I could have imagined. "I'm Ana," she said, flashing me one of the prettiest smiles I had ever witnessed. I honestly wished it ended there but then she introduced me to her companion. "This is Em," Ana said. And then I knew I had to converse with Em, even if I wanted to give Ana my entire attention.

It's funny how things worked out, which is to say they never go as planned. Ana was kind and charming (and in fact if I could cut out my heart and offer it to her I would) but I felt more kinship with Em (and then later Ria) because she was an anime/manga fan. That same week, I also decided that I would court a different girl from a different block, and so I spent the next four years trying to win her heart (I didn't). I'd like to think I'm a one-woman guy so as pretty as my English classmates were (the type that you'd be proud to bring to your prom), I wasn't looking or intending to court anyone else. As for Ana, we were arranged alphabetically in English class and since my surname was Tan, I was sitting at the back, and all I saw was everyone else's hair. Nonetheless, Ana caught my eye: she wasn't as proud as Camille, nor was she as childish as Candice. She somehow struck the balance between innocence and sophistication and easily fitted the stereotype of the girl next door... or the kid sister you never had.

The most memorable moment I had of Ana was on Valentine's Day. When everyone was receiving roses (one even plucked the petals and stored them inside her Coleman jug), Ana's suitor blew them all away in the melodrama department by having a huge oil painting of a blue rose delivered to our class. It caught everyone's attention, whether via the sheer size, the art itself, or the gesture. I didn't personally know the guy but I thought that hey, if anyone was going to court Ana, it might as well be him. Several weeks later, Ana had a new boyfriend but I never knew if it was the same person. But the boyfriend seemed like the pleasant type but then again, the less you know a person, the more pleasant they seem to be (ever had the experience where you're more distrustful of the person you know than a complete stranger?). Anyway, Ana and her boyfriend appeared to be together even until graduation and so I thought that the next time I'd hear from them would be for the marriage ceremony.

The next time I encountered Ana was during Neil Gaiman's visit at Rockwell. That event was actually a reunion of sorts as I saw a couple of acquaintances I had lost contact with. The first thing I usually notice about Ana was her smile and her eyes. During that event, they were both hidden. Ana wore shades and somehow, she felt less energetic. As far as appearances though, Ana didn't seem to age. She was easily as sixteen as when I had first met her. I said hello and would have stayed to chat longer had I not other commitments (for one thing, I was lacking sleep at the time because we hosted the Good Charlotte concert the previous night and second, I was entertaining a friend who was visiting from the US).

Last weekend, our meeting with the Lit Critters ended and I accompanied Elbert to the exit of A Different Bookstore. Apparently his fellow teachers were waiting for him as he had another gimmick after our appointment. There were three of them and they all looked familiar but Ana stood out. She was as youthful as I remember her but thankfully, I could sense none of the gloom that surrounded her the last time we met. It's nice to know that she's teaching--a fate that she shares with her other classmates from English class. But I knew everything was right with the world when I saw her smile. Ana was happy: what more could I ask for?

Just Write

Two weeks ago, I got sick to the point that my officemates are still wondering why I'm coughing out phlegm every five minutes. That easily put a hold to my writing exploits for Unreality Bites, which is why I stopped writing my writing journal: because I've stopped writing. Last Friday was no help either as I got home early in the morning after doing monitor duty in San Miguel's Oktoberfest (listening to podcasts the entire time to the point that I've actually exhausted that week's supply), and then waking up just in time to meet with the Lit Critters.

Anyway, the deadline for Unreality Bites is next week and while my story is far from finished, I plan to get it done by the end of the week. But the pragmatist in me always considers the possibility that I won't make my deadline. Tyron in Banzai Cat's blog also hesitates about writing "Filipino" Speculative Fiction for fear that "there really is such a thing as Philippine Speculative Fiction". I bring that up because my answer is the same. So what if I don't meet my deadline? So what if my story isn't classified as "Philippine Speculative Fiction" by the critics? Honestly, my worst-case scenario is that I have a story. And is that really such a bad thing? (Unless of course the story itself wasn't well written. But that's what edits and revisions are for.)

Anyway, I honestly have more than a week to finish my story (unless you know, I'm struck by another epidemic). I'm actually more excited with the fact that I'm writing a new story. The prize money is lucrative but as far as publishing goes, there will always be other markets.

Butch Dalisay on Creative Writing

The Filipino Librarian has a video on Butch Dalisay's talk at the National Book Development Board's meeting last Saturday at Mag:Net Katipunan.

Monday Links

Here's the various news tidbits I've managed to find in my spare time:
  • Bokardo talks about book reviews and the value we attach to them (and in this case, the phenomenon of Harriet Klausner who averages seven book reviews a day for Amazon). You also might want to read Self Publishing's take on the impact of book reviews.
  • Publishing 2.0 talks about faking the numbers on RSS feeds (last I checked I have 14 RSS subscribers, and 4 of those just appeared over the past two weeks; I suspect most of my RSS subscribers aren't really interested in my writing but more for my podcast round-up every Thursday--which isn't a bad thing by the way).
  • The National Library of Australia admits that most of their cultural expression is in the form of digital media. (From
  • Guardian Unlimited has a column on print-on-demand. (And to echo Jay Lake, print-on-demand is not necessarily vanity publishing. Not that there's anything wrong with the latter.)
  • Pat's Fantasy Hotlist has an interview with Katherine Kurtz.
  • Top 10 Tips for Plagiarists. (From Pat's Fantasy Hotlist)
  • Another column from Guardian Unlimited that while it's pleasant that you like an author's work, they appreciate it more if you buy the actual book.
  • Ever heard the statement Who Watches the Watchmen? Well, its modernized version is Who Wikis Wikipedia (okay, that didn't sound right...). You know, like Apple editing the Microsoft entry and vice versa. It's Amazon taking down its anonymous screening all over again. (From Vertical Weblog)
  • Top 10 Bizarre Mental Disorders. It's no bangungot but I'll take what I can get. (From Vertical Weblog)
  • The Library of Congress has some interesting videos to promote literacy (scroll down), at least better than the norm. (From SF Signal)

The Lit Critters and Philippine Genre Stories

It took me quite some time to upload this but here it is, the mp3 of last Saturday's Lit Critters session that tackled the stories from Philippine Genre Stories. This is the longest Lit Crit session yet at 3 hours (and it's a 75 MB download) and it's interesting to witness the dynamic between the Lit Critters and the PGS writers (alas, some of my jokes didn't work as it took some time before Kyu processed my rebuttal of "I'm not that old!" when he asked if I had seen the Twilight Zone episode with the devil in it). Personally, I'm just grateful that some people really enjoyed my story, "The Devil is in the Details". But there's always room for improvement, and I promised Elyss that I wouldn't reveal the location of her blog (ooops!), so I'll end my entry at that.

Not Quite Terror

Last Friday, there was an explosion in one of the popular malls. Yes, it was a legitimate cause for concern as people sent text messages and checked that their loved ones weren't in the vicinity. Theories abound as to the actual cause but this is no 9/11 for the Philippines and I say that with both relief and trepidation.

Relief because we're not in a panic, although it is making the news (unfortunately, said incident is receiving more focus compared to the other tragedies happening in rest of the country). Trepidation because in certain ways, we're used to such incidents. It's like our black-outs: we don't want them to happen but when they do, we treat it as if it was the most normal thing in the world and take out our candles and back-up rechargable lights or turn on our generators. Security is being tightened but under no means are we at red-alert or pseudo-martial law (assuming the explosion was indeed caused by a bomb).

The explosion certainly caused an initial scare but right now, the incident is what, an inconvenience? (Of course when I say that, I am speaking for myself.) I do think the biggest enemy we face is apathy and right now, instead of fear or anxiety or even depression, all I'm thinking is that life goes on.

A Necessary Evil?

Looking back at my life, I am grateful for the fact that I am acquainted with the word library. It fascinates me that we have such a concept: a place where we can read and borrow books for “free”. (Technically it’s not free but it’s certainly the closest approximation we have of such a service.) How long did it take us to have such a paradigm? When did the concept of a public library (which is what people usually mean when they utter “library”) overtake the concept of a private library? While civilization has a lot of flaws, I can’t help but think that we’ve managed to truly accomplish something if we’ve manage to perpetuate the concept of a public library.

One of my biggest complaints about public libraries is that people refer to it whenever we need a book, any book—even if the book isn’t necessarily be found in the local library. How many times have we heard the message “look for this book in your local library”? To be fair, libraries do house several books, depending on your location and who’s funding them. Whether they have available the particular book you’re interested in is another matter. But we all seem to have this mentality that the book we’re looking for should be in the library. And perhaps that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly high expectations for the library because obviously, a library can’t cater to everyone (especially with its finite budget). But it all goes back to our paradigm of a library. We want the platonic library and even expect it. That can only arise if we really have a deep passion for reading and learning. Honestly, if our mere goal was to simply survive, we don’t need libraries. Libraries don’t feed our bodies, libraries don’t give us physical sustenance. First and foremost, humans need food, clothing, and shelter. A lot of people might praise the Greeks and their great philosophy but one should also remember that they had slaves to take care of the bare necessities. Having said that, to merely survive isn’t necessarily a human existence. To be human is a lot of things—and there isn’t enough space for me to describe them all. But to me, the act of reading is one of those qualities. Reading stimulates, excites, and causes us to wrench with various emotions. And one of the places we associate with reading is the library.

If people are discontent about their library, I think that’s a good thing. It means people actually care about their library, that they don’t take it for granted. The biggest threat to society isn’t failure or disappointment, it’s apathy. To feel disappointment is to acknowledge that you care about something. I mean as much as I might complain that for every book I find in the library, there’s ten books that I don’t find, it serves as a reminder that there’s so much more I want from the library and that there’s more in which it can be improved upon. The worst thing I think that can happen is for no one to give feedback when it comes to their libraries, whether it’s because they’ve never visited the library or they simply don’t care what books it contains or doesn’t contain. The word library will never match the platonic ideal we have in our head yet that doesn’t mean we should stop striving for that goal. And the good news is that we haven’t.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top 10 Best-Sellers as of 2007/10/14

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

  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. Deceptive Jealous by Jessica Seinfeld
  3. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert
  4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  5. Clapton by Eric Clapton
  6. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
  7. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
  8. World Without End by Ken Follett
  9. Cross by James Patterson
  10. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Philippine Genre Stories at Jam 88.3 MP3

Here's a link to the recording of Philippine Genre Stories's appearance at Jam 88.3 (11 MB).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Philippine Genre Stories at Jam 88.3 Transcript

Here's the transcript for the interview that took place more than an hour ago at Jam 88.3. Gamers can probably appropriate a thing or two about "Bangungot" and "Tuko" for their own games.

Jam 88.3: How are you guys doing tonight?

Kenneth Yu, Miggy Escano: We’re fine.

Jam 88.3: We are talking about the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Why don’t you give us a backgrounder first?

Kenneth: It started last year around December. The first issue was released last December but even way before that, I was already thinking how nice it would be if we could have an avenue for Pinoy writers to share their talents in telling genre stories in the Philippines. As far as I could tell, there was very little avenue for them or very few magazines accepting genre stories so I thought why not?

Jam 88.3: And when you say genre stories, what exactly do you mean?

Kenneth: Right, I’m glad you asked that question. Genre is defined, genre by its definition means category, but its defined in the publishing world as stories that fall under crime, mystery, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural stories, stuff like that. These stories have not been given much attention—I felt. So I thought why not with the popularity of Harry Potter, fantasy, with the popularity of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, why not come up with an avenue for Pinoys to share the talent that they have to tell such imaginative stories and perhaps they come up with their own something tied in with the Philippines: tiyanaks or whatever. Taking it to a literary level.

Jam 88.3: Weren’t there local publications though that do come out with these kinds of stories, these kinds of material?

Kenneth: As far as I could tell, no. I mean there were few and far in between. Not enough or if ever there were, they were just too few. So why not? That’s why I came up with PGS.

Jam 88.3: How about you Miggy, as a writer, did you also feel that you needed other avenues, other ways to put your writing out there for people to appreciate?

Miggy: Every writer wants someone else to read his or her story. And that’s actually very important to a writer. A publication like Philippine Genre Stories allows your story to be read by a wider audience and not just by my friends or small group or friends.

Jam 88.3: So it all started with that idea. What put everything in motion?

Kenneth: I had the good fortune. Well my regular business is I’m a printer so I have a small commercial press, we print the usual stuff on paper: calling cards, letterheads, marketing materials, brochure, pamphlets, exciting stuff. (laughs) And so it was very easy for me to make a layout, come out with the template for the small digest as you’ve see in the samples I’ve shown you. It was with that easy step, it’s easy for me to get production. The next step was to get the word out, that there’s a new publication coming out. So I just blogged about it.

Jam 88.3: That’s right. Okay.

Kenneth: I got a blog and it’s wonderful, this modern world the youth are all connected, everybody’s connected now. So I just put it up, asked for submissions, and lo and behold, it confirmed my hunch: people submitted.

Jam 88.3: Is that how you got in touch with Miggy?

Kenneth: That’s right, everything was through the Internet, through the Web. It worked. There are people, there are Pinoys, young ones especially, telling stories that fall under genre. That pleased me so much when I got the first set of contributions. So that made me release issue one last December.

Jam 88.3: How soon after were you able to release or publish the issue?

Kenneth: The second issue?

Jam 88.3: The first one, after you blogged about it and you get all these…

Kenneth: I gave myself three, four months. So four months before December I put out the call and went into publication about a month before and then I came out in December, just in time for Christmas last year. The second issue came out about April or May. The third issue just came out with Miggy as the cover story with his horror story “Tuko” and the special PGS holiday issue is coming out before Christmas.

Jam 88.3: All right. I noticed there are a lot of horror stories. Like in the past PGS, the first one and the second one, there are more horror stories compared to the other genres featured. Why do you think that is, Miggy?

Miggy: Filipinos like to be scared and we like writing stories that scare people. And we can see that a lot of movies that are out right now deal with horror, especially with Asians with Japanese films. We Filipinos love to be scared. We love reading and watching stuff about horror.

Jam 88.3: I’m curious as to how you got started writing with horror but I think we can save that for later on. Let’s first finish the story, Kenneth?

Kenneth: The second issue came out, the first issue came out I’m glad I was able to get contributors like Dean Alfar, is THE proponent of what they call speculative fiction in the country. Speculative fiction being the umbrella term to cover sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Then I got some other contributors like Andrew Drilon, Vin Simbulan, Joseph Nacino, Alex Osias. Later on other contributors, other names started trickling in. Bit by bit I found variations. Yes, it’s true, Pinoys love to be scared for some reason. They love to stay awake at night and be scared but there is a growing fantasy writing segment in the Philippines. I’d like to think that it’s the influence of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter but I’d also like to think that Pinoys have a rich Pinoy heritage already to begin with.

Jam 88.3: It’s been there, just like what you said, there’s no avenue.

Kenneth: There’s no avenue, correct. So that came out and then sci-fi is growing. There is a sci-fi convention at the end of the month and you didn’t hear about that in the past. So at the end of the month there’s this sci-fi convention at Glorietta.

Jam 88.3: Oh really, is this the first one?

Kenneth: No, it’s been going on but I’d like to think the fact that they’ve reached the fifth shows that it’s growing. It definitely is, there is definitely a sci-fi element growing. What is lacking, I’d like to point out and you might be surprised at this given the state our country is in, is that nobody writers crime, which is a genre too. Which is funny. I haven’t had any crime submissions. But nevertheless sci-fi/fantasy/horror are very much alive and that’s very encouraging.

Jam 88.3: Hmmm, I wonder why. Why do you think that is? Why are there no crime stories?

Miggy: We’re probably fed up with all the crime news.

Jam 88.3: That’s true. (laughs)


Jam 88.3: Miggy, you have the cover story for the third edition. I’m just curious by the way because every story, there’s an introduction written to that particular story. Who writes that?

Kenneth: Oh, I do since I double as editor. Maybe one day kung patok na patok if it really becomes a big hit then I can hire a professional editor but in the meantime, I have to double both as publisher and editor.

Jam 88.3: All right, of course at the end of those stories, they also provide you with what inspired them to write that particular story that’s featured in PGS.

Kenneth: It’s a twist I’ve thought of that not only will I put the background or a brief bio of the writer, I thought how nice it would be if the reader could get a glimpse into the mind of the writer as to how that story came about. So there you have it along with their photos, their blogs, their email addresses. I decided to give them some space to talk about how they wrote it.

Jam 88.3: So let’s go on to Miggy and since you are the cover story for the third issue, why don’t you tell us first about your story? Give us a teaser or a backgrounder on what you wrote about for the third PGS and what inspired you of course to come up with the story.

Miggy: My story is entitled “Tuko”. It’s a fictional story that deals with bangungot. It’s actually a medical condition that affects predominantly Filipinos.

Jam 88.3: Is it a medical condition? Because there’s a lot of debate also whether there is, isn’t it like a religious or superstitious thing?

Miggy: Well bangungot according to medicine is supposed to be sudden cardiac arrest while a person is sleeping. That’s why there’s lot of superstitions as to what causes bangungot.

Jam 88.3: If someone has taken a hold of you and you can’t move and paralyzed and you see these…

Miggy: It’s supposed to be in some regions, they believe it’s an invisible giant that sits on a person’s chest, that’s why the person is unable to breathe and that person dies. For others, they say that it’s actually caused by heat trapped in the body. It builds up so that’s why a pan of water is placed beside the bed so the heat transfers to the water. However there’s no conclusive medical evidence what really causes bangungot. It’s actually a medical mystery as of now. So I kind of speculated what if there was something. Something supernatural that causes bangungot and what causes bangungot is the lonely animal called the?

Jam 88.3: The tuko!

Miggy: The tuko, the gecko. But the tuko is not what causes the bangungot, the tuko is actually warns people about another creature that causes bangungot when it’s nearby. That’s why it makes the sound, tuko, it’s actually mimicking the sound of the victim dying of bangungot.

Jam 88.3: Okay! That’s the sound of a dying victim. So for example, a person can’t really vocalize their cry or their plea or their last call so it goes through the tuko.

Miggy: The tuko is actually like an alarm clock, a warning device, a car alarm so when something’s near, it warns people that it’s nearby. And this thing is actually invisible, it can’t be seen. That’s why the tuko has to warn us, it’s the only thing that can see it. Bangungot actually comes from the root word bangon and ungot, which means to rise and to groan. A sleeping person suddenly rises, there’s a sharp pain in his chest, he can’t breathe, and then he suddenly falls dead.

Kenneth: Don’t give too much away. Let them buy and read!

Miggy: The story is basically about that, the tuko and the bangungot. It’s actually about a young man named Jun Crisostomo. He’s assigned to a far flung city in the province. And he encounters the tuko.

Jam 88.3: And in that particular town are there a lot of cases of bangungot?

Miggy: Actually in the Philippines, there are a lot of cases of bangungot. However, there are no specific or concrete numbers because supposedly according to the study by the Department of Health, 1,000 in 100,000 Filipinos die of bangungot annually.

Jam 88.3: 1,000 in 100,000?

Miggy: Yeah, so like one in a hundred. But those numbers include people who die mysteriously in their sleep. So it’s not conclusive because a lot of conditions are misreported as bangungot. Because when a person dies, they say, “o, binangungot” when a person is asleep. It includes those numbers. Bangungot is actually a very interesting subject because surprisingly, it only affects males, predominantly Asian males. So it’s actually something non-Western.

Kenneth: You’re safe.

Miggy: You’re safe. No problem.

Jam 88.3: Okay, good. I like this!

Miggy: It was actually first observed in the 1950s in Hawaii by a doctor who noticed plantation workers, male plantation workers were mysterious dying in their sleep. That’s one of the first documented cases of bangungot. And up to now, there are lot of theories on what causes bangungot.

Jam 88.3: But why did you decide to tie it up with the tuko? I mean when you say tuko, it’s not like a good pest. It’s a pest, people view it as a pest. When they see it, it’s not exactly something that they will keep or cuddle so why decide to make the hero in your story or short story?

Miggy: The tuko is actually very misunderstood, it gets a very bad rap.

Jam 88.3: Probably because of the way it looks.

Kenneth: Miggy has pet lizards at home.

Miggy: Actually you know the lizards we have at home, what we call the butiki, they’re a type of gecko, they’re a cousin of the tuko. The tuko here is the bigger one.

Kenneth: Probably has more than one lizard at home. (laughs)

Miggy: The tuko is a very big lizard that’s very noisy and they say don’t touch it because when it touches you, it’s hard to get off. So the tuko gets a bad rap. I wanted to make it a hero because actually in other cultures, lizards are considered lucky.

Jam 88.3: Really?

Miggy: Yeah. They keep magical charms as lizard tails. Because the presence of a lizard in a house is actually good because the lizards eat mosquitoes and other insects. It’s only here in the Philippines probably because it’s a car alarm that keeps you up at night, it’s annoying.

Jam 88.3: We do have the sound bite for the gecko call and I think you’re going to read an excerpt. For the people who aren’t exactly sure how they exactly sound, if you want to find out more about the story “Tuko”, Miggy is going to read us a part later on. Anything else you wanted to add?

Miggy: You don’t have anything to fear from the tuko, the tuko is actually very friendly. Also lizards get a bad rep. When you go to sleep, they say you shouldn’t open your mouth because they say lizards will crawl inside. That’s actually part of the inspiration for the story: what if something lizard-like crawled inside?

Jam 88.3: Right. Not a good sign. For the people who would like to contribute and send stories by the way, how do they do that?

Kenneth: You can go to the blog, And we accept contributions anytime, just send them in. There’s a link there on how to submit, just click on the submission guidelines. Anyone, we’re open to any Filipino.

Jam 88.3: Even from children?

Kenneth: There’s a certain age limit, maybe fourteen and above but we take any story by any Pinoy here or abroad. Please send them in, we’d love to give your story a voice. If we can publish it, we will.


Jam 88.3: It’s time for us to listen to Miggy read an excerpt from the cover story he had written for Philippine Genre Stories but first Miggy, I understand that this is part of a series, is that correct?

Miggy: Actually yes. The “Tuko” is actually a part of a series of stories that deal with the supernatural. I recreate traditional Filipino monsters then re-imagine them for a modern audience. So we know about the myths of bangungot so I recreated a new myth for the bangungot that involves the tuko.

Jam 88.3: All right, that clarifies it then. And you’re going to read us a part but before that let’s get to the call.

Miggy: We’re supposed to be listening to the sound of a male gecko, the mating call. That’s why the tuko is called by its name because it sounds that way. I’ll read an excerpt from my story, “Tuko”.

-omitted for Copyright reasons-

That’s it.

Jam 88.3: That is an excerpt from “Tuko”, cover story of The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Thank you very much Miggy Escano. If you want to read the whole thing, you have to get a copy of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. And how do they do that Kenneth?

Kenneth: It’s available at Fully Booked, Bibliarch, Comic Quest, Books for Less, Booktopia, Mag:Net, A Different Bookstore, and The Filipinas Heritage Library at the Ayala Museum and by next week, National Bookstore.

Jam 88.3: Okay, and of course Miggy, watch out!
Hopefully more stories to come, hopefully in PGS and other publications as well.

Jam 88.3: Someone texted, I really am a bookworm. I find your genre interesting and proudly Pinoy. Can I have a free copy of bangungot or “Tuko”? That’s coming from Jennifer of Velenzuela city.

Kenneth: Hi Jeniffer. Well we gave an extra copy to Lana so if they have a contest here, you could call in and win.

Jam 88.3: Unfortunately Jennifer we don’t have enough time tonight but I’ll see if I can give that copy out next week. Just make sure to tune in to Shelve It every Thursday 8:00 – 9:00. Again, how do they get updates on PGS?

Kenneth: Check out I’d like to thank the sponsors who helped PGS. That’s Superbowl of China, Ribisco Chocomucho, Modess, Starbucks, and PLDT MyDSL.

Jam 88.3: Thank you very much.