Thursday, December 28, 2006

Yearender: Local (Short) Fiction

I'm taking a page from fuhrer's book-- or a post from his blog-- and coming up with a selection of a kind-of best local short fiction of the speculative kind. I'm not trying to be controversial here, considering I'm also a contributor to one or two of the anthologies mentioned. However, I would like to generate some debate on what were the readers' own choices on the matter.

So: this year had a bumper crop for the local speculative fiction front. Aside from the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies helmed by dean (now on its 2nd volume), there was also the introduction this year of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories by editor extraordinaire kyu as well as Pinoy Amazing Adventures by carljoe. There were also various spec fic stories published here and there, including magazines like Story Philippines and Philippine Free Press (with Sarge Lacuesta now as its literary chief).

Of course there were a lot of great stories in the aforementioned. However, the ones I'll cite here were those stories that stuck to my mind after a long period of time. In other words, these were the ones that had quite an impact on me.

To wit, here's my top 3:

1. "Six from Downtown" by dean (Philippine Free Press/Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 2). I remember reading a comment on dean's blog about the ethics of an editor having a short story published in an anthology. The way I figure it, there is no doubt that dean's story belongs in PSFV2 because it's damn bloody good and shows that dean is very good in what he does. This is evident in his other stories like "The Middle Prince" (Digest of Philippine Genre Stories)-- which shows his in-depth knowledge of fairy-tales-- and "The Maiden and The Crocodile" (Story Philippines)-- which shows his adept writing skillz.

However, I thought dean's (kitchen sink) magical realism story tops his other contributions, showing snippets of six lives troubled by everday 'slings and arrows' but ironically blind to the magic around them. But not only the vignettes, even dean's throw-away lines have the effect of a sledgehammer against this reader's head. (Oww.) To conclude, dean's story had me at manananggal.

2. "Project Overmind" by Emil Flores (Pinoy Amazing Adventures). I've heard a lot about Prof. Flores of the University of the Philippines, supposedly one of the few literary writers today who actually writes genre and spec fic stories. In fact, if there's one thing I regret in life, it's not being able to attend an elective class of his on science-fiction and fantasy (even though I've already graduated by then). So given such evidence based on reputation only, I can quite understand (and admire) his love for the genre in his contribution to PAA.

Flores' story is actually quite funny, partaking of elements of pulp fiction as well as local folklore and history. In this case, a Nazi mind experiment with ties to the country's Japanese overlords during World War 2 is still alive and well in the wilds of Mount Banahaw. Also included are sassy female characters, a funny sidekick, lotsa martial arts and an investigator who can out-think Robert Langdon and at the same time kick his sorry ass. What's not to like about this story?

3. "Gunsaddled" by Alex Osias (Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 2) Osias' story is quite fascinating for me as this is the first time I've read a story that actually harkens back to the days of the Philippine western. Remember Lito Lapid and his whip? Or Fernando Poe, Jr. with his quick-draw six-gun? I knew you would.

After all, what do you make of characters bearing rifles, pistols and swords while mounted on tamaraws, all the while hunting for metaphyical dragons? Aside from being reminiscent of western and science-fiction (it's set on a not-quite futuristic world that may or may not be the Philippines), the other aspects of the story remind me that this may be science-fantasy/weird fantasy that's hard to categorize. And the dragon-- a nightmare that's almost god-like in its aspect-- is one of the best I've read in both fantasy and SF, bar none.


Der Fuhrer said...

i was really just scared to include project:overmind. heheh..pero yeah, it was really good. astig. Nazi+Philippines!

I still think Insomnia is better than Gunsaddled. Nyek. Halatang horror fanboy ako. Heheh. Yun nga lang, for meh ha, Gunsaddled was buried under by more superb SF pieces at PFSv2.

One thing I noticed about PSFv2 was there were a lot of dragons involved. Ano yun? Extension ng Dragons antho ni Vin Simbulan? Heheh, more like an appetizer.

I would've liked to explain me choices pero, I'm too much of a slacker to do that.

Happy New Year!

Der Fuhrer said...

What I didn't like about P:Overmind was that everything seemed to just fall into place. Kumabaga sa reality show, scripted.

Again, that's just me.

BTW I saw a copy of Magic For Beginners, in all places, in NBS Olongapo. Php589! Yay!

banzai cat said...

Woo, lots to answer:

-That's true enough. I figure there were some really good stories in the collections but they got swamped by others.

- Likewise I state that PSFv2 did become an extension for Vin's dragon antho because my submission was in reaction to Vin's lament for the lack of dragons in SF. This despite the fact that I already submitted a prior dragon story to him already.

- I'm curious to hear your reasons on your selection. ;-)

- Overmind was a bit like that but I had too much fun reading the story, the flaws just slipped past my reading attention. Some stories are like that for me.

- Great! Are you going to get Link's book? At least the price is cheaper. ;-)

- Happy New Year also, man!

Der Fuhrer said...

Well, if I still could make an explanations entry.Heheh

Probably next month,cos I still have lots of books on line up for purchase. Which kind of means I'll be in Manila next month. Yay!

Alex Osias said...

Thanks for the kind words!

banzai cat said...

fuhrer: Heh it's your blog, you can do anything with it.

Good luck on hitting the bookshops again!

alex: Not a problem! :-)