Monday, September 24, 2007

Anyone for a Round of Literary Tennis?

Point. Counterpoint.

It's fascinating to read the recent views on Philippine Speculative Fiction and what it is, given how as each commenter posts, it reads perfectly like argument or debate.

For example, the next round of commenters tin and sean exemplify the usual argument of l'art pour l'art as opposed to "functional art" or art for the people.

On his blog, sean cites the problems inherent in making prescriptive rather than descriptive declarations given his full-Chinese background living in the Philippines and his penchant for "plot-driven, wild-idea":

...if you want to be all technical about it, then my only claim towards being a "Filipino writer" is by virtue of my citizenship. I mean, nothing else that I do, say or write seems to be exclusively Filipino anyway.

He likewise cites a problem with the search for a Philippine identity in Speculative Fiction:

...we're in the process of producing a Filipino literary identity to begin with. To me, that implies that we haven't pinpointed a unified nationalist aspect yet. And to me, what that means is that we don't have a clear purpose in demanding tangible standards behind "Philippine" fiction, much less "Philippine" speculative fiction. At least, not yet.

skinny made the same point in his comment on this blog which encapsulates the whole argument on that side of the fence:

...the whole idea of 'defining' Philippine Spec Fic never sat well with me. to me, it should be the sort of thing you do after you've got enough of a cross-section of Spec Fic stories written by Filipinos, and not before. by doing it before, you're already injecting preconceived and potentially biased and erroneous notions about what makes a certain kind of fiction 'Filipino'...

However, tin made a rather firm point on whether we let our national identity form around us-- or we form our national identity. (Fact is, if I were a reporter, her post constitutes a lot of good soundbites. Wait a minute, I am a reporter...)

Speculative fiction writers–and I’m speaking in the abstract here–can’t go around asking for the same sort of legitimacy that is vested in recognized ‘mainstream’ fiction in a place like the Philippines without taking on its responsibilities as well.


I think that speculative fiction has a lot going for it, and if it is to stake its own place in the emergent landscape of Filipino literature now, then it should be very conscious of what it’s about. And writers, of course, should be even more preternaturally self-aware. (Because if you're not), what’s the use? conclude...

Seriously, I believe that there’s no right or wrong answer, there’s only an attitude to take, and perhaps a commitment to make.

Incredible stuff being thought this week, kyu.

I do think that those who argue for letting the writers write and let the cards fall where they may be have a very, very good point. I, for one, am very jealous of my prerogatives, much more on what I write and how I want to write it. Heck, this is the very reason why I get peeved over literary standards (whether local or global) in comparison to speculative or genre fiction. So if put in that light, I would definitely opt for no chains nor shackles to our writing consciousness.


If it's a matter of being passive or agressive in our passions, then obviously, we have to take a stand on our writing. Whether it's the use of language or the use of tropes identifiable as local or what-not, I do think that as we write, we also have to think-- and study-- why we write what we write. I don't think we can just shuck our responsibilities for our writing: granted we're not writing about kiddie porn or porn fanfic, but that doesn't mean that we'll leave our stories here and there like writer's droppings.

And in terms of our national identity... well, after hundreds of years of colonial oppression by the Spanish and Americans (plus the Japanese) and then the years after that of confusion over one's national identity, there's something to be said about trying to take the bull by the throat. Of course, we could stand by and let it happen-- but this would presuppose we'd be happy with the results. Or we could try to help form this thing called a national identity-- then at least we won't regret the end if ever we fail.

It's a brave new world out there, after all...


pgenrestories said...

Hi Banzai! I wrote the post on the PGS blog, The Continuing Conundrum, to help sort out my thoughts on the matter that Dean's 3 posts started, and after speaking with Prof. Flores of U.P. Now, with so much said, I wish I could say I was less confused :). But like I told skinny on your blog, bit by bit I'm coming to the conclusion that the body of work isn't large enough yet for us to see where Phil. Spec. Fic. is. We need time to build up a large body of work. Dean, the Philippines' leading proponent of spec. fic., has set the bar high with his anthologies and his own work, and hopefully we can add to what he's doing. Maybe given time we can see where the definitions fall.

But it is good to see so many people weighing in.

pgenrestories said...

Oh! And Vin Simbulan, My Life As A Bed, said he just might offer his two cents in the near future...

banzai cat said...

yeah, isn't it? :-)

(funny enough, right now, am just hankering for some serious writing. weird, no?)

Don said...

Whew! that's a lot of posts and blogs to read. Heh.

But yeah, I agree with skinny on his comment that it's waay to early to try and make a definition of what Philippine Speculative fiction really is. It's sort of limiting and reduces the possibilities of what it could evolve into.

PSF is really young, I mean, really. It's still struggling to make its way into the literary realm. It has already taken its first steps and defining it is taking a big leap, which eventually produces a risk of it stumbling on its way.

And why did this all start really? I sense Q has a huge part in this. :D

skinnyblackcladdink said...

what distresses me even more than the prescriptive nature of this work towards a 'definition' for 'Philippine' Spec Fic was brought sharply into focus by something you quoted Tin as saying above.

i agree: i do believe that writers have a certain ethical responsibility, and it's the same for all writers whether you believe in a distinction between 'genre' and 'literary' writing or not. what concerns me here is that so much focus is being placed on 'national identity' that one would think that was the single most important ethical burden for a writer.

obviously, this discussion doesn't necessarily exclude other 'issues', but with how long this has gone on, how much attention and buzz this specific discussion has generated, one has to wonder where our priorities really lie, and where, to be a bit 'prescriptive' as well, they really ought to lie.

banzai cat said...

don: yes, actually kyu is the evil mastermind behind this charade. he's really out to rule the world!

... after he publishes the next PGS issue, of course. ;-)

skinny: well, it's not really the biggest burden. personally, mine is trying to find the time to write the stories instead of blogging about this. but, you know, that's how it is. ;-)

(personally, I'm waiting for this to blow over. blog attention: 2-3 weeks... check!)