Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Plot Thickens... Like Dinuguan

bhex and charles have contributed to kyu's reiteration of the question on Philippine speculative fiction, bhex particularly taking the extreme standpoint that it takes a Filipino to know what is Philippine speculative fiction (to bloodily get the gist of her declarations).

To state:

We all know that it’s possible to write a “Filipino speculative story” in English, but you know what? I believe a “Filipino speculative story” that’s written in a Filipino language trumps that.

Moreover, she states:

...I’m loath to attach the label “Filipino fiction” to any story that doesn’t have the Philippines as a central figure, and which doesn’t present the Philippines from the viewpoint of someone who knows this country and its people intimately.

Them's fighting words, I would say. But it's great to see someone drawing a line in a discussion like this. On the other hand, charles takes the opposite side by pointing out:

Being Filipino isn't limited to one factor but to a lot of elements; it's not just about language but our mindset, our religion, our paradigm of the world.

He further elaborates that:

Speculative for me has been about breaking boundaries, testing the limits. It's about telling stories that go out of your comfort zone, and that might mean not using settings, characters, tropes, or even language that is familiar to you. I think via our nature, we'll subconsciously including something Filipino about it whether it's a mentality, a practice, or a world view.

Interesting, no?

Personally, I thought bhex had a point about intimately knowing what being Filipino is about, especially when it mirrored my comments to kyu in his post: "if Tim Pratt does move to RP (or Haruki Murakami or whoever else), the fact is, they won't know what the Philippines is about or being Filipino since they haven't imbibed the values of being a Filipino or staying here."

bhex's example of the Fil-Am writer Jessica Hagedorn (I haven't read any of her stories so I'll reserve judgment) reinforces my budding theory that being Filipino centers on Filipino culture-- its value system. If you don't have the value system of a Filipino, then how can you say you know what a Filipino is and how can you write about it in the first place, right?

Alas, it's the second part of bhex's argument-- about language-- that I have problems with, finding common ground with charles' counterpoint. Moreover, I'd like to add that: Language. Changes. The English of today is different from the English yesterday. Likewise, Filipino is different from Tagalog and the whole hodge-podge of languages and dialects throughout the islands. Plus, there's the time factor. So my thinking is: why limit one's form of communication (writing via stories) to a particular form of language? By limiting the language of its stories, I'm afraid you may be stunting the growth of the national identity and by extension (as I pointed out in my previous post), its mythos.

However, I am somewhat leery about the idea that because a Filipino is writing just any story, the subconscious Filipino will out. It gives me this image of a Filipino djinni (or if you want to get local about it, a tikbalang) rising out of our heads whenever we write and saying, "That elf is Filipino because of his morals! That dragon is Filipino because of stinginess!" We, as writers, don't even know what goes into what we write at times and all of a sudden, we have this prerequisite clause that automatically says what we write is one way or another, Filipino.

In a way, trying to write Philippine speculative fiction is a paradox because speculative fiction is about writing past boundaries-- but trying to write as a Filipino places boundaries to that fiction. Not that such an idea doesn't add up. Like a möbius circle or a wave-particle duality paradox, Philippine fiction can be essentially both Filipino and breaking boundaries. It's possible but it's going to be damn hard.

9 comments:

skinnyblackcladdink said...

what sort of 'boundaries' do you imagine 'writing as a Filipino' places on fiction? and what sort of 'boundaries' do you and charles mean when you say 'speculative fiction' is about 'breaking' them?

as is frequently the problem with trying to create 'definitions', you have to resort to terms that you have to define in turn. in this case, simply accepting the word 'boundary' has thrown all your definitions out of whack. and until everybody can figure out what they mean, no one's ever going to agree, or come up with anything useful. mixed metaphors are frowned upon in many cases for a reason.

for instance: 'writing "out of your comfort zone"' can be writing about something personal and 'too close to home' rather than something completely escapist. in this case, what are the specific 'boundaries' you're talking about if you apply it to either of the above situations? (i.e., writing as a filipino creating... v. spec fic breaking...)

bhex has come up with the easiest possible definition of the phrase 'Philippine Speculative Fiction'. who knows, it may also be the 'right' one. i must confess, however, that i find such a concept of any fiction unappealing. the problem here is, to use a term you've used before, bc, the sort of definition you're trying to come up with and which bhex has provided the most to-the-point answer also happens to be extremely 'prescriptive'.

pgenrestories said...

Hi skinny! How are you? Your comment does carry sense too. It is very difficult to sort through, this issue of identity. Bhex does provide a clear cut solution, which also makes sense precisely because it is limiting. But she also points out in her post that she welcomes and will promote any Pinoy writer whether or not their work is what she personally considers Pinoy spec fic or not. In the end, writers, of any nationality, should be free to pursue writing what they want to write, what interests them. If a Pinoy is interested in writing something about the climate and ecosystem of the Bering Sea, which is far from the RP area of responsibility, he/she has that right to do so. Regards!

skinnyblackcladdink said...

hey Q, funny meeting you here. hehe.

i have to admit, 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'; possibly even worse, you're potentially creating factions and ghettos within the writing community before they even have members, before there are even 'examples' of those factions and ghettos...

i stick to my guns: the definition should be allowed to reveal itself; the definition should not be manufactured prematurely, unless the goal really is to create a kind of 'self-fulfilling prophecy' and therefore manipulate Filipino writers into writing a certain kind of fiction, rather than allowing the 'true identity' of the Filipino to shine through.

pgenrestories said...

Hey skinny. You know, this comment of yours makes sense to me. Before I read it, I was slowly, very slowly, coming to the conclusion that the body of work isn't large enough yet to see where it's going. Spec. Fic. in the RP is just too young, and that only time will tell, time for a lot of stories to get out there to show where it's going. I think you put it well, though the post I made on the PGS blog still reflects an existing confusion on my part. But I think you did put it well.

Charles said...

I think that in the long run, it's more important for us to write, write, write. =) Hard to talk about something if there's not much body of work. Write with an agenda or write without and let's sort it all out later, hehehe.

banzai cat said...

yeesh. the length of the comments here is daunting. ;-)

banzai cat said...

okay, it's comment-answering time!

skinny: er, how do you mean using the term 'boundary' has thrown my definitions out of whack? define? (hehe sorry, couldn't resist.)

my use of 'boundaries' is for all intents and purposes, exactly what I mean. spec fic can be used to break boundaries about comfort zones (as a writer and a person), taboos (google up Dangerous Visions), dogmas (try James Morrow or Salman Rushdie), etc. granted mimetic fiction can do the same but using spec fic grants you more room to explore such topics.

for example, Morrow explored the idea of the death of God and of putting God to trial in his Godhead Trilogy. in this case, it was fascinating to read the theodicies in a story without an ounce of being boring.

as for bhex's definition, I agree: it's simple but it's definitely not safe. but then again, I suppose that's always the danger of oversimplifying things, i.e. the descriptive vs prescriptive argument.

however, as I mentioned in my other posts and as I read somewhere, my stand on actively trying to form the budding PSF is that, "if not us, who else will do it?" as it is, we don't have an idea of what our national identity is and it's making a muck of our lives. are we still going to wait and wait and wait until we figure out who or what we are? to use an analogy, isn't usually the case that if we don't have an idea of who we are as a teenager, it's a definite that we won't have an idea of who we are as an adult?

banzai cat said...

kyu and charles: still, despite what I've commented to skinny, I also think that it's better to leave off well alone for the moment and just write. personally, I got tired of thinking about this question several days after it got buzzed on and just wanted to concentrate on writing my stories. still, as [identity-protected] mentioned before, we want to write-- but who is going to do the thinking about what we're doing, i.e. the criticism and analysis? it's not as if there's anyone else who can do it...

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