Saturday, November 21, 2009

Taking Back our Stories

Been thinking about the recent post of Barbara Jane Reyes on Dean's story and magic realism. Specifically, Ms Reyes was analyzing the issue of magic realism in today's literature and to quote:
(Magic realism) defies conventional logic in modern, secular societies, to still believe, but more so, it defies conventional logic in modern, secular societies for those old beliefs and mythical deities to manifest themselves in our modern daily lives. Advanced as we think we are, we decide that such conventionally unexplainable phenomena are the province of the superstitious, backward, third world, unenlightened. We hear their testimonies of encounters with the fantastic with an air of doubt, and we judge them. In high literature, these stories become exoticized, objectified, hence, magical realism.

For those of us living in the Philippines, magic realism-- and to a certain extent, speculative fiction-- is a normal fact of life. As an example, just look at our yearly rituals during Lent: the crucifixion would rank us up in the Western world as 'superstitious' and 'third world' but we take it for granted that people would allow themselves to be nailed to the cross in exchange for or in gratitude of certain divine favors (i.e. small miracles).

And that's how we translate or write them into our fiction, that the strange and the weird is as normal as morning rush hour traffic or mall-wide sales up to 50%! Unfortunately, like two sides of the same coin, then we'll always run the risk of being read by the Western world* as being exotic or alien-- and not because of the value of our stories.

Is that the full extent of our contribution to world literature? That our stories are only good for the exoticness of our tales? Or is there a way we can take back our stories so that they'll be known for-- not for their exotic flavor-- but because they are good stories, that they are interesting stories?

What do you think?

*Obviously, some will raise the objection that we shouldn't be writing for Westerners. But I think that issue is moot: whether or not we write for them, we will no doubt be read by them especially with the Internet around.

Update 1: Some comments from dumavirus and rocketkapre on the issue are interesting reading. Check them out here and here. The comments in this post also make some good points.

Update 2: Here are some more interesting reading material that could be tangentially or directly related to what I'm talking about: international SF, World fantasy award and perspective.

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