Sunday, August 28, 2011

LitCritters update, re-reading the Philippine canon

Yesterday, a particularly interesting LitCritter (Manila) meet-up. Dean told us about his recent trip to Guimaras, where he retold one of his stories to 80 teachers and 1 registrar and reduced everyone to tears. He shared part of his lecture--the one that defined the various fields of speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy). Kate (with Pao and Charles jumping in) shared the outcome of their meet-up with the Pinoy book bloggers about PSF 6. Both accounts were so interesting--amazing, actually, to receive feedback of whatever kind generated by one's  work (more accurately, the work of the community one belongs to) and it was evident that Dean, Kate and the rest were elated at the interest in Philippine speculative fiction. I actually envied the fact that Paolo and Charles--book bloggers with an online presence, and contributors to PSF 6--were able to join the discussion. I miss the workshop setting, and the book discussion they attended seemed like an excellent venue for obtaining feedback about our works and how they're currently received.

(I envy too the talented, friendly and prolific (book-wise!) Mina V. Esguerra, who regularly interacts with her online readers!)

Thereafter, we discussed Kit Kwe's Philippines Graphic prizewinner, The Fires of the Sun in a Crystalline Sky (read it here) and the latest story posted on Fantasy Magazine, Crossroads by Laura Ann Gilman.

As usual, yesterday's discussion, as described above (fueled by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf sandwiches, cookies, hot chocolate & tea latte), generated some energy to re-read works--this time, works in the Philippine canon (see previous post for source material). I was very surprised to find alternative history by Mom Wena (Sunday Morning; the setting is the Philippines in 2017, now relocated somewhere in the United States), and quite a bit of fiction that could be classified as spec-fic too (example: Marianne Villanueva's Lizard). There's a lot, at least in the Isagani Cruz sampler, that's erotically charged (and by women born in the '20s-'30s too). This last has engendered some reflection about women/bayan, which I need to think about some more before I write about it.

I think it's time I re-read the canon carefully. Jimmy Abad samplers, here I come!

I am amazed at how contemporary a lot of the writing still sounded (well, at least to me, schooled in the canon), some of the stuff, I'd read in high school--Marquez-Benitez' Dead Stars, in particular. I was moved profoundly still by Amador Daguio's Wedding Dance (I remembered weeping over it one summer, in high school, and yesterday, two decades later, it still had the now-married-I sniffling in bed.)

But, could their "contemporari-ness" not only be attributable to the skill of the writers, but by the fact that our collective mindset and imagination has remained the same, since? It's an interesting question. I thought of this, while thinking of how Dead Stars could be re-imagined (if there's any story that's canon, this is it)--the assumption being the reactions of the story characters and the story itself are reflective of the mindset of a people, what we as a people (whatever that means) find acceptable and satisfying in a story.

It's an interesting exercise--all this thinking about the canon and what could possibly lie beyond it.

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