Hi! My name is Charles Tan and despite my Chinese name, I’m from the Philippines. I’m mostly known in the field for promoting Philippine speculative fiction. In line with that expectation, here’s my tentative (tentative because the year isn’t over yet and I’m open to revisions) summation of the Philippine genre, patterned after the summaries in the now-defunct Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror edited by Ellen Datlow, Gavin Grant, and Kelly Link (St. Martin’s Press).
When it comes to anthologies, 2009 was the year of delayed releases. Still, delayed is better than not being published at all, which seems to be the case with the second Graphic/Fiction Awards anthology, a contest that was sponsored by both the bookstore Fully Booked and Neil Gaiman.
Philippine Speculative Fiction IV edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Nikki Alfar (Kestrel IMC) was originally scheduled for late 2008 but finally got released in February 2009. Subsequent volumes should follow this new schedule. World Fantasy Award-winning author Jeffrey Ford describes this volume as “the best yet in the series”. The book features twenty-three original stories and an excerpt from an upcoming novel.
Another anthology that finally saw the light of day was A Time for Dragons edited by Vincent Michael Simbulan (Anvil Publishing) which is a themed anthology. The call for submissions was posted way back in 2005 but it is only this year that the anthology finally got released under a mainstream publisher. There are seventeen stories in this book, fourteen of which are original. In Locus Magazine, Rich Horton describes it as “…[the book] manages a wide range of styles â€“ and dragons â€“ and itâ€™s another fine collection.”
A web-only anthology is The Farthest Shore edited by Dean Francis Alfar and Joseph R. Nacino (Estranghero Press). It takes its name from one of Ursula K. le Guin’s Earthsea novels and includes twelve secondary-world fantasy stories. Two of the stories are reprints from Philippine Speculative Fiction I but the rest are original to the book.
An international anthology worth mentioning is By Blood We Live edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books) as it includes a story from Singapore-based writer Gabriela Lee. “Hunger” was originally published in A Different Voice: Fiction by Young Filipino Writers edited by Vicente Garcia Groyon (UST Publishing House) and is reprinted in this vampire-themed anthology.
The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar (Apex Book Company) includes â€œLâ€™Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)â€ by Dean Francis Alfar and â€œExcerpt from a Letter by a Social-realist Aswangâ€ by Kristin Mandigma. These were originally published in Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld Magazine respectively.
Cinema Spec: Tales of Hollywood and Fantasy edited by Karen A. Romanko (Raven Electrick Ink) includes the flash fiction piece “Oracle in Chains” by Rodello Santos. Santos is based in America.
Locally, the magazines dedicated to fiction aren’t faring so well. Both Story Philippines and The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories have only released one issue this year, whereas the former is supposed to be a quarterly while the latter’s release, The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories: Special Horror Issue was originally slated for 2008. A new eBook publisher, Rocket Kapre, is supposed to release a web-only fiction magazine but as of the time of this writing, has not released any issues.
Mainstream magazines, from Uno to Rogue, have occasionally been publishing fiction pieces in their pages, which happens to include texts that could be categorized as speculative fiction. The weekly periodicals The Philippines Free Press and Philippine Graphic also churned out several speculative fiction stories over the course of the year.
Online genre magazines such as Fantasy and Expanded Horizons have also published Filipino authors such as Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Eliza Victoria.
While not specifically labeled as speculative fiction, there are two noteworthy collections released this year.
Waking the Dead and Other Horror Stories by Yvette Tan (Anvil Publishing) includes ten stories from the author, most of which are reprints. Unfortunately, the book lacks a proper bibliography. Author Paul G. Tremblay describes the book as: “Many of the stories revolve around legendary spirits/beasts and read somewhat dreamlike, Jamesian in a way, while there are others that are in voice, style, and plot very much a modern horror story.”
The Lost Language: Stories by Marianne Villanueva (Anvil Publishing) is not exclusively speculative fiction but those that fall under this category are well-written. This is a mix of eight reprints and six original stories, the former being published in both abroad and local venues.
Awards and Recognitions
While not necessarily awards in of themselves, three stories published in 2008 made it in the Honorable Mentions longlist of Best Horror of the Year: Volume One edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books). These are “Thirty-Two” by Elyss Punsalan from Story Philippines, “Psychic Family” by Apol Lejano-Massebieau from Philippine Genre Stories 4, and “Seek Ye Whore” by Yvette Tan from Rogue Magazine.
Netherlands-based writer Rochita Loenen-Ruiz was this year’s Octavia E. Butler Scholar. She is the first Filipino to have attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop.
In the annual Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, Luis Katigbak’s science fiction piece, “Dear Distance” won third place in the English short story category.