MANILA, Philippines – What is speculative fiction, anyway?
The term usually brings out either a look of confusion or a raised eyebrow of Silent Judgment (yes, with the capital letters), which then requires the person using the term to explain. Although many academics, writers, editors and people in the publishing business attempt to limit the definition of spec fic, the best answer would be: it’s an umbrella term.
It covers all stories from fantasy to science fiction to slipstream to magic realism to urban fantasy — so on and so forth. In other words (or in other worlds), it encompasses all the stories that are removed from the reality that we are currently living in.
As the introduction states, “speculative fiction is a type of story that deals with observations of the human condition, but offers the experience through a different lens…and challenges us to see what tomorrow could be like or what the mythic past of our imagination actually is.”
Of course, it’s still a problematic term, but “The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010” is not complicated at all. Published by the University of the Philippines Press this 2013, this rather substantial volume was culled from the annual “Philippine Speculative Fiction” (PSF) anthologies and collected by the editorial team of Dean Francis Alfar and Nikki Alfar.
Many of the stories here, such as “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man” by Andrew Drilon and “Parallel” by Eliza Victoria, have been anthologized elsewhere after appearing in PSF, before finding their way back to the heart of Philippine anthologies in English.
Whether you’ve been an avid follower and collector of the annual PSF volumes, or if you’re just dabbling into the world of Philippine speculative fiction for the first time, then this collection is perfect.
As an introduction, it contains many outstanding stories from a significant span of time when spec fic was just beginning to flourish. As a collector, it helps to decrease having to comb through all 5 volumes — the anthology collects the best stories from the first 5 years of PSF — in search of your favorite story.
There are many highlights in the anthology that makes it a worthwhile read: Joshua Lim So’s “Feasting,” his first published work when he was a college student, brings the Filipino diasporic experience into a mythic context, with frightening and horrific results.
“Sink” by Isabel Yap demonstrates the enduring love of a mother for her child, despite the fact that the child in question has been replaced by cogs and wheels and simulations.
Noted crime novelist and author of “Smaller and Smaller Circles” FH Batacan brings together our obsession to lose weight and the increasing water crisis to craft a story about the last days of humanity.
But not all of the stories are on such a grand scale. Some of them hearken back to simpler times, our childhood nostalgia. “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man” by Drilon is a child’s love letter to comics and comics creators, while “Dino’s Awesome Adventures” by Carljoe Javier is a teen love story, but with time travel.
Others are personifications of objects or ideas we may never have even thought of: “Frozen Delight” by Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon gives voices to the contents of one’s freezer against the backdrop of a family on the verge of a breakdown, while Ronald Cruz’s “A League of Champions” focuses on the UAAP totems and gives them both living form and a Danger Room-esque type of adventure.
Some stories look at the past, both real and imagined. Nikki Alfar’s “Bearing Fruit” is a retelling of an old Filipino myth, but with amusing surprises up the female protagonist’s softly billowing sleeves.
Other stories look towards the far, far future. “An Introduction to the Luminescent” by Pocholo Goitia examines a world where the rich lives in tall, mall-like buildings replete with cybernetic enhancements, while the poor lives in squalor on the ground floor.
The adventurous “The Death and Rebirth of Nathaniel Alan Sempio” by Alexander Osias is a rollicking romp — action movie-style — of two operatives fighting to the death in the underbelly of an imagined Manila.
Whether you’re looking for a way into the wonderful world of the weird and the strange (or you’re finding your way back), “The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010” is your ticket into this realm of the fantastic, the strange and the extraordinary. – Rappler.com
‘The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010’ is available in print at all major bookstores, and digitally from Flipside Publishing.
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Gabriela Lee is a writer, a teacher and an amateur fangirl. She loves reading and writing children’s and young adult fiction, speculative fiction and any story that features a time-travelling madman in a box. Her fiction and poetry have been published in the Philippines, Singapore and the United States. She currently teaches at the University of the Philippines. You can find her online at http://about.me/gabrielalee.