Fantasy-Faction World Tour of Wonderment: The Philippines – Part Two
Welcome to part two of the Fantasy Faction World Tour of Wonderment: The Philippines! If you missed part one, you can read it here. In this installment, we will look at Filipino authors in speculative fiction, both in traditional literature and comics.
The Philippine Komiks Scene
There are many talented Filipinos working for the big comic companies like Marvel and DC (Lenil Yu, Francis Manupul, etc.), but there’s also a thriving independent community of (mostly) self-published creators, which is beginning to receive international recognition. Here are a few of my favorite creators (I’m limiting myself to those with significant creator-owned titles) that do work in the speculative fiction genre:
Carlo is the creator of one of the most unique and beloved Filipino characters in recent history: Zsazsa Zaturnnah, a character whose depth and appeal are such that he/she has become both a common subject for serious academic study, as well as the star of both a movie and a musical.
Gerry Alanguilan is the Eisner-nominated creator of “Elmer”, which postulates a world where chickens have gained sentience and been recently recognized as “persons”. He’s inked high profile titles for DC, Marvel, and Image, and has a popular YouTube channel where he posts humorous videos of himself.
One of the most consistently excellent comic creators, Arre has won our National Book Award twice. He has an affinity for stories involving Philippine mythology, most evident in his graphic novels “Ang Mundo ni Adiong Agimat” (which is being adapted for television) and his award-winning “Mythology Class“. While his work usually comes in the form of one-shot graphic novels, he also works on a regular comic book for kids called “Private Iris“.
Andrew is one of the most respected Filipino comic book creators and a master of the minicomic. (He is also an accomplished short story writer.) His latest mini-comic, “Supermaker” has garnered praise from creators such as Chris Roberson and Jeff Lemire.
Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo
This is the writer and illustrator team behind Trese, the ultra popular urban fantasy that mixes police procedurals with Philippine myth and folklore. What once started as a photocopied comic book sold at conventions has now become a sales juggernaut, released by a major publisher and landing on the bestseller list of the country’s biggest bookstore chain. The story is told in English, and you can see sample pages here.
One of the new breed of up-and-coming artists with digital savvy, Mervin couples a designer’s sensibility with very graphic artwork. His webcomic, “Tabi Po” (from a traditional warning given to dwarves, so that we don’t step on them while we’re walking on the soil) is in Filipino, but he’s released digital editions in English, and Book 1 is available on iTunes for free.
The Philippine Speculative Fiction Scene
There are a ton of really good Filipino authors out there, but one thing that makes the Philippine case unique is that Philippine authors have predominantly produced works of short fiction, rather than novels. Another interesting aspect of the scene (at least the part of it that I’m exposed to, online or in Manila) is that in the past, it has been individual authors—as opposed to publishers—who have been working to promote Philippine speculative fiction. Because of that, I think the best way to introduce new readers to Philippine speculative fiction is by highlighting a few of these authors who have established platforms by which to promote their fellow authors and the genre as a whole.
The Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology and Dean Alfar
The Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology is a cornerstone in the local scene, a “yearly anthology series, which collects a wide range of stories that define, explore, and sometimes blur the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all things in between. The anthology has been shortlisted for the Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award, and multiple stories from each volume have been cited in roundups of the year’s best speculative fiction across the globe.” Currently in its sixth volume, the first volume was published and edited by Dean Alfar, probably–in the international scene–the most widely published Philippine speculative fiction author (his works have appeared in Strange Horizons, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and The Apex Book of World SF). Dean is also one of the foremost advocates of speculative fiction in the Philippines. Volume one and volume two of the PSF series have recently been released as ebooks.
Philippine Genre Stories Online and Kenneth Yu
The “Digest of Philippine Genre Stories”, which re-launched as a fiction website last year, has a long tradition of being a source for quality fiction and new writers. Many of the younger authors in the scene today owe their first break to PGS and the generous guidance of Kenneth Yu.
Bibliophile Stalker and Charles Tan
Internationally, Charles is probably the most well known Filipino in the speculative fiction blogosphere. While a published author both locally and internationally, Charles is also the tireless blogger behind the Bibliophile Stalker blog, and is also heavily involved with both SF Signal and the World SF News Blog. He’s been interviewed the likes of R. A. Salvatore, Tim Pratt, Ellen Datlow and Catherynne M. Valente on his personal blog as well as the official blogs for the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards. For his efforts, he’s been nominated for a World Fantasy Award and has been named the first beneficiary of the World SF Travel Fund. He’s also made it a personal mission to promote Philippine speculative fiction, both online, with sites such as the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler (for which he partnered with Mia Tijam) and the Best Philippine Speculative Fiction of 2009, and offline, by sending local books to reviewers abroad. His most recent work is Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology.
Pakinggan Pilipinas and Elyss Punsalan
Pakinggan Pilipinas is the first (and, to my knowledge, only) fiction podcast from the Philippines, with a leaning towards speculative fiction. Elyss has published stories in A Time for Dragons, Philippine Speculative Fiction, and Bewildering Stories.
Rocket Kapre and Paolo Chikiamco
Eh, sorry again for the self-mention, but part of the reason I put up Rocket Kapre in the first place was to fill in perceived gaps in the local scene, so RK plays an important role. As a blog, we profile Filipino creators, post news of interest to Philippine genre fans, provide resources about Philippine mythology, and give in-depth reviews of both prose and comics. As an independent publisher, we’ve come out with two issues of Usok, a charity anthology called “Ruin and Resolve“, and an anthology of stories inspired by Philippine mythology, called “Alternative Alamat“.
And, I think that should do it for this edition of the tour. I haven’t really even begun to scratch the surface, but this should be enough to get your feet wet, and to point you in the direction of more in-depth reading, if you’re so inclined. I hope I’ve managed to shed a little light upon my corner of the fantasy world!
Visit the other countries in our world tour here: