“Mythspace” by Paolo Chikiamco

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I reviewed the published stories in Paolo Chikiamco’s “Mythspace” universe for GMA News Online:

“Tikbalangs in Space: “Mythspace” reimagines mythology as science fiction”

“Mythspace” is a wonderfully innovative take on Filipino mythology, which should appeal to readers of all ages. The diversity in the art and stories make for different and enjoyable reading experiences. The series is so much fun, so I hope more people, especially Filipino readers, will check it out. 🙂

“Lower Myths” by Eliza Victoria

 

Author: Eliza Victoria
Read Date: 7 May 2012
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: I just wish there are more stories in this book.
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“Lower Myths” features two compelling novellas of contemporary fantasy from Eliza Victoria, one of the most talented young writers in Asian speculative fiction today.

In “Trust Fund Babies,” children of two warring witch and fairy families face off in the final round to a centuries-old vendetta.

In “The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol,” an aristocrat and his daughter consult a famous lawyer-sibling pair about a mysterious crime. But in the lawyers’ hilltop mansion by the sea, they uncover sinister hints that their reality may not be what it seems.

I’ve stopped wondering some time ago why Eliza Victoria keeps winning all these different awards for her fiction and poetry. And with Lower Myths, she has definitely earned a place in my list of favorite Filipino authors.

Trust Fund Babies is my favorite of the two stories in Lower Myths. I love the whole The Godfather feel, and the mythology that Victoria re-imagined for this particular world. The story is pretty straightforward, sometimes even predictable, but it was engaging and entertaining from beginning to end. I also admire Victoria’s ability to build a detailed world and solid characters even for such a short story.

The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol: Attorneys-at-Law is a little more complicated in terms of structure, but it’s no less engaging. If the first story had a The Godfather feel to it, this one has some Inception undertones. The transition between the different “realities” can be confusing in the beginning, but it’s easy enough to follow after the first few glimpses.

Lower Myths is a must for those who love Philippine speculative fiction. I just wish that there were more stories in this book.


Disclosure: This review is based on a review copy provided by Flipside Publishing.

Snapshots: Meeting Mina

A wee break from all the The Hunger Games re-read posts.

I’m still transcribing my interview with author Mina V. Esguerra, which will appear in the form of a profile on GMA News Online – Lifestyle sometime this week or early next week. In the interim :P, here’s a snapshot of what she wrote on my copy of Interim Goddess of Love:

I enjoyed finally meeting Mina, who I’ve only ever corresponded with via e-mail and Twitter. She’s very passionate about her writing, and was very forthcoming when I asked her to share her thoughts and experiences about self-publishing independent publishing. I hope I will be able to capture that enthusiasm in the profile that I’m writing. 🙂

College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after — or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

Interim Goddess of Love is available via Amazon and Mina’s Multiply Store.

So I installed Kindle for PC…

 
…and it was as if it can read my mind and it wanted me to like it so much that it included Pride and Prejudice as one of my free books. (Bribe me with the prospect of more Mr. Darcy? I think I love you now.) Or maybe real live Amazons are magically behind it all, just as Rick Riordan imagined.

The first book I finished reading on the KfPC (within 24 hours of installation) was Mina V. Esguerra’s Interim Goddess of Love. It’s my first MVE book! I’ll write a longer review or maybe something else after my interview with her, but for now, I’ll just say that it was a fun, entertaining, and often kilig read. 🙂

“Alternative Alamat” edited by Paolo Chikiamco

 

Title: Alternative Alamat
Author: Paolo Chikiamco (Editor)
Read Date: 21 December 2011
Goodreads Reading Progress Status Updates: Click here.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book is included in my Notable Books from 2011 article on GMA News Online.
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Philippine mythology is full of images that ignite the imagination: gods of calamity and baldness, of cosmic time and lost things; the many-layered Skyworld, and weapons that fight their own battles; a ship that is pulled to paradise by a chain, and a giant crab that controls the tides… yet too few of these tales are known and read today. “Alternative Alamat” gathers stories, by contemporary authors of Philippine fantasy, which make innovative use of elements of Philippine mythology. None of these stories are straight re-tellings of the old tales: they build on those stories, or question underlying assumptions; use ancient names as catalysts, or play within the spaces where the myths are silent. What you will find in common in these eleven stories is a love for the myths, epics, and legends which reflect us, contain us, call to us–and it is our hope that, in reading our stories, you may catch a glimpse, and develop a hunger, for those venerable tales.

 
I love alternative takes on mythology (Rick Riordan fan here), so I thought “Alternative Alamat” would be a good place for me to start with my resolution to read more works written by Filipino authors.

I also love the idea of this compilation because it brings Philippine mythology closer to modern readers like no scholarly book of myths possibly could. I am not belittling the efforts of the authors who wrote the scholarly books, of course, for without them, we would know very little about our mythology. But younger readers and readers who are more exposed to foreign works wouldn’t likely pick up an academic book on Philippine myths for their leisure reading.

There are 11 engaging re-tellings in this anthology written by many familiar names in Philippine speculative fiction. Despite sometimes dealing with similar themes or mythological figures, the treatments are delightfully diverse.

“Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St.” – The pawnshop reminded me a lot of the Faerie Market in Gaiman’s “Stardust,” where the wares that are on sale are all whimsical and magical. This poignant story has its own local flavor and charm, though, and I love how Eliza Victoria intertwined the mythology with modern issues.

I didn’t have first-hand experience, obviously, but I was pretty sure a dying galaxy would be anything but dull. I believed it would be fantastic, breathtaking, heartbreaking.

 
“Harinuo’s Love Song” – It took me a while to get used to the rhythm of this story because it reads a lot like an old folktale, and I didn’t expect that kind of treatment. But this turned out to be an enjoyable read. The prose is lyrical and lush, and the plot is well-crafted.

“Last Full Show” – I’ve never read any of the Trese comics, and yes, you can throw all manner of insults and objects at me, but maybe you can throw the four volumes of those comics my way instead? 😛 This was so much fun to read, and I love that you didn’t need prior knowledge of the original comics to appreciate it.

‘Yes, the Tikbalang owes me three favors.’
‘Did you wish for world peace?’
‘No.’

 
“The Alipin’s Tale” – I love alternate history stories too, so this is a real hit with me. It doesn’t introduce any of the more obscure myths or personalities, but the mix of history and mythology grounds it for readers, and makes the fantasy aspect more tangible.

“Keeper of My Sky” – This story succeeds in its intention to intertwine science and mythology, this time. It’s a lovely tale, but it’s so sad and melancholic. I was thankful it wasn’t raining when I read this or I would’ve sobbed in front of my computer.

“Conquering Makiling” – This particular Maria Makiling theme is quite familiar, but the story had modern sensibilities. The conservation message is well-placed.

“The Sorceress Queen” – This one reads like a great classic fairy tale and also like those local genesis stories at the same time. I had a lot of fun imagining what this would look like if it was adapted as an animated short.

“Beneath the Acacia” – In my mind, I call this the CSI: Arayat story. 😛 I like the portrayal of Maria Sinukuan here because she seems more human. This is probably because the more fantastical spotlight is trained on the protagonist, Juan, but it’s a pleasant change. There was a little hiccup in the story that jarred me a little, though–when Mang Andres describes the supernatural characters, it sounds like he was explaining it to a foreign reader rather than to the other in-universe characters who already know what a kapre is.

“Offerings to Aman Sinaya” – I liked the story, although the point of view was a little unconventional, and therefore took some getting used to. The ending felt a little too abrupt.

“Balat, Buwan, Ngalan (A Myth for the 21st Century)” – I love how this incorporates the old tales into a modern world. I had a lot of fun spotting the pop culture references and nods to the old myths. My only problem was the POV. Because the narrative had a ‘meta’ feel to it like ‘Interview With The Vampire,’ I think this would’ve been more powerful had it been written from a first person POV.

Once more, you nod to yourself, then walk away from the table, dreaming with your eyes open, of love, and of chaining one’s self to the ghost of it, till the heart shrivels, and blows away on the gust of a desolate sigh.

 
“The Door Opens” – I panicked when I saw that this story had a good number of footnotes because I have a love-hate relationship with fiction that incorporates footnotes. I feel that it’s very rarely done well enough that the author doesn’t interrupt the flow of the main story. Dean Alfar did well, though. The main narrative read like a complete story in itself, so I had no compulsion to immediately check the footnotes, which would’ve been difficult because I would’ve done a lot of scrolling back and forth. Nevertheless, I found the structure of this story really interesting, and when I finally did read the footnotes, they embellished the main narrative really well. Plus points for the great alternate history concept!

As an aside, I just realized how awkward it is to read stories set in the Philippines whose characters speak in English. It can’t be helped, of course, but I find it jarring sometimes. If a story is well written, I do get over it, as was the case for all the stories I read.

Despite the diversity in treatment, I felt that there was a lot of underlying melancholy in all of the stories; they all seem so somber. I was looking for a bit of levity in some of the ones where that kind of tone would’ve been appropriate. All the old tales were already somber enough, I thought someone would actually do a much lighter alternative take. But this personal preference doesn’t take away from the quality of the stories at all.

I also wish the stories each dealt with unique deities or themes, that only one story would’ve had Maria Makiling for a subject, for example. But maybe this also reflects how much work still needs to be done in educating everyone that there exist pantheons of deities and a deep well of other Philippine legends and myths. “Alternative Alamat” is already a great first step toward that, with the interviews and appendices included in the book providing a springboard for further study. It certainly made me more interested in Philippine mythology, and I will definitely make use of the references to learn more.

I hope more authors and publishers will be proactive and think of other creative ways to bring this aspect of our culture closer to the popular consciousness. I’m proud of efforts like “Alternative Alamat,” and hope that more Filipino readers support projects like this. I have high hopes that soon we will find our own local Rick Riordan!

Fantasy is very important for personal growth. Myths, legends, and folktales provide fantastic stimuli for the imagination, and allow people to create an alternative persona.

 
One last thing: I wish they’ll publish a print copy of this book so that it will reach more readers, and because the illustrations by Mervin Malonzo deserve to be seen in print.


Disclosure: This review is based on a review copy provided by Rocket Kapre Books.
 

Miscellany #02: Alternatives

 
It’s time for another “Every-Flavour Beans” post! :p

Alternative Alamat: Coming 14th December

Paolo Chikiamco (Hi, Pao!) is going to make it easier for me to get into more works by Filipino authors with his new anthology, Alternative Alamat. Rocket Kapre will release the book on Amazon.com, Flipreads.com, and the iTunes store.

Philippine mythology is full of images that ignite the imagination: gods of calamity and baldness, of cosmic time and lost things; the many-layered Skyworld, and weapons that fight their own battles; a ship that is pulled to paradise by a chain, and a giant crab that controls the tides… yet too few of these tales are known and read today. “Alternative Alamat” gathers stories, by contemporary authors of Philippine fantasy, which make innovative use of elements of Philippine mythology. None of these stories are straight re-tellings of the old tales: they build on those stories, or question underlying assumptions; use ancient names as catalysts, or play within the spaces where the myths are silent. What you will find in common in these eleven stories is a love for the myths, epics, and legends which reflect us, contain us, call to us–and it is our hope that, in reading our stories, you may catch a glimpse, and develop a hunger, for those venerable tales.

“Alternative Alamat” also features a cover and interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo, a short list of notable Philippine deities, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.

There’s a list of stories and authors included in the anthology over at Rocket Kapre. [Link]

The Hunger Games movie news

Our local SM Cinemas promises they will be showing the film 1 day ahead of the US release. Apparently, this really is 1 “day and date” ahead, so it’s 22 March 2012, Philippine time.

Lookie at the cover art for all the THG movie tie-ins!
The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Hunger Games (Movie Tie-In Edition)
The Hunger Games Tribute Guide
The World of The Hunger Games

Danny Elfman is out as one-half of the musical scoring team for the film, and James Newton Howard is taking his place. Howard joins T.Bone Burnett on board the multi-album project. While Howard is a solid alternative to Elfman (and yes, I like Howard’s work more), I would’ve liked to see Hans Zimmer or Alexandre Desplat take on something like THG. Then again, since there are roughly 4 months to go and 2 albums to produce, maybe the filmmakers prefer to play it safe.

More Book-to-Movie Madness: “John Carter”

The trailer is out! I saw this in 3D ahead of our screening of The Adventures of Tintin, and it looks like Pixar did a great job on the production design.


 
It needs better marketing buzz, though, to be honest. John Lasseter apparently didn’t want to use the title of the source material, John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, because JC isn’t quite “of Mars” yet in this movie. Ye-huh, but “John Carter” does not exactly pique one’s interest. It’s not as if he’s James Bond or something…even if he is played by someone like Taylor Kitsch.

At least they didn’t go with the original Princess of Mars. How about: John Carter, Princess of Mars? 😛

Okay, okay, moving on.

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!

They have one in the US! I wish we did, too. We need to change that “it’s like taking a kid to a candy store” expression to “it’s like taking a kid to a book store”. ;p

Other Stories:

Hollywood’s Blood Money: Variety has a piece about Hollywood’s on-going love affair with vampires.

– Now I know how I want my book shelf to look.

– Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have released 6 tracks from their upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. For free!

Why 3D Movies Need to Die. Until they can do better, I say Amen to that.

– JJ Abrams took it back: Benicio del Toro won’t be in the Star Trek sequel anymore. But what about Khan? *dun dun dunnnnn*