Archive by Author

Tell Me About _______ Science Fiction

10 Oct

As someone who’s asked to talk about Filipino science fiction and fantasy, and after listening to several podcasts (including the Skiffy and Fanty show) interviewing authors who eventually end up representing their country/continent/ethnicity, one question that inevitably gets asked is how they would describe science fiction or fantasy from their country: “What is Filipino speculative fiction?” “What is Chinese science fiction” “What is Carribean fantasy?” The interviewers have good intentions (and I’m one of those people who’ve used that particular phrase numerous times), but the more I think about it, the more problematic the question becomes.

At the root of the question are certain assumptions and privileges people take for granted. The first is that they are coming from a Western paradigm, where Western literature is at the center. The answers and responses of the interviewee will always be compared and contrasted to concepts and ideas from Western literature, because Western literature has become the status quo that everyone in the world has to adapt to. This will impact what seems to be a reasonable question in several ways. Continue reading


Monopoly and Appropriation

16 Sep

While appropriation is a two-way street, it is not always equal. Filipinos, Singaporeans, and Indians, for example, have appropriated English as their own language, and yet we are still often complimented for our good English. The corollary to that is best summed up by this statement from Aliette de Bodard: Continue reading

English as the Center and Its Privileges

24 Aug

Daniel José Older recently uploaded an appropriate video titled Why We Don’t Italicize Spanish:

This incited reactions from several people, including Bryan Thao Worra:

Previously, I once asked an editor why we italicize Filipino words. “Charles, there’s a difference between away in a manger from away in a manger.” (Away being the Filipino word for fighting.) There is, of course, context:  readers should be able to immediately distinguish if people are moving away from the manger, as opposed to a fight taking place in a manger, if such a sentence was used in a story. But I doubt if the style guides of various publishers (including the one I work for) will be changing anytime soon. Continue reading

The World SF Blog — One Year Later

17 Jun

By the time this post goes up — at least in my part of the world — it will exactly be a year since the World SF Blog was retired. Its success, in my opinion, lies in the hands of the editor-in-chief of the site, Lavie Tidhar, and the efforts of the various contributors (the list would be too long…) from around the world. The Apex Book of World SF 3 has also been announced, so June is a special month for me (and because I had nothing to do with the anthology, I can read it with surprise and delight). Before I digress, I want to point out that the more I pondered the issue of World SF, the more I discovered how the term was problematic (which Is discussed in my essay “World SF: Our Possible Future”). Here’s the thing:  no one owns or speaks for World SF. It’s too broad, too all encompassing, and it’s often defined by what it isn’t. It’s a reaction to the current status quo, of major publishers publishing books by US and UK authors, and those books becoming the canon in various parts of the world. It’s to rebel against cultural appropriation, to combat cultural stereotypes, and most of all, to not do a disservice to readers of various races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Continue reading

When Calls for Diversity Are Not Enough

3 Jun

As a writer and reader based in Southeast Asia, I’ve been pondering the term “diversity” — at least, in the context of it’s use on the Internet.

First, it’s focused on the Western publishing industry. Filipino publishers publish Filipino-authored works for example (although our publishing industry has different issues of diversity). The same goes for publishers in Malaysia, China, South Africa, etc. I do think it’s important to focus on the Western publishing industry, because it’s usually a one-way street:  books from the Philippines rarely go out of the Philippines, but books from the US or the UK gets distributed around the world. A novel like Moxyland by Lauren Beukes, published by both Jacana Media in South Africa and Angry Robot Books in the US/UK, is the exception to the norm. And in my case here in the Philippines, there are some Filipino books that might not have been picked up by a local publisher if it weren’t acquired by a US/UK publisher first. And for all the talk about diversity in the US publishing industry, we have conversations like the ones mentioned by Jennifer Pan & Sarah McCarry. Continue reading

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