Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 8

(Mo Francisco (Author), Laurence Roxas (Author), Kenneth Yu (Author), Gabriela Lee (Author), Andrew Drilon (Author), G. Justin Hulog (Author), Eliza Victoria (Author), Joseph De Guzman (Author), Dean Francis Alfar (Editor), Nikki Alfar (Editor))

(Reviewed by Melanie Hamilton)

I like short stories because they keep me company while I do things I would rather not be doing, like cleaning or doing long-overdue paperwork. So, while I have not finished Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 8, I have been listening to it and have heard enough to want more, to savor the special cultural flavor that is Filipino.

I wanted to read this book because I expected to be immersed in a culture that was not familiar to me; well, only as familiar as adobo. I was not disappointed. Not all the stories can be considered fully Filipino. Some might take place in any off-world, out of time.

“Still Life” by Mo Francesco opens the collection with a poignant tale about how it feels to witness the end of the world as we know it. “The Fence” by Laurence Roxas presents the world of childhood with a loving hand, taking us into its wonder when confronted with the unbelievable. And it shows us how the children make it their own.

So far I have only been disappointed with one story. “One Morning at the Bank” by Kenneth Yu kept me focused more on the story than the grunge on my kitchen stove. That was, until the end. I don’t speak or read Tagalog. I don’t know how I feel about an editor who includes a story in which there is a significant amount of a foreign language, without translation, at the key moment. I get the point -the sense of being excluded in one context and being able to exclude in another versus the privilege of inclusion. It was a fun story while it lasted.

“Rescuing the Rain God” by Kate Osias restored my faith in the intersection of culture and genre.
   “When the great flame exploded, the lands under the mandate of the Sky and Ocean           were driven into chaos. New words had to be created, and being struggled with their      tongues to formulate the sounds for ‘death’, ‘destruction’, ‘fear’, and ‘pain’.”  

There are wonderful places to visit, others to be marveled by. Tender stories and stories of betrayal. Stories of great power and stories of great responsibility. Most of all Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 8 is a collection that celebrates culture and with it a reason to mourn as well as to celebrate.

And if you can, look to the Red Cross for ways you might help those drowned in the reality of the present moment. It will make their reality a little more bearable.

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