Friday, September 29, 2006


I received word from Mr. Alfar yesterday, a day that was ominously rather windy.

Dear J,

I regret to inform you that I'm passing on your story for the anthology.

It was engaging but ultimately I had to make some hard choices.

Thanks for your interest and I hope to read more from you in the future(more hard work, it’s true J )



It was expected, of course. If Dean Alfar had accepted it, I would have had serious doubts about the quality of the submissions, but Mr. Alfar has high standards and my little story just didnt have the legs. I sent it to some people to review and comment on (as well as to weed out the numerous typos, hehe) to salvage the thing. DKNY was kind enough to go over it as well as an officemate. (Grifter! Get off your ass and send me your comments!)

But let me just take this opportunity to outline the philosophy behind my attempts at Speculative Fiction. I would like to attempt works in something author Joe Haldeman once called 'refractive mimesis' which is just a fancy name for stories that look like theyre happening here in our world... but arent. In Mr. Haldeman's words in his intro to Kim Stanley Robinson's Venice Drowned, he said, "'s that creepy kind of double-vision writing where an imagined world, similar to our ours but different in some dramatic particular, to such an extent that the world ceases to be simply background for the story; in a curious way, it becomes the story." Rather lofty, one might think, but I would rather think of it as a philosophy out of my own personal laziness. I just dont have enough energy to create my own universe from scratch. In the story I submitted to Mr. Alfar's anthology, I chose to use real people from our world, but skewed them a bit. I thought it would save me time from describing them to the readers, since I was going for a 3000-word story and I wouldnt want to use up some of the 3000 to describe people. So Randy Jackson isnt a record producer in my world; he's a world famous illusionist (based on James Randi, better known as The Amazing Randi), Ravi Shankar and Farrokh Bulsara (better known as Freddy Mercury) are Nobel Prize winning physicists, etc. I used the same refractive technique on my little KFC story posted in this blog some time ago and I enjoyed writing that a lot.

I believe Im getting the hang of this and would like to churn out more, inshallah. A lot of local publications have shown interest in new stories and because monetary considerations are utmost in my agenda, I should think that I have to come up with stuff that people would want to read, but more importantly, stuff people would want to buy.

By the way, the final list of stories accepted by Mr. Alfar are posted in his blog. Way to go!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'll never be a good fiction writer

Multiple Palanca winner Dean Francis Alfar issued a call for subissions to volume 2 of his Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology. That was around--I dont remember. [I checked. He issued the call for submissions last April.] All I know is that the deadline is on the 15th of September and true to form, I started writing what would be my submission on the 15th, right after lunchtime. Which brings us to the first reason I will never be a good writer: I didnt have time to rewrite. The essence of writing is rewriting. It's rare that anybody gets it right the first time. You have to hone it and shape it and pare it, or sometimes beef it up; develop it. It has to be seen in the harsh light of objectivity after youve cooled down from the creative ardor. I didnt do that.

Which brings me to the second reason why I will never be a good writer: I couldnt do that. I dont know. For some reason, I have this... fear... of revisiting any story I created. It makes me cringe. I remember an interview with Gene Hackman where he said he could never watch himself on sceen so he has never seen any of his movies. I guess it's the same thing. Not that Im comparing myself to the multi-awarded actor. Im just saying that the reason he gave in the interview made perfect sense to me.

I mentioned the word 'fear'. That brings me to the third reason I'll never be a good writer. The blank page fills me with dread. I have ideas out the wazoo, but when it came time to write them down, I balk, paralyzed with stage fright. And in those times when I manage to write a sentence, and it sounds 'poetic' or flowery, or artsy-fartsy in any way, I kill it; I delete the sentence. I guess it's my training as a technical writer; any sort of adornment or decoration is superfluous.

And that's the reason I only started writing my story on the day of the deadline. I put it off and put it off, leaving me to work, stop-start as the daily grind intrudes, with no time to review and rewrite.

Anyway, I finally did it. Submitted the piece, and as I re-read it the next day, scanning and cringing along the way, I realized what a complete waste of Mr. Alfar's time it is. But it's out of my hands now. Maybe one day I'll come back to it and give it the time it deserves, because quite frankly, I think it rocks. The idea of it, if not the actual execution.