Dean Alfar talks about “Six from Downtown”

Awesome author Dean Alfar took time out from his busy schedule to spend a Saturday morning chatting with me. The products are two episodes, first this one on his own fiction, and then a lengthy geek out session about Locke & Key (which I’ll be posting soon).

You can listen to Dean talk about “Six from Downtown” here at the podcast page. Feel free to stream, download, and share.

Dean is an engaging speaker, as anyone who has met him knows. And those who haven’t yet will want to after hearing his great ideas about writing, the fantastic, and attempts at capturing the Filipino urban experience. This is a fun half hour where I pick his brain about this great story which has won awards and been anthologised.

If you’re interested in the story or Dean’s other work, you can find his stuff on Amazon here.

You can also get the collection at Flipreads here.

Thanks for listening to the podcast. Please tell your friends if you liked it, and if you’d like to help me keep the lights on and keep this thing going, please feel free to click that donation button and leave however much you want.

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Vincenz Serrano on New Order

Hey welcome back everybody!

Been gone for about a month, but here we are rolling on and bringing you a lot of new episodes for the new year. We start off talking music with poet, teacher, and music fan Vincenz Serrano.

We talk about a few New Order songs, trying to understand why we love the band and its music.

You can download the episode here.

You can listen to the songs we talk about in the videos below.

Thanks for dropping by and we hope that you’ll listen to the fun episodes that are lined up this year.

Gerry Alanguilan and Eliza Victoria at the 3rd Readercon

The 3rd Filipino ReadeCon was held this Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Rizal Library in Ateneo. It was a great even celebrating readers and reading. I was fortunate enough to moderate one of the Writers as Readers panels.

Comics creator Gerry Alanguilan and writer Eliza Victoria talked about the books that they love. Afterwards the audience and I got to ask them some questions.

Give it a listen if you’re looking for reading recommendations, as these are in abundance through the talk. You’ll hear some great essential comics titles and a lot of horror novels and page turners.

You can listen to the podcast here.

You can visit Gerry Alanguilan’s blog here.

You can visit Eliza Victoria’s blog here.

Thanks for listening!

American sf Reading List

This semester, I’ve been given the privilege of teaching a class on American Science Fiction, ENG 146. I spent a good part of the summer writing and revising my syllabus and trying to create a reading list that is a good balance and mix of different kinds of texts, that show the range and major movements of sf.

Here’s my reading/viewing list:

Short Stories

“The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke

“The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Leguin

Novels

I, Robot

The Martian Chronicles

Ender’s Game

Neuromancer

Ready Player One 

Novellas

Flowers for Algernon

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Comics

Action Comics #1

Captain America #1

Fantastic Four #1

Amazing Fantasy #15

The Incredible Hulk #1

Ex Machina Issues #1-5

The Manhattan Projects #1-5

Films

Alien

Back to the Future

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The Matrix

Looper

TV Series Episodes

“The Shelter” from The Twilight Zone

“The City on the Edge of Forever” from Star Trek

 
That is what I plan to teach this semester. My worry now is how willing my students will be to engage what I believe is a fantastic set of texts. I have some apprehensions as a good number of students have displayed indifference to the material. I know that if I were a student, my brain would explode with the awesomeness of this reading list. But that’s me and I’m a nerd. I just hope that the students do come around, and start seeing how much fun these texts can be, rather than trying to deconstruct them and strip them of their merits just to point out whatever it is that contemporary has taught them to see.

1st Global Conference: The Graphic Novel Fundraising Efforts

Yes we’re asking for money. Now that that’s on the table let’s move on. We’re raising funds and we promise that it will be for something worthwhile and we are hoping that you, dear reader, will give us money, and beyond that, you will tell someone else about the whole thing and that person will give give us money and so forth.

What is “this whole thing” which I am asking money for? Ah, that’s where I can be verbose and gush like a fan. We, those raising funds, have written papers and will be presenting those papers at The 1st Global Conference: The Graphic Novel which will be held at Mansfield College, Oxford, UK from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9.

The we is composed of teachers from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Together (volted-in, so to speak) we make up a panel that will discuss various angles of Philippine Komiks. The session will be called A League of our Own: Cultural Appropriations in Contemporary Philippine Comics. Leading the panel is one of the pioneers of teaching and studying comic books in the Philippine academe, Prof. Emil Flores, PhD. (and a komiks creator himself). His paper is  “Up in the Sky, Feet on the Ground: Cultural Identity in Filipino Superhero Komiks.” Micaela Chua is a Summa cum Laude grad, Erasmus scholar, and is currently working on her MA thesis on comics. Her paper is “Enabling Mythologies: Specificity and Myth-making in TRESE” And there’s me, Carl Javier (you can also throw a Prof. in front of my name, though I am still not accustomed to it). I’ve written a few books on geekiness and I’ll be presenting a paper called “Filipino humor and the Filipinization of Foreign Tropes in Macoy’s ‘Taal Volcano Monster vs. Evil Space Paru-Paro’.”

The costs of this trip are astronomical, especially when you consider that we are making our livings teaching at a state university. The plane fare alone costs three and a half months’ worth of my salary. The conference fee costs a month’s worth. As of this writing we have not received any funding. We have requests filed with the university, but even if they were to be approved that funding would only be the equivalent of half a plane ticket. That’s why we need help.

One way is that we are throwing a benefit gig called Komiks rOX on August 3. It will be at Route 196 on Katipinan Ext. and people can start showing up and hanging out by 7pm. We plan it to be a massive party where people can hang out, talk comics, have fun, and listen to some awesome bands. On the line-up are Gang Bading, The Etiquettes, Plagpul, Matilda, and Giniling Festival. We’re having a costume contest; people can come dressed up as their favorite comic book character. If you win, you get a set of signed Trese books AND a set of Night Gallery prints, also signed. We’ll be auctioning prints and original artwork from various komikeros. And it will be an awesome and fun.

But in truth, we are asking for much more than money. We are asking that you let us represent you. Our panel is meant to represent Philippine komiks, Philippine scholarship, and  Filipinos engaging in global discourse. We are asking for the opportunity to bring our discourse to this conference and to introduce people to our komiks and to get the world talking about what we Filipinos are doing. That is “the whole thing,” the big idea.

You Need to Read

The semester begins and with it I meet a new crop of creative writing students. The ongoing debate over whether creative writing can be taught is far from being resolved. I approach it in the same way that I think of sports talent. There will be people who will just never be able to grasp it, no matter how much work they put in. And then there are the Jameses, Bryants, and Durants whose skills seem innate, who would have been great through sheer talent and then took the time to hone their abilities. Both sets of people fall on the edges of the bell curve. The middle of the curve allows for people of varying skill and talent abilities, and within that middle, there is always room for improvement and development. And in the same way that one’s development in basketball relies on being on the court, so too does an aspiring writer’s development rely on spending time with the written word.  Read more of this post

Writing Tips!

I compiled these from notes made in the second semester of last school year. I would be reading student works and then writing notes like these, then presenting my notes to class for future improvement. But I thought that maybe this sem’s students would benefit from hearing these off the bad. And maybe other people online might get something out of it too. Anyways, here you go, a few tips on how to write better.

 

WRITING TIPS

  1. Show Don’t Tell.
  2. Why are you writing? What are you trying to say?
  3. Writing is an act of hubris. Live up to your hubris.
  4. Make the reading worth the reader’s time. With the ubiquity of content, attention is a scarce resource. Don’t waste it. Make things matter, make the reader care about what’s going on. Reward their attention.
  5. When you write about something, it probably matters to you. The challenge is to make it matter to the reader.
  6. Know how much of yourself to put into the piece.
  7. Set the table.
  8. Let your ideas develop. If you hit on something, take it as far as it can go. If it doesn’t work you can always edit it. But if it could have been good and you didn’t pursue it, there’s no going back to it.
  9. Try to have amazing story openings and endings. It’s like a plane ride, once you’re cruising it’s fine, but you have to make sure you’re really doing well when you take off and when you land because those are what people remember most.
  10. Don’t go for twist endings. Set things up right. It’s not surprise, but resonance we want when we walk away from a story.
  11. Stories are made of scenes.
  12. Make things happen! Events! Confrontations!
  13. Don’t avoid confrontations. Build them into your work.
  14. How do you build drama? How do you make something engaging? Technique. You start with ideas and inspiration, but it’s technique that makes the writing work.
  15. Hold back. Restraint makes things more painful. Don’t give in to the cheese.
  16. Have an awareness of other stories similar to the ones you are writing so that you can avoid cliches and put your own touch on your work.
  17. Establish transitional devices, physical and literal markers, items, etc, which enable flashback, jumping through time, and dream sequences.
  18. There has to be a reason for a character recollecting the past. Something must be at stake in the present.
  19. Character deaths must be earned. If you kill characters we don’t care about, then their deaths hold no meaning.
  20. The God argument invalidates everything in your story. Make your characters the agents of their destinies
  21. How many of you have ever told a complex lie? You have to build in truth, build in details, so that the lie is believable. It’s the same with fiction.
  22. Write with clarity. Writing is communication.
  23. Don’t waste words. Say only what needs to be said, no more, no less.
  24. Be precise in your word choice.
  25. You don’t have to use big or complicated words. This is creative writing, not academic writing. If you can say it with one syllable, why bother with a longer word?
  26. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Use nouns and verbs.
  27. Don’t rely on punctuation and typographical gimmicks, especially ellipses. Use the right words and the right emotions will be conveyed.
  28. If you say of your character, “You would never notice him/her…” or “He’s the typical…” then that doesn’t create interest. It’s not where the character is like everyone else, but how they are different that makes them intriguing.
  29. Why refer to your characters as normal, typical, or the usual (or geek or nerd)? These don’t create or unlock meaning. Choose details, work at illustration, and describe. If an artist doesn’t draw something, we can see that it’s missing. It’s the same thing with words.
  30. Dialogue should function first and foremost as dialogue. It shouldn’t be there for exposition, so that characters can explain things they already know to each other. It should sound realistic, sound like people actually talking. Good dialogue characterizes, pushes the plot, and provides information all at once.
  31. Have you ever watched dancers or actors who look bored while performing? No, because they know they have an audience, and they have to be at performance level. Writing is a performative act too. You readers can tell when you’re bored, lazy, or not into it.