Philippine Fiction: "Author" vs. "Genre"

More rumination on the current debate(s) on what Philippine Fiction / Philippine Speculative Fiction is, was, will be, will have to be, would have to have been, happily ever after, amen -

- has made me think that perhaps we're trying to cram two different things under the same label. What are these two things?

(1) Philippine Fiction as a body of work from a "defined" set of authors
(2) Philippine Fiction as a body of work under a "defined" genre

Philippine Fiction: the work of Philippine authors
Madali lang ito. Is the author a Filipino (natural born or naturalized)? Then his fiction work is Philippine Fiction. Easy.

Wala namang mga honorary Pinoys di ba? Wag na, that complicates things. Kung ganoon, honorary Philippine Fiction din ang fiction niya.

Philippine Fiction: the genre
Under here, we call upon set theory! If a piece of fiction matches certain criteria that we define, then it can be classified Philippine Fiction, in addition to all the other genres (horror, drama, melodrama, crime, mystery, comedy, accidental comedy, science fiction, fantasy, etc.).

This appoach is interesting because it doesn't REQUIRE someone to be a Filipino. ANYONE can write Philippine Fiction, provided you utilize some or all the genre conventions which are...

... er, well that's another debate / argument / rumble for another day.

And that's okay. After all, even current genres suffer the problem of variance or contradiction or further subcategorization in genre definition: Is this story Science Fiction or Science Fantasy or Space Opera or Baroque Space Opera? Is this story a mystery story or a crime story or a psychological thriller or a horror story? Is this story a romance or a love story or a chic lit story?

What makes Fiction truly Filipino?

Just like everyone else who's written / posted on the subject (not just now but in the past - it's not a new topic of discussion, and not just on Speculative Fiction, but in general), I have my own own opinion. Here it is:

If it's

1. written by a Filipino / Filipina or by someone of Filipino / Filipina descent (in whatever language, except perhaps mathematical, programming, and mark-up languages); or
2. written about a Filipino / Filipina (in whatever language, except perhaps mathematical, programming, and mark-up languages); or
3. written about the Philippines - past, present, future, alternate history, alternate dimension (in whatever lang- well, you know the drill);
4. written in a Philippine dialect

then it's Philippine Fiction!

Pretty simple, no? Too simple, you say? Okay, let's take a closer look.

Criterion 1: written by a Filipino / Filipina or by someone of Filipino / Filipina descent

In My Not-So-Humble But Still Potentially Flawed-By-Virtue-Of-Being-Human Opinion (IMNSHBSPFBVOBHO for short), I believe that if by blood you're Pinoy or Pinay, you're part of the overall Filipino experience. No one person can claim to represent ALL Filipinos, anymore than any one guy can claim to speak for all guys.

(Actually, lots of people can claim to represent all Filipinos or speak for all guys, but IMNSHBSPFBVOBHO they are speaking based on their personal experiences and personal thought processes, which may not necessarily hold true for all the people they claim to represent.

So my solution - take 'em all as Philippine Fiction. Some may be better than others, and some may be outright crap, but then, the same can be said for fiction in general. But I'm gleefully digressing.)

So I go for the gestalt approach. They're ALL Philippine Fiction, and by reading and evaluating the parts or the whole, we get a good picture of what Philippine Fiction is. As far as subject and theme - no limits.

This may, of course, be different from what we'd like it to be, but that's another issue entirely.

Why so inclusive? I'm just an inclusive kind of guy. After all, there were waves of settlers before the Spaniards - the Malay / Indonesian bunch, the Chinese folks, the Indians (from India, not America), and so on. We trace our citizenship through blood as well so I figured bloodline was a good measure.

What if it's a person of pure Indian descent whose family came over generations ago, and is considered a Filipino citizen? Yep.

Criterion 2: written about a Filipino / Filipina

Yes, this includes stuff written by foreigners who have not become naturalized citizens of the Pearl of the Orient.

It may be a flawed mirror, but it is fiction, and it's about us (or one of us), so I include it.

Criterion 3: written about the Philippines

Similar to Argument 2, it's about the setting this time, not the characters.

Criterion 4: written in a Philipine dialect

If you're not Pinoy or Pinoy descent, if you don't write about Filipino characters or write based in a Philippine setting, but you do write something publishable in Ilocano or Cebuano or Chabacano - kabayan!

You may have noticed that I use language as an including factor. I don't really think that language / dialect should be an excluding factor, because while it's debatable some languages can express certain ideas "better", I believe that there are other aspects ng pagka-pinoy that transcend language. It may take a whole paragraph or novel to outline what is denoted and connoted by certain words like "loob" and "barkada" and "inihaw na bola ng kambing", but it can be done. There are limitations and strengths to all languages, and it is the challenge of the writer to communicate his or her story in whatever language he or she choses.

So that's my opinion. You're all open to your own, of course.

In fact, it's very pinoy to have your own opinion. And to voice it too.

A Poet, A Wife, and a Child

Dan Simmon's novel, Song of Kali, is given this nice little write-up to describe it:

This masterful and terrifying debut novel has earned Hugo- and Bram Stoker Award-winning author Dan Simmons the World Fantasy Award. What begins as an exploration of an exotic and forbidding world turns into a harrowing descent of steadily mounting terror when an American writer travels into the dark underworld of the cult of Kali.

Having read the novel, I can honestly say it doesn't prepare you for the horrors within. Even long-time familiarity with horror tropes and threats doesn't soften the effect. You know that something bad will happen, you can see slow and deliberate ratcheting up of the jeopardy for the family, but it doesn't save you from your concern for the well-being of the family. Kudos to the way the supernatural aspect of the story is interwoven into (I hate to use this word) prosaic aspect of the story's climax - horror, true horror.

I highly recommend picking up this novel.