Friday, September 18, 2009

What's the Best Bit of Local Speculative Fiction You've Read, Sean?

The esteemed Mr. Chikiamco saw fit to ask me this question the other day, in commemoration of his opening of the brand-new Rocket Kapre web site. (Which, by the way, proves once and for all that you can make an interesting name by smashing two completely random words together.)

To be honest, it took me a few minutes to come up with an answer to this one. This is not to say that I don't have any favorites among the local works of Speculative Fiction, mind you — it's just that I've read a fair portion of our efforts here. As a result, there are quite a few stories that make it onto my "like" list... but which I would hesitate at touting as a "favorite" of mine.

I don't want to waste too much of your time on what amounts to a personal choice, so I'll put it straight: the work at the top of my list right now is Vlad Gonzales's Lunes, Alas Diyes ng Umaga. To my knowledge, it only came out in a cheap anthology called "Pinoy Amazing Adventures", which I picked up and reviewed way back in 2007.

You'll want a short explanation, of course.

Lunes, Alas Diyes ng Umaga is a remarkable combination for me: I feel that it's a piece of science fiction that touches on the less obvious aspects of the genre. Surprisingly, the story lacks the advanced technology that marks your traditional sci-fi. Instead, it places the reader in a very familiar contemporary situation, paces you through some very strange events involving parallel universes/timelines, and throws in a subtle twist that reflects a clear — and regrettable — facet of human behavior.

I cite Lunes as my favorite local work of speculative fiction so far because I feel that it's gone well beyond the other attempts that I've seen. It carries a central message that can only be effectively communicated via speculative literature, it ruminates on that knowledge, and it delivers without benefit of the usual trappings on which we poor amateurs usually depend. It's easy enough for the man on the street to read and identify with, and it points out that some things about culture and humanity will never change, even when the potential of the entire universe lies at our fingertips.

More importantly for me, however — and I've been chewing on this fact for the last couple of years — it represents the kind of story that I'd like to write someday. To me, it's that nasty piece of writing that hits you right where it hurts, that work that makes you slap yourself on the forehead and wonder why you didn't put it together yourself.

In short, I wish I'd written it.

Heck, I wish I'd simply thought of it. That's a huge bit of estimation in my book.

There are, of course, quite a few works on my personal list that I've read, watched, felt, and loved so far. There are a few short stories in there, a couple of comics, perhaps even a work of art or two. Those, however, are narrations for a different day, because I'm open enough to recognize that Lunes won't always be at the top of my list. In fact, I hope that Gonzales's work doesn't stay there for at least a few more years — the local speculative fiction scene is young enough that I'd like to see someone top it very soon.

For now, however, Lunes sets the bar for me. I'll even go as far as to say that it sets the bar for everything else... or at least, that's how my personal opinion puts it. Everyone has a few favorites, after all. This one just happens to be mine.

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