the shining girls

The Shining GirlsThe Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lauren Beukes’s earlier novels – Zoo City and Moxyland – are plot-driven and fast-paced. They are the kind of books you sit down to read in the morning and finish at dawn the next day with bleary eyes and greasy hair because you are too engrossed to stop reading and take a bath.

The Shining Girls, concerning a time-traveling serial killer and a survivor who starts hunting him down, is a slow burn, the kind of book you savor. The writing, the language – the descriptions of places, of emotions, of insight (particularly into victim psychology and how people respond to violence and disruption) – is concise and excellent, and the dialogue, as always, is knife-sharp.

However, unlike Zoo City and Moxyland, novels built like solid, sturdy houses, no piece out of place – Shining Girls has elements that don’t quite fit. The serial killer seems pretty blase about the whole time traveling thing, which I think is the intention of Beukes, to stay away from the stereotypical hysterical guy who ends up in a different time, but his calm acceptance feels strange to me, and the girls he hunts down feel underdeveloped, like they’re nothing more than a name and one other detail (occupation/quirk/sexual orientation/talent/etc). Which is a shame, because one of the important points Beukes raises in the novel is: we often see female victims of violence as nothing more than a name and a pretty face. But because there are so many victims, and the novel isn’t very long (at least, I think, not long enough), that’s all we get of them, a tiny glimpse. Too tiny that I don’t feel that I know them enough to mourn them properly.

Also, after the big reveals are made, the slow burn quickens and the novel starts feeling tedious, just a trail of victims moving toward a predictable conclusion.

But it has its moments, and I still think it’s a worthy read from one of my favorite novelists.

View all my reviews

kritika kultura reading series: fiction

Payment for reading fiction = books. Love it!

I spent Monday afternoon in Ateneo de Manila University reading from my novel and talking about writing stories and my crazy what-ifs.  Thank you thank you Mark Cayanan and Vincenz Serrano for the invite, and thank you to the students who dropped by.

From KK’s Twitter account:

The high point for me was when students approached me after the reading and said they CANNOT WAIT to read the book and find out what happens next. I think it generated some excitement, and I’m thinking of doing the reading again when the book launches, hopefully next year.

Oh, and the working title of the novel is Dwellers.

Are you ready, ready, ready?

new poem + new books

I have a new poem in Southern Pacific Review called “Emergency Exits”. My thanks to the editors for publishing my work. You can read it here. Feel free to share the link and leave feedback.


Other new things: two horror collections, Demons of the New Year and Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults, have been released by UP Press! I have stories in both.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the launch, but here are photos from Facebook:

Photo credit: Andrea Pasion-Flores.

Photo credit: Joey Baquiran

If you see these two books in the book stores, send me a photo? (And buy one!) Thanks!

komikon 2013

Yikes, late post.

Well, as far as I can remember, the last Komikon I attended was the Summer Komikon held in my alma mater, UP, at the Bahay ng Alumni. I mentioned this to comics creator Paolo Fabregas and he said: “That was years ago!”

I know, dude. I know.

Why did it take me so long to return?

I am lazy. And I hate the heat. Really. I think you’d hate it too if you happened to meet me during the summer and I left a streak of sweat on your book.

And I don’t have a lot of cash. Sad face.

But, November is relatively cooler (relatively!), and I’m curious about the Bayanihan Center, and I have some books to sell, and I like the idea of attending the Komikon not just as a reader but as an author. With a seat behind a table! (Even though I don’t have a comic book!) And a free lunch! 

However, my face doesn’t scream Author. I sat behind the table and I think got more questions about Budjette’s and Manix’s books (“Magkano ‘to, ate?”) than autograph requests. I’ll stamp my name on my face next time. Haha! Kidding! (Or not?)

Then there were those who dropped my books as if they were infected when they learned that they were not comics, but prose. PROSE. GASP! How dare I bring prose to a comics convention?

Again, I joke. (Or not. I will remember your faces!)

I had fun. I really did. I talked about books with seatmates Paolo Fabregas and Carljoe Javier, and heard some inside scoop about book selling and book production from Carljoe and Ms. Nida. I sold out five copies of Unseen Moon in less than an hour. And my books were selling so well that they had to sell the browsing copy of Project 17. When I left, around 5 pm, there were only two copies left of A Bottle of Storm Clouds, including the browsing copy.

So thank you, readers, for making this author happy. And thank you to the ladies and gents of Visprint, as always.

Visprint @ Komikon 2013

Paolo Fabregas

Komikon 2013

I lined up to have stuff autographed by Rob Cham and Gerry Alanguilan, but I was too awkward to start a meaningful conversation with them. (I just left each of them a card. Uh. Hi po.)

Rob Cham

Rob Cham

My little loot, mostly comics from Carljoe’s Comic Book Writing class.

Komikon 2013

Next con: the Readercon! See you on Dec. 7!

Oh, and I’ll tell you a secret: I’m working on a comic book script! I have an outline, around 23 pages written, and I’ve contacted the artist. I want to finish it first. (I know some writers pass along script pages as they write – I can’t do that, I’ll break out in hives.)

I’m having fun, though I keep referring to the Internet to find the proper term to describe a scene. Memories of my Film 101 class!

Let’s see how it goes. I’m excited to see the words come to life as art.

komiks review: kapitan bayaran + filipino heroes league + mythspace: lift-off + kung paano ako naging leading lady

Kapitan Bayaran

Story by Joanne Cesario

Art by Michelle Bacabac
Albert wakes up one day and discovers he can read minds. He decides to make a business out of it.

The premise intrigued me so much that it was the first comic book I picked up at the Komikon Indie Tiangge.  I loved it. Seamless storyboarding, with art that fits the story’s tone. The humor is matter-of-fact and good-natured, with an air of – dare I say it? – innocence? Like how young boys talk to each other: everything matters but nothing matters, because it will all turn out for the better. The creators found a beautiful heartwarming way to close the story, so effective that the final panels made me smile, nostalgic for UP and college and that time in your life when all you need to be happy is to be able to go back home after a grueling semester.

(Oh my God, I am getting old.)

Filipino Heroes League (Book 1: Sticks and Stones)

Story and Art by Paolo Fabregas

Under-manned and under-funded, the Filipino Heroes League does what it can to fight against injustice.

It’s tough being a super hero but it’s even tougher being a third-world super hero.

I am late to the party. At the time FHL came out, I think, I was busy following Trese’s exploits, and I (unfairly) judged and dismissed this book because the title and cover irritated me in a way empty platitudes like “The Filipino Spirit Is Waterproof” irritates me.

I can be a lazy book buyer, because if only I had flipped the book and had seen this image -

- I would have picked it up in a heartbeat.

Like Budjette Tan, as he mentioned in his introduction, Paolo Fabregas had me at PEDICAB.

It was tough getting past the opening pages because it showed the World Trade Center and the Islamic Defenders (as villain) and I had so much conflicting emotions that I had to put it down.

When I picked it up again and read how the local news anchor put more weight on the exploits of Bomb Boy, a Filipino superhero who “made it big” by being the sidekick (not even a hero – just the sidekick that gets thrown like a discus) of an American superhero, I appreciated what the comics creator is trying to do with FHL’s silly, heightened reality. It’s funny because it’s sad. It’s sad because it’s true. The fascination with showbiz, supers going abroad to earn more money, earning money so your relatives can spend it on frivolous things (I feel you Kidlat Kit, haha), living DIY-style (not even the cutesy DIY, it’s the we-have-no-money-so-we-have-no-choice DIY), graft and corruption – it’s the Pinoy reality, and it is presented here in an entertaining, effective way.

Looking forward to Book 2.

(Check out these preview pages for Book 1 if you want a sampler.)

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady

Story by Carlo Vergara

Art by Elmer Cantada

I don’t want to talk too much about the story, because the joy of reading Vergara’s newest offering is in seeing how the story unfolds, how reality is juxtaposed with the fantastic. Even the back blurb is intentionally vague. Like in ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, the story is effective because it touches on something true: at some point in our lives, we have considered our siblings our own bitter competition. Who earns more money? Who has a “better” life? Who does Mother treasure more?

My only regret is failing to see this as a one-act play onstage.

Here have a sample page. Great, clean art by Cantada.

Mythspace: Lift-Off

Story by Paolo Chikiamco

Art by Koi Carreon

Kapre. Nuno. Manananggal.

They are monsters of the past, remnants of primitive fantasies.

UFOs. Aliens. Extraterrestrials.

They are hallucinations, creations of modern science fiction.

Or are they?

Evidence unearth is debunked…or disappears. Witnesses who speak are ridiculed…or silenced.

We are alone, say our leaders.

There are no Manananggal that consume our children. There are no Kapres who watch in the night.

There are no aliens that abduct our neighbors. There are no UFOs with dazzling lights.

We were never alone.

These are not your Lola’s monsters.

These are not your children’s aliens.

They are one and the same. They are here.

What else can you say about the monsters of Philippine folklore? How else to make their tales fresh, push the envelope, how else to make them exciting? Paolo Chikiamco asked this questions (maybe?) and came up with the perfect answer: bring the aswang to space. The premise opens up so many possibilities, injecting a truly Filipino spirit to the Western tropes of the space opera.

This is cliche, but: Mythspace is a triumph of the imagination. (Translation: I am envious, Pao! Why didn’t I think of this???)

Great art by Koi Carreon.

Waking the Dead by Yvette Tan

Twisted 9 by Jessica Zafra

All’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria

Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano

Mythspace by Paolo Chikiamco and Koi Carreon

fled their faces turned by Christian Tablazon

Now, Then, and Elsewhen by Nikki Alfar

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra

Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra

Naermyth by Karen Francisco

Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 8 by various authors

The Best of PSF (2005-2010) by various authors

Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 1 by various authors

Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 3 by various authors

How to Traverse Terra Incognita by Dean Francis Alfar

Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata by Ricky Lee

Save the Cake by Stella Torres

The Real Score by Kesh Tanglao

Vintage Love by Agay Lllanera

Drone by Allan Popa

The Filipino Heroes League by Paolo Fabregas