Readers, Writers & Unexpected SWF Press Coverage

I missed the opening and a couple of key events that I had wanted to attend, but overall this year’s Singapore Writers Festival went well. I was part of three excellent panels and was able to meet so many readers, fellow writers and friends. I finally got to meet the amazing Ted Chiang and Bryan Thao Worra in person. I also got to have dinner with Eliza Victoria and her significant other, Jaykie Lazarte, after such an interminably long time.

Because of an unexpected family emergency, I had to fly to Manila and unfortunately missed my first panel on November 5, If You Can Believe It: Flash Fiction Flash Mob. Here’s the piece I would have read if I had been there:

You dress for success and head towards your job supervising maintenance robots at Raffles Place. Unfortunately, your industry-competitive paycheck isn’t enough to cover your bills, your mother’s mounting medical expenses, and pay off the loan you needed to get to this land of mythical plenty.

You cling to your dreams but belief is expensive. On the MRT ride you feel dark thoughts welling up inside you – do you really need both your kidneys? So what if you sold one lung, or your unique heartbeat pattern? Ovaries? You never really wanted kids anyway.

Thankfully, I made it back in time for my next panel Just The World I’m Looking For: The Multiverse and Fiction on November 12, which was with Meihan Boey, Nuraliah Norasid, myself and our always-excellent moderator, Jason Erik Lundberg. We talked about hos using the concept of the multiverse was a great tool for elucidating possibilities regardless of the genre you were writing (although one person in the audience was mildly disappointed that we didn’t dwell on comic book multiverses). This was followed by a book signing, where I was informed by Closet Full of Books that all copies of The Infinite Library and Other Stories had sold out.

I met up with award-winning US-based Lao poet Bryan Thao Worra for lunch on Saturday, 12 November. We had been corresponding for a few years but this was the first time we met IRL. Bryan has served as the president of the International Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and is the author of over 8 books of poetry. We talked shop for about two hours (and had some ice kacang) before parting to prepare for our panel that evening.

I subbed as moderator for the panel A Southeast Asian Map for the Science Fiction Future at the The Arts House as unfortunately, Spec Fic writer Joyce Chng had become ill.

This was the first time I had moderated a panel with both IRL and virtual participants. Malaysian author and game writer, Cassandra Khaw, was Zooming from New York. Bryan and fellow Filipino Spec Fic writer Eliza Victoria were at the Play Den. Despite our 8:30pm timeslot, we had a full house. We talked about whether we could properly define a “Southeast Asian Science Fiction”, what were the commonalities and differences across the region and how writers could keep their fictional landscapes distinctly and believably Southeast Asian without falling into tired tropes or stereotypes.

Interestingly, a mini-rant I made about how the reading public in Singapore was the best market for poetry in Southeast Asia landed me a mention in a Poetry(!) article about the SWF2022 in the Straits Times (Singapore Writers Festival: Poetry now reigns supreme in Singapore, say panellists). Despite being slightly misquoted, I am very happy for the free publicity for me, our panelists, and SEA Speculative Fiction in general (BTW what I actually said was “It used to be that anything that had a ghost or spaceship, no matter how well written it is, is was considered junk,” and the last sentence was “That depends on the intention of the writer”). Thank you to ST reporter Clement Yong!

Also this amusing coincidence — on exact the same day I got 4 paragraphs from the Straits Times, an article in the Manila Bulletin didn’t include me in the complete list of Filipino writers at #sff2022. I guess I am not Filipino enough (or perhaps I am just too obscure for Pinoy readers)?

Later in the evening, I had dinner with Eliza and Jaykie. Unfortunately, we failed to take an acceptable picture. In the picture above, Eliza is holding her graphic novel, After Lambana, which I kept pestering her for a sequel.

The next day, 20 November, I was part of literarily the very last panel of the festival, (Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before where I found myself with poets Christine Chia, David Wong Hsien Ming and Theophilus Kwek, who was our esteemed and very loquacious moderator. We talked about the concept of originality, retakes and retellings, as well as generative fiction. Again, it was a well-attended event despite the late hour (and being scheduled against Cyril Wong’s reading of “If This Is the End… What Else Is There?”).

On last thing, despite a late start, I had managed to make it back to Singapore in time for dinner with one of my writing heroes, the amazing Ted Chiang, as well as his wonderful wife Marcia and Epigram’s indefatigable editor, Jason Erik Lundberg. We all actually got to meet up again for lunch the following weekend, this time with my wife Patricia and Jason’s daughter, Anya.

Btw, apart from talking about writing, screenplay adaptations and his stories, did I mention that we also talked about Filipino food? Ted is apparently not a fan of banana ketchup (see below).

I am looking forward to next year’s edition of SWF. Thank you to the organizers, especially Pooja Nansi, the NAC, SBC, The Arts House and festival bookstore Closet Full of Books for making all of this possible.

Thank you also to all the readers who came. You give us writers and our work meaning.

My Panels at SWF 2022

The Singapore Writers Festival for 2022 is nearly here. It’s great that in-person events are back, after a hiatus of two years. I can’t wait to see everyone again.

Actually, I am not doing many events this year, but I am very happy to be part of the following panels:

Just The World I’m Looking For: The Multiverse and Fiction
12 Nov Sat, 6.30pm – 7.30pm at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium
With Meihan Boey, Nuraliah Norasid & myself; Moderator Jason Erik Lundberg

The age-old struggle between fate and chance. The dreams and fantasies we cling to as testaments to all the versions of ourselves we could have been. We’re familiar with multiverse theory in science (and Doctor Strange), but does it hold any weight in fiction about the everyday, and do we need it? Four authors discuss the logic of creating alternate timelines, the recent interest in multiverse theory among fiction writers, and whether the multiverse provides us with answers about all the “what ifs” in our lives. This is your road not taken.

A Southeast Asian Map for the Science Fiction Future
19 Nov Sat, 7.30pm – 8.30pm at the at the The Arts House, Play Den
With Cassandra Khaw, Bryan Thao Worra & Eliza Victoria; Moderator: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (subbing for Joyce Chng)

Do flying cars and androids alone make for a convincing sci-fi Southeast Asian world? As science-fiction writing continues to break new imaginative grounds, we talk to these writers from the region about how they keep their fictional landscapes distinctly and believably Southeast Asian without falling into tired tropes, stereotypes, loopholes, and paradoxes.

This programme is made possible with the support of the U.S. Embassy Singapore and co-presented with the Singapore Book Council.

(Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
This programme has been rescheduled to 20 Nov, 7pm – 8pm at the The Arts House, Play Den
With Christine Chia, David Wong Hsien Ming & myself; Moderator: Theophilus Kwek

Has this been said before? Well, we’ll say it again: it might finally be time to abandon the search for originality. What is it about the big ‘O’ that has paralyzed and haunted generations of writers seeking the next great unsaid? We’re busting this myth apart in pursuit of more generative ways of creating.

If you haven’t picked up your festival pass yet, now’s a good time to do so. I’m looking forward to the SFF opening this Friday night (4 November). See you all soon!

“Outside the Western Anglophone Hegemony” Connecting Flights panel at the SFWA’s Nebula Awards’ Conference

Please join us online at our “Outside the Western Anglophone Hegemony” Connecting Flights panel at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association’s Nebula Awards Conference this coming Oct. 8, at 6:00am Pacific | 3:00pm Norway | 6:30pm India | 9:00pm Singapore and the Philippines, with Samit Basu, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Vida Cruz Borja, myself, and and moderator Regina Kanyu Wang.
We’ll talk about our experiences as Asian writers who publish in the English language and in US markets. We’ll also compare our writing craft, share tropes and traditions, and celebrate our very varied influences. Looking forward to having you all along for a fun ride.
The SFWA Blurb:

The SFWA Events Team is excited to announce our new Connecting Flights panels to serve as a bridge between the 2022 Nebula Conference Online voyage and the 2023 Nebula Hybrid Conference! Our first Connecting Flight is “Outside the Western Anglophone Hegemony: A Conversation on Writing by Asian Writers” on October 8, 2022 @ 6:00am Pacific | 3:00pm Norway | 6:30pm India | 9:00pm Singapore.

Join us as we highlight the experiences of Asian writers who publish in the English language and US markets. Asian writers from across the globe will compare their craft, share tropes and traditions, and celebrate their influences. This panel will be moderated by Regina Kanyu Wang and feature Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Vida Cruz, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, and Samit Basu.

Connecting Flight live panels will provide more of the fantastic craft and professional development content for which the Nebula Conference is known. If you already have a 2022 conference registration, you’ll be able to tune in live for this panel or watch it later in our archive. If you do not, we have good news! We have dropped the price to $75 for the remainder of our 2022 Nebula Conference Online voyage. Register here: events.sfwa.org

Registration includes our archive of nearly 50 recorded panels from the May 2022 conference weekend, invitations to join the live tapings of Narrative Worlds when they resume late fall, attendance to our Weekly Writing Dates for nonmembers (they are free for SFWA members), and special professional development and networking events throughout the year, such as this first Connecting Flight. Registrations are valid through April 2023.

If you have any questions, please ask us at events@sfwa.org. Don’t miss this Connecting Flight aboard the Airship Nebula on October

(Excerpt) Locating Fantasy in Filipino Literature

Here’s another teaser from my chapter of Mapping New Stars: A Sourcebook on Philippine Speculative Fiction (Editors: Gabriela Lee and Anna Felicia Sanchez, UP Press pre-publication) which was entitled “The Roots of Speculative Fiction in the Philippines” (you can also read the chapter intro here). For this section, I tried to identify the earliest known Filipino works that could be reasonably argued as Fantasy or Proto-Fantasy, but excluding Folk Literature.

Hope you find this interesting:

One of the earliest novels that could be characterized as proto-fantasy fiction is Ramon L. Muzones’ Margosatubig: Maragtás ni Salagunting (“The Land of Margosatubig: The History of the Hero Salagunting”) written in Hiligaynon from 1946. This is the cover of the English translation by Ma. Cecilia Y. Locsin-Nava (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2012).

Navigating the genre of fantasy can sometimes be difficult and confusing as “fantasy” is not a single definite category but rather a cohesion of many diverse, often wildly different, sub-genres. Wikipedia defines “fantasy” as “a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore[1]”.

Fantasy proper takes place in a world other than our own (second world fantasy), whereas the sub-genre of magical realism (also known as magical realism or marvelous realism) focuses entirely on an ordinary “real” world where everything is normal, “except for one or two elements that go beyond the realm of possibility as we know it[2]”. To date there are at least 58 named sub-genres of fantasy[3] including urban fantasy, Christian fantasy, dark fantasy, epic fantasy, mythic fantasy and vampire fantasy, just to name a few.

In the Philippines the roots of the fantasy genre begin in folklore – particularly in local tribal myths and legends, as well as in pre-Hispanic ethno-epics of which over 20 oral narratives have been recorded and translated (many more remain to be transcribed and/or translated – Palawan alone has sixty-three)[4]. It should be noted that while the natives of what would be eventually  named las Islas Filipinos had little by way of books in codex form, the inland tribes and early maritime polities in the archipelago possessed a remarkable level of literacy and a strong literary tradition[5].

Myths and legends still figure prominently in modern speculative fiction works, albeit in reimagined or subverted forms, such as the graphic novel The Mythology Class by Arnold Arre (Quezon City: Alamat Comics,1999).

Epics (in the Philippines we speak of ethno-epics[6]) are considered the most direct ancestor of the fantasy tale. These long stories essentially consist of an oral narration of the adventures and trials of a revered folk hero. Sadly, as important as they are to Filipino culture, they have been less of an influence on modern speculative fiction compared to indigenous myths and legends. One of the few to have any impact was Biag ni Lam-Ang which is pre-colonial in origin.

Biag ni Lam-Ang (“Life of Lam-Ang”), tells the story of his extraordinary birth, his various quests aided by magical animal companions, as well as his death and resurrection. It became the subject of a metrical romance in the early 20th century, as well as various comic book adaptations in the 1970s, a movie, an animated film and even a musical theatre production.  

Lam-Ang, from “Kagitingan at Pag-asa” by Crisanto Aquino in the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art: Philippine Literature, Volume 9 (Cultural Center of the Philippines, 1994)

Let’s Start with (Philippine) Metrical Romance

The most popular genre of fiction during the 18th and 19th centuries was the metrical romance or chivalric romance, a type of narrative poem which in Europe developed from traditional myths and fables and was typically centered on courtly love, knights, and chivalric deeds. This genre wholeheartedly embraced fantastical elements and was a forerunner of the modern fantasy genre.

In the Philippines, metrical romance in vernacular languages (particularly Tagalog) took on two forms: the awit (a poetic narrative verse set in dodecasyllabic quatrains) and the korido (a poetic verse narrative set in octosyllabic quatrains). Like the epics that preceded them, these tales of chivalry were made to be sung and chanted.

 Numerous works in Tagalog (around 200 titles were known to have been published[7]), Bicolano, Ilonggo, Kapampangan, Ilocano and the Pangasinan language were written during this period. Interestingly, while metrical romances are not speculative fiction per se, there has been no other time in Philippine history where fantasy-adjacent genre stories were the most accepted and feted literary works.  


[1] Wikipedia Foundation Inc., “Fantasy”,  Wikipedia Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy  (accessed 17 December 2020)

[2] Burlington County Library System, “Focus on Genres: Magical Realism”, Fantasy (accessed 17 December 2020)

[3] BestFantasyBooks.com, “Fantasy Sub-genres Guide”, 2015, http://bestfantasybooks.com/fantasy-genre.php#urban-fantasy  (accessed 17 December 2020)

[4] Eugenio, Damiana L., “Introduction: The Philippine Folk Epic”, Philippine Folk Literature: The Epics (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2001), p. xi

[5] Jesuit friar Pedro Chirino notes, ‘All islanders are much given to reading and writing, and there is hardly a man and much less a woman, who does not read and write in the letters used in the island of Manila They used to write on reeds and palm-leaves, using as pen an iron point’. However, writing was used mainly for the exchange of letters. Religion, government, and literature were founded on oral tradition. In Chirino, Pedro, Relacion de las Islas Filipinas (Rome: Esteban Paulino, 1604) as translated and reproduced in Blair, Emma Helen and Robertson, James Alexander, The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898: Volume XII, 1601-1604 (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1904), p. 169

[6] As opposed to national epics like Germany’s Niebelunginlied, ethno-epics are “histories” of ethnic groups or small maritime polities that consider themselves “nations”. As per David-Maramba, Asuncion, Early Philippine Literature: From Ancient Times to 1940, (Mandaluyong:  National Bookstore, 1971), p. 21. See also Godinez-Ortega, Christine, “The Literary Forms in Philippine Literature”, GOV PH, https://ncca.gov.ph/about-ncca-3/subcommissions/subcommission-on-the-arts-sca/literary-arts/the-literary-forms-in-philippine-literature/, (accessed 15 November 2020).

[7] Jurilla, Patricia May Bantug “Tagalog Bestsellers and the History of the Book in the Philippines”, doctoral thesis submitted to the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 30 August 2006 p. 52


The Mythology Class by Arnold Arre. Originally published by the author in four issues in 1999, it was collected into a special edition by Anino Comics in September 2005 and Nautilus Comics in 2014.

Maureen K Speller, RIP

I am very much saddened to hear about the death of Maureen K Speller. She was a fantastic editor and critical beta reader who helped me with my stories “Blessed are the Hungry” and “Dyschronometria, or The Bells are Always Screaming”. My deepest condolences to her family.

Maureen Kincaid Speller was a critic and reviewer. She was Senior Reviews Editor at Strange Horizons, and Assistant Editor of Foundation: the International Review of Science Fiction. She also reviewed for Interzone and Vector. She was a former Arthur C. Clarke Award judge, and a former James Tiptree Jr. Award judge.

Baby Steps with AI Art

A.I. generated art has been around for years. But tools released this year like DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion — have made it possible for visual-art challenged people like myself to create fairly complex, abstract or photorealistic works simply by typing a few words into a text box.

These are my first attempts to illustrate some of my stories using Midjourney AI. Not incredible but not to shabby either. I could actually use some of these as e-book covers.

However, I am still on the fence about the ethics of A.I.-generated art. Are they a real emergent art form or a high-tech form of plagiarism? WDYT?

“Blessed are the Hungry” – this one came out the best. Funny how the rendered image looks like my youngest daughter.

“I ducked out of sight as soon as I saw the wolf-like mecha, shrouding my lantern with my shirt. Frightful as they were, I was mesmerized by their strange beauty. In the half-light of the Holosonic, their liquid-armor bodies shimmered purple, vermillion and bronze. I imagined these to be the colors of a sun that I had never seen, the burial clothes of a mother-star that we had abandoned so long ago.”

“Infinite Degrees of Freedom” – the blurry shape in the background is Midjourney unable to render a mythical sigbin monster in a spaceship corridor. Why does the kid from my story look like a young Rodrigo Duterte?

“From out of nowhere, Deo smelled an immensely foul odor, a rotting stench filled with the smell of death. A shape coalesced from the blackness, swiftly moving, gibbering, and utterly horrible. A sigben, a vicious half-dog/half-lizard chimera from ancient Philippine Myth had come for him. The impossible monster blocked his path and let loose a frightening roar-bark loud as a thunder clap.”

“Mene, Thecel, Pares” – My account expired before I could redo this with a steampunk Berlin in the background. The protagonist, Joseph Mercado (a fictionalized Jose Rizal) looks a bit cross-eyed.

“Joseph wished he didn’t have to remove his mask. Everywhere he went, people stared at him. Without his mask’s protection, the city’s xenophobic populace would peer from windows or point as he walked past whispering “fremde, außerirdische, ausländer, Asiaten, Japaner, Chinesischer Mann, Korean Mann” –- anything but his own ethnicity.”

“Carry That Weight” – This is supposed to be the older brother, Berto. The two blobs in the background are supposed to be megamouth sharks. Also, the boy’s hair shouldn’t look like that underwater. Must be industrial-strength aquanet.

The smaller boy watched as his brother fished out a pair of smart goggles from his shorts pocket and clipped his phone to his wristband. Berto’s body was dark and tightly muscled. He seemed naked save for the skintight nanotech body suit that kept his body warm and protected it from the sun’s radiation.

Get Luckier: The Reading

Reading-Dialogue across the Sea between Get Luckier Sg/Phil writers

This Poetry Festival Singapore will take place from July 29 to August 10 this year in various locations across the island. Please join us this 30 July for a special event “Reading-Dialogue across the Sea” between Get Luckier Sg/Phil authors, with Singapore-based writers Paul Jerusalem, Migs Bravo-Dutt, Victor Ocampo, Reah Maac, Cathy Candano and Filipino poets Wilson Lee Flores, Wendell Capili, Jo Em Antonio, Cristina Montes, Mariela Lansang with spoken word poet LKN as host (and Cathy Candano as technology expert). The recording will be done from 8pm onwards. Stay tuned for the announcement of the online broadcast.

Get Luckier – An Anthology of Philippine and Singapore Writings II (Editors Migs Bravo Dutt, Claire Betita de Guzman, Aaron Lee Soon Yong and Eric Tinsay Valles) is the sequel to the much-loved original Get Lucky from six years ago. It features writing that illustrate how technology, the pandemic and other current events have impacted the fellowship between Singaporeans and Filipinos.

Fish Eats Lion Redux TOC Announced

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The landmark anthology Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction collected the best original speculative fiction written in Singapore in or around 2012. It was the first local anthology that treated the literature of the fantastic as bona fide literary work, instead of simply just genre. Edited by Jason Erik Lundberg, this book included stories by Ng Yi-Sheng, Neon Yang, Daryl Yam and Shelly Bryant, who would all become leading lights in the APAC Spec Fic sphere, as well as works by mainstream fictionists who were not generally known for fantastical writing such as Grace Chia, Dave Chua, Noelle de Jesus, Isa Kamari, and Cyril Wong.

It’s been ten years since the original FEL and Jason has commissioned a follow-up anthology. I am very happy to be part of both books but it’s also a bit of a shock to realize that I’ve been getting published for so long. In my mind I am still a new writer struggling to get stories written and published (when I am not doing my day-job or house work, that is).

Congratulations to our evergreen editor Jason Erik Lundberg and to everyone on the new antho’s TOC. I can’t wait to read these new stories!

  • Stay in the Sun | Meihan Boey
  • L’Appel Du Vide | Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
  • Tiger Girls | Felicia Low-Jimenez
  • Insert Credit to Continue | Stuart Danker
  • Longkang at the End of the World | Kimberly Lium
  • Down Into the Waters | Wayne Rée
  • Road Trip | Izzy Liyana Harris
  • Blood Double | Sithuraj Ponraj
  • Blue | Cyril Wong
  • Wife, Skin, Keeper, Slick | Wen-yi Lee
  • 315 | Daryl Qilin Yam
  • Asha Hanar’s Dowry | Nuraliah Norasid
  • Multiversal Adapter | Suffian Hakim
  • The Dog Frontier | Inez Tan
  • Sejarah | Ng Yi-Sheng

More info here.

11 Must-Read Filipino Sci-Fi Books (Bookriot)

Thank you to Arvyn Cerézo over at Bookriot for including The Infinite Library and Other Stories (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2017 ; New York: Boy, 2021) in his list of 11 MUST-READ FILIPINO SCI-FI BOOKS.

Moreover, some stories explore the world between literary and genre fiction. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s a noteworthy addition to a meager selection of Filipino sci-fi books.

I also have a short story, “Infinite Degrees of Freedom” in the first book he discussed, Science Fiction: Filipino Fiction For Young Adults (Quezon City: UP Press, 2016). This work was also translated into Chinese and appeared in Science Fiction World‘s March 2017 issue. The story concerns the rocky relationship between a distant father and his emotionally needy son, programmable matter, guns that fire bolts of electricity, chicharon and a mythical sigben monster loose inside a rickety old spaceship.

I firmly believe in the transformative power of Science Fiction in nation building. As historian Yuvel Noah Harari said: “Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre… It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”

But we must be conscientious with what we choose to write. The stories we dream up could very well be the bedrock upon which the next generation of Filipinos will build the future.

You can find the Bookriot article here.

Ricky Lee, National Artist for Literature

Congratulations to mentor/teacher, screenwriter, journalist, novelist, and playwright, Ricardo “Ricky” Lee on being conferred the Order of National Artists (ONA), together with seven other distinguished Filipino artists from various disciplines.

His extensive body of work, spanning over four decades, include short stories, plays, essays, novels, teleplays, and screenplays. Two of his short stories won first prizes at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (1970 and 1971). His screenplay “Salome/Brutal” won the 1981 Philippine National Book Awards for best screenplay. In 2011, he was awarded the Manila Critics Circle Special Prize for a Book Published by an Independent Publisher. His two-stage plays Pitik-Bulag sa Buwan ng Pebrero and DH (Domestic Helper) played to SRO crowds. DH, starring Nora Aunor, has toured the US and Europe in 1993.

However, Ricky Lee is best known for being a script writer. In fact he is the Philippines’ greatest and most prolific screenwriter, having written almost 200 screenplays, including classics such as “Brutal” (1980) and “Karnal” (1983), both directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya; “Himala” (1982), by Ishmael Bernal; “Macho Dancer” (1988), by Lino Brocka; and “José Rizal” (1998), again, by Diaz-Abaya.

On top of all that, he is also the author of the definitive screenplay manual, Trip to Quiapo which distilled all the knowledge and wisdom he had amassed over the decades.

It was truly a great privilege for me to have been one of his students at Cinemalaya’s Ricky Lee Script Writing Workshop last year (Batch 29). Sir Ricky was truly one of the best literature teachers I have ever had — particularly with how he emphasized how characters and character development was the most important part of weaving any story. Being primarily a science fiction writer, it was especially important for me to be reminded that people followed stories for their characters rather than for the plot, regardless of how fantastical or technologically awesome the latter may be.

One of the things that most stuck to me was: “Lahat ng kahon ay oportunidad para mapilitan kang gumawa ng butas upang makalabas.” To (poorly) translate and paraphrase: “All the things that keep your character in a box are opportunities for them to escape (and further the plot).”

Both his book and his lectures some everything up with the idea of the writer as active participant, not only in his work but in the world outside it. As a recent article by Jerome Gomez of ABS-CBN puts it: “In Ricky Lee’s universe, everyone is a writer because we all have the power to reverse fortunes, change the course of history, by touching other people’s lives in ways big or small.”