Tade Thompson on the Depiction of Otherness in SFF

As a writer often hear about the dilemma of “Writing the Other” i.e. creating stories with characters whose racial heritage, sexual orientation, or religion are different from our own.

In “Emic, Etic, and the depiction of Otherness in SFF” Tade Thompson asks how should we interrogate our text for “otherness” , on how we can fairly represent something which is not our own. He speaks of how we can write sensitively and convincingly about people of diverse backgrounds/cultures without causing offence, or promoting negative stereotypes — as well as the limits of what we can actually do when writing about this difficult (but important) subject.

“No fictional portrayal of any community is ever going to be accurate, including those by members of said community. The best we can hope for is some degree of concordance with lived experience. For example, the stereotype of the obedient Asian wife will have poor concordance while a more nuanced, complex character will have higher concordance. This has to do with the complexity of real life. One thing that becomes obvious from reading anthropology and history is the inability of anyone to capture the entire essence of a culture in words or images. We can try, but it is impossible, and not just to the observer from without. Outsiders cannot see everything and have biases; insiders cannot see everything and have biases.”

A Place of Kalinga, A Place called ‘Safe’

One of my favorite words in Filipino is “Kalinga”. It’s a complex and multifaceted word whose meaning encompassing feelings of caring, refuge and kindness.

The fallout from the reprehensible actions of the rage blogger  ‘Requires Hate” (et al) has made one thing very clear. There is a need for a place where writers like me (People of Colour and other marginalized groups) can express our thoughts and opinions, raise issues and express emotions, or simply be our authentic selves without fear of repression and bullying.  This, I feel (without passing judgement), is best done on a site run by people who are primarily PoC, on an online home where we can control our own narratives.

Tade Thompson and some PoC volunteers have now put up the site called ‘Safe‘ where PoC writers can feel the inexpressible comfort of feeling  ‘Kalinga’  — a place of fellowship and friendship, as well as a place of refuge where those who have been hurt can come to heal.

Because ‘Safe‘ is meant to be an inclusive environment, everyone – no matter what your ethnicity, gender, gender preference, etc. – is welcome to be a part of it, as long as we all agree to be respectful, act like mature adults and follow the rules of the site.

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou


Art: “Ang Bayanihan” by Mattersmost

A Massive Disappointment

I just can’t keep silent on this any longer.

This whole thing that’s happening to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is real and has affected me personally as well. I am choosing not to talk about my own experience because I feel that it is irrelevant and takes away from the larger narrative. This whole affair pains me a lot as I had nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for some of the writers involved. However I am aghast to learn that that this kind of crap/shit storm is what we should expect as a new writer coming from the fringes of the SFF world.

Is this really what we have to look forward to?

Whatever your skin colour, your nationality or your gender preference is you have no right to bully and troll. You have no right to blacklist writers you do not like just because they have dissenting opinions or are not part of your cult of sycophants. You are free to judge a person’s writing as long as you do it fairly and objectively. You can even eviscerate it if it sucks – but you have no right to judge the person. As many before me have pointed out, this is not literary criticism, this is silencing. Those of you who enjoy hate as entertainment should take a long hard look into your mirrors. You may not like what you see.

I won’t say anything more about this other than the fact that I have made the conscious decision to make most of my submissions to regional Asian publications. I believe that the only way to make a safe place for people like me to write our stories is to create and nurture our own markets — however small that may be for now.

Here is Rochita’s post on this and she has my 100% support – “Standing Up and Speaking Truth

Here is the original report on this matter from Laura J. Mixon –  “A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names

Charles Tan and the Problem of Labels: “Tell Me About _______ Science Fiction”

Names can be cages, We seldom realize it but when we speak or think, we do so in terms of languages and images which we didn’t invent. Words and names which were given to us by our society; words and names, which for many in the developing world, come from the language of former colonial masters. Charles Tan writes a great article on the issue of labeling Science Fiction with terms like “Filipino SF, Singaporean SF, Malaysian SF, etc.” Here’s Charles’ post from the Skiffy and Fanty Show:

The Skiffy and Fanty Show

As someone who’s asked to talk about Filipino science fiction and fantasy, and after listening to several podcasts (including the Skiffy and Fanty show) interviewing authors who eventually end up representing their country/continent/ethnicity, one question that inevitably gets asked is how they would describe science fiction or fantasy from their country: “What is Filipino speculative fiction?” “What is Chinese science fiction” “What is Carribean fantasy?” The interviewers have good intentions (and I’m one of those people who’ve used that particular phrase numerous times), but the more I think about it, the more problematic the question becomes.

At the root of the question are certain assumptions and privileges people take for granted. The first is that they are coming from a Western paradigm, where Western literature is at the center. The answers and responses of the interviewee will always be compared and contrasted to concepts and ideas from Western literature, because…

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“Exit Quiapo Station” in Maximum Volume 2

“Exit Quiapo Station” my Robert Altman inspired story set on a Filipino-run space elevator will be in Maximum Volume 2. Thank you so much to editors Dean Francis Alfar and Sarge Lacuesta!

Like “I m d 1 in 10” (at The Future Fire), this work is also quite experimental in structure, playing with the placement of dialogue and mixing up tenses. “Exit Quiapo Station” explores several themes that could affect us in the near future such as commercial space travel,  the rise of the ultra-super rich, the decoupling of sex from reproduction, the acceptance of non-traditional families, and the socio-biological future of call center agents.

In line with my recent stories, there is a Pinoy mythical element in this “mundane” Sci-Fi piece. This time it’s a witch — a mangkukulam who hails from the “magic market”  outside the old Quiapo church, and a bottle of her gayuma love potion.

Exit Quiapo Station

Space Elevator image c/o of io9.

Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 9 is Out!

Philippine Speculative Fiction Volume 9 has been released on Amazon, Flipreads, Kobo and iTunes. ! This is my second outing with the PSF series (the first, in 2011 was my first published story ever – Resurrection). Thank you to Andrew Drilon, Charles Tan and the good folks of Flipside Publishing.

PSF #9 has my cyberpunk revenge story “Panopticon”. Here’s a short excerpt:

“After a while, I staggered out of the toilet. Night had fallen and I looked around the deserted alley, wondering where I was supposed to go. A bicycle had been propped on a wall just in front of the lavatory entrance. As soon as I stepped towards it, the bike began to flash its lights, illuminating layers of advertising graffiti with a frail white fluorescence. The lights kept blinking until I put my hand on its bamboo handlebars.

A message popped on its digital odometer:

“Thank you for choosing a Shimano Intelligent Bicycle Mr. Salazar. The seat has been automatically adjusted to your height. Your route has already been pre-selected. Please climb aboard and simply pedal.”

I heaved myself up to the gel-padded saddle and kicked off. The bike guided me through the dark and narrow alleys that snaked through the labyrinth of tenements. Everything in New Tundon lay in the shadow of its sole skyscraper, the neon-lit Torre Paraiso.

I passed through the slums like a ghost. Through the yawning windows I saw people leading seemingly normal lives — playing mah-jongg or the card game pusoy dos, eating dinner or simply gathered around their living rooms, plugged into a legion of electronic devices. This was a town of old people, permanently idled; permanently trapped in the amber of unstructured time. Not a single child was in sight.”


Cover design by Kevin Roque.

“An Excerpt from the Philippine Journal of Archaeology (04 October, 1916)” in Likhaan 8

I am happy to announce that my Lovecraftian fantasy story (as told through footnotes), “An Excerpt from the Philippine Journal of Archaeology (04 October, 1916)” is scheduled to appear in Likhaan Journal 8 by the U.P. Institute of Creative Writing.

This work explores the deeply-rooted racism inherent in scientific circles during the American Colonial period. It also references the self-same Yellow-peril prejudice that H.P. Lovecraft held against those he disdainfully called “Asiatics”.  In fact the text directly uses phrases borrowed from Lovecraft’s own private letters.

Regarding the setting, having hiked through Mt. Pinatubo a few times, the place names and descriptions I used are based on my knowledge of the area, while the geological assessments came from the research papers of local mining companies. For those interested in a little mystery, the next time you visit the walled city of Intramuros in Manila, take a look at the plaque on Sta. Lucia Barracks. It will tell you the ultimate fate of what the research team of Pölzl and Ashley unearthed.

Lastly, in keeping up my recent (unplanned – I swear) theme of Creatures of Philippines Lower Mythology, this work may or may not feature one or more aswang.  As most Filipinos know an “aswang” is a demonic-looking bat-winged monster that flies off at night seeking to eat the liver and other viscera  of unwary humans.

I believe Likhaan Journal 8 will be coming out this December 2014.


Picture above is a still from the NBC series “Grimm”, the episode “Mommy Dearest”

Short Interview for The Future Fire

Here’s a mini-interview for the editors of #TheFutureFire:

1. What does I m d 1 in 10 mean to you?

“1 m d 1 in 10” is a story about what people (like me) are willing to give up when they move to another country. In essence it explores how migrants trade their identities for things like financial stability, safety and the illusion of greener pastures.

What happens when a future immigration process becomes so brutal and competitive that you have to surrender important things like your control over your children or your own sense of right and wrong just to get in.

I wrote this story as a way of addressing many of my (heretofore unspoken) fears about living where I do now.

2. What attracted you to Speculative Fiction?

Fiction writing is, by definition, “Make Believe”, despite its realist trappings — all of it is speculative to me. I just happen to like mine with space ships and dragons (because space ships and dragons dammit!).

3. When did you learn Latin?

I don’t actually speak Latin.I got interested in it after I fell in love with Umberto Eco’s works. I do, however, collect strange and humorous Latin phrases such as “Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?” (hint: it involves wood chucks and the amount of wood they could conceivably chuck).

4. What are you writing next?

I am currently finishing up another SF Short story that deals with the differences between individual and shared memories. I’ve also started sketching out the outline for a SF novel that I hope to write (….and finish someday).

Dodo Pop

Loncon 3 Panels


I am quite pleased to announce that I will be speaking about Filipino and Singaporean SF/F on two panels at Loncon 3 today. These are:

The World at Worldcon: SF/F in South and South-East Asia

Saturday 13:30 – 15:00, London Suite 2 (ExCeL)

South and South-East Asia include a huge span of nations, cultures and languages, so does it make any sense to talk of “Asian SF”? What are the traditions and touchstones of fantastical storytelling in South and South-East Asia? What is the state of genre there, and how have shared myths and a joint heritage of colonialism influenced it? A panel of writers and critics from India, Pakistan, Malaysia and The Philippines compare notes.

Mahvesh Murad (Moderator) , Zen Chow, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Aishwarya Subramanian

Saving the World. All of It.

Saturday 20:00 – 21:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

When aliens invade, why do they almost always hit New York? With a few partially-honourable exceptions, such as Pacific Rim and District 9, the American-led alliances of Independence Day and its ilk are still the norm for SF cinema’s supposedly global catastrophes. What is it like to watch these films outside the Anglophone world? Do attempts to move away from American exceptionalism feel real, or are they just window-dressing? And how do different countries deal with apocalypse in their own cinematic traditions?

Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Moderator) , Yasser Bahjatt, Irena Raseta, Aishwarya Subramanian, Naomi Karmi

Over The Effing Rainbow reviews Apex issue 62

Over The Effing Rainbow has a review of Apex Magazine Issue 62. Thank you so much for the kind words!

“The other standout stories here for me are “Blessed are the Hungry”, in which Victor Fernando R. Ocampo puts himself pretty firmly on my map of SF authors to watch (read that story and Andrea Johnson’s author interview and tell me I’m wrong)…”

This piece actually started out as a longer work. However I ended up chopping it to meet the word count requirements for short stories. With so many people asking me to expand it, I am seriously considering making it into the novel I originally thought it to be.

If you haven’t read it yet here’s “Blessed are the Hungry