My First Children’s Book “Here be Dragons” Launching on 21 Aug

COVER - Here Be Dragons

After a much extended wait “Here be Dragons” is finally finished! This story was written over the course of one coffee-fueled night and finished just in time to meet the deadline. It was inspired by the work of Jorge Luis Borges and based on one of the stories that I used to tell my kids to get them to go to sleep. To my great surprise and delight, it won the Romeo Forbes Children’s Storytelling competition in 2012.

The illustrations that accompany the text were painted in oil by the remarkable neo-surrealist Jon Jaylo whose works have been inspired by Rene Magritte, Paul Delvaux, Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí and William Bougereau.

Art by Jon Jaylo Inside the Library (18x18 inches)

Interestingly, I moonlight as an Art writer for catalogues and monographs. When I first met Jon during his first solo show in Singapore (Artesan Gallery), I did not tell him that I had submitted a story to the Romeo Forbes competition.   He had no idea that the person who did his show’s write-up wrote fiction nor that we would eventually end up doing a book together.

Alongside my English text is a translation in Filipino by four-time Palanca Award-winning author Raymund “Rhandee” Magno Garlitos who is himself an author of several children’s books (Chenelyn! Chenelyn!, Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki).

“Here be Dragons” joins the library of children’s books by the Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (CANVAS), a non-profit , non-government organization dedicated to promoting Filipino Art and Culture. CANVAS also provides these books to kids in hospitals and schools in underprivileged areas.

Thank you so much to Gigo Alampay (the indefatigable head of CANVAS), Jon, Rhandee and the Romeo Forbes judges!

Pat, Isabella and Sophia. You all appear in the book in some form. This one’s for you.

Lastly, if you are in Manila on Friday 21, August 2015 please come down at 5 pm for the book launch at the Canvas Gallery and Garden, 1-C Upsilon Drive Ext., Alpha Village
Diliman, Quezon City, Metro Manila Philippines 1119

Update: Thank you to everyone who came to the launch! More pictures can be seen here: Here be Dragons launch at Canvas

The first post won’t hurt at all

I never thought that I would ever get anything published.

As a kid in Manila all my stories were rejected simply because they were Science Fiction or Fantasy and publishers didn’t want them. The Filipinos that did read the “Literature of the Fantastic” preferred American or European Authors due to a lingering colonial mentality and/or because nothing else was actually available. Save for Japanese cartoons, half-forgotten myths and the occasional meanderings of local realist writers into the surreal, there were no Fantasy, Horror or Science Fiction authors in the Philippines. There were also no venues to read or to submit such stories.

I stopped writing for a very long time. Over the next few years I finished school, left the country and started a family. But I never stopped hoping I would find writers outside the Western mainstream, authors who would write Speculative Fiction with my voice, my experience and my point of view.

Then something magical happened early in the new millennium. Because of the efforts of people like Dean and Nikki Alfar, their Litcritters crew, Paolo Chikiamco, Joey Nacino,  Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Charles Tan, Eliza Victoria, Kenneth Yu and other pioneers,  venues like the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series, Philippine Genre Stories and Story Philippines started to appear and somehow, in a way I had not expected, Fantastic stories in all of their strange and delicious flavors became accepted, became (comparatively) popular, and most importantly, became respected.

My wife sent one of my stories to Nikki Alfar and Kate Osias without my knowledge (cheeky girl but I love her so).  To my great surprise it ended up in PSF volume 6 and I haven’t stopped writing (or submitting) since.

cover-PSF6

Later on, I discovered that this renaissance of sorts was also happening (with various degrees of success and acceptance) in many parts of the world — including my adopted country of Singapore, where I was lucky enough to become part of Fish Eats Lion (Edited by Jason Erik Lundberg) arguably its first compilation of literary Speculative Fiction.

The Literature of the Fantastic in Southeast Asia is breaking out of the shadows and I am so happy to be part of to this evolving landscape.  I hope you like my stories (particularly the Science Fiction ones) and I would really love it if you dropped me a line at the comments box below or at  vrocampo (at) gmail [dot] com.

Thank you!

Artwork above by Jon Jaylo from the book “Here be Dragons”