A tribute

I was a little girl when my father first told me about Tita Inday. Not only was a she a linguistics professor at a big university abroad, but she had also created a word.

I don’t recall now what the word was, my father probably does, but what captured my imagination was the idea that someone could bring into being a word that had not previously existed. To my child self, this idea was completely magical and mind-boggling.
I met Tita Inday for the first time when I was in highschool. She was, a tiny woman—tinier than my highschool self. She was full of light and energy, overflowing with brilliance.

At a time in my life when I was filled with complete doubt as to whether there was even any point in writing, my aunt reminded me that bringing the work into being is the point. That publication doesn’t always happen, that things will never be easy because you are a Filipino writing in this language not your own, but you still have to persevere.

I write about her as I think about translations and language, about the mother tongue, about worlds and words that come into being because she would have loved this kind of conversation where we talk about what’s possible. What can we do with language? How far can we push words? What are the politics that lie behind the use of language?

I remember visiting with my aunt at her home in Calgary, this was right after Clarion West. She asked me questions about my work and shared her own work with me as well.

Through the years, we kept in touch, sometimes through email, sometimes through phone conversations and then through the occasional message sent through my father.The last message I sent her contained a compilation of essays I’d written in the past year and a half.

Tita Inday passed away on the 26th of July. My father said, she called while he was out. She was having problems with her heart.

It’s difficult to write about such losses. As if by writing about them, they become more real. But I wanted to pay tribute to her in this space. I think of the saying “it’s in the blood” and I can’t help but acknowledge that even though I am no linguist, this fascination with words…this engagement with language…it also comes from that moment when my father said: Your aunt invented a word.

For the bright stars in my sky

I am in this space/ and I am looking at your face/ and I am looking at your face/ and I am looking at your face/ and yours/ and yours/ and yours too.

And I am loving this space where we are dreaming up a new sky together/

I am loving your face.

Your words/ our words/ your world/ our world/

You bright/ you beautiful/ you brilliant stars in the firmament of sky I’m looking at.

I want to look at you forever/ listen to your voices forever/

I carry your words in my dreams/

I dream of worlds you bring into being.

We are changing our sky/ We are shaping our sky/ We are putting our stars in our sky

I am looking at the sky

My sky is filled with you.

( After of the first ever Amsterdam Sci Fi Salon: For Adrienne Marie Brown, Hodan Warsame, Simone Zeefuik, the wonderful writers at the Amsterdam Sci Fi Salon, for all who dream of a wider sky. Beloved friends and treasured dreamers, you know who you are.)

Thinking things through: On acts of resistance and our own SF

Since the publication of the first part of Translations, Mother Tongue and Acts of Resistance, I continue to think of resistance and what it means. I am also thinking of it in terms of how it applies to decolonial work and the process of decolonization, to science fiction and how I position myself in relation to genre as well as the work that I do outside of genre.

I am grateful for the conversations that I am able to have with thinkers and doers and also thankful for the access that I am given to work that is being produced by mindful writers inside and outside of genre.

I find myself thinking of acts of resistance and how the history of my country is one that is filled with these acts. Because we have been colonized and occupied time and again. Because our language, our culture, our ways have been devalued, erased and overwritten time and again. Because we were subjected to a Martial rule where dissenting voices were suppressed or eradicated. Because we have known there is always a cost to speaking out.

Even in this field that we love, even in this genre that we like to think is so progressive and free, there is a price to pay. But while I am not the bravest person in the world, I find it an act of cowardice to allow other people to engage in the struggle on my behalf. Even if the only thing I can do is raise my voice, it is the thing I will do. If by doing so, other people see and take heart from it, then it is enough. (If it angers people, well, that’s a given.)

At this moment, there are so many conversations going on around science fiction. We are dissatisfied with the state of genre. We want something better. We want to destroy it. We want to change it. We want diversity. We want more visibility. We want many things and a lot of these things are good and wonderful and worthy things.

These are worthy and good conversations. These are essential and necessary conversations.

But I do wonder how we see science fiction. Is it a walled-in garden of paradise where only approved members can enter? Is it a place where we must walk carefully because “god forbid we step on the toes of sleeping deities”? (And who are these deities anyway?) Is it a place where you need membership in SFWA, BSFA, or whatever other organization in order for your voice to count? Are the important writers only those who appear on awards lists? Are the important stories only those included in Year’s Bests?

I ask these questions, because if this is how we look at science fiction, then it seems to me that it’s narrower and more confined than the science fiction in my mind.

When I wrestle with questions like these, I go back to the work of people whose work I’ve chosen to take with me in this journey. I go back and remember what it is that I love about this genre and why I wanted to write in it.

I think of Octavia Butler writing about how science fiction called to her because it was so wide open, and I think of the limitless sky that has no margins but simply changes its aspect depending on where we are situated. And I think: yes, that’s the science fiction I want to be part of. A sky that’s filled with many different stars, with constellations and galaxies, a view that changes depending on where I’m situated. A sky where everyone has the freedom to tell their own story and where there are no margins because how do you put margins on the sky?

I want that sky that is brilliant and filled with the light that comes from everywhere.

Things have changed since Octavia Butler’s time. The internet has made it so that we see bigger portions of the sky–and yet for all that, we are still limited.

We’re hindered not only by our inability to read work written in original languages, but we’re also hindered by how establishment already exists and its narratives and its traditions are rooted in a colonialist and imperialist past.

I find myself wondering: How can we possibly dream within a structure that has historically viewed us as being less than human?

Audre Lorde once said that the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house. We like that quote. We like saying it to each other but do we truly understand what that means in the context of what we are trying to do?

I think that if we want to produce a science fiction that is as wide and as broad as the sky, if we want the freedom to spread our wings and dream in those skies, then perhaps it’s time to look into ways of building a new kind of science fiction–one that doesn’t rely on the Master’s tools–one that doesn’t look to establishment for validation or recognition.

I don’t know what that science fiction would look like, but it excites me to think of that freedom. I want to embrace it and I want to be part of it.

As Afrofuturist author, editor and publisher Bill Campbell says: We don’t need to sit at their tables because we got our own.

#

*(I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t feel any particular need or any strong desire to belong to any kind of hegemony. I do value this community that has welcomed me. I value the friendships I have made and the truth I have seen in people who encourage and surround me. The passion to bring change about–that moves me. For all its flaws, Science Fiction still has my heart.)

**Nin Harris has written a brilliant and ferocious post which I highly recommend. Do take the time to read it. The link is here.

Fantasticon

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I’ll be leaving tomorrow evening for Copenhagen, Denmark, where Fantasticon is taking place. The past weeks have been quite busy. I’ve been working and experimenting with language and the new work that I’ve produced incorporates Filipino, Ilokano and Ifugao into the body of the text in more definite way than before. I was thinking of how many of us have been compelled to write in English and I find myself wondering how stories and texts would change if I used the languages I grew up with into my stories. I’ve incorporated the language mindfully, fitting the texts to the story that is taking shape.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked into writing an essay, I thought I’d post my schedule for Fantasticon:

Saturday:

11.00-12.00, Room 1
Translation of Speculative Fiction (Rochita Loenen-Ruiz) – English

13.00-14.00, Room 3
GoH Interview: Rochita-Loenen Ruiz (I: Karin Tidbeck) – English

15.00-16.00, Room 1
GoH Readings: Paul McAuley & Rochita Loenen-Ruiz – English

16.00-17.00, Room 3
Panel: Challenging Stereotypes in SF and Fantasy (Rochita Loenen-Ruiz,
Karin Tidbeck, A. Silvestri & Lars Ahn Pedersen) – English

Sunday:

17.00-18.00, Room 3
Panel: Is There Still Need for Science Fiction in a Science Fictional
World? (Paul McAuley, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Klaus Æ. Mogensen &
Flemming R. P. Rasch) – English

In preparation, I’ve done some reading up on previous cons and dipped a bit into the history of sf/f in Denmark. I look forward to meeting fellow writers and lovers of the speculative and hope for stimulating and fruitful conversations.

On the book blog: An interview with Kaaron Warren

Head over and check out this interview with Kaaron Warren over at the book blog.

Walking the Tree is a much different novel from Slights. I really liked this difference and I loved the world of the Tree as well as your beautifully drawn characters. Would you like to share a bit about the inspiration for the world of the Tree?

The original idea came from a number of different sources. Most directly, I was watching a documentary about ancient objects and was struck with the thought that these things sit there, well beyond human understanding, interpretation and memory. That they exist long after their original meaning is lost. In the end, there is a disconnect between the object and its origin.

Go to the book blog to read more.

Offered with Thanks

Aftermath

By Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

After the storm, there is only silence.

It makes sense, Celia thinks. Here, within the confines of her home, it is always silent.

Her heels make a dull clicking sound on the linoleum floor as she walks from the living room to the kitchen.  All morning, she has been watching footage, her ears bombarded by the sound of high wind and rain and the unbelievable image that is her country under siege.

Storm.

She looks out at clear blue skies. It is quiet outdoors. All her neighbours have gone off to work. Her children are at school. All is quiet in her head.

#

“How terrible,” the woman standing next to her at the school plain says. “And do you know anything yet about your family?”

Celia doesn’t know what to say.

In her head, the family home is an invulnerable place. That old house with its foundation of stone, was it still standing?

She offers a tentative smile.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone yet,” she says. “But I’m sure they’re fine.”

That home is beside the sea, she thinks. When her grandmother was newly married, there was a tsunami. They survived by tying themselves to the stone posts of the house. Afterwards, the villagers discovered porcelain jars beneath the house. Some of them were from the Ming Dynasty—that was what her grandmother said.

“We managed to get some for ourselves,” Grandmother said. “Like that one. You see that one, Celia? Do you see that jar with the blue dragons?”

Celia remembers the dragons and the wonder of that jar which was taller than her seven year old self.  Will that jar still be there? Will it still be standing in that hallway?

The woman moves away and another takes her place.

On usual days the women hardly ever take notice of her. They stand around in a cluster and talk to each other. They laugh and speak in what Celia calls their secret code. Somehow, they know about each others’ mishaps—dental appointments, divorces, funerals. They exchange information on mundane things, like who is going to whose birthday and what they plan to eat for dinner.

Celia has tried, but she’s never managed to break that code. She still hasn’t deciphered the secret of the magic circle that is them.

Now, they move in degrees towards her, their eyes inquiring.

Celia is relieved when the bell rings and the children emerge from their classes.

She smiles at the woman who offers her a glance that is probably meant to convey sympathy.

#

“Mama,” her youngest son says. “At school they said that all of Philippines has been destroyed. Did it go boom?”

“It was a storm,” Celia says. “And not all of it is destroyed, just parts of it.”

“And Lolo and Lola?” her son asks.

“They’re fine,” Celia says. “We’ll hear from them any day now.”

“I’m afraid,” her son says. “Ï’m afraid of the blood.”

“When we go home, the blood won’t be there anymore,” Celia says.

She gazes out at this view of neatly ordered houses. In her mind’s eye, she sees bodies on a distant shore—a landscape shattered by the hand of nature.

The future seems bleak. There is still no word and she is losing hope.

#

Grandmother putters through the debris of Celia’s efforts at housecleaning.

“Well,” she says. “Well, it can’t be helped. Who would have known that the cupboard would topple over?”

She makes a clicking sound.

“There’s broken glass too. Oh well. . . “

“Lola,” Celia says.

“Don’t move,” Grandmother says. “Stay where you are. There’s glass everywhere.”

“I’m sorry,” Celia says.

“Ah child,” Grandmother says. “it’s an old thing. And it’s not like it was an antique. Uncle Berto will make a new one. This time, he’ll make it from narra wood.”

#

“Ma,” finally they have a connection. “Are you all right?”

“We’re fine,” her mother says. “Your father’s off again. He just came back, but he’s off again. I think he forgets that he’s already old. But there are so many wounded and there aren’t enough doctors. It can’t be helped.”

“And the house?” Celia asks.

“Your Lola is fine,” her mother says. “Shaken, but fine. Your uncle found her. We were also worried for a while. Celia, don’t cry. It’s fine. We’re all fine. But so many died. So many. . .”

Inside her head, the silence breaks.

She can hear the wind. She can see the trees. Winter rain washes across the glass pane of her window.

“I’ll do what I can,” she says. “I will also do what I can.”

<<end>>

A.N. A lot has happened since my last post. Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. Many Filipinos lost homes and loved ones. Because of the extent of the devastation, it took a week for aid to arrive in affected areas. The world’s response to the fate of Filipinos is overwhelming. This small offering is a thank you for the continued support and for the overwhelming response to the plea for help from the Philippines. Please continue to keep us in mind as we work to rebuild what can be rebuilt.

Speaking Truth

(After reading Robert M. de Ungria’s An English Apart (from Pinoy Poetics edited by Nick Carbo)

They painted English on my tongue.

Borrowed words to cover the language of my birth

I was proud because of the fluency of my English

I had mastered the master’s tongue.

(Not Taglish, not accented English, but English as the Americans speak it.)

Now, in a distant land, my English is overlaid

with the language of a country that isn’t mine.

My heart yearns to say to the one seated beside me

I am the color of earth, I am kayumanggi

and so is my tongue.

In my ears, I hear the chants of the storytellers

from long ago.

I hear the song of the noseflute

I feel the gongs drumming in my blood.

Maphod. Maphod.

I realize too late how much I have lost.

Is it not a tragedy that I can spell far better in these foreign tongues

than I can in the languages of my birth?

Who here will teach me? Who here will speak to me in the languages

of the Beloved Country?

Author Interview: Shimon Adaf

RCRuiz:

Read the rest of the interview at Chie and Weng Read Books.

Originally posted on Chie and Weng Read Books:

 Eldad_Rafaeli_-_1_(9)_resize (1)

Sunburnt Faces is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve read it. In this interview, Shimon Adaf talks about inspiration, process and language among other things.

Would you like to speak first about the inspiration behind Sunburnt Faces and the process you went through in writing it? 

It took me a while to get to writing fiction. I was thirty when I wrote my first novel. Before this I wrote and published poetry. In my first novels I was constantly looking for structural devices to maintain the interest of the novel.  My first novel took the detective form; I say the “detective form’, because I was interested more in the way the existence of a murder mystery drives the protagonist towards a certain metaphysical knowledge than finding the culprit. After finishing it, I had this image of a young girl in my head, wandering around…

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