On the road to recovery

A lot of things have happened since my last post on this blog. I am slowly but surely regaining strength and energy again. Not as quickly as I want to, but there is progress. I consider it a gift that I have a wonderful mental health carer and that social services considers my situation one where I am in need of more support. Recovery would have been slower than it already has been otherwise.

These past weeks, I’ve been working hard on the extended story set in the world of the Body Cartographer. I had originally intended this story to be one novella, but it’s grown far beyond the minimum length. So far, I’ve completed work on part one which is comprised of 17700 words. An immersive and cathartic experience. I had to laugh a bit because just this month I attended an event at the American Book Center featuring Jeff VanderMeer, Ann VanderMeer and Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

Jeff talked about the process of novel writing and how when he’s immersed in a novel, he’s so engaged with it that even food becomes an afterthought. At one point–close to the end of part one, I had to stop because it was time to prepare dinner. I opened the fridge and stared at emptiness. I had forgotten to pick up groceries and so I had nothing to cook. Thankfully, eldest son offered to go for groceries and that evening we had french fries for dinner.

Then there was the time I wrote a scene replete with food goodness. After writing it, I was so hungry, but we only had Chicken Tonight. At least it was warm and there was steamed rice, but I would have rather had the dish I was writing about. It happens.

After finishing part one, we went off to grab ice-cream and cake, and when I came home, it was to find a message from Jaroslav Olsa, who is the Czech Republic ambassador to the Philippines. Harinuo’s Love Song, which appears in Alternative Alamat, was picked by PLAV’s team of editors for translation and inclusion in an upcoming edition. To say I’m gobsmacked is an understatement. I mean, I’ve been working towards resuming work on the translation project, but I never dreamed I’d have work getting translated into another language. How cool is that? 🙂

This afternoon, I did a bit of tweeting after I came home from speaking at the International Women’s Day celebration held by an organization I do volunteer work for. It was a lovely celebration. I spoke about the challenges we face as migrant women in the Netherlands and the effect of being uprooted. That we exist in a structured society that is meant to favor status quo but we are not without means and it is possible for us to think of strategies that will allow us to grow and to thrive in this environment.

I’m struck by how the conversations we have around the structural challenges migrants face, mirror the conversations we have around the structural challenges that marginalized writers face. It’s not exactly the same, but these two things speak to each other and strategies that work within one structure could also work within the other. The important thing is to see which ones work best and to find the support we need to thrive and take hold of our dreams.

It’s also been made clear to me that in conversations around race, we often fail to consider nuance. That race is not a black and white conversation. It’s more complicated than that.

This week has been full of things that I need to digest and I don’t doubt that some of it will find its way into story. For the next two days, I’ll be taking a break before immersing myself again in the writing.

I am thankful for friends and for loved ones, for the kadkadua who continue to walk with me and who remind me of what it is that matters most.

Salamat.

**PS. I think nonny is a really cute word. It might show up in one of my works someday. 😉

Fantasticon Report-observations, thoughts and discussions

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 had a really great time at Fantasticon. I was housed in a lovely hotel called Fy & Bi in Valby. We had lovely weather and the walk from the hotel to the cultural center where the con was being held was quite a nice one.

Fantasticon was a very good opportunity to get to meet Danish writers of the fantastic and I loved that I got to find out firsthand about the state of genre in Denmark. I didn’t get to see a lot of bookshops, but I did go back and investigate the shelves of a bookshop I’d visited together with Karin Tidbeck.

The Scandinavian countries seem to share quite a number of things in common when it comes to challenges in genre. I couldn’t help but wish someone would already invent that built-in translator device where you plug yourself in and you can read and understand whatever language is used in whatever country you visit.

Con organizers, Jesper Rugard Jensen and Lars Ahn gave me the lowdown on how genre is doing on the evening that I arrived in Copenhagen. What genre struggles with is the general impression or stereotype that genre has had to struggle with in many places in the world. In Denmark, they find themselves going up against that thing where people call certain things high literature and other things low literature and genre seems to be pushed into this box with a huge label on it marked: FOR CHILDREN.

I’m not very fond of this inclination as I tend to think that literature is whatever’s written and we read it (I’m literal like that). Some literature is bad and some is good. Some I’ll like, some I won’t like. I also think that labels are only helpful for marketing but they don’t really help the people who read.

But not everyone is like me and what these labels mean is that a lot of Danish folk read fantastic and speculative fiction until a certain age and if you’re an adult who still likes science fiction and fantasy, people will look at you askance. This mirrors some of the attitude that I see in The Netherlands and is to some extent similar to what I’ve seen in The Philippines (although it’s gotten much better over there since they’ve started producing soaps that take inspiration from historical characters and epic tales).

Karin Tidbeck told me that this is the same thing they’ve been up against in Sweden. According to Karin, Nene Ormes’s work has played an important role in making fantasy more mainstream as Nene has created this fantastic world that mines Swedish myth and history. I now want to read Nene’s books, but translation takes a lot of time of effort and money and until someone does that, it’s either I wait or learn Swedish. (I wonder if I’ll learn Swedish before translations happen).

A lot of the conversations that we had during the con was about language, the use of language, and translations–the use and the challenges of. It was great to sit in a room with writers and translators who had firsthand experience with translating either their own work or the work of others. It’s heartening to see the spirit of generosity that exists within the community as we see writers who translate work for other writers or translators who give their services all free of charge. It made me wonder though how it would change things if writers didn’t have to expend their energy on translating their work. If professional translators could be paid to do the work, wouldn’t this free up time and energy for writers to write more new work?

While we see very little traffic going outward, where Danish or Swedish writing gets translated into English, there seems to be quite a good bit of translation going on from English. In one of the bookshops, I noticed that they stocked books from popular authors like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin. I think I saw Joe Abercrombie on the shelves and Stephen King, but there’s not really much to choose from and there were no local authors at all–well, at least none that sounded Danish or English. In another bookshop, I did see work from Tove Johanssen and Peter Hoeg. But really not very much that I could identify as genre.

20140616_113519[1] I can’t help but think that there’s some connection missing there somehow. Karin talked about how language colonialism, but I wonder if it goes even deeper than that. I’d be speculating at this point, of course…but I can’t help but think I need to do more real research. It seems to me that there should be some way to break through those false barriers that keep people from reading work that’s locally produced.

I find myself wondering if being translated into English affects the way we receive certain works? Does a local being published in the US or the UK affect our perception of that author’s work? To what extent does publication in the US or the UK influence or affect how we receive the work or perceive the author?

A lot of questions that still need to be asked. It makes me think that there’s still quite a bit of work to be done when it comes to breaking the stereotype that people have attached to science fiction and the fantastic in these countries.

(On an aside, it does seem that Anime and Manga are a big thing in Denmark too. So, there’s that as well.)


20140613_115728[1]My thanks again to the con organizers who invited me. To the Danish writers, translators and readers who generously shared of their knowledge, their experiences and the challenges they face in genre. Thank you. It was hyggeligt. 😀