Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler

I read a story a week or so ago that keeps circling around my brain. I'll see something that reminds me of it and I'll turn to whomever I've with and start to comment, then remember they didn’t read it and sigh. It's one of the excellent stories currently available for free in the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler found online.

Dean Koontz once said that all lost girls are the same lost girl. To be more precise, his character Chyna Shepherd said it for him, just before endangering her own life to try and rescue another girl who has been captured by a killer. The exact quote, which is from his book Intensity, is "The girl in the photo was alive somewhere, imprisoned. Ariel was no fantasy. Indeed she was Chyna; they were one and the same, because all lost girls are the same girl, united by their suffering." I mention this because I've noticed this same theme in other literature that I have enjoyed, like Case Histories: A Novel by Kate Atkinson, which is also about missing girls, and Keeping Time by FH Batacan from the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, which has an underlying theme of pain and prejudice being a common bond among very different people.

Keeping Time is the story of Mike, a recently fat man who has lost 140 pounds but is haunted by the ghost of his bigger self. He's traveling for his job, working for a scientific organization tracking the progress of a world altering enzyme. I don't want to give away too much of the story but it's essentially about the current obsession with weight, beauty and greed; the greed mostly on the part of the pharmacological industry but also on the part of those who are eager to ever more attractive. The author does a fantastic job examining these issues while telling a compelling, heart wrenching story.

The Forgotten City by Vincent C. Sales is another story from the same sampler that I enjoyed very much, although I was disappointed when I came to the end and discovered that it is the beginning of an unfinished project. Still, I can hope that one day it will become a finished project and I can read more adventures. It isn't just a story within a story; it is like a thousand stories within a story, or like one of those images that is made of smaller photographs. Nearly every paragraph in chapter two is made up of a different story, which is all an introduction to more, longer, stories within The Forgotten City. They're lyrical, passionate and often painful.

I also enjoyed A Ghost Story by Francezca C. Kwe, which is about more than one ghost. The story starts off with a fantastic, vivid description of a ghost reputed to haunt a local house and goes on to describe equally well the horrors of loneliness, loss, starvation and war. It spans decades and tells intertwined stories of an elderly woman who lived in a haunted house for years and a college student who is having a bit of a crisis.

Pedro Diyego's Homecoming by Apol Lejano-Massebieau is a fun story about a boy born with wings on his feet. Not the ethereal child you might expect, instead he's more the chubby cherub type, the kind whose wings seem to defy physics and lift a ridiculous amount for their size. His mother is haunted by nightmares of him being carried off by the wind so she encourages his eating, hoping to make him heavy enough to keep him grounded. Again with the eating and the fat character, right? Many of the stories in this sampler do share a theme of eating and deprivation, although some stories aren't about being deprived of food, but instead a kind of spiritual starvation.

You can read the entire sampler here.

One-Paragraph Review
This week we do something new. James Comtois, who writes fantastic plays and is a member of Nosedive, a terrific New York City based production company, said, "…saw "Synecdoche, New York." Wow. Just...wow." Then he very kindly agreed that I could run his more extensive review, which is posted in his blog. I'm going to post an excerpt and link you to the remainder of the review.

Critics seem to be split on this film, which isn't surprising. It's not a fun film (although there are aspects to it that are fun and funny). And it's not an easy film (I'd be lying if I told you I was confident in telling you what it's about). It's also a film that deals with mortality in a very frank and stark way, a not very popular film subject (even films that do deal with growing old are done with a sentimentality that is not present here). But I do think it's a fascinating and important film, and Ebert's absolutely right: it's about you, whoever you are.

The rest of the review is here, at James' blog.

Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.