Fantasy, Set in the Philippines: Self’s “Isa”

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Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental, the Philippines: December 2010

A few weeks ago, when self was attending a reading in USF, Barbara Jane Reyes, poet and teacher, told self she was teaching “Isa” in her class this fall.

YEEEESSSSS!!!!

Five families lived on Isa. At first, there was a way to walk on the ground between the houses. But gradually the water rose and that was when we began to use the rope bridges.

In self’s story the water keeps rising and rising and rising, until gradually all the other islands get submerged. And there is only one left.

The families on Isa send out an expedition to see how far the water reaches. The journey takes them far away, and they realize that they’ve long passed the edges of their known world.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwriting: Dystopia, the End

A classroom of the future. The teacher is Fire Lizard.

Fire Lizard really is turning into a lizard.

The students are Dragon, Drinker, and Knot. Dragon and Drinker are boys. Knot is a girl.

This is a sequel to self’s “First Causes.”

Fire Lizard looking greener than usual today. He pays no mind about Big’s chair, sitting empty.

“Nature,” Fire Lizard begins, “will vindicate her laws.”

We nod. Our cornea slips engage.

This is a series of stories in which the protagonists mostly just sit in a classroom. Because this is a classroom of the future, there’s fancy stuff like cornea slips.

“First Life” was published in Juked.com, July 2015.

“First Causes” is forthcoming in Quarterly West.

For more of this dystopian universe, refer also to decomP, which in August this year published “Spores,” along with audio from Morgan Cooke, reading in full Dublin accent, lol!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sally Potter’s YES (Potter Wrote the Entire Thing In Iambic Pentameter)

Self’s favorite scene in the movie is when SHE (played by Joan Allen) goes to visit her dying aunt in a hospital in Belfast.

Aunt:

The thing is, no-one told
Me I’d have all this time, but far too late
To use it for the things I dreamed of. Fate
Delivers upside down and back to front.
I’ve more to say than ever, but they shunt
Me back and forth all day from bed to chair
And back to bed again; it isn’t fair.
All this experience I’d like to share.
Not that it all adds up. Not that you care.
I’d better stop — it’s time for you to go
Already, isn’t it? Five minutes — oh,
Well maybe ten . . . you see, I never know
When you’ll be here again. It’s such a blow
Each time you leave, it’s hardly worth your while
To come at all. I mean it! Don’t you smile
Like that! Oh, you’ll be sorry when I’m dead.
I’m only joking, dear. I only said
That for a laugh. Although of course it’s true.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIT’S END: A Novel About a Novelist and Her At-Loose-Ends Niece

Self is on pp. 172 – 173 of Karen Joy Fowler’s Wit’s End.

She has been enjoying it, not least because the characters are Democrats (They wear their political affiliations on their sleeve. But of course they do: they live in Santa Cruz, CA).

A character owns a pair of dogs named Stanford and Berkeley. Self almost dropped the book because of that but she’s so glad she didn’t.

Anyhoo, the book makes her all sorts of nostalgic for Santa Cruz, CA. For its wooden roller coaster and its Boardwalk and its blue and pink cotton candy and the Ripley Believe It Or Not hall of funhouse mirrors.

Sample dinner conversation between a famous mystery writer and her niece, Rima:

“I remember once when you were about four years old. We went out to eat and you told the waitress you wanted a petite filet mignon. She just about dropped her pencil.”

“I was always saying something cute after you left. Hardly a day went by.”

“This puts the Democrats in very good shape for 2008.”

“There’s even corn in the toothpaste now. Did I mention that?”

Something wet landed on Rima’s ankle. Stanford was drooling; it brought her back to the moment.

Regarding that petite filet mignon: when self still lived in Manila, Dearest Mum’s youngest brother married a nineteen-year-old. The first time self met the prospective bride was at dinner in San Mig Pub in Greenbelt Park. And the teen-ager ordered — steak tartare. Dearest Mum was so impressed she couldn’t stop talking about it.

Until that moment, self had never laid eyes on a steak tartare. And she’s never had a yen to order it, either. That means self will probably end her days without ever tasting this singular delight, boo.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Voting, San Francisco Edition

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November 8, 2016

There are many, many problems facing the City of San Francisco.

One of these is not the system of voting.

In this presidential election year, self registered as a resident of the city, for the first time. A thick pamphlet came in the mail shortly after. Self felt like she was preparing for a grad school exam.

On the morning itself, when self turned on her cell, three text messages came up in quick succession:  Your polling place is HERE. VOTE TODAY. HERE IS A MAP.

And lo and behold, she followed the map and stumbled into — serenity. At 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, a polling place was the most serene part of the city.

It was soooo quiet! There were no lines! Self pored over her choices! There was an envelope to stick the ballot in! She couldn’t close the envelope, the ballot was five extra-long pages! She took her ballot to a volunteer, the volunteer casually flipped it over and told self, you didn’t fill in the back.

What? There was a back? For each page?

Never mind. Self did the important thing: she voted for President/Vice President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman, Board of Supervisors, and some very important propositions.

After, she had to stick in her sealed ballot into a huge red box. Which was already full.

The next day, a message came in on e-mail, telling her: “There has been a change in the list of your selected representatives.” The e-mail went on to list each and every one of the elected representatives, starting of course with the POTUS. Though that was painful, she saw most of her other choices prevail.

Happiness!

Stay tuned.

Karen Joy Fowler: WIT’S END

This novel was published seven years ago, but it’s about a 2006 mid-term election.

That shows you how long self hangs on to reviews of books she’s adding to her reading list. She will go to a bookstore, armed with her file of New York Times Book Review clippings, she will first search the shelves and then end up asking for help from a bookstore staff person, and that person will look at self’s clipping, then his/her eyes will wander down to the date at the bottom of the page, and they will say (which has happened on at least three separate occasions), in a very offended tone: “Ma’am, this review is dated 2010.” Subtext: Are you freaking nuts?

The last novel she inquired about was Sara Gruen’s Ape House.

What can she say? She’s been living la vida loca for a very, very long time. So long that hyperactivity seems to be the norm.

In an incredible stroke of luck, self is reading Fowler’s Wit’s End the week after the elections. It would seem that, in 2009, there was the same kind of zeitgeist roiling around northern California. Because while reading Wit’s End, it could be 2016. She doesn’t even have to change a single word in a few passages, it reads like 2016:

  • Well, Ohio hadn’t delivered the complete Democratic rout that had been predicted.

A few pages later:

  • “How about that election,” the sushi chef said.

It’s been really hot in San Francisco (Ha, ha, ha — she’ll never complain about San Francisco coolness again! It’s sweltering hot. Like Global Warming with a capital G. W.) Self went to the Ferry Building to cool off. And overheard a woman say: “I’m still traumatized over those election results.”

And then, a few steps further, a vendor was calling out “Sea Salt! Sea Salt!” He beckoned to a young couple passing by and said: “Young lovers, this might be your last shot at happiness! Have a taste!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Conversation of the Day: “The Vampire Diaries,” Season 3

“I feel like I’m going crazy. Everything’s making me paranoid.”

“You have a right to be. Klaus is still out there, trying to kill you.”

Elena (Interior monologue): Oh thank God. I thought for a minute there, I was going crazy.

Stay tuned.

ATTN: Arya/Gendry Shippers!

Self has been all GOT, ever since Season 2, which she caught in a hotel in Bacolod years ago.

The last two years she’s been traveling a lot, but she makes it a point to get caught up when she lands in a place with a TV.

Which is just a roundabout way of saying: she’s all caught up.

Amazing! Awesome!

She used to ship Brienne/Jaime like crazy, but the fan fiction for this pair hasn’t been great.

Because she ships Everlark, she follows Everlark fan fiction writers on tumblr, and that’s led her to a new favorite: Stranger Things.

Today, one of the tumblrs she follows revealed that Joe Dempsie, who plays Gendry, was just sighted on a Game of Thrones set.

!!!!##@@!!!

She hasn’t seen Gendry in sooo long! She thinks it was the scene where Ser Davos and he were sitting in a boat and Ser Davos asked him, Do you know how to swim? And Gendry said no, so Ser Davos said, with his usual deadpan sarcasm: “Don’t fall out.”

Self used to ship Aray/Gendry like mad.

Poor Arya lately has become rather — strange. Self hates it whenever she goes into one of her trance-like states.

But if Gendry is back on Game of Thrones, maybe there’s still hope for an Arya/Gendry pairing. Self certainly hopes so. Because it would be too sad to imagine Arya ending up alone, after all she’s been through.

Stay tuned.

Two Dystopian Fantasies: Forthcoming

in Bellingham Review:  ICE

  • What food, what a fool. There’s no food on the ice. Not on top, not under.

In Quarterly West:  FIRST CAUSES

  • Class begins. Fire Lizard tells us to turn on our cornea slips. “Today’s topic,” Fire Lizard says, “is First Causes.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

That Point In the Story When —

No one is coming to help us, all right?”

That line was uttered by a passenger on UA 93. You know, the flight that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The passengers already knew that the plane had been hijacked and everyone had rushed screaming to the back of the plane and were all huddled there, gripping their cell phones and passing on hope.

And then one man said, very simply and quietly, and self can’t remember what his name was or where she read about him (it was probably The New Yorker, because she’s been subscribing to that magazine for almost her whole life): “No one is coming to help us, all right? We’re going to have to help ourselves.” And that’s when the passengers drew up a plan to fight back.

Self thinks this is so beautiful because, to tell the truth, she is very prone to what is referred to nowadays as ‘Magical Thinking’

  • My Masters from _______ will save me.
  • My 300-point Egyptian cotton sheets will save me.
  • My sarcasm and unflappable good nature will save me.

And then nobody saves you.

She’s still reading Ghost Soldiers, about the American POW camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. For the first time in three years, American fighter jets are spotted in the sky. They seem to be making a point to fly directly over the POW camp, as if taunting the Japanese guards. Or maybe warning them: you’re going to lose, so you’d better start treating the POWs well.

And that’s when the Japanese decide to siphon off 1,600 of the strongest and healthiest POWs and pack them into ships bound for Japan. And of course, no one wants to be among the number going to Japan, because they might very well die en route. And it seems so tragically pointless to die just when the Philippines is on the point of being liberated.

Author Hampton Sides shows all the fakery that individual POWs resort to keep from being on the list of prisoners being transported to Japan. Then he follows what happens on board this one ship (which makes self feel a little hopeful, since obviously there had to be survivors of this ordeal; otherwise, how could the author know how it all went down?)

Anyhoo, the POWs are crammed into the hold of this one ship, and they start to panic when the doors to the hold are shut. There’s pandemonium and yelling and suffering. Then one man (Sides gives us his name: Frank Bridget) climbs up on a stairway and shouts: GENTLEMEN! (Because this is the 1940s? And nowadays it would be something more like: LISTEN UP, DUDES!): “If we panic, we’re only going to use up more oxygen.”

Who was this guy? Where’d he come from? Like the man on UA 93, though, he was the right man at the right time. Who knows why?

This man rapped on the hatch and told the Japanese officers: “I am coming up to speak to you. And you are going to keep this hatch open.”

And they listened to him! Holy cow! If you insist on behaving like a human being, perhaps others will start remembering that they, too, are human beings? And then all the madness will stop?

The name of the ship the POWs were on was the Oryoku Maru.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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