Now I must write two more vignettes:
1) describes: a place; beginning phrase: "Nothing had moved."
2) describes: action; beginning phrase: "The coin toss decided matters and we began."

Or something like that. Must brainstorm what to write about in my Writing Notebook!
Ayon pa sa aming "Sisiw" sa Estados Unidos...
Us Pinoys enjoy puns. Sabi ng titser ko sa Grade 7, it's the lowest form of humor. So wat.

1. aspect - pantusok ng yelo
2. backlog - bacon saka egg
3. beehive - magpakatino ka
4. cdrom - tingnan mo ang kwarto
5. city - bago mag-utso
6. cattle - doon nakatila ang hali at leyna
7. debug - ang ipis
8. dedicated - pinatay ang pusa
9. deduct - ang pato
10. defeat - ang paa (ng pato?)
11. defense - ang bakod
12. defer - ang balahibo
13. deflate - ang plato
14. defrag - ang palaka
15. delusion - e di maluwag
16. depends - (see defense)
17. deposit - ang gripo
18. depress - nagkasal sa persuading(see persuading)
19. detail - ang buntot (ng pato?)
20. detest - ang eksamin
21. devalue - 'yon ang susunod saletrang 'V'
22. devastation - 'dun sasakay ng bus
23. devote - ang boto
24. dilemma - brownout, a!
25. effort - 'dun nagla-land ang efflane
26. forums - apat na kwarto
27. it depends - kainin mo ang bakod
28. july - nagsinungaling ka ba?
29. statue - ikaw ba 'yan?
30. protestant - tindahan ng prutas.
31. predicate - pakawalan mo ang pusa
32. profit - patunayan mo
33. persuading - unang kasal
34. tenacious - sinusuot sa paa
35. thesis - ito ay...
36. torpedo - takot manligaw
37. zoology - ang sayans ng pagtatahi
38. Balance Sheet - what comes out after a balanced diet.

In fairness, pare...
Actually, it has been theorized that the Filipino fascination with puns is related to the fascination with language that the African-American culture has. This is especially prevalent in rap, which is purported to 'express ideas that the oppressor's language doesn't have any words for'. I'm paraphrasing here, of course. Power to the people.

Perhaps Filipinos choose to become familiar with the 'colonizing' influences language and mock it at the same time with this wordplay.

Or perhaps we pinoys just have really... er... eccentric senses of humor.
Here's a snippet of a review from The Fourth Rail. It's Don MacPherson's review of CHRISTA SHERMOT'S 100% GUARANTEED HOW-TO MANUAL FOR GETTING ANYONE TO READ COMIC BOOKS!!!

Comic-book fan Christa Shermot is sick and tired of comics being snubbed by non-comics readers, and she's got some strong opinions to share with them. She's even tailor-made arguments for different segments of the public. She's got rants ready for: (1) young girls who have never read a comic in their lives, (2) young guys who think they're too cool for comics, (3) old guys who feel they've outgrown comics, (4) and adult women who are completely unfamiliar with the medium. And to show off the versatility of the medium, Christa and her sister Elisa share from scenes from their own comic book, Fade from Blue.

Vin, will you have it in stock?
Yesterday's Chapter One
That was, of course, the first chapter from Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination" originally titled "Tiger, Tiger". It could be seen as a "Count of Monte Cristo" set in the 25th Century, were it not for the thematic differences between the two. Alas, that's all I can say. I won't spoil anything for those of you who intend to read it still.

Today's Chapter One
It's a Fantasy novel today... one that I've yet to finish. Thanks to K8 for the book(s). Here's a hint: the writer's initials are L.D., though he was also known as Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett.

   In their ruddy jackets of leather that reached to their knees, the men of Erl appeared before their lord, the stately white-haired man in his long red room. He leaned in his carven chair and heard their spokesman.
   And thus their spokesman said.
   "For seven hundred years the chiefs of your race have ruled as well; and their deeds are remembered by the minor ministrels, living on yet in their tinkling songs. And yet the generations stream away, and there is no new thing."
   "We would be ruled by a magic lord," they said.
   "So be it," said the lord. "It is five hundred years since the people have spoken thus in parliament, and it shall always be as your parliament saith. You have spoken. So be it."
   And he raised his hand and blessed them and they went.
   They went back to their ancient crafts, to the fitting of iron to the hooves of horses, to working upon leather, to tending flowers, to ministering to the rugged needs of Earth; they followed the ancient ways, and looked for a new thing. But the old lord sent a word to his eldest son, bidding him to come before him.
   And very soon the young man stood before him, in that same carven chair from which he had not moved, where light, growing late, from high windows, showed the aged eyes looking far into the future beyond that old lord's time. And seated there he gave his son his commandment.
   "Go forth," he said, "before these days of mine are over, and therefore go in haste, and go from here eastwards and pass the fields we know, till you see the lands that clearly pertain to faery; and cross their boundary which is made of twilight, and come to that palace that is only told of in song."
   "It is far from here," said the young man Alveric
   "Yes," answered he, "it is far."
   "And further still," the young man said, "to return. For distances in those fields are not as here."
   "Even so," said his father.
   "What do you bid me do," said the son, "when I come to that palace?"
   And his father said: "To wed the King of Elfland's daughter."

Comics: Off the Cuff
I like to go to The Fourth Rail to get early reviews of comics that have not yet come out. I sometimes wonder if by reading these, I suffer having my own opinions colored by theirs. But I've picked up more than one series because of them, so I keep going.

Perhaps I should do a regular feature on this blog - Comics: Off the Cuff. It'll be my version of Snap Judgements. Perhaps...
Chapter One: The Beginnings
As a result of the writing exercises, I've been re-reading the beginnings of some of my favorite short stories and novels (mostly Fantasy & Science Fiction)...

Here's one:

He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead. He fought for survival with the passion of a beast in a trap. He was delirious and rotting, but occasionally his primitive mind emerged from the burning nightmare of survival to something resembling sanity. Then he lifted his mute face to eternity and muttered: "What's a matta, me? Help, you goddamn gods! Help, is all."

Blasphemy came easy to him: it was half his speech, all his life. He had been raised in the gutter school of the twenty-fifth century and spoke nothing but the gutter tongue. Of all brutes in the world he was among the least valuable alive and most likely to survive. So he struggled and prayed in blasphemy; but occasionally his raveling mind leaped backward thirty years to his childhood and remembered a nursery jingle:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation.
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death's my destination.
Play Jerry Garcia, Man...

I saw a brief show on HBO this morning. It was about some work that Jerry Garcia did... I can't remember who the other guy was (David Grisman? Grisham?), but I liked the album they worked on: Not Just For Kids. A collection of not-so-watered down kids folks songs.

And I remembered Tom E., my best friend. Jerry Garcia fan and no mean gee-tar playuh. Hey Tom, I know I'm a bugger about writing back and all that. After all this SARS & Terrorism crap's over, I'm gonna come visit. Keep me posted on the plays and stuff you're involved in - hope to catch you in one soon.
According to Gaming Top 10 Results:

Super-Hero Based RPGs
1: Champions (Hero Games)
2: Marvel Super Heroes (TSR)
3: Mutants & Masterminds (Green Ronin)
4: DC Heroes (Mayfair)
5: Silver Age Sentinels (Guardians of Order)
6: Villains & Vigilantes (Fantasy Games Unlimited)
7: GURPS Supers (Steve Jackson Games)
8: Aberrant (White Wolf Publishing)
9: Heroes Unlimited (Palladium)
10: Godlike (Hobgoblynn Press)

Go Champions, Go!
Science Fiction - Definition
"Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions... [It is] that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings."
- Isaac Asimov

Is this necessarily true? I always feel wary about absolute statements like this. Arguments against it would normally involve specific examples of "non-science fiction" writings that meet the above critieria. But then Asimov [the-god-of-atheists rest his soul] would then promptly claim that those writings were also science fiction.

Dean has argued (check me on my accuracy here, Dean) that there are no Science Fiction or Fantasy stories about the "human condition" that could not be told in... er... normal literature. Given the above definition, he is correct, assuming that the "human condition" tackled in normal literature is the "human condition" of the present, the NOW.

Asimov's Science Fiction tackles the "human condition" of the future, based on the impact of major and minor scientific advancements. It betrays Asimov's belief that the "human condition" can change substantially, for better or worse, due to science.

It reminds me of an off-hand comment about Science and Science Fiction: "Where science predicts traffic lights, science fiction predicts traffic jams."

Science Fiction & Fantasy - Definitions
"The major distinction between fantasy and science fiction is, simply, that science fiction uses one, or a very, very few new postulates, and develops the rigidly consistent logical consequences of these limited postulates. Fantasy makes its rules as it goes along...The basic nature of fantasy is 'The only rule is, make up a new rule any time you need one!' The basic rule of science fiction is 'Set up a basic proposition--then develop its consistent, logical consequences.' "
- John W. Campbell, Jr.

Several people have spoken to me about how Science Fiction is more 'rigid' than Fantasy. As John W. Campell, Jr. clearly believed, they were right. While I do enjoy both 'genres', it seems Science Fiction is most often maligned for "having its cake and eating it too." I suppose that the main argument to write Fantasy over Science Fiction is "if you're going to change one rule, why not change them all?"

But the point of good science fiction is to make you think about a variety of issues (societal, moral, whatever) not too far divorced from the reality that we know. It is the branch of fiction that explores and often tackles in cautionary overtones the moral implications of scientific advancement. Genetic Engineering. Weapons of Mass Destruction. Supercomputers and an interconnected sea information. Satellites and Cellphones. The list goes on and on.

Sometimes the authors were horribly wrong about the implications. Other times, they were chillingly prescient. On reflection, one wonders whether H.G. Wells really did have a Time Machine of sorts...
Musings on Writing
As a result of the writing exercise and the discussions of last Friday, I've been trying to crystallize my opinions on the craft of storytelling (in various media).

Somewhere in my subconsicious, I've subdivided stories into three types: stories that make you feel, stories that make you think, and stories that do both. Within each type, there are gradations, naturally.

Stories that Make You Feel:
These range from stories that rely on cheap melodrama and scare tactics to elicit a response... to subtly crafted storylines that reduce you to tears or elevate you to profound outrage.
Stories that Make You Think:
These range from clumsily argued philosophical diatribes to intricately plotted and characterized explorations of the impact of a new technology, a new philosophy, an old and horrible habit...
Stories that Do Both:
My Holy Grail... stories that inspire and instruct. Stories that not only educate you on the nature of the world and the inner workings of the people that live on it, but also draw strong and profound emotional reactions from those that experience the story.
Writing Exercise 1 - Description
As I recall it, the exercise was to write a vignette that describes and defines a character. However, the restriction was that it had to begin with the phrase: "Playing chess frightened her."

Writing Exercise 1 - Thinking Creatively
My initial thoughts immediately began running towards the next logical sentence that would follow. The vignette below is the one that I chose to go with.

However, being pilosopo, I reasoned that as a phrase "Playing chess frightened her" didn't have to end with a period. This led to other starting sentences like:
Playing chess frightened her two-headed dingo.
Playing chess frightened her a little.
Playing chess frightened Hernandez.

After slapping myself for these insanities, I began to wonder where I'd developed this annoying habit. I blame Mr. Carlos Aguilar, my 6th Grade HS teacher who always encouraged us to be creative. He encouraged 'thinking outside the box' before it became a profitable and career-saving corporate slogan.

Then again, my parents will attest to the fact that I've always been pilosopo so it's likely he only encouraged me.
Writing Exercise 1 - Version 3
(Genre: Modern Day Romance? I dunno...)

Apologies to Dean. I'm engaged in some writing exercises with some of my buddies, and I already submitted this one (a slightly different version) to Dean via e-mail. Then I got the courage to post in on my blog and after reading it I corrected some mistakes (grammar) and adjusted some paragraphs (style). I e-mailed it again, and I saw more things I wanted to change! Ack.

Playing chess frightened her.

Many male “friends” secretly vying for her affections would drop by her loft, trying to catch her winding down at the end of her day, hoping to coax smiles, laughter, and snippets of wisdom from her lips. Some performed songs on a variety of instruments: guitars, flutes, harmonicas, and portable keyboards. Others would read to her from books of poetry or plays or the latest underground novel to garner rave reviews.

A few observant souls tried to entice her with a game of chess, prompted no doubt by the wooden chessboard on her bedside table and the volumes of chess books that dominated the shelves of her mini-library.

She would refuse these requests with feigned fatigue or disinterest, but those closest to her noted the ghost of fear playing about the edges of eyes.

Playing chess frightened her.

Every evening after the last guest left her room, one or more chess tomes would be whisked away from the shelves and stacked beside the frozen game on the chessboard beside her bed. The letters kept in the top drawer of her night table would be carefully taken from their hiding place and laid on her pillow. The chesspieces on the chessboard would be pushed to their starting positions.

She always played black.

She would read the letters then, sometimes lingering on the salutation or smiling at every familiar narrative twist or turn of phrase. At the end of each letter, she would dutifully move the piece to the position he indicated in his letters. And she would reply with a move of her own. This nightly ritual would continue until the last letter was read and the last piece slipped into its well-worn place.

Then she would scour the books for hours, imagining dozens of moves and counters playing themselves out on the chessboard. She would often catch herself wondering what if he practiced chess the way she did – alone and in private. And if he would ever join her in her city. Or if one day, she would join him in his.

Every morning, the books and letters would be carefully slipped back into their proper places.

Playing chess frightened her.

Over the months the letters had gotten shorter, the intervals between them had gotten longer, and the chess moves in them more haphazard and reckless.

One day soon, she knew that a friend would ask her to play a game of chess. And she would hesitate. And she would say yes.