Friday, February 26, 2010

SpecFic Talk Highlights

I gave my talk on Speculative Fiction this afternoon to a very receptive group of Ateneo students. They turned out to be quite in tune with the genre; it felt great to have them catch most of my references. Even better, they shared my dislike for "Avatar."

Early in the talk, I touched on "Agua Bendita" and "Mulawin/Encantadia", my starting points for discussion on Character and Setting, respectively. I asked them what made Agua such a fantastical character. The answer:

"Hindi nababasa ang damit niya!"

which happened to be exactly what I had in mind. That got laughs all around. As I said, they were a very receptive bunch.

In the course of that discussion, an insight also came to me: Filipino speculative fiction, at least as presented in movies and television typically fail because the drama overwhelms the sense of the fantastic. Teleseryes, of course, are the worst offenders. Really, everyone is so preoccupied with the slapping and the screaming and the eyebrow-arching, they forget to marvel at the miraculous in their midst.

Hmmm, on second thought, that sounds so very Filipino after all.

Once more, I got on my soapbox against Joseph Campbell. One astute student asked: "If we follow the monomyth, does that mean that the story is bad?" And my response: "It means that your story is formulaic, and that's bad."

Emily, who attended the talk, pointed out to me afterwards that the pattern of Filipino stories did not follow the Campbellian monomyth. The Campbellian hero, you see, grows in the course of the story; the typical Filipino hero does not. Instead, it is the people around the hero who change. Therefore, the nemeses of the Filipino hero either become good, or become more evil than they are.

Interestingly enough, I saw the same thing in my study of Philippine myths.

All in all, the talk was very satisfying. The two hours alloted went by like that. I hope to hear more from this group, and certainly, I hope they write.

Oh, and there was an earthquake, too. And I asked them to vote for me.