Lauriat, the World Fantasy Awards and International Speculative Fiction – Roberto Mendes interviews Charles Tan

In Interview on August 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Dear ISF readers,

We are proud to offer you an Interview with Charles Tan (World Fantasy Award nominee). 

Don’t miss the opportunity to read what Charles has to say about a variety of topics, such as his new Filipino-Chinese Anthology of Speculative Fiction,  his nomination for the World Fantasy Awards, his view on the International Speculative Fiction scene  and much more…

Roberto Mendes

Editor in Chief

Hi Charles, You seem to have been very busy: a nomination, for the second year running, for the World Fantasy Award (for the Bibliophile Stalker) and you have just released your new anthology, Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology. Congratulations! Really well done! Lets start by the nomination, How does it feel to be nominated for such a special award?

I’m honored, especially for a relatively unknown person like myself to represent both the Philippines and the contributions of blogging to the genre.

And what is the relevance of such a nomination for you?

Again, I’m honored and thrilled, but the honest answer is that life goes on as usual, regardless of the award nomination or not. Various projects are still underway, and I continue to do the various blogging that I do. It helps with the promotion to have “World Fantasy Award nominee” attached but aside from that, we do the work that we do not because we think it will win us awards, but because this is what we’re passionate about.

Lets switch to your new anthology, why have you organized a Filipino and Chinese anthology?

Just to clarify, it’s Filipino-Chinese, as “Filipino and Chinese” implies two separate groups. There’s several reasons: while I’ve been promoting Philippine speculative fiction, I’m also part of the Filipino-Chinese community and there hasn’t been any fiction in the genre that’s focused on us. Second, I also wanted to give voice to a generation of young, undiscovered writers and this was a good venue to do so. And third, the selfish reason is that I wanted to work on an original anthology (as opposed to reprints), and this was a great learning experience.

What are the main differences between the Chinese and Filipino approach to speculative fiction?  And the similarities?

Again, they’re just one group but even among us, there always be different approaches to fiction, just as there is not one way to approach SF from an American, Mexican, Japanese, or Indian perspective.

With the Filipino-Chinese community however, I think there are some topics that do not get discussed among the ethnic Filipino community. There’s the concept of interracial marriage for example, the expatriate experience, or simply our setting which is nonetheless uniquely Filipino but viewed from a different mindset.

Can you tell me about what makes Chinese-Filipino authors unique voices in terms of Speculative Fiction?

Each author will have something that makes them unique, as opposed to a broad generalization over a simple culture of writers.

But one characteristic is that they discuss ideas and concerns that’s different from the concerns of, say, your stereotypical WASP reader. One story for example takes place during our rebellion against Spain, and uses a Filipino mythological creature, and the Chinese background of the protagonist impacts the way the various characters in the book react.

Tell us about the difficulties you encountered between the kick-start of the anthology and the moment of its publication.

Well for me, the biggest challenge is really marketing the book. Not a lot of readers know about me or this field of speculative fiction, so getting the word out is a major obstacle.

The rest is really on the craft of editing, meeting deadlines, satiating the needs of both the contributors and the publisher (the wonderful Lethe Press).

What can we find in the stories? What are the main themes ?

Well, the main overarching theme is to simply discuss subject matters that are related to Filipino-Chinese culture, whether overtly or implied. One example is the taboo of marriage outside of the Filipino-Chinese structure (i.e. we can’t marry someone not Chinese). Another is the expatriate experience. Or it could simply be stories that are whimsical, wonderful, and hopefully interesting to readers.

Who are the authors we should be looking at in terms of Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction? Are all of them reunited on this Anthology?

I wouldn’t call them reunited but I did my best to include a lot of young new voices.

Quite prolific right now for example is Kristine Ong Muslim, who has published a lot of flash fiction and poetry elsewhere.

In the local scene, Yvette Tan and Crystal Koo are also quite prominent, having won awards and such, but equally consistent authors include Gabriela Lee and Christine Lao.

But I also have my eye on the relatively new and unknown writers like Erin Chupeco and Margaret Kawsek.

Do you think the International authors are reaching more readers and changing the way the readers look to the Speculative Fiction?

Because of the Internet, readers now have access to authors who would otherwise have been limited by local reach, but at the end of the day, the importance of websites such as yours is that the publishing industry is imbalanced in favor of the West and its literature (and even then, those that are in favorable positions of society). Whether that will change for the better in the future, that’s up to readers to decide, and all I can do is strive to give voices to other people and cultures.

What can we expect from you in the Future?

Nothing planned for now, but of course a lot of future work is also dependent on the success of projects like my anthology Lauriat.


Charles Tan

Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology


About the Author: 

Charles Tan’s fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Philippine Speculative Fiction and the anthology The Dragon and the Stars (ed. by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi). He has contributed nonfiction to websites such as The Shirley Jackson Awards (http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/), Fantasy Magazine (http://www.darkfantasy.org/fantasy/), The World SF Blog (http://worldsf.wordpress.com/), and SF Signal (http://www.sfsignal.com). In 2009, he won the Last Drink Bird Head Award (http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2009/10/04/the-first-annual-last-drink-bird-head-award-finalists/) for International Activism. He is also a 2011 World Fantasy nominee for the Special Award, Non-Professional category.  You can visit his blog, Bibliophile Stalker (http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/), the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler (http://philippinespeculativefiction.com/), or Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009(http://bestphilippinesf.com/).Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology
  1. Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and exposure! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve added you guys to my own blogroll.

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