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epistemic transmission from planet baryon

Call for Submissions for Literatura

Pinoy Science Fiction, for the June 2004 issue, will be guest edited by Baryon Tensor Posadas. For submissions to this issue dedicated to Philippine science or future fiction, please email Mr. Posadas at baryon (at) college-of-chaos (dot) net. Deadline is 31 May 2004.

full announcement d2

and to inspire you, am posting baryon's draft intro:
Standing on the Yellow Line
By Baryon Tensor Posadas

          In 1999, the MRT-3 (or as the government wants it to be known now, the Metro Blue Line) slithering across the city on the median of EDSA first opened. With it came a set of routines that by now are already familiar to its commuters. You take your place at the line to purchase tickets from the counter. Wiping the sweat off your forehead, you step through the stainless steel gates, and wait at the platform. Finally, just as you see the blue and white articulated trains crawl into the station, the public announcement blares in your ears. "For your own safety, please stand behind the yellow line."

         While having a train slam into one’s absent-mindedly extended arm is without a doubt a valid safety issue, there is more to it than this. The yellow line marks the border between different modes of perceiving. Today, some five years since it first opened, the scenes glimpsed from the concrete canopy of the MRT’s superstructure likely no longer evoke a sense of wonder in its commuters. Most people no longer even peer through the train’s windows. Yet, five years ago, stepping across that yellow line for the first time meant seeing a previously an invisible view of the urban madness of Metro Manila. The commuter could gaze at the rusted rooftops of abandoned houses in the heart of Cubao, or the multilevel erasure of the sky in the crossing of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard, or the sheer scale of EDSA gridlock unfathomable from the street level. Stepping across that yellow line led to not just new ways of seeing, but also new ways of experiencing the city.

         It is this sense of wonder, this anxiety of the new lurking in the moment one steps across that yellow line that science fiction is about. With a foregrounding and exploration of certain tropes (technology, the alien, the future, etc.) as its tools, science fiction, in the words of Damien Broderick "is that species of storytelling native to a culture undergoing epistemic changes implicated in the rise and supercession of technical-industrial modes of production, distribution, consumption, and disposal" (Broderick 1995: 155). In this sense, science fiction is about transformations and the consequent tension arising from the encounter between unknown hypothetical scenarios (e.g., the future) with the experiences, the anxieties of the known now. Rather than being about the future itself, like the ride on the MRT, it is concerned with the possibilities hinted at by rendering as of yet invisible modes of perception and experience and juxtaposing these with the present.

         Indeed, the act of rendering the invisible is perhaps a critical one when dealing with the Philippine context. The various situations encountered by the Filipino in all their diversity tend to be tied together by a confrontation with his or her own invisibility. The urban poor find themselves erased when cars drive past them, the gazes of the people within averted. The Muslim Filipino is rendered invisible and irrelevant by the viral pervasiveness of Catholic practice. The rest of the country must struggle with their vanishing under the sheer weight of Metro Manila’s developmental primacy.

         Even the Filipino Diaspora living other lives in other places must deal with their ethnic invisibility. In the United States, the Filipino disappears into the monolithic conception of "Asian." Furthermore, even within that conception, while the second largest immigrant group of Asian origin (next to the Chinese), the Filipino is (with a few exceptions) largely absent from American media. A similar sense of absence can be seen in Japan, where Filipinos are the fourth largest immigrant group (after the Koreans, Chinese, and Brazilians) and yet practically non-existent in the discourse of minorities in the country.

         Given that Philippine science fiction is doubly estranged, doubly invisible (it is marginal in the discourse of Philippine literature just as Philippine literature is marginal in the discourse of literatures in English), perhaps within it lie the tools to perceive the various invisibilities of the Philippine context. In the act of rendering the encounter with the yet absent experiences, perhaps the science fiction writer can simultaneously deploy his tools to render our own aliens, our own Others. As one looks at the invisible scene outside the MRT train’s window, we might perhaps learn to start seeing the invisible people, our own invisible selves reflected back at us on the surface of the train’s glass windows.

Pssst, btw, he sez he'd certainly be pleased if Luis or Adam can come up with something as well. *nudge* *nudge*

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Best described as a Murakami detox support group, we're all fans of the quirkily brilliant Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, and writing about such things as films we've seen recently and books we're reading (not to mention meandering musings on the man's work, of course) helps us to pass time while waiting for the next book from Haruki-baby.

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