Journal

Where I was 7, I acquired a small handmade booklet of Filipino myths and legends bound with a stapler. It felt like a secret passed from palm to palm. In the book were stories how the first humans sprung out of bamboo, how the pineapple was a once a lazy girl, why the Filipino is brown, stories about the gods and goddesses that the people believed in before the Spanish came.

And hungry for more. I asked my mom what stories her nannies used to tell her when she was a child. “Oh you know, about princesses and princes,” she answered as if it wasn’t interesting at all. And it wasn’t to her, but it was to me, with my imagination overflowing and in need of  more. I left disappointed. While the Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties, knights and kings, were the stories that made up my childhood, I already knew there were more, and those stories were supposed to belong to someone like me, not just the golden haired and fair skinned.

My dad supplied just a dribble more. He told us about the aswang (vampires) with their long tongues that would stick down through the nipa hut roof and drink your blood, and the dwende (dwarves) who would cause trouble in your homes, how you always had to beg pardon when passing a certain tree so that you don’t anger the spirits. I wanted more, but the stories stopped there. They weren’t as much stories as warnings.

When I was older, I was hungry still, I gravitated to the library shelves of world mythologies. I devoured them all. I could come back from the library with an armful of Irish myths, but all I had of my own remained that slim little booklet.

When I was 14, on a trip to the Philippines, the katulong (house helper) at my uncle’s house killed a beautiful orange lizard and I was upset. “It brings the lightning,” he explained to us. I heard my aunties whisper that whatever business opened in the corner store kept failing because of multo (ghosts). These things were a matter of fact, not just superstition.

When I was older yet, I learned stories peripherally through dance. Dances acting out planting the fields and praying to the gods for blessing, or hunting magical birds, and lovers turned into volcanoes. But these were tiny things, scraps of stories sanitized and stylized for consumption, reproduced from vague bits of information, that were felt rather than known. But it was a small glimpse of something more, that left me with questions. Stories with holes like sieves. Context lost.

From my friends I learned ghost stories that kept me up at night. We shivered at stories of the white lady, and the footsteps heard in empty rooms, dwende shaking beds and causing trouble in our homes. I never thought of these as folktales, because to us they weren’t stories, just life.

A few months ago, I found another book of folktales, just twice as fat as my palm sized booklet, and barely half as tall. It was entirely a different thing. This was a book of folktales written after Spanish colonization had taken hold. Instead of magic, there were miracles. Instead of selfish girls turned into plants, pious old women saved their villages. Local spirits became engkanto (fairies). Goddesses turned into lonely women who wandered the mountains.

I think about how much was lost and what echoes are left behind. What does it do to you when your ancestors stories are stripped away and all you’re left with are monsters?

P.S. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it: After a Revolution “We are tinder. Stories are the spark.”

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Journal

Writing:

The first draft of the beasty book is done! I didn’t think I’d get there so soon, but the draft was shorter than I predicted. This is not a terrible thing, because I already know it will need heavy rewriting that will bump it up. The tone is wrong, it starts in the wrong place, and the genre needs flipping. Sometimes I don’t know what a book is about until I’m done it, and this is one of those times. There will be a lot of work ahead, but I know what that work needs to be done so it feels kind of exciting rather than daunting.

In the meantime, I need to ice my wrists and take a break. We’ll see how long that lasts, but I doubt it will be long. The writing part of my day is usually the only thing I get to do for myself. It’s not exactly therapy as much as it is a refuge from the world. When I don’t write, I feel restless, listless, and wrong. Maybe it’s just become so much a part of my daily routine that I feel lost without it. Do you ever feel that way?

Living:

Despite getting a lot of writing down, in all honesty, the house is a mess, I’m a mess, and I’m tired all the time. This is not at all unusual if you have a young child in the house, and likely all of our parents have been there and done that. People will tell you that parenting is hard, but its worth it. The truth is a little more complicated. Some days are wonderful, and other days the day job has you overloaded, the child is screaming, you’ve got cookie crumbs in your heels, stains on your clothes, there are meals (she’s just going to throw on the floor) to cook, you don’t remember the last time you showered, and you just want to run away from your life.

Maybe it’s just the darkening days that have me mulling the passing of time. Every night I lay in bed wondering how I got through the day and I try to make plans to feel a little more control and more like myself (writing helps, reading helps). But my life feels like groundhog day and I can’t seem to break free. Time keeps flying by and I feel like I’m just hanging on to that spinning wheel for dear life. I’m afraid I’m going to blink and a decade will have gone by.

People say kids grow up too fast, but maybe it’s just because there’s no slowing down until they’re grown. To my fellow parents of tiny demanding children, I salute you.

Reading:

  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • The Mortal Instruments (Books 1-5) by Cassandra Clare
  • Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kia Ashante Wilson

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Book Thoughts

The Stars Are Legion Book Cover The Stars Are Legion
Kameron Hurley
Science Fiction
Simon and Schuster
February 7, 2017
400

 

Here begin a bunch of disjointed thoughts, because my brain is still spinning from this book. Just, WTF, what was that?

If you’ve never read Hurley’s writing before, then brace yourself for some squicky, weird, stuff. We’ve got fleshy world ships, mutants, plenty of goo, giant spiders, tentacles, plenty of bodily/worldly fluids. The world building is crazy. World ships birth everything that they require to repair themselves – including non-sentient cogs and parts. You’ve got tissue work and repair, instead of welding and metal. Bodies are recycled, fed back into the ship. Oh, and every single person in the legion (a collection of world ships) is a woman.*

It’s written in first person present, which I know a lot of you are not fans of, but Hurley pulls it off well enough that I stopped noticing after a while. Whether or not you prefer it, I think first person present is useful for both immediacy, and stories where you don’t want to give away whether or not the hero lives or dies. A lot of people die in this book. This is not a spoiler, just an observation.

And then there’s the action. It starts off running, with the main character being launched off to war without memories of who she is. It’s a war story that turns into a quest of sorts, before returning to the war thread.

Aside: I’m glad this was a book, because I don’t think I could stomach watching it as a movie. I’d probably want to scrub my brain clean if I ever saw half the things described in the novel, and for once, I’m glad my imagination isn’t that visual.

Overall, it was a fast paced read, unexpectedly fun, and one of the weirdest things I’ve read in a long time.

*There's a variant cover titled "Lesbians in Space"

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