Today’s featured writer Kristine Ong Muslim is a native and resident of Maguindanao province, southern Philippines. Her uncanny fiction, poetry and translations of other Filipino writers have been widely anthologized, and her most recent book is the collection of apocalyptic short fiction, The Drone Outside (2017).

Kristine Muslim
Kristine Ong Muslim. Source

My introduction to Ong Muslim was her short story “The Pit,” in the uncanny fiction anthology Uncertainties, Vol 4 (editor Timothy J. Jarvis), from Swan River Press. It’s short, unsettling, and ambiguous. There is much for the reader to reconstruct between the lines–as is generally true of the type of fiction that shows up in the Uncertainties anthologies. It’s the kind of story that will work for some readers, and not for others. I was intrigued; I wanted to find more.

Grande uncertainties4

Ong Muslim writes on a variety of dark themes, with a mixture of horror, science fiction, weirdness, and allegory. Not all of her tales are necessarily “weird,” but there’s always at least a trace of the uncanny in her prose. In the last few years especially, much of her fiction has had a decidedly apocalyptic theme running through it, and a deep pessimism about human nature. I won’t lie; a lot of her stories are hard to read, at this time, in the present pandemic situation. But they’re beautiful.

Much of her work is available online, and here are some stories that I especially liked. This is more links than I usually share, but many of these, even the “longer” ones, are quite short. The longer pieces are in roughly chronological order.

Longer Pieces

Those Almost Perfect Hands at Expanded Horizons. Creepy story about how traumatic those “little jokes” adults sometimes play on kids can really be.

Chelsea and the Bobo Doll at Volume 1 Brooklyn. If you want insight into how other countries, particularly third world countries, see the United States, this might be it. Note that this science-fiction piece was written two years before the 2016 US Presidential elections.

Also the two studies cited at the beginning of the story are real (pdf of one study; abstract of the other). It does make one despair for humankind.

Beautiful Curse at Weird Fiction Review. At the intersection of weird and horror and science fiction, about a being who’s monstrous both outside and inside.

Equations of State at World Literature Today. I adore this one. I’ve written before about my love of Latin American magical realism, and this piece definitely has that vibe.

Honorable mention: Boltzmann Brain, and There is No World, which are maybe more representative of the direction Ong Muslim’s work seems to be going, and The Moonman, because, ouch.

Flash Fiction

The Children at the defunct Bosley Gravel’s Cavalcade of Terror (this is an link). I love this little ghost story.

Zombie at the (defunct) Southern Pacific Review. If the zombie apocalypse ever happens, it won’t be like the movies. It will be more like this.

The City is Landing at Schlock Magazine. Nice Twilight Zone vibe here.

Boy With a Propeller Head at Birkensnake. So tragic, so beautiful. Vive la différence.

The Psychopomps and The Admiral’s Not-So Tulip at Escape into Life. Two flash pieces, both delightful. A psychopomp is a being who escorts the newly dead to the afterlife.

Inside the Calorimeter Cup at The Fringe. A piece inspired by Max Ernst’s Castor and Pollution (1923). Oddly beautiful.

We Figure the Leaves at Hobart. Nice. Very nice. Where the Weeds are Greener is sort of a companion piece, but not as delightfully weird.

If you are interested in more, you can find links to more of Ong Muslim’s short fiction, poetry, and translations, as well as information about her books, at her website.


Featured Image: Lightning, Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (1909). Source: WikiArt

One thought on “Women Writers of Folklore and the Fantastic: Kristine Ong Muslim

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