Women Writers of Folklore and the Fantastic: Kristine Ong Muslim

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.

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Women Writers of Folklore and the Fantastic: Yvette Tan

Switching back to a couple of contemporary Filipina writers for the next couple of posts, each of whom are featured in a collection from one of my favorite publishers!

Yvette tan
Yvette Tan. Source: MYS Universe

Yvette Tan is a freelance writer who has written about many topics for magazines and other media sources. The supernatural is one of her special interests, and her fiction was brought to my attention by a fellow member of the Facebook Classic Ghost Story Tradition group. Unfortunately, the short story collection he recommended to me was in Filipino (which I don’t read); she also has an English language collection called Waking the Dead, which looked interesting, but seems to be out of print/only available in the Philippines. Darn!

As far as I can tell, most of Tan’s fiction has been published in Filipino collections that don’t always make it to the U.S., or at least not for very long. However, some internet searching uncovered her personal blog and a few stories as well. They fall more directly into the horror category than the ghost stories and weird tales that I usually talk about (two of them do, at least), but I love their quirky dark humor.

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Reading Lower Myths


And R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril is off and running! A few days ago I finished the first book that I committed to, Eliza Victoria’s Lower Myths.

I heard about this Filipina author a while back, from Nancy Cudis at The Memoriter. Nancy’s review was actually about a different collection of short stories, A Bottle of Storm Clouds, which Nancy liked a lot. At the time, that collection seemed to only be available in the Philippines (it’s available as an ebook now), but I found Lower Myths as an ebook on Amazon, so I thought I’d check it out. The two novellas in Lower Myths promised to weave Filipino folkloric motifs into stories of contemporary life. Yes!

Oddly, though, I was never able to start the book. Partly because other books and stories came along and called to me; partly because every time I started, I’d decide that I was too tired to read. I know Readers (with a capital R) aren’t supposed to admit that, but it happens, at least to me. So I’d put down the e-reader and go watch a rerun of Columbo or Star Trek instead.

With this year’s R.I.P., I decided — it’s time.

Now, this isn’t entirely a book blog, and I don’t style myself a book reviewer. Like The Believer, I only discuss books and stories that I like. No, more than like; stories that have something so cool about them — plot idea, characters, language — that I feel compelled to share that coolness with the world. Honestly, if I hadn’t committed to this book for R.I.P., I wouldn’t be writing about it.

So I’m just going to concentrate on one episode in the second novella, “The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol, Attorneys-at-Law,” a scene that I did like a lot, and think is worth sharing. The protagonists of this scene are Jason and Kenneth, two young boys with an American father and a Filipina mother. The family splits its time between Makati, Manila, for most of the year, and South Carolina for the summer. This year, however, they’ve gone back to the rural village in Cagayan where the boys’ mother grew up.

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