In Which I Write a Letter to Eliza Victoria

Dearest Eliza,

I’d like to think that I’m not an asshole.

I’m not nice. I’m not kind. I’m surly, and miserable, and impatient, and I don’t like most people.

Even then I’d still like to think that I know better than to judge other people by how they look.

I would never greet someone with “ang taba mo na!“, or be so dickish as to side-eye a fat person for doing something as normal as eating.

But then I was reading your novel, Dwellers, and I came upon this:

You are so fat, you are so useless, you take up the space meant for better, more disciplined people…

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

And I realized that yes, I’m an asshole.

I don’t think I’m prejudiced. I don’t think I’m an insensitive bitch. But how many times have I stared disdainfully at fat people on public transport, irritated that they were taking up too much space and making life difficult for us “normal” ones?

I could try and excuse it as a side effect of this country’s terrible transport system. I could argue that “I don’t really mean it” and that I’m just “irritated”.

I could insist that I’m not a dick till I’m blue in the face, but it wouldn’t make it less true.

I’m an asshole, even if I don’t mean to be one.

Even if it’s not all the time.

Even if my default setting is decent human.

Because that’s what it means, doesn’t it? That I believe myself better, more deserving of space because I’m thin and therefore socially acceptable?

I read that line from your novel over and over and over again. I know it’s not the core of your story. I understand that.

But for at least a couple of minutes I forgot the whodunit and wanted to bury my face somewhere no one will find it, because I was ashamed.

I guess that’s how it is when your ugly thoughts are thrown back at you.

So thank you, really. It stings a bit to have my ugliness laid out bare – to actually put them into words and make me realize that I have quite a long way to go before I become the decent person I imagine myself to be.

PS: your novel is excellent, as always.

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In Which A Short Story Chills Me to the Bone

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Unseen Moon

Eliza Victoria

Unseen Moon is a collection of five short stories. My favorite is “December”, because it's creepy yet heartbreaking at the same time. Kind of sweet, in a way. It's a beautifully rotten story. (Does that make sense? Because I can't find a better way to describe it.) The following, however, is a review of a different story from the collection: “Ghosts of Sinagtala”.

I was on a bus, stuck in traffic because someone decided it was a good idea to jump in front of a train. I was already late for work. Didn't really care.

10 in the morning, on a bus with no air conditioning, my face practically scrunched up against a policeman's gun. He was standing beside my seat, gun in the holster next to my head.

Shiny.

I ignored him, ignored the people crowding the bus. Kept on reading.

I'm not sure how hot it actually was. Just know this: this is the hottest summer I can remember. The sun is beating down on metal, people are smushed against one another. It was a very, very hot morning.

I shivered.

If you really think about it, there's nothing entirely new in Ghosts of Sinagtala. It progresses like any other horror story; you might even think it a paean to horror movies given the presence of notable genre tropes.

So why would ice fill my insides right after reading the story?

Perhaps it's true. It's not just the story. It's the words. In that regard, there's no question that Eliza Victoria is a master. So good, in fact, that at some point after reading the story – with the chill still making its way through my veins – I started wondering if the story itself was haunted.

Maybe there's something in the words, something that made it real. That after reading it I now had to deal with the ghosts of Sinagtala. That I would turn around and find them standing behind me, the cop with the gun completely unaware that they were right there, staring at me.

Because I read their story.

Get a copy. Read the book. Find your ghosts.

 

18 – Viewless Dark

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If there’s anything I’m thankful for about the advent of Twitter, it’s the fact that I “met” Eliza Victoria. It’s a terrible truth that I rarely read local authors, mainly because of the subject matter. I don’t really pick books for any reason other than the plot. If it doesn’t interest me then it doesn’t interest me. No amount of persuasion can get me to read it.

That’s precisely the reason I didn’t see (and still haven’t) Avatar.

But Eliza Victoria is able to weave fine tales that to me seem precisely designed to push all my buttons. She masterfully weaves the macabre with the mundane – an ability I envy and admire at the same time. You know how some authors try too hard to make their stories “weird”? She doesn’t. You read something by Eliza and its just a testament to how the world IS weird and hidden underneath the normal are glimpses of magic.

“The Viewless Dark” is a novella that seems off-putting at first, especially since Flo seemed like one of those “quirky” girls we’ve had a little too much of in these last few years. But just a few pages in and you find that there’s more to everyone, where murder and mayhem march in step with love and friendship and hope.

It is important to note that the story ends in despair plain and simple, and yet as the reader I didn’t mind. Perhaps because Eliza managed to guide us so painstakingly to this conclusion, and you recognise that things simply could not end any other way.

04 – On Diwata, Barang, and Mysterious Lawyer Almost-Twins: Eliza Victoria’s “Lower Myths”

There’s something entirely delicious about stories that swathe the ancient and magical in the humdrum drabness of modernity. For some reason I feel like I’m given a rare opportunity – a sneak peek into a world I have no right to see. It also gives the modern world – something that gets a little too adult and responsible and tiring at times – a bit of glamour and mystery.

I admit to wondering if every third person I meet on the street is some kind of secret engkanto, working at the call centre because it’s funnier to answer irate calls than hang around a rainforest.

This is also why some of my favourite graphic novels (or comic books; I’m not that good with labels) are Fables and Trese.

Eliza Victoria’s Lower Myths does just that, although it interestingly visits both sides of the fence, so to speak. To elaborate is to give away far too much, but suffice it to say that the rising star of Philippine speculative fiction (I prefer to call her the Apocalyptic Star, because 2012, bitches) does a fine job weaving magic into this humdrum world. It’s not her first attempt, too. Her short story in the Alternative Alamat collection is both chilling and nostalgic.

That said, it is entirely personal preference that leads me to say that the first story is my favourite. (There are only two stories in this collection, so get back to work, author!) The story is entirely too short, true, but the presence of magic and magical beings in a scenario far too human (so much guns, Eliza, but this gangster movie addict isn’t complaining) cannot be described as anything other than wicked. Fairies versus warlocks sounds like a very Michael Bay movie, but she pulls it off with aplomb and the story never strays from its slightly humorous, slightly askew nature.

It’s notable that despite the very Filipino roots, Lower Myths never feels alienating. In other words, this is my very transparent attempt of encouraging friends (Filipino or otherwise) to get a copy. On Amazon and Flipreads, go.

[Full disclosure: Eliza Victoria is a Twitter/Doctor Who friend. We’ve never met in person, but I speak to her more often than I do my actual RL friends, so that’s something, I guess. Also, I bought the book and no bribes/promises of lap dances were offered. I just really like her work.]