Why I have the munchies
Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology
By Charles Tan
Perhaps I never heard of Charles A. Tan’s 2012 anthology Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology; perhaps I read about it somewhere andforgot about it. Thanks to Melita Kennedy’s generosity and Lethe Press’ recent sale, I have received and read this book … much to my delight.
I could add a something here about the history of the Filipino-Chinese community, but even a little research suggests that this cannot be done (properly) in one paragraph.
Introduction (Lauriat) • essay by Charles Tan:
In which Tan explains the very specific scope of this anthology: SF stories with a Filipino-Chinese element.
“Two Women Worth Watching” • short story by Andrew Drilon:
Two old friends reunite. One performs for the living. The other for the legions of the dead.…
“Ho-We” • short story by Erin Chupeco:
Adding real life gods and monsters to the world does not make parents any less judgmental about the people their children date.
“The Chinese Zodiac” • short story by Kristine Ong Muslim:
A series of short, often horrific pieces that relate to the zodiac.
So far as I know, this is the only anthology in which this story has been printed and this is my first reading of this anthology, And yet … I have the strong impression that I have previously read this specific story. I am baffled.
“Pure” • short story by Isabel Yap:
What is the surest way to a boy’s heart! A makeover!
I should note that this is a horror story.
“Dimsum” • short story by Christine V. Lao:
A lowly guard is discarded by the woman he adores; he is no longer useful to her. He finds solace in the arms of a strange woman. You know what they say about rebound romances.…
He also rescues a kitten! The kitten does OK. The rescuer? Less so.
“August Moon” • short story by Gabriela Lee:
A guest at a wake realizes that they are now only a shade of what they once were.
“The Stranger at My Grandmother’s Wake” • short story by Fidelis Tan:
She lived the life she wanted, braving exile and alienation. Even so, there is one old friend on whom the protagonist can rely on in her final days.
“Chopsticks” • short story by Marc Gregory Yu:
Genuine porcelain chopsticks for only fifty dollars seemed like such a steal.
“Fold Up Boy” • short story by Yvette Tan:
A reluctant school girl helps a boy reconnect with his lost family.
I think the boy may have died in the First Great Massacre of the Sangleys, in 1603. But there have been enough Great Massacres that I cannot be sure.
“The Tiger Lady” • short story by Margaret Kawsek:
The Tiger Lady knows a great secret. The young man in this story has just the right sort of luck. so she will share it with him. What could go wrong?
“The Perpetual Day” • short story by Crystal Koo:
In a world where sleep has for some reason vanished, a group of sleep-deprived friends are convinced that their dead pharmacist friend left a hidden trove of sleep-inducing drugs. The only problem is the new shop-owner, determined to renovate, is in no way willing to share.
I would blame these folks for making stupid plans with stupid sleep-deprived brains if I didn’t know (from personal experience) that when you are sleep-deprived, you cannot tell when your executive functions are shot. Of course, you may also have lost the ability to notice or care when your plans go awry, so it all works out in the end.
“Cricket” • short story by Kenneth Yu:
Silencing critics does not make what they say less true.
“The Way of Those Who Stayed Behind” • short story by Douglas Candano:
A family reunion offers one man a final chance to learn his family’s true history.
This is another collection where I think a bird’s-eye view works best.
1) Most of these stories are fantasy, although “The Perpetual Day” is an edge case. It is marginally SF.
2) Canada turned up in more stories than I expected. Three out of thirteen stories seems like a lot. Canada seems to be a sort of Valinor, a far-off magical land filled with maple syrup for which people depart and rarely return. The same role that Canada plays in the UK, if we can judge by storylines in Coronation Street. Amazing how widely separated nations can share common myths.
3) There’s a lot of tasty-sounding food in these stories. As is hinted by Tan’s choice of title:
What exactly is a Lauriat? It’s an eight‑, nine‑, ten-course dinner featuring a variety of dishes, everything from noodles to abalone to Peking duck to lobster. It’s an apt description for this not-quite-themed anthology, and is a popular Filipino-Chinese tradition.
Warning: as I read, I had to keep stopping to snack. Just writing this review has given me the munchies.
4) There are no standout stories in this collection because the general level of writing is so high. No second-rate pals of the editor being coddled here. Mr. Tan, as one would expect from the quality of his solo output, has high standards.
Lauriat (the book) is available here (although for some reason, neither the link to Weightless Books nor the link to Kindle work for me). Lauriat the dinner you’ll have to find on your own. Hmmm. I wonder if there are any Filipino-Chinese restaurants in Kitchener.….