Today’s Filipinx genre fiction writers are crafting some of the most groundbreaking, immersive, anti-colonialist fantasy novels out here. Their protagonists unleash demons, raise the dead, save the world, and figure out how to rebuild it. Filipinx voices belong in the speculative imagination, and these authors take us there. With middle-grade mythic adventure, young adult historical decadence, adult epic, and so much magic in between—if you haven’t already fallen in love with all of these titles, you’ll want to add these authors to your TBR immediately.
Rin Chupeco writes unapologetically badass young women fighting forces of evil that tend to be innovatively mythic while also rooted in very familiar horrors: loss, selfishness, the vicious cruelties of ICE, or climate change and the generation that refused to take action to stop it.
Chupeco’s books include the Bone Witch Trilogy, The Never-Tilting World, and Wicked As You Wish, the first of their A Hundred Names for Magic series. Their trademark worldbuilding is intricate and expansive at once, fleshing out the specific universe of each narrative, be that a world in which fairytales are real, or one in which our earth has stopped spinning. Chupeco writes beautifully messy queer characters, who get to be POC, queer and magic too, who get to (try to) save the world and protect the people they love.
I love all their characters, but I have a special place in my heart for Odessa, the queer disaster goddess of The Never-Tilting World, and Tala, Wicked As You Wish’s biracial Filipina who, like me, has a white father and a Filipina powerhouse of a mother (though thankfully my father’s past isn’t quite so murky), and an ever-present extended family of Titas and Titos who speak in Taglish, keep secrets, and chastise me for not finishing my pancit.
K.S. Villoso’s The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is the first of the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen. It explores the journey of Talyien: queen, warrior, mother, murderer, ruler of war-torn peoples who do not choose her. The world of the Bitch Queen is sensory (yes, it will make you hungry), fast-paced, and expansive, but it’s a character-driven fantasy at its core, centering on Villoso’s Talyien: hopeful, determined, and intoxicatingly ruthless, nothing of her made to tame. The world derides her, and Talyien bites back in fierce vindication. She needs every edge she has to cut her way through the vicious trials of a bloodthirsty landscape and an untrustworthy, eminently powerful ex-husband.
Book two is forthcoming and the prequel series An Elegy of Heroes is out now, along with Villoso’s short stories Tales of Jin-Sayeng, set in the same world.
Powerhouse author Roshani Chokshi has written three standalones that take place in the same universe: The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Star-Touched Stories. She currently has two ongoing series: the modern mythic Aru Shah series published through the middle-grade Rick Riordan Presents imprint, and the YA trilogy beginning with The Gilded Wolves. In her Star-Touched novels and Aru Shah stories, she draws from Indian mythology and Hindu gods (Aru actually meets several), and The Gilded Wolves is a fantasy heist set in late 1800s Paris. As she writes across settings and age ranges, Chokshi’s work is always lavish and immersive, brimming with magic.
Chokshi also has a short story included in the YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, featuring one of my favorite characters in Philippine folklore, Maria Makiling. As Chokshi mentions in her author’s note, there are many different interpretations of Makiling—Chupeco also takes inspiration from her character in Wicked As You Wish. Chokshi’s elusive evocation of the mountain goddess in her lushly imagined tale is but one approach. Just as with every element of Philippine and Fil-Am story, there are so many more versions to tell.
Apart from epic fantasy, there are of course also way more Filipinx authors writing all sorts of genre fiction today—check out:
- Isabel Yap’s forthcoming Never Have I Ever speculative short story collection.
- Erin Entrada Kelly’s middle grade fable Lalani of the Distant Sea and her forthcoming historical fiction novel We Dream of Space.
- Rhoda Belleza’s YA sci fi space fantasy Empress of a Thousand Skies and sequel, Blood of a Thousand Stars.
- Maura Milan’s YA space opera Ignite the Stars and forthcoming sequel, Eclipse the Skies.
- And more epic fantasy arrives in August with Janella Angeles’ forthcoming Where Dreams Descend, the magic, romantic first novel in her debut Kingdom of Cards duology, pitched as Moulin Rouge meets Phantom of the Opera!
All these authors center women of color who get to tell their own stories. Who make their own terrible pacts with dark magic, who get to kill their enemies and fall in love: not margin, not sidekick, not token, but hero, love interest, goddess, with all the complexity that entails. These are just a few of the Filipinx authors rocking genre fiction and epic fantasy right now. Yes, I want more. The Philippines has over seven thousand islands and over a hundred distinct cultures and dialects. We have a complex history of colonialism and reclamation. There are many ways of approaching Filipinx identity, and genre fiction can be a fruitful medium for exploring that identity, anti-imperialist rebuilding, and our own myths and magic. There are so many Philippine and Fil-Am genre stories that have yet to be published—but there are also so many excellent ones being told right now, and that’s very much worth celebrating. A lot of these authors identify as Fil-Am and are great to keep in mind when you’re working on AAPI reading lists in May for APAHM or October’s Filipino American History Month, but also all of them are for whenever you’re in the mood for immersive worldbuilding, well-wrought characters, and revolutionary, intricate magic—which is pretty much always.
Maya Gittelman is a queer Pilipinx-Jewish diaspora writer and poet. Their cultural criticism has been published on The Body is Not An Apology and The Dot and Line. Formerly the events and special projects manager at a Manhattan branch of Barnes & Noble, she now works in independent publishing, and is currently at work on a novel.