THE MOONLIGHT BLADE is a book informed by pre-colonial Filipino culture, but it is a fantasy born from a What if?
What if magic was real? What if the Spanish never came and disappeared kingdoms, social classes, customs, religions, and even our names? Who might we have become?
So much of our pre-colonial culture was lost or intentionally destroyed. Today, there are historians doing reconstruction work from contradictory and fragmented sources, but is not always easily accessible. What is accessible is often colonial or created by outsider perspectives, which is problematic for different reasons.
I love studying history, and though I did research, this book is not a historical or an alternate history. I took many creative liberties for the sake of plot and character. The pantheon of diwata, the government, and religion are invented. There are anachronisms when it comes to the food, clothing, and some of the traditions described. And this imaginary diaspora is not meant to be homogenous, but composed of people from different tribes with various customs, language, and clothing.
There are some things that I think I could have done differently, but I don’t believe there is any perfect way to tell a story. This is definitely not a perfect story. It was not even the latest book I’d written when it sold.
But I do believe that engaging with the emotional truth is more important than surface details. Culture is not just aesthetics. This isn’t a story about the past, but a diaspora story about what it means when the ‘home’ that people talk about only exists to you in stories. It’s about complicated mother daughter relationships, how filial piety can be abused, how trauma gets passed on through generations, and how pride can destroy families. But this is also a book about love for one another and finding community.
Most of all, I wanted to tell an entertaining story where we (and the world) get to see us Filipinos being EPIC. This is a book for the fantasy readers who like giant books with maps, character charts, and glossaries. This is a book for anyone who struggles with accepting love and friendship, because they’ve been told they were unworthy. For anyone who’s felt powerless or less than talented.
My greatest hope is that this book helps opens up space for more stories unapologetically about us and that more are published globally.
To everyone who’s read this book, thank you so much for spending some time with a piece of my heart.
I hope you enjoy the story!
Note: Deadline City S4 Ep 10, includes an excellent discussion about Fantasy worldbuilding for non-European worlds, and how complicated it can be.