FEU faculty clinches 3rd with ‘Horror Vacui’ at Nick Joaquin Literary Awards

FEU Advocate
May 21, 2024 03:47

By Lynette Joy A. Pasajol

Far Eastern University (FEU) Department of Language and Literature (DLL) faculty member Yvette Tan secured third place with her short story ‘Horror Vacui’ at the 2024 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards last May 10.

Tan is a special lecturer for the Creative Process course where she draws from her extensive experience as an author and her work in audiovisual and print media.

‘Horror Vacui’ presents a tale of an old lady desperate for company, even if it meant sharing her space with a malevolent entity. 

In an interview with FEU Advocate, the FEU-DLL faculty member expressed delight for the recognition while elaborating on the broader impact of horror.

“I’ve always been a horror writer, and it’s been an uphill battle for people to take the genre seriously...Relegating horror to just “scares” and “monsters” and refusing to acknowledge the role it can play in uncovering and healing individual, societal, cultural, and maybe even national trauma is to ignore a rich well of experience and information,” Tan said.

“It feels great to have a horror story recognized by a literary award-giving body because it’s a sign that maybe the Philippines is ready to see genre fiction as at the same level as literary fiction,” she added.

Tan also revealed that inclusion in the competition was automatic for anyone whose prose or poetry had been published in the Philippines Graphic Reader

The creation of ‘Horror Vacui’ was a meticulous process drawn inspiration from the observations of cultural idiosyncrasies and societal practices. 

“As a minimalist, it’s always both irked and fascinated me how both Filipinos and Chinese Filipinos have a fear of empty spaces. Our homes are cluttered; every available surface littered with knickknacks and decor,” Tan explained. 

This cultural quirk, coupled with insights from folklore and her musings on loneliness among senior citizens, provided the bedrock for the short story’s narrative.

“From there, a question formed: What happens when an old lady, blind to the trauma she’s caused other people, is so lonely and desperate for company, she’d rather share a house with an equally selfish entity (which could also be a mirror of her narcissism and victim mentality) because it’s better than being alone?” Tan explained.

While Tan does not write with the explicit aim of conveying a message, her stories naturally explore complex themes. 

“I write with the aim of telling a story that I wish I could read, and since it isn’t available, I have to write it myself,” she stated.

As she reflected on the achievement, Tan extended gratitude to the FEU community and encouraged aspiring writers to explore the multifaceted dimensions of storytelling.

“I hope more people examine the why’s behind what scares us... I also encourage aspiring writers to submit your works of prose or poetry to the Philippines Graphic Reader. Just getting published there is a huge deal and can help jump-start and or add to your literary career,” she said.

More of Tan’s works including ‘Waking the Dead’ and ‘Seek Ye Whore’ are available for purchase in selected National Bookstore branches and online from Anvil Publishing’s Lazada and Shopee stores.

(Photo courtesy of Yvette Tan)