Archive for September, 2009

Everything Happens At Once: An Interview with Maria Isabel Garcia

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 10 - 2009

Maria Isabel Garcia is the author of “Science solitaire: essays on science, nature, and becoming human“, a science writer for the De Rerum Natura column of the Philippine Star, and curator of the upcoming Mind Museum. She’s also agreed to shed some light on matters of science for our readers here at Rocket Kapre, but today we speak to her about the Mind Museum.

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Could you tell us how you became involved in the Mind Museum project? I know a few people who’d consider that to be a dream job!

I’m a science writer and I’d started to do what I call “Inspirational Science Workshops” for public school science teachers when the project proponents of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc., called me to ask if I would be interested to be involved in the project. I agreed to be part of the project on a permanent basis only if we saw eye to eye on the kind of science museum that would be put up—I am sure that there are many ways of presenting science to the public, so I wanted to be sure we shared the same vision. We did.

I do not believe in “dream jobs” because that somehow implies, for me anyway, that I wanted the job badly. I believe in passion and discipline:  passion to set your soul on fire and discipline to use that fire to illuminate, and not simply attract attention and burn itself out. I am constantly grateful that I am able to do what I love most, which is to promote the public understanding of science, to avoid making beggars of the public when it comes to the gifts of understanding that science offers. Whether it is through my writing or through a science museum, I don’t consider one or the other as more or less of a dream job.

From the way the project is presented at the website, it seems to be an ambitious undertaking. What will make the Mind Museum different from other science exhibits in the Philippines?

We were conscious that we finally had the chance to give our country the science museum it deserves. If we thought “small” then that would speak of how little we thought of the capacity and desire of our own people to understand the world through science. We would be belittling the vast imagination and creativity of people like yourselves. So we looked at science in all its fields, at where they are now, and figured out a way of presenting science to the Filipino public in the most fascinating way.

The Mind Museum will dispel notions of science as being only mechanical, only for “geeks”, only for the irreligious. It will make the Filipinos lock eyes and shake hands with science as a way of knowing, as being intertwined with human identity as much as music and dance.

Having to do something as extensive as this required a lot of resources. It is a billion peso project but after just over a year of fund raising from the private sector, including individuals who thought this was an idea whose time had really come, , we were able to raise over 80% of our fund raising target- a clear signal for us to start construction this year.

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Pinoy Story Writing Contest: Call for Entries

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 9 - 2009

The National Book Development Board (an organization that is perhaps more familiar to book lovers due to the Great Book Blockade) has announced a contest for novel-length works or an anthology of short stories. The deadline is on October 5 at 5:00 p.m. though, so that’s a bit… tight if you don’t happen to have an unpublished novel or ample unpublished short stories lying around. The October deadline also means you can’t count on using your NaNoWriMo entries.

Regardless of the short time frame, it’s always great to have a new excuse to write, and a government-sponsored one at that. The NBDB is looking for four categories:

  1. Tagalog/Filipino Romance;
  2. Horror/Crime or Suspense (I presume in either English or Filipino);
  3. Chick Lit in English;
  4. A collection of short stories or a novel in English, Filipino or any of the regional languages provided a translation in English or Filipino is provided.

Not sure if stories with Speculative elements qualify in 1- 3 1 and 3, but it should certainly fit in category 2 and 4. (And hey, you do know there’s a new publisher on the look out for Spec Fic works right? *nudge nudge* *wink wink*) You can find the rules here and the entry form here. Please note the following key points though:

  • The prize is PHP15,000.00 and maybe publication at the discretion of the publisher/judges. Winning therefore does not automatically mean your work will be published. On the other hand, it also means you don’t have to agree to any publishing offer made.
  • Under the rules you need to submit both a physical copy and a digital copy. The digital copy can be in a CD or sent by email.

Thanks to Dominique for the info!

Trinidad, Celestine

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009

Celestine Trinidad is newly licensed physician, currently taking up her residency training in Pathology, but she still tries to read and write as much as she can in her (now unfortunately very little) free time. Much to her surprise, she won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature for her short story for children “The Storyteller and the Giant”.

RRT: Favorite Philippine Speculative Fiction Story

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009
RRT: Fave Pinoy SF Story
RRT: Fave Pinoy SF Story

Taking our cue from SF Signal, in Rocket Round Table, we pose a single question to those who toil in the fields of Philippine SF. Our aim is to promote reflection and discussion, as well as to simply compare notes on the genre we know and love. This month we ask the question:

What is your favorite Filipino-created Speculative Fiction story?

The story can be prose or komiks, a movie or a television show… any medium by which a narrative can be told is fair game. One caveat though: let’s limit ourselves to works whose authorship is certain, and not Philippine myths/legends. In other words, Florante and Laura qualifies but “Ang Alamat ng Pinya” doesn’t. Let’s leave those for another day. ^_^

Here are the first batch of answers–I’ll compile any further replies in a subsequent post.

Adam David: [Blog]

==Indie publisher, published author, opinionated blogger. He recently released “A Week of Kindness” - seven works from seven writers written in seven days revolving around seven images/elements/themes.==

Barring my own set of scintillating sensurround scifi scintillations, the best Pinoy SpecFic story would be the unfortunately still largely unread “Pericos Tao” by Andrew Drilon. It was supposed to be part of Drilon’s Kare-Kare Komiks print remix a bunch of people – me included – tried their best to make manifest around the middle of 2008. I was the layout artist so I was privy to the actual finished pages – “actual finished pages” being actually “virtual” as Drilon assembled everything on computer – and I was one of maybe ten or so people who have seen the whole book (maybe I still am). The publisher ran out of money, so the project didn’t push through. The book was 96 pages of Drilon’s full-colour ChemSet strips, and a handful of new ones to round off the collection, some of which already saw publication in places, but not “Pericos Tao” for some reason.

“Pericos Tao” is one of those too few gay stories that’s ABOUT being gay and at the same time ISN’T in the sense that it isn’t pushing an agenda. It’s about a young man trying to escape the past, and, unsuccessful, finally decides to come to terms with it in his own terms. It makes use of a few characters/creatures from Visayan tradition and somehow making them not clunky as how most of these things are on the page more often than not. It also employs some formal play by way of recreating the young man’s Visayan childhood via impeccably mimicking Larry Alcala’s unmistakable cubist brushstrokes, while the present rendered as how Drilon renders his usual, only slightly better, all of these things running in synch all focused on telling the story, and telling it well. Of everything I’ve read by Drilon, or any one else’s in SpecFic for that matter (and I’ve probably read about 90% of what’s been published so far as of 05:04AM of 7 September 2009), “Pericos Tao” remains to be the most honest and most complete and most heartfelt and really just one of the best stories I’ve ever read, printed (or not) on paper. It’s really all just downhill from here for Drilon. I hope more people will get the chance to read “Pericos Tao,” before he decides to sell out and go manga on everyone. Make it so, Andrew!

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On the Far Shore: An Interview with Kate Aton-Osias

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009

“On the Far Shore” is what I’m calling this series of interviews with the authors/editors of “The Farthest Shore” an anthology of secondary world fantasy from Filipino writers. The anthology is available here. Today we speak with Kate Aton-Osias, author of “Light.”

Could you tell us a bit about your story “Light”?

The story is essentially about unrequited love and knowing your place in the world (although both I had hoped to present in a different way). It started as a writing challenge to write in ‘traditional’ fantasy (that is to say to use tradfan tropes) without it being too ‘traditional’ or common.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

From Dean Alfar’s blog.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Nope (unless you count futuristic fiction which, I would argue is a secondary world, but I know I’m severely outvoted in the literary world).

Ah, but dissent enriches discussion, so fire away! How would you describe a secondary world story?

A world that is not known by people living in the present. Which is why I don’t count alternate histories (unless it is sufficiently removed from actual history) as second world. If it’s futuristic fiction, how could anyone ‘know’ it? I understand though, that certain kinds of futuristic fiction – especially the ones that only project less than a generation ahead – is too close to the present to be considered secondary world. But fiction that deals with things that common people right now find fantastic – robots (even if they already exist), androids, a clean Philippines (haha) – I think that could count as secondary world.

How long did it take you to write the story?

A little under a month.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Reading the first draft. :)

Really? Hm. Your first drafts must be much nicer than mine are. How many drafts do you usually go through before you submit a story? Do you have anyone else read them first?

Not really. Actually, they’re quite horrid. But the first draft is my first taste of completion. After that, I can edit and polish (and edit, and polish), but I already have something. Anything before the first draft is incomplete, and potentially, will never be complete. The first draft makes the story ‘real’. As for number of drafts – I would prefer to go through a zillion drafts, but I’ve realized lately that my stories receive better comments when I stop at 3. Generally speaking, my husband reads the draft to check for any obvious grammatical mistakes, and then I’m on my own.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Trying to incorporate traditional fantasy tropes.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

Dungeons and Dragons source book! (the spells, the spells)

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

Yep, for the LitCritter deadline in October as well as (hopefully) SpecFic. [Ed. Note: Philippine Speculative Fiction V]

If you could write in a secondary world created by another (literary, television etc.), which world would that be? What kind of story would you write?

Hmmm… this one’s tough. My first answer is unfair since I would like to write for a fantasy setting that a close friend of mine had built for the solitary purpose of a role playing game (which I’m actively playing right now). For a more accessible reference, I think I would like to write a story for the Fading Suns RPG.

Have your experiences during gaming, say the settings, adventures or the characters, spill over or influence your writing?

Most definitely. I learned a lot about characters, and dialogue, through gaming (it doesn’t hurt that our GM is an award winning playwright and fictionist). I try not to write it down directly, though, because I prefer to write something out of my own imagination – or at least, my own interpretation of it (which goes beyond simply using the same characters and exactly the same setting with a different plot) – rather than play in someone else’s sandbox. That is not to say I’m against fanfiction, but its just a personal choice to challenge myself to do something different.

Where else can we find your work?

Bewildering Stories, Magical Realism Online, A Time for Dragons, Spec Fic 2 and 4.

Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Kate!

The Mind Museum: Epic Science

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 2009

In the introduction of her book “The Canon,” Natalie Angier relates how she harangued her sister for letting the family membership in the local science museum lapse. While Ms. Angier was trying to make a point about how science seems to have lost its cachet and fun-factor in the eyes of the general population, my reaction was a tad more basic:

They had memberships at a science museum? Lucky kids.

Nowadays we have places like the Science Discovery Center, but back when I was a child, the science exhibits I visited were for the most part half-hearted, fading things, like a tired three ring circus just going through the motions of wonder in its final tour.

Luckily that’s beginning to change… and how. While on the hunt for scientists willing to lend a hand to the local Speculative Fiction crowd, I was introduced to the gracious Maria Isabel Garcia, science writer for the Philippine Star’s De Rerum Natura column, author of “Science Solitaire: Essays on Science, Nature and Becoming Human“… and the curator of a little thing called the Mind Museum.

Why does it take me so long to learn about the cool things in life?

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.

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