Brainfood SF&F Workshop: Day 1

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 14 - 2009

These days, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s the fact that I’m a writer–but if you were to ask me if I’ve trained as a writer, I’d be hard-pressed to give an answer. I used to spend glorious summer afternoons in Maya Jacinto’s writing class, and I had the great privilege of having the late, great, Doreen Fernandez as my English teacher for my freshman year in college, but in some way those early classes were more about teaching me how to love writing and how to spark my creativity, rather than about the nuts and bolts of prose. As the volume of my word-count has risen and the scope of my reading has broadened, I’ve gained a sense of just how deep and treacherous the well of literary expression is, and any opportunity I may have to hone my skills as a writer is one I welcome.

This is one of the reasons that I was happy to see the ads for Brainfood’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop, which takes place over four two hour sessions held on the last four Saturdays of October. The number and variety of writing workshops available in the West has long filled me with envy, and I’m always glad to see the emergence of any venue for the development of local talent, especially in my favorite genre.

The workshop is being given by Mr. Roy Agustin, a writer and an English professor as the Ateneo de Manila, ably assisted (and taunted, and prompted) by Arvin de Leon. Roy takes on the role of the grizzled master (an image reinforced by the Dr.House-ish cane and whiteboard routine), with a knowledge and appreciation of the classics in the Science Fiction and Fantasy field, with Arvin chiming in occasionally on more recent titles, as well as anime and manga.

The first day’s participants made up for in variety whatever they may have lacked in quantity. After the customary–but graciously short–opening icebreaker, the workshop began with a survey of the class, an attempt to distill our ideas and prejudices with regard to the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy. As Roy explained at the end of the session, this was not done to imply that one necessarily excludes the other, but to give a frame of reference for his use of the terms during the workshop.

What followed was a necessarily brief overview of the history of (what Roy referred to as) the twin genres of science fiction and fantasy (albeit one more focused on novels and movies as representing the state of the genre, as opposed to short stories), beginning with Heinlein’s definition of science fiction, and touching upon its varied and manifold subgenres, as well as a brief (but relevant) digression into the Mazinger Z angst of Martial Law Babies, and the mental scars left by childhood viewing of the aerodynamic potential of breast missiles. The session ended with an exercise in idea generation from a basic concept, then some homework for next week.

All in all it was an interesting start, but I’m glad that the preliminaries are out of the way; the meat of any workshop is the creation and (gleeful) dissection of submitted work, so I hope there is time for that in the next session.

There are still open slots and I’ve been told that it’s fine to jump in mid-stream so to speak, so if any of you are interested, come on down this coming Saturday (October 17) at 4:00 p.m. to the 4th level of Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street. If you didn’t attend the first session, you get 10% off the fee.

Special thanks to Arvin for taking some photos while the workshop was ongoing.

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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.