On The Far Shore: Mia Tijam

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 13 - 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 Mia Tijam, author of  “Spelling Normal.”

Could you tell us a bit about your story, “Spelling Normal”?
I don’t know how to answer the question without preempting the story (and consequently ruining the whole Big Buddha Bang Theory and propagating the Cliff Notes Virus).

I think I had a bad case of that virus in High School (mixed with Acute Bluffititis).
Hahaha, I had the latter when I was studying Shakespeare and almost contracted the former when I was studying— yeah, Shakespeare. It was all cured by a doctor in Shakespeare named Ick.

So, how did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?
I have Elves and they have special ears. The Web Elf told me about it. I said, “How far is that from my Native Shores?” Then Agent Elf sneaked the story out of my factory and here now is Secondary World History.

Man I wish I had a story factory. (Mine’s more of an outlet store.)
Hahaha, not a bad outlet store since it landed you a Palanca. Hey, let’s do a comparative analysis on the production from a factory and an outlet store, hahahaha. But the damn factory is a sweatshop with an agoraphobic Torquemada as its supervisor: woe.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?
By the gravitas of the definition and tropes of the term “Secondary World”? Nope. But I always consider any work of fiction as secondary world isotopes, hehehe.

Ah, that pesky definitional issue. How would you define a secondary world story then? (The image of an isotope is an intriguing one.) I confess I’m not very adept at making distinctions myself, not in the field of art at least.
Lexical and semantics gymnastics: What is pesky? What is an issue? What is an isotope? What is a distinction? What is art? What is a box? What is a line? What is a point?
What is a definition: you write it and the editors and critics do the labeling. On with the smashing discourse yo!

How long did it take you to write the story?
Eight years. Seriously.

Wow. That’s a long time.
Hahaha, welcome to that reaction club. The last time I was asked that (in a lecture about creative nonfiction and short fiction), it involved a creative nonfiction piece I wrote and writing that one took ten years. Not an entirely encouraging fact, haha, but it does take years for a text that really matters to reach its completed form. Anyway, I felt holy mother of awful butt-naked after writing that and answering questions about writing that. Art as a relief, Hirn says. And there goes our token definition of that in this discussion, hahaha.

What aspect of that long process did you enjoy the most?
The eight years of serious drinking that came with it.

Aha, so that’s the source of your power!
Hahaha, endurance and discipline too! My Jose Philip Farmer says: To say that the possible is possible is mere tautology. To make the possible possible, that takes courage, intellectual strength, and imagination…And so once there was this man from Bombay…

What aspect did you find most difficult?
The hangover from the eight years of deadly serious drinking that came with it.

Walked right into that one didn’t I?
See? Told you you’re funny! Hey, with great power comes great hangovers! (Mao Zee Dudong did say that it’s a long and painful process.)

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?
Ah, once there was this ala hospital metal chart notebook from Eight Years Ago. The front cover has mySAP.com printed on it. On Julius 5 Eight Years Ago, the chart wrote “Freak”. The chart ends the day with “I am not a crusader for the freaks. I do not expect people to know and understand. I do not expect people to stumble over their sentiments just because one person is sensitive to certain topics. Or certain anecdotes. I expect people who are educated to at least have some semblance of the one of the seven outcomes of education: Empathy. I am a freak. I know that. We are all freaks. People don’t know that.” And pasted on it is a post-it-apology masticating on Julius 5. A Dinosaur taught me that sensibility, by the way, and the notebook’s graciously aging in Iron Oxide Heaven. Moving along…

Very few of us are taught empathy though, and even less learn it. That must be some notebook!
If you went to school, then the statement is false on the “taught” part. As for the “learning” part: true. It’s a skill, man, like everything else. And unique, just like everything else, hehehe. As for that notebook, yeah…it has a couple of nuclear bombs in it, too. All undecided in what form it would come out. Damn frakkers.

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?
Yeah, I’m reconstructing every this and that and here and there that I lost when my laptop was stolen a month or so ago by these poor inconsiderate bastards. One of the stories I was working on was all about this character named CharleS.A.TAN in a space punk junk setting in the midst of Meiosis. He likes to eat Sinigang Na Swan and walks around in this S&M outfit (think Milla Jovovich in Fifth Element). He gets pregnant and calls his kid Omar. And CharleS.A.TAN says “Yikes”… Yeah, the poor inconsiderate bastards took that away. Sigh.

Agh, I think I heard about that. What ignominious fate would you wish upon the thieving bastards?
On good days, I would like them to spell, say, and use “ignominious” in a sentence.
On bad days, I rant about the thieving government so that they do something about the country’s poverty hence these poor thieving bastards can stop thieving.
On PMS, I would like to find them and make them bite the curb and I drop- kick their heads.
But what for? What was done is done and what’s left to do is more doing, and one has to laugh about the absurdity of it all.
(By the way, I would like to thank my Ma, my sister Egg, and my family for the speedy replacement of that laptop. The laptop and the factory are still romancing each other.)

How are you going about reconstructing the stories? Purely from memory?
Yep… and more drinking… and more of those ambivalent nuclear notebooks. (Memory is an alcoholic analog, you know.) But my brain seems to automatically shut down when I really try to think about reconstructing everything. And then I want to scream. Then it all loops to the answers to the previous question.

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? (‘cors if you’ve actually written secondary world fanfic, feel free to plug it here ^_^)

You know, I just remembered that I used to mess around with Charlaine Harris’ Eric The Vampire and Sookie The Freak when that series first came out. I’m now thankful that I didn’t pursue it since look at HBO’s True Blood, hahahaha.
On an oh-so-serious note: Why will you re-write when you can write, hmmm?
But yeah, sure, I want to write about how Hello Kitty invites kids to kill themselves. I would also like to write a story on Space Operetta Reality from the eyes of Simon Green’s Valentine Wolf. That would be some trip. (If Mr. Green ever gets to read this: The series’ ending made me cry. Also, it made my sister Gnomie scream and thereon depressed. We’re traumatized… Excellent!)

Ah a Deathstalker fan! I really should finish that series some day.
Does “traumatized” mean “fan”? Yeah, finish what you start, eh? And once you’re done, I bet you a book you would: 1) Scream; 2) Say WTF?!; (3) Cry, man, cry because they really all lived happily ever after.

Where else can we find your work?
Besides the possibility of my work taking your call? In the factory. But ask Jeeves and he’ll tell you that only Mr. Google knows.

We’d like to thank Mia once again for agreeing to this interview. Check back next week when we talk to Rodello Santos, author of “Queen Liwana’s Gambit”.

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