PSF6 Review: On Wooden Wings

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 23 - 2012

Since the author’s not into self-mutilation (and for the sake of objective delicadeza), Paolo’s sitting this one out and my bold type is being turned over to Don Jaucian (critic and film buff, proprietor of pelikula.tumblr.com and geeksturr.tumblr.com/) who’s been steadily hanging out his critical cajones out there and here.

Don, I hope you charge Paolo Chikiamco for this because he really pays people to have fun while savaging his stories haha.

Wait, so I’ll get paid for this? Hahaha. Anyway, the beginning kind of threw me off. Too much jargon and terms that needed explaining, which can be a problem for the readers who aren’t really familiar with the culture discussed here.

The beginning did not hook me in at all, especially with the opening line. And just looking at the pages, I had to condition myself to read the story, sighing to myself, “Oh boy this is gonna be a long one…” I had to try several times to get myself to sit through it because it just wasn’t getting me.

I was actually afraid it’ll continue to be like that for the rest of the story. The approach is like a cloying hard science fiction story: here are facts, terms, historical allusions piling on top of each other. Quick, Google them!

— Hahaha! Well there’s that overload that shuts down my brain then onto a re-boot to make sense of it all. My problem was that this process was happening in a stumbling loop because my cliché bell was also clanging tsk tsk

But some of the terms become clear as you go along with the story or maybe some readers will just disregard some of the terms and stick with the flow of the story.

—- Sometimes I do react like the “some readers” that you’re referring to. Especially when I’m not so familiar with the terms. It’s like chatter and my brain says “Action na! Bilis!”

Exactly! But then again, I guess it’s also one way to familiarize with the Muslim culture, especially on their culture and education. You can tell Paolo did a lot of research on this.


—- Ah we just stepped on a landmine there: Very good research can only do so much. What I find lacking is the texture in the text/language that truly represents that culture. It then becomes a question on the authenticity of something that represents/incorporates a culture. The language alone is too crispy Westernized/Third-Hand-Resource to capture the essence/qualities that makes the Muslim culture (or the Mindanao and Tagalog languages) or even mixed cultures the way they are. And the use of terms native to a culture does not automatically represent the culture.

I would suggest that the next time any of us would write about a culture that is not native to our persons, we be immersed in it. Hell, even I— when I endeavor to write about my native Bikol culture— have to go back for periods of time to Naga and read/listen to/speak the language(s) just so I imbibe again the culture because life in Manila and constant exposure to Western culture dilutes that.

BUT kudos to Chikiamco for being in the New Historicism and Post-Colonial Band. This is exactly the kind of stories that we have to read more. (Oy Rocket Kapre, I’m taking this story too seriously ayayay.)

On Wooden Wings remind me of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

— Wait, this is from which Scorsese’s “Hugo” was adapted, yes? My kind of YA is VC Andrews hahaha. And memorable for me are the Dark Materials series of Phillip Pullman and the Orphans of Chaos series. Again, YA is not my playground man but hey we can all try what is turning into some kind of a bankable carousel haha.

Hey, looking forward to reading that YA Horror anthology edited by Dean Alfar and Kenneth Yu! Oy Don, mag-submit ka ha. Mrs. Minchin in me says so. Hala.

And the story made me think of Pygmalion/Galatea meets Daedalus/Icarus… So classic my references hahahahaha!

I will try! Hahaha. And yes, it’s the book that Scorsese’s film is based on. Didn’t like the book that much but the illustrations were amazing. That kind of accelerated the reading experience.

Anyway, Clarita and Domingo’s relationship is very similar to Isabella and Hugo. Add the clockpunk/steampunk devices and you’ve got a YA story that runs in the similar vein. Here is a device that brings the characters together and they eventually develop a relationship because of the time that they spend together working on the device.

—- Hey that’s gold right there: work on a device together and you develop a relationship… It works, you know, hahaha.

It works because it has to! Haha. Clarita and Domingo’s relationship seems very straightforward and had a business-like approach in the way they communicated, which doesn’t flesh out the characters quite well. Domingo had something that Clarita needs and Domingo is eager to practice his craft and prove to the Fleet that he’s not just a kafir.  You really wouldn’t really care for these two and for the rest of the story, and I was just concerned on how the device they’re working on would turn out.

—- I was getting into the vibe of their developing friendship. I think it’s cute that they’re just awakening to the girl-boy dynamics that isn’t sexual yet. And that’s YA for you.  I guess it’s the pacing in the plot that led to the characters not being sympathetic enough. If Chikiamco had cut back on the cultural/historical/setting background expositions and transferred concentration on the Clarita-Domingo-Duo, then that might just have helped.

And of course the device would fail unto the next unwritten chapter of re-working on a better one. That’s the journey.

You can also tell that Clarita’s brought up in a Tiger-parenting household. She’s driven, eager to prove herself, that she can be a good mentor to Domingo. In short, she’s the know-it-all that you hated in class.

—- Hahahaha! And the Claritas Of The World say “You’ve got a lot to learn before you can best me”, that it’s not their problem that you feel inferior given the usual 16% Inter-Personal Communication Skills of their lot, and that you’re free to kick their asses anytime if you can. Clarita was quite fleshed out in the story but Domingo’s character wasn’t. I found myself liking Nur more hahaha.

Nur’s more like the sassy character that doesn’t get enough the exposure that she deserves.

Yeah, the sidekick that could have stolen the show! I almost wish Domingo got killed. Now that would alter Clarita and then she would really be more of the independent young woman who will consequently learn what Domingo knows so that she can solely make the device. Then she’ll really be the know-it-all hahaha.  And there goes a different kind of passage into womanhood story. ;)

But what’s interesting about On Wooden Wings is their surroundings. The story would look great illustrated, maybe even an animated short film (or a live action film given the right budget), with cameras swooping above the whole fleet like the opening credits of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

—- Another landmine: when a story can’t stand as it is because one would see it better illustrated or even unfolded in film haha. But hey, another project?;) Who was it who said that Literature is dead and long live the Film? Makes me think too that the short story is at its demise and lo to the graphic novel(la)s hah!

Which explains my predilection for films hahaha. The background of the story is much more complex and interesting and I think On Wooden Wings might be more interesting as a novella.

— There it is: it’s a graphic novella or a novel ba! The sub-headings are a good indication of that i.e. 8 months earlier and Now which however were not used effectively in the story for its use was lacking balance. Really, there has to be symmetry if this device would be used in the short story form because otherwise it just shows this as “the exasperated technique when having problems in time transition”.

For example, a subheading before “Move your head a little bit to the left” in page 78 or “What do you mean, you’re not testing it today?” in page 80 would have contributed to achieving this symmetry. Better yet, just take out the subheadings altogether and rely on good-old-enter-enter-space.

Anyway, yeba! Another pressure cooker (graphic) novel(la) project for Chico! But as it is, these wings are still a little too, er, wooden.

Nga pala… Did Clarita get home? What then is “home”? Hee-Hee-Hee.

I have no idea haha. Paolo?

One Response to “PSF6 Review: On Wooden Wings”

  1. Paolo Chikiamco says:

    *vigorously applies first aid to self* Ah. Invigorating :P Many thanks to Mia and Don for taking the time to review my story. As with any good review, I take away (with my wounds) a better insight into how my story is read by a particular kind of reader. I do want to comment a bit on Mia’s line about the need for immersion in a culture that is not my own–I’d love to be able to do that, but the fact of the matter is that if I committed to that ideal, I’d likely never write anything but secondary world fantasy.

    I don’t think I’ll ever really capture the culture of the South, but it was either I just not tell the story since I couldn’t do that brilliantly, or I tell the story but do as much research as I could in order to not grossly misrepresent the culture. Going and living in Sulu for a year or so just isn’t an option for a family man. Since I believe that the South *should* be represented in more of Philippine spec fic, I decided to write the story anyway, “tourist” though I may be in the culture, trying to minimize any representation by positing a fictional Sultanate. I’m sure I made mistakes, but if someone points out a factual error, I’ll learn, and apologize, and get better. That won’t always be the “right” way to go about it, but I’ll almost always err on the side of producing rather than not producing. *shrug*

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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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