Archive for the ‘Features/Interviews’ Category

PSF6 Review: “The Kiddie Pool” by Kenneth Yu

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 28 - 2012

Kyu’s strength as a writer lies in the details.

That sentence made me pause and go into a trance, there’s a load of insight right there haha.;)

[Pao: That's what I like about you Mia--you always think I'm smarter than I actually am :P ]

——Awww, you’re selling yourself short, man. Shucks, such charming humility. :p

One of the most difficult skills to learn as a writer is how to include enough detail in a scene to make it feel like it’s occurring in an actual place, to make the characters and actions take on enough substance in the mind of the reader that he/she has a foundation for his/her imagination.

Ah the anchors for the imagination— I say let the imagination fly, oh beauty, fly!

[Pao: Heh. Savants aside, most of us still need some solid ground from which to launch ourselves. Or maybe it's just lazy readers like me :) ]

This is particularly important when you’re dealing with a mundane setting, such as the public pool or a dim corridor, and Kyu does a good job putting in enough detail so that I see an image, and not a string of words.

Well, the title makes it all obvious— of course it will involve swimming and pool and how much detailing do you need for that— and so predictability comes after.

But yeah stories with that kind of treatment ensure that readers will see the same things that the storyteller wants us to see. This story is very clear and given the detailing then we do move from one scene to another. Smooth. Experiencing it though the way the storyteller wants the reader to experience it— or how the story should be experienced— is the challenge.

I also enjoyed the reveal of the ghost of the woman, since it captures the feeling I’ve had before while swimming, that the surface world would change once I turned my attention back to it.

Hey, I like any story that captures the sensation of swimming or being underwater, that sort of sensory deprivation. But even that ghost-woman’s revelation’s predictable and flat. I felt that there was nothing horrifying or even any uncanny sensation that should have been triggered by how one’s senses change in and upon surfacing from deprivation, that synesthesia that could make anyone believe that hearing unto seeing a ghost is normal. The foreshadowing was literally there but it was just too there therefore did not build up the way it should. It’s all in the details.

[Pao: But didn't it seem like the intent was to divest the change/revelation of that horror, that sense of wrongness? I mean, this is clearly not a traditional horror story. If anything, it seems intent on domesticating the supernatural element, so that "flatness" may have been the aim.]

Some of that detail, however, is fleshed out within sentences that feel rather awkward, like they go on for just a few words too long. This issue with sentence structure, compounded by some odd word choices, bleeds into a more serious concern: the protagonist does not sound like a young man. (This was particularly problematic since it was told from a first person perspective, where the assumption is that the narration is in the POV character’s own words.)

Haha besides the issues with the comma use that was making me sing ala Boy George “Comma, comma, comma, comma, commaleon, you come and go!” and the misuse of the quotation marks in dialogue— usually if the next paragraph’s still part of one character’s dialogue, then one doesn’t end the paragraph with a quotation mark; one keeps it open because otherwise the next paragraph with a quotation mark signals that the line is being made by another character so that really threw me off (see page 106)—

There are ways that one can pull this off, but that dissonance should be contextualized, or at the very least acknowledged–I could see the strange manner of speaking/thinking of the protagonist to be one of the factors that alienate him from his peers, but that’s me retconning (short for “retroactive continuity”, or “the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work” – Mia made me explain this) what was not implied by the text.

Use the full term nga kasi haha. Anyway, precisely. I saw it as the POV-POSSESSION-PROBLEM i.e. Parang sinsasaniban yun “I” with the “S/H/It” hahahaha. Meaning, the story was using the First Person POV for internal and external reality but it would unwittingly switch to 3rd Person POV for the external reality WHILE trapped in the I-POV. That created the dissonance which cast doubt on the authenticity of the characterization of the main character.

Simply: The main character’s a male tween or maybe a male young adult BUT his mind, his reactions, his language are of a much older adult… Exorcise the Author from the Character hahahaha.;)

If this were told in the 3rd Person POV then it might have worked better.  Or since the story really wants to tell the story from the perspective of the tween male, then the perception: language: narrative should be of the character.

[Pao: I have to agree, this was a third person POV story in 1st person clothing to me.]

The other primary issue I had with the story is a bit harder to quantify, so bear with me as I feel my way through this. It just didn’t seem… substantial. (No, that’s not a pun on the fact that the story involves a ghost.) I didn’t get the feeling that what happened in the story really mattered to the protagonist–the story is bookended by two encounters with the opposite sex (one taking place just before the story starts), and the protagonist’s emotional state in both situations is almost identical.

Maybe this shows one snapshot of the state of folks nowadays: it’s a very “whatever” reaction. (That word has my derision. Next to “thingie”.)

[Pao: Wait, you lost me a bit. Who are the "folks"? The youth in the story? The reader?]

——Folks= World. But let’s make it more specific so I’m referring to people in the Philippines.  Yeah, that includes the youth in the story and maybe even the reader. Hahaha, let’s just go back to folks= world.

Yes, the outcome is different, but the immediate cause of that seems to be the advice given to him by the lifeguard–which means that you can cut out the bulk of the story, which contains the speculative element, and have the same ending.

Hahaha, Pao, the real advice from the lifeguard that altered reality is this: Kid, dealing with girls is like dealing with ghosts. Just say “Hi” and they’ll talk to you. Katakot hahahaha.

[Pao: Ah, Mia, I take it you've never been to a Xavier-ICA Acquaintance Party? Sometimes the "Hi" is what initiates the ignoring…]

——Hahahaha 1) Last time I checked I didn’t attend ICA nor Xavier. 2) I skipped high school          boys and went straight to college dudes and yuppies hahaha so that I won’t have to go               through that kind of high school horror. 3) I went to a high school for aliens nga eh.

Add to this how, during his encounter with the speculative, the protagonist is emotionally detached and is somehow made to act rather than acting intentionally (he takes a route “for some reason”; he knows “somehow, not to rush”) and I just don’t feel connected to the events of the story, or invested in how it will turn out.

It’s the predictability that comes from the narrative being too telling and not showing or leaving some things unsaid that led to a reader’s detachment. Welcome to clinical horror that makes horror literal and not cerebral nor visceral (and man I keep seeing this in local short-fiction “horror” stories/collections).

[Pao: But is this a horror story? I don't think that was the aim at all. I think that this was the mainstream literary "revelation during an ordinary day" story, with ghosts.]

——Hahahaha, and here come my bitch-ass:

——1) The hell was it doing in PSF 6 then if its identity is just according to what you             stipulated? Ah, there seems to be a precedent for this emerging trend in this volume (and    previous volumes). Which is why there’s been a call for a more specific definition of what                is “speculative fiction”.

——2) It’s “Horror” according to the “Best Horror of the Year” volume 4 honorable mentions          by Ellen Datlow.

——3) Welcome to the discourse on horror now being officially opened: What is/was        horror? What has been “horrifying” in the “horror” stories published since 2005? What are          the elements of horror? What is horror in Philippine Speculative Fiction?

——4) The gates of that heart of darkness are now open: abandon luck ye who enter here,            the horror, the horror, bwahahaha.

Going back to Kyu’s Kiddie Pool,  the reader’s detachment is already staged given the protagonist’s detachment.  For reference, see paragraph with “I was not so much afraid as I was curious about the woman…” on page 104.

I usually try to avoid mentioning/comparing previews works of the author, but I did review Kyu’s PSF4 story, “Beats”, and that had a similar vibe to this one (down to the strong role of water), and yet it worked much better for me. I like the quiet stories where the surface calm can still give the impression of deep, churning, currents (again, not making any puns here) but “The Kiddie Pool” just didn’t make me feel that there was more to it than met the eye.

Hahahaha! Pao! I’m so not gonna edit out that comparison (boils and gels he edits out my comparisons because they do make things bloodier) but what I do like about Kyu’s stories is that they experiment with the story-language that is rooted on the character’s language/reality therefore making his stories distinct from the lot.

Hey, the tween/young adult from the story did advise that it’s good to hug out things so let’s hug this out.;)

And, regardless of the fact that the story didn’t quite work for us, congratulations to Kyu for making Ellen Datlow’s Honorable Mention list for “The Best Horror of the Year” (volume 4) with this story!


A Tour of the Philippine Fantastic (1 of 2)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 28 - 2012

For those who don’t know, I’m a contributor over at the U.K. site Fantasy Faction, and the editors graciously allowed me to handle the Philippine stop of their “World Tour of Wonderment“, a regular feature where the site focuses on a particular country and its contributions to, and traditions of, the fantastic. This is the first part of the article, and gives an overview of our varied mythologies, as well as some of our folklore creatures. The article is meant to be a basic primer for non-Filipinos, but it may be an interesting read for anyone interested in the Philippine fantastic. In the second part of the article, coming next week, I’ll mention specific works and creators to check out.

Lower Myths and Current Events: An Interview With Eliza Victoria

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 3 - 2012

Eliza Victoria’s fiction and poetry have received prizes in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards. She’s contributed to many of our projects here at Rocket Kapre, including Usok, Ruin and Resolve, and Alternative Alamat. She took the time to answer a few questions about her first solo book “Lower Myths”, which was just released digitally last week.

Why did you choose “Lower Myths” as the title of this novella collection?

I’m not sure if I first read this in a book or online, but some historiographers make a distinction between what they perceive as two kinds of myths. B?rendran?tha Datta discusses it here: “classical”/literary myths are considered “higher myths” while oral/folk myths are considered “lower myths”.

The myths that I’ve always loved are oral myths, and their creatures and characters appear in this volume.

Did you intentionally set out to write novella-length fiction, or were these simply the length you felt that the stories needed to be?

I distinctly remember making notes on these stories and thinking that the plots couldn’t be contained within 5,000 words (the length of an average short story). So yes, I guess the intention is to write longer stories. I didn’t think “novella”, I just thought they’d be “long”.

Did you notice any difference in the writing of novella-length fiction, as opposed to shorter stories? Were there any peculiar difficulties/benefits to the novella?

Working with a longer word count could give you a fake sense of freedom. You’ll write scenes the story doesn’t really need, go overboard with descriptions, etc. What I’m saying is, there’s no difference really. It just so happened that the novella was the length the stories needed.

BUT I have to say one difficulty to the novella is IT’S HARDER TO SELL. I once spoke with a print publication, and they told me that they love Lower Myths, but it’s not marketable. Most publications want short stories, or full novels. Good thing Flipside picked this up or this won’t see the light of day.

Was there any particular reason you chose to package these two novellas together? Do you feel that they somehow interact with each other, thematically? (An early review mentioned that the stories “visit both sides of the fence…”)

The stories mention the same creatures and at moments occur in the same setting.

“Trust Fund Babies” involves a war between families of witches and fairies. What kind of research did you have to do for this story?

I am a fan of mindless, mob movies. Just gleeful, plot-driven action. And I am fond of detective fiction. Whatever research this story needed, I’ve already done in the past I suppose.

Why did you choose fairies and witches in particular, as opposed to other available creature/sorcerer groups?

The story begins in the Cagayan Valley, and the stories my mother and grandmother (who are both from Cagayan) tell me “from back home” almost always involved witches.

As for fairies, I’m just fond of diwata.

Was “The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol” (where an aristocrat and his daughter consult sibling lawyers about a mysterious crime) inspired by any real life events?

If I told you what real-life event inspired this story, I’ll give the plot away! A clue then: turn to the news.

The book also features some fine illustrations. Can you tell us a bit about the artist, and why you chose to include artwork?

The inclusion of artwork (by Lester Banzuelo) was the decision of the publishing house. But [the illustrations] lovely, aren’t they? I really love the cover too [illustrated by Lester Banzuelo and designed by Adam David].

“Lower Myths” is an ebook, but you also have a print collection of short stories coming out later this year. Can you talk a bit about the differences and/or similarities in the publishing process for a digital book and a print book? How did you choose which collection to pitch for print/digital?

I pitched this collection for digital because it might be easier to sell a short book as an ebook than its dead-tree equivalent. And, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t think print publishing houses are keen on accepting novella collections.

As for the differences, print books take longer to produce, and are more expensive. During revisions, a digital book will be returned to you as a Word file with Track Changes on. Meanwhile, my short story collection was returned to me as a print-out, a hefty package with the comments penciled in. As someone who is used to working on a computer, the process seemed archaic to me (I had to sit on the floor so I could flip through the MS without ruining the pages, and take notes on a separate piece of paper). But it was beautiful! It was very romantic. It’s been a while since I last saw an editor’s handwriting.

“Lower Myths” can currently be purchased at Amazon or Flipreads.

Photo credit: Karen Lucero of the National Book Development Board

Philippine Speculative Fiction 6 Review: Hub and Intro

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 1 - 2012

Yes, I know that reviewing an anthology which contains one of your own stories is not something that is regularly “done” in the world of literature, but after weighing the pros and cons in my mind, I’ve decided that the disadvantages of appearing like a self-promoting lout are outweighed by the benefits of promoting more critical attention focused on Filipino authored speculative fiction.

The authors of Philippine speculative fiction (the category, not the anthology) have been producing an ever growing number of stories since the first PSF (the anthology) volume was released, and I think it’s essential that criticism keep pace. In the field of komiks, I’ve been open about my agreement with the position that robust komiks criticism is necessary to push the field forward, and I feel the same way about prose spec fic. I’ll begin with PSF6 because it is the most recent spec fic anthology, and because I’ve found that while I did not like all of the stories in the anthology, each one is worthy of discussion.

And, as a discussion requires more than one person, I’m happy to announce that I will be joined in this commentary by Mia Tijam, one of the best writers in the field, and someone who isn’t a contributor to PSF6. Mia and I have very, very, different sensibilities, and we thought we’d play with the form of our reviews a little: one of us will write a stand-alone review of a story, and the other will then do his/her review by playing off the initial review (and then a little back-and-forth during the revision process). This is our attempt at having a dynamic element, while keeping it from becoming a total free-for-all, which is what would happen if we merely transcribed our conversations.

This post will serve as a hub for all our PSF6 reviews, as we work our way down from the first story of the TOC, so I guess this is where I’ll make my disclaimers: it shouldn’t need to be said, but nothing here is meant to be the final, authoritative, word about the story– comments and rebuttals are highly encouraged; yes, some of the authors are friends of ours, but we try not to let that affect our judgment, or even our tone; we can’t promise to be nice–as someone who pays people to savage my own stories, I have a bias toward the helpful and harsh as opposed to the watered down and useless–but we promise to take each story seriously; authors are welcome to comment, but, that being said, if you know you’re sensitive to criticism, please advance only when you’ve hardened your heart (after all, this is part of what it means to display your work in a public realm).

All clear? Great. Let’s go.

[Review index under the cut]

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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 and 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.

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PSF6 Review: “Villainoguing” by Joseph Montecillo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 9 - 2012

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

The traditional (think Golden/Silver Age) superhero story is one of those story types that draws from a small pool of highly recognizable elements, and requires a very healthy suspension of disbelief.

— sigh, I wish we weren’t gonna do this to this one… but hell yeah, especially if the reader were me, ayayay

That’s not to say that I don’t think you can write a good, straight-up one–Lou Anders’ “Masked” anthology has a few–but simply that few writers make that attempt. It’s tough, like writing a straight-up humor piece.]

— An attempt at a straight-up humor piece about superheroes and villains = ridiculous and funny reality. Right.

I think that it’s this combination of factors that makes it so common in contemporary literature/media to see attempts at deconstructing the genre and its tropes. In movies, this frequently takes the form of light-hearted parodies (Megamind, Despicable Me) where the ridiculous nature of many of the genre’s tropes are used for comedic effect (even works that aren’t straight up parodies take pains to draw a line between what works in a 1940s Batman comic, and what would work “in real life”–see the treatment of capes in The Incredibles).

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PSF6 Review: “A Smell of Mothballs” by Maria Elena Paterno

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 2 - 2012

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

Except for a jolting transition after the 3rd paragraph on the first page and “dull thud” making my bell wince, I found the story smooth, short, and sweet. There were still cliché phrases but this story showed when such articulation is just appropriate like in the usage of “woke with a start” or “…looked at him uncomprehendingly”. Because to do otherwise would make the story’s language suddenly turning verbose. Though the latter is still kind of making me wince given that it is an isolated line and therefore draws implied significance.

What I enjoyed craft-wise in this story was the ability of the author to hone in on very specific environmental/sensory details in order to give more reality and particularity to a scene. “…[s]troked the space between the inside of the elbow and the surgical tape that held the tube down…” If you’ve been in the hospital much/recently, you know exactly where that spot is. Another: “There was a smell of old coffee beans and spiders lurking in corners.” (I’d like to think that last is intentionally ambiguous.)

Man you haven’t been to old houses in the provinces much, huh? There’s a smell exactly like that in bodegas (or what we call in Bicol as zaguan). Can also be smelled in old aparadors. Think of the smell of old spiders as a thicker smell of dust, add that smell of coffeebeans, et voila! C’est par la:  It doesn’t make you sneeze.

[Pao: Our “ancestral home”, so to speak, is on a farm. I guess the spider smell was overpowered by the chicken poop, er, coop.]

One thing that bothered me about the opening scene–I’ve mentioned this before–is the non-identification of the POV character with a proper noun until the third paragraph. As I said, maybe it’s a bias from my time in the slush fields, but if basic information is withheld from me, I expect it to have been done for a reason, and there didn’t seem to be any need not to just say “So Simeon woke with a start…” (And I don’t think you sacrifice in media res by a clear identity.)

Double-checked that. The way I see it, if proper noun were used in the first paragraph, the beginning would lose that sensation of emerging from sleep. The use of proper noun would make the POV too conscious, because as it is the POV’s panning from internal subconscious to waking to groggy alertness.

[Pao: Ah, I see your point. But then why not introduce it in the second paragraph? Protagonist seems fully aware by then.]

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PSF6 Review: “Prisoner 2501″ by Philip Corpuz

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 26 - 2012

This post is a part of our story-by-story review of Philippine Speculative Fiction volume 6. You can see the introductory post, and our disclaimers here. Bold font is Mia Tijam, everything else is Paolo Chikiamco.

This is a story by a (publishing) virgin… Congratulations young dude, you are not a virgin anymore! And you win the award for the most marked so far (see for exhibit A, first page. You should see pages 48 and 50.) Let’s start with the POV: the “I” here is a schizo, it swings from and to—

A) I-as-3rd-person omniscient (the “I” speaks like the narrator)

B) I-as-1st-person-limited (the “I” speaks of internal reality/train-of-thought/the character)

C) I-as-Author (it’s the author unaware that he has become the storyteller acting as the storyteller with an “I”)


A)    The first line of the story; in fact, the first couple of paragraphs in the story.

B)     Page 46, after the first Click, the lot of those paragraphs.

C)    Once the furor died down. See that’s the language/vocabulary of the author, not the “I” character.

What say you, Counsel?

For me, this was overshadowed by other concerns during the first reading, but on second reading I see that schism, though I’d conflate (A) and (C) into one–not sure that I know enough about the POV character to have a firm grasp about what is or is not in his vocabulary. (Though that’s not to say some word choices didn’t jar me – the use of reclusion perpetua, for instance, since that’s a legal term that doesn’t gel well with an “eternity” of punishment…)

It’s the difference in the constructs of the “I”. Think of I as A, B, C— these are three different characters/realities/perspectives. The problem then is that the story is using “I” and an “I” intrinsically will only have one identity unfolding that identity’s reality. But the “I” here is playing Holy Trinity, hahahaha.

It’s less of a POV issue for me, as it is an immersion issue.

Dude, POV is immersion. Latter is dependent on former. How in the world can a reader be immersed in the story without the POV?

[Pao: You need a POV for any story of course, but I think you can be immersed in a story with a mishandled POV. I don't think it'll happen often, but it is possible, if the thoughts/reactions that the reader is shown remain authentic.]

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Interim Goddess of Love: Interview with Mina Esguerra

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 24 - 2012

Mina Esguerra is one of the Filipino authors most beloved by the blogging community, partly because she writes excellent “chick lit” stories in a Philippine context, and partly because she maintains a regular online presence. Her next romance novella is a YA book with speculative elements, so I jumped at the chance to have her on the blog for a short interview.

Tell us a bit about your new book, “Interim Goddess of Love”:

Interim Goddess of Love is my first YA romance novella, and it’s about Hannah, a sophomore scholarship student at a college just outside of Metro Manila. Her world changes pretty much overnight when her friend (and not-so-secret crush), reveals to her that he’s actually the god of the sun, and that he needs her to temporarily be the goddess of love. Because the original goddess is missing. It’s the first volume of what I’ve planned as a series. (Operative word is “planned” of course.)

In an interview last year, you mentioned how your first novel pitch was for a YA story that was not picked up. What made you decide to return to that genre now? How do you approach writing a YA novel as opposed to one that is not aimed at that market?

Before getting published that first time (My Imaginary Ex, a chick lit novella), I had only ever really written YA — stuff that was more Sweet Dreams- and Sweet Valley-ish. Writing chick lit now, I actually still take my YA concept and just age the characters by five to seven years. My books are not very “adult” or raunchy. (My mother will disagree, but anyway.) I’ve also used a lot of flashbacks to college, so I feel like I never really left that comfort zone.

I pay attention to readers mentioning my books in social media though, and I noticed that they’re young. Teenagers. Younger than I’d expected since the stories are about twenty-somethings.  So I thought maybe I could work on a story and keep the characters teenagers too, instead of aging them. That’s how Interim Goddess of Love started.

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Alternative Alamat Interview: Andrei Tupaz

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 18 - 2012

For our second Alternative Alamat contributor interview this year, I’ve spoken with Andrei Tupaz, author of “Offerings to Aman Sinaya”. Andrei used to work as a primary school teacher in the Philippines but now lifts heavy boxes of produce and stocks shelves five days a week at a supermarket in Wellington, New Zealand.  In his spare time, when he isn’t recovering from all the lifting he does at work, he works out at the gym, or spends time with his wife doing extremely productive things like lazing about near the Wellington wharf, watching shows and movies, or acceding to his body’s gastronomic demands.

Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?

My story focuses on a fishing tribe, and their relationship to the sea goddess Aman Sinaya.  It also asks and “answers” the question: “If Aman Sinaya, goddess of the sea, really existed, what kind of offering would she accept from those who fish within her domain?”

Did you draw upon any specific personal experiences in writing this story? Experiences of the sea, of love, or a clash between old and new?

I guess an experience that I drew upon is the time my friends (including my then girlfriend and now wife) and I swam with whale sharks in Donsol. I wore a life vest because I couldn’t swim (I knew how to paddle but couldn’t stay afloat).  We saw four whale sharks.  The first one I saw (was it really the size of a bus?) went straight toward me, and then veered away at the last second.  If I stretched out my hand I would have touched the whale shark’s snout (touching the whale shark would have been wrong of course); it felt like I was that close.

I still can’t truly put into words the awe and amazement I felt swimming with those whale sharks. Our guide, a man in his forties, was an incredible swimmer and diver. Seeing him, and the other men in the bangka we hired, move so effortlessly around the bangka, and in the water – that also affected me. Another experience that probably “jumpstarted” the story was seeing a high school friend’s photo of the sunken cemetery in Camiguin, with the iconic cross rising out of the ocean.  My friend had composed the photo so that the cross was in the upper third of the photo.  On the lower third of the photo, there was a bangka moving towards the cross.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?

The part of the writing process I like most is the start – when the screen is white and devoid of any text. Because then I can write anything, and it doesn’t have to make sense or be coherent.  I like writing short 250 to 500 word ‘freewrites’ about a concept I have (if you’re ‘freewriting’ about a concept, is it still a freewrite?), because it feels like I’m just indulging in my imagination, but to turn that concept into a whole story… ahh that’s hard work.

That’s how Offerings to Aman Sinaya actually came about…out of a 500 word ‘freewrite.’  I wrote about a parent telling a bedtime story to his child, of fishermen diving to the bottom of the sea, to pray to a statue of the Virgin Mary. Funny how the original freewrite had such a Catholic motif.

What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?

Creating a coherent story.  I had written so many “what if” versions on the idea of giving an offering to a sea goddess, with so many different characters, that I had a hard time choosing what the plot was going to be about.

How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?

I learned about some folktales from my parents and carers (including stories of aswangs and the like), and read a bit of Lam-ang in high school, but I only really started learning about Philippine myths and legends when I bought a copy of Damiana Eugenio’s Philippine Folk Literature: The Myths.  Sadly, I lost my copy of the book before I could finish it.

Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?

Bernardo Carpio maybe?  Also Maria Makiling, because the tales about her are so varied; sometimes she’s extremely kind, sometimes a lover who has been spurned, at other times a forbidding and dangerous guardian of her domain.

Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?

Bernardo Carpio, because he was named after a hispanic character, and yet was supposedly seen by the Katipuneros as a symbol against Spanish oppression.  Also Maria Makiling, for the reasons stated above.

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      About Me

      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.