Archive for the ‘Slider’ Category

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: THE LONG “WHY”

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 27 - 2009

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No, this isn’t going to be about why I chose the name “Rocket Kapre”—that much is simple enough:  I wanted something that was distinctively Spec Fic and distinctively Filipino, and the instant I put “Rocket” and “Kapre” together, the logo sprung into my brain, fully formed. I don’t believe in Fate, but I do believe in Occam’s Razor.

This very first (original) post is going to be about why I’m putting Rocket Kapre up in the first place, why I want to do this—need to do this—before I can do anything else with my life. Those of you allergic to personal reflection or sentiment can rest assured that I will make an effort to keep both out of future posts, but as this is the inaugural post for Rocket Kapre, I feel that I may be allowed a bit of leeway. As saying goes: “ang taong ‘di lumilingon sa pinanggalingan ay ‘di makakarating sa paroroonan.” [One who does not look back at where he/she has come from will never reach his/her destination.]

After I resigned from my position at the law firm, many of my friends and acquaintances assumed that I had done so to pursue my childhood dream to be a writer. While I appreciated their support and good intentions, their assumption was wrong on two levels: first, while I would certainly work on my writing, I was resigning to become an Editor-Publisher, not a writer; and second, becoming a writer had never been a childhood dream. When I was a child I dreamnt of being an indomitable lawyer, or a tireless Ombudsman, or even a valiant policeman (Mom almost had a heart attack). On evenings where I allowed my fancy to really fly free, I allowed myself to believe I could be President of the Philippines.

But a published writer? Never.

It was not that I didn’t love stories—I was a voracious, insatiable reader. When I was a child, I trawled through my Mom’s books indiscriminately, reading everything from religious texts to autobiographies to a very educational parenting guide which dealt with the many tricks children use to manipulate their parents (needless to say, this book was promptly reverse-engineered to suit my nefarious six year old purposes). Once I read my first genre novel though—a secondary world fantasy entitled “The Sleeping Dragon” by Joel Rosenberg—there was no turning back for me:  from that point on, Science Fiction and Fantasy were my drugs of choice.

So why didn’t I dream of being a genre writer? Because when I was a child it simply was not possible.

After all, for young Pao, who could properly be called “genre writers”? David Eddings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan, Tad Williams… these were the authors who filled the SFF store shelves of my childhood, and all the books that bore their embossed names came from the United States (or, if I’d bought the book in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom). Hell, that could be said about most of the non-genre books as well, with locally authored books being lumped together under the aggressively unhelpful category of “Filipiniana” (unless, of course, they were Tagalog Romances). No one was publishing genre novels (I was interested in no other form of fiction) locally, and I had been dead set against migration for as long as I could remember so that was not an option. So I turned my attention to more attainable dreams, such as the Presidency of the Republic, for even as a child I could see that the “genre author” door was closed to me because of where I had been born, and would stay closed because of where I chose to remain.

That was then. Today I say that door is open—and if it isn’t, it’s time we broke it down.

The Internet allows for instantaneous international delivery of content. Computers allow people access to this content when they want it, how they want it. Stories are just another form of content, and if going digital allows us to reach a wider audience, then I say we go for it. We’ve got great stories here, stories that no one else can tell, and I don’t see why we should let little things like geography get in between readers and a great story.

Of course, some writers could care less about the size of their readership, intent instead on crafting that perfect story to embody their artistic vision. Yet wouldn’t it be great if hundreds of thousands of people around the world could share that vision? Wouldn’t it be great if, because enough people bought your books, you could spend your days doing nothing but writing?

Some dream huh? But it’s a dream I want Filipino children (in body and in spirit) to have, and I want to help make those dreams a reality… because it is not the impossibilities that excite me, that keep me awake at night.

It’s the possibilities. And today, those are endless.

Locus Reviews PSFIV and A Time for Dragons

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 4 - 2009

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The July 2009 issue of Locus, the U.S. magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, carried a pleasant surprise for fans of Philippine speculative fiction: a review of not one, but two local anthologies, namely “Philippine Speculative Fiction IV” and “A Time for Dragons” by Rich Horton.

The two reviews are not available online, but with the help of relatives I was able to order a copy (which became a less arduous  task when I called off the bookstore hunt after I learned that Locus wasn’t being sold in brick-and-mortar stores @_@). I just got my hands on it this weekend and thought I’d share some of the contents of the review, given the fact that an issue of Locus can be a tad difficult to chase down.

In his dual review, Mr. Horton stated that “[i]n feel these two books are entirely consistent with similar products from the American and English small press” and the fact that many stories are set in the Philippines makes these stories “just unfamiliar enough to most readers to pique additional interest.”

Mr. Horton went on to name a few of his favorites from each anthology, which I’ll list here along with any comment he might have had that didn’t involve a summary of the story. Note that some of the praise he had for these stories was tempered by less positive comments, usually having to do with predictability, but since he did cite them as the best stories, I’m probably safe in assuming that the good he saw in each outweighed the bad.

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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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