Rochita Loenen-Ruiz on the Context of Culture

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 9 - 2009

RochitaOBScholarpicFilipina writer and 2009 Octavia E. Butler Scholar Rochita Loenen-Ruiz has a guest post up at Jeff Vandermeer’s Ecstatic Days where she speaks about why she attempts to be true to her culture (as a Filipina who grew up in the Mountain Province) in her writing. Here’s an excerpt:

That a lot of Filipinos believe in the superiority of what’s foreign is a sad truth. It’s just like how Filipinos insist on bleaching their beautiful brown skin because they believe white is a superior color.

But I love the Filipino color. I love our beautiful brown skin and I don’t see why we need to be whiter. It’s just in this way that I love our beautiful Filipino culture. It is bright and colorful and filled with so many nuances. We are not just the color of earth, we are not just the beating of gongs, what we are includes the interweaving with other cultures. We are indigenous and multicultural at the same time.

If you’d like to read some of Rochita’s stories, her most recent tale, “59 Beads“, appears in the latest issue (December 2009) of Apex Magazine. We’re also honored to have two of her stories slated to appear in our Ruin and Resolve anthology.

[Photo sourced from Munting Nayon News Magazine]

On The Far Shore: An Interview With Rodello Santos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 20 - 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 Rodello Santos, author of “Queen Liwana’s Gambit“.

Could you tell us a bit about your story?

Absolutely. My story is about a young boy who wanders the countryside unsupervised with his best-friend, a chubby yellow rodent who shoots electricity. No wait, that’s Pokemon. Okay, now I remember. My story is about an old woman who bargained with dark powers in her youth and who must now face the consequences. It is based loosely on my own experiences pretending to be an old woman.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

Some of the voices in my head are psychic. Or perhaps I read it on Charles Tan’s Livejournal.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Yes, the majority of my stuff is speculative fiction set in secondary worlds. This world is far too boring.

How long did it take you to write the story?

That’s a tough question. The first incarnation of this story was written in 2006 for one of the weekly Flash Challenges at the Liberty Hall Writers’ Forum. For these challenges, writers are given a “trigger” and 90 minutes to write a story. The trigger can be a word, a picture, lyrics, or whatever. So, it took it me 90 minutes to write the first draft, then three years to complete the final revision. :)

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

The final draft. By that time, it just required some fine-tuning, and I could enjoy the story without having to make any major choices.

How do you know when a story is “ready”, that it’s time to stop making those minuscule corrections?

When I run face-first into the submission deadline (I can be a terrible procrastinator). I don’t know that one can ever stop tinkering with a story. If I do a few read-throughs and nothing leaps out at me, that’s one sign that it’s about ready. Of course, an author is often the worst judge of his/her own work. Getting feedback from other writers can be invaluable.

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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.

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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.

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On the Far Shore: An Interview With Eliza Victoria

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 7 - 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 Eliza Victoria, author of  “The Just World of Helena Jimenez.”

Tell us a bit about your story “The Just World of Helena Jimenez”:

Without spoiling anything, “The Just World of Helena Jimenez” is about a girl whose family has been a victim of a heinous crime. One day she just finds herself in a world where there is no crime.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

Wow, I can’t even remember. I must have picked up the “call to submissions” link from Charles Tan’s blog, or from Dean Alfar.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

No. Or if I ever were able to write such a story before, the writing was done unconsciously. If anyone ever reads a story of mine and points this out to me, I’ll probably just dismiss the notion and say, “Oh, those things didn’t really happen, it’s a psychological thing, the character’s just insane”. Etcetera etc. When I write non-realistic fiction it is still very much rooted in our reality, so much so that the fantastic elements can be easily explained by psychology. Ha! I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. I can never do Lord of the Rings, where everything is created from scratch, even the language; I’m inclined to use the two-world trope. I suppose Harry Potter falls in this category. This world, that other world.

I can never erase this world from my stories, but that’s me speaking now. This may change in the future.

As far as reading goes though, does your present self share those same inclinations? Or, all else being equal, do you enjoy reading Lord of the Rings type epic fantasy as much as a tale set in our world?

Confession time: I haven’t read Lord of the Rings. (Please don’t shoot me.) But to be sure, I enjoy reading non-realist fiction as much as the realist ones. I read like crazy. I read whatever the bookstores and the book bargain sales and the online journals can offer (well, as long as I can still afford them). I don’t care if the story is set in this universe, or elsewhere. If the language is lovely, the plot engaging, the characters interesting, then I’ll pack my bags and board that plane to Wherever.

How long did it take you to write the story?

Hm, not too long, but longer than usual. However, it took years before the story finally assumed the form I wanted it to have. I started writing this story in 2007, my last year in college. I finished the story sometime after graduation I think. The first draft was more than 30 pages long. It pained me to cut it, so I just set it aside, then wrote other, shorter stories and sold them. When I heard about Farthest Shore, I revisited the story, rolled up my sleeves, and revised.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Creating a new world is always fun. Describing the culture, the surroundings – I enjoyed this immensely.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Editing! Oh, editing this monster pained me, because it was so long and I had to cut so many conversations between the characters short. Also, the first draft was very graphic, very violent. I toned it down a bit; though the violence is necessary, I really don’t want to hit the readers too hard.

Ouch. Always painful to kill one’s precious babies. How did you choose what made the cut and what didn’t?

I remember a couple of scenes where the characters suddenly became melodramatic. Like telenovela-melodramatic. When I read the manuscript again after setting it aside for a little while, the dialogue made me cringe. So out with those scenes.

The other parts I didn’t really cut, I just shortened them. I mean if a scene can be shortened and it still works, then it doesn’t have to be that long, right? As a writer, you’re just wasting space. Or being clingy to your language, like, “Oh, but this line’s so beautiful/witty/whatever”. Enough with that – just edit!

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Now Available: The Farthest Shore

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 2 - 2009

Since Rocket Kapre launched a month ago, we’ve been whetting your appetite for a certain anthology by giving you weekly interviews with contributors. For the month of September, we’ve picked the brains of Kate Aton-Osias, Crystal Koo and Dominique Cimafranca regarding their stories in The Farthest Shore, an anthology of secondary world fantasy from Filipino authors, and now you can read those stories for yourselves: The Farthest Shore has been released, just in time for weekend reading. Please do check it out, and let us know what you think!

We also have a few more Farthest Shore author interviews in the pipeline (and now you’ll actually know what they’re talking about).  This Wednesday we’ll speak to Eliza Victoria about her story, “The Just World of Helena Jimenez”.

On the Far Shore: An Interview with Dominique Cimafranca

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 23 - 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 to Dominique Cimafranca, author of “Rite of Passage.

Tell us a bit about your story “Rite of Passage”

I would qualify “Rite of Passage” as a quiet space fantasy; quiet because there are no clashing lightsabers or firing lasers, just a man and his companions on a trek to find a new home away from their tribe. It’s not just any tribe, though, but a spacefaring one, and very much constrained by resources. The trek then takes on the form of a ritual, one that plays on the hopes and fears — the could-have’s and should-have’s — of the chosen one as he strikes out on his own.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

I believe I heard about it from several sources at about the same time. I’m subscribed to Ken Yu’s blog, as well as to Charles Tan’s and Joey Nacino’s (and now to Paolo Chikiamco’s ;-) )  so it must have been one of those.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Yes, “Twilight of the Magi”, a re-imagining of the Three Wise Men as battling wizards. That came out in the PGS Christmas Special. I didn’t consciously set out to write a secondary world story then, though; it just so happened mystical Egypt was the most logical setting. Only after the story came out did people tell me it qualified as a secondary world.

How long did it take you to write the story?

Around three or four days, on and off. I can really only write in the evenings.

That’s… mighty quick. Especially given you only write evenings. Is that your usual rate of writing? How many drafts do you usually go through?

Heh. Well, it was a short story. But yeah, that’s about my pace, once I get going. I go over my work a couple of times, but I don’t usually do major rewrites: if I really don’t have a feel for the story I’m writing, I usually drop it and start over again.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Thinking about the backstory of the characters and the tribe, a detail which never really made it into the final version.

Do you think you’ll ever revisit the world of “Rite of Passage” in another story?

Probably not, as it’s a one-off tale with a theme behind it. But who knows, maybe.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Heh. The writing itself. Because it never really quite comes out the way you want it.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

I like to think the inspiration comes from the rite of leaving home, a necessary part of adulthood, but heightened with the fear that you can never go back.

You’ve experienced the displacement that comes from leaving one home for another correct? Did that influence or enrich the writing in any particular way?

Yes, I’ve left home several times, whether for work or for studies. I always managed to come back, though, and that’s a good thing. But I sometimes wonder what happens if you can’t go back. So those are the emotions which made their way into that story.

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

I have a domestic scifi story that’s three-quarters written. I’ve put it away for a while because I got caught up in other things. I really should finish it.

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?

The worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. There’s something terribly appealing about the 19th century optimism. But I’d like to write it away from the perspective of the white
superman.

Well those authors all have works in the public domain already if I remember correctly. Think you’ll ever give their worlds a shot?

I probably will.  With cameos by Crisostomo Ibarra and Pilosopo Tasyo. Hmmm… “Liga ng Mga Hindi Pangkaraniwang Ginoo.”

I’d read that! Well, as long as Juan Tamad isn’t a member. Where else can we find your work?

I have some stories lined up with Philippine Genre Stories, and I’ve had a few published with Philippine Graphic. I also have a story in Vin Simbulan’s “A Time for Dragons.”

On the Far Shore: Interview with Crystal Koo

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 16 - 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 Crystal Koo, author of  “Wildwater.”

Tell us a bit about your story “Wildwater”:

As far as theme goes, it’s about an emigre who returns to his homeland with an misdirected sense of responsibility and an inferiority complex regarding his own people which goes too far.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

I check on Dean Alfar and Joey Nacino’s blogs and they had posted calls for submissions.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Plenty of them. The first serious one I had written was way back in high school, in sword-and-sorcery, Middle-Earth fashion complete with mythologies and family trees and kingdoms that rose and fell; that was the only kind of fantasy I knew how to write then and I wrote those kinds of stories in a series. Since then I’ve been focusing on other kinds of fantasy writing as well but I still regularly write secondary-world stories, though I’ve moved away from the sword-and-sorcery genre.

I think we read the same kinds of books/series when we were young then. Do you think you’ll ever revisit those earlier works, spruce them up with your knew writer-ly skills and send them out? I’d love to read a Filipino made sword and sorcery series myself.

Haha, if I ever do revisit them, I’d have to do a complete overhaul. They were all very derivative of Lord of the Rings and Greek mythology.

How long did it take you to write the story?

It took me around a week to write and edit the story into a first “final” draft. Then I left it alone for a few months and tinkered with it here and there afterward.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Lots, actually. One is that the story is structured as a letter addressed to members in a court of law and is clearly meant to be
persuasive, which made the story easier to write because of the clear direction. The other is that the protagonist comes from a race of “gilled” humans – like the sort that pops up once in a while in provincial gossip back home in the Philippines, along with babies born with webbed feet. I also enjoyed writing about the orinu, which I imagined to be scaly killer whales, and the orinu trade.

How in-depth do you develop a secondary world before you tell a story in it? Do you flesh out a history and a culture first before you start on characters and plot, or does the world grow from what you need to tell a particular story?

It grows from what I need to tell the story. Otherwise I get too caught up in inventing histories and cultures that the plot finds itself all of a sudden in the backseat, which I try to avoid.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Cooking up a credible way [Ed. Note: spoiler deleted for your safety dear reader] without making it overly melodramatic.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

I wrote the story in 2007, when I was still studying in Sydney, and the concept of studying abroad as a first step to immigration was a constant preoccupation for me because Australia is such a hotspot for Asians who are looking to do that sort of thing, particularly in my university, hence the theme. Stylistically, I’d say maybe Ursula K. Le Guin.

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

Yes. I’m in the middle of revising a short story called “The Startbox” for the Usok e-zine [Ed. Note: Watch for it this October folks, here at Rocket Kapre], and also a short story called “The Likeness of God” which I’ll be sending out to the market soon in hopes of a possible publication. I’m also working on a collaboration for a second play to be performed onstage in Hong Kong.

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 ^_^)

As a teenager, I wrote Lord of the Rings fanfics and a boatload of anime fanfics that included the secondary worlds of Vandread, Gensoumaden Saiyuki, and (I’m clearly not holding back here) Akazukin Chacha, as well as stories that were blatant rip-offs of Star Wars. I haven’t written fanfics for a while, but I’d probably enjoy writing in Neil Gaiman’s The Dreaming from the Sandman series, if that can count as secondary despite its connections with the primary world.

Vandread! OK, I totally need to search out your fanfics now. One final, very important question then: Dita, Meia or Jura (If you answer Misty I shall be forced to kill you)?*

So unfair, that’s not a very representative range of choices! Very well, Meia then, though I still think she broods more than necessary.

Thanks for agreeing to do the interview Crystal! You can find a list of Crystal’s published works, including some that are available online, on her Author’s page here at Rocket Kapre.

*Ed. Note: These are the lead female characters of the Vandread anime. Sorry guys, I just had to ask.*

On the Far Shore: An Interview with Kate Aton-Osias

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 8 - 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 Kate Aton-Osias, author of “Light.”

Could you tell us a bit about your story “Light”?

The story is essentially about unrequited love and knowing your place in the world (although both I had hoped to present in a different way). It started as a writing challenge to write in ‘traditional’ fantasy (that is to say to use tradfan tropes) without it being too ‘traditional’ or common.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

From Dean Alfar’s blog.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Nope (unless you count futuristic fiction which, I would argue is a secondary world, but I know I’m severely outvoted in the literary world).

Ah, but dissent enriches discussion, so fire away! How would you describe a secondary world story?

A world that is not known by people living in the present. Which is why I don’t count alternate histories (unless it is sufficiently removed from actual history) as second world. If it’s futuristic fiction, how could anyone ‘know’ it? I understand though, that certain kinds of futuristic fiction – especially the ones that only project less than a generation ahead – is too close to the present to be considered secondary world. But fiction that deals with things that common people right now find fantastic – robots (even if they already exist), androids, a clean Philippines (haha) – I think that could count as secondary world.

How long did it take you to write the story?

A little under a month.

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

Reading the first draft. :)

Really? Hm. Your first drafts must be much nicer than mine are. How many drafts do you usually go through before you submit a story? Do you have anyone else read them first?

Not really. Actually, they’re quite horrid. But the first draft is my first taste of completion. After that, I can edit and polish (and edit, and polish), but I already have something. Anything before the first draft is incomplete, and potentially, will never be complete. The first draft makes the story ‘real’. As for number of drafts – I would prefer to go through a zillion drafts, but I’ve realized lately that my stories receive better comments when I stop at 3. Generally speaking, my husband reads the draft to check for any obvious grammatical mistakes, and then I’m on my own.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

Trying to incorporate traditional fantasy tropes.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

Dungeons and Dragons source book! (the spells, the spells)

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

Yep, for the LitCritter deadline in October as well as (hopefully) SpecFic. [Ed. Note: Philippine Speculative Fiction V]

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?

Hmmm… this one’s tough. My first answer is unfair since I would like to write for a fantasy setting that a close friend of mine had built for the solitary purpose of a role playing game (which I’m actively playing right now). For a more accessible reference, I think I would like to write a story for the Fading Suns RPG.

Have your experiences during gaming, say the settings, adventures or the characters, spill over or influence your writing?

Most definitely. I learned a lot about characters, and dialogue, through gaming (it doesn’t hurt that our GM is an award winning playwright and fictionist). I try not to write it down directly, though, because I prefer to write something out of my own imagination – or at least, my own interpretation of it (which goes beyond simply using the same characters and exactly the same setting with a different plot) – rather than play in someone else’s sandbox. That is not to say I’m against fanfiction, but its just a personal choice to challenge myself to do something different.

Where else can we find your work?

Bewildering Stories, Magical Realism Online, A Time for Dragons, Spec Fic 2 and 4.

Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Kate!

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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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