Trese 4 Pre-Launch Interview: Kajo Baldisimo (with Sneak Preview)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 6 - 2011

I hope everyone is excited for the Trese 4 book launch this coming Saturday, 5pm, at the National Book Store Bestsellers at Robinson’s Galleria. The book is entitled “Last Seen After Midnight”. I’ve already spoken with writer Budjette Tan–now artist and co-creator Kajo Baldisimo answers my questions about Trese. As an added bonus, we have exclusive preview pages from “Wanted: Bedspacer”, one of the new cases in Trese 4. In these pages, Trese explains to a doctor the difference between two creatures of Philippine folklore. Click on the pages for a larger version.

Do you view volume 4, “Last Seen After Midnight” as the start of a new tone for the series?

Parang yes.

The first trilogy tells the story of a hero who is still quite reluctant to accept that role. The next few volumes will show what happens when she starts facing that destiny head on.

Or not.

How different was it working on this volume, as opposed to the previous ones? Was it easier or harder to complete? I can imagine that as the anticipation increases for each new installment, the pressure on you two must also be growing…

Budj was done with the scripts years ago. As for me, I had a harder time completing this book because my focus constantly zigzaged from ‘just having fun’ to ‘living up to expectations’. The book got finished when I flushed ‘expectations’ down the toilet.

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Trese 4 Pre-Launch Interview: Budjette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 4 - 2011

The much anticipated fourth book in the Trese series (which is popular enough to merit a Wikipedia entry) will be launched this Saturday, October 8, 5pm, at the NBS Best Sellers branch at Robinson’s Galleria. The book is entitled “Last Seen After Midnight”. I caught up with series writer Budjette Tan to ask him about the newest installment of Alexandra Trese’s ongoing adventures.

In many ways, Trese: Mass Murders (the previous volume) felt like an ending to a chapter of Alexandra’s life. Do you view volume 4 as something of a fresh start?

At one time, there was actually a possibility that the stories in Book 4 might have been part of Book 3 to begin with.

I never really envisioned Book 3 to be such a sprawling story arc. I really tried to tell the story of the Great Balete Tree in 20 –pages and was trying to tell the “secret origin” of the Kambal in the usual 20-pages as well. But as I kept writing that story, it just didn’t allow itself to be contained in 20-pages. So, it ended up becoming 113 pages long!

Book 4 is once again a collection of stand-alone stories. I like doing these types of stories. They feel more like a short jog, as compared on the long marathon that was Book 3.

We’ve actually started on Book 5. Looking at where that is planned to go, I think Book 5 will come closer to a “fresh start” for Trese. Or maybe it’ll take her down new path,s is more like it. We hope to finish Book 5 before the Summer Komikon of 2012.

So we’re seeing a return to the episodic cases then. How many pages will this volume be?

This volume will have four new cases. Each case is a stand-alone story. The stories range from 20 to 22 pages. We’ve actually released three of these cases in the past Komikons because we wanted to always have something new for the readers, just to show them that we are working on the new book. It also pressured us to finish each case for whatever was the upcoming Komikon of the quarter.

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Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias Talk PSF6

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 26 - 2011

The latest installment of the Philippine Speculative Fiction series will be launched on Saturday (5PM at the UView Theater, Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street, for those interested–it’s also the launch of the PGS Crime issue). Volume 6 is the first to be edited by two women, Nikki Alfar and Kate Aton-Osias, and they graciously agreed to a short interview leading up to the launch. We spoke about how the series has evolved through the years, the difference between being an editor and a contributor, and what makes this volume special.


For those unfamiliar with the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, could you explain briefly what the series is?

Nikki Alfar: Philippine Speculative Fiction is the annual end result of our yearly semi-open call for submissions of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and related sub- and cross-genre short stories.

We say ‘semi-open’ because contributors must be of Filipino ethnicity and/or nationality; by soliciting and consistently publishing their work, our goal is not just to provide a medium for these authors to reach a reading public, but also to chart and, hopefully, nurture the ongoing evolution of speculative fiction in the Philippines.

Philippine Speculative Fiction is published by leading Philippine specfic advocate Dean Francis Alfar, through his company Kestrel DDM.

 

Kate, you’ve been a contributor to the anthology before, but this is your first time in the editor’s chair. What was the experience like from the other side, so to speak? Is the grass really greener?

Kate Aton-Osias: Editing has its own challenges, different from writing. The most difficult part for me was in being able to articulate acceptance and rejection letters well. I believe in being transparent; I also believe that authors deserve to know what made their stories work, and why it did not. But the sheer physical limitations of an email, as well as constraints of time and language (People have varying degrees of literary vocabulary; I, for one, know less of the formal terms used for literary criticism than I would like) makes it difficult to convey how we, as editors, felt about a work of fiction. Though I only wrote 3-5 sentences per story, it was still a struggle to get those 3-5 sentences out, especially when rejecting a story that had solid technicals, but was ultimately turned down because of our poetics (see below for definition of ‘Poetics’).

That being said, the process has been extremely helpful (My own submission letters will never be the same again!), illuminating, and of course, satisfying. It was good to hear from the authors – whether or not they were accepted – that they appreciated our comments and compliments.

 

Nikki, you’ve been involved with PSF from the very beginning, and have been both a contributor and an editor. How has the anthology changed from volume one to the present?

Nikki: I’ve actually been copy-editing (meaning checking for typos and grammatical errors) the series since volume 1, though I didn’t start content-editing (working with authors on a story level, as well as actually selecting the stories) until Dean formally asked me to co-edit, on volume 3. (Yes, I’m married to our publisher, which never helped get me published, but which did help him get me to copy-edit, haha!) So I’ve read nearly all the submissions, published and unpublished.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the goal of the SpecFic series is to chart the development of Philippine specfic writing, and if you look back at the previous volumes of the antho from the beginning, you can see that themes seem to emerge every year. Early on, our authorship seemed to be primarily concerned about romantic love, but as you go forward through succeeding volumes, you can see that the contributors and their concerns are maturing, with later themes more focused on subjects like loss, family, identity, and so on.

Thankfully, as well, there’s been a marked reduction in stories which are basically “I will write a fanfic based on my favorite anime, just change the names, and submit that.” We used to get a huge chunk of those in the first few years—and I’m sure these texts have their market, but it is not Philippine Speculative Fiction; we are simply not interested in stories that explore someone else’s already-well-developed milieu—but nowadays it’s down to just a few.

So, in sum, I’d say the anthology has progressed as the field seems to be progressing; there’s significant improvement, year after year—not just in terms of what Filipino specfic practitioners are writing about, but in the quality and experimental nature of how we are writing it.

 

Is there anything about this volume that makes it different from the others?

Nikki: We’ve been laughing for some time over this being the very first “two-chick SpecFic”! This is the second time that Dean has not been directly involved in the selection and editing process, the first having been last year’s volume 5, which I co-edited with Vincent Michael Simbulan.

As publisher, Dean has been changing up the mix of co-editors, because he doesn’t believe that Philippine speculative fiction (neither the antho nor the field) should be an exclusive reflection of one person’s (or two people’s, counting me) poetics. (A very simplified definition of ‘poetics’, in case anyone should be wondering, is ‘the kind of writing an individual prefers’.)

So 2010’s SpecFic was a reflection of Vin’s and my poetics—which are diametrically opposed in many aspects, by the way—whereas this one is Kate’s and mine, which tend to be more harmonious, but also (we found out!) startlingly different in various ways. With Dean and me having nailed down the foundations of the series’ style and substance in volumes 1 to 4, we feel that keeping the editorial mix fresh will continue to keep the anthology fresh and exciting.

Speaking of which—there’s going to be a possibly surprising announcement at the volume 6 launch, so don’t miss it! ;)

 

We have a lot of science fiction, fantasy and horror readers in the Philippines, but few are familiar with the works of local spec fic authors. Speaking to this typical reader for a moment, why should he/she check out PSF6?

Nikki: I doubt that many people know this, but Philippine speculative fiction (again, both antho and field) is getting a lot of positive attention from speculative fiction writers and editors around the world. Many stories from several of the volumes of SpecFic have been cited and/or published by some of the most respected names in the field, and members of the international writing community are actually quicker than our local audience to tell us that the next volume is taking too darn long!

In this upcoming volume alone, we’ve got stories about a basketball-playing kapre, a Muslim artificer (shout-out to you, Paolo!), and a therapist to aswangs and diwatas. These are just the most obvious examples of why Filipino specfic is special—it’s been (frequently!) recognized to be on par with global standards in terms of quality, yet with a fresh perspective, a fresh approach; and it’s all ours.

Redstone SF Interviews Charles Tan (Part 1)

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On May - 9 - 2011

Redstone Science Fiction has part one of a two part interview with Charles Tan. For those who don’t know Charles, he’s an author, editor (Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler; Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009), Philippine spec fic advocate and prolific blogger (he runs Bibliophile Stalker , and contributes to SF Signal and The World SF Blog, amongst others).

The interview touches upon quite a few topics, including the fact that Charles is more well known abroad than in the Philippines, local cyberpunk, and the Philippine authors most likely to become well-known. An excerpt:

Who do you think will become the first Filipino science fiction writer to become well-known?

Science fiction, or does fantasy count, too?

 

Let’s do both.

Well, there’s no real hard science fiction writers that are active, just some people who dabble in science fiction. I dabble in science fiction, and I think that Rochita, also, might dabble in it from time to time. I don’t think that there’s really anyone who is going to make a big impact, although Eliza may, in a few years, through sheer quantity, if nothing else [laughs]. Dean Francis Almar is the first Filipino to be published in “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror”. He was first internationally published in “Strange Horizons”. He will probably be the first Filipino to have a true international following. Whenever I give a book to a foreign writer or friend, it is his.

Usok 2 Interview: Elaine Cuyegkeng

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 27 - 2011

Whenever an issue of Usok comes out, I conduct a short interview with the authors, to give readers some insight into the creation of the stories, as well as the authors themselves. Next up is Elaine Cuyegkeng (check out her new author’s page here), whose Usok story, “The Widow and the Princess of the Dwende“, is her first to be published online. The story is illustrated by the exceptional Mark Bulahao, who we interviewed last month. Elaine is a new author, but one already hard at work on her new novel, so keep an eye on her new author’s page as she continues to build her body of work.

Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.

The Widow and the Princess of the Dwende is actually a prequel to a NaNoWriMo project I was working on in 2009: A Brief History of the Enkanta. Both of them came about in a rather roundabout way. The vampire craze was going strong then (as it still is), and while I’m fond of vampires, I was frustrated by the current trends.  The vampire was always the Romantic Male Lead, and while I think vampires are awesome when they’re not just predators, they were depicted in such a way that they weren’t frightening anymore. For me, that takes away the compelling power of the vampire archetype.

And I thought: But hey, how much more scary would the vampire be if he was in a position of institutional power? If somehow, refusing to be a vampire’s paramour, or not welcoming him into your home, was bad news for you and your family? The idea of the vampire frayle was born, and from there, the idea of various enkanta clans wrestling for agency and survival in the Spanish era.

What aspect of the story gave you the most joy?

I love delving into the back stories of characters and fictional societies. The intricacies of Filipino society under the Spanish are fascinating to me, and it was immensely fun to delve into enkanta societies, mix enkanta lore with Western myths, and explore how they would interact.

What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?

The problem is, when you geek out like that on the page, you need to balance all of those details with telling a story. With a short story, you need to condense, condense, condense, which I found very hard to do. But I had awesome friends and an awesome editor [Editor Pao: Naks!] . They taught me how to fix the little things that were driving me mad.

Have you ever worn a costume? What was your favorite one? What about the most ridiculous?

I was waaaaay too little to remember this. But there’s a picture of me at three in a Supergirl costume. The geeky DC Comics-loving adult I am loves it.

Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?

I don’t think I could have written The Widow and the Princess of the Dwende or a Brief History of the Enkanta if I wasn’t Pinoy—if I hadn’t grown up on stories of the cruelty and romanticism of the Spanish era, or stories of the aswang lurking in the streets of Manila, or of the dangers of the various enkanta. And I think it’s partly due to my heritage that I’m particularly interested in colonial stories—stories that look at the dynamics between the powerful and the powerless, and the people caught in between.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?

Finish everything you start. Incidentally, the best method for finishing what you start appears to be writing fast, which I still need to work on.

Art Fantastic: Interview with MJ Pajaron

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 20 - 2011

MJ Pajaron (janemini on deviantart) grew up in Caloocan with two brothers and a sister who all share her love for karaoke. An avid anime fan and a gamer who enjoys roleplaying games and first person shooters, MJ provided the art for Kate Aton-Osias’ story “100% of Me” in Usok #2. In this interview, MY talks about games, anime, and some differences between two dimensional and three dimensional art.

You’re the first artist I’ve met (virtually speaking) who is equally at home with two dimensional and three dimensional art work. Or at least, it seems that way–are you more naturally inclined toward one form?

I am an artist, a game developer and a gamer… For someone like me who loves games and has the passion to make games, it actually seems only natural that I’d be interested in both art forms. I would say that I didn’t have the slightest idea about 3D models back in college, but when I found out that one of my units in 2nd year college would be 3D modeling, I got excited. I was amazed when I first saw how 3D models were done (from modeling to animation), but then… I was disappointed to learn that there were the professors were not as knowledgeable nor as capable as I’d expected them to be. Fortunately, in my second job I met the people who taught me all I know in 3D modeling, my officemates and friends who shared tips and techniques Ranging from the most basic to the most advanced. I truly thank them for all they’ve shared with me! Great games also inspire me to do more 3d models :-D

Which games have had art design that truly impressed you?

The Prince of Persia game released in 2008. I just love it, from the concept to the in-game art! (Although I do have mixed feelings about Elika always being there to pick you up whenever you fall…) Another would be Call of Duty Modern Warfare. I really like the lighting in the game, which was very realistic!

What are the advantages of 3D art as compared to 2D, and vice versa?

In 3D- Effects, lighting and shadow are processed in real-time, and that is awesome! On the other hand, in 2D, lighting and shadows are fixed. SFX is complicated.

2D games doesn’t require powerful computers unlike 3D.

Animation is easier to do in 3d rather than in 2D, especially considering the latest technologies that make the 3d animator’s work easier and faster.

In 2D, however, you don’t need plug-ins–instead, you sit for an hours, do some trial and error for the lighting and special effects, and from that you can create a really nice looking piece.
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Art Fantastic: Interview with Mark Bulahao

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On February - 16 - 2011

Mark Bulahao (edictiv on deviantart) grew up in Northern Luzon, and came to Metro Manila to pursue his education. A fan of history and warfare (evident in his art and his loves HBO’s “Rome”), he painted a more static, yet sinister, scene for Elaine Cuyegkeng’s “The Widow and the Princess of the Dwende” in Usok #2, and he took the time to sit down with us (virtually speaking) to discuss his influences, the importance (and joy) of drawing backgrounds, and whether or not artistic talent is genetic.


How did you get started as an artist?

I got interested in drawing at a very early age. I think it’s all the cartoons and video games that got me started. I also collected Marvel and DC comic books and copied them all the time.

Me and my brother were fortunate to have a few friends who also liked drawing. After playing video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, we would do an artjam on our favorite characters or design ones based on them. They later lost interest with drawing in high school but me and my brother stuck with it.

You have a twin brother who also seems to be a very good artist. Do you think that, to some degree, artistic talent is genetic? Does anyone else in your family draw/paint?

In our family, only the two of us are interested in drawing. So far I haven’t seen or read anything that proves the existence of “artistic genes” so I have no reason to believe in it. We just happen to like drawing and have made it a hobby.

A lot of the pieces in your deviantart gallery have a lot of detail invested in the background, whereas a lot of artists I know would prefer not to do backgrounds at all. Do you enjoy rendering those vast, panoramas? Do you like working on the background as much as working on the characters/people?

If art is biology, then those who are interested in backgrounds would be the type of biologists who study not just a certain species but their environment as well: how they interact with it, what role and niche they play in the ecosystem, how they cope with environmental changes, etc. I guess artists who ignore backgrounds are like biologists who are more concerned with a species’ anatomy, behaviors and interactions with other creatures. I don’t want to choose between the two because I’d rather be both.

I wouldn’t say that I enjoy doing environments and landscapes more than characters, but there’s a special kind of feeling in creating thriving ecosystems or living and breathing societies. There’s an incomparable joy in painting places that can allow someone to forget about reality for a while and be transported into another world, even for just a few seconds.

If you want to create fictional worlds, then you have to understand that a setting can become the star of a story while the characters themselves can take a back seat. Environments can have “personalities” and sometimes they’re much more interesting and complex than the characters that inhabit them.
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Interview with Alex Paman at Philippine Genre Stories

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 17 - 2011

Over at the PGS blog, Kenneth Yu has an interview up with Alex Paman, a past PGS contributor and the author of the book “Asian Supernatural”. Here’s an excerpt:

2. Why do you think you are drawn to or are interested in the supernatural?

I grew up listening to family ghost stories when I was a kid, and our houses in Quezon City and in Naic, Cavite were said to be haunted. I was also a fan of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and already wanted to become a comic book artist early on. It was a natural inclination to want to draw these iconic creatures and collect them for reference.

I enjoy researching the supernatural, because it touches upon an emotion and a state of mind that doesn’t follow logic or common sense. These beings defy what we define as real, and are usually seen when one is alone or mentally distressed. What if there really are worlds and beings that we can’t define or understand? I think Asians and Pacific Islanders are culturally conditioned and wired to believe that they’re real, and the fact that our ancestors thought they existed gives us a remote window to our own past and what we feared in daily life.

Paman gives some very detailed answers, particularly with regard to the lengthy process the book went through before it was picked up for publication. Check out the rest of the interview here.

Usok 2 Interview: Eliza Victoria

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On January - 6 - 2011

Whenever an issue of Usok comes out, I conduct a short interview with the authors, to give readers some insight into the creation of the stories, as well as the authors themselves. As we started our interviews for Usok 2 with VN Benedicto, who did the art for “Elsewhere“, we’ll begin the author interviews with the author of “Elsewhere“: Eliza Victoria, one of the country’s most prolific authors of speculative fiction. Don’t believe me? Check out her newly minted author’s page here on the site, and see for yourself.

Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.

It was just a what-if that came out of nowhere: What if there were a natural phenomenon – like lightning, or rain – that could create superheroes, but those superheroes couldn’t choose their powers? I thought it was a scary idea, and a sad one, and I had to write about it.

What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?

There is a secret in the story, and it is always difficult to hide a secret.

What aspect of the story gave you the most joy?

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at using a different structure for the short story. I’d planned to use the structure of a film script, and even studied a handful, but couldn’t find a narrative to sustain the form. Then one day my boyfriend mentioned taking up a comic-writing class in the University of the Philippines, our alma mater, and I insisted on seeing his script. Before I saw his comic script, I already had the idea [for “Elsewhere”] in my head, but as usual couldn’t start it because I couldn’t figure out the right way to tell it to make the story different from all others. Then I saw my boyfriend’s script, and I realized, here it was: a narrative structure based on images, a structure I could use.

Not long after, he lent me several comic books, one of which was a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602. 1602 contains a sample script of the graphic novel. I studied that closely, and had fun writing those portions of the story.

However, I still don’t know if I could write an actual comic book script.

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Rocket Kapre’s Budjette/Kajo Interview in the Inquirer

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On December - 18 - 2010

Today’s 2BU Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer has republished, online and in print, my post National book Award interview with Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo. Glad to see the Trese creators getting more much deserved exposure–though I do wish they’d spelled my name right ;)

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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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