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.

Josel Nicolas on Doc Brick: Balloon Scientist Problem Solver

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On April - 1 - 2010

Today we’ve got a guest interviewer in the person of Macoy (you can find his site here, though note that some of it may be NSFW), creator of the wonderful Maskot komik (which I reviewed at Metakritiko here). For this interview, he speaks to fellow komiks creator Josel Nicolas, who has a new monthly comic coming out in the pages of K-zone. Yep, he’s THAT Josel Nicolas. In K-zone. Read on:

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Josel Nicolas makes intense, psychological alt-comix which range in theme from semi-autobiographical angst (Windmills 2: Bearkdowns) to Saw-esque dungeon torture (Roleplay). His work has garnered praise from the likes of Gerry Alanguilan and Ramon de Veyra. Earlier this year, he adapted Adam David’s award-winning The El Bimbo Variations into a graphic novel for his UST Fine Arts graduate thesis.

Given that pedigree, Josel’s latest project seems shockingly mainstream: an all-ages monthly comics feature in Kzone magazine entitled Doc Brick: Balloon Scientist Problem Solver.

So, tell us about Doc Brick.

Ah, Doctor Brick is my take on the Genius Cartoon Character template. It probably came about from my love for Dexter’s Laboratory and Jimmy Neutron, and all that faux science adventure stuff.

Only he’s a brain-slash-balloon tied to a brick. Where the hell did that come from?

Haha! It just came from me sketching around.

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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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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: 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.*

10 Questions on 10 Stories: Yvette Tan

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 11 - 2009

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Yvette Tan’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared in so many venues online and offline that I truly believe she could put together an entire magazine all by her self. Her stories have been recognized by the Palanca Awards, the Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards and the 2008 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Anthology. Her first short story collection, “Waking the Dead,” was released just last month to stellar reviews, and when she agreed to this interview, I decided to ask her one question for each of the stories.

The Child Abandoned: Have you ever attended the Feast of the Black Nazarene?

[Note: You can see a flash photo-essay of the Feast (with audio) at the GMA News website.]

The nearest I’ve gotten to the feast is watching it on TV. There’s something raw about it, something that transcends time. Sure, the celebrants are all wearing t-shirts and pants and have cellphones (which, for their sake, I hope they left at home), but you get the feeling that they could be wearing pelts. They have that sort of energy. People have gotten killed during the festival and yet it endures, as glorious as ever. Right now, I don’t think I want to attend the festival for real (mostly because my mom would have a conniption if she found out) but should I get a chance to do so, I would not say no.

The Bridge: You’ve met quite a few celebrities haven’t you? Which meeting left you the most star struck?

It’s tough to choose just one because I’ve interviewed so many interesting people. If my high school self saw me now, she would be squealing with delight. Here are the first 3 that comes to mind:

Pilita Corrales - One of the most amazing people I have met. She used to be a big star, and still is in some parts of the world. Did you know they named a street after her in Sidney? An interview consists of you sitting down and her telling you about her life story in fascinating detail.

Gary Barlow - One of the guys from the now defunct Take That. He called me at my house. I took the call in my parents room like a giggly teenager. He was very nice. Answered all questions about himself, his music, his family. Knows how to make fun of himself, too. The thing with a lot of foreign artists is that they take themselves too seriously, refuse to answer questions that don’t have to do with whatever it is they’re promoting at the time. Gary wasn’t like that.

Imelda Marcos - I didn’t really interview her but I got the chance to interact with her for the Terno episode of the first season of Project Runway Philippines. What a fascinating woman! She revolutionized the terno, taking it from a bulky three-piece into the streamlined one piece that is our national costume today. She my not have come off as nice in “The Bridge” but really, the story is more a tribute than anything else. If I like you enough, I’m going to make you a monster.

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Everything Happens At Once: An Interview with Maria Isabel Garcia

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On September - 10 - 2009

Maria Isabel Garcia is the author of “Science solitaire: essays on science, nature, and becoming human“, a science writer for the De Rerum Natura column of the Philippine Star, and curator of the upcoming Mind Museum. She’s also agreed to shed some light on matters of science for our readers here at Rocket Kapre, but today we speak to her about the Mind Museum.

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Could you tell us how you became involved in the Mind Museum project? I know a few people who’d consider that to be a dream job!

I’m a science writer and I’d started to do what I call “Inspirational Science Workshops” for public school science teachers when the project proponents of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc., called me to ask if I would be interested to be involved in the project. I agreed to be part of the project on a permanent basis only if we saw eye to eye on the kind of science museum that would be put up—I am sure that there are many ways of presenting science to the public, so I wanted to be sure we shared the same vision. We did.

I do not believe in “dream jobs” because that somehow implies, for me anyway, that I wanted the job badly. I believe in passion and discipline:  passion to set your soul on fire and discipline to use that fire to illuminate, and not simply attract attention and burn itself out. I am constantly grateful that I am able to do what I love most, which is to promote the public understanding of science, to avoid making beggars of the public when it comes to the gifts of understanding that science offers. Whether it is through my writing or through a science museum, I don’t consider one or the other as more or less of a dream job.

From the way the project is presented at the website, it seems to be an ambitious undertaking. What will make the Mind Museum different from other science exhibits in the Philippines?

We were conscious that we finally had the chance to give our country the science museum it deserves. If we thought “small” then that would speak of how little we thought of the capacity and desire of our own people to understand the world through science. We would be belittling the vast imagination and creativity of people like yourselves. So we looked at science in all its fields, at where they are now, and figured out a way of presenting science to the Filipino public in the most fascinating way.

The Mind Museum will dispel notions of science as being only mechanical, only for “geeks”, only for the irreligious. It will make the Filipinos lock eyes and shake hands with science as a way of knowing, as being intertwined with human identity as much as music and dance.

Having to do something as extensive as this required a lot of resources. It is a billion peso project but after just over a year of fund raising from the private sector, including individuals who thought this was an idea whose time had really come, , we were able to raise over 80% of our fund raising target- a clear signal for us to start construction this year.

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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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