An Interview With PGS Contributor Paolo Chikiamco
In 2009, Paolo Chikiamco launched Eight Ray Sun publishing with the goal of providing an electronic platform for Filipino Speculative Fiction. This move, opens the way for more exposure on behalf of Filipino writers, and while Eight Ray Sun publishing doesn’t yet pay as much as its International counterparts, it does strive to provide Filipino writers with compensation for the works accepted for publication.
In the meantime, Paolo has launched the first issue of Usok (an online publication of Filipino Speculative Fiction), the Rocket Kapre blog, and the Ruin and Resolve Anthology (a benefit anthology for victims of calamities in the Philippines). Alternative Alamat is Paolo’s latest project. Here he challenges Filipino writers to create stories that draw inspiration from Filipino myth and legend. In line with this project, Paolo has put together The Myth List which can be found at the Rocket Kapre Blog (http://www.rocketkapre.com).
In this interview, Paolo talks about what inspired him to undertake e-publishing, the future of Filipino Genre Fiction and the vision behind the Eight Ray Sun Publishing and the Alternative Alamat Project.
Q: Could you share some of your background? How did you come to writing and what made you choose speculative fiction?
I was always making up stories, even before I learned how to put them down on paper. I’m an only child, and that’s how I’d keep myself entertained once I ran out of books to read–or if I didn’t want to leave my favorite characters behind, even after their stories had ended. The first think I remember writing was a piece of Chrono Trigger fanfiction, which I’d jot down in a notepad every night, then store beneath my pillow. Once I hit college, my house got an Internet connection, and I discovered the online fanfiction communities. It was the first time I ever tried showing my work to other people, and the feedback encouraged me to write more fiction, and eventually try my hand at original work.
Speculative fiction was always my first love–I grew up on a steady diet of David Eddings, Orson Scott Card, and choose-your-own-adventure books… not to mention superhero comics–and I’ve never wanted to write anything else. Mainstream fiction can paint fascinating pictures of people and of a world that, although based on reality, I could never quite feel a part of. Speculative fiction, on the other hand, creates an entirely new world which draws me in by the sheer imaginative force of its imagery and underlying concepts. There’s an, let’s call it an “intensity”, to the experience of reading (or watching, or listening to) speculative fiction that I simply don’t find anywhere else.
Q: Are you still working as a lawyer? I read that you made a choice to leave your lawfirm for the sake of the writing life. What prompted this decision?
Well, now and then I call upon my fading memories of the ins-and-outs of the legal system to advise a friend or a family member in need, but for the most part that’s a world I’ve sort of bracketed and put aside for now. The nice thing about having passed the Bar though, is that my “lawyer hat” will always be there if I need to return to it. (Or if I get in a lot of trouble…)
As for what prompted the decision, that would be my wife, Shaps. I’d never really seen myself as lasting for long in a law firm, but I’d wanted to try it out for a few years, since we were newly married. After roughly two and a half years though, she saw that it was draining me dry. I worked in litigation, so that meant I was in the field of practice that directly dealt with the courts and quasi-judicial bodies, and it was just making me miserable. I’d dread the entire part of the day between leaving the house and getting back home, and, creatively, I was empty. I had become… disillusioned with words, is how I’d put it, and I can’t think of anything that could be more deadly to a writer. Shaps saw that, and told me that I needed to get out of the firm and try for my dream.
Q: After resigning from your lawfirm, you put up Eight Ray Sun Publishing. Would you elaborate more on the vision behind your publishing company.
Sure. About two or three years before I left the law firm, I’d awakened to the existence of a speculative fiction scene here in the Philippines. Kenneth Yu had just launched his Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, and that led me to the works of Dean Alfar and the Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology. The more I saw of local speculative fiction, the more I hungered for it, and for the kind of stories that we weren’t yet producing: the novels, the series, the young adult titles… I wanted to fill local shelves with our own worlds of fantasy and science fiction, but I also realized that to produce that kind of content, writing would have to be a whole lot more profitable for local authors than it was. I mean, countries like the United States and Japan have dozens of speculative fiction titles coming out every month, but that’s because in those countries, it’s actually possible to make a living as an author. They also have publishers which specialize in speculative fiction, and while in early 2009 there was exactly one major local publisher with a fantasy imprint (not including Kestrel DDM which publishes the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series), that was clearly not going to be enough.
So, the vision of the company is this: to publish great works of Philippine speculative fiction, and to do so in a way that would be profitable for the authors, and allow the greatest possible distribution of the stories.