I got really excited over Ivanna's story, which brings to life (well, kind of) an old familiar legend--she calls him Malin Kundang, I call him Si Tenggang, but it is essentially the same story: a rich man passes through his home village, where his mother recognizes him. Ashamed of his past, he refuses to acknowledge her, and she curses him to turn to stone. Ivanna is a lot kinder to Si Tenggang than I am, but I was extremely excited nonetheless!
Give a one or two sentence summary of your story.
Struggling to find their place in a recently liberated Indonesia, a band of sky pirates unwittingly discovered a conspiracy against the new republic. In a deadly battle against very peculiar raiders, the First Mate found shocking truths about his Captain.
Why did you choose this particular theme?
There are a couple of reasons why I had chosen the theme. First of all, when thinking of steampunk, I immediately placed my story around the industrial revolution, but during that period, Indonesia was still a Dutch colony. I really want to be able to explore the idea of an alternate universe where Indonesia was almost superior in terms of technological advances compared to the Europeans, giving them the right edge to fight for and keep their freedom from the colonialists. I have toyed with the idea for a while now, and had even written another piece set in the same world. What would they create? What would they do with their freedom? Would they focus on trading, or spend all their resources on defenses? This universe was really fun to create and will demand more stories out of it.
Secondly, people familiar with South East Asian folklore might notice that the story is loosely based but centered around a local tale. Coming back to Indonesia after spending about seventeen years abroad, I felt the need to reconnect to my roots, so I dug some local stories from my childhood collections. After reading them again, I realized that these stories have so many potentials but are often overlooked. I made it some kind of a personal quest to bring these to stories back into the surface, seasoned with modern flavors to spice things up.
Thirdly, space pirates! I wanted to write about space pirates, period.
Did you do a lot of research for this story? If you did, found anything interesting? Tell us a bit about where you've set your story.
I did enough researches. Since Indonesians are so different from one island to another, I had to make sure I had all my cultural references right. My world is set around 1880-1900, in an alternate universe where Indonesians, with their advance steam engine technology, managed to set themselves free from Dutch colonials (much earlier than in reality, 1945). Because the Europeans are very much still in need of colonies, the newly independent republic is constantly battling invaders and busy catching spies. The sky pirates in this story tried to be somewhere in between, they want to remain free but are patriotic enough to do their share to protect the nation.
I tried to get certain historical facts quite close to the real thing: dates, existing inventions, places, turning points, reasons for rebellion, etc. Honestly, I've forgotten most of my historical lessons from schooldays, so in a sense, everything I found is interesting. One finding strikes me, quite many of the skirmish wars against the Dutch were actually lead by women. This is not mention in this particular story, but I'm definitely keeping that in mind for future references.
What was the hardest part about writing this story?
I have decided that while the story is about the Captain of the sky pirates, I do not want to tell it from his own perspective, yet. Petrified is mostly told from the POV of his First Mate. I think it is really hard to balance the amount of information I wanted to give the readers from the First Mate's POV. He clearly doesn't know what was going on, but I do, and I'm bad at keeping secrets!
I also had a hard time creating the First Mate's character. I wanted him to come across as being naive, unscholarly in a world suddenly emerging with new technologies, but he also needed to be a excellent First Mate, able and efficient in doing his job, respected by his men. I believe his characterization was where I spent most of my editing.