Wednesday, February 4, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Kate Osias #SteampunkHands

Kate Osias sent in a reprint from one of the famous Philippine Speculative Fiction Annuals, and as soon as I finished it, I was breathless, and did my best impression of King Haggard from The Last Unicorn: "I must have it... I must have it, for my need is very great!" Fortunately, my co-editor, Joyce, agreed heartily. "The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso" infuses mathematics and the arts with a passion!

Give a one or two sentence summary of your story.

The story is about how a man was unmade by the pressures placed upon him and his tremendous gift, and how his unmaking affects his lovers (yep, its plural).

Why did you choose this particular theme?

I like writing (and reading) about love, although in the past, I favored writing stories that were more intimate, smaller in scope, with less fireworks. This story was me exploring something bigger, something more extravagant. Setting it in a reimagined steampunked Spanish era in the Philippines, freed me from having to write something gritty and realistic, and allowed me to explore my own country's history and cultural identity.

Did you do a lot of research for this story? If you did, found anything interesting?

Oh, god, yes.
steam + punk = happy me!steam + punk = happy me!

First of all, I had to research steampunk. I sort of knew what steampunk was, but if you had asked me to define it, my vocabulary would have been limited to gear and the clothes (which would have been very European-inspired). An introduction in an anthology I was reading opened my mind to other possibilities. The introduction, written by Ekaterina Sedia (for the Mammoth Book of Steampunk, edited by Sean Wallace), defined steampunk as steam + punk, that is, science + rebellion, which should have been obvious but to me, it was mind blowing. (I'm oversimplifying this tremendously, and paraphrasing horribly, but please do check out the introduction - and the stories! - to get a better picture yourself.) I cannot emphasize enough how liberating this was, as now my steampunk box was no longer only filled with Victorian England possibilities. I could now look to my own country's turbulent history to write in this genre.

The next thing I had to research extensively was music. I studied piano for a good chunk of my life but most of it was in the 'doing' rather than the thinking. It was amazing to learn how mathematics and piano are so closely linked to each other. (Also, it damn well nearly killed me because, unlike the character in my book, I was no genius; I don't think I even qualify as smart.) If you want to check out some of my sources, try this link that I had to read (and reread until it sort of sounded more English than gibberish). 

Other things I researched: Spanish words, cooking, inductors and robotics.

Tell us a bit about where you've set your story.

In real life, Spanish-era Philippines was a very turbulent time where religion, more than science, dominated the lives of the populace. It was a time of courageous revolutionaries, of the educated, purportedly civilized upper middle class, of dangerous thoughts, of technology being closely intertwined with magic. In my story, I amped up the science, twisted certain things, skewed others, and created a set of characters that were (very) loosely based on our national hero, Jose Rizal

What was the hardest part about writing this story?

Getting one of my characters killed. Because it took so long, and I thought all this time I was overwriting it. I was always complaining about how long it was taking for my character to die, which probably scared off my Facebook friends who weren't aware of the context. But, sometimes, I guess you just have to let Story take over, which was what I eventually did. Later on, I showed Story who's boss by slashing large parts of it in the editing pass. (And yes, I personify Story all the time.)

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