Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Marilag Angway #SteampunkHands

Marilag Angway's story, "Chasing Volcanoes," is a high-flying (literally) adventure (we have a few of these) filled with different kinds of women, moral grays, principles, politics, and compassion. She coined a neologism, "malambaso," for this story, which is a combination of two Tagalog words, to name flexible glass!

1) Give a one or two sentence summary of your story.

Volcano chasing is all Caliso is interested in until she meets a New Manila princess desperate to save her people. While Caliso’s aid is a welcome relief to the refugees fleeing a volcanic eruption, her intentions are by far not so noble.

2) Why did you choose this particular theme?

You mean the volcano chasing or the fact that my MC’s kind of a jerk? Well, I’ll address them both.

Volcanoes and the Philippines were fascinating subjects for me, and I remembered the story my mom told about Mt. Pinatubo erupting in 1991. I was too young to remember it at the time, and it wasn’t retained very well in my mind because I’d moved across the world a couple years later. When I began to form a backdrop for speculative fiction in the Philippines, I thought: “Why not volcanic eruptions?”

As for Caliso…I believe heroes can grow out of any circumstance, and even anti-heroes and villains go through their moment of redemption to make them heroic in a way (unless you’re super-evil like Voldemort). I wanted Caliso to be someone who didn’t consider herself a hero, and when someone altruistic crashes into her world, she dismisses the young woman and merely looks at the profit that can be gained. Of course, things change halfway into the story, and Caliso alters her thinking somewhat, why shouldn’t she?

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

Oh, yes. I am not a volcanic expert, and likely someone who knows much more about volcanoes than I do will find some fault in my storytelling. I did try to read up on the types of volcanic activities that occurred around the world, how eruptions affected the environment, etc. I looked up major historical eruptions. YouTube–yes, laugh and judge–had some interesting feeds on minor eruptions, as well as underwater ones, and I swear I spent quite a few hours just leafing through footage from those who witnessed volcanic activity from afar. Fascinating stuff.

Not all research was volcano-based though. I’m also no expert on being a Filipino, especially one in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so there was quite a bit of research needed there. (On a side note, it was fun trying to find ways to combine Tagalog words to form a hybrid!)

4) Tell us a bit about where you’ve set your story.

Three volcanoes have erupted simultaneously in the north, sending the Philippines into a devastated, “volcanic winter” that would last decades. This has since decimated the northern portion of the Philippines, including the capital, Manila. Ten years later, upon the capitalization of volcano technology (energy harnessed from volcanic gases), the people of the Philippines has split into two major factions: Cebu City and the New Manila monarchy.

Cebu City is the steam capital, where the rich and affluent remain cordoned off from the rest of the world, with their high walls and protected habitats. Because of how precious–and how limited–steam-tech is, the Cebuanos have restricted volcano chasing to the government. This restriction makes volcano chasers like Caliso outlaws.

5) What was the hardest part about writing this story?

You should see my page-long historical writeup and my equally long political atmosphere. Suffice to say that my initial story contained a grand plot that would be impossible to tell in a short story. Hence the rewrites happened, and the re-working of the plot continued, and continued, and continued, up until I finally grasped what I wanted to show. I wanted to show some worldbuilding, some action, some character development, some character backgrounds. Thankfully, I seemed to have found some sort of balance between all four. At least, I think I did!

Thank you, Marilag! 

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