Wednesday, February 4, 2015

THE SEA IS OURS Roundtable: Paolo Chikiamco #SteampunkHands

I am so so so so pleased to be able to say that I've published Paolo! I first came to know of him through his work at Rocket Kapre, and then at Usok. He told me about his steampunk comic, set in Spanish-era Philippines, High Society (purchasable on Kindle!), and the prequel, "On Wooden Wings," which has since been published in Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution. The story he has written for us, "Between Severed Souls," takes place between these two works. 

Give a one or two sentence summary of your story.

An alternative history story during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, where the key to the survival of the faltering revolution may lie in the wooden woman created by an engineer still grieving for his dead wife. It has cooperation between rivals, a high-stakes naval battle, and Philippine folklore monsters as you've never seen them before -- well, unless you've read my other stories...

Why did you choose this particular theme?

The steampunk stories that appeal the most to me are those that involve throwing a wrench into the past, sometimes literally. It's putting power -- whether through purely technological means, or mixed in with fantasy -- in the hands of people who did not have it at the time, and seeing how that changes, or doesn't change, how history plays out. 

At the same time, I wanted to re-imagine Philippine folklore creatures in a manner that hasn't been done before, or at least not very often. These stories in the world of the Animata are the result.

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

For the Animata stories, there's a lot of research involved. Most history books are focused on what life was like before the Spanish arrived, or toward the end of the Spanish occupation in the late 19th century. There's not a lot of information on the state of the country in the 18th century, around the time of the British occupation of Manila, itself an event that not many people know much about. It's an interesting time, and one of the interesting things that I learned is just how few Spaniards were, in terms of the population that resided here in the Philippines, and how precarious their hold was on power. It was always fellow Filipinos who were responsible for keeping Filipinos under the thumb of Spain. Also, it's interesting how the rest of the world apparently thought that Manila was some extremely prosperous haven, when the Spanish had no idea how to turn a profit from the country, except through the inefficient Galleon trade.

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

It's set in the Philippines, particularly in an island chain now known as the Hundred Islands. A lot of small islands and islets in that region, many of which have quite gorgeous caverns. They seemed to be the perfect place for the rebels in my story to lick their wounds after a series of setbacks. 

The Philippines at this time is still under Spanish rule, but that rule is shaky at this point because of the recent British occupation of Manila, which showed just how weak the Spanish forces really were. Things are especially precarious in the world of my story, because here the British have not only decided to stick around, but they've brought an army of clockwork automatons with them. 

What was the hardest part about writing this story?

Trying to make sure that the animata in the story had a sense of agency, something made difficult because of her situation for most of the story, and how she comes into being. Also, this is the point where magic explicitly enters the stories, and it was tough trying to bring that in without making things feel disjointed. 

Paolo will be one of the #SEAsteampunk authors joining us for the Twitter chat on February 15. Please join us!

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