Wednesday, June 01, 2005

novel thoughts

I’m seriously thinking about starting my next novel but haven’t quite decided what it is to be about. I feel the writing itch and all these vignettes have whetted my appetite, and last year’s NaNoWriMo/NaNoBloMo proved that I am able to apportion time when I really want to.

My first novel was “Salamanca”, a speculative fiction/magic realist/social realist text set in Palawan and Manila that tracks a pair of lovers from the 1950’s onwards. It was both fun and challenging to write, and I’m basically happy with it (after numerous tweaks and rewritings culminating with a deadly serious editing pass courtesy of the best editrix in the world). If the publisher it has been pitched to decides to publish it, I’ll be turning cartwheels for quite a while.

So I’m tossing around the idea of a true-blue epic fantasy tale, the kind I usually crinkle my nose at, but set in the Philippines. I have a powerful affinity for Hinirang, a reimagined Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period, so most likely I’ll set it there. I’ve explored bits and pieces of the milieu in various short fiction pieces, including “L’Aquilone du Estrellas”, “Terminos” and “Sabados con Fray Villalobos”, so I’m not afraid of the setting. What I am afraid of is the genre’s usual reliance on plot and sundry tropes. Of course it is possible to subvert everything, so we’ll see what I do. Character-wise, it will most likely be two people or fifteen (I’m leaning towards fifteen, something with multiple character viewpoints just to make things even more difficult because I’m cruel to myself).

Option B is to write juvenilia, a novel for younger readers, bursting with wonder. If I go down this route, I would want to create a new world from whole cloth, something with a brother and sister or a small circle of friends who discover something impossible. The challenge here is very interesting to me: to write something apropos for an audience I’ve never written for before. Such a hindrance has not stopped me before, so I’m actually titillated by the mere act of trying. I may be ill-informed, but I am unaware of any novel-length Filipino text in the speculative fiction mode for young Filipino readers. It would be great to produce something along those lines.

Option C, which I considered for all of five seconds, is to write an artsy-fartsy “serious” novel that has characters who do nothing much but gaze at their navels and experience a series of epiphanies, all set during the EDSA revolution or some other relevant socio-political timeframe. Just thinking about it bored me to tears. I think we have more than enough of this type of Filipino novel. Besides, I’m not killing myself longing for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Anything “serious” or agenda-driven that I have to say I can say in either of the first two options, without having to resort to heavy-handed defenses of our national literary patrimony. Speculative fiction can be as relevant as any social realist text.

Nothing is set and my schedule may suddenly be horribly swamped by work, but we’ll see how things go.

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