At the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop, you will have an unbroken amount of time to write one short story a week for six weeks. This may sound like a dream for most writers, but every Clarion experience has a breaking point—and for most folks who attend Clarion, that point comes around week four.
I was no exception to the Week Four Emotional Breakdown. I had missed my anniversary with my boyfriend (now husband) while at Clarion, I felt so alien even among a diverse group of friends, and it was my first time away from the Philippines for so long without my family.
The week before, I showed my classmates what I could do with “Song of the Mango.” That week, feeling restless and ever more unmoored, I wanted to show everyone—especially myself—what else I was capable of (cue “What Else Can I Do?” from Encanto). So I bit the bullet and reached for science fiction.
“Call of the Rimefolk” was the right story at the right time. I put in it elements unfamiliar to my usual writing fare: a gay couple and aliens, for example. But I also put in elements that were comfortable to me: romance, art, a long-distance relationship. The story was well-received at workshop, though I felt so raw from writing it (in part because my very new laptop’s hard drive died while I was typing, and this was the only file I was able to save).
It would be three years before the story reached its final novelette form. In the ensuing years, I strove to make it ever more unfamiliar to my usual fare: I added solarpunk technology, a parallel narrative in the form of diary entries and a statement of grant purpose, words from Bisaya and Davao Tagalog, a Philippines that was not scientifically left behind by the rest of the world. Each element represents a memory from the different version of me that I became from 2014 to 2017. I think I’ll always be proud of this story, if only because it will serve as a reminder of what I can do if I push myself out of my comfort zone.
“Rimefolk” got rejected so many times—all pleasantly and personally—before finding a home in Philippine Speculative Fiction vol. 11.