Feb 21 2012

Revisiting ‘The Field’

Adel Gabot

I once wrote a short story, about a dozen years ago, which I, on a lark, entered into the Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature. Amazingly enough, it won, and I was on Cloud Nine for a while. It was something called The Field, a short story about a kid from the future doing schoolwork by reseaching Jose Rizal and his execution by watching a video of it using a time-travel sort of device, and things go terribly wrong. Interesting, if I do say so myself. Certainly good enough to win an award. But I hardly wrote any fiction since; a lot of non-fiction, and magazine writing and editing, but hardly any fiction. Life, as it is wont to do, got in the way.

Recently, at my daughter’s request (she wanted to read it), I tried to dig it up, and was surprised to find I didn’t have a copy! I looked through my old files, and couldn’t find a single blessed one. Not a single draft, none. I supposed I could’ve asked for a copy from the Palanca people, but it seemed like too much trouble for a single short story from 12 years ago. So I searched online. Desperately, as it turned out. No copies there either. But I found that someone had posted a copy on a website, a Palanca archive, but that site had long gone the way of the dodo. There was a cached copy of the site (God bless the folk at Google), and I managed to wrangle a copy from that mess, but it was riddled with HTML code and other stuff that made it near impossible to read.

Despite the code, I quickly made a copy and pasted it onto Microsoft Word, and resolved to clean the mess up for my kid. And for myself too, because I hadn’t thought to make a copy for posterity’s sake. It took me the better part of an afternoon, but I managed to do it and prettify the story into an acceptable format.

Reading it back, I sorta saw where I was at, writing-wise, a dozen years ago. I saw where I wrote a little purplishly, getting carried away, and saw portions where I sorta had a pedestrian, kind of over-excited and strident view of certain things and wrote those passages accordingly. I slightly rewrote those portions, cheating a bit on history. Then again, who’s gonna get mad? It’s my stuff, my writing, and I can damn well do what I want with it. But I realize the folly of revisionism, and kept it to a minimum.

Bannor, the tempo-tech helping out Paolo in the story, was a bit too over-the-top in the original version, and some of his dialogue, in hindsight, seemed too excitable and too young-sounding, so I toned it down some. (His name came from a character in a series of novels I read by Stephen Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and I cribbed it brazenly.) I had trouble then, as I do now, of thinking up names for my characters, and end up with the commonest, plain-sounding, unimaginative names ever (odd, but that trouble has always been there, some deep-set and fundamental creative inability that I constantly struggle with).

I saw certain things that dated my writing, but I left that stuff in anyway. I felt like I was becoming George Lucas a little bit too much. I also corrected several little items in the general text, and reading it now in its slightly revised version, you’d wonder what the fuss was about. It looks basically the same, warts and all. But that’s the curse of writing. You can’t stop revising your stuff, and left to your own devices, you’d rewrite and rewrite the thing to death. Which was why some wag once wrote that you don’t ever finish a story, you just give up on it and let it be.

So, I’ve decided to let The Field be. I’ve decided to leave it alone, warts and all, and move on with my life.

Here it is, for posterity’s sake, posted after the break, so that at least one copy exists online:

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Jan 13 2012

The Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Debacle*

Adel Gabot

I bought a game from Data Blitz Trinoma yesterday for my new PlayStation Vita. There were only three available, and bought the most promising one: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. I don’t usually give truck to these FRANCHISE VS OTHER FRANCHISE fighting games, but in this case I thought I’d make an exception. The PS Vita is so new and so starved for games I thought I’d give this fighting game a whirl, just this once.

I asked the salesgirl, Anna Marie, if the game, while in Japanese, was in English as well, and she said yes. And so I bought. Later, when I get home I try it, and I’ll be damned. It was 98% in Japanese, save for the characters’ stilted banter as they fought, which was in American English. But I had to guess at my choices for the instructions and options and it was like the blind leading the blind. This wouldn’t do, so I decided to return it.

So I go there to Data Blitz Trinoma first thing this morning, and explained my situation. The salesgirl, the same one from yesterday, picked up the phone to make some calls. Many ‘passing the buck’ calls, to other stores, to technical guys, to their higher ups, and finally after so many minutes she finds the person who can make the decision to refund or not, but he’s in a meeting and can’t be disturbed. So can I go about my business for a bit and come back after a while until she gets to talk to him? Ok, I figured, it can’t hurt. I gave her 30 minutes, and went to a McDonald’s to cool my heels and get a snack.

I come back in a half an hour, and still no word from the Higher Up. In fact, there was no assurance whether or not she could talk to him that day, and rather than making me wait, could I leave my number so I can be called when the guy makes a decision whether or not I’d be given store credit? Store credit? Not a refund? The girl said it was store policy not to give refunds. most likely it would be store credit. But there was nothing else I wanted. (Well, maybe that Vita charging cradle, but that was only P795. The game cost me P2295!)

I protest. They shouldn’t have sold me the game in the first place, since it was in Japanese! And now they want to give store credit? I think not!

But it was fruitless in the end. The girl would give me the refund if it were only up to her. Why wasn’t it, anyway? Why don’t stores leave the decision for things like these up to the people in the store? Why pass the buck to higher ups who weren’t even there, who had no idea of the situation in the first place? I could argue until I was blue in the face but it would get me nowhere. The Higher Up had to make the decision whether or not to give me a refund, or, God forbid, store credit, if at all.

I had to leave the game with the salesgirl, who promised to call me as soon as she knew anything, and I had to leave Data Blitz with no game, no refund or store credit, just a signed receipt that didn’t really amount to much. If the salesgirl was transferred to a different branch or plain disappeared, I’d have jack shit. Meanwhile, I just had to go home and lick my wounds.

So much for customer service in this country.

 

*Reprinted in a slightly different form in Technoodling.net


Mar 4 2009

Cover me

Adel Gabot

metrocover-mar09-faAfter editing and writing for magazines for years, it never fails to tickle me pick whenever I get a cover story out on the stands. Even if it’s for a magazine I don’t edit. Especially if it’s for a magazine I don’t edit. Most especially when it’s a major title with a big national circulation.

One came out this week: Metro‘s March issue, with my cover interview of actress Cristine Reyes.

After trading my old editorial duties for a more organizational role in magazine publishing, I don’t get to write as much as I used to, so I really like it when I get a chance to do a piece. I’ve been writing tech pieces so much for the past decade I hadn’t realized I missed writing about non-geek stuff. About people that make you blink, instead of things with lights that blink at you when you turn them on. (Hmm, that’s a thought. I think I’ll think I’ll give my geekery a rest this year.)

Cover stories are the Holy Grail of journalism. (That, and Pulitzers.) My first cover was when I was barely out of high school, for a mag called TV Times, and a cover story about Champoy, the old comedy sketch show of Noel Trinidad and Subas Herrero. (I think Dad still has a copy in a drawer somewhere in the old house. He and my mom, God rest her soul, were prouder than I was, I think.) It’s a heady feeling, having something you wrote partly responsible for the sale of a magazine. Scary too. Never forgot it; no matter how many times it’s happened, that feeling is still the same, after all these years.

I last wrote for Metro almost two decades ago, as a freelance contributor. Back then it was staffed by my idols in feature writing. Who would have thought it would still be around 20 years later – Metro celebrates that milestone next month – and who’d have thought I’d still be writing for it? A cover story, no less!

Get a copy of the March issue of Metro when you can, read it, and tell me what you think.