Stimulating Conversation

When I was young, I listened to my head. For one who was about to enter university, said all my counsellors and classmates, the best courses are those that would give me a shining career. So I took commerce, with major in accounting, business administration, law. But when I graduated and worked as an accountant, I found it a distaste.

As the tiring years rolled on and as some intriguing thoughts ran through my mind, haunting me continuously, I began doing some research. Like a kid exploring a cave, I became excited over this new venture. Then I started putting these thoughts into a novel, a pretty experimental project for myself, simply because I have no formal training in writing or literature.

Something intrigued and fascinated me. There was that mystifying bloop sound in the South Pacific that had captivated many social websites; there were evidence of cryptozoology from our past that had troubled our scientists; there were dragon and sea-serpent stories that littered all over our diversified cultures; and there was the Leviathan, we were told, that could rise again.

And lastly, but not the least, I was intrigued as to why, in life performances, movies and novels, the Japanese often have their epitome on suicide? How are these observations connected? Are they a ring of inter-connecting information that liken to an outline of a shadowy elephant through the moonlight, or are they rather like some kind of isolated pyroclastic sparks?

Another teething question is whether some subjects are too sensitive or too traumatic that they shouldn’t be documented in text. Or could a fictional story create a truer experience or imagination for an audience?

In this venture, I found it in the affirmative in both instances. And the fact that I’m painting a possibility is precisely why this novel is written. So I began the process of planting plots, incorporating characters, establishing themes along the storyline, and eventually associating a Pekingese in my novel. I found the course of novel-building pretty elaborate and complex, but the general consensus is the same: that fiction explores my mind, explodes my imagination and opens a range of sensitive possibilities that cannot be comfortably expressed in standard text.

Writing could be fun. By creating a professor in geology, some earth science could be incorporated into the story. Professor Wulfstein developed a simulation model on his laptop, dubbed EQ-Lun, focusing on the crust relating to the Japanese archipelago. His mission, to understand what his childhood dream meant. So he shifted his study to mythology. True to his mission, he found how arts could be linked with the sciences.

Eileen O’Neil; she was a reporter for the Raging Planet magazine, interviewed Wulfstein several times in Boston and in Tokyo. She lost her husband three years back, but it set her mission to travel in Japan, joining the scientists in several of their trips, and was later emotionally attached to Wulfstein.

And there were supporting characters: Byron, a PhD candidate, a scientist by training; he believed the Sinking Syndrome is caused by the diving plates, and Nobuko, daughter of a Japanese professor, Hiroshi Yoshino. Pilot Kiichi, the skipper of the deep-sea submersible Kaiiko that disappeared. Mrs Chiyo Okino; a landlady of Eileen when she was an exchange student, mother of Captain Okino who committed seppuku. Yoriko; she discussed her Shinto belief with Eileen from her perspective of life and what it meant to her. Added to the above were cross-cultural conflicts and romance to spice the senses of my readers.

At work, my heart took over from my head, beating with my subconscious emotions, and soon I began indulging further into the project, moonlighting. I was in another world, a world I created myself. On numerous occasions, it seemed impossible to dot all the points to make it into an intelligent outline, but I kept trying. Novel writing doesn’t pay, and most of the time spent on it is unappreciated, but my heart was pumping, loudly, clearly. The cave seemed wider and deeper than anticipated; it seemed unexplored, untouched and I wondered around like a kid would.

Could we, as human, have been too slow to understanding another mystery of the universe? Could an animal like a Pekingese have better sense than us? My accounting profession suffered; I never proceeded to a full fletched chartered member as I seldom go for my regular ongoing courses that are required by members of that profession.

I was able to draw strength from a great speculative fiction writer, Arthur C Clark. He broke his thoughts outside of what were established, and became well ahead of all the encyclopaedic store of knowledge of his time. As his visions of space travel sparked the imagination of readers and scientists alike, I too, saw something strange and intrigued in my research and writing. I couldn’t stop; it seemed that I was entrusted with something. What exactly? Why? All these questions, plots and themes kept coming back.

By trying to connect all the dots in my novel, I was, indeed, trying to establish a creative form of fiction, a fiction that may possibly be another source of communication about our understanding of the mystery of the deep. “No one can predict the future,” Arthur C Clark once said, but he didn’t resist drawing up timelines for what he called “possible futures.” Yes, all the possibilities are out there. As I kept ploughing away, the image seemed more strange and puzzling than ordinary.

Few years later and in trying to get an established publisher, I got rejected by all agents. It was frustrating. But it was actually good; it forced me to keep widening and polishing my novel: plot, characterization, dialogue, themes. Now, after ten suffering years, Over Mount Fuji is published. It may succeed, or it may fail, time will tell, but whatever the outcome, I thoroughly enjoy this process of venturing under the real Pacific and onto a necklace of islands called Japan.

Stimulating Conversation

Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji


~ by Joel Huan on September 4, 2009.

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