Tuesday, September 30th our Repentino. Staff members Alexa & Pamela caught up with the author of Sopa de Soles, Oscar Ivan Hernandez Carvallo. We were lucky enough to catch him before his presentation at the October 1 Open Mic. We discussed his latest book, a collection of short stories that revolve around astronomy, mythology, and philosophy. Each story, no longer than three pages individually, touches on topics with a fictitious element, but always connecting it back to a fact or theory. Mr. Hernandez wrote these stories in his Writer’s Workshop course and curated them to form his masters degree, Creative Writing’s thesis. During the half hour in which we discussed the book, we talked about recurring themes and motifs. Mr. Hernandez also incorporated autobiographical factors into each of his stories thus giving them a personal touch, for example, many of the characters in the book are named after friends of his.
Sopa de Soles contains various stories that are all connected to reality and fantasy as one single realm. They contain both scientific and fictitious approaches. This is a short and sweet book, for it can attract anyone and touch them in some way ; we can assure that you be able to connect with at least two of the stories on a deeper level.
We hope you enjoy Part I of two parts of this special interview.
Alexa: Why did you decide to write short stories instead of novels or long books?
Oscar: This compilation is the result of all the stories I wrote in workshops during my Masters of creative writing. Something interesting about the workshops is that they give you an opportunity to demonstrate something new each week; every week you have to present a finished story, and right there with the colleagues we look at details of the story. For me, this method worked, because I had enough time to write for each story. Something that had occurred to me was that I could transfer a story in a week and have a finished story. I really liked that I could be telling a short story, and when a thought comes up, I could incorporate into the story in spite of it being unfinished. I really like that opportunity about short stories.
Alexa: How are the stories of your book organized?
Oscar: The editors chose the format and structure that they liked. They organized them by subject; the first bit is related to science topics and the others mythological.
Alexa: Where did your fascination for astronomy come from?
Oscar: The interesting thing about science, as stated in the introduction, is that the topics are fascinating but real. The analogy I like most is the fact that the iron in our blood came from the stars. That is a fact, but the first time I heard it, it was like a story; it was something fantastic and incredible but real. This is something that science gives you, incredible things that appear to be from different realities, but they are not. Similarly, fantasy gives you beautiful experiences but you know that they don’t exist. What science does sounds unbelievably beautiful but real. These are ideas that are already proven as the iron in the blood comes from the stars but there are other theories that are also credible. For example, the possibility that everything in the universe we see is a hologram. It would seem like something that came out of a fantasy world but it is a theory that is studied in universities as a valid form. These ideas were such ideas for my story about that, in fact I think I wrote two or more.
Alexa: Did you have an experience about science that made you realize everything it can give?
Oscar: Yes, I think it was during my childhood when I was seeking something real to believe. I went through many ideas but I couldn’t find anything. I said “In the midst of so many religions out there and so many ideas to see the world, what is the real?”. What I really appreciate about science is if something is proven, it automatically becomes a fact. Outside of your fears, your hopes, out of everything, science is real and there’s nothing more to it. That might not be the answer you want but it’s the truth. Give me your idea of heaven and I’ll love it. I’d like to live here after, keep meeting people, sounds amazing, but not the idea of it, the real thing. To believe in something as important as that, only the evidence and science can give it to you. It’s a good thing there are people who think like that, but I, Oscar, am able to think that way through literature by analyzing ideas and translating them. Stories don’t have a technical language, at least that’s what they told me ; there is still the feeling of power amazed regarding events without using technical or strict language. For examples, the story of the girl who sees her thumb as a galaxy is an idea I really like because I looked at photos of galaxies, and then I looked at my thumb, and I thought they resembled each other. So with fiction you are able to make that kind of world. Even if it’s just two or three pages, you are creating a micro universe, you are playing with the reader; what I’m telling you is that even just a few pages is real.
Alexa: Are any of your stories related to a personal experience?
Oscar: There are many, but the most personal one that comes to mind would be the story about the centaurs. This story is more about mythology, there are no scientific facts involved. I’ve always liked centaurs. I used the idea of how in the past there were no lenses. I use contact lenses. All my life I have worn glasses, as a child I used huge glasses, just like Milhouse. I thought about how it must have been hundreds of years ago when glasses didn’t exist. You see a world different from other people. For me, a reflection of my childhood is before you use them, like they changed the world. And in mythology, perhaps that’s how some of the creatures arose.
Alexa: What process do you use for writing?
Oscar: It began with an idea I really liked, like with one of the stories, where a little girl names Maika was given a tiger costume, and she had a story. This arose when a friend sent me a photo of her daughter with a tiger costume. I looked at the picture and said, “I like this idea for a story.” So the process is maybe to see a story or picture that someone showed me and take ideas from them.
Alexa: In your book, you mention a lot of whales and tigers. Is there an importance to those animals?
Oscar: For example whales are living beings that live in their own world without living with other beings. They can be under the sea for decades, living longer than us and in a universe under the sea, living in a world so incredible that it’s in depth. They appear to be very wise. They are very big and have almost no predators, so they can live an uninterrupted life, observing everything under the sea and being able to have that experience. I don’t know the form of their brains, but I know they’re very wise. What I like about the tiger is that it looks very earthy and perhaps very wild, but they appear to be intelligent animals. I relationship I have with the girl in the story is having a very similar spirit, as we are both humans who reflect.
Alexa: There are repeated factors in several stories that are presented in different ways, but they are still present factors. For example, the guardians, the music, and especially the dreams.
Oscar: Look, I have always liked the subject of dreams because it is something that all humans have in common. It is a very accurate reflection and nothing can ever happen to us in those dreams. We can explore a reality while we are asleep, while swearing that what’s happening in the dream is real. That has always called my attention. I once read that people believe whatever happens in their dreams is real and reality doesn’t exist. Everything we have dreamed in our lives is real. It’s a moment where you are vulnerable and you can access information you couldn’t access before.
Edited by Nina Sachdev