|Born||Timothy James M. Dimacali
April 17, 1980
|Occupation||Journalist, Science Fiction Writer|
Timothy James M. Dimacali, (born April 17, 1980) better known as TJ Dimacali, is a Filipino writer who has received recognition both as a science journalist and as a creative writer specializing in science fiction. He is also a lecturer, science education advocate, and a violinist.
As a journalist, Dimacali serves as Science and Technology Editor for GMA News and Public Affairs’s online portal GMA News Online, a role that has won him wide recognition for increasing the prominence of science news coverage, and which earned him recognition from the Philippines' Department of Science and Technology, which named him one of the awardees of the Gawad Scriba Award for Science Communicators in 2013.
In Philippine popular culture, however, Dimacali is better known as one of the Philippines' rising Science Fiction writers, receiving critical acclaim and popular attention within the genre, alongside more established luminaries such as Dean Francis Alfar, Carljoe Javier, and Karl de Mesa.
His earliest published work, "Sky Gypsies", which imagined the place of the Badjao indigenous people in a space age context, has been critically recognized as being among Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010, and has been required for student reading in a number of Philippine high schools and colleges. It has since been also adapted into a comic book of the same title.
His work regularly graces the pages of anthologies such as Kestrel Publishing's Philippine Speculative Fiction series and Paolo Chikiamco's Alternative Alamat, as well as magazines such as Philippine Graphic and Summit Media's Kwentillion.
Early Life and Education
- "My single fondest memory is of a little book of Philippine myths and fairy tales, written in the 1960′s, that I found in my grandfathcer’s house."
Dimacali's early fascination with mythology, however, was tempered by his urban upbringing:
- "I felt like a stranger to our own indigenous cultures, in a manner of speaking: I’m a third-generation Manileño, born and raised in the urbanized capital."
He later added that writing on mythological themes was "an interesting challenge, because I strongly wanted to be respectful of our collective culture (in general) and our indigenous cultures (in particular)."
He then took up a degree in creative writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP Diliman), focusing on science fiction. His graduating thesis was a compilation of sci-fi short stories, which he notes "was such a niche thing back then", as opposed to now, when sci-fi is a little bit more "mainstream."  He also got journalism experience writing for the Philippine Collegian. Dimacali graduated from UP in 2001.
Dimacali's early career saw him working in public relations and advertising, writing about a wide range of topics, from financial news abstracts to music album reviews to corporate annual reports to comic book scripts.
His work during this early period saw him win a handful of Philippine ad industry awards, including the Tambuli Awards in 2009; the Philippine Quill which he won in 2008 and twice in 2007; and the Golden Anvil in 2007. Although he wrote on a broad range of topics, most of the projects he got awards for focused on themes of science, technology, or medicine.
All throughout this time, he continued to pursue creative writing and violin performance.
Iligan and "Alunsina's Sky"
In 2009 he was chosen to be a Fellow for English Fiction at the Iligan National Writers' Workshop, held at Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology in Iligan City - at the time one of only three institutionalized Writers' Workshops in the Philippines.
The story developed from that workshop, "Alunsina's Sky", also won second place at MSU-IIT's 2009 Jimmy Balacuit Award for English Fiction.
Philippine Speculative Fiction and Sky Gypsies
Dimacali's first published work came out when he submitted an entry for Volume 3 of Philippine Speculative Fiction in 2007.
His story “Sky Gypsies” took place in a future where the Philippines' indigenous Badjao people had been hired as cheap labor for asteroid mining, because they demonstrated a unique aptitude for the task, inherited from generations seafaring ancestors.
- "I chose the Badjao because I wanted a space opera that didn’t have clunky space suits in them, with characters that were more in harmony with their environment.
- In most space operas, the characters’ relationship with space is really very Westernized: there’s a sense of conquering, of dominance and mastery of nature. I think it’s a throwback to the age of Western expansionism and the pervading philosophy of scientific reductionism that went hand-in-hand with it.
- But elsewhere in the world, in Asian and Polynesian cultures in particular, you see a different world-view, a different sense of relationship with the physical world around us. Sky Gypsies was an attempt to project that zeitgeist, if you could call it that, into the future....
- I was gripped by the idea of the Badjao, who live almost their entire lives at sea and yet are, even today, sometimes seen as foreigners and are ostracized outside of their own seaside settlements. I liked the idea of being naturally at home in this fluid place that, to everyone else, is strange and unfamiliar."
Skygypsies was well received by readers within the Philippine Speculative Fiction genre, and has been critically recognized as being among Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in the second half of the 2000s. Critical and popular interest in the story has been enough that it has been required for student reading in a number of Philippine high schools and colleges.
GMA News Online
When GMA News and Public Affairs launched its online presence in the form of GMA News Online in 2009, Dimacali became the portal's online community manager. For a year, he supervised the initial growth of the portal's social media presences and developed new models by which GMA reporters could interact with the public.
In 2010, GMA News Online created the post of Science and Technology Editor, and asked Dimacali to come on board. While his previous post as Online Community Manager earned Dimacali considerable recognition within the organization, the editorial post allowed him considerably more influence.
Under Dimacali, GMA News Online became noted for its coverage of basic science stories - in contrast to most Philippine news venues, whose science and technology coverage has thus far either tended to focus on consumer technology, or relegated to special sections that only get published occasionally.
This got Dimacali the attention of Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which awarded him with a DOST Gawad Scriba Award for Science Communicators in July 2013. The award is awarded to media practitioners "who have staunchly advocated the promotion of Philippine science and technology."
In 2014, Dimacali was recognized by GMA for site's the Yolanda Missing Persons Database. The citation indicated that it was "for creating an Internet-based tool that provided invaluable assistance to thousands of people affected by [Typhoon Yolanda]."
Recent work, "Keeper of My Sky", and Silliman
In 2010 he also contributed the story "Keeper of My Sky" to Volume 5 of Philippine Speculative Fiction, which by then was being edited by Nikki Alfar and Vincent Simbulan. In 2014, the same story was optioned Paolo Chikiamco's Mythology-oriented anthology "Alternative Alamat: Stories Inspired by Philippine Mythology".
In the story, Dimacali continues to explore the Panay legend of Tungkung Langit's eternal search for his wife Alunsina. Noted for its unusual approach to point of view, Dimacali shifts between two love stories—one in space and one on earth.
Writing Themes and Philosophy
Although he has no objections to the term "speculative fiction," Dimacali says he "“like[s] to distinguish [him]self as writing science fiction in particular, rather than subsume myself under the more general speculative fiction tag."
Explaining further, he says:
- "This is yet another area where my interests and work converge: I’ve always believed that there’s a very specific need for speculative fiction that deals with future possibilities and alternate realities but which is grounded in a firm rubric or back story." 
Asked to offer his thoughts on how local speculative fiction differs from its Western counterparts, Dimacali expounds:
- “Basically, our values as a people are different. Most, if not all, Western sci-fi, from Shelley to Roddenberry, dwells a lot on the idea of conquering the unknown—a very colonial mindset that echoes the expansionism that the West enjoyed that spurred the development of sci-fi as a genre in the first place. But Filipino values and sensibilities are different: we’re generally more “inward looking,” as Dominique Cimafranca says. That’s actually a very good thing, because it provides a framework for science fiction that’s still very fresh and mostly unexplored.”
- Roque, Joyce V. (June 2014). "The Best Way In Is Out". Fully Booked. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Philippines: Sketch Books, Inc. (June–July 2014): 17.
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