Peter Bacho has published four books. His latest, a wild, churning, political satire of America's long, complex, colonial relationship with the Philippines, Nelson's Run, has a lot of sex. Sexy sex and scary sex, and some of the sex scenes reminded me of, um, porn.
Was porn an inspiration?
Yeah. In porn, the sex isn't really about sex, and for Nelson [the main character of the book], the sex is something else, too. He thinks he has power, power over the Philippines to colonize it, quite literally, with his sexual prowess. On the other hand, he doesn't realize that he is being dominated. So in that sense the sex isn't sexy: It's about control, a demonstration of control. And being as outrageous as possible.
I was into the significance of soldiers dressed up in drag. Is that grounded in any sort of reality?
Oh, yeah. The culture itself is matriarchal. You have this veneer of Hispanicized machismo, but the introduction of patriarchal religion, such as Spanish Catholicism--which is the most patriarchal damn thing you could possibly think of--to an indigenous culture where women have real social standing and political power, what happens is that the matriarchy goes underground.
You'll see this in any village you go to--in any religious celebration there is "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus" (everybody chanting "Jesus") and at the end [of the celebration] there is a transvestite beauty contest. A former student of mine, Russell Tam, once said, that in the U.S. everyone wants to grow up and be like their dad. Here [the Philippines], everyone wants to grow up and be like their mother.
Why do you write fiction?
I'd always wanted to write fiction. I postponed it because I was reporting. After dealing only with "facts," I started to wonder what would happen if I were to establish the facts. That's an inevitable progress with writers. I wanted to introduce characters who were my creations, instead of munching facts. Art is something else. You spend more time with beauty and lyricism than just facts.
My situation is this: I take two months off of the work year and basically goof off and write fiction. Writing at its most enjoyable is playing. I don't do the starving, disturbed artist thing real well. I was happy before I became a writer, and I don't intend to change that. As long as there's a handful of people laughing at my twisted sense of humor, I think I'm okay.