He won accolades a few years ago for his "Cytochrome P450 2A6 purification and mechanism-based inhibition by trans-cinnamic aldehyde", but the marginally more pronounceable "Carry Your Sister" in the latest issue of Agave Magazine proves him equally adept as a writer of fiction. This week we are thrilled to introduce you to Tyler Oshiro and his thoughts on science, Hawaii, and the value of a thoughtful "huh".
AGAVE MAGAZINE: As a writer with a BS in Chemistry and a career in science, do you feel these two aspects of your life inform each other, or do they remain relatively separate? Do you need to do both to find balance?
TYLER OSHIRO: I don't consider myself a Buddhist, but my grandparents are, and one of my favorite teachings is that of the middle way, or as Charles Johnson cleverly titled his novel, the "Middle Passage." While there is value in both logic and art, I prefer the beauty in the balance between the two. I've also found that while we traditionally consider rational calculation and emotional expression two separate extremes, the truth is that each is made more valuable by the other.
In the AKA Science program, we teach kids that science is simply the act of asking questions and finding the answers. I often bring experimentation to my writing, whether throwing characters I find interesting in a pressure cooker, or the other way around, finding characters that will play together and against each other in an interesting scenario. Much like the scientific method, I begin with a hypothesis based on the characters, test it by writing the story, and am often surprised by what I learn from the results!
Creativity, in turn, helps me translate scientific concepts into stories that kids find entertaining. This summer, we created a Super-Spies workshop where kids use forensic science to solve a comic book mystery.
AKA Science is designed to help kids nurture their curiosity about the world around them--have you ever written, or considered writing, stories for kids?
Not since I was a kid myself, no! I did, though, recently publish a young adult piece in Creating Iris, a magazine with a much-needed mission of expanding the LGBTQ genre for youth.
In "Carry Your Sister", Hawaii is as much a part of the story as the characters who live there. Do you set most of your writing in your home state? Do you find as much inspiration in your new home of Oregon?
Thank you for noticing that! Yes, I love Hawaii and nearly all of my writing is set there. It is my home. For a long time, Hawaii was used as an exotic backdrop for mainstream characters to enact predictable plots, made interesting solely because they took place on a beautiful island. I was inspired by writers like Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Kristiana Kahakauwila, who reclaimed Hawaii and gave it a fair literary treatment, incorporating the real tension and struggles of its people. Hawaii is rich with history, culture, and a certain air of magic. I love being able to share that through fiction, which has its own way of conveying the truth.
Oregon is a uniquely challenging place to write about. To answer the question, yes, I am inspired by the Pacific Northwest, but I haven't published anything set here yet. I'm still struggling to capture the essence of this area. There is a certain rustic, evergreen beauty to it, and I don't feel I can convey it properly just yet.
Do you prefer writing short stories to other forms of literature? Publication is still new to me, but at the moment, I only write short fiction. There's a photographic nature to the short story that I love. I get to give readers a snapshot of a life, one beautiful, shining moment, and every word counts. Nothing gets wasted.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
That's a big question! At the very least, I hope to introduce some new voices to the world. There are so many stories that have yet to be told, I'd be privileged to contribute a few. I'm also new to the field, so if someone reads one of my stories and gives a thoughtful "huh," consider me thrilled.