Thursday, June 21, 2007

Philippine Genre Stories at NU 107

Long story short, the office walls weren't conducive to getting a transmission from NU107, even if I'm just a 10-minute walk away from the station. Instead, I had to leave my recorder near the office door and set the record button on.

Mr. Kenneth Yu, is that right?

Kenneth: That's right.

NU107: Kenneth Yu is the editor. Is that right?

That's right. Publisher and editor.

NU107: Publisher and editor. And you brought along two contributors.

Kenneth: That's right.

NU107: You might want to introduce them.

I brought along Mr. Andrew Drilon and Mr. Vin Simbulan.

Vin: Hi!

NU107: All right, Andrew and Vin. Is that right?

Andrew: Yeah!

NU107: All right, tell us the stories, give us feedback first about the first issue. How was the reception?

Kenneth: It was well accepted. I got a lot of emails after it came out that people were enchanted or perhaps surprised that there was a venue for genre stories to suddenly come out and be read, written by Pinoys.

NU107: This is the very first, right? Of its kind in the Philippines.

Kenneth: That's right. It focuses solely on genre stories so I was lucky enough to have two talented writers here to contribute to the first issue.

NU107: So the writers you have here as guests also contributed in the first issue.

Kenneth: That's right, these two came out in the first.

NU107: Cool. Okay, tell us about your work in the second issue. Let's start with?


Andrew. (laughs) And then we'll talk to Vin in a little while.

Andrew: For the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, I wrote a short story called Thriller which was based on a Michael Jackson song, Thriller. What happened was I was thinking about the connection between songs and stories and how songs are actually stories, they're narratives. And usually the main character, the vocalist, is speaking to someone and you know, what I found interesting was that what would happen if you took the lyrics of the song and you sort of filled it out with the story, whatever story the song might have suggested. So you got the lyrics which is around two hundred words and I just basically filled it in to three thousand words and it's now a big, zombie, horror, apocalyptic story.

NU107: Cool! And that can be found?

In the first issue.

NU107: In the first issue. For the second issue what did you come up with?

Kenneth: For the second I had a fresh batch of contributors.

NU107: Oh, okay!

Kenneth: They're different writers, it's available now but I brought them in as an example.

NU107: All right. Of what you had before. I get you now. Okay, Vin now, you contributed a story to the?

Kenneth: First issue.

NU107: First issue. Tell us about your work.

His is a high fantasy story.

NU107: High fantasy.

That's right. I'm a big fan of the high fantasy adventure genre so my story is called Wail of the Sun and I decided to play around a bit with the conventions of the genre. So my lead character is actually a man who's fallen from grace. He's actually an alcoholic wizard. So I tried to play on that and he has to get himself together in order to save his family and basically I decided to go with a less glamorous feel because a lot of fantasy stories are with powerful characters who are almost flawless. So I decided to go with a character whom I hope is more interesting because he's got a very human flaw.

NU107: More vulnerable.

More vulnerable and from there I took the story where it naturally went.

NU107: All right. So that's high fantasy huh? Tell us about the different types you can expect in this publication.

Like in the first issue, we had high fantasy, comic horror as well as pure horror and a fairy tale. Here in the second issue, we have a sci-fi fantasy, The 101st Michael by K. Osias, and we even have a modern, suburban fantasy, The Final Interview, by Sean Uy. We have a semi-romance even, The Scent of Spice, because romance can be considered a genre. So we accept basically genre stories as they fall under that label, which is sci-fi, fantasy, romance, suspense, mystery, crime, horror, supernatural, ghost stories, all those kinds that seem to attract, attract you as a younger reader.

NU107: All right Kenneth, what inspired you to put up this magazine?

Kenneth: What inspired me is, well many things. First of all there's this US-based magazine Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Isaac Asimov's Sci-Fi Magazine and I thought, when I saw them, if the US can have it, why can't there something similar be here in the Philippines?

NU107: Oo, bakit wala dito sa Philippines?

Kenneth: So it germinated in my head for so many years and then I set up my business which is printing, it's originally printing stuff. So some time down the years I eventually said now might be a good time, I think I can do it. So here I go I pull out a publication called PGS, the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, to take in these kind of stories. Horror, sci-fi, fantasy. I thought maybe now is the time.

NU107: All right, and this is a quarterly publication?

Quarterly publication. That's right.

NU107: What kind of people usually pick up this digest?

Kenneth: I'd like the younger folk to pick it up.

Nu107: What's the age bracket? For you?

Kenneth: For me the personal target is fourteen to mid-thirties.

NU107: So you should be distributing this to in schools.

Kenneth: I want to, I've been trying. And I've been targeting the youth mainly because I want to increase literacy among the youth, especially English literacy, to speak better English, to write better English, and I feel that reading is one very good way to get them to do that. At the very least it'll make their attention span stronger and maybe make them better at school. In fact there's a question I'd like to throw if you don't mind at the two writers here, my two contributors. What's the value of stories of writing and as writers I think they can answer that very well. What is the value of writing stories?

NU107: All right, let's start with Vin. The value maybe to the reader and for yourself. Do you get anything?

Vin: Because personally I started writing because I enjoyed reading so much and I believe that if you really want to be a writer, a large part of it is enjoying reading and because of that, it encouraged me to create stories that would appeal first to myself and hopefully to an audience. And to answer Kyu's question, it's about exploring the sense of wonder. It's about the fantastic, it's about exercising your imagination and I think it's something you tend to lose as you grow older and you get more concerned with the mundane, you know, nine to five jobs and all those things. So I think--

NU107: This is the key to youth, huh? (laughs)

Vin: Yeah and for me--

NU107: To remaining young.

To remaining young. It's called the head first. But what I mean is it's something you shouldn't lose sight of even as you get older and more serious and you get caught up in work and these everyday things, for me that's why I choose to write spec fic and that's why I enjoy reading spec fic: it's because of that.

NU107: For Andrew?

For me, writing and I guess reading, I guess the value is why anyone, any artist or musician, would choose to create it is because it's a venue by which you can express yourself. We're gifted with imagination and we're given words and we're taught how to read and write all throughout our lives and my feeling is, why not use that? Why not use that to entertain people, maybe share your feelings on the world and your views, and for me, genre stories I suppose are one of the forms of writing that aren't very utilized here in the Philippines that much. And it's a valid venue for sharing writing and for readers to be introduced into worlds and to characters that they might not ordinarily encounter.

NU107: So let's ask Kenneth to answer that other question. What is the value to the readers?

Kenneth: Value to the readers.

NU107: Because we talk about the value to the writers so how does this benefit those reading stuff like this.

Kenneth: The way I see it, if it's just on the practical level, we live in a world where attention spans, especially the youth, is getting shorter and shorter, for whatever reason. So much media, Internet... so many things to shorten your attention span. Now you read, your imagination as put by Dean Alfar, the king of Philippine spec fic, as he puts it, your imagination goes into overdrive. And when it does that, you're forced to focus. So you read, your imagination goes into overdrive, you're using your head. And on the practical level, that kind of attention, can stretch to your other stuff. When you read your textbooks, your homework, or read other stuff, focus on the things in the world, reading the newspapers, you develop not only that attention span but critical eye for analyzing things and thinking for yourself. And that's what I believe reading can do. Vin?

NU107: And it's a way to exercise your brain right? Things are all around you, you can exercise your muscles, we need to.

And unlike other forms of entertainment, if I may add to what's already said, I think it's also because reading, unlike television or other forms of media, a lot of other forms are very passive. It's an active form, you have to exercise your head.

NU107: Oh yeah, right. That's a good point.

Kenneth: Let's take the Lord of the Rings movies. That has been imagined for us by the director, Peter Jackson. How the orcs look, how the stuff looks. But if you read it, and try to disengage yourself--

NU107: You come up with your own version, right?

Kenneth: You come up with your own. And your mind might even come up with something even better than what he did.

NU107: All right, now you've come up, you're a reader, you've come up with all these things. Can a person contribute, just get in touch with you and come up with a story and maybe will be published in this digest?

Kenneth: PGS is open to, is very friendly to new writers. Please send in your stuff, our blog is All the details are there. And please send it in. We're open, we're open to developing your writing, we're open to new writers and new stories, fresh stories from unheard of people. From all of you who are just trying it out, we're very friendly.

NU107: What if a person comes to you medyo raw pa? You know, his work needs editing lang. How does that work? How do you teach people? Do you have like seminars? (laughs) How do you get in touch with contributors?

Kenneth: Okay, that's a long answer. If I really have, if I really like the premise of the story, I will help. I'll go back and forth with the author.

NU107: If you think he has the talent.

I'll make suggestions, suggestions mind you. Because I respect the author's creative rights. I don't edit without permission, I ask his permission and give suggestions and we work together to come up with something we find mutually publishable. Now as you said seminars and what, there's this group of which Vin and Andrew are members and it's headed by Dean. It's called LitCritters, LitCritters Manila. They get together every week and they discuss stories, fiction--foreign as well as local, with the aims of developing writing. They have this seminar or get-together for want of a better word, get-together this Friday at 4 pm--sorry, Saturday, at Serendra, at one of our distributors where you can find PGS: A Different Bookstore in Serendra, 4 pm. It's open to the public and you can hear them talk about the stories from their own personal points of view. Learn, they'll discuss what they can learn or what they can hopefully duplicate from good works. And you can pick up a lot about how to write or what they find good in a story: what works, what doesn't, and that's what they've been doing. It's called LitCritters Manila headed by Dean Alfar and these two are members.

NU107: Cool. Again, it's happening?

Andrew: At Serendra, Saturday, 4 pm.

NU107: This Saturday huh?


NU107: All right, if they don't have time to go to that event this Saturday, how do you get in touch with that group? Do you have a website?

Andrew: Actually this Saturday is our first session. We have, this new thing is happening bi-monthly--

Vin: Bi-weekly. Every two weeks.

Andrew: Bi-weekly. First and third week of the month.

NU107: Do you have this posted on a website or something?

Kenneth: A Different Bookstore. Or check the PGS website. I've got a link there to the schedules.

NU107: What's the website again?

Kenneth: (one word, small letters). And I've got a link there to show when and where each time they're meeting. I'll announce every time they have a get together so people can go.

NU107: Cool. So can we expect works of Vin and Andrew in the upcoming issues?

Kenneth: PGS four will have a new Vin story. And PGS five hopefully will have a new Andrew story also.

NU107: Anyway your current issue is now out and where can they pick it up?

Kenneth: They can pick it up at, well, we aforementioned A Different Bookstore, Booktopia, Comic Quest, Fully Booked, Mag:Net, Books for Less, The Loyola Schools Bookstores and the Ayala Museum. They're available there.

NU107: I heard you have a writing contest coming up. You wanna talk about it?

Kenneth: That's right, thank you for reminding. Each issue has an image and it's a section called Image Inspiration, and has an image be it a photo or a drawing by a local artist.

NU107: Where can you find that?

Kenneth: It's at the last page.

NU107: For this issue, you have...

A drawing by Andrew. Who's also a talented artist. So we invite people to write a short short story, between three hundred to five hundred words, and then a panel of judges, who don't know each other, will give their comments and rank them and the winner gets to win a free copy and have their story published in the next issue.

NU107: So how do they go about sending their entries?

Kenneth: Everything is on the blog,, but this particular contest is over. So wait for the third issue, we'll have a new picture, a new image, for which people can join.

NU107: Cool. So any parting words from the writers? Vin and Andrew? Want to encourage them to try their hand at writing and pick up an issue?

I encourage everyone to pick up Philippine Genre Stories where Kenneth said was available and if you're free this Saturday, or the Saturday after the next, I'm inviting everyone on behalf of the Manila LitCritters to join us at Serendra, A Different Bookstore, at 4 pm Saturday.

NU107: Thank you. And Vin?

I myself would like people to submit for Kenneth's magazine because aside from being writers we're also readers. One of the biggest enjoyment we get from the magazine and from what Kyu is doing is that we get to discover new writers and possibly become fans ourselves of other people's writing. So I think you have nothing to lose, it doesn't hurt to try. And if you don't get accepted in an issue for the story that you sent in, try again. Because rejection is part of a writer's life and I think it's all about how much you really want it and keep trying.

NU107: One last question, what do you think of the Harry Potter series?

Kenneth: It's wonderful! It's getting people to read. I'm all for it, it's getting people to read. And that's great, it engaged the youth to read, to pick up a book and read more. May I thank some?

NU107: Sure, go ahead.

I'd like to thank the sponsors of PGS who've been doing a lot in supporting us and they are PLDT myDSL, Superbowl of China the restaurant, Modess, Starbucks Coffee, Choco-Mucho by Ribisco, and of course NU107.5.

NU107: All right, thank you. Thank you for dropping by the station again, it's called the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and issue two is now available. When will issue three come out?

Kenneth: By July or mid-August at the latest.

NU107: Okay, so do check out the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Thank you Kenneth Yu, Andrew, and Vin.


The interview is eighteen minutes long and I'm halfway. As usual, check in tonight for the rest of the interview assuming I don't experience any technical difficulties.

Here's the relevant link list:

Philippine Genre Stories
Vin Simbulan
Andrew Drilon
Manila LitCritters details
Manila LitCritters mailing list
Dean Alfar

You can also read some of Andrew's vignettes and short stories at his old blog: The Brass Buddha Machine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks, charles! i was looking forward to your transcript of this too :D great job!