On Read or Die's current reading recommendations.
Kristine: This month is graphic novel month. So all the titles nominated are graphic novels. We have Dean Alfar’s Siglo there, which is one of the best graphic novel compilation. We have Alan Moore in the selection. We have Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer. Just local talents, we have Dean Alfar’s Siglo, we have Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer, and we have Craig Thompson’s Blankets. Which is a really, really nice graphic novel so that’s what we recommend. For this month, graphic novels. Next month I think we are on to historical novels for the selection.
On Read or Die's agenda.
Kristine: [We're] all embracing. But we also do have a special advocacy for Philippine lit as you mentioned. Even though we have very different tastes, I think one of our unifying threads, commonality namin (of ours) is that even if we don’t all read Filipino lit, we like to promote Filipino literature through this book club. We also have another website like http://libro.ph, if you could visit it, that’s one of our efforts to promote Filipino literature.
Dean Alfar's take on speculative fiction.
Dean: Speculative fiction actually had its roots in science fiction because the question is what if. What if the world was like this or what if aliens had come. But it has since grown to encompass fantasy, sci-fi, horror, magic-realism, surrealism, and interstitial fiction. So actually a lot of the non-realist stories and types of books are covered by spec fic.
Dean's theory on why speculative fiction is popular lately in the country.
Dean: For the longest of times, a lot of the material that was available to the common public or general reading public was domestic realism or novels or stories about the plight of the poor and things like that which are important because that reflects social agenda and it’s important that we understand that. However we are also becoming more regional and global. We are influenced now by the Internet to look outside. Film comes in, there are no boundaries and literature comes in from other countries. And the literature of the imagination which is speculative fiction has no boundaries or citizenship so a lot of the younger generation, they look for the literature of wonder which is sci-fi, horror, fantasy and these are the things that matter to them and these are the things that they are reading and happily writing.
Redefining speculative fiction and escapism.
Dean: The older people would brand it [speculative fiction] as escapism and make it sound like a bad thing but to me escapism is just another term you use for hope. When people want to escape, like OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers), they will read romances. It’s a happy ending, it allows them a fantasy, it gives them hope. Escapism is a term that needs to be shorn of its ugly thing. It’s not a bad thing. It permits the Filipino to hope and dream of a better tomorrow, that’s what utopian science fiction is about, what fantasy is about, and even horror that allows us to confront dark things and that’s not just about escapism, that’s about hope.
Anvil's take on the current best-sellers and what's selling.
Gwen: The same thing as what was selling ten years ago. Essentially self-help is still the best-seller. You’d have dictionaries, cookbooks, nonfiction, self-help. Books that will improve one’s self. In the arena of fiction, it’s still basically romance and suspense. So right now what is hot are the ghost stories. Yes, ghost stories. Because of what Dean said, we like something that will quicken the heartbeat, the what-if’s. We’re always interested, the Filipinos have an innate curiosity for the supernatural, it’s in our culture. We have a rich mythology so ghost stories will always sell. It’s pretty much the same. People all over the country the common reading material is romance and suspense, ghost stories.
New books that's out in the market.
Anvil: We have a new cookbook that’s out, it’s called Pulutan. It’s written by two soldiers who are the Oakwood Mutiny soldiers. They passed on their recipes... These are recipes that they compiled while they were, even before that [the Oakwood Mutiny], while they were assigned to different camps all over the country... They’ve been assigned to all over the country to different camps and they’ve been able to compile and test recipes that are usually indigenous to a particular area.
Dean: My latest work is my very first collection of short fiction, it’s called Kite of Stars and Other Stories published by Anvil. It’s available right now at the book fair and I’d like to invite everyone to the formal launch of The Kite of Stars and Other Stories. This will be on September 29, 4 o’clock in the afternoon, at Bestsellers in Robinsons Galleria.
The lead story is called Kite of Stars (ed note: was also published in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror Seventeenth Annual Collection) and it’s about a woman who falls in love with a man and she goes on a 60-year quest to assemble the millions of components of a kite that she will use once assembled to attract his attention. For science fiction I have something called Hollow Girl which is about an android who looks for meaning in her life and love and finds it in the wrong places. For straight-out epic fantasy I have something called In the Dim Plane which is about a cast of villains trapped on a plane of darkness and one of them is a necromancer. So there is a lot that we can write about and this is the best time to be writing speculative fiction because now there are markets open, not just Anvil in terms of a publisher but you have magazines like Story Philippines, or even the Philippines Free Press which still is a bastion for excellent writing and they’re now open to spec fic. It’s incredible. There’s also the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories which publishes fantasy, horror, crime, western, romance, you name it.
On the book fair.
Blooey: Over at the book fair we have over 300 exhibitors in one venue. It showcases the largest and the most varied collection of printed materials like text books, educational supplements, literature, general references, religious and inspirational titles, self-help books, management books and many many more. And even multimedia and teaching aids and even interactive materials.
On the topic's question, do Filipinos still read?
Blooey: And to answer your question if Filipinos read, actually two years ago there was a survey conducted by an international surveying agency. It’s called the World Culture Score survey. It was conducted on 30,000 consumers in 30 countries and Filipinos ranked 3rd as the country’s most avid readers. We apparently we read for an average of 6.7 hours a week while India batted with 10.7 hours. India ranked no. 1.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Read or Die, Spec Fic, Anvil, and Manila International Book Fair on Radio
Just found out that last night, RX 93.1 had an interview with Kristine Mandigma of Read or Die, author Dean Alfar, Gwen Galvez of Anvil Publishing, and Blooey Singson of the Manila International Book Fair. Due to technical difficulties (no Internet, dead mp3 player), an edited transcript and recording won't be up until next week but here's some snippets I managed to jot down halfway through the interview (parenthesis are English translations of Filipino terms):