Thursday, June 14, 2007

Philippine Genre Stories at Mellow 94.7

The show's airing right now and I'll be posting the highlights later on.

Alas, my ignorance of radio DJs penalizes me once more.

Mellow 94.7 (male): This will not be your regular Thursday afternoon because well, we got guests. Not just one, not just two, but three.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Three guests!

Mellow 94.7 (male): Let's just start with their names. We're talking to Kenneth, to Vin, and to Dean. Two of them are writers, known writers, and Kenneth is the publisher. And they've got exciting news for everyone tuned in today at Mellow 94.7. This thing I'm holding in my hand is the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, the premiere issue. Wouldn't you, let me just start here. I have a brief bio of Vin here and I (laughs), I don't want to blow sunshine up his ass but apparently he's a bibliophile, he has amassed three National Book Awards as well as citations, a lot of them. His works also appear in a lot of publications including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, K-Zone, and the annual superhero comic anthology project Hero. He's doing a lot. He's actually crazy. Are you crazy?

Vin: Sort of. Actually I just like comics also so my K-Zone work is actually a comic strip.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Dean here is a Filipino playwright. He's also a novelist and a writer of speculative fiction. Please explain.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Please explain in lay man's terms.

I'd love to. Speculative fiction is the literature of the fantastic. So we're talking about fiction that encompasses fantasy, science-fiction, horror, magic-realism, and things that fall in between the cracks. So it's all the zany, wondrous stories including folk tales retold, fairy tales, wild imaginings--

Mellow 94.7 (female): --Silkies from Ireland.

Oh yes. And you'd be surprised a lot of Filipinos are able to write what we call speculative fiction.

Mellow 94.7 (male): So you're also crazy.

Dean: Definitely. Crazy about spec fic.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Kenneth here is your publisher so you would fall under his wing if I'm not mistaken. You're the boss. (laughs)

Kenneth: Well I'm an external publisher. I never met Vin or Dean before. I put an open call for submissions on the web and they sent their work in.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Let's get to the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, the premiere issue. Well this had to start from somewhere. Where did you get your inspiration to come up with such a digest?

Kenneth: Well for years, ever since I was young, I was inspired by the US-based magazines. You might have heard of them: Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Isaac Asimov Science Fiction Magazine. So I was wondering, why can't there be something similar here in the Philippines that promotes Philippine writers and Pinoy writers. So that's where it came from. It germinated in my head for years and years and I never really got around to do it until I became a printer. I set up my business, I set up a small press, again, I didn't put it up right away but given enough time and I felt the timing was right last year, I put up the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories to address these kinds of stories: mystery, suspense, sci-fi, speculative--all those things Dean was mentioning awhile ago.

Mellow 94.7 (male): This would probably be the first in the country?

Kenneth: I believe so. I believe it's the first of its kind because it addresses genre.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Again, it's a collection of horror, we have romance, there's fantasy, suspense, mystery, crime, detective, speculative, and supernatural.

Kenneth: That's right. It covers all these things that normally you don't see much because in the Philippine literary scene, there's more focus on what they call "social realism" in quotation marks, those are more like the Hemingway stories. They seem real because they're set in the real world. I set this up to give a venue for Pinoy writers to show their skills in telling stories that fall under what publishers call genre.

Mellow 94.7 (female): How was the result like? How did writers like Dean and the rest of the guys embrace this idea.

Kenneth: Because of its uniqueness I believe, I was very surprised at the initial response because I was deluged with submissions.

Mellow 94.7 (female): There was an influx.

Mellow 94.7 (male): There is more like, if it's a venue for Filipino writers to come out with their own stuff, there are actually a lot of them out there.

Kenneth: There is a market. Because well, there are foreign influences, there will always be foreign influences. You have stuff like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Star Wars movies, the Spider-Man movies, Spider-Man comics, Superman comics. So these pretty much fall under the literature of the fantastic as Dean would describe. But that's what PGS or Digest of Philippine Genre Stories wants to address, wants to bring in those Pinoy Writers that wants to tell stories like these and this is their venue.

Mellow 94.7 (female): I like it. I like the whole idea of initiating a venue for writers such as yourself and those out there who might be looking around to you know, just come across the market. I like that! We now have the first issue right here and we got the second issue. When is the third one coming out?

Kenneth: Next month. It's due out next month, we're already in the latter process of the pre-press.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Hold on, I'm getting confused. So this one I'm holding is the premiere issue. The first one?

Kenneth: That's right.

Mellow 94.7 (male): And issue number two, came out last May if I'm not mistaken.

Kenneth: That's right.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Let's talk about the first one. Dean's work is here. It's featured, called The Middle Prince. Also Vin, or Vince, and his story is Wail of the Sun. From what I'm seeing here, it's all words. No pictures. Wouldn't that be, it would take more than just your imagination to get through this, right?

Vin: Actually we couldn't draw to save our lives. So we actually have to...

Dean: In our other secret identity, we are also purveyors of comic books and that's where we have our illustrated works. But here it's all prose, all words, which means imagination needs to go on overdrive.

Mellow 94.7 (male): All right, so there you go. How do you find your inspiration in say, are these just fresh works or works you've done before? You just shelved it put it it aside and then all of a sudden there's this venue called Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and that's when you came out with all of these stories?

Dean: That's a good question. Every writer who considers himself or herself a professional writer has what we call an inventory of stories which means that when there is call for submissions, you already have some things canned.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Is that true, Vin?

Mellow 94.7 (male): Can it be true?

Well if you're serious about your writing actually but I have to admit, because of Kenneth here, he helped inspire me to keep writing because before there would be no venue for these kind of stories. You sort offeel like I'll write this story but where am I going to market it, hopefully abroad, but this time there's a local publisher who's willing to take a chance with these kinds of stories.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Going back to what Dean was saying?

Dean: Well an inventory is just a collection of stories that a writer has written over a brief period of time, let's say several months. Some writers like to have things when they're struck by inspiration of because they have discipline, write a story or two. And then when there are calls or obvious venues or calls for submission, we send it out. Some times though, we write specifically to submit or if there is a competition or contest, then we write. It's good discipline to have an inventory, to have some stories up your sleeve. You never know if four publishers suddenly come knocking down your door saying we want your story, each! And you say no problem, no problem.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Sorry Kenneth, I just have another question for our writers here. Is it for the money or for the--

(laughs) We wish.

Mellow 94.7 (female): So here we go.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Is it really worthy of your time and effort to write down?

Vin: If the worth is, if you're talking about me, then it's actually doesn't pay very much but you can't really make a living out of it as much as we'd want to, but the honest truth, as Dean said, it's about the love for these things. We feel very passionate about our writing, about the stories we want to tell. And that's really what carries us through.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Dean would like to disagree. It's all about the money, right?

Dean: I'd love to be able to say that at some point in the future. I'd love to, I'd love to say it's for the money because in other markets like the UK or in the United Stats, you can make a living writing stories. Stephen King started that way but unfortunately, we are not at that point. Perhaps in the future, we will be and we can have professional writers who are doing it for the money--which is not a wrong thing at all, it's a living. At this point though it's more of a labor of love than anything else.

Kenneth: Hey, if the digest succeeds and becomes a hit, I'll be able to pay the writers more and maybe they can make a living out of it.

Mellow 94.7 (female): We can start hiring them.

Full time, full time! (laughs)

I'll have my editorial board at last.

Mellow 94.7 (female): So I think the keyword there is the passion for writing.

Kenneth: It's the passion for storytelling. I mean you have this, everyone has an imagination. Everyone has experiences to draw upon. Everyone has his or her own story. That's what I believe. Every individual out there is his or her own story, maybe more, maybe even more than one. And that is what I am trying to tap into here, not just the real things but the fantastic things that they can envision from their lives, from their daily living, and I want to bring that through the digest.

Dean: And you know what, Filipinos are creatures of story. We have all these mythical things in the background, we love to listen to the old stories from the province and all that, and we can tell stories quite well, I think so.

Mellow 94.7 (male): And probably there's someone out there probably similar to say JK Rowling who can come out with say--

Dean: Agree.

Kenneth: Fully agree. I'm looking for that person.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Since you mentioned it's a great way to tap talent so now you're coming to us, the radio and stuff like that, where do you think launching the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, where will it take you? Do you think it'll take you to schools, to universities, to colleges, just to seek out that next Rowling?

Kenneth: My hope is in the youth. My hope is in the younger Pinoys. I'm looking for them, I'm looking for that next Rowling, for that next Tolkien. And I believe, like I told you, that the Pinoy can tell as good a story as anyone else in the world. We have our own history, our own myths to draw upon. And I believe it's out there. It just needs a venue, needs time, needs craft but it's there. The stories are there. They just need a venue to show themselves, where other people can read about it.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Can I just share, Chris, because we are now in the context of genre stories like mystery, you know, romance, and mythical creatures, back in fifth grade I had a couple of friends who would come up with their own comic book. And these are like eleven-year-olds.

Kenneth: That's it.

Mellow 94.7 (female): And they came up with, they have their like, volume number one, volume number two, and these are practically children drawing their own comic books and this is their own version of Choose Your Own Adventure.

Kenneth: Ayun, that's the emotion I'm going for.

Mellow 94.7 (female): And they went around the entire school.

They should have charged money. (laughs)

Kenneth: So it is about the money. (laughs)

Mellow 94.7 (female): I just want to acknowledge him, I hope he's listening right now. His name is Russel Sales and I hope he still has that seed of writing in him.

Kenneth: Hope so. You can contribute to the digest if you're out there, listening.

Mellow 94.7 (male): I'm excited about the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. If there's anyone interested to say, contribute to the digest, how can they go about sending their entries?

Kenneth: We have a blog, feel free to visit our blog any time. All the details are there, all the announcements, all the updates. The excerpts even so you can read excerpts from Wail of the Sun by Vin and and excerpts from The Middle Prince by Dean. It's all there. All the information is there as well as where to get it. You can get it at places like Comic Quest, Booktopia, Fully Booked, Mag:Net, Books for Less. It's all available at these stores.

Mellow 94.7 (female): So again the blog is at So they have all the information they need to get in touch with you guys and how they can get their contributions in.

Mellow 94.7 (male): What else? You guys have to come back, seriously.

Mellow 94.7 (female): You have to.

Mellow 94.7 (male): There's just so little time to talk about this. You guys have to come back and tell us everything if there's something new that's coming out. The third issue, it came out, right?

Kenneth: The third one is coming out in July. That's the second one.

Mellow 94.7 (male):This one is out already. And you guys are also part of this one, right?

Dean: Not in that one. Those have other, new fantastic stories and they're worth reading.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Hopefully this will be a cult. (laughs)

Dean: Well we want it to be more than a cult.

Vin: A movement.

Mellow 94.7 (male): That's a better word.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Revolution!

Vin: Yeah.

Mellow 94.7 (male): And hopefully some kid out there will find it interesting and pick up these and be inspired.

Vin: We're kind of hoping people will actually try to write, like you said, it's always exciting to discover new voices and actually Dean also has an anthology, an annual anthology, the Philippine Speculative Fiction, volume three of which is coming out this year. I was lucky enough to be part of the first two volumes and I think he's accepting new writers also who want to contribute and try their hand at it.

Mellow 94.7 (male): I don't want to be a devil's advocate or anything but I mention off air that most of the stories it's in English. Wouldn't that hinder a bigger volume of the reading public because I hate to say this but not all of us can actually read or understand or even write in English.

Kenneth: I agree.

Vin: We've faced that before.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Go Vin. Come on. (laughs)

Vin: Actually, to be honest, it's really in my case for instance, it's really just the language I grew up with, I'm comfortable with. I read books in English, I learned to write well in English, so I can express myself best in English and as much as I would love to write in Tagalog or Filipino, I would be hindered by the fact that I don't get to write or express myself as well but of course, if people want to contribute in the future or manage to tell good stories in Filipino, then by all means. Write what you're most comfortable with.

Kenneth: Like I was telling you off air, it's really about the facility. Right now, being a small press, I focus on English again for the same reason Vin has: that's where the skill is, in English. But I am looking forward to the future, I am thinking of the future where the digest does become a big hit and I can expand andmaybe hire an editor in Tagalog so I can finally accept Tagalog stories. Because it really is worth promoting.

Dean: Kyu, you should be able to do it in Ilagainon, in Cebuano. (laughs)

Kenneth: Why not? Why not.

Dean: If we're going to go with the argument why is it in English, then the counter-argument would be why just in Pilipino? What about the Cebuanos? What about the Davaonuenos?

Mellow 94.7 (female): We got a lot of dialects.

Kenneth: Our culture is rich and diverse and it's worth pushing.

Dean: So it's just the beginning.

Kenneth: And the stories will record our culture. I believe that, the stories do record our culture.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Come in. I'm already excited about this digest.

Dean: So we'll expect a story from you.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Awww, man. (laughs)

Mellow 94.7 (female): When was the last time you wrote creative?

Mellow 94.7 (male): High school.

Dean: It's not too late.

Kenneth: Everyone has a story.

Mellow 94.7 (female): We can probably right an essay perhaps. We do blogs sometimes.

Dean: Fantastic!

Mellow 94.7 (male): I can draw.

Dean: Then you need to talk to us in our other aspect as comic book creators. We'll talk, we'll talk.

Mellow 94.7 (male): I hate to cut this interview short but the ways in which they can get in touch with you?

Kenneth: That's through the blog, and I'd like to thank those who are sponsoring us and please, support these companies as they're the ones pushing, they're the ones who took the risk because fiction is an uphill battle in the Philippines but they're taking a risk to support the digest and to push our culture and push our stories and push our writing, push our readers. So that's PLDT, Starbucks, Modess, Choco Mucho by Ribisco and Super Bowl of China and of course, Mellow 94.7.

Mellow 94.7 (female): Rock on!

Mellow 94.7 (male): Any final words again, Dean?

Dean: Read, write, and live right. That's it for me.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Vin?

Vin: Can I greet someone?

Mellow 94.7 (female): (laughs) I guess somebody just texted Vin.

Vin: No, actually I'd like to greet my five-year-old niece Page who's listening excitedly to this. Hi Page!

Mellow 94.7 (male): Hi Page!

Mellow 94.7 (female):
Hello Page!

Kenneth: Hello Page!

Dean: Hello Page!

Vin: And like Dean, I'm really excited for people to submit stories and it's really great to prove that the Filipino can write as anyone else in the world.

Mellow 94.7 (male): Kenneth?

Kenneth: That's it really. Please check our blog and you can get it at those places I mentioned: Fully Booked, Comic Quest, Booktopia, Books for Less, and Mag:Net.

Dean: We hope to read you soon!

Mellow 94.7 (female): Can't wait for the third issue.

Vin: Thanks for the chance.

Kenneth: I'll send them over.

Dean: And thank you so much.

Mellow 94.7 (female): You're most welcome!

Mellow 94.7 (male): And please come back. We can talk again about the digest. Thank you so much again for making time and coming here to the station.


I'll continue the interview later on (and assuming my Internet at home doesn't conk out). There's still 9 minutes left remaining.

I'm down to the last minute or two when the battery of my recorder died out. See at you at 11 pm if my Internet doesn't die out before then.

I'm done! And thankfully I'm familiar with the voices of Dean and Vin (and by the process of elimination, Kenneth) unlike the four-way chat transcript I had before (I should listen more to Ramon and Erwin).

In the meantime, here are some relevant links:

Mellow 947
Philippine Genre Stories
Dean Alfar
Vin Simbulan


Anonymous said...

thanks for this transcript!

Charles said...

Anything for you dear =)

Anonymous said...

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