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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

entry arrow12:32 AM | Here's to Popular Fiction!

Popular fiction -- a category under which most of speculative fiction toils -- remains largely an ignored part in "mainstream" Philippine literature. But now here comes Butch Dalisay endorsing the development of popular fiction in his two-part blog post about the state of the novel in the country (read both parts here and here). An excerpt from the latest post:

Even before we dream of selling our books in New York or London, we Filipino authors in English have to sell more books in this country, and I’m coming around to thinking that the fault, dear Brutus, is no longer in our readership but in ourselves. True, books of almost any kind are expensive here. Also true, we may have focused on just producing what we think of as great art because there’s little money to be made, which isn’t so bad. But it’s also a fact that many Filipinos are buying books—and let’s face it, these book buyers are primarily middle-class—except that they’re not buying us. In other words, the market is there but we’ve given up on fighting for our share of it.

By this I mean that we’re not writing about the things that might prove interesting to our potential readers; we wouldn’t mind being popular, but we shun the popular. The crimes that pepper our tabloids hardly ever make it to our fiction. Clearly, we need to write more popular or genre fiction—novels that employ not only the fantastic, but also more crime, more sex, and more humor. They may not necessarily be great novels, but good ones—novels that can attract and develop a new class of readers, be serialized, be turned into movies, be talked about over Monday-morning coffee. We also need more professional translators who can turn the best of our novels in Filipino into internationally marketable manuscripts.

I should admit, as soon as I say this, that I’ve done very little myself to fill my own prescription. Younger writers like Felisa Batacan and Dean Alfar and his group of “speculative fiction” writers are doing much more by raising the profile of a kind of fiction that seems to resonate with younger readers and can acquire a substantial following.

Which is just about right. The foundations of great literature started out with popular fare -- the likes of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens (and now Stephen King and Neil Gaiman), who wrote to entertain, to be enjoyed. They developed readers, and developed literary sophistication in the long run.

[UPDATE: A blogger by the name of Kilawing Uwak, somebody from UST, has some harsh words about Butch Dalisay and gives a no-holds-barred assessment on why Pinoy lit is dead, in a post titled "Insult to Injury." Sir Butch gives a gentleman's reply, of course. Via Philippine Genre Stories.]

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