I have long said that short stories are a good way to get to know a fiction writer’s style. Which means it’s time we got to know Dare Segun Falowo, who recently published their first collection of short stories, Caged Ocean Dub: Glints & Stories (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Dare discusses what inspired and influenced these stories, as well as a way you might want to read them.
To start, is there a theme that connects the stories in Caged Ocean Dub?
So then is there something else that connects these stories? Genre? Timeframe of when they were written?
The stories are connected by the thread of the constrained circumstances and tidal emotional states under which they were written, which inspired the title.
And what genres are represented by the stories in Caged Ocean Dub?
The thing about genre in this collection, and my way with writing, is that I am not very good at understanding formal modes of genre or literature in general, and will prefer to follow an experience into story over bending it to a specific form. The best metaphor is of cuisine. A little fun fact is that the blog from which some stories in the book come from was originally subtitled “Gumbo.” Over a foundation of mundane realism, I like to play with multi-tonality and tropes, to blend and blur.
If I had to name, there’s a variety of elements of horror, fantasy, space opera, weird fiction, ghost story, black comedy, etc.
Also, what are “glints”? Because according to Wikipedia, it’s “…an online job recruitment platform headquartered in Singapore.” Wait, will I get a new job if I read your book?
Ha! Not at all. Maybe you’ll get self-employment imagining new things and surprising yourself. A glint is just my own name for a piece of flash fiction written in one sitting.
Moving on to the always beloved questions about influences, what writers do you think had the biggest influences on the stories in Caged Ocean Dub?
This question is always a bit complex for me because the extent of my influences reaches beyond the literary, and my reading patterns around the time of the writing of these stories was quite erratic.
I would yield influence to the writers whose work formed a sort of raw first text that introduced me to the inner spaces fiction could light up: Cyprian Ekwensi, whose ability to pull you into the beating heart of a story remains unparalleled; Amos Tutuola, who freely uses the English language in a muscular, tactile way that scratches my brain; R.L. Stine, who made me realize horror could have a dreadful sweetness to it; and Stephen King who made me realize it could be a nerve agent.
Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City also made me hungry for a world of African speculative fictions that is nearer today.
And are there any stories in Caged Ocean Dub that were strongly influenced by a writer who isn’t an influence on your style as a whole?
I came across David Foster Wallace’s kinetic prose and Sylvia Plath’s diaries sometime during the period in which I wrote some of this collection, and while I only enjoy those writers for their work and never really thought to be them, their energies show up in “What Not To Do When Spelunking In Anambra” in a mild, mimetic sense. They definitely made that idea of writing for the abandon and the crackle of language open up for me.
How about non-literary influences? Were any of the stories in Caged Ocean Dub influenced by any movies, shows, or games?
I find endless inspiration in music. It’s a form that easily yields new experiences and seems to unlock unknown memory. The Dub in Caged Ocean Dub refers to the style of reggae music that emphasizes mellowness, special effects and a sense of cavernous space. It didn’t directly influence any stories in the collection but the way it’s titled is done after the way of dub songs.
For this collection, I was adjacently influenced by sounds I discovered in ambient music, experimental electronica, new age soundscapes, psychedelic pop, dub, etc.
“Convergence In Chorus Architecture” has a Sun Ra essence, nods to the vocal acrobatics of the gospel diva and my experiences in choirs growing up.
On the visual medium, the first story could be a Pushing Daisies opening montage. The story “October In Eran Riro” has parallels with Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. “Take Wing” was born of my desire to experience comic book ideas and elements in prose.
The stories centered around women pull lightly from Yoruba cinema (there’s a subset of it that is titled eponymously after women with unusual stories).
Trying to match most of the others to influences doesn’t work. You should probably view them as original.
Also, I haven’t had any immersive video gaming experiences but I look forward to what that might do to my writings.
Now, some of the stories in Caged Ocean Dub are new to this collection, while some were previously published in The Magazine of Fantasy And Science Fiction, Baffling Magazine, and Dominion: An Anthology Of Speculative Fiction From Africa And The Diaspora, among other places. Are the versions of those stories in Caged Ocean Dub the same as they were in those journals and anthologies, or did you change anything about them (save for typos)?
I think there’s a lot of finessing of a story that occurs between the writer and the text before it is sent out for reading or assessment as a first draft. Then, there’s the work done with the editors before final publishing. You know when a story feels right, it has a tone. A resonance. I usually stop touching it once I find that sense.
There’s also the glints, which are flash fictions written carefully in one sitting and rarely ever edited after that.
Hollywood loves making movies out of short stories. Are there any stories in Caged Ocean Dub that you think could work really as a movie?
I do want to see my stories on the screen. I love movies. They sometimes feel like the last point of myth, wonder, and catharsis left for us as a collective.
Although Hollywood has the cutting edge, I am a bit biased towards Nollywood because I grew up with it, and have seen it reach some great heights. Its potential remains immense, and I’d like to contribute to that.
I think “Eating Kaolin” would make a great Nigerian film because it is based on a historical event that hasn’t made it to the screen yet and I’d like to see the mythical elements of the story visually fulfilled. As would “Ngozi Ugegbe Nwa.” because it already carries that uncanny flavor of our local horror.
To Hollywood could go “Convergence In Chorus Architecture.” Imagine it, a lysergic space epic directed by Jordan Peele.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Caged Ocean Dub?
Not exactly. You can read it in any order you like. Try it by candlelight or with a torch under your blanket to get closer.
Finally, if someone enjoys Caged Ocean Dub, what short story collection of someone else’s would you suggest they check out and why that one?