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Feature
Spotlight on Michael Payne
"The Darkling Eclectica," Saturdays at 6:00am
by: by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

BDB: How long have you been doing your show?

MP: One thousand, one hundred and twenty-four weeks as I type this, more or less. That's about twenty-one and a half years, give or take.

BDB: How did it come about?

MP: When I was in high school, I used to listen to a radio show called "Hour 25" every Friday night on KPFK. The program featured interviews with science-fiction and fantasy writers, and every once in a while, the host, Mike Hodel, would read SF stories. I always thought that would be neat, reading stories out loud on the radio, so when I got to UCI in 1983 and discovered the student-run station, I signed on. I've been here ever since.

BDB: What do you listen to on radio, regularly?

MP: I had to stop listening to "Hour 25," actually, pretty much as soon as I got my show on KUCI--since "Hour 25" used to be on Fridays from 10:00 till midnight and my show's been Saturday mornings at 6:00 since 1984, I started going to bed before they even began: I'm not one of those people who can function with just four hours of sleep. Nowadays, I listen to KCRW for the morning news, KJZZ for the jazz music, and KUSC for the classical.

BDB: What do you do during the day?

MP: I like to say that I've got four part-time jobs, but that's not entirely accurate.: I mean, I consider the radio show to be one of them, but I've never made a cent from it, so I don't know if it qualifies as a job, in the technical sense...

Anyway, I spend a number of hours a day behind the circulation desk at the Balboa Branch Library out on the peninsula in Newport Beach and another large amount of time working on my stories and comics--I've had one novel published and a bunch of short stories, and my two comics appear on the web, one five times a fortnight at http://pandora.xepher.net/terebinth and the other at http://www.kuci.org/~mpayne/daily every weekday. My fourth part-time job is singing and playing guitar on the weekends at a couple local Catholic churches.

BDB: And at night?

MP: Night? I'm usually unconscious before the sun goes down. Well, except any night that Inuyasha is on the Cartoon Network...

BDB: Talk about your writing...

MP: I've always written little talking animal stories, and in high school,
I started sending them to the various science fiction magazines. My first published story appeared in the 1991 volume of the Writers of the Future Contest anthology, and since then I've had stories in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy magazine, and Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, among other places. My novel, The Blood Jaguar, came out in 1998, and I've been working on mostly longer stuff since then, though no one's been interested in publishing any of them so far.

The comics started when I sold a script to a comic book anthology and then had to withdraw it when I couldn't find anyone to do the pictures for me. So I started my Terebinth comic to see if I could actually figure out how to draw and found myself getting caught up with the characters and the story I was putting together. It appeared in print in a 'zine called YARF!, then when they went out-of-business, I started putting it up on the web. It's at 345 pages and growing even though my artwork could maybe best be described as "hieroglyphic."

The 2nd comic is my entry in the Daily Grind Webcomics Competition that began this past February: check http://crowncommission.com/dailygrind for info on it. Everybody kicked in $20 and agreed to update their comics Monday through Friday. If you miss a day, you're out, and the last person left gets all the money. I'm indulging my taste for pulp fiction with this one, though of course the characters are all talking animals...

BDB: Is there a book that changed your life?

MP: If there is one, it's probably "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien. My whole obsession with using talking animals to tell serious stories more than likely starts there.

BDB: Song?

MP: You'd think that, being in radio, I might have an answer for that
question. But nothing's coming to mind. Maybe Mahler's First Symphony, but since that's one of the few by him that doesn't have singing in it, I don't know if that counts as a song...

BDB: How has radio changed for the good since you've been on the air?

MP: Y'known, I don't know much about "radio" in any larger sense. I mean, KUCI seems much the same--a buncha folks coming in and doing odd things on the radio. And I haven't listened to commerciical radio since Lohman and Barkley went off the air on KFI, and that's a time measured now in decades...

BDB: And not so good?

MP: Again, it all seems pretty much the same to me. I'd already given up listening to commercial radio before I came to UCI, so I don't know what's going on these days on those stations up the dial from KUCI.

BDB: Do you have an iPod?

MP: Nope. I don't have a CD player at home, either. I mean, I get to play with this huge library of music and sound for three hours every week: -- what do I need an iPod for?

BDB: How do you hope listeners are affected by your show?

MP: I hope they find it all pretty silly, when all is said and done. I've always thought of my show as KUCI's equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons, and I've done my best over the years to keep it filled with idiots, explosions, and falling anvils, as the saying goes.

BDB: Anything else I should have asked?

MP: I've never done interviews on my show 'cause I can never think of
questions for people. So I'm surprised you came up with as many as you did!

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of “Writers on Writing,” which airs Thursdays at 5 p.m. and author of Pen on Fire (Harcourt, 2004). www.writersonwriting.com
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