The Duck does Indian SF

Samit Basu does a wonderful series of posts/ essays/ interviews on speculative fiction in India–archive this immediately.

Here’s a sample, from the essay on IWE and the genre of speculative fiction:

“Spec-fic to friends, is essentially an umbrella, a bar where a number of disgruntled genres come to hang out, its leading patrons being fantasy, science fiction, horror and alternative history. It’s claimed by the bartenders that magic realism is also a customer, though one suspects magic realism, a frequent invitee at
literary wine-and-cheese soirees, would deny this if asked….
…The sheer richness of India as a spec-fic source material resource….calls out for imaginative speculative treatment. And typically, this resource has already been mined by Western writers in search of something exotic to offer saturated Western SF markets.
This is not to suggest even for a moment, of course, that Indian writers should see themselves in anyway constrained to write only About India. At the same time,there’s obviously nothing wrong with Indians writing about India and things Indian if that’s the space in which the writing is naturally, organically set, and there are several Indian stories that survive,indeed, thrive on, constant retelling. And there are still a number of brilliant spec-fic novels just waiting to be written that are, in various senses, Indian, and if Indian writers don’t write them, others will.”

He’s also done interviews with Anil Menon, Ashok Banker, Cheryl Morgan, Gotham Chopra
Jai Arjun Singh, Jaya Bhattacharji, Jeff VanderMeer, Manjula Padmanabhan, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Matthew Cheney, Payal Dhar, Rana Dasgupta, Sarnath Banerjee, Thomas Abraham, Vandana Singh and Zoran Zivkovic.

I like Sarnath’s half-serious call for a ban:

Although clearly it can’t be avoided, speculatively there should be a five-year ban on any thing on Hanuman, for the sake of Hanuman. And while you are at it Mahabharata and Jatakas, only for five years. Let us explore some other stories. I feel these tales have done what cricket has done to hockey and what Bollywood has done to other cultural forms that could have come out of India.

And Vandana Singh’s even-handed prescription:

Indian SFF cannot help but be influenced by the great Anglo-American SFF tradition, but if we want to influence it in turn, rather than be second-rate imitators, we must forge our own views, our own imperatives, our own universes. Part of that involves reading and thinking about what the world has to offer — read Asimov, Le Guin, Calvino, Borges, Li Po, the Epic of Gilagamesh — and part of it involves what and who we are — read Premchand, the Ramayana, Ghalib, the Bhakti poets. In other words we must always be aware of and in dialogue with the great works of the non-English Indian traditions (some of which, by the way, have vibrant SF literatures) from Madhavan Kutty to Premendra Mitra and beyond.

And Anil Menon’s parable on the importance of taking what you need wherever you can find it:

It makes sense to use what one knows, but sometimes you gotta be stupid. Take Karl May, the German writer. He wrote stories, in German, about American cowboys. The cowboy movies of Sergio Leone were much influenced by May. Consequently, the baby-boomer’s imago of the American cowboy comes from a German who’d only visited the US once, a few years before his death. There’s a moral there somewhere.





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