Today in Indian SF

This was a session of a different genre, with Gautham Shenoy, a Science Fiction (SF) columnist thanking Bangalore Literature Festival for giving a platform to have this conversation.

The panel comprised of Indrapramit Das (Indra), whose short fiction has appeared in publications including tor.com, Clarkesworld and Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sadhna Shanker, who has penned ‘Ascendance’, a science fiction novel and Sukanya Venkataraghavan, the author of ‘Dark Things’ and editor of ‘Magical Women’. These eminent authors were in conversation with Gautham Shenoy, an SF columnist (#IndianSF#scifi, #comics, #GGMU).

He introduced the panelists and went on to mention that 2019 has been an inflection point, an exceptional year for Indian science fiction. The panelists were optimistically looking forward to all the books coming up, especially the one by Samit Basu in April 2020. They evoke curiosity in the reader.

 

What is changing?

Sukanya gave the example of her journey from authoring Dark Things to Magical Women. When she wrote Dark Things, the question uppermost in her mind was, “Am I the only one writing fantasy?” Later, when she penned Magical Women, she had a community of writers supporting her and thus easing up the path.

 

Indra, having written 4 anthologies and a short future fiction series, spoke about the access to SF magazines and ease of submitting stories to them. He added on, however, that Indian SF has a long way to go before being considerably recognized by the Western world. The challenge is that, unlike other countries like China, there is not enough state support, nor is there is a press/medium dedicated to science fiction. He also felt that Indian publishers do not know how to tap into our audience.

 

Sadhna expressed more optimism on this aspect. “I’m here to stay”, she said. Science fiction just happened for her, and she felt fortunate to be in Bangalore, which is the hub and has a vibrant community. This is in stark contrast to Delhi, where the genre is not taken seriously, especially if it is a lady writing it.

 

Adding on to the optimism, Sukanya’s view was that science fiction is a genre that can generate a lot of interest, hence, properly tapped, it has a lot of potential to be very popular. Gautham responded to these perspectives with a satirical topic for an urban fantasy “Bangalore with pothole-free roads” and had the audience in splits.

 

Has the audience changed?

All the panelists agreed that the audience is gradually increasing, however, there needs to be more visibility to increase readership. Some points they gave are:

  • Publications, newspapers and magazines need to have exclusive columns
  • Writers should not just tweet only when their book comes out, but promote every book as a community
  • Reviewers need to do their bit as well; every review is a step in socializing a book
  • Readers can also write reviews on Amazon, as well as spread the word on social media

 

The audience was eager to know more about the last point, and sources of information about science fiction books. The panelists responded by mentioning #sff, #sciencefantasyfiction and #indiansf.

 

“Is India ready to bring out a Star Trek?” Gautham was ready with his response – it happened long ago; we have had series such as Antariksh, Space city Sigma. Also coming up is Cargo – a movie about the afterlife on a spaceship orbiting the earth, billed as India’s first ‘spaceship sci-fi movie’. The session ended with anticipation of 2020 and the promise of exciting times ahead!

 

 

 

About the Author: Usha Ramaswamy craves to get more creative in addition to being an avid reader, traveller, vlogger, marketer of events, mobile photographer. One day, she wants to write a book but for now, she pens her reflections at her blog and puts up photos on Instagram. She also works as a software process consultant and is a mother of two. She currently writes for TheSeer.

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Children | Literature | Fun (C | L | F) – Day 2

The youngest reporter and blogger on the team, Devaarsh Mehta attended a few of the CLF sessions for children in his age category (12+) at the Bangalore Literature Festival, Day 2. Find his take on these sessions that are specially designed for children to have fun and also take home a lesson or two.

 

The Grass is Red on The Other Side

Gautam Benegal is a great illustrator. He showed us many of his illustrations in different books and how he uses a different style in each book. He then told us that solitude is essential for ideating. Too many sights and sounds can make the imagination blind and deaf. Yet, if we focus we can even do art in hectic places. Use your fingers as a frame and capture a view, including the time and space in your mind’s eye (you can eve click a picture on your mobile) and then paint/draw it.

 

 

Talking Objects – The Museum as a Storyteller

In the museum, we saw many things like old royal fans, teapots, sugar holders, telephones, butter churners, graters, statues, pictures of weddings, masks, puppets, textiles and many pictures of the Ramayana in different mediums.

It was a lot of fun as we played many games such as guessing games, thinking games etc. I was a little sad in the end, as it had exceeded the time limit and had to be stopped.

 

 

Wonders & Visions – Why Science Fiction?
Vinayak Varma and Gautham Shenoy

This session was the one I enjoyed the most in my entire time at BLF. It was a talk on science fiction. The authors said that reading Sci-fi relaxes them as they can escape from the real world and jump into a world where anything is possible.

 

All good Sci-fi stories have different branches of science at their core. For example, zombies come from zombie ants, ants that are infected with a virus, which causes them to climb up a tree and commit suicide, because of which more viruses are released and this infects other ants.

 

Sci-fi stories also have this what-if-question. Like what if robots took over the earth or what if there is an alternate dimension, etc. Sci-fi stories breathe life into science and they are very different from fantasy stories as they are more in the realm of possibilities. About 30 years ago, having a cell phone would have been something out of a Sci-fi book. Come to think of it, tomorrow itself is Sci-fi because everything IS Sci-fi till it actually happens.

 

 

 

About the Author: Devaarsh Mehta is a certified bookworm, guitarist (almost), riddle maker, puzzle solver, and earth warrior with a huge collection of books in his personal library. He currently writes for TheSeer.