Sunday, December 02, 2007

Indian Science Fiction

Received this link in the email from Palanca winner and National Book Award nominee Luis Katigbak: Udankhatola Redux. It's an article on Indian science fiction, its history, and its growing popularity in that country. Here're some interesting quotes from said article:

"DNA-ALTERING experiments, moody robots, strange mutations from failed cloning projects, wonder machines and nano-gadgetry, and, of course, aliens playing peek-a-boo with humans — science fiction writing in Indian languages has this all and more. And its popularity is growing steadily, especially in the eastern and southern regions of the country. Most science fiction (SF) writing in regional languages is in the form of serialised stories in magazines, but novels and short stories are also gaining popularity. Says Dinesh Goswamy, the well-known Assamese SF writer, 'SF is very popular in our state. During Durga Pooja, magazines bring out special SF issues.'"

"Another indicator of SF’s popularity in the south is the Mysore based IASFS which organises annual conferences to popularise the kannadasahitya. com have also helped. 'South Indians have a very academic and developed sort of orientation,' concedes Kar. What is it about regional language SF that makes it distinct from its mainstream Western counterpart? The Assamese writer Shakeel Jamal has penned two novels Neela Neela Vedana, a romance in which genetic engineering plays a major role, and Silikonor Buddha, which is about artificial intelligence. He feels that the local flavour in his novels is very important, much more so than the SF jargon. “The Indian reader is biased against hardcore SF,” he says. 'The Western reader wants to learn. We don’t.'"

"'Western SF deals more with fantasy. It is difficult to compare the two,' says the Kannada SF writer Santosh Kumar Mahendale. Srinarahari points out that unlike Western alien invasion stories, Indian writers never let extra-terrestrials take over planet earth. He feels that contemporary American and British SF is actually modelled to editors’ specifications, whereas Indian authors have all the freedom they want. 'Each [regional] language is an ion and not an atom,' he says, and goes on to explain that, 'there is no unification in the Indian thought.'"

Indian SF also often comes with a moral message. 'It should have a social purpose,' says Srinarahari. 'If a writer is speaking of an imaginary world or change in his environ, how can he cope with it? Reading about it will educate a person.' Deshpande agrees. 'There has to be a mission,' he says."

An interesting read. How does the Indian situation compare with the Philippines'? Ideas, anyone?

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