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Collection brings together sub-continent's accomplished voices in sci-fi


Press Trust of India New Delhi
A new anthology stitches together previously unpublished science fiction and speculative writing by well-known and debutant writers of sub-continental origin.
Edited by Tarun K Saint, The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction has stories and poems that offer imaginative perspectives on a hyper-global, often alienating and even paranoid world, but one in which humanity and love may yet triumph.
Published by Hachette India, this collection is billed as a must-have for hardcore science fiction (SF) fans as well as those who wish to be introduced to the genre. It has a foreword by Manjula Padmanabhan.
Among the tales are citizens of Karachi waking up one morning to find the sea missing from their shores; a family visiting a Partition-themed park gets more entertainment than they bargained for; and Mahatma Gandhi appearing in contemporary times under rather unusual circumstances.
The contributors, who include the likes of Keki N Daruwalla, Padmanabhan, Syed Saeed Naqvi and Saint, are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
According to Saint, the future of subcontinental SF, as evidenced by this volume, seems promising indeed, even in the face of grim portents in the sociocultural domain in the subcontinent and seemingly inexorable transformations of the ecological basis for life that are threatening the very existence of the most vulnerable, not just in South Asia.
Taken together, these stories and poems may indicate the direction of alternative South Asian futures to come, as well as the emergence of a subcontinental SF sensibility attuned to sociocultural nuances and issues that are local as well as global, he says.
The genesis of this collection, according to Saint, was not so much the imperative to anthologise the work of earlier writers, or to further explore the antinomies of post-colonial discourse.
Rather, a sense of disturbance with the situation in contemporary South Asia lead to the composition of a concept note which was sent out to both established and younger subcontinental writers in English.
If not quite a competition to write a ghost story, the idea was to impel contemporary writers to engage with the present and the future, using an SF lens, in this 72nd year of Independence and Partition, he says.
The focus of this anthology is writings from the partitioned three - India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The collection also includes selected sample stories in translation from some major regional languages, written during the 20th century. There is Arunava Sinha's translation from Bengali of Adrish Bardhan's Planet of Terror, written in the style reminiscent of Golden Era SF, and Harishankar Parsai's Inspector Matadeen on the Moon, a satirical oddity with SF elements, in a revised translation from Hindi by C M Naim.

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First Published: May 29 2019 | 1:50 PM IST

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