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.