Event: Factor Daily’s Sci-Fi Meetup in Bangalore

Each time you finish a new novel, you think you’re more experienced and will be able to write the next one faster and in a more efficient manner. Doesn’t happen. My novels are messy, individualistic creatures to whine and throw their own unique tantrums. And I love them (and at the same bipolar time, throttle them) for it.

All of last two months I have been hiding under a rock, rewriting and editing the third instalment of Anantya Tantrist mysteries to make it for my deadline. The good news is it’s coming out later in 2018. The better news is, I will be talking about it and my love of speculative fiction as a whole with Factor Daily, this fantastic online geek-out that you should check out if you haven’t already.

Do come over, say hello, ask us questions and give your thoughts on what you’d like to read in life. You’ll have to register for this event. Details below.


** We have limited seats, so do register. The event is free! Fill up this form to register –> https://goo.gl/forms/4b59fZSNxFv7j6b42

The much-awaited New Worlds Weekly on FactorDaily – #NWWonFD – Sci-Fi meet up is here again!
Whether you’re a sci-fi fan, an avid reader or interested in SF, then mark your calendars for an evening of catch-ups and conversations about all things SF/F with fellow fans and Shweta Taneja – SF fan, geek, journalist and bestselling author of the Anantya Tantrist mysteries.

Shweta Taneja will be in conversation with New Worlds Weekly columnist Gautham Shenoy, followed by a Q&A. You can read all the best of the NWW posts here –> https://factordaily.com/top-science-fiction-from-2017/

There’s also a cool – and short & interesting – NWW-based SF/F Quiz with some awesome prizes to be won. Not to mention all the goodies and giveaways that await you. Be there!

Saturday, January 13 l 5:30 pm onwards l The Bookworm, Church Street, Bangalore


 

Should you write a romance bestseller?

Have you been tempted to write a romance bestseller lately? The other day, I was chatting to an author about how speculative fiction is such a hard-sell in India. (It’s the usual conversation between science fiction writers. There’s a handful of passionate us, and a handful of equally passionate readers. The others, don’t really care if it’s not mythology.) Immediately, I get a WMA (well-meaning advice):

“Write romance. It sells like hot cakes in winters.”

Umm. Frankly, all Indian writers, be it of any genre or creed, have thought about romance once in a while. After all, it’s the most selling genre in our country. I did seriously consider it for a second. I did!

And then I remembered, that the last romance I read and appreciated was between the Oankali, alien genetic engineers who  touches DNA in humans to have sex and a woman named Lilith. Author Octavia Butler‘s Lilith Brood gave me as many goosebumps as decades ago Sharukh Khan’s ‘palat’ in the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge had done. And  I don’t read much romance myself, unless it has alien spit or monster claws involved. So I turned my eyes away from the temptation of writing that romance bestseller we all think we can write and decided to plod along on the current science fiction mess I’m in the middle of.

Should you write a romance bestseller?

Which is why when I came across this witty sketch by author Sarah Maclean over Twitter, I had to share it on my site. Sarah is a period romance writer based in New York. The flowchart tells you how to decide on whether you should write a romance novel or not. As I read it, I was ‘out’ in the first step itself. If you’re considering writing romance like me, due to a WMA given by another or by yourself, do read and go through this flowchart. You’ll figure out the truth, I promise!


Have you ever considered changing your genre and writing something else that is selling well nowadays, like mythology or romance? Do tell me the truth!

How a hair oil brand inspired an Indian science fiction tale in 1896

While reading about early examples of Indian science fiction, I came across a wonderful scholarly tale of how Jagadish Chandra Bose, a physicist and science fiction writer in India in late 19th century, wrote a bilingual science-fiction inspired by a hair oil brand. The article, written by scholars Anil Menon and Vandana Singh, who also write speculative fiction (here and here), has names of  various other writers who wrote science fiction in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Using it on my website with due permission from Anil and with a lot of glee.

 


We have chosen two stories—one by Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937), the other by Naiyer Masud (1936—)—not as representatives of Indian speculative fiction but as interesting instances of the genre. Bose’s story is indicative of a special period in the subcontinent’s history and we finally had an excellent translation to work with. We chose Masud’s story because it is a wonderful story.

Of course when the range includes seventeen-odd languages over some hundred and fifty years of scribbling (two thousand plus, if mythic fiction is included), these two choices are more or less equivalent to two hands raised in surrender. We were tempted by the first south-Asian short story in English, Kylas Chunder Dutt’s “A Journal of 48 Hours In The Year 1945” (1835), Shoshee Chunder Dutt’s “Republic of Orissa: Annals From The Pages Of The Twentieth Century” (1845), V. K. Nayanar’s “Dwaraka” (1892), Sarath Kumar Ghosh’s Prince of Destiny (1909), Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s much-reprinted “Sultana’s Dream” (1905), Rajshekar Bose’s Ulat Puran (1925), the satirical Hindi SF of Harishankar Parsai, the Tamil pulp SF of ‘Sujatha’ Rangarajan, Premendra Mitra’s whimsical Bangla tales, and the eerily postmodern folktales recorded in A. K. Ramanujan’s anthologies. We could just as easily have picked Manoj Das’s “Sharma and the Wonderful Lump” (1973), Bibas Sen’s “Zero-Sum Game” (1994), Manek Mistry’s “Stories of the Alien Invasion” (2007), or one of Kuzhali Manickavel’s short stories. We had to sidestep one of the most talked-about works this year, Shovon Chowdhury’s alternate history The Competent Authority (2013). Ultimately, we chose Bose and Masud.

Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose—the “Acharya” means teacher—pioneered research in electromagnetic waves and biophysics, and invented and built instruments of astonishing precision and delicacy to measure plant development. He probably would have been a brilliant polymath in any age, but the colonial time in which he lived and his courageous response to its constraints made him once-in-a-generation scientist. In 1896, Bose wrote a bilingual science-fiction story, “Nirrudeshar Kahini” (The Story of the Missing). The main narrative is in Bangla, but the embedded scientific material is in English. The story is about a man who calms a storm at sea by pouring a bottle of hair oil on the troubled waters.

Hair oil? Continue reading “How a hair oil brand inspired an Indian science fiction tale in 1896”

Looking at speculative fiction beyond mythology

Is speculative fiction beyond mythology possible in the literature coming out from our country? Till now, most of the speculative fiction that has come out of the country (even mine) has been heavily inspired or uses characters from our rich Hindu mythology. I take the topic head on in this talk at the LitFestX. This video is from 2015, so a little dated and since I’ve spoken there, there has been a lot of amazing books that have come out in the genre, but I’m adding it now because frankly, at that time, I lost track of things and never added this in my blog. See if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on the topic. Have thoughts, disagree? Add to the comments below.

Why speculative fiction may be the best way to depict reality

In 2001, while receiving the Carnegie Medal for his children’s bookThe Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, author Terry Pratchett said, ‘We categorize too much on the basis of unreliable assumption. A literary novel written by Brian Aldiss must be science fiction, because he is a known science fiction writer; a science fiction novel by Margaret Attwood is literature because she is a literary novelist. Recent Discworld books have spun on such concerns as the nature of belief, politics and even of journalistic freedom, but put in one lousy dragon and they call you a fantasy writer.’ Pratchett was England’s most popular author in the 1990s (before yet another fantasy author, JK Rowling took over), having sold over 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages. The Amazing Maurice is a tale of a cat and a group of rats fighting monsters and two-legged humans in a quest for their survival and deifes any categories really, be it a metaphor, a children’s book or even a fantasy fiction.

For most of us, it’s the dragons who breathe fire, immortal vampires with icy smooches and marble-skin and werewolves and robots and faeries and artificial intelligence who want to take over the world—these are the things that take us back again and again to the speculative genre. We live in these make-believe worlds, we see them through the dragon’s eyes, through the wizard’s adventure, through the superhero’s flight in the sky. For those few hours a day, swashbucklers we, slay with our Valyrian swords, dashing away from the Nazgul, and facing worst dementors by becoming Jedi masters. For fantasy, be it in gaming or books or movies, is perceived by the majority as escapism and a desire to live in alternate realities.

Continue reading “Why speculative fiction may be the best way to depict reality”

Guest fiction: The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov

Thought should start the new year with something smashing. Here’s a short story by my ever favourite author Isaac Asimov to inspire you (and me) to write some good science fiction this year.

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The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov — © 1980

Murray Templeton was forty-five years old, in the prime of life, and with all parts of his body in perfect working order except for certain key portions of his coronary arteries, but that was enough.

The pain had come suddenly, had mounted to an unbearable peak, and had then ebbed steadily.  He could feel his breath slowing and a kind of gathering peace washing over him.

There is no pleasure like the absence of pain – immediately after pain.  Murray felt an almost giddy lightness as though he were lifting in the air and hovering.

He opened his eyes and noted with distant amusement that the others in the room were still agitated.  He had been in the laboratory when the pain had struck, quite without warning, and when he had staggered, he had heard surprised outcries from the others before everything vanished into overwhelming agony.

Now, with the pain gone, the others were still hovering, still anxious, still gathered about his fallen body –– Which, he suddenly realised, he was looking down on.

He was down there, sprawled, face contorted.  He was up here, at peace and watching.

He thought: Miracle of miracles!  The life-after-life nuts were right.

And although that was a humiliating way for an atheistic physicist to die, he felt only the mildest surprise, and no alteration of the peace in which he was immersed.

He thought: There should be some angel – or something – coming for me.

The Earthly scene was fading.  Darkness was invading his consciousness and off in a distance, as a last glimmer of sight, there was a figure of light, vaguely human in form, and radiating warmth.

Murray thought: What a joke on me.  I’m going to Heaven.

Even as he thought that, the light faded, but the warmth remained.  There was no lessening of the peace even though in all the Universe only he remained – and the Voice.

The Voice said, “I have done this so often and yet I still have the capacity to be pleased at success.”

It was in Murray’s mind to say something, but he was not conscious of possessing a mouth, tongue, or vocal chords.  Nevertheless, tried to make a sound.  He tried, mouthlessly, to hum words or breathe them or just push them out by a contraction of – something.

And they came out.  He heard his own voice, quite recognisable, and his own words, infinitely clear.

Murray said, “Is this Heaven?”

The Voice said, “This is no place as you understand place.”

Murray was embarrassed, but the next question had to be asked.  “Pardon me if I sound like a jackass.  Are you God?”

Without changing intonation or in any way marring the perfection of the sound, the Voice managed to sound amused.  “It is strange that I am always asked that in, of course, an infinite number of ways.  There is no answer I can give that you would comprehend.  I am – which is all that I can say significantly and you may cover that with any word or concept you please.”

Murray said, “And what am I?  A soul?  Or am I only personified existence too?”  He tried not to sound sarcastic, but it seemed to him that he had failed.  He thought then, fleetingly, of adding a ‘Your Grace’ or ‘Holy One’ or something to counteract the sarcasm, and could not bring himself to do so even though for the first time in his existence he speculated on the possibility of being punished for his insolence – or sin? – with Hell, and what that might be like. Continue reading “Guest fiction: The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov”