19 June 2019

Indian science fiction that is not rehashed mythology (part 2 of 5)

Science Fiction | The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction | Tarun K Saint (editor)

Continuing the ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (I really liked it) review... This is part 2 of a post broken up so that I can tag all the authors in a story-by-story review. You can read part 1 here.

The Twenty-second Century by Rahul Sankrityayan (translation)

Once again, a story/extract included for its historical significance. These are a few extracts from a young man’s imaginative look at the next century, from 1924. Certainly, these are selected because they are so nearly true today, and the editor would have discarded the pieces that imagined things that are not going to come about, but the forecast by Rahul Sankrityayan is startling in how closely truth has followed fiction in these seven early extracts, not just technological, but social. A positive look at the world, full of hope.

Shit Flower by Anil Menon

This story will ring familiar to the Indian and to the European. I wonder if the title (it refers to a lotus, which grows in filth) is unintentionally or deliberately satirical, but the story is a gem. It has everything you could want in terms of cybertech, a near future world that looks familiar (but leaves me feeling skewed at least 35 degrees from horizontal), personal growth, bizarre extrapolation of social trends, and a human dilemma. One of the best in the book.

The Man who Turned into Gandhi by Shovon Chowdhury

Okay, this isn’t science fiction. It’s biting satire. But it is laugh out loud funny. I did. Laugh out loud (and got strange looks, but who cares). A gem to treasure. And, I suspect, it will still be funny years from now. However, whether readers from outside the Subcontinent will find it equally hilarious, I don’t know. My personal favourite in this book, I think. And, like I said, it’s not even science fiction.

Seventy Years after Seventy Years after Partition by Kaiser Haq

A poem. Not my scene. YMMV.

Moksha by Sumita Sharma

A poem. Very sci fi. A bit creepy, too. Worth the read.

A Visit to Partition World by Tarun K Saint

Augmented reality meets psychology. At the end, I’m left wondering if the trauma of Partition can be solaced by museums, or whether they will exacerbate the wounds and lead to further hate and violence. Is it catharsis, or will it refresh the experiences? This story is timely, as the last of the people who actually lived through that ghastly time and have first hand memories are dying out. We have people with second-hand hate who believe they know what Partition was all about. Those who actually lived then want no repeats. It’s the third generation ones that love to pound their chests and howl. And it was only several months ago that an actual Partition museum was set up (I think, in Chandigarh), with crowd-sourced funding.

Dreaming of the Cool Green River by Priya Sarukkai Chabria

A story of the (hopefully) far future, when any Art that is found Objectionable by any Mob is summarily removed and placed in a vault, never to be seen again. Or is it? I liked the concept of this story, but not the actual treatment.

And at this point, I press Pause again, and start a fresh post for the rest of the stories in this collection.

...End of Part 2...

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