The first stories that people told each other back in the dawn of time, were fantastical ones. In India it was no different; even today, Indian kids grow up on the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as (if they are as lucky as I was) village lore and folk tales. These stories are amazing tributes to the imaginative powers of their authors and tellers (since all good tellers embellish the tales). Science fiction is a more modern offspring of that old crone, fantasy --- their constraints are different, but the dependence on the imagination, the happy coexistence of both metaphor and literalism, are some of their common points. Both spin tales that are, at least at the time of writing, simply not possible, although in SF you can convince yourself (if it is good SF) that the story is at least plausible, in a future age.
Having grown up with this fantastic stew of legend and myth, into an age where there are enormous technological and social changes takng place, is it any wonder that Indians have taken to SF&F? Not just as passive readers, but as writers and critics. Did you know, for example, that the great film director Satyajit Ray wrote SF stories in Bengali for kids? And that there is a rather long tradition of SF in various Indian languages such as Marathi and Bengali? I am currently looking for anthologies with translations into Hindi and English (since I don't know either Marathi or Bengali) so I can get a sense of what this tradition is like. Currently this page focuses mainly on Indian writers in English.
What would be really interesting to do would be to figure out the concerns and driving forces of Indian SF&F, and the way it differs from or is similar to Anglo-American SF& F. I hope to gradually learn more. In the meantime, enjoy the links below!
Possible Futures of Indian Speculative Fiction in English contains essays and interviews with various people concerned with speculative fiction in India. This is part of a research project that the writer Samit Basu (see more on him below) is doing for the Delhi-based Sarai zine. A rich store of material to mine.
An Essay on Bengali Science Fiction by Debjani Sengupta. This is an academic essay in pdf format that first appeared in the online journal Sarai. Sengupta is on the faculty of Indraprastha College at Delhi University. According to her, Bengali SF began in the late 1800's. A fascinating account.
Anil Menon: This page contains a Q&A with the very articulate science fiction writer Anil Menon, a rising star. Anil writes in English. The page also has a bibliography of his works, published and forthcoming.
Manjula Padmanabhan: Also writing in English, Manjula Padmanabhan's stories are well known in India and the U.K. Her collection "Kleptomania" contains three science fiction stories, and she's also the author of an SF play, "Harvest." You can also see some of her amazing artwork here.
Jayant Narlikar: This is a link to Witness Books, publisher of Indian cosmologist Narlikar's Science Fiction story collection "Tales of the Future." I remember reading Dr. Narlikar's stories in The Illustrated Weekly of India when I was a kid growing up in Delhi. On the Witness books site is also a link to an interview with Narlikar. I first came across the reference to this book and publisher on Cheryl Morgan's invaluable Emerald City site, here.
Samit Basu: This page contains part of an ongoing Q&A with talented new author Samit Basu, whose first novel, a wild romp of a fantasy called The Simoqin Prophecies, came out in 2004. It got some good reviews as you cn see from the links on his blog! More to follow!