#130 = Volume 43, Part 3 = November 2016
SPECIAL ISSUE ON INDIAN SF
Edited by Joan Gordon
On the Mythologerm: Kalpavigyan and the Question of Imperial Science
Abstract. Using literature from India in three different languages—Bangla, Marathi, and English—this essay engages in thematic analysis to present a theory of Indian kalpavigyan (sf). This theory is based on the concept of the mythologerm. Adapting Barthes’s description of myth as a type of speech, I link the mythic to the historical understanding of science on the Indian subcontinent stemming from colonial-era reabsorption and transformation of indigenous scientific traditions within the broader systematization of scientific knowledge. The essay explores how some authors writing in these three languages have negotiated the categories of the knowable, the known, and the unknowable in their fictionalization of the aims, possibilities, and products of scientific activity.
Estrangement, History, and Aesthetic Relish: A Reading of Premendra Mitra’s Manu Dwadosh
Abstract. Only in recent decades has the international sf readership become aware of the rich diversity of that genre from the postcolonial world, especially from the many vernacular languages of South Asia. This essay is a reading of a distinctive, if little-known, work of postcolonial Bangla (Bengali) sf, Premendra Mitra’s Manu Dwadosh [The Twelfth Manu, 1964]. A rare instance of the post-apocalyptic dystopia subgenre within Bangla sf, the short novel draws on Puranic cosmology and generates resonances within the sf megatext, employing a cluster of novums that engage with contemporary social concerns and philosophical questions, including nuclear holocaust, communal violence, and the continuation of humankind as a species. It also interrogates notions of historicity and heroism in a parallel movement, by ironically sundering the actor from the action. I read the narrative construction of history following Michael Oakeshott and Hayden White, and the connection between the estranged world and the failed, conventional hero figure following the Rasa (emotive-aesthetic) poetics outlined in Bharata’s Nā yaśāstra (c 200 BCE-200CE). In my reading, this undermining of the functional roles of the historian and the conventional hero figure allows the narrative to emphasize the importance of history and heroism in this estranged world, and by extension, in our contemporary world as well.
Sami A. Khan
The Others in India’s Other Futures
Abstract. This article examines four sf novels in English by Indian writers who portray future Indias of nuclear detonations, fascist governments, zombie apocalypses, and futuristic wars. It frames these extrapolations as responses to specific historical events and draws linkages between the contemporary material realities of a developing India and the themes of these dystopian narratives. I focus on the socio-political aspects of these speculations, identifying the epistemological underpinnings of otherness in them and analyzing how the socio-economic apparatuses erected around the societies of tomorrow are direct manifestations of how these writers reinterpret, rework, and address problems in the India of today.
Crossing the Border: The Depiction of India in Ian McDonald’s River of Gods and Cyberabad Days
Abstract. In this article I argue that Northern Irish author Ian McDonald’s works, River of Gods (2004) and Cyberabad Days (2008), set in India deviate from the prevalent Orientalism of mainstream Western science fiction. Drawing on Shameem Black and Peter Heehs’s theories of cross-cultural representation, I claim that despite its flaws the empathetic approach McDonald employs is very appropriate for border-crossing literature in this era of globalization. In this context, I posit that while a deep understanding of the culture is necessary for effective representation, overdependence on “native informants” may actually lead to fallacious expectations.
Eric D. Smith
Universal Love and Planetary Ontology in Vandana Singh’s Of Love and Other Monsters
Abstract. This essay considers Vandana Singh’s sf novella Of Love and Other Monsters (2007) alongside Alain Badiou’s critique of “democratic materialism” and his reinvention of love as a socio-ontological force that, opposing hybridity and a permissive postmodern suspension of truth, demands a transgressive decisiveness. Rather than celebrating or lamenting the endless displacement of agency, Singh’s postcolonial sf enacts the return of what Amar Acheriou names a “resistive binarism” under the universalizing sign of love. Singh’s postcolonial intervention in the genre of sf therefore invites us to consider some of the ways in which this new form’s emergence may demonstrate the limits of certain postcolonial theorizations in the postmillennial present.
Back to Home