A Report of the 16th Indian Science Fiction Conference

The sixteenth Indian Science Fiction Conference was organized by Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies and KMG college of Arts and Science, Gudiayattam, Vellore District, Tamil Nadu state, India at KMG College on March 25 & 26, 2017.

It was attended by one hundred participants comprising of students of KMG College, student delegates from Tamil Nadu, delegates from different parts of India, Resource Persons from Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and from California, the USA.

As per the Indian tradition, the invocation by undergraduate English major students of KMG College attracted the crowd.  Dr.Peruvalluthi who is the Professor of English, Dean (CDC), Registrar in Charge, Thiruvalluvar University, Vellore inaugurated the conference by lighting the lamp spoke about the state of Science Fiction globally and cited from history how the writers like Tamil language Sujatha have contributed to the genre by producing a number of SF stories. The professor presented a paper on Arthur C Clarke’s work under the title “Childhood’s End: Mythology Revisited”. Initially, he highlighted the works of the author and then focused on analyzing the characters in the novel. Also, he said “In this novel of epic dimension, Clarke has attempted to address the predicament of humanity as a whole ranging from the past to the present and into the future.” The paper reader has observed that the entire novel is divided into three parts namely, the transition of the past, the golden age period of culmination in the present and the future is shown as the both spiritual and cultural era.

Further, the professor has explained the mythical aspect of the novel under the headings “the quest, water symbolism, color, shadow archetype, trickster, wise old man, the whale, archiypal woman, initiation, and others”. The interesting part of the study is that the paper reader has taken up the psychoanalytical method adopted by Carl Jung in substantiating his argument. The paper concludes by quoting the text, “the primordial experience is the source of his creativeness; it cannot be fathomed, and requires mythological imagery it give a form.” By which Childhood’s End has expanded the vision of humanity.

In his annual report the General Secretary of IASFS Dr.Srinarahari explained the numerous Indian Science Fiction activities which are taking place in the country like the establishment of online Marathi language Science Fiction fans club Sci-fi Khatta in Maharashtra state. He explained how three dozen active members are writing and posting the SF stories, the group interacting on the others’ stories commenting upon the structure, theme, characterization, point of view, relevance of the Gedenken experiment and highlighting the elements of science and others. The forum is active every day in discussion, modification, editing the stories. But it is limited to the interaction in the vernacular language Marathi. Identically, he added the activities of the Bengali language Science Fiction fans who are also contributing stories online website: www.kalpabishwa.com. He informed the gathering that he was negotiating both the language groups to make a common platform with English as a language of communication so that their thought process could be shared globally. The major hitches are that it lacks funding, resource persons and dedicated team.

The report highlights the efforts of Sami Ahmed Khan who has edited an online magazine Muse India which came out with a special feature on “Indian Science Fiction” on May 17, 2015. The special issue contained the works of Vandana Singh, Anil Menon, Arvind Mishra and Srinarahari. Meanwhile, Srinarahari is helping the Italian movie maker Matteo Primiterra in his study of Assamese Science Fiction at Guwahati. The report was concluded by complimenting Dr. Zeashan Heider Zaidi who was awarded the Best SF writer by Print Media Working Association on 10.02. 2017.

Science Fiction for Sci-fi Fans (SF in Print and Eye SF) by Dr. Srinarahari and an anthology of seven SF short stories Space Station by Mohan Sanjeevan were released during the event.

In his Presidential speech Dr. Purushothaman reiterated that there were only twelve participants in the first IASFS conference held in Chennai in 1998. The second conference had fourteen participants. Later the number improved gradually in the Pune conference to reach 400 hundred paper presentations in a span of four days.

Further, the President explained how Science Fiction stories are captivating the readers’ interest. It begins with the element of ‘sense of wonder’ and ‘amazement’ and then dealt with the element of answering to the question of what is human. He explained the sequences of incidents in “the Bicentennial Man” by Isaac Asimov. The protagonist Andrew robot had a desire to become ‘human’. It had to undergo an operation changing its form from metallic to organic form. But it realizes that it has to change its brain pattern. Ultimately, it realizes that to become human one has to become ‘mortal’.  

A retired scientist Nellai S Muthu who has served in Indian Satellite Research Center in his keynote address traced the ideas and the concepts of science from the mythical epic Kamba Ramayana to the philosophy and vision of the  ‘missile-scientist’ and the past President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam. He named the science popularization programs in the region and condemned the non-science advertisements in the name of science.  The scientist also quoted science fiction anthologies written by him and the Tamil writer Sujatha’s works in highlighting the status of Tamil language Science Fiction. Furthermore, he dealt with the science ideas in Tamil movies including Endhiran. Dr.Jayashri Rani the Principal of the KMG College of Arts and Science welcomed the gathering and Dr.Gajapathy honored the chief guest Dr. Peruvalluthi.

During the first plenary session Dr.Ashish Mahabala who is a senior Data Scientist with the center for Data-Driven Discovery at Caltech, California, spoke on “American Science Fiction”. His presentation focused on Contemporary American movies, Television Serials, Science Fiction Organizations, Conferences, Writing, Editing and Markets. The Astro-Physicist gave a detail account of the SF & Politics, Climate Change: Fact and Fiction, Fancy Dress, Writing, Panel discussion, ideas to develop stories forum, Redy Player one by Ernest Clinets, Writers of the Future, the Expanse TV serial, the idea of inertia, the chief who took Thatcher and Indira Gandhi as models, a musical parody band upon Star Treck, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, highlighting the presence of Larry Niven, Forest J, as well as described in detail about the huge library, fiction Trivia and others.

Mr. Sunil Sule who was a captain of a ship and now teaching Navigation in Mumbai Colleges is a prolific writer of Science Fiction. During the second plenary session he drew the point the wrong depiction of science in literature, advertisements, popular magazines, TV serials, in children’s program, and in whats app messages. He also pointed out that in these forms of communication how the names of NASA, AIMS, and a few eminent scientists to boost up the sale of certain products. He explained how pseudo-science and wrong depiction of the facts would create a negative impact on the people. He called for the experts to react to this kind of a wrong depiction where they come across.

Mr.Ponnivalavan screened his Tamil science fiction film Mr. Muniswami 1.2.4 during the post lunch session. It depicts the innocent security guard in a hospital named Raju falls in love with the beautiful lady doctor. Luckily he is chosen for an experiment by her and her senior Neuro surgeon. They assure him that by administering a medicine and by operation, he could become smart and the most intelligent man in the community.  Raju agrees for proposal to become an intelligent man as he dreams that the act may yield him the benefit of possessing the lady doctor as his life partner. It is astonishing that he becomes over smart in all aspects as he could read a number of books, sets the Rubik Cube in 20 seconds, suggest diagnostic methods for complicated cases. Ultimately, he expresses his wish to the doctor. But she says discloses that the experiment has failed and the senior doctor is much worried about that. She demonstrates how he has begun to forget things. Reversing the process, he again becomes a security guard and daily he smiles at her whenever she passes the hospital gate. Though the theme is found in Tamil sf story of Sujatha in the sixties, often it reminds of Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw, English movie My Fair Lady, and a Marathi play Thi Phula Rani and Kannada play Hoo Hudugi.

Eight student delegates presented papers on various works of Global Science Fiction including two papers on the movies Transformers and Passengers. A group photo session of all the participants marked the end of the day.

The second day session began with the SF writers reading their stories. Mr. Sharad Puranik   from Maharashtra state where Marathi is the spoken language read a story stressing the impact of science on the loss of human values and relationships. Mr. Sule read a story which is set in a college campus where the concern of each professor was innovative. By the coordination of  Bio-Geo departmental heads, the story brings out that a possibility of a emergence of new species in combination of rats and pigs which could be made use of in substituting JCBs to demolish the buildings. 

The chairperson Dr. Palanivel who has headed the English departments in various Universities of Tamil Nadu narrated a number of incidents how the reading of science fiction influences a reader in solving innumerable human problems. He dealt with Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in detail. Also, he highlighted how he had conceived the Asimovian foundation trilogy in a philosophical way. He explained elaborately about the research which is going on in English departments on various issues of science fiction. Dr. Sangeetha read her paper on Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”. Mohan Sanjeevan read a paper about “Space Sync”. Meanwhile, to break the monotony of series of paper reading activity, Mr. Sule showed his creation of Sci-toons. He has made use of bats, astronauts and turtles in all his slides. After the feedback given by the delegates and participants, Dr.Purushothaman gave his valedictory address. Dr.Srinarahari in his vote of thanks thanked the management team, Administrators like Director, Principal and Vice-Principal, heads of the departments, faculty members, office staff, sub staff, food & accommodation committees of the KMG college of Arts and Science, media persons and above all the involvement of all the delegates in making the 16th Indian Science Fiction Conference of Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies a grand success.

– Dr Srinarahari M H

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