As per the Constitution of India there are twenty – two recognized official languages. There are thousands of dialects which are in use. There were several magazines which had published Science Fiction stories and articles in the past. They have shuttered down long back. There were several authors who had experimented weaving stories. But they have not preserved a copy. There is no library which could provide all the published works at one place. Hence, collection of data is a ‘Herculean task’. One cannot master all the languages at a time to write a review. Hence, we are not claiming this report to be a comprehensive one.
The great Indian epic the Ramayana, introduces a flying vehicle named Puspak Vimana. In addition, the glassy floors, wax palaces, hints to present day test tube babies, live telecast, are described in the epic the Mahabharata. The Vedas, Upanishads, Katha Harithsagar and many incantations refer to the science and its thought experiments. Since, no proof is available these mythological gadgets and their descriptions are categorized as ‘proto science fiction’.
Indian Science Fiction made its beginning with the publication of “Aashcharya Vrithant” (A Strange Tale) by Ambika Dutta Vyas, in a Hindi magazine Piyush Pravah in 1884. Niruddesher Kahini/Agosh (Story of the Untraceable) by a scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose was published in Bengali in 1896. The story is about using a drop of hair oil Kuntalini to pacify the Oceanic storms. Around the same date the publication of the Marathi science fiction stories, “Tareche Hasya” (The Laughter of a Cable) of SB Ranade, and “Srinivasa Rao” Madhav Nath came to light.
Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Moon was published in the Malayalam language in Kerala Kokila. In Hindi language “Chandra Lok Ki Yatra” (Journey to the Moon) by Babu Keshav Prasad Singh appeared in mainstream literary magazine of the repute, Saraswathi in 1900. Right from the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century the SF translations have gained popularity in Assamese language. To name a few Adrisya Manav (1956) by Hemabala Das is a translation of The Invisible Man by HG Wells. Another translation of the work “Adrishya Manuhjon” (2001) by Abhijit Sarma Baruah. Sada’s translated version Aielita, Kshiren Roy’s translated work Sagaror Taliyedi Kurihazar from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Dinesh Chandra Goswami’s 2001: A Space Odyssey areall the milestones of progress of Assamese SF.
“Ashcharyajanak Ghanti” (A wonderful bell – based on the principle of resonance) by Sathya Dev Parivarjak was published in 1908. It has been reported that during those years Lala Srinivas Das, Gopal Das Gahmari, and others wrote works of science combined with fairy tale themes. Followed by it the significant works are Devaki Nandan Khatri’s Chandrakanth (1918) and the sequel Chandrakanth Santati. At the same time, a prolific writer of novels Chatursen Shastry has contributed three SF works namely, Khagras (The Eclipsed Moon), Neelmani (The Sapphire), and Adbhut Manav (The Amazing Man). Devakinandan Khatri’s son Durga Prasad Khatri in the footsteps of his father, published Bhooth Nath (1913), Pratishodh (1925) and Lal Panja (1925), followed by Rakt Mandal, Swarg Puri, Safed Shaitaan and other novels.
Impact of Science in the Sixties:
Probably because of the negative impact of the Second World War, the development of Science Fiction in India suffered a hitch. Due to the success of Man landing on the Moon, the discovery of quarks, the advent of TV, computers and the internet, deciphering the human genome and cloning, the movement gained momentum by the progress in the techno-scientific arena in the sixties. With these elements in the background, people in the scientific world began writing science fiction in journals with the aim of popularizing science.
The flow of publication and translation went on uninterruptedly in Hindi. The noted authors were Aacharya Chatursen Shastri, Gurudutt, Yamuna Datt Vaisnava Ashoka Naval Bihari Mishra, Kailash Shah, Maya Prasad Tripathi, Shukdev Prasad and Devendra Mewari.
Writers in their majority of works overcame the ‘Frankenstein Complex’ during the second wave of Indian Science Fiction which began in the seventies. Marathi Vignyan Parishad, Mumbai (MVP) conducted SF story writing competitions. Drs. Bal Phondke and Jayanth Narlikar emerged as the pioneers in the field of Indian Science Fiction in general and Marathi Science Fiction in particular.
In Marathi, Dr. Jayanth Narlikar, Dr. Bal Phondke, Laxman Londhe, Niranjan Ghate Dr. Yeshwant Deshpande, Meghashri Dalavi, and others have contributed for the growth of SF. The man behind success of Marathi SF is A.P.Deshpande.
Connecting With Other Countries:
India was connected with the western world by the pioneer attempt made by the magazine 2001 from New Delhi in 1988. The team had an interview with Isaac Asimov over satellite. The event was carried out by Chandan Mitra (Coordinator) Mukul Sharma (Editor 2001), and Jug Suraiya (Times of India). The notable another event was the publication of It Happened Tomorrow (1993) edited by Bal Phondke. It contained a dozen and a half short stories which were in various vernacular languages in turn were translated in to English. MVP made a pioneer attempt in holding an exclusive session on Indian Science Fiction in a conference in 1996. Indian SF Criticism took off with the publication of Dr.Srinarahari and Upinder Mehan’s articles in Global journals and magazines in 1996 and 1998 respectively.
Tamil, Telugu & Oriya SF:
The first work of Tamil Science fiction is Bharathi Noolgal (1959) by Subramanya Bharathi. The first Tamil SF movie is Nella Thambi (1949). The representative writers in Tamil are Sujatha Rangarajan and Nellai S Muthu. The only pointer in Telugu language is KRK Mohan. Oriya language is represented by Gokulananda Mahapatra.
Hariprasad Baruan has published the first Assamese SF in Awahan in 1937. A story in the anthology entitled “Biracharitiyar Desh” describes the adventures of an inhabitant of the planet Jupiter. In 1938, Nagendra Narayan Choudhury published “Rasayan” in Awahan.
Dinesh Chandra Goswami has published short story “Kankal” (1970), anthologies Bhadrata Mapak Yantra (1985), Odor Absorbing Notebook (1985), SF drama Tritonor Abhijan (1985). Ek Tarangar Dare (1993) and Abhinna Hriday (2003). His SF novels include Ejak Jonakir Jilikani (1992), Sabda, Nirantara Sabda (1992) and Usma Prabha (1993). Goswami has published forty short fictions for the monthly magazine Bikol. His novels Ati Bisista Samaj (1999) and Mananiya Sampraday (2000) were adapted for television serials.
The origin of Malayalam Science Fiction began with the efforts of P T Bhaskara Panikker and N.V.Krishna varier who made pioneer contributions in the magazines published by Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad in the year 1952. G.S.Unnikrishnan Nair and C. Radhakrishnan are the prominent writers. Balabhumi, – a children magazine also brought out SF works.
Bengali SF began a century back with JC Bose’s work and it was well perceived by Rabindranath Tagore the first Nobel laureate of India. Sathyajith Ray a prolific writer and movie director is a synonym for Bengali SF. In 1962 Ray wrote a story Bonkubabu’s Friend which deals with extraterrestrial life. When Arthur C Clarke asked Sathyajith Ray to write a science fiction script for Hollywood production, he took up the story Banku Babu’ Friend and turned it into a script titled The Alien. The Diary of Professor Shanku (1965) gained popularity. Unlike Frankenstein monster, Ray’s creation of artificial intelligence does not pose a threat to the creator.
As Subha Das Mollick who analyses Bengali SF notices, “Both the real scientist Bose and the fictional character Shanku had turned their scientific enquiry to understand the ebb and flow of life’s energy trampled over by mankind.” Further, as Isaac Asimov experiments with the variations in the “Three Laws of Robotics” so does Ray with Artificial Intelligence in his stories. Ankul is one such classic work of Ray that with the same name Sujay Ghosh has produced a movie in 2016. In 2017, a six minutes long film titled The Bounty premiered at the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival. Sudipto Shankar Roy is now making a sequel to The Bounty. In addition, Bengali SF is enriched by Adrish Bardban, Anish Deb, Meenakshi Chattopadhyay, Narayan Sanyai, Niranjan Sinha, Sirshendu Mukhyopadhyay and others. Bengali Science Fiction has grown enormously in recent years. One can browse an online magazine Kalpabishwas Kalpabignyan run by Dip Ghosh to catch the current trend.
The Origin of Kannada Science Fiction is traced with the publication of Nagavarma’s work Karnataka Kadambari (10th century) which describes an elaborate process of preserving the dead body of the protagonist Pundarika in ice. In the same century, Shivakotyacharya’s novel Vaddaradhane was published. Rajashekhara Bhoosanoor Mutt made an entry with “Holiday Planet” in 1965 and has remained as a prominent writer for five decades.
Yanthra Manava edited by Srinarahari and Kannada Vyjnanika Kathegalu edited by Subhashini were published at the turn of the century. They have dealt with machine phobia, ecology, Feminism, and hardcore elements of Physics, and Botany. A special mention has to be made of Bairnatti and Santhosh Kumar Mehandale for their continuous contribution for enriching Kannada ‘SF world’.
A pioneer work of SF story writing workshops were conducted for the children of the age group 13-15 in the entire state. It is published with a title 101 Science Fiction Short Stories written by children (2004). Similarly, a workshop was conducted for the Science writers and Scientists and the workshop product was brought out as Mundanondu Kaalada Kathegalu (2006) by National Book Trust, India. In the same way a Women Science Writers workshop was held (2012). All these workshops were conducted and the workshop products were edited by Srinarahari and Bhoosnurmutt. In addition, Mayura, Sudha Taranga, Tushara, and other popular Magazines and news papers Prajavani and others are also bringing out special editions of SF short stories.
SF in English:
The prominent SF writer in English are Archana Mirajkar, Ashok Banker, Rishab Dubey, Sami Ahmed Khan, Kalpana Kulashrestra, Nellai S Muthu, Anil Menon, Anupam Bhattacharya, Arvind Risbud, Arya Madan Mohan, Ashok Banker, Bharathi Ramachandran, Bhushan Kapoor, Dilip M.Salwe, G.P.Phondke, Harshita Verma, Jayanth V. Narlikar, Kenneth Doyle, KRK Mohan, Laxman Londhe, Meyhna Sujata Mitra, Mukul Sharma, Niranjan Gagte, R.N.Sharma, Radha Ganguli, Rajashekhara Bhoosanoor Mutt, Ramesh Deshponde, Salil Chowdhary, Sanjay Havanoor, Sathyajit Ray, Shalini Tuli, Sourabh Bhattacharya, Srinarahari, Subodh Jawadekar, Surekha Nagar, Surekha, Harish Goyal, RR Upadhyaya, HS Bairnatti, Dip Ghosh, Salik Shah, Arvind Mishra, Balaji Navale, Varun Sayal and others. Vandana Singh, Hari Kumar Nair, Ashish Mahabal, Divyaraj Amiya, Reema Sarwal, Superno Banerjee & others are contributing to Indian Science fiction from outside the country.
Most of the Indian SF works could be classified under the head “robot stories” or “alien encounters”. But in these stories homosepians triumph over the Extra Terrestrials. The Gadenken experiment is carried out in the areas of Ecology, Biotechnology and Physics. Certain stories are about humanoid and supercomputers. However, the stories moralistically tend to highlight the qualities of a perfect human being.
The SF movies right from Kaadu (1956) through Mr. India (1972), and Endhiran (2011), Indian movies had a thin science element intermingled with romance. But, Ra One (2011) and 2.0 (2018) are the good movies. The movie 2.0 is released in multiple languages. It has hit the box office an all-time record.
There are two Science Fiction associations in the country namely, Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies, Bangalore and Indian Science Fiction Writers’ Association, Faizabad. There are online forums like Sci-fi Katta, Mithila Journal, Kalpabishwas Kalpabignyan, Vignyan Katha and Indian Science Fiction which are connecting the Science fiction people. The aim of the associations and forums in India is to popularize Science, to promote inter-disciplinary studies, to provide platform for creating master piece in literature by facilitating scientific temperament and also to provide a common platform for all the scientists, researchers, scholars, technocrats, academicians, students and writers to express and to present papers during the annual conferences, seminars, and workshops.
The establishment of Indian SF Writers Association, Faizabad in 1995 has brought together all the veteran and amateur writers to contribute to their quarterly magazine Vignyan Katha. With the leadership of Dr. R.R Upadhyaya, Dr.Harish Goyal and Dr.Arvind Mishra there was no turning back in their writing and publication till date. Including the classic work of Ek Aur Kraunch Vadh by Arvind Mishra, the contemporary writers like Rajiv Ranjan Upadhyaya, Harish Goyal, Kalpana Kulshrestha, Zeeshan Haider Zaidi, Abhishek Mishra, and others.
Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies (IASFS), Bangalore was launched on January 2, 1998 – the day coincided with the birth day of Isaac Asimov and the completion of a century of the publication of JC Bose’s story “Agosh” which is a mile stone in the path of Indian Science Fiction. The main aim of IASFS is to provide help for Science Fiction research. The association also brings out a quarterly journal namely Indian Journal of Science Fiction. The Association has organized Fourteen National and three World SF conferences in India. The themes comprised of artificial intelligence, nano-technology, robotics, space exploration, time machine, fantasy, myth, utopia, history, criticism, Indian Science fiction in vernacular languages, Impact of Western SF on Indian SF writing, Responses of Indian SF on World science fiction, Science Fiction Visual media, SF and Technology. It has conducted SF writing workshops for all ages and for all levels. The association had organized an interactive session with Professor James Gunn of Kansas University, USA.
IASFS has collaborated with Mukthananda College, Gangapur and MSP Mandal, Aurangabad in organizing the 18th ISF/4th International Science Fiction Conference on 16,17 & 18th of October 2019 at Deogiri Engineering College, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. The highlights of the event are the SF poster design completion; A five minute SF movie making completion; exclusive women session; an introduction to SF session for the new members; a SF short story writing competition for the students and others.
IASFS is a world community. The membership is open for all. There is no bar of class, race, gender, qualification, regionalism, nationality, languages and others. But restrictions of age limit between 18 and 90 years as well as they should not be having any criminal background; drug addicts and involved in drug trafficking. One can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com for membership procedure.
There is a congenial harmony among the associations, institutions, organizations, University departments, Indian Institute of Technology which work together for the promotion and development of the genre. They will all work together in organizing national and International Conferences, seminars, workshops at various locations of the country.
A classic example could be cited where in the event of the 17th Indian Science Fiction Conference held at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh district in India where the IIT, ISFWA, collaborated with IASFS was a tremendous success. It is because of the joint effort of all the organizational people who could produce a variety of programs during the event.
There are a few hurdles in the progress of Indian Science Fiction.Many Indians believe in the unbelievable. They are mostly on the threshold of skepticism and rationality. However, lack of acceptance by publishers, fewer Science fiction writers and lack of support and encouragement for Science fiction writers are some of the reasons why there are not many works in each language. There are no proper training centers or courses to educate the writers. Money flows for organizing religious mela, but not for Science Fiction programs. In addition, generating funds for organizing events is a Herculean task in India.
The boom in Indian Science Fiction is seen in Metro cities, and in many states. In scholarly circle, doctoral degree in Science Fiction is given to several researchers. The efforts of the media in highlighting the SF events are to be appreciated in India. In this regard, it shows a positive signal in the response of youth to the genre. Jnanavahini, an educational channel radio on the FM band has broadcast the speech of Dr. Srinarahari several times. The Delhi based FM band radio has interviewed Dr.Arvind Mishra and Dr.Srinarahari. All India Radio stations Lucknow and Agra are airing many SF programs. SF dramas were also aired by AIR, Dibrugarh town. The nation’s leading newspaper The Hindu, Times of India, The Deccan Herald, Amrith Bazaar Patrika, the Bangalore Mirror, Tehelka, and others, have highlighted the SF events so far. Young people with innovative ideas are currently working in this region. In addition, SF progress has been remarkable over the past four decades as special editions for Bihu and Durga and Diwali Pujas have given way to the publication of science fiction short stories in some of the magazines. We are also grateful for the seminar, workshop, conference organizers, publishers, advertisers, and other institutions which are sponsoring programs of science fiction.
It is planned to involve everyone in the SF movement from the year 2019. In this regard, the ensuing scheduled IASFS 18th ISF/4th ISF con to have a theme, “Interdisciplinary Approaches to SF”.
In connection with the same, it is planned to have a poster design competition on the theme “SF and Animation”. And also to hold a competition in short movie making on Science Fiction and its allied themes. To involve the international community, it is proposed that most of them would be digital in form.
The First Asia – Pacific Science Fiction (APSF) Convention was held at China Science and Technology Museum, Beijing, China on May 19 & 20, 2018. The event was jointly organized by Future Affairs Administration, Global Innovators Conference and APEC China Business Council. The event has opened the window to the world in providing an opportunity to view from an Asian Science Fiction perspective. Further the Asian Science Fiction Association has taken an initiative to bring together all the SF produced in Asian Countries to one single mainstream to proceed further. The continuous effort of the office bearers in this direction is laudable.
A Desire: We have no desire to segregate ourselves from the rest of the world. We aspire to have one International SF community which can take us all together. With mutual understanding and inter-dependency let us all partake in the community movement.
About the Authors
Dr. Srinarahari is the Secretary – General of Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies located at Bangalore, Karnataka India. This registered association was established in 1998 and it has organized 14 National and 3 International conferences.
The author has conducted Science Fiction short writing workshops for all ages and levels. He is a writer, critic and a reporter for Locus from India. He has a doctoral degree in Science Fiction. After a 47 years of lengthy service in Government and private Colleges as Principal, he is presently working as Principal at Animaster College, Bangalore, in India.
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