About Salik Shah

Salik Shah is the founding editor and publisher of Mithila Review, a quarterly journal of international science fiction and fantasy. His poetry, fiction and nonfiction has appeared in leading publications including Open Democracy, Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Juggernaut, etc. He grew up in Kathmandu, and lives in New Delhi. You can find him on Twitter: @salik.

[FICTION] Zig’s Boars: A Short Anime in Prose

After Fukushima

Available to purchase at Amazon.com

Zig flickers against the static wind, resisting the strong pull of the Furnace, a dark skeletal figure sucks the blood off the horizon. The contour of Zig’s body vibrates like strings. All around him the phantom city falls to eerie shambles while the wordcreatures feed on the radiation off the glowing abyss down where the asphalt road ends and the heart of the Furnace begins.

Awakened like wrath of the god with a million eyes, the Furnace rumbles and shakes the earth like a kamikaze bomber. A spear of black light, emitting hatred, turning into radiation, rise to pierce the starry veil of the night sky, followed by an ear-splitting boom. The first wave of the dark light cracks Zig’s chest, knocking him off his feet on the charred ground. Hungrily, the Furnace scorches everything—man obsessed with his machines, women with their décor magazines, children working on models of rockets and spaceships—that lay on its path, extending from its reactor-heart to edge of the island coast, a dead mass unmoored from its orbit, drifting aimlessly until it settled in a new course, if not worse.

“Come, Kid,” says Boar, the leader of the sounder. His body a smooth bump against the raggedy landscape. “Offshore safe and pretty, let us go.”

So Zig follows the snorting succession of the boars, trailing each other like holy monks, their hooves barely touching the charred ground. He still feels it was wrong to leave the city in ruins. “We could start rebuilding.”

“Can’t, Zig,” Boar says. “Worse than poison, the dark force; nay, it doesn’t kill. Wordcreatures shine, glow, and then p-u-f-f—boars or not, out like shooting stars everything goes.”

Boar is right, of course. He is a radiating halo among other death stars. Every second they stay on the coast, they grow more dependent on the evil force—the radiation is corrupting something within them, and they know it. Perhaps their soul.

“We swim to the new island,” Boar says. “Build home. Come now.”

___

Reality is always difficult to recreate. The boy who dreamt of these worlds lies entombed by a planet.

The curator projects the hand-drawn cartoons stored on a micro-ship on a giant white screen aboard Yama IV. A thick wall of light, modified aluminium and carbon shield them from the vast burning cold of the space outside.

We change a few details here and there, lift source materials and transpose them in worlds that we build.

___

“I was better off dead,” Zig declares, raggedy and torn, bending time and space and pulsating everything about him like a teenager. “You wake horrible and wicked things with wordmagic.”

“Harmless Zig,” asks Boar, “What wicked things?”

“The Furnace,” he replies. “You soak and scrub the air and water, but it’s no use.”

“We feed on radiation without getting eaten up. Isn’t that enough?”

“Not for every wordcreature.”

“You have a plan?” Boar feigns interest.

“Something like it.”

“You don’t know a thing.”

“What did I miss?”

“The whole point,” the boar snorts, his back turned against the grim coast. “We’re deader than dead, and everything on this coast. The coast yonder and beyond. We all ghosts here on a phantom planet. One big hell.”

___

The curator is a short man in his fifties with taut features of Asian stock. His audience is fifteen something.

Hiro was four, he said, when he first saw a boar in the wild. They had trapped the boar for a relative’s housewarming party. It was a huge menacing beast with sharp rows of grating teeth, save for its clown ears and snout. They put the poor beast in a cage in the back of their van, which would later reek of urine and shit and fear.

You have seen green-blue egg picture of Earth. Pretty, yes, from long distance. But closer you went, the filth shot at you. The innards of the cities were filthy, ugly—much like it is today.

The curator pauses for effect.

They slaughtered the boar for the party later that evening, but Hiro couldn’t bring himself to eat it. Next morning he went back, gathered the mess of hair and scattered bones in the boar-pelt, and buried it in a hole in the riverbank. Afterwards, he moved to the city to study arts, and apprenticed to a popular animator of his time. You probably already know that story.

Years later, when he returned to the village to scatter his father’s ashes in the Lai River, he saw the ruins of a tall and spent brick furnace, where he had once buried the remains of the boar, preserved by a tangle of weeds and grass. Old memories shook him like cold waves of the sea.

There were big holes along the riverbank. But the river had long changed its course, and then dried up. He could count the inhabitants of the village on his fingers, he said. Young people like him didn’t want to live there anymore. So they moved to the big cities. The whole place was almost deserted. The shocking clarity of the moment, he said, became the basis for the film that we just saw, and his subsequent fantasies. You can’t erase or incinerate that sort of childhood encounter from your being, the place where no instrument of man can reach.

We don’t know much about the circumstances of Hiro’s father’s death. But I tend to believe their relationship was similar to the one the boy has with the boar in this film. We are a million years away from Earth, but we can still experience the emotions that were the basis of his work. That is genius—a gift of humanity, which we carry with us, within each one of us as our common inheritance.

___

Cut to Zig swimming back to the old coast with a dark shadow. A blue and red line of ghosts bound with tattoo spells protects the Furnace from wordcreatures. The skeletal beasts look less intimidating than the towering figure itself, rising hundreds of feet above the ground, daring the Sacred Buddhas to confront it. Gathering courage, Zig steps inside the line of spell, and begins to turn to dust, white as children’s bones and teeth. Slowly, the dust gathers and moulds, and takes the shape of a boar. Every cursed spirit that comes near him transforms—their skin no longer appear inked or incriminated.

“They are now free from the cycle of karma,” the curator informs his rapt audience.

Soon more animated boars arrive at the scene. “Kid, you done it,” their leader snorts. The boar kid smiles as he leads them to the massive heart of the radiating monster. They lick and soak all the waste and ionizing heat. When they return outside, the first green saplings curl and breach the reclaimed territory. “Welcome to postcalypto!”

Now old seeds buried deep within the breasts of the ocean drift ashore, followed by a rapid-motion of a new wave of evolution. The red-green vegetation encroaches the rim of the coast, and then the Furnace. The first saplings touch the spirits freed by Zig, and they start to lift toward the sky as if propelled by life—“pure energy,” Boar calls it—with calm and grateful expression on their round, blanched faces.

All the boars huddle around Zig, the boar-kid, as they snort and watch the spirits leave, without a trace of contempt or envy.

“They are Bodhisattvas,” the curator intervenes, “All of them bound together by suffering.”

The crowd bursts into a loud applause when he turns back the light.

“Thank you,” the curator starts. “We’ll now open to the floor.”

___

Copyright © Salik Shah

Available to purchase at Amazon.com | Patreon

By |2019-05-30T09:07:15+00:00April 21st, 2017|Fiction|0 Comments

Report

Manokamana – Poetry on Film Series #4
Title: Report, Length: 45 seconds
Language: Nepali, Subtitles: English, Nepali

I don’t remember exactly when I wrote this short poem. “Report” is about the relationship we have as poets and artists with the country we choose to take refuge in, build a home, serve. It’s about the desire to see peace and prosperity flourish in the lands we traverse, be it our own or foreign. It’s about the collective failure of a people, a nation, which has become a Salusa Secundus of the modern world. (more…)

By |2017-04-18T12:01:32+00:00April 18th, 2017|Film, Poetry|0 Comments

Instructions for Astronauts

Become a space traveler, star trekker and adventurer for a few minutes!

“Instructions for Astronauts” appears in April 2017 issue of Mithila Review, an international science fiction and fantasy magazine. Written by Michael Janairo in nine parts, it’s about our destiny—humanity’s epic journey through time and space. What is this form? Is it art, poetry, film? You decide, please!

You can buy Mithila Review‘s April issue from Amazon or Weightless Books.

To support Mithila Review, please consider becoming a patron/subscriber via Patreon.

Donate via Paypal: https://www.paypal.me/mithilareview

Your likes and comments on Youtube, retweets and shares on Twitter and Facebook will help us find new readers and patrons for Mithila Review: http://mithilareview.com

Counting on your support as always.

Website: http://mithilareview.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/mithilareview
Facebook: http://facebook.com/mithilareview

All footages are in public domain; to support my personal literary or cinematic projects, please subscribe to this channel and back me on Patreon: http://patreon.com/salik

Thank you!

By |2017-08-10T05:38:28+00:00April 17th, 2017|Mithila Review, Poetry, Video|0 Comments

Violent Delights: “Which species of bird is a drone?” 

salik shah_partition

Field Notes: A photograph from my debut poetry reading at the Partition Museum project – Oxford Bookstore in Delhi / August 2016

War deadens you; street hardens you. I’ve seen boys beaten to pulp, and could do nothing to help them. I’ve come this close to getting smashed, cut or shot, and during those darkest moments of rage, considered violence, its violent delights. Art saved me. Somehow I would end up pouring all that vengefulness and anger, fear and blood, into whatever I was doing at the moment: drawing, journaling, poetry, screenwriting. And find peace. A kind of solace. (more…)

By |2017-04-10T16:13:49+00:00March 29th, 2017|Writing Life|0 Comments

HT Interview

I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to introduce Mithila Review to the wonderful readers of Hindustan Times!

We just launched our first quarterly issue for 2017, and I hope you’ll love it!

Apart from excellent poetry, fiction and essays, Issue 7 of Mithila Review features my interview with Hugo-winning Chinese author Cixin Liu (translated by Shaoyan Hu), roundtable discussions on the state of speculative fiction in Czech Republic and Latin America!

Please subscribe or donate to support Mithila Review and our contributors. We cannot become a paying market without your support.

By |2017-07-14T05:05:04+00:00January 18th, 2017|Interviews, Press, Writing Life|0 Comments

Starting 2017, Mithila Review Becomes A Paying Quarterly

Issue 7_Cover

Our new multilingual edition with a special focus on the state of science fiction and fantasy in China, Czech Republic and Latin America is now out: Issue 7.

Starting this year, Mithila Review is finally turning into a paying quarterly publication thanks to the generous support of our patrons!

If you enjoy reading Mithila Review and value what we do, please subscribe or donate to Mithila Review on Patreon, or help us with a signal boost, review or interview.

You could also support us by purchasing this issue (epub/mobi) directly from Amazon, PayHip or InstaMojo (India).

Thank you!

By |2017-01-18T00:30:16+00:00January 18th, 2017|Mithila Review|0 Comments

McDonald’s vs Kamadhenu — Debkumar Chakrabarti

Kolkata-based artist and professor Debkumar Chakrabarti on how he sees Indian capitalism:

“McDonald’s stands as a representative of global capitalism… and Kamadhenu was a [miraculous] cow. Whatever you want, it’ll give it to you. That is to me some sort of representative of the Indian type of capitalism. [In my art,] I try to show that a synthesis is taking place between them. Whatever we get is obtained from the tussle between the two.”

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Center
September 25, 2016

By |2016-09-26T08:21:43+00:00September 26th, 2016|Interviews, Video|0 Comments

The Asian SF Issue – Mithila Review

The “Asian SF” double issue of Mithila Review is now out.

Mithila Review - Ebook

Contributors:

Aliette de Bodard, Alyssa Wong, Isabel Yap, John Chu, JY Yang and Priya Sharma, Lavie Tidhar, Glen Hirshberg, Mia S-N, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Mark Russell, Dean Francis Alfar, Ng Yi-Sheng, Isha Karki, David S. Golding, Charles Tan, Jennifer Crow, Shobhana Kumar, Ken Poyner, Niyati Bhat and others.

This special issue of Mithila Review is also available for free download!

iBooks/Android: EPUB
Kindle: MOBI

We’re now on Patreon. Please help us meet our goals.

By |2016-08-15T08:35:26+00:00August 10th, 2016|Mithila Review|0 Comments

On the Challenges of Reading, Writing & Publishing Science Fiction & Fantasy in South Asia

Ashim-Shakya-Artwork-kathmandu-nepal-1

Cover Illustration: “Enclosed” by Ashim Shakya, from Issue 4 of Mithila Review.

In my new Strange Horizons column, I talk about Geoff Ryman’s story that inspired the Mithila Review / Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy project and my earliest forays into SF as a reader. My childhood revolved around comics and other things but none as vital and transfixing as some of the stories in “Perilous Journey,” a high school textbook edited by Northrop Frye and W. T. Jewkes in 1973. It was a miracle of a book for me. Then there were McLuhan and Gibson, the two towering influences in my life even before I knew it.

I plugged into a mind-space that couldn’t exist in the real world ever since I coded my first website as a pre-teen in the late 90s. The “cyberspace” offered me an escape from the hard truth of reality and violence that was going on all around me. I remain t/here even as I’m still confined, physically, to the fringes of the “empire” that is Anglo-American. That’s why, I think, Ryman’s work means so much to me. But I didn’t know yet which “genre” I belonged to when I thought and pitched my films during my early 20s. Now that I know there is a language in which I exist, I’m truly grateful.

By |2016-07-16T17:21:38+00:00June 14th, 2016|Cinema, Mithila Review, Writing Life|0 Comments
Go to Top