Interview: “Shambhala,” Tibet, and Mithila Review

Photograph: My workstation around 2015 at the time of writing “Shambhala.”

Here is my interview with Juggernaut Books, which published “Shambhala” as part of a science fiction series edited by Indrapramit Das in 2016:

Do you write everyday? Where and when do you write?

Writing is thinking through small and hard problems for me; being aware of one’s surroundings and emotions. In a way, I’m always in this meditative zone. After I’ve thought through a problem or an emotion or a set of them, the physical act of recording these thoughts, the outpouring of words occur in feverish bursts that last days, weeks even.

Do you listen to music while writing? What’s on your playlist at the moment?

Yes. These days I’m listening to the best of French songs, and the official soundtrack of the wonderful Persian-American vampire movie, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Director. Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014).

What is your go-to-site for distracting yourself? Or do you refuse to browse the net while writing?

I read books or watch movies from around the world to distract myself. I use the Internet mostly for work—it took me years of practice to reach a state where I’m conscious, hence more or less in control of choices that I make while I’m online.

Your story “Shambhala” is replete with imagery from Tibet – what is it about the land that inspires you?

“Shambhala” is a story of Tibet, a story of a people who have had to abandon their homeland. It’s also my story, story of my love for Tibetan myths, Chinese philosophy and poetry, which started early in my teens. I went to school in Kathmandu—the other home of Tibetan refugees. As an ethnic Indian boy who grew up in a Khas-Newar city, the sense of wonder, displacement and alienation depicted in the story is as much mine as it is Tenzin’s or Niu Jian’s.

When I was 18, I took refuge in Dhamma. Over the years, I have attended short and long Vipassana meditation courses, and have begun to combine it with Samatha practice recently. “Shambhala” is a result of these experiences, and a deep yearning for reconciliation and understanding between the opposing classes of people. The meditation technique, which Tenzin practices to heal the self and history, comes from the master Thich Nhat Hanh. And it’s extremely effective for those looking for a way to vanquish persistent ghosts of the past from their body and psyche. To become one with peace and understanding through speculation and poetry.

South Asian speculative writing is increasingly being identified with mythological retelling. Why do you think this is happening?

South Asia’s evolution from idyllic small-towns like RK Narayan’s Malgudi into the urban sprawl that it is today wasn’t so organic. Science and technology are products of mindsets, generations of rigorous thinking. We’re a people who haven’t really inhabited this kind of mindset of Western scientific rationality. Even though we are grappling to make sense of the world around us with its high technology and low life.

The rise of mythological retellings is the result of our trying to come to terms with our own historical modes of narration in order to understand the nature of self and the world. The best of these retellings should and can make the modern self and the world accessible, understandable in a tradition familiar yet new to the people. A good story, original and retold, leaves you a new person, provides a worthwhile escape. However, there is a real danger that these mythological retellings end up either serving our superstition or providing little function other than entertainment.

You also run a literary magazine called Mithila Review. Can you tell us how it came to be? Why did you choose to focus on speculative fiction?

Speculative fiction is a literature of ideas and emotions, and Mithila Review is our attempt to tear down the wall of borders, and bring some of the greatest minds working in the field of literature together on a global platform. Mithila Review grew out of a personal response to Canadian grand master Geoff Ryman’s fantastic novelette, “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter.” It’s a lovely story about love, forgiveness and reconciliation between “enemy classes,” which I can’t recommend enough.

Mithila Review was in the making by late 2015. At the time, we were deeply troubled by the violence and bloodshed in the Southern Terai region of Nepal bordering India, and the hate campaigns that had seized the Indian subcontinent during Bihar elections—these great plains form the historic Mithila region. The Jawaharlal Nehru University controversy also fueled its birth as along with my colleague Ajapa Sharma, who is a scholar at the university, we began to think about the fluid languages of protest. We chose Mithila—a very unconventional name for a new kind of magazine—because it had become a referent, a symbol which could “speak to the times when we have felt that we don’t quite belong.” We wanted it to speak to the times when we liberated our anger and pain in ways that have fed the creative river (her words) within us.

There was an acute need for a responsive market and a nurturing platform for readers and writers of such an exciting form of literature in Asia. We’re hopeful that Mithila Review can fill some of this void. The terrific response we have received from within the diverse, global SF community has been a blessing, beautiful joy.

Thank you to Juggernaut and my editor Indrapramit Das for having me here. Cheers!

PS. “Shambhala” appears in the second volume of The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction  (Hachette India, 2021). You can order the print edition here on Amazon India. The Kindle edition (US) is available here. Happy reading!

By |2021-10-03T11:54:08+00:00October 3rd, 2021|Interviews, Writing Life|0 Comments

“Shambhala” – The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Volume 2 (Hachette, 2021)

A childhood dream comes true: my fiction debut in print!
I am so excited and humbled to announce that my short story, “Shambhala,” appears in The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Volume 2 now available from Amazon and leading Indian book stores.

You can order the print edition here on Amazon (India).

The Kindle edition (US) is available here.
Many thanks to the anthology editor Tarun K Saint, and Poulomi Chatterjee, the Hachette India editor-in-chief and publisher for her careful feedback/edits, and the entire team that made this wonderful series possible on behalf of all the readers and authors!
I share the TOC with writers whom I truly admire and have had the good fortune to work with at Mithila Review. Some of the works here first appeared or were featured in Mithila Review.
“Shambhala” originally appeared on Juggernaut Books, edited by award-winning author and editor Indrapramit Das. My eternal thanks to Indra, Juggernaut Books publisher Chiki Sarkar and team.

Happy reading!

PS. You can boost the signal to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook & Linkedin. Thank you!

By |2021-10-01T09:52:31+00:00October 1st, 2021|Fiction, Press, Writing Life|0 Comments

Indian Science Fiction: Patterns, History and Hybridity (New Dimensions in Science Fiction) – University of Wales Press, 2021

I am thrilled and humbled to see this first of significant books to come on Indian Science Fiction, which mentions the work of Mithila Review and Kalpabiswa, among others, and also cites my article on the Indian SF: Indian Science Fiction: Patterns, History and Hybridity (New Dimensions in Science Fiction) by Suparno Banerjee – University of Wales Press, 2021.

You can find / re/tweet the publication announcement here on Twitter.

By |2021-10-01T09:49:35+00:00April 18th, 2021|Book Reviews, Writing Life|0 Comments

The Ingredients of a Breakthrough Story – The Flights of Foundry

 

Flights of Foundry is a virtual convention for speculative creators and fans. The writers, the artists, the game makers and podcasters. The dreamers, thinkers, and doers.

 

 

 

The Ingredients of a Breakthrough Story
Moderators: Coral Moore
Speakers: Eliana González Ugarte, Andy Dudak, Salik Shah, Valerie Valdes

Editors and authors talk about how they shape ideas, what they look for, how they edit, experimental narratives they’ve tried, what works and what doesn’t. Join this session for insights into how professionals craft and recognize exceptional short stories.

 

By |2021-10-01T09:54:53+00:00April 18th, 2021|Interviews|0 Comments

Plural Worlds, Plural Futures: South Asian Speculative Fiction

A discussion with four South Asian science fiction and fantasy writers on imagining new worlds and futures: https://youtu.be/fsy1ps3av_c


ABOUT

TSAL, along with Plurality University Network, presents a discussion with four South Asian science fiction and fantasy writers on imagining new worlds and futures.

Speculative fiction – a broad category that includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more – has long been a space for writers to envision alternatives to our world and our circumstances, whether in outer space, magical realms, or right here in (a reimagined) Earth. TSAL, in partnership with the Plurality University Network, is thrilled to host a conversation with Mary Anne Mohanraj, Mimi Mondal, Salik Shah, and Iona Datt Sharma about what those new worlds and futures look like in their writing and work.

By |2021-04-18T08:32:23+00:00October 26th, 2020|Others|0 Comments

FIYAHCON – Fringe Programming

FIYAHCON is a virtual convention centering the perspectives and celebrating the contributions of BIPOC in speculative fiction. Hosted by FIYAH Literary Magazine. The inaugural event will take place on October 17-18, 2020 and will host a variety of entertaining and educational content surrounding the business, craft, and community of speculative literature.

Thank you to FIYACON, Vida Cruz and Iora Kusano for inviting me to be a panelist on these two panels:

Running A Genre Magazine – Friday 10/16 10:00pm EDT with Eliana González Ugarte • Terrie Hashimoto • Salik Shah • Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Moderator)

To many writers, the inner workings of magazines are utterly opaque. Our panel of editors can give you insight into what things look like on their side of the desk: financial legal considerations, unexpected challenges, how to best promote authors’ work. This panel is great for any author who wants to see how a magazine is made, especially if they’re considering starting a magazine of their own!

Finding and Getting Involved in Your Local SFF Scene – Friday 10/16 11:00pm EDT with Kate Osias • Yasser Bahjatt • Gabriela Lee • Ted Mahsun • Salik Shah

When you live outside the Anglosphere, it can be hard to find your local markets—if they exist at all. Panelists from the Middle East Southeast Asia will share how they connected with their communities, offer suggestions for finding building community wherever you are.

By |2021-04-18T08:52:52+00:00October 17th, 2020|Others|0 Comments

Science Film Festival Workshop – Bangkok, Thailand (2018)

Cover Illustration: Science Film Festival Philippines /   

I’ve been working these past few weeks with Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan on the second edition of Science Film Festival in India. We’ve got some amazing films this year, and I’m very excited to be part of the organizing team.

Photographs from the Science Film Festival workshop held between August 20-22, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, led by the amazing Andreas Klempin from Goethe-Institut Thailand.

Along with Geetha Vedaraman from Goethe-Institut (Chennai) and other wonderful participants from a dozen countries, I am really thrilled to be able to introduce some of my favorite DIY experiments and science activities in a workbook for primary/secondary teachers and students around the world.

Here I presented activities on the future of farming in response to this year’s top film selections that explore current food trends and crises, and the coming food revolution powered by AI and agricultural robots, bio-engineering, advocacy, among other critical factors.

About Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach. We promote the study of German abroad and encourage international cultural exchange. We also foster knowledge about Germany by providing information on its cultural, social and political life.

About Science Film Festival 

The Science Film Festival is a celebration of science communication and enjoys a unique position in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam), South Asia (India, Sri Lanka), Sub-saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Namibia, Mali, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa) North Africa and the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar,Sudan and the United Arab Emirates). In cooperation with local partners it promotes science literacy and facilitates awareness of contemporary scientific, technological and environmental issues through film and television content with accompanying educational activities. The festival presents scientific issues accessibly and entertainingly to a broad audience and demonstrates that science can be communicated in an educational, as well as entertaining manner. The event has grown considerably since its first edition in 2005, becoming the largest event of its kind and one of the biggest film festivals worldwide in terms of audience reach.

By facilitating cooperation between local and international agencies from the scientific, cultural, educational and environmental sector, with the generous support of the international film and television community, an effective infrastructure is put in place for the dissemination of scientific understanding and access to knowledge. All films are synchronized into local languages to offer viewers access to the content without language barriers. During the festival period, the films are screened non-commercially in museums, schools, universities and other educational venues through coordinated efforts of partners with existing networks and the capabilities to organize such screenings. The festival offers a platform for cultural exchange through which different approaches to the world of science converge.

The Science Film Festival 2018 takes place in 23 countries from October to December, 2018. In India we have selected 38 films for the festival. 10 films for the age group from 9 to 12 years and 13 films for the age group from 12 to 16 years. We have selected 15 films for the University (17+) & General audiences. There will be activities accompanying all the films for which self-explanatory sheets will be provided to the teachers.

 

By |2018-09-19T08:37:43+00:00August 27th, 2018|Film, Leadership, Press|0 Comments

Google: The Selfish Ledger

Titled The Selfish Ledger, the 9-minute film starts off with a history of Lamarckian epigenetics, which are broadly concerned with the passing on of traits acquired during an organism’s lifetime. Narrating the video, Foster acknowledges that the theory may have been discredited when it comes to genetics but says it provides a useful metaphor for user data. (The title is an homage to Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene.) The way we use our phones creates “a constantly evolving representation of who we are,” which Foster terms a “ledger,” positing that these data profiles could be built up, used to modify behaviors, and transferred from one user to another:

“User-centered design principles have dominated the world of computing for many decades, but what if we looked at things a little differently? What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference? What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information? What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?”

The so-called ledger of our device use — the data on our “actions, decisions, preferences, movement, and relationships” — is something that could conceivably be passed on to other users much as genetic information is passed on through the generations, Foster says.

Source: The Verge

By |2018-06-02T07:26:44+00:00June 2nd, 2018|Film, Futures, Speculative design|0 Comments
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