Indian Science Fiction History
Hindi Science Fiction
Idian Science Fiction Associaton
It’s status of writing SF in Hindi which lingua franca of India. Hindi is the lingua franca of India, statutory declared county’s official language though there are 24 other constitutionally recognised languages, prominent among them being Marathi, Bengla, Assamise, Kannad, Malyalam, Tamil and Telugu. Here is description of SF writing in Hindi first which would be followed by the status of SF writing in these said languages along with trends in SF writing in English in the country.
History of modern Hindi sf literature could be traced back to the end of nineteenth century when first Hindi science fiction work “AASHCARYA VRITTANT ( A Strange Tale) by Pandit Ambika Datta Vyas was published in 1884, in “PIYUSH PRAVAH”, a popular contemporary Hindi magazine from Madhya Pradesh. For the sake of convenience we may divide Hindi science fiction in three phases – Proto science fiction, Pseudo science fiction and modern science fiction phase . Proto science fiction means the scientific fiction written before recognition of SF as a separate genre in Hindi literature.
Traces of science fiction in India could even be found as far back as in 1500 BC in the ancient many ancient scriptures. There are numerous descriptions of flying objects referred to as “Vimanas “ which are depicted to be of two types- man made crafts that resemble airplanes and fly with the aid of birdlike wings or un-streamlined structures that fly in a clandestine manner and were generally not made by human beings. A well talked about example being the Puspak Viman which being an intelligent device could accommodate any number of passengers and having a seat vacant. Flight of fancy indeed as there were no befiting technology which existed in said times. But ideas paves the way for inventions. There are many anecdotes, stories and passing references found in sacred books such as Puranas, Upanishads, Brahmans and mythological descriptions of epic works of Ramayan and Mahabharat.
This is a also a curious literary style of fiction writing known as Tilism which apparently looks like the work of science fiction but in reality they are not based on scientific principles. Devaki Nandan Khatri, is credited to be the pioneer author of Tilism novels in Hindi. His classical work is “Chadrakanta”, published in 1918. People even from non Hindi speaking areaswere so mesmerized by novel ‘Chandrakanta’ and the later works named ‘Chandrakanta Santati’ and ‘Bhootnath’ that many of them learned Hindi to be able to read these novels.. Though these “Tilism” stories, cannot be classified as true science fiction yet they prepared ground for development of science fiction in Hindi. Besides, there were many pseudo Science Fiction stories appeared in the form of novelettes, comics published on poor quality papers and were termed as “Pulp Science fiction”.
Father of Modern Hindi SF and other Prominent Authors
The credit for being the father of Hindi science fiction could be given to Acharya Chatursen Shastri . He wrote more than 400 books during his lifetime comprising novels based on a fine blend of historical events, mythology and social issues.Of the 400 books, he wrote three science fiction novels: Khagras (The Eclipsed Moon), Neelmani (The Sapphire), and Adbhut Manav (The Amazing Man). Similarly, following in Chatursen’s footsteps, author Guru Dutt wrote almost an equal number of social and historical novels, yet only had one science fiction novel titled Sangharsh (The Struggle) which dealt with the social problems brought about from geriatrics and the fountain of youth based on cellular regeneration.
With the publication of “Ashcharya Vritant”in 1884 as earlier stated the era of modern science fiction began and further got consolidated with the appearance of Hindi magazine “Saraswati” in the year 1900. In Sarswati’s sixth issue of opening year a land mark story, “Chandralok Ki Yatra” by Keshav Prasad Singh was published, which though seems to be influenced by Jules Verne’s ‘Five week in a balloon’ but is considered an original contribution to Hindi sf literature. Many science fiction stories were later published in Saraswati. Besides Saraswati, other popular magazines also initiated sf publication and by the end of 6th decade of 20th century, publication of Saraswati unfortunately Saraswati unfortunately stopped and magazines like Sarika and Dharmyug too met the same fate later.
Bangla (Bengali) Science Fiction in India
Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Genre Emergence (1830’s- 1910)
The first proto-SF works by Bengali authors were in English: “A Journal of Forty Eight Hours of the Year 1945” (1835) by Kylas Chunder Dutt, and “The Republic of Orissa: A Page From the Annals of the Twentieth Century” (1845) by Shoshee Chunder Dutt (1824-1886). Rokeya Shakawat Hussain’s “Sultana’s Dream” (1905), also in English, is considered as one of the first instances of feminist SF globally. The “dream narrative” also provides a basis for another major early work, Bhudev Mukhopadhyay’s “The History of India as revealed in a dream” (1862).
Hemlal Dutta’s “Mystery” (1882) Jagadananda Ray’s “Travels in Venus” (1892) and Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose’s “The Story of the Missing one” (1896; later significantly revised as “The Runaway Sea-storm”, 1921) are the earliest instances of Bangla SF proper.
In this phase, Bengal, at the forefront of the colonial encounter, responded to the introduction of western science in popular worldview. Ideals of nationalism, visions of sovereignty from colonial rule and social Darwinism were the major focus of these early works.
SF Popularization (1920’s-1950’s)
Magazines such as Mouchak, Sandesh, Rangmashal, Ramdhanu and others contributed to the popularization of SF in this phase. Sukumar Ray’s “The Diary of Heshoram Hushiyaar” (1922) was a satire on imperial science, and satirical and adventure-type SF became popular with Hemendrakumar Ray’s novels such as “Inhuman Man” (1950) and “Meghduta’s advent on Earth”; Kshitindra Narayan Bhattacharyya’s stories “The footsteps of Aswatthama” and “The island of Danavs”; and mainstream author Rajsekhar Basu’s (pseudonym Parasuram) “Upside-Down Puranas” (1927), “The Story of the Gamma-Men”(1945) and “Martian” (1955). Premendra Mitra, a prolific contributor to Bangla SF, also started publishing his Ghana-da series (SF tall-tales) from 1945.
These narratives combined an aspect of mystery-solving with dissemination of scientific ideas, scientific speculation and re-discovery of ancient Indian knowledges and mythologies. Children and young adult magazines took on publishing SF, and introduced an association between children and young adult literature and SF that continues to remain a constraint on Bangla SF today.
A Golden Age (1960’s- 1990’s)
Along with Mitra’s Ghana-da (1945-88), Bangla SF saw two long-running serialized “heroes”: Satyajit Ray’s Professor Shonku (1963-1999) and Adrish Bardhan’s Professor Nat Boltu Chakra (late 1960’s –late 2010’s). As scientists, these serialized heroes stood apart from the crop of adventurers that preceded them, and these stories engaged with the science-superstition dichotomy by including both “hard” scientific theories and “pseudo-science”, especially theories proposed by Madam Blavatsky and Erich von Daniken.
Mitra and Ray also wrote several significant standalone novels and stories that contributed to the visibility of SF in mainstream Bangla literature, such as Mitra’s “The Twelfth Manu (1964) and “Where the Sun is Blue” (1988) and Ray’s “Bankubabu’s Friend” and “The Hunger of Septopus”. Ray also founded the Science Fiction Cine Club in Kolkata and encouraged a group of SF magazine authors and editors: Bardhan, Ranen Ghosh, Amitananda Das and Sujit Dhar, who helmed three SF-exclusive magazines: Ascharja (1963-1968); Fantastic (1975-1976); and Bismay (1982-current, sporadically). These magazines published translations, “transcreations” of foreign SF and original work by authors such as Dilip Raychaudhuri, Samarjit Kar, Gurnek Singh and Enkashi Chattopadhyay. Bardhan alone has contributed significantly to translation of foreign SF and related genres, such as Jules Verne and H.P. Lovecraft’s work, along with at least fifty SF stories and novellas. He also coined the term kalpabigyan to refer to SF in Bangla.
Other magazines, such as (the revived) Sandesh, Kishor Gyan-Bigyan, Kishor Bharati, Anandamela and Shuktara also published SF, but not exclusively. Leela Majumdar’s science fantasies such as “The Floating House” and “The Breeze’s Wand”; Syed Mustafa Siraj’s Colonel Niladri stories such as “The Twang of Shiva’s Mighty Bow” and “Scientist Chandakanta’s Lunar Adventure”; Bimal Kar’s “The Mysterious Moonlight of Mandargada” and Anish Deb’s early SF are notable during this period.
There was a wide proliferation of themes, from social critique (Leela Majumdar, Syed Mustafa Siraj) to futuristic explorations, aliens and alternate worlds (the magazines). The magazine authors attempted to promote wider recognition of SF as a genre within the adult Bengali readership but that failed to gain much impetus.
Contemporary Trends (1990’s- 2017)
Adrish Bardhan, Anish Deb and Ranen Ghosh continued to write SF during this period. Deb’s “23 hours 60 minutes” (2004-10) and its sequel “60 minutes 23 hours”(2014) are notable in being a forerunner to the Hunger Games type of reality-TV survival game in a futuristic, corporate-owned society. Renowned mainstream author Sunil Gangopadhyay created “Neelmanush”, a genetically mutated blue superhero, and Samaresh Majumdar, author of children-and-young-adult detective character Arjun, wrote a few SF stories where Arjun visits futuristic or alien worlds. Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s adbhuture (“ghostly-weird”) series (1977- ), set in a utopic version of the Bengal small-town, also incorporated SF elements such as aliens and alien technology, in “The Ghostly Watch”, “The Underground Chamber” and “The Labyrinthine Chain of Events in Aghorgunj”. He has also written SF for adults, such as “3002”, “Signal” and “The Forest Goddess and Five Pigeons”.
A group of kalpabigyan enthusiasts began the webmag Kalpabiswa in 2017, which features work by upcoming authors such as Debojyoti Bhattacharyya, Abhigyan Roychowdhury, Anindya Sengupta and others, along with critical overviews and translations of foreign SF. Sengupta’s “Unworldly” (2015) and Debaroti Ghosh’s SF thriller “When God is Chained” (2016) have recently had some success in incorporating “adult” ideas and critiques into Bangla SF.
Bengali authors have also contributed to the recent trend in Indian Writing in English (IWE) SF; notably Amitabh Ghosh (The Calcutta Chromosome), Samit Basu ( Gameworld trilogy) and Rimi Chatterjee (Signal Red).
“List of authors” < kalpabiswa.com>
Chattopadhyay, Bodhisattva. “Bengal” < sf-encyclopedia.com>
Lal, Mohan ed. Encyclopedia of Indian Literature (Sasay to Zorgot). 3889-3890 < books.google.com>
Majumdar, Samaresh. Collected Arjun in four volumes. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers.
Kannada Science Fiction
Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies.
Science Fiction is a world phenomenon and it has pervaded into the language, culture, tradition and way of life in Karnataka state in India.
Formerly, the genre Science Fiction had generated as an opposition to the industrial revolution in England. The pioneer work is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus in 1818.
The story is about the scholar Victor Frankenstein after creating a monster it would demand to provide him a female partner. The theme of man creating robot and then they turn against humanity was a popular theme in the past. It was known as ‘Frankenstein Complex’. Isaac Asimov was the first to project robots as a partner of its maker. He was the first to formulate the ‘Three Laws of Robotics’ insisting upon the human safety, obedience and self-protection.
Similarly, the themes of space travel, time travel, space colonization, and others were common in Kannada literature in the form of science fiction short stories. Formerly, the stories depicted were expressing wonder and magic.
Shivakootacharya’s Vaddaradhane (9th Century BC) includes an SF first story in Kannada namely “Vidyut chorana Kathe”. The protagonist becomes invisible by applying an ointment whenever he wants to steal the things.
Dr. Shivaram Karanth the recipient of Jnanapeetha awardee (the highest award in India) has published a story “Pashu bala” in the magazine Vasanth (1928) describing the space exploration to planet Mercury and back. The characters bear non-Indian names which depict that the genre is not originated in India.
Koradkal Srinivasaraya’s sf story “Miss 1954” in his anthology Madhuvana (1935) deals with the conflicts within the family where they go in for artificial insemination.
Professor Rajashekhar Bhoosanurmutt is a very popular SF writer in Karnataka. He has written stories and novels for five decades producing about fifty works. His first SF work in Kannada was “Teacharamma” (1960) in monthly Magazine Mayura. Operation UFO (1961) was his first SF Novel which found publication in Sudha weekly as a serial. Kalakshpa (1979) deals with time travel in which the time traveler reaches his destination in “past” where the technology has not yet developed. The memorable works by the author are Zion, Manvanthara, Atlantis, Rakshasa dweep, kiran, shatamanadache, Mahashwethe, and others.
The SF works for the children are Robot Ramani, Kaala nouke, shakthinagara dalli, and others.
The publication of the first woman SF writer Saritha Jnananand’s Paripoorna (1973). The story focusses on the over secretion of the thymus juices and its after effects. and HS Bairnatti’s Billet Manava (1975) deals with the split personality. During the same time Vishu Kumar’s Gaganagamigalu deals with the misuse of Science. KT Gatti’s Anantara (1989) discusses with life-soul -Almighty and the origin of life based on scientific hypothesis. Akashagangege (1992) by Dr. Louis YS deals with the alien encounter and a harmonious relationship is established between Earthites and aliens.
During the twenty first century, a number of new authors emerged to write and publish the SF works in Kannada. Mr. Manu (PN Rangan) in Maha Samparka in two volumes (2002) tries to establish how Hindu mythology has had scientific base and how authentic it is. It is my personal opinion after going through the works that certain items are hypothetic and not based on scientific facts. In other words that it is more fictional and less science based. It is also the case when one goes through his Sudarshan Chakra. He has described the trip of the protagonist and his family members to the moon and met many hurdles and over come during his journey back to the Earth. Sanjay Havanoor’s “The Lift”, Dr. Virupaksha Banakar’s King Neptune and Cosmonium describes the fantasies over sea. Nagesh Upadhyaya’s Pachijeevi and dhootha is a fantastic collection of stories which deals with innumerable concepts of science and their application in their stories. The richness of the SF is also enhanced by the popular author Santhosh Kumar Mehandale where the author adopts only the hardcore science fiction instead of light fantasy as in contrast to Bhoosanurmutt Mutt.
Savitha Srinivas is a prolific writer of Science Fiction works in Kannada in recent years. She has produced more than a dozen books so far. She focuses on botanical and zoological aspects of science in her stories.” Minugale Minchulli” and “irula sancharigalu” are the best representative stories.
Dr. Srinarahari is known for conducting a number of Science Fiction Short story writing work shops for all ages and all levels. He has conducted workshops for the rural children of the age group of 11 to 15 years. The workshop product is published with a title 101 Science Fiction Stories written by children addressed to adults. This is recognized as the pioneer work in the world. Similarly, workshops were conducted for senior citizens, scientists, science writers, science Fiction writers, College students, research scholars, housewives and working women.
Duroyug by Byranatti is published serially in Sudha. It was published in a book form during 2018. It is a great positive news to share that the Government of Karnataka has issued order to the publisher to supply books under a bulk purchase scheme.
Further, it is to acknowledge that the magazines Mayura, Sudha, Karmaveera, Taranga are encouraging publishing the SF stories regularly. It is a matter of great pleasure to intimate that the media attendance would be very high for any function organized for science Fiction in Karnataka.
Savitha Srinivas – introduction – Naalina Kathe galu in Kananda and speech on Kannada SF by Dr. Srinarahari at the Marathi Vignyan Parishat Sholapur Chapter.
Report -Dr. Srinarahari, # A107, DS Max Signature Apartment, Devinagar, Near Aadhar office, Bangalore 560094, Karnataka, India firstname.lastname@example.org; =919448946359
A Brief Status on Indian Science Fiction
by Sami Ahmad Khan
In the case of Indian Science Fiction in English (ISFE), every writer becomes transcendent of one’s age. ISFE not only extrapolates current realities to novel projections (commenting on today in the process), but is also conscious of the aesthetic, political, social and theoretical paradigms. No two contemporary ISFE writers perceive SF in the same manner, a fact borne out by the variegated SF narratives spun by them.
Rimi Chatterjee’s Signal Red, for example, deploys a far-right government that rules India in the future, one which aims to neutralize all ‘foreign’ influences. Priya Sarukkai Chhabria’s Generation 14 is set in a dystopian, 1984-esque “Global Community” of the 24th century where stratification of sentient beings is formulated around genetic factors. Manjula Padmanabhan’s Escape has a nuked India ruled by clone-generals who have exterminated all women. Anil Menon’s The Beast with Nine Billion Feet is located in Pune of 2040 AD and traces the battle between the technologies driven by missionary and mercenary interests. Mainak Dhar’s Zombiestan brings zombies to India.
Vandana Singh in The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories sets out a deliver, among other things, a speculative manifesto from humanist and feminist perspectives. Sami Ahmad Khan’s Aliens in Delhi features an extra-terrestrial invasion of India’s capital, and traces the responses of the Indian state to such an eventuality. Suraj Clark Prasad’s Baramulla Bomber tests an ancient Biblical-Vedic Sonic weapon based on Quantum Physics. Samit Basu often uses SF elements in his SFF/Fantastical narratives. Shovon Chowdhury’s The Competent Authority speculates a dystopia where (a nuked) India is no longer a unified whole. These are just a few examples, and there are many other fantastic writers taking ISFE forward. The future looks bright.
SCIENCE FICTION IN MALAYALAM
Dr. G. S. Unnikrishnan
Science story writing in Malayalam began in 1950’s, with the initiative taken by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad. Born in 1952, Parishad has the unique distinction of publishing three science magazines continuously for several years. People like P T Bhaskara Panikker and N.V.Krishna varier were pioneers of the movement. The publishing wing of the Parishad was very strong and has brought out several books of exceptional quality, all in the regional language, Malayalam including well-read non-fiction as well as creative non –fiction/science stories. P R Madhava Panicker and Prof. S.Sivadas were among the forefront of writing such books. Noted Malayalam novelist C.Radhakrishnan also incorporated element of science in many of his novels. Later many popular science writers and some novelists and storywriters began to write science stories. Prominent among these writers is Kottayam pushpanath who wrote many crime novels with science content in it during 1970’s and 80’s.
Emergence of Science fiction
1956 -Nagavalli R.S.Kurup, a well known writer and Radio Artist of that time wrote the novel”Anum Pennum” (Male and Female) ,which was based on Gender reversal surgery which was a myth then.
1960– Nagavalli R.S.Kurup published another Science fiction titled “Chowayil Ethiyappol”(Reaching Mars) which was based on celestial travel.
1977-P.R.Madhava panicker,a well known Science writer and a leading figure of Sastra Sahitya Parishath published “Kalkathaneum” which depicted the space travel of a group of Scientists to explore Kalkathaneum ,an imaginary element which is the costliest in the world.
1986 – Children’s Literature writer K.V.Ramanathan wrote two novels for children –Albhutha Vanaran (Bizarre monkey) and Albhutha Neerali (Bizarre Octopus) which was published by Mathrubhumi books. Albhutha Vanaran was later serialized in “Balabhumi” the leading children’s weekly in Malayalam. In the first novel a crazy scientist Dr.Rana converts two children Appukuttan and Gopi into monkeys and in the second novel into octopuses.
1987 -P.N.Krishnan Kutty, a retired Government employee turned writer began writing Science fiction novels in Malayalam. First book was “Parakkum thalikayil gangayude yatra”(Journey of Ganga in flying Soccer) which is about an ET kid Alpha, which comes to earth and takes a human child Ganga to his place known as Green land. His second science fiction novel”Amanushan”(1989) also had Alpha as the central character. He published 8 more science fiction novels
1987-“Sasthravarsham-184” (Science year-184) about future Science by Balakrishnan Cheruppa was published.
1993-“Thanutha Samavakyam”(Cold Formula) by Sathish Paul were also based on celestial travel.
2005-G.R.Indugopan, a novelist in Malayalam wrote “ICE-196 Degree” which was published by DC Books. This was a science fiction novel based on nano -medicine. The central character lives two lives in his lifetime with the help of nano- technology.
2009-Novel “Aliens” by Reji.D.Nair was published. 2010-The horror Science fiction novel “Chimiera”by Malayalam Science Writer G.S.Unnikrishnan Nair was published. The novel deals with the perils of genetic modification, which may ultimately result in Animal-Human hybrids (Chimeras).
2012– E.P.Sreeekumar published “Maramudra”, a science fiction novel that deals with the perils of machines and robots in the future world.
2013– “Paithania” written by Rajan Perunna was published. This is the story of a Geneticist who turns himself into a human-python Chimiera.
2013– “Asamayam” a science fiction novel by Habcee was published by New Books, Kannur.The characters in this novel sometimes live in dreadful fear of getting lost out in the technological quantum jumps; but with little control over their vaulting ambitions.
2013 -“Alpha” Science fiction novel by the author T.D Ramakrishnan was published. The novel talks about an unusual experiment of twelve persons, who belongs to different stratas of society, led by the professor. They have decided to live in the island for 25 years, cutting all the relations with the outer world
2014– Balabhumi, leading Malayalam Children’s weekly serialized the Science fiction novel “Plant Red” written by G.S.Unnikrishnan Nair. In the novel the central characters Milo and Joe travels to mars and other planets in the distant future. This novel was published in book form by S.P.S,Kottayam.
As compared to Hindi, Bangla, Marathi and some other languages in which Science fiction is coming up very well, in Malayalam it has not still gained good momentum. Lack of acceptance by publishers, fewer Science fiction writers and lack of support and encouragement for Science fiction writers are some of the reasons. Hopefully in the near future a golden era of Science fiction may emerge in Malayalam.