Sunday, February 16, 2020
The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Edited by Tarun K. Saint
I wholeheartedly recommend The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Edited by Tarun K. Saint not because I loved all the stories (I didn't), but because this is a valuable anthology and a place to start for someone looking to learn more about science fiction in South Asia.
The editor's introduction and some of the older stories are probably going to appeal more to those with an academic mindset trying to understand the history of South Asian science fiction. On that note, I was pleased to see Rahul Sankrityayan's work as I am familiar with his academic work editing Buddhist Sanskrit texts; see here for more on this extraordinary scholar and writer.
But if your interests are not academic/historical, there's still a lot of good stuff. I enjoyed the stories by authors I was familiar with previously (like Manjula Padmanabhan, Mimi Mondal, Vandana Singh, etc.), but I also enjoyed learning some new names. Not every story grabbed me and most of the poetry wasn't my thing, but I particularly enjoyed the more humorous and satirical stories. But that's the great thing about an anthology: if you're not liking something, you can skip it and move on to the next thing. It's totally legal (at least in most jurisdictions).
One more thing: It will help to have at least some familiarity with South Asian history and cultures. I don't have that cultural background myself (I'm a white American), and I admit I didn't understand all the references. But I study ancient Indian philosophy and have been to India, so I had enough to muddle through. If you are totally unfamiliar with South Asia, this might be a good chance to learn something about some cultures here on Earth while reading some fun science fiction.
See also my Goodreads review.
PS: I didn't say much about the individual stories. Sorry. See this series of posts on A Book Unopened blog for great reviews of the individual stories.
PPS: I will be discussing this volume and other examples of South Asian science fiction on a panel on Asian science fiction at Con Nooga this Friday (Feb. 21, 2020) at 4pm. I'm looking forward to it!