That’s Over! By Dr. M H Srinarahari
Adbhut.in is celebrating its first anniversary! It means that its gestation period is over. The year was the testing time. Any pioneer work is really challenging. The magazine has now gained stability. I presume that it will be a smooth sailing from now.
The study of the history of the SF magazines is a very interesting area. It is traced by a number of authors in a variety of ways in many countries in many forms. Of all these, I found the article, “Adventures in the Pulp Jungle” by Sam J. Lundwall published in Foundation, 34: Autumn 1985 to be very authenticated and straightforward in its narration. Likewise, this special issue has also brought out the progress done in the area in Russia, France, German, Italy, China, and others.
The entire history of SF magazines shows us that it is difficult to run it for a long time. At the turn of the century, I had listed about 650 SF magazines through out the world. Out of which, about four hundred of them were produced in the American continents. For more than a decade I have corresponded with most of them. I have discovered that most of them are fake magazines. Hence, very recently I asked Bruce Sterling to name a few genuine magazines in the USA. Instantaneously, I got a list of a dozen or so. I am mentioning this point not to blame them for cheating the public but to consider the hard truth how difficult it is to run especially a Science Fiction works. Many magazines have folded within a span of a year of their commencement.
The difficulties faced in running a magazine for years are many in number. First of all, to start a magazine one should have a ‘will’ to do it. However, it should not be a one-man show. It is often presumed that there will be a team to work. Often, one supposes that there are so many popular authors who can definitely look after the things at the appropriate time. Later they discover that there is no co-ordination among them. Some of them will be self-centered and hence the center fails to hold them tightly. Often it can be observed that good authors are not the good organizers. Often I have observed that selecting well known personalities to the board also results in miserable failure of the functions of the establishment. But instead, one should separate the executive body from the constitutional body. Next to it, what is required is a thorough funding facility. For which an alternate source of income should be thought of. In that sense, as I have watched closely, the magazines are often associated with certain commercial companies or tied with some of the political parties. This depends upon the ideology of the magazine. Often, the magazines have become the mouthpieces of the political parties. Since, it is being funded by the political party or a politician, the editorial board gradually loses the ‘freedom of expression’. Only solace is that remarkably Science Fiction has no religion, class, caste, region, and the gender bias in general. It advocates universal brotherhood and treats the entire homo sapiens as one great family.
The life of Indian magazines is comparatively very short because, the magazines are surviving either on government advertisement or on subscription. Each day the number of new magazines is increasing on the stand. For most of the Indians, reading is a luxury and not a necessity. The reasons are two folds. One, it takes several months to discover a good magazine because of their number. Second, the family members are all returning from their jobs only at night, some times late night and have realized that there is no substitute for the television programs. Hence, the readership is very poor. The magazines will have to rely on advertisements whether it is government or private companies. In venturing for advertisements, it is practically seen that ‘survival for the fittest’ principle fits in here. Hence, many magazines fold up very soon.
In India, one can notice that there is rush where there is more money. In this regard, we notice less number of fans for Science fiction. Two years back, the Indian SF writer Dr. Sanjay Havanur who is in the States informed me that under the leadership of Dr. Jayanth Narlikar and Professor Rajashekhara Bhoosanurmutt an association namely COFEA was established exclusively for the publication of Science Fiction articles and stories. I do not know why it had to be folded soon. The reason for mentioning these things is to affirm how difficult it is to run the magazine smoothly for years.
We do not know in which form the magazines will be in a decade from now. Technologically speaking, there is no wonder if abdhut.com is cited as a myth or referred as a primitive form of a webzine in the days to come. However, the magazine has had performed superbly in the last twelve months. It has an editorial, story section, provided space for special articles and above all a letters to the editor column. I see a lot of effort of Dinaker (This is how Srinarahari loves to spell Dinker’s name – Editor) behind every work. I imagine him as Raja Vikram who used to carry a corpse over his shoulder, which in turn used to narrate a new story everytime. Each time, the story is half told and the corpse used to ask the king a question and caution him that if he fails to complete the story and fails to give a satisfactory answer it will have the right to shatter his head into thousand pieces. Dinaker is the modern Vikram who is also facing similar problems in one way or the other. The wearer knows where the shoe pinches. Though not anything, I can guess from here that he has to squeeze out his precious time for this kind of a commitment. He need not be afraid of any thing from now. There is the entire country to back him up for this noble cause.
I wish to give him one suggestion on this occasion. Let the magazine devote some more pages for the non-Indian SF writers to write about India and its works. I wish Adbhut.com every success.
Ashley, Michael, ed. The History of Science Fiction Magazine. Vol.I (1926 -1935), Chicago: Henry Regenery, 1974.
—, ed. The History of Science Fiction Magazine. Vol.II ,(1936-45), Chicago: Henry Regenery, 1975.
Clareson, Thomas D. Science Fiction Criticism: An Annotated Checklist. np: Kent UP, 1972.
—. Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers. Ohio: Bowling Green U Popular P, 1976.
—. Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The FormativePeriod.(1926-70) Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1990.
Contento, William. Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections. Boston: G.K.Hall, 1978.
Evans, Oliver, & Harry Finestone, eds., The World of the Short Story: Archetypes in Action. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1971.
Fowler, Roger., ed. Essays on Style and Language. London: Pennsylvania State UP, 1971.
Franklin, Bruce H. Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century. London: Oxford UP, 1978.
—. Robert A Heinlein: America as Science Fiction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1980.
Gernsback, Hugo. “How to Write `Science’ Stories.” Science Fiction Studies 21 (1994): 268-272.
Hall, Hal W. Science Fiction and Fantasy: Reference Index 1985-1991 An International Author & Subject Index to History & Criticism. Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, 1993.
“A History of Science Fiction Criticism: Collective Works Cited and Chronological Bibliography.” [1634- 1999] Science Fiction Studies 26 (1999): 263-283.
Knight, Damon. A Century of Science Fiction. London: Victor Gollancz, 1963.
Lerner, Fred. A Bookman’s Fantasy – How Science Fiction Became Respectable and Other Essays. Massachusetts: NESFAP, 1995.
Nicholls, Peter, ed. The Science in Science Fiction: Does Science Fiction Foretell the Future? New York: Crescent, 1982.
Philmus, Robert M. “New Possibilities for Research on Science Fiction”. Science Fiction Studies 11.1 (1984): 204-209.
Reginald, R. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist 1700-1974 with Contemporary SF Authors. Vol. I, Detroit: Gale Research, 1970.
Spinks, C.W. “Motifs in Science Fiction as Archetypes of Science”. Extrapolation 27.2 (1986) 93-107.
Svilpis, J.E. “Science Fiction Magazine Illustration: A Semiotic Analysis”. Science Fiction Studies 10 (1988): 278-291.
Westfahl, Gary. “A New Campaign for Science Fiction” Extrapolation 33.1 (1992): 6-23.
—. “The Critical History of Science Fiction”. Science Fiction Studies style=’font-style:normal’> 20 (1993): 157-175.
—. “Hugo Gernsback and his Impact on Modern Science Fiction”. Science Fiction Studies 21 (1994): 273-279.
Cover pic from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.