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Science Fiction and Fantasy | An Indian Experience

A Report on the VI Annual Science Fiction Conference held at Pondicherry, India on 18th and 19th of December 2004 | Adbhut.in
Issue 15

A Report on the VI Annual Science Fiction Conference held at Pondicherry, India on 18th and 19th of December 2004

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The Annual SF conference of the Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies was held in collaboration with The Department of English, Pondicherry University, on December 18th and 19th, 2004 at the Newly constructed Seminar Hall, University campus, Pondicherry, India.

Inaugural Address:

The inaugural function of the sixth annual Science Fiction conference was held on 18th of December 2004 at the new seminar hall at Pondicherry University at 10.30 A.M. After the enrollment of the eighty delegates at the registration counter, the function began with an invocation by the faculty members of the Department of English. The Chairperson of the Department Dr. Balaswamy welcomed the gathering. In his welcome address he highlighted that the it is apt for the department of English to organize the conferences as the present one is bringing together the students, faculty members and the experts in the field to interact among one another. Further, he noticed that the participants were not confined to the department of English, but most surprisingly, they were representing various sections of the society.

 

In his Annual Report, Dr. Srinarahari the General Secretary of the association brought out a list of extensive activities out of which the effort in bringing the Indian Journal for Science Fiction Studies, the publication of SF workshop products namely 101 SF Stories Written by Children, the contributions of Upinder Mehan, Vandana Singh, Dinker Charak (of adbhut.com), Ashok Banker at the global level were highlighted. The support given by Jonathan Cowie (of Concatenation.org), Andy Sawyer of Liverpool, the reports published by emerald.com, Locus, infinite matrix have all created sufficient impetus for taking up new projects.

 

Delivering the President’s address, Dr. Purushothaman pointed out the gradual increase in the number of participants from the first conference to the present one. He recalled that there were exactly a dozen people for the first conference and the response is very much encouraging in recent years. The world has acknowledged the popularity of Harry Potter series and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Hence, the association has included ‘Fantasy’ related topics with Science Fiction. The focus on Kalpana Chawla in the last conference has yielded much result. Hence, this time the theme GRAIN has caught the attention of the public. Also, he explained the relevance of the theme during the course of his address.

 

The Dean of Computer Science and Mathematics Dr. Kuppuswamy delivering the inaugural address expressed his happiness towards the choice of the theme for the conference. He iterated that the SF predictions of today are becoming the realities of the very next day. Life is becoming miserable without technology. Citing an example, he said that the present conference would have been a failure if some thing had gone wrong with the OHP/LCD gadgets. Further asserting the progress in the computer field, he said that the fifth generation of the computers is with us. The nature of human beings and could be studied with respect to their relationship with five other sectors namely, the human and the God, the human versus animals, human versus consciousness, Human versus computers and human versus genetic engineering. Considering the spheres of man’s activities, he called for the need to solve immediate problems posed by technologies such as traffic jams and others. Dr. Clement S Lourdes gave the vote of thanks.

 

Among the highlights, the Chairperson of a session Dr.Srinarahari (who is also the General Secretary, IASFS) emphasized that SF translation from regional language to English and vice versa is the need of the hour. Hence, in order to encourage the activity, he announced a prize money of Rupees five hundred for the best translation of a Tamil language SF novel Alexandarum Oru Koppai Theenirum  (Alexander over a cup of tea) by M.G.Suresh into English (Which was one of the papers read by Dr. Clement), with a thumping applaud, the delegates came forward to contribute for the prize money to the extent of Rupees two thousand and five hundred.

Academic Sessions:

The focus of the conference was announced earlier as Genetic Engineering, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology (GRAIN). Sixteen papers were presented during five sessions. They are:

18.12.04

Session 1.

Theme: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Chairperson: Dr. Panneer Selvam

1.Ms. Gayathri: History of Artificial Intelligence.

2. Dr. Srinarahari M.H. : A Review of Goodbye to Earth by Bal Phondke.

3. Mr. Arvind Kumar : Robotics for Space: A Concept.

Session II

Theme: Science, SF and Fiction

Chairperson: Prof. R. Bhosanurmutt.

1.Dr. S. Murali: From Surprise to Satori: Fantasy, Fiction and Faction

2. Dr. Sujatha V: Fear in Fantasy Literature.

3. Dr. Kalpana H: Legitimizing Science: The Postmodern Condition in Scifi Thrillers.

19.12.04

Session III

Theme: SF & Mainstream Fiction and Comparative Study.

Chairperson: Dr. Srinarahari.M.H.

1.Dr. Babu M. Abraham: Science Fiction and Mainstream American Fiction.

2. Mr. Santhosh K. Mehandale: SF Writing and Mainstream Literature from a Kannada prospective.

3. Dr. Clement Lourdes: Robot or Rabbi: The Future Man in H.G.Wells’ The Time Machine and M.G.Suresh’s Alexandarum oru Koppai Theenirum

Session IV

Theme: Print and Visual SF

Chairperson: Dr. K. S.Purushothaman.

1.Dr. Natarajan. N.: The Creational Fantasy/Politics between Science Fiction and Magic Realism –A Deconstructive Comparison.

2. Ms. Thenmozhi: Brave New World

3.  Mr. Enoch: A Re-reading of Huxley’s Brave New World.

4. Ms. K. Rashmi: Michael Crichton’s Timeline: A Vision of Quantum Teleportation.

Session V

Theme: Nanotechnology. And Story reading Session:

Chairperson: Dr. Balaswamy

I. Prof. R. Bhoosanurmutt: Genesis of a Nanotechnology

II. Story Reading Session:

1. Dr. Usha Kalyani Hamilton’s story : Readers’ Response by the interaction from the audience.

2. Prof. Bhoosanurmutt: Reading of an SF story.

Valedictory:

The valedictory function was held on the evening of 19th December 2004 at the new seminar hall of the University. Dr. Purushothaman welcomed the gathering, the report  of the conference was read by Prof. Bhoosanurmutt. Mr. Yeshwant Deshponde a writer from Maharashtra spoke about the experiences that he had during the conference. Prof. Anil K. Bhatnagar the Vice Chancellor of the University delivered the valedictory address. During his address he appreciated the team work which was responsible for the success of the program. Dr. Kalpana gave the vote of thanks.

An exhibition of books donated by various well wishers was arranged in the premises. An announcement regarding the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention Glasgow, Scotland was also made for the benefit of the members of the association.

Safety:

Thus, the use of Hi-tech for the presentations, participants were from various professions and the encouragement for the translation activities are the highlights of the conference. It is reported that the ‘tsunami waves’ hit the place on 25th December 2004 – the guest house where the delegates were lodged – exactly a week from the dates of the conference. The gratifying thing is that the visitors are all safe in their respective places.

Next Conference:

It is proposed to hold the next International SF conference at Mysore, Karnataka State, India on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the 9th, 10th and 11th of December 2005. Kindly, block these days so that you with your friends can partake in the conference.


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Dr Srinarahari has obtained B.Sc., B.Ed., Diploma in Marathi, MA in English literature. He has been awarded a doctoral degree for “The Robotistic Works of Isaac Asimov: A Study” by Kuvempu University, Karnataka state. After serving for 40 years in Government of Karnataka he has retired as Principal. Now, he is working as Principal of Animaster College of Animation and Designs in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India for the last 5 years. He can be reached over email.principal@animaster.com; Dr Srinarahari is the Vice President of the Asian Science Fiction Association. He is the Secretary-General of Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies®, Bangalore, India. He has organized 14 National and 5 International Science Fiction Conferences. He is an SF writer, critic and reports for the number one SF magazine of the world namely Locus. SF Writing Short Story Workshop that he has conducted for the children of the age group 13-15 is acknowledged as a pioneer attempt. Also, he has conducted similar workshops for Scientists, Science Fiction Writers, Women writers, Research scholars, PG and UG students, Senior citizens, Working Women, Housewives as well as for all levels and age groups. The workshop products are published in the form of books. He has been compared to Thomas Clareson of the USA for his effort in bringing together people of all walks of life to be involved in Indian Science Fiction association activities. Academia.org has several of his articles which reflect the holistic approach to the Indian Science Fiction Studies.