Interview With Dr. M H Srinarahari
On behalf of Adbhut, Dinker Charak interviewed Dr. M H Srinarahari via email. We thank him for taking time out to talk to us.
Has Did Sci-fi take off in India? If yes, what makes you believe so? If no, will it ever?
With some optimism, I say it has. Sci-fi is the study of the impact of Science and Technology on the society and I believe that is what the question addresses. As such, we observe that among youngsters Sci-fi has regained respectability. In addition, scholars are taking up research works in the field. The magazines like Mayura and Taranga have devoted a complete issue for the Sci-fi. It is the golden age of Sci-fi.
Is Sci-fi a “western” concept? If yes, will it always be considered so and be seen as something that was imported? If you believe that some ways it is and in some ways it is not, do you see a struggle between “western” and “Indian” for readership?
Originally, Sci-fi is of British origin -Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Later it bloomed fully in the hands of American Sci-fi editors like Horace Gold, Campbell and others. The pulpy quality of the genre has vanished from 1960s. After this gestation period, many authors Indianised the stories in the beginning. However, the authors in this millennium are writing on their own and it is the other way round that others have to learn from the Indians. In fact, Bruce Sterling, Alan Dean Forster and others are writing their works with Indian settings. Sci-fi is a myth for the westerners. Whereas, Indians have to combine myth with technology. It is an art. Quite a number of authors like Narlikar, Mehandale, Nemichandra, Banakar and others have been successful in this art.
Has writing (and reading) Sci-fi increased a scientific outlook in your life? What comes first — scientific outlook and then love of sci-fi or love of sci-fi and then scientific outlook?
This question is difficult to answer because I believe it is the two faces of the same coin. Scientific outlook is the derivative of the Sci-fi. In other words, Sci-fi has a background of scientific outlook. It is similar to aging and obtaining mental maturity. One is directly proportional to the other. They are inseparable.
How does Sci-fi differ from ordinary fiction?
Science fiction is based on the element of science. There is no Sci-fi without its Science background. Ordinary fiction can do away without the Darwin’s theory of evolution. But, it is a must for sci-fi. Ordinary fiction has the plot, characterisation, etc. But the plot is in the heart of sci-fi. Often there is thinness of characterisation in sci-fi because and often IDEA serves as the Hero. Contemporary fiction deals with contemporary problems whereas Sci-fi deals with backward or forward in time. Science fiction deals with empirical worlds more than what an ordinary fiction could do. (Some times fantasy also deals with same kind of settings but Sci-fi deals with what is plausible. Fantasy deals with could happen. Sci-fi deals with “not yet happened”.
Is a certain level of intelligence needed for an appreciation of Sci-fi?
For witnessing a Sci-fi film, video, or any other visual media no expertise is required as much of its production focuses on “Special effects”. For appreciating sci-fi in print certain background of science, scientific temper is required.
Cover pic by Phil Whitehouse.