Science Fiction and Fantasy | An Indian Experience

Interview With Shri Som Nandivada |
Issue 25

Interview With Shri Som Nandivada

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On behalf of Adbhut, Dinker Charak interviewed Shri Som Nandivada 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?

I personally am not competent enough to judge if Sci-fi in the technical sense of the word has yet taken off in India. My belief is that literature of the type of tantrik/mantrik stories (remember Chandamama and the Vikram Vetal tales?) would have easily lent itself to an Sci-fi colour, depending on how one defines science (please see my answer to the second question below). Did that direction really happen in the past? I don’t know. Will Sci-fi ever take off in India? Of course, it will. No doubt about it.

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?

“Science” as it is understood today is a preponderantly “western” concept. This is a matter of history. It could as easily have been a different culture that defined the study of matter. F=ma would have worked even if we hadn’t used English letters for denotation. What does tatvam mean, and what does dravyam mean, etc. are core concepts that could have certainly evolved into an alternate structure of science, which would have been Indian, or any other culture. Of course, unlike the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians of the Chinese, we Indians have not really been concrete, we’re mostly in the abstract realm. But then, much of fundamental science is abstract, and it could just as easily been Indian as it happens to be Western now. As regards Sci-fi, the fact that science is western causes Sci-fi to also be western for right now. But that will change. As regards readership, I don’t know. Personally, my job as a writer is to create. And it is Divine Will as to how the creation is received in this world. Given this observer/observable subjective aspect, I don’t know if I am competent to judge readership patterns.

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?

Yes, Sci-fi has increased my scientific outlook. Sometimes when the prosaic textbooks become tough to grasp, Sci-fi helps bridge the gap and ensures that we remain curious and continue the quest. What comes first? It is a matter of choice, which changes from time to time. It is like the chicken and egg.

How does Sci-fi differ from ordinary fiction?

The below questions address this as well. Sci-fi is “science” fiction. That is to say, it is built on a premise involving a systematic study of matter, and a governing body of laws. It need not be science in the Popperian* western sense necessarily. But it has to be a body of knowledge that is rigorous and through enough to provide a sufficient level of satisfaction arising from delivered results. Fiction based on such a premise would be science fiction.

Is a certain level of intelligence needed for an appreciation of Sci-fi?

Yes, of course. It is a skill based activity.

* The author elaborates: Popperian refers to the philosophical foundation of western science, based on an Austrian scholar named Karl Popper, who laid this foundation for western science. So, what I was saying was, Science need not necessarily be Popperian, i.e. it could as easily be Indian, or Chinese, or Mesopotamian.

Cover pic by Mark Gunn.

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Dinker has over a decade of experience in building products across diverse domains as Industrial Automation, Home Automations, Operating Systems, High Energy Particle Physics, Embedded Systems, Online Video Advertising, Messaging, K-12 education and Private Banking. He also founded Gungroo Software. His books #ProMa, Absolute and None & The Murmurs of the Dawn are available on Amazon.