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Stardust, dystopia and the Asian imagination – Kitaab, Singapore publishes major Asian speculative fiction collection

 

(from left) Kitaab’s publisher and Series Editor Zafar Anjum. Mithran Somasundrum, Rohan Menteiro, Kaiyi Tan, Timothy Yam and Chris Mooney Singh

Kitaab, Singapore, has just published an anthology—The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018, which was launched at the Singapore Writers Festival on 9 November 2018.

The Best Asian Speculative FictionThis unique anthology is being seen by industry pundits as the most comprehensive speculative fiction collection from the continent. Comparisons are already being made with time honoured works like Dark Matter, the turn of the century anthology of speculative fiction from the African diaspora. However, as the editor of the volume Rajat Chaudhuri tells us, ‘We are just making a beginning with fresh-from-the-oven stories. Between stardust and dystopias, we are offering a sampling of flavours from the infinite breadth of the Asian imagination.’

According to series editor Zafar Anjum, ‘Richness of imagination is key to this collection; we plan to make it a series.’ Tales that take off on a tangent from the real have a special appeal to readers of all ages, he says.

Chaudhuri, who is a novelist and short story writer tells us how fulfilling it was for him to put together this volume of two and half dozen stories and some more, covering countries all the way from Kazakhstan to Korea and China to Indonesia. ‘The authors of this volume are either of Asian origin and Asian descent or have been residing in Asian countries for long. Twenty countries have been covered, sixteen (counting Hong Kong, SAR) of which are in Asia, the rest accounted for by diasporas and mixed ethnicities. Also, most of the stories have Asian settings and characters. But we are neither cartographers nor accountants,’ he adds, ‘though we love variety, we don’t want to mark each page of our book with flags and numbers.’

Best Asian fiction

(from left) Timothy Yam, Chris Mooney Singh, Zafar Anjum and Mithran Somasundrum

Quoting acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh, Chaudhuri says, “The great, irreplaceable potentiality of fiction is that it makes possible the imagining of possibilities.” Explaining the selection process and some personal favourites, the editor says, ‘From the mountain load of submissions, I had begun by looking for stories that imagined possible worlds. Lopa Ghosh’s powerful story Crow depicting singularity ruling as a totalitarian dictatorship and Shweta Taneja’s darkly funny The Daughter that Bleeds about a post-apocalyptic India are from that tradition. We have of course included a ton of so-called genre stories from the stables of science fiction, fantasy and horror and then those with some of this and some of that, and things further still. Xu Xi’s engaging tale about a time-travelling ghost, Joseph F. Nacino’s spine-chilling story about AI on a singing asteroid, Eliza Victoria’s thought-provoking sci-fi Web, and Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s mesmerizing Slo-Glo are those that immediately come to mind. The spook-o-metre goes crazy as you enter the horror stable to read stories by Kiran Manral and Rohan Monteiro while Tunku Halim leads you into poetic darkness. Each story that got included here had something unique to offer while the focus on geographical diversity was also one of my considerations. It has been quite difficult for me to choose the winners.’

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Kitaab launches 4 titles at the Singapore Writers Festival 2018

The Best Asian fiction

The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 was launched by series editor Zafar Anjum and moderator Dr. Pallavi Narayan together with contributors Vanessa Ng and Miggs Bravo Dutt at the Singapore Writers Festival 2018.

Singapore-based publisher Kitaab launched 4 titles at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival. They were: The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 edited by Dr. Debotri Dhar, The Best Asian Speculative Fiction edited by Rajat Chaudhuri, Turtle City: Cavity Monsters by Tienny The and Mid-Autumn Musings by Dr. Aruna Shahani.

The second volume in the series, The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 contains well-crafted stories with innovative characters, gripping plots, diverse voices from 24 writers in 13 countries, including Singapore.  These contain three stories by Singaporean writers Vanessa Ng, Greg Tan and Miggs Bravo Dutt. The book was launched by series editor Zafar Anjum and moderator Dr. Pallavi Narayan together with contributors Vanessa Ng and Miggs Bravo Dutt.

The best asian fiction

(from left) Publisher Shabana Zahoor with Dr. Pallavi Narayan together with contributors Miggs Bravo Dutt and Vanessa Ng at SWF 2018.

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

The second anthology which was an immediate sell-out was The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018. It is being seen by industry pundits as the most comprehensive speculative fiction collection from the continent. The anthology contain over 40 stories from 16 countries, including Singapore. Five writers from Singapore have made it to the anthology. Five contributors to the anthology from Singapore and Thailand read from their stories and talked about their brush with speculative fiction at the book launch.

The third title, Turtle City: Cavity Monsters, was launched by the author Tienny The who talked about why she wrote this book. There has been a rising trend of tooth decay among children due to unhealthy habits and poor oral hygiene. The author hopes to address this issue and raise awareness on it through her comic book story.

Mid-Autumn Musings, Dr. Aruna Shahani’s debut collection of poetry, was launched by the poet herself together with Dr. Nilanjana Sengupta.

 


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Rare booksellers rallied against an Amazon-owned company and won

(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

The typical image of an antiquarian bookstore—sitting quietly next to the banks of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, in a modest red-shingled house near the Texas bayou, or hidden from view on the type of Parisian side road you will find only if you are lost or very, very dedicated—would not suggest the kind of unprecedented rallying cry heard this week as booksellers forced an about-face from AbeBooks, the Amazon-owned website where a number of them sell the world’s rarest titles, on a controversial decision to drop booksellers from four countries.

Late last month, AbeBooks announced that it would no longer list booksellers from the Czech Republic, South Korea, Hungary and Russia after Nov. 30. It added in a subsequent statement that “a small number of sellers will be impacted as we migrate to a new payment service provider.” Now, after a massive protest by antiquarian booksellers, AbeBooks said Wednesday morning that it would reverse the decision.

So what just happened?

The original announcement—in particular, its abruptness and corporate-seeming, impersonal language—ruffled many in the community who have long regarded AbeBooks, which was bought by Amazon in 2008, with suspicion, even as they rely on it. It also brought alarm from at least one bookseller in the Czech Republic.

Read more at Lit Hub link here


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Poetry: Yeti with a Tilak by Manu Kant

Yeti with a Tilak by Manu Kant

This poem is part of a series about Asifa Bano – the Kashmiri Muslim girl who was brutally raped and murdered earlier this year in Kashmir.

Manu Kant

Manu Kant was born at Patiala, Punjab but brought up in Chandigarh. He also lived in the erstwhile Soviet Union from where he did his post-graduation in TV journalism from the prestigious Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow in 1993. He is a freelance journalist and a committed Marxist. His articles have appeared in The Tribune, Chandigarh, The Indian Express, Pioneer and Kolkata-based weekly Frontier. He has published seven poetry books. His latest poetry book is titled Asifa Bano’s Smile which is about the little Kashmiri girl who was killed after a horrific gang-rape in Kashmir in January, 2018. Manu keenly follows Indian art and theatre.


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Freedom to publish: Interview with Iranian publisher Azadeh Parsapour

(From Publishing Perspectives. Link to the complete article given below)

When the United Arab Emirates’ Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi convened a panel on challenges to the freedom to publish at the Sharjah International Book Fair Publishers Conference 2018, a two-time International Publishers Association (IPA) Prix Voltaire nominee was on stage with her: Azadeh Parsapour.

Parsapour is the founder of the London-based Nogaam Publishing, a press launched in 2012 to digitally produce Farsi writings that are censored in Iran. Nogaam makes them available free of charge under a Creative Commons license. Iranian readers can access more than 40 titles so far produced by Nogaam on topics controlled in Tehran including immigration, censorship, LGBT issues, underground music, women, relationships, war,  and extremism.

Parsapour is also behind the Tehran Book Fair Uncensored—sponsored by the International Alliance of Independent Publishers—which is designed to help Persian-language publishers, authors, and translators meet in European and North American cities to disseminate books in Persian, including those censored in Iran.

In September, the Association of American Publishers at its annual meeting in New York City named Parsapour the recipient of its International Freedom To Publish Award, named for Jeri Laber. Because she’s unable to travel to the United States on her Iranian passport, Parsapour sent a taped message to the association’s meeting in which she explained that her name, Azadeh, means free human.

Read more at the Publishing Perspectives link here


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Book review: Revolt of the Lamebren by Manjiri Prabhu

Reviewed by Monideepa Sahu

Revolt of the Lamebren

Title: Revolt of the Lamebren
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Publisher: Readomania
Pages:  302

 

Popular Indian mystery author Manjiri Prabhu successfully forays into the dystopian domain with this first part of a proposed series. Imaginative and fast-paced, the story takes us into a disturbing future we might end up creating for our descendants if we are not alert and aware right now. This novel has all the elements of a well-written and entertaining page turner, with enough action and dramatic tension. There is also a thoughtful core, brought out with a light and unobtrusive touch, to draw readers out of their complacency.

The idea for this tale was inspired by a true incident which the author witnessed in her home city of Pune. Some years ago, the municipal authorities were rounding up stray dogs. The author couldn’t help notice how mothers were cruelly torn apart from their puppies. Even a few dogs with collars were caught, simply because they were roaming unattended on the streets. Prabhu was struck by a small boy, dressed in adult style clothes, who smirked with sadistic glee as he watched the dogs crying in pain and suffering. Was this where humanity was headed, she wondered.

In the world of the Super Dome, the privileged Altklugs maintain their superiority over the systematically subjugated Lamebren. Altklugs don’t earn their knowledge and status. All the knowledge of the world gets effortlessly crammed into their heads through capsules which only they get from the K Bank. The Lamebren are denied this and treated as menials and expendables. They are rounded up and summarily liquidated at the whims of their superiors, just like the stray dogs are dispatched to a cruel fate in today’s world.

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With rice stems in her hair

(By Keki N. Daruwala. From The Hindu. Link to the complete article given below)

Glorious autumn! Even Delhi becomes pleasant in this season of amber, never mind the political shenanigans. Forget them. Think of flowers — white-petalled harsingar, also known as night jasmine or parijat, and that flower which sprouts on alstonia scholaris, the tree from which blackboards are made, and pencils. Its fragrance is heavenly. Indian poets went wild this season, once the 10 heads of Ravana were burnt with fiery arrows, the feats of Hanuman recorded, and the Chalisa sung. Now the stage was set, with the sugarcane ripe for the sickle, rivers and streams shrinking, water fowl descending on sand banks, farmers building machaans to keep wild boar and monkey from the crops. Poetry couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

Living nature

The Sanskrit poets, bound to their rigid traditions, left their amours and all the romantic wrestling with rain-wet women to the months of Sawan and Bhado. Sadly, autumn poetry was devoid of sex. For poetry in the months of Ashwin and Kartik, we need to turn to the great man, the author of Meghaduta himself.

Read more at The Hindu link here


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Book excerpt: The Eight-eyed Lord of Kathmandu by Abhay K

“I am indebted to the British poet, actor, and soldier James Milton Hayes, whose poem ‘The Green Eyes of a Yellow Little God’ with its opening line ‘There is a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu’ fired my imagination to name this collection of poems The Eight-eyed Lord of Kathmandu. Hayes wrote his immortal dramatic monologue over a century ago in 1911 just in five hours. Incidentally, he did not consider it as poetry. Following the footsteps of Hayes, a century later, I have made a humble attempt to draw a poetic portrait of Nepal through my poems on World Heritage sites, festivals, places, landscapes, historical personalities as well as its present inhabitants. My time spent in Nepal from July 2012 to January 2016 was full of bliss, learning and adventure.”
ABHAY K

The Eight-Eyed Lord of Kathmandu

 

Sherpa

I lead the way to Mt. Everest, paving the path through snow
and ice, fearless of losing fingers to frostbite.

Conquering Everest your face glows like a field of poppies.

Descending the mountain my feverish body breaks.

Your weight on my back. A few dollars in my hand.

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Book Review: Feast – Food of the Islamic World by Anissa Helou

Food of the Islamic WorldTitle: Feast – Food of the Islamic World
Author: Anissa Helou
Publisher: Ecco (29 May 2018)
Pages: 544 (Hardcover)

Reviewed by Shabana Zahoor

How do you feel when you get your eager hands on a multi-cuisine cookbook on Islamic worlds? The food which nourishes the soul, binds the family, brings smiles to friends and gives that moment of enlightenment that life is good.

This is exactly how I felt when I got a notification from my beloved library that my reserved item – Feast: Food of the Islamic World– had arrived and was ready for pick up. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I tucked my three-year old toddler into the pram and rushed to the library to lay my hands on this beautifully wrapped tome (the library had put a transparent cover to it to keep it neat), with its thoughtfully listed recipe after recipe.

At the beginning, this book by Arissa Helou, a London based chef and cookbook writer who specialises in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African cuisines, seemed overwhelming, but slowly it took me to a serene, calm journey of soulful food intertwined with equally beautiful snippets of Islamic food history here and there. As you read along, you discover that it is not just a recipe book but a food journey in itself. You travel from street to street, country to country whiffing the best of the gastronomic smells wrapped in magic cloaks. Some you can imagine, some are like friends you befriend at first sight and invite over to your place to have a lovely chat over chai.

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The draw of the Gothic

(From The Paris Review. Link to the complete article given below)

To understand the literary gothic—to even begin to account for its curious appeal, and its simultaneous qualities of seduction and repulsion—it is necessary to undertake a little time travel. We must go back beyond the builders putting the capstone on Pugin’s Palace of Westminster, and on past the last lick of paint on the iced cake of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House; back again another six hundred years past the rap of the stone-mason’s hammer on the cathedral at Reims, in order to finally alight on a promontory above the city of Rome in 410 A.D. The city is on fire. There are bodies in the streets and barbarians at the gates. Pope Innocent I, hedging his bets, has consented to a little pagan worship that is being undertaken in private. Over in Bethlehem, St Jerome hears that Rome has fallen. “The city which had taken the whole world,” he writes, “was itself taken.” The old order—of decency and lawfulness meted out with repressive colonial cruelty—has gone. The Goths have taken the Forum.

The term gothic was first used as an insult, and writers of the genre have always had a reckless disregard for either praise or blame. At first, however, the insult was leveled not at a work of literature, but at the brutally ornate architecture of gargoyles and buttresses which distinguish the great cathedrals of the medieval age. During the renaissance, Giorgio Vasari—an Italian scholar with a taste for the white facades and polite proportions of Classical architecture—found himself within a vaulted cathedral, and was appalled. It was, he said, all confusion and disorder, a “deformed malediction” that “polluted the world.” It was as barbarous an act of social and aesthetic rebellion as the work of the Germanic tribes that tore down the last of the Roman Empire. It was, in fact, Gothic.

Read more at the Paris Review link here