Monday, December 01, 2008

The reading at PASHA

The event was a GREAT success, I would say -- all thanks to Ranvir Shah, V.R.Devika and PRAKRITI Foundation, organizers of the event. The venue was absolutely ideal, in Pasha, the discotheque of the Park Hotel. The glittering accents in walls and ceiling and the pop-opulence of the decor perfectly suited the ethos of my book, set as it is in a decadent dystopia a couple of decades into the future. There were at least 60 people present and good questions were asked and the stack of books supplied by Landmark bookstore was almost halved (this is a guess. I wasn't counting) by the end of the evening.

What do people think of the book? My guess is they're puzzled by it. I often (e.e., not just for ESCAPE) encounter an expression on the faces of would-be readers of: Why? Why has she chosen to write about THIS? Whereas for me the question is always the other way around -- How can anyone afford NOT to be thinking of these issues? And Better get this book written and published before someone else has the exact same idea (okay, so that's my paranoia speaking)! But answering the "why" is always difficult, practically impossible when young, anxious-looking journalists ask it.

I realize, too, that there's an unspoken notion about what subjects are concerned acceptable for people writing from within the Southasian context. I may be overstating the case, but it's as if we're "allowed" to describe our world and of the world outside when viewed from our perspective but larger contexts are tacitly considered to be off-limits to us. So if I do not specifically nationalize my characters that is considered bizarre and perhaps presumptuous -- even though I know, when I read Western science fiction, quite often the characters are considered to be representative of all humans. When they're not, their nationality or racial type is explicitly characterized as other-than.

The "permission" is not simply offered or denied from outside -- it's our own audience which feels uncomfortable if one of us makes statements outside our prescribed domain. Is it because there's no actual curiosity about the worlds outside our world? Or is it because there are no markets for publishing our opinions about outside-worlds? A combination of both is what it must be: few publishers can afford to produce books for which there are no known readers.

Ah well.

Two more to go, in Bangalore and Bombay! Then I guess I'm done for the moment.

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