For the past few months, we have been actively looking for stories and submissions for a proposed SF anthology. The theme for the project is the quest for dignity and justice from the margins of society.

In this inaugural web issue of Mithila Review, we are publishing interviews, essays, poetry and fiction about marginal experiences in Asia. These poets and authors bear testament to the struggle across communities against all kinds of oppression. They recount the tragic but inevitable rebellion of a lone hero and reaffirm the agency and vitality inherent in human endeavors.

Zainab Ummer Farook’s haunting poem, “The Nation Wants to Know,” is an expression of the assertion of civil liberties shared by thousands of students across India. It is a protest poem against the authoritarian intervention of the government and its sponsored media in college campuses and universities.

Ugandan writer and filmmaker, Dilman Dila’s short story, “Braveheart’s Homecoming” — appearing here for the first time — is inspired by his stay in Nepal, and his love for Bollywood. The story is a testament to the struggles of bonded laborers in Nepal.

Pakistani writer Usman T Malik’s “Resurrection Points” first appeared in Strange Horizons, a leading American speculative magazine. In his interview with Mithila Review, Malik said that a dose of fantastika could freshen up contemporary South Asian literature, which is “inundated with a visceral and stern realism.” SF could make it “feel young and excited about possibilities again.” Malik’s Bram Stroker-winning “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” (Read / Listen) along with Indra Das’s new Tor novelette, “Breaking Water,” (Read) and Vandana Singh’s Kafkaesque tale, “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet,” are credible proof to this assertion. These stories show that South Asia is fertile ground for groundbreaking speculative fiction.

Similar contemporary speculative fiction from around the world that capture the spirit of our project include:

  • “Binti” – Nnedi Okorafor (Tor, 2015) (Excerpts)
  • “Ogres of East Africa” – Sofia Samatar (Long Hidden, 2014) (Read/Listen at Podcastle)
  • “Planet Lion” – Catherynne M. Valente (Uncanny, 2015) (Read/Listen
  • “The Rainbow Flame”– Shveta Thakrar (Uncanny, 2015) (Read/Listen)
  • “Weep for Day” – Indra Das (Asimov’s Science Fiction, 2012) (Read at Clarkesworld)
  • “The Sill and the Dike” – Vajra Chandrasekera (Nightmare, 2015) (Read)
  • “Valley of Tears”– Rabi Thapa (Nothing to Declare, 2011) (Penguin, 2012) (Read)
  • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” – Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld, 2015) (Read)
  • “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” – Ken Liu (Panverse Three, 2011) (Read)
  • “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)” – Geoff Ryman (Paradise Tales, 2011)

“History is both the most human of sciences as well as the most scientific of stories,” Ken Liu said in his interview with Mithila Review. “Denialism, especially as it’s applied to the historical atrocities committed by the forces of the Empire of Japan that swept across much of Asia (and their collaborators), is a particularly notable force of evil in our society.” His novella, “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” explores “the sources of denialism and why so many apparently rational people would engage in these acts of violence against history, against the survivors and the memory of the victims and their descendants.”

In her interview, Kelly Robson said that her story, “Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” was an attempt to understand and define great national tragedies. Headline-grabbing terrorist attacks are planned and executed as viral media spectacles, but “many other horrible things happen that are swept under the carpet.” She believes “the most terrible thing that ever happened in North America is the centuries-long program of genocide against indigenous people, which includes the current epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada.”

Geoff Ryman’s utterly moving and redeeming story, “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” in particular was the seed and inspiration for the whole project. It’s a story that celebrates the power of love, and artfully exemplifies why the quest for justice must not be motivated by hate or revenge. The cycle of mistrust, inequality and hatred cannot end, as Nepali writer and poet Bhushita Vasistha concludes in her personal essay, if the people’s uprising seeks mere reversal of the roles of the oppressor and the oppressed.

We are open to submissions from around the world, and intend to be a professional market with standard pay rates in time. We’re counting on your excellent stories and support. Thank you!

– Salik
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Salik Shah is the founding editor of Mithila Review. You can find him on Twitter: @Salik Website: salikshah.com

Photograph: Curiosity Self-Portrait / NASA

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Salik Shah
Salik Shah is the founding editor of Mithila Review. His poetry, fiction and nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction and Juggernaut, among other publications. You can find him on Twitter: @Salik Website: salikshah.com