“Literature is above politics, to describe and to criticize it. Literature needs to reveal the weakness of politics and its dark side to help push society forward.” — Ma Jian
Four years ago, when I started working on Mithila Review, I was on a mission to stop the ongoing state persecutions and killings in this part of the world. The idea was to speak truth to power through stories from brave and talented writers who fearlessly wrote about the quest for identity, dignity and justice against the historical injustices and discriminations, and the use of violence and abuse of power by states against their own citizens, non-citizens, aliens, refugees and migrants in different parts of the world, in different times.
As a writer, I felt utterly powerless to do so on my own, because what I wrote met with either stony silence or rejection; I didn’t have friends or access to the established media platforms because I didn’t toe a party line. I don’t think in brackets or borders—I am a millennial who grew up writing, coding, and publishing on the world wide web. If you belong to the world—they seem to be telling me—you cannot be one of us. Fine, I am not.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was risking my career in advertising to build this community platform. As I said, I was on a mission to tell diverse, progressive, and powerful stories from around the world with a strong belief that these stories could help change our worlds—one citizen reader at a time, word by word. And before I knew it, Mithila Review had become my outlet, my shield, my art and my home, and I believe I am not alone. As our reader, author or contributor, I sincerely hope that you feel the same.
After the first year of publication, we started to pay a small honorarium of $5-10 to our contributors thanks to a handful of patrons on Patreon. After the second or third year, however, when our funds remained below $200, I didn’t feel it was right to continue to solicit and publish work from authors if I couldn’t pay them enough. Every time I took a story for publication, a part of me felt extremely guilty about not being able to support the author with professional pay rates. (This hasn’t changed, of course.) So I kept delaying processing submissions—I extend my apologies once again to everyone who had to wait long enough to receive a response.
Writing, editing or publishing is an act of faith and courage in the age of crises we live in. I can only describe the time it takes me to read, correspond, design, edit, code and publish Mithila Review as incredible. Now, in order to be able to continue to publish and grow this journal into a world-class publication committed to literary excellence and progressive values, I know I have to get full-time staff and resources.
So far, I have been unwilling to hire interns or employ a large pool of volunteers because we do not have the necessary funding in place to pay myself and others for their time and efforts. There’s one more thing: I have been resisting the idea of chasing corporate funding because it could possibly mean, among other things, putting Mithila Review behind a paywall, bombarding readers with ads, and/or publishing content that I do not believe in—content bereft of positive impact or value.
The last time I checked, as a citizen from India, I cannot launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo like our peers in the West. Unfortunately, Mithila Review doesn’t exist for the world outside of a small community. So I have relied mostly on Patreon subscriptions and the extremely rare Paypal donations to be able to pay our contributors.
These past few years, I have struggled to come out of my own den of despair as a writer and filmmaker. I finally began to approach mainstream publishers and production houses as potential collaborators in India. Well, I am still getting used to the silent treatment and our small talks. What I have realized is that there is no point waiting for someone to give you an answer. You must find your own way if you want to tell your stories. Make your films.
As a small and independent publisher, what I have always sought to publish in Mithila Review are stories that can give us hope against all odds, fundamentalists and despots. Stories that explore and illuminate life on Earth, and help us understand and prepare for the real world — which can be indifferent to the suffering of those around us — and the crises that we face as an evolving (or dying) species.
Stories that are told from the perspective of someone aware of and informed by the rational and scientific, technological, economic, environmental, anthropological or cultural discoveries, developments and challenges of today’s world. Stories that have something to tell us about what’s happening to us, the environment and all other creatures with whom we share this planet. In a voice that is compelling, original, well-informed, and urgent. Stories that can be vehicles of change. Stories that can change the world — one reader at a time, word by word.
It’s nothing less than a miracle for me that a journal like Mithila Review exists on the Internet. And I constantly feel the burden of expectations and a tremendous sense of responsibility to do the right thing and serve this global community of readers and writers the best I can.
As always, I am extremely grateful to the authors who choose to send us their best work, and make it possible for this platform to be here. I am equally grateful to all our precious readers and patrons for their patience, love and support. Without your generous donation and support, Mithila Review cannot find, curate, publish and spread diverse, original and impactful stories for the borderless citizens.
The threats resulting from climate change, state surveillance, nationalism, fundamentalism and intolerance, state corruption and violence, also erosion of our privacy and power to mobilize against the state or bring about a fundamental change are real. The ruling elites have hacked the world’s democracies, people’s constitutions, and public institutions that could have served the interests of the people. And the only way for us to take back control is to tell stories that birth creative thought and positive action. Stories that accurately describe our world, and triumph over fear, mistrust and despair. Stories that guide us and the future. Because the world needs saving, and honestly, nothing works better than positive and powerful stories of belief and wonder.
If you want to join me as part of the editorial team or contribute in any other way, you can reach out to me here: editor[@]mithilareview.com.
Thank you so much. My best wishes, love and hugs to you all!
— Salik Shah
Founding Editor & Publisher