In honour of the publication of The Good Shabti last month, I was invited onto the Tor.com podcast Midnight In Karachi, hosted by Mahvesh Murad. The show is a one-on-one interview format, and the previous guests are all incredibly accomplished SF writers such as Audrey Niffenegger, Patrick Ness,
Listen to the episode on the Tor.com website, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
During the discussion we discussed Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden and the idea that modern readers are inherently savvy when it comes to non-linear storytelling. We also spent a lot of time discussing literary translation, which I called “the most important thing in the world.” I also said that literary translation was “arguably the most important thing in the world”. I made a point about the power of literature to catalyse inter-cultural understanding, which I’ve long thought but I’m not sure I have ever blogged about:
And often people say to me, “you don’t know what its like to be a black person; you don;t know what its like to be a woman in Pakistan. And I say to them, “well, I don’t know what it is to be black; I don’t know what it is to be a woman; but I know what its like to be those things because I’ve read literature where people who are those things who have used their literary skills – they’ve metaphor, they’ve used simile, they’ve used all the tools of literature to tell me what its like, and at the end of their book I have empathised with them. And so a guy whose living in a position of relative privilege because I’m white and I’m male and I like in the West… how else am I going to get access into what it is to be a woman living in Pakistan or a man living in Africa? My only way to empathise with those people is through literature. So to get the translations, to get those stories, is essential if I am going to have my mind changed.
I also made this chauvinistic point about the relevance of SF/F writing:
I don’t want to alienate writers in other genres, but we’re on a Tor.com podcast… I just feel that Science Fiction and Fantasy is just so relevant, its the most relevant to the present day. The way the internet and technology, the speed at which it moves, every day, when some big argument, some big world incidence happens because of something that has happened on the internet, because of technology, the way in which technology seems to be influencing our lives and invading our discourse, its all-encompassing, its overwhelming, its a deluge, and so its people who incorporate the technology into their stories, who don’t shy away from asking how the technology is changing us, how it is influencing our culture, how its hacking our brains… these issues demand a literary response because we can’t make sense of it in 140 characters. And so I think its the science fiction authors, I think it is the speculative fiction authors, who are the closest to coming up with an answer, the closest to making sense of it. And so I think its politically significant and culturally significant as well as being good fun. I’m proud to be breaking into this genre.