Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain, a 1905 feminist sci fi

sd--330x220Sultana’s Dream was originally published in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine, Madras, 1905, in English. here is a drm free link

Considering the time and place it was written, this short is a bad-ass satire on traditional stereotypes and status quo of woman in Colonial India. In Begum’s vision of a feminist utopia – Ladyland, roles are gender reversed, where females lead the future with technology while men are secluded away.

Where are the men?’ I asked her.

‘In their proper places, where they ought to be.’

‘Pray let me know what you mean by “their proper places”.’

‘O, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.’

‘Just as we are kept in the zenana?’

‘Exactly so.’

The premise and metaphors are rather impressive, for example the name Sultana by meaning is a lady Sultan, King/Emperor. She playfully bashes the prevailing old school inclusiveness of then male dominated society – ‘zenana‘s, and denigrate ‘weaker species’ logic. At one point of the story, in Ladyland, ‘zenana‘s are said to be replaced by ‘mardana‘s (mard- male in hindi/urdu), thereby making the land a crime-less eco friendly ‘Amazon’. The things that looked like science fiction in her ‘wonderland’, when observed now, were actually prophecies and solutions for 21st century- Solar Energy, Hydrogen weather balloons, Commercial Aviation and even competitive academics.

And there is a special charm in the writing, a narrative cuteness that keeps men from being offended, be it then, be it now.

We do not covet other people’s land, we do not fight for a piece of diamond though it may be a thousand-fold brighter than the Koh-i-Noor, nor do we grudge a ruler his Peacock Throne. We dive deep into the ocean of knowledge and try to find out the precious gems, which nature has kept in store for us. We enjoy nature’s gifts as much as we can.

———-

52ab07006e1f5.jpgBegum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, commonly known as Begum Rokeya (9 December 1880 – 9 December 1932), was a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women’s rights. Considered the pioneer feminist of Bengal,[1][2][3] she wrote novels, poems, short stories, science fiction, satires, treatises, and essays.[4] In her writings, she advocated that both men and women should be treated equally as rational beings, and the lack of education is the main reason of women’s lagging behind. (source:wiki)

Nameless by Grant Morrison

nameless

In our solar system, between Mars and Jupiter, there is an asteroid belt, which some people see as an anomaly in place of a should-have-been 5th planet. This hypothetical planet is named as Phaeton by scientists, and the pseudosciences behind it are collectively referred to as ‘disruption theory’. This comic bends that theory and use it in its multi layered narrative, with one completely unfitting element – occultism.

Nameless is a name. Its the name of our protagonist who identifies himself as an expert on the occult(like Constantine). Story opens with a seance, of cosmic proportions, where Nameless is contracted to obtain an archaic key off someone’s dream, by inducing dreams inside dreams. Pretty much like Cobbs from Inception, but with a Lovecraftian touch and Legion(X- Men) psychology.

Meanwhile a huge asteroid- Xibalba (Mayan underworld reference) with a weird Enochian symbol on its surface, is on a collision course with Earth, with a margin of 33 days. A group of scientists are stationed at the Dark side of the moon, to act as Planet’s Michael Bay-ish ‘Armageddon’ crew. Things get weird and trippy when Nameless is recruited to decipher the asteroid symbol and solve the first murder on moon, which turns out to be more or less an Event Horizon scenario. Wrapping my head around this plot is still an ongoing process. It is a non linear acid trip with intertwined ‘unreliable narratives’, that borrows reality realms off Kaballic Tree of Life for plot; and from comic’s own panels, Nameless is Exorcist meeting Apollo 13 in Dantes Inferno.

There are fish people, door to an anti universe and exposure to Elder ones. Also you get to see serious people in space suits with Gravity Falls symbols painted all over, doing Randezvous with Rama and Mountain of Madness. By later issues, it reminded me of Warren Ellis Injection in quality and mind blowing wtf contents.

I must remind you of comic’s mature nature, with gruesomenese in levels with Martyrs movie, if it was a comic. Adding to the horrors is Morrison’s spinning writing – obscure and lunatic(and awesome), like its sci-fi premise. Nameless is further blessed by Burham’s gorgeous artwork- properly inked and meticulously detailed, like a Jodorowsky panel. Also, the reading experience may not be for every body(definitely, not for me if ever cinematic-ally adapted), especially with its vividly rendered physical violence, and existential (and arguably heretic) philosophy.

EventHorizon.jpg

Though intellectually demanding and deep, this limited series was a solid read; and weird fun, like all 6 issues in single sitting fun. To me, Nameless in its entirety felt like listening to Tool, while being relatively high.

cauzwdqw8aapvihjpg.jpeg

Superman : Peace on Earth by Alex Ross and Paul Dini

A panel to panel slideshow of this book would make a great music video for the famous ‘Five for Fighting’ song. 

Complete story is written in first person, as a soliloquy by Clark Kent, with cinematic artwork flowing in a third person fashion. There is a reason why I mentioned Clark Kent instead ofKal-El or Superman, which the book would be able to illustrate best. In fact in thirty something pages, this book achieved what All Star Superman been striving for in 12 issues.

I picked this book out of approbation for Alex Ross, and to comfort myself in Paul Dini’s affable writing. But this oneshot did something far more wonderful, without undermining my suppositions – helped me appreciate Batman v Superman more.

The Colour Out of Space by HP Lovecraft

‘The Blasted heath’ is a vacant, almost shunned deep wood valley by the West Hills of rural New England, a place no good for imagination with its withered vegetation and evasively muttered local legends. This novella, like atavistic Arkham mysteries, takes reader through the narrative of an unnamed outsider, in his quest to understand the queer happenings of Gardner Estate, following a meteorite fall.

The monster or alien or other dimensional entity in this book, is a colour, or takes the form of a colour, a colour unknown to us, and not of our cosmos.

In Lovecraftian horror, the little details that are left out for reader’s imagination usually embellish the ones that form the premise. Considering the time of publication(1927), I was amazed at the metallurgical details author put on that other worldly meteorite – a soft, ductile non homogeneous shrinking mass completely in contradiction with every definition. Miskatonic University analysis of the specimen, is said to have concluded traces of ‘Widmanstatten ferrite’ in its texture along with strong ‘silicon’ affinity and other unfathomable properties. Interestingly enough, the iron ore content goes well with frequent lightening at crate and Silicon, the semiconductor material, could, though arguably, give some scientific side to the strange colours. And the effect of ‘colour’ and meteorite to the surroundings and inhabitants, though archaically, draws close parallelism with modern day nuclear holocaust. Seemingly prophesying HPL was keen to leave the ‘unknown factor’ in a rather clever manner with protagonist’s outsider pov. Never are the readers credited with the authenticity of ‘strange days’, and Ammi Pierce, the sole inhabitant and spectator of the incident, for all we know is an unreliable narrator. Nevertheless, in all its openness and reticent narrative, The Colour out of Space had my preponderant attention buoyed up.

Though it should have been the other way around, ‘the blasted heath’ and Gardner Estate constantly reminded me of Mirkwood from Stranger Things and Keyhouse from Locke and Key. And the strangest part was, as usual, me being more immersed in Howard’s word flow and writing, than the creeping alien horror this story is famous for.

Seasons of Glass and Iron (Nebula Winner-short story- 2016)

Available for free read here

Congratulations on Nebula, and congratulations on tricking me into reading Fantasy.


This story in its essentials, felt like a modern day retelling of two Brothers Grimm fairy tales – Bearskin and Old Rinkrank that I barely remember from my childhood (my memory might as well be wrong here). What I loved about the narrative was the ambiguity that followed Tabitha and Amira, like they were already part of a well expanded universe, the details of which readers are free to imagine. In this retelling or extended act of passing reference, Author intertwined the essentials of both fairy tales into one lovely story, making them female centric and in poles with the original perspective. My ambitious and embarrassing attempts to understand the metaphors are given below.

Number 7, from a Biblical view point represent perfection or completion and number 1 stands for unity or oneness, the numbers which the female protagonists of this story identify themselves to be bound in by magic. So Tabitha before reaching completion of penance(of her and her were-wolf-would-be-man husband) by exhausting the ‘seven’ pairs of shoes, gets to taste the ‘Apple’ of Glass Mountain(which could be argued as this story’s Eden). She then decides to be ‘one’ with Amira and leaves her baggage, thanks to the new found wisdom. And they both leave the safety of Glass and Iron(their personal paradises), for ‘Away’(Earth) with nothing but the company of each other and the sense of freedom.

I think I might have heavily misread the ‘things’, this allegorical reading was supposed to explore the nuances of. Nevertheless the lovely prose will have every reader covered for sure.