16 June 2017

The Short Speculative Fiction Corpus of Manjula Padmanabhan [Update]

After reading her award-winning science fiction play Harvest (1997), I got interested in the Indian writer Manjula Padmanabhan. Padmanabhan is a great writer of diverse genres (sf, literary fiction, autobiography, children's and YA, cartoons), but though Harvest has garnered a ton of attention from postcolonial academics, the rest of her science fiction has largely gone ignored or unnoticed. She has written two sf novels, Escape (2009) and The Island of Lost Girls (2015), but also a number of pieces of short fiction with speculative elements.

I did my bit to rectify this by publishing an article about some of Padmanabhan's short sf in the Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature, "The Body, the Bomb, and the Domestication of the Technologies of Global Capitalism in the Postcolonial Science Fiction of Manjula Padmanabhan" (vol. 3, no. 2, Fall 2015), though who knows if anyone has ever or will ever read it. My article primarily concerns two great stories: "Gandhi-Toxin" (1997), where an evil multinational biocorp uses Gandhi's genes to create a mosquito-born pacifism toxin, and "2099" (1999), about a man who travels from 2017 to 2099 and discovers that even though India has colonized Mars, the problems of the future are even worse than those of today. Both stories explore how India might take the technologies that exploit it in the neocolonial era and "domesticate" them for its own use.

To do my part in furthering word of Padmanabhan's short sf, the article includes an appendix of her complete works. Imagine my embarrassment when, in a recent read of her collection Hot Death, Cold Soup (1996), I discovered I had somehow missed several of them when compiling my list! So, to rectify my sin, I present here a corrected and expanded version of

The Short Speculative Fiction Corpus of Manjula Padmanabhan in Order of Original Publication

Title Original Publication Collected in
A Government of India Undertaking 1984 (in Imprint Magazine 24.1 as "A Government of India Undertaking...", with illustrations by Padmanabhan) Hot Death, Cold Soup
Three Virgins
Sharing Air 1984 (in the New Delhi Sunday Express) Kleptomania
Unfaithful Servants 1987 (in Namasté: The ITC Hotels Magazine, with illustrations by Padmanabhan) Hot Death, Cold Soup
Stolen Hours 1996 (in Hot Death, Cold Soup)
The Annexe 1996 (in Hot Death, Cold Soup)
Gandhi-Toxin 1997 (in New Internationalist 293 as "Essence of Gandhi," with illustrations by Padmanabhan) Kleptomania
2099 1999 (in Outlook 213 as "India 2099," with illustrations by Jayachandran Nanu) revised and expanded for Kleptomania
Feast 2008 (in Tehelka 6.1, with illustrations by Neelakash Kshetrimayum) Three Virgins
The Other Woman 2012 (in Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana, ed. Anil Menon and Vandana Singh) Three Virgins
Exile 2013 (in Three Virgins)
Cool 2014 (in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, ed. Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar, and Anita Roy) N/A
The Blooming
(with Kirsty Murray)
2014 (in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean) N/A

When the periodical of original publication has an e-version, I provided the link above. Padmanabhan's short fiction has been reprinted in three collections so far:
  • Hot Death, Cold Soup: Twelve Short Stories (Kali for Women, 1996; Garnet, 1997)
  • Kleptomania: Ten Stories (Penguin, 2004)
  • Three Virgins and Other Stories (Zubaan, 2013)
Hopefully this is of use to someone out there in the world. I'll try to update it as I make more discoveries.

Updated 20 June 2017 with slight extra detail on "Unfaithful Servants." Namasté is a hotel magazine that does (or did) an annual short story issue. The illustration can be seen in The Namasté Book of Indian Short Stories, Volume II (UBS Publishers, 1997).

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