On Strange Horizons, Rachel Cordasco reviews the latest Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, the third such volume, and makes a compelling case for exploring the amazing world of Tamil pulp, expertly translated into English.
English is notably lacking in translation from other languages, partly due to the massive supply of original material in English, which lessens the demand for material that bears the additional expense of translation. So while the rest of the world is enjoying texts from multiple literary traditions, us anglos are largely stuck in our (admittedly roomy) linguistic/literary ghetto.
It's wonderful to see this kind of translation work!
The only work of science fiction included in this anthology, “Operation Nova” brilliantly weaves together Tamil legends and current scientific knowledge to create a densely-textured story about the will to power, the necessity of love, and the place of humans in the universe. Fearing the catastrophic eruption of a volcano ten years in the future, a group of scientists make plans to ferry a large chunk of the human and non-human populations of Earth to planet GL 581g, where they’ll create a new (and better?) civilization. This time, love and family ties will be taken out of the equation, which would presumably lead to the eradication in human society of war and economic and social inequality. The first several thousand people to be shipped off to the exoplanet are basically kidnapped, and wake up on a strange planet ruled over by a human brain-computer hybrid intelligence named “The Mother.” As the story unfolds and we learn more about some of the kidnapped people and their families and lovers, as well as the extermination of another alien species similarly interested in colonizing GL 581g, we realize that the plan has been nothing more than one scientist’s attempt to rule not one but two planets for material gain and the love of power. Tamilmagan freely draws on real politicians and actors for this story, giving lines to Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie, and Bill Gates, and several others. Criticism of the western political elite and domination of Earth by a small handful of nations invests “Operation Nova” with an immediacy and relevancy not always found in science fiction. It’s a remarkable story about the crucial role that love and trust play in every human relationship, whether humans are on Earth or millions of light years away.
The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, Vol. 3 [Rashmi Ruth Devadasan, Rakesh Khanna, V. Vinod, and Nirmal Rajagopalan/Blaft]
(via Beyond the Beyond)