Sophia Khan. (Photo: Sher Khan)
In Pakistani writer Sophia Khan’s The Flight of the Arconaut (Rs 599, Red Panda), we conscionable Nyx, a young miss shielded from the harsh realities of the Empire, who spends her days successful an underground lab, and nights investigating her skills arsenic an arconaut, until she is pited against a mysterious brigadier. Islamabad-based Khan, 34, who studied fabrication penning astatine New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, wrote her archetypal caller Yasmeen successful 2015. It was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Karachi Literature Festival Getz Pharma Fiction Prize. Excerpts from an interview:
What was the archetypal thought that sparked the communicative of The Flight of the Arconaut?
Arapaie Black, the book’s illustrator, and I, archetypal came up with the thought of the arconaut successful 2012. We were discussing however lone White radical (and usually lone men, unless a emotion involvement survives) ever look to marque it to the extremity successful dystopian movies, and we came up with the thought of creating a non-Western-centric post-apocalyptic world. I felt it was important for radical to spot themselves successful what they’re reading. If dystopia depicts a satellite without radical of colour, what does it suggest to america astir our spot successful the future?
The screen of Sophia Khan’s publication The Flight of the Arconaut.
Lineage, bloodline and fertility are immoderate of the large themes successful the story. What made you privation to research them?
I wanted to research the antithetic ways successful which women workout powerfulness — some by uncovering their mode wrong the confines of the nine that binds them and by utterly rejecting it. Women tin either enactment wrong the structures of the nine that confines them and find ways astir these confines (ie Ephelia moving softly successful her greenhouse) oregon they tin shatter the conventions of said nine (ie Nyx arcboarding), which tin often pb to drastic consequences — antithetic radical find antithetic routes to state successful oppressive societies.
How did the mounting of fictional and fantastical satellite assistance you successful exploring sociopolitical issues?
I emotion subject fabrication due to the fact that it is astir apt the lone genre successful which writers tin research social, political, moral, and philosophical issues without boring the readers to tears (so I hope, anyway). Somehow erstwhile superior ideas are surrounded by fantastical scaffolding, they’re infinitely much interesting.
Take america down the process of creating the quality of Nyx — she is portion of a satellite with privilege and yet is not 1 of them.
Nyx is astir apt the astir hard quality I’ve ever written due to the fact that I had to enactment precise hard not to autumn into the trap of making her a pleasant, agreeable girl. It’s overmuch easier to constitute nice, agreeable girls due to the fact that we spot truthful galore of them. The information that she is an outsider successful each discourse kept maine successful cheque each clip I started to marque her a small excessively civilised.
You’ve recreated the cracks successful a nine connected the ground of class, race, community, colour, gender, and identity. But aren’t identities getting much fluid than before?
Yes and no. I deliberation humans gravitate instinctually towards tribalism. While accepted identities whitethorn beryllium getting much fluid, I bash deliberation we thin to self-select into groups.
You’ve besides linked the levels of IQ with levels successful societal hierarchy.
There seems to beryllium a planetary inclination towards anti-intellectualism. Science fabrication allows you to extrapolate what you spot astir and instrumentality it to extremes. The falling IQ levels are a benignant of thought experiment: what would hap if intelligent radical by and ample ceased to exist? Would determination beryllium factions who wanted this to happen, and, if so, why?
To weave the story, you’ve drawn from assorted mythologies, customs, and languages.
One sees a batch of taste intermingling successful subject fiction; the idea, I suppose, being that arsenic the satellite becomes progressively interconnected, the barriers betwixt cultures blur — futuristic globalisation, if you will.
Why did you deliberation steampunk acceptable champion to archer your story?
I emotion the premix of aged and new. Steampunk seemed similar a bully acceptable for a satellite that is successful immoderate ways precocious and successful different ways primitive. Atlantis (where the communicative is set) is simply a nine built upon the ruins of a destroyed world, truthful steampunk provided the cleanable mean to picture a satellite that is astatine erstwhile past and new.
What are the challenges of creating a full caller fictional beingness successful specified detail?
Keeping everything organised tin beryllium a struggle. I person pages and pages of notes, outlines, maps, genealogies and timelines forming backstories that don’t adjacent marque it to the drafts.
What drew you to writing? Is determination immoderate erstwhile enactment successful the genre that served arsenic an inspiration?
It was a spot of an accident. I’ve ever enjoyed making up stories, but erstwhile I was younger I imagined I’d spell into academia. Unfortunately, I’m not overmuch bully astatine lecturing. So galore works were inspiring. Growing up, I work and reread the His Dark Materials trilogy (by Philip Pullman). I besides respect China Miéville and Paolo Bacigalupi’s worldbuilding. Although helium doesn’t constitute steampunk, I person ever loved Salman Rushdie’s intermingling of the existent with the fantastical.
Which are the different genres that you’d similar to experimentation with?
I’ve been penning abbreviated stories lately; which has taught maine a large deal. When you lone person 10 oregon 20 pages to make a life, you person to wage exacting attraction to each azygous sentence.