By Glyn Peterson
In France, we are not in mainstream culture yet. We still are a kind of subculture. It is not bad to be in a subculture — there is a lot of freedom. You are a free author,” said French science fiction writer Pierre Bordage in a conversation with fellow Frenchman Oliver Lafont at the Oxford Bookstore on Monday evening. Bordage, 60, is touring India and Bhutan this month and talked about the genre, mythology and their resonance in the 21st century. “I think now in science fiction and the fantasy genre, there is a lot of power and a lot of energy,” he said.
Bordage is referred to as one of the pioneers of science fiction in France and has published 55 novels and 40 short stories. Many of his books are bestsellers and in 1996, he was honoured with the Cosmos 2000 prize for his novel titled La Citadelle Hyponéros. Lafont, 35, a Mumbai-based model and actor is the author of Warrior, a tale set in modern-day Mumbai.
Both authors reflected on the genre’s ability to speak about the present and inform the future. They discussed the ways in which their books deal with, in the words of Bordage, the “destruction of everything”. “The most interesting and important role of science fiction is to give us a plan of what not to do. It shows us how bad everything could be,” said Lafont.
Bordage’s work often includes mythological references that came from an exposure to Christian mythology. “When I was young and going to school, I read the Bible every day — it was very inspirational. I think mythology is the only way to tell stories. All is there, in the ancient texts,” he said.
Lafont, whose debut novel is about Saam, a watchmender who is also Shiva’s only earthly demigod child, spoke about the prominent role that mythology plays in making fantasy and science fiction writing popular in India. “You can’t write fantasy and science fiction without mythology. Mythology is the story of ourselves that we tell each other and back to ourselves. Fantasy fiction is coming out of India’s mythological culture,” he said.
Given the presence of Hindu mythology in some of his narratives, Bordage’s oeuvre is likely to be attractive to an Indian readership.
However, while many of his novels have been translated into multiple languages, not one of his books can be found in English. Bordage remarked that it was a “shame” that a language barrier renders his work inaccessible to most Indians, but he is optimistic. “English is very difficult for French writers in science fiction because American and English people think they are the best in the world in this genre, and don’t show any interest towards the writers in other countries. Maybe India is more open than America and England. I hope so,” he said.