A case to make Bengaluru the Sci-Fi hotspot

Jayadevan PK November 3, 2018 3 min

The internet is full of articles telling you why entrepreneurs or even big company executives should read science fiction. Many large companies even hire futurists— who work closely with science fiction writers— to imagine many different futures for the world.

Companies such as Volkswagen, Hershey’s and Capital One, according to this report, have futurists working for them. Their job is not exactly to predict the future but to help people think through possible futures.

We’ve interviewed folks from companies like Lowes, where the leadership has made attempts to learn from science fiction and put some of those concepts to test: The retailer put a 3D printer in space 2015 and experimented with virtual reality.

Google’s assistant, Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana have long been envisioned in science fiction. Virtual reality and augmented reality has been part of many science fiction books much before Mark Zuckerburg or Pokemon Go put a spotlight on them. Uber’s flying cars…I could go on but you get the drift.

It’s not just companies. Even nation states think that reading more science fiction is good for the country. China, for instance, hosts science fiction conventions. As pointed out in this piece, Chinese party officials think it could be good for innovation.

Also read: India needs to read more science fiction to imagine and to create

Bengaluru has the largest number of tech workers in the country. It has the most number of tech entrepreneurs, an even bigger number of wannapreneurs plotting world domination. It is a thriving market for books and is home to some of the best scientific establishments in India.

Given all this, is there a case for Bengaluru to become a hub for the science fiction community in India? Turns out, there is.

(Tomorrow Now: Envisioning The Next Fifty Years: Author Samit Basu in conversation with futurist and author Bruce Sterling. They talk about thinking about the future, some techniques to map out, futurism, climate change and Bollywood.)

At the Bangalore Literature Festival this year, futurist and author Bruce Sterling said: There aren’t a lot of cities on earth or culture that produce a lot of science fiction writers. But commonly, they come from cities that are not the largest cities in those countries.

“Bengaluru in an Indian context is one of those cities. Lot of high tech, education, big universities, lots of bookstores, but not a major centre or publishing. It’s an easy place to set up clubs for science fiction, to find other colleagues, to do amateur publishing, to have events to establish a regional literary scene,” said Sterling, science fiction writer, futurist and one of the architects of the Cyberpunk genre.

Also see: Fake news often reads or looks on video, like weaponized design fiction: Bruce Sterling

This is happening already. Last month, the Bangalore Literature Festival became the first major lit fest in India to host panels around SF and futurism, curated by FactorDaily columnist Gautham Shenoy. The two panels featured the likes of Bruce Sterling, Samit Basu and Krishna Udayasankar.

Books stores in the city, especially around Church Street, have started stocking more science fiction novels. We’ve had a few informal meetups and movie screenings related to science fiction in the city already. It will take a lot more doing but it’s surely a good start.

Science fiction can be inspiring— even if it is increasingly turning dystopian. Science fiction not only talks about shiny gadgets or sentient machines, it also explores moral quandaries posed by technological advancements in detail. A city like Bangalore– at the epicentre of India’s tech boom, with the power to shape the country’s future– could surely use more direction from sci-fi.

(Columnist Gautham Shenoy, Authors Krishna Udayshankar, Samit Basu, and Bruce Sterling at the Bangalore Literature Festival talk about how sci-fi influences the world, superhero fiction, Indian sci-fi, the scientific temperament and predicting the future.)

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Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham among its investors. Accel Partners and Blume Ventures are venture capital firms with investments in several companies. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. Jay Vijayan and Girish Mathrubootham are entrepreneurs and angel investors. None of FactorDaily’s investors has any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.