For the readers of Islam and Science Ficion in Korea, here is treat for you folks. Rebecca Hankins, one of the contributors at Islam and Science Fiction will be giving a lecture on the influence of Islamic themes and Muslim cultures on American Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics at the Sogang University on April 30, 2014 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. Here is the abstract of her talk at the Sogang University:
Abstract: Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dune are some of the most celebrated and popular American examples of science fiction and fantasy, both in film and in comic books. They have inspired a generation of Americans, including American Muslims, to imitate, adapt, and experiment with these genres, just as Islam has inspired and influenced the production of science fiction and fantasy throughout history. This talk will engage the audience in learning more about those connections and the historical influence of Islam and Muslims on contemporary science fiction, fantasy, and comic book literature.
Image Source: DeviantArt
The Islam and Science Fiction website started in 2005 when I was still an undergrad student, the website and turned into a larger project which resulted into an anthology A Mosque Among the Stars, numerous conference appearances, conventions including NYCC (New York Comic Con). This is something that I could not have anticipated when the project started. It is high time for Islam and Science Fiction to expand and move onto the next stage so expect many, hopefully great, changes in the near future: This year and the next expect a book text from us, new contributors and a larger presence online so stay tuned. Last but certainly not the least, one of our former contributors Sofia Samatar, has been nominated for a Hugo Award. Congratulations to Sofia!
P.S: If you not already done so, be sure to like us on Facebook.
Maula Jatt is a cult classic Punjabi movie from Pakistan which has gained legendary status in Pakistan since its release in 1979. The movie also has the distinction of being the only movie in Pakistani cinema’s history to be shown continuously for more than 6 years. The movie also cemented Sultan Rahi, the main protagonist of the movie, as the seminal hero of Punjabi cinema in Pakistan in the 1980s. As for the production quality, well lets just say that it is a reflection of the times. For a Western audience Sultan Rahi may be identified by the above iconic picture with Muhammad Ali.
Maula Jatt, the eponymous hero of the movie, personified the culture of rural Punjab and was an almost invincible hero who could do no wrong. This finally brings us to the topic at hand – Maula Jatt vs Aliens! This is the premise of a comic, part of the Kachee Goliyan comics, by Ramish Safa and Nofal Khan, who study at the Institute of Business Management (IoBM). They explain the reasoning behind creating the comic as follows: “We wanted the masses to be able to relate to the characters, We grew up reading comics which were not related to our society, hence we introduced local characters.”
While not intended as pure sci-fi, Maula Jatt vs aliens, does qualify for a comic take on the classic Punjabi tale with a sci-fi alien invasion twist. In the comic Maula Jutt who had died many years ago is resurrected and is given the herculean task of fighting off aliens. As a result of Maula Jatt coming back to life in an unfamiliar world and the unflinching aliens, hilarity ensures in the resulting kerfuffle.
While Imran series is not focused on science fiction and is mainly a spy series, it does have many elements which can be considered as science fiction. Although it is never mentioned where the store is set, other than the author says that it is in a South Asian country but it is quite clear from the setting that the country is Pakistan and the main character is based in the city of Karachi. The main character of the series, the eponymous Imran, is a bright and handsome young man who has a PhD from Oxford. He is always accompanied by his two trusty associates: Sulaiman, the cook, and Joseph Mugunda, his bodyguard. Imran is also supposed to be the descendant of Genghis Khan. Many of the stories involve a scientist or a new invention and how it can be a game changeer and it is up to Imran and his team to save the day. In the last years of Ibn Safi’s life a number of other authors took the Imran Series name without official authorization. Out of these Mazhar Kaleem’s version of Imran Series became the most well known and eventually as famous as Ibne Safi’s version.
There are a number of Sci-fi elements in the Imran series plotlines e.g., in the novel Mind Blaster someone actually invents a mind-blaster that can disable a person’s brain from miles away so that the person goes into comma, in the novel Top Mission a secret agency wants to resurrect long extinct animals using their DNA for nefarious purposes, the novel Star Blaster plot involves the desctruction of a SDI Star Wars like weapon that can intercept and destroy any missile in its path, and so on and so forth.
Pakistani Starfleet Explorers is a series of artwork by Kenny Hassan Irwin who is not Pakistani by descent but he seems to be Pakistani by heart. Irwin’s series envisions a future Pakistan which has peacefully expanded into space and has colonies on many star systems. Irwin’s art can be described as futuristic Pakistani folk art. Here is the description of what the Pkaistani Startfleet is by Irwin himself.
The Pakistani Starfleet, a group of millions of courageous men and women heroes that span the cosmos who know no bounds, no limits and explore in a bold way as far as their Bedford Truck Starships will take them to the very ends of galaxies we know so little about to learn more about & in turn learn more about ourselves. There is literally 1000s of stories to be told about these adventurous heros who comprise the flagship of Earth based Starfleets under direction of UNIPASA [United National Inter Planetary Space and Air Association], A galactic village of federal star-travel achievers represented by countless 10,000s of intelligent species which include humans.
Yes, indeed………….we must not forget the Pakistani Starfleet have saved more lives than you can imagine from fate less than kind to sowing the seeds of new emergency civilizations to making new friends they knew they never had with life never seen before. They are true bold achievers where others may ask “what is out there?” and the people of the Pakistani Starfleet say…….”we shall see”.
The whole series is available on Flickr and can be viewed at this link. And here are a few intriguing examples with captions from Irwin himself:
Abdul Ali Akbar the Taxila Skyboarding legend shows his stuff with great high altitude totally tubular tricks springing far from the left of the spacetruck vortices wake to get a close up for the camera in the foreground as the spectators in the back ground young and old alike cheer him on in the semi pro finals of the annual Karachi Skyboarding Competition. The kids can’t wait to be like him when they grow up and perhaps skyboard the stratus clouds of a spectacular late summer monsoon.
Fingio Vendarr Nailstar, Leader of Outerspace Hand share top secret data with Energon Milker Arshad. We were sent word that there is a disturbance in the galaxy spreading quickly and that the dOvemaster has revealed the eyeyOlk which could rip the very fabric of time and space. We are here to help your species by giving you a much needed timely hand of help. I see you have the secret technology in your energon milk jug that will prove most useful Arshad Moshin.
Yes Fingio Vendarr Nailstar, it’s about time the Rogue dOvemaster Columbiformic dOvezolo gets what he has coming to him and his COOing Avians of evil dOves from far beyond our world.
Image: Dome of a Mosque
It turns out that there was some problem with the backend on the Islam and Sci-Fi website and as a consequence the website was down for a month or so. The website is back on track now but in the process we seem to have lost a few posts including the last few posts in the Pakistani Science Fiction series which will will redo in the next few days. Thank you for the messages and emails regarding the website being down. We are back in business!
آدمی سنجیدہ ہو کر کیا کرے جب کہ وہ جانتا ہے کہ ایک دن اسے اپنی سنجیدگی سمیت دفن ہوجانا پڑے گا۔
Translation: Why should man ever become serious when he knows full well that one day he will be buried along with his seriousness? (Ibne Safi)
Asrar Ahmad, better known as Ibne Safi (ابنِ صفی), was a well known detective and crime fiction novel writer from Pakistan who wrote in Urdu. Many of his detective stories have Science Fiction elements. Admittedly I have not read much of Ibne Safi as he was a prolific writer, although my father used to read Ibne Safi. Two of Ibne Safi’s novel series gained a cult following in South Asia: Colonel Afridi in Jasusi Duniya (World of Spies) and Imran Series. In the last few years some of Ibn Safi’s works have started appearing in translation in English published by Random House and Blaft Publications. Forbes India paints the profile of Colonel Afridi as follows:
His main detective, Colonel Faridi, is a mildly eccentric aristocrat but Hameed deserves his own star in the literary detective’s sidekick hall of fame. Here’s a police officer who not only lives with his boss, but also dresses his pet goat in neck-ties and hats. Sample this delicious bit from Smokewater: “Hameed’s billy goat, had he been human, would have committed suicide. Or, instead, he might have assumed the role of an Urdu critic, and pronounced a sentence of death on the ghazal that was now being read to him”. When he is admonished for such antics by his boss, Hameed retorts, “I have not the slightest interest in dignity… the bacteria of dignity is even more dangerous than the bacilli of phthisis.”
The Science Fiction part in Ibne Safi’s fiction can be described as the use of Science Fiction troupes and advanced technology to further the plot e.g., supervilians getting their hands on invisibility technology, ways to prolong longevity, shrink rays etc. Ibne safi was writing such stories way back in the 1940s and 1950s. In this regard he was decade ahead of other Urdu writers both in Pakistan and India. A less known fact is about Ibn Safi’s work is that the villian Mogambo in Javed’s Akhtar’s famous Indian Science Fiction movie Mr. India was actually inspired by characters in Ibn Safi’s novels.
The Nation Newspaper from UAE has a story on the recent surge in the portrayal of Muslims in Comics and Science Fiction and also increase in the number of Muslim characterss who have non-marginal positive roles in the Comics Media.
Among those contributing to the panel, titled Geeks of Color Assemble!, was a Pakistani-born, Minnesota-based computer scientist called Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, who runs a blog called Islam and Science Fiction. He painted a mixed picture of the way that Arabs and Muslims are portrayed in mainstream geek culture: on one hand, he says, they are still “the quintessential ‘other’” and often presented in opposition with the West; on the other, writers have become much more sensitive in the past decade and there has been a recent flowering of Muslim superheroes in American comics.
The third post in this series is what would be considered unintentional superhero science fiction coming from Pakistan. While Pakistan is currently working on its first superhero movie these instances are less than serious. It appears that Spiderman has become pretty popular these days in Pakistan. Here is Spiderman getting in trouble with the law according to a Pakistani newspaper. The humeroud headline reads, “A gangster named Spiderman arrested in a police raid.” This was bound to happen one day Peter Parker.
Here is Spiderman taking the reigns of a donkey cart in Pakistan after he ran out of webs to sling. It makes one wonder what does Peter Parker do for a living.
Lastly the following comic imagines Spiderman during the kite flying festival Basant in Lahore in Punjab. Basant is an extremely popular festival in the Punjab region when a large number of people fly kites. Spiderman. It appears that Spiderman wont be able to survive in such an environment for long.
Since we are on the topic of superheroes Murtza Ali Jafri imagines in a humorous article for the Dawn Newspaper what a Pakistani Superman would look like.
Since Super Sahib would have a pot belly rivaling the entire consolidated Sharif clan, there is no way he would prance around in physique-hugging tights. Instead, the man would dress for comfort and rock out in a shalwar kameez – they are darn comfortable, after all.
Do you honestly think the most powerful being in this country would roam around in tights and wear his underwear on the outside? Let’s get real. He doesn’t need to prove anything or impress anyone! He’s Super Sahib. Besides, his desi Super Mummy would cry a river if he dressed like the spokesperson for the Gay Pride Parade.
In the fine tradition of chairmen, politicians, and mill owners, Super Sahib would probably wear a plain white shalwar kameez in the finest available latha. But given his stature, he’d probably have at least a few sponsors – Pepsi, McDonalds, etc. And when the likes of Shahid Afridi come to whack him for siphoning off their sponsorships, he’ll simply fly away.
(Image Source: Dawn)
Day 2: Sparx is a concept short movie from Pakistan directed by Waqar Quereshi who is a student at the University of Central Punjab.