Interview with Samit Basu

Questions for Samit Basu
SFFWORLD: Hi Samit: thanks for joining us.

Glad to be back!
SFFWORLD: OK. Let’s start with some general details. I suspect many readers may not know much about you. Would you care to tell us something about yourself?

I’m pretty sure no one here has heard of me. Especially since I haven’t posted here on SFFWorld in a really long time. Here’s the current brief bio, apologies for super-villainous lapse into 3rd person:

Samit Basu is a writer of books, films and comics. His first novel, The Simoqin Prophecies, published by Penguin India in 2003, when Samit was 23, was the first book in the bestselling Gameworld Trilogy and marked the beginning of Indian English fantasy writing. The other books in the trilogy are The Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaba Revelations.

Samit’s other novels include a superhero novel, Turbulence, to be published in the UK in 2012, and a YA novel, Terror on the Titanic. His work in comics ranges from historical romance to zombie comedy, and includes diverse collaborators, from X-Men/Felix Castor writer Mike Carey to Terry Gilliam and Duran Duran.

Samit was born in Calcutta, educated in Calcutta and London, and currently divides his time between Delhi and Mumbai. He can be found on Twitter, @samitbasu, and at samitbasu.com .

Apart from this, I’m working on a couple of Bollywood scripts, and feeling extremely nervous/excited about the UK release of Turbulence on July 6th.

SFFWORLD: Let’s move onto your genre background: what are your genre interests? What got you interested in SF/Fantasy? Favourite authors? Books?

Genre interests span pretty much the entire range of genre fiction, though I’m not up to date on hard SF at all. I got into it as a child; a fascination for world myth, and an obsession with LOTR when I was about ten.

Favourite authors: Really too many to mention, so I’ll just say ten names as they occur: Terry Pratchett, Tolkien, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, Mike Carey, Ben Aaronovitch, George RR Martin, David Gemmell, Alan Moore, Haruki Murakami.
SFFWORLD: I’m typing here as Turbulence is about to be released in the UK. How would you describe the book to someone who knows nothing about it?

Turbulence is a superhero novel set in the Indian subcontinent and London in the summer of 2009.

Here’s the introduction from my site:

Aman Sen is smart, young, ambitious and going nowhere. He thinks this is because he doesn’t have the right connections – but then he gets on a plane from London to Delhi and discovers, a few days later, that he has turned into a communications demigod, able to control and manipulate all networks, including the internet. And he’s not the only one with a secret.

Everyone on Aman’s flight now has extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires. Vir, an Indian Air Force pilot, can now fly. Uzma, a British-Pakistani aspiring Bollywood actress, now possesses infinite charisma. Tia, a housewife from the troubled Indian north-east, can now live out all the lives she dreamt of by splitting into multiple bodies. And these are just the nice ones. Terrible new forces have been unleashed. Businessmen, politicians, criminals, each with their own agenda. One of these is Jai, an indestructible one-man army with an old-fashioned goal – military conquest of the world. And there’s another, even more sinister force at work. A mind capable of manipulating mobs, of driving humans and superhumans into an all-destroying frenzy.

Aman and his rag-tag collective of superhumans find themselves in grave danger in a part of the world that needs radical change much more than it needs protection. They must decide what to do with their powers and their lives – and quickly. Aman dreams of uniting their powers to fight the world’s real villains – faceless, amorphous corporations, corrupt government officials, religious fanatics. Of ensuring that their new powers aren’t wasted on costumed crime-fighting, celebrity endorsements, or reality television. He wants to help those who need it most – untold millions without food, power, schools or voices. He intends to heal the planet. Save the world. But with each step he takes, he finds helping some means harming others, playing with lives, making huge, potentially disastrous decisions. Will they actually make the world better or will it all end, as 80 years of superhero fiction suggest, in a meaningless, explosive slugfest?

TURBULENCE is a hyper-real novel set in an over-the-top world. It features the 21st-century Indian subcontinent in all its insane glory – F-16s, Bollywood, radical religious parties, nuclear plants, cricket, terrorists, luxury resorts, crazy TV shows – but is essentially about two very human questions. How would you feel if you actually got what you wanted? What would you do if you were given the power to change the world?

SFFWORLD: How did the writing of Turbulence come about?

I started writing Turbulence in the summer of 2009, which is when the story is set. The whole idea was to write a book as deeply set in the present as possible, and to be set on a huge scale, with real consequences not just for the characters but for the world at large. And when you’re writing a fantasy story that’s set in the present, and looks at events on a global scale, and stars people who can actually change the world, it makes sense to make them superheroes.

SFFWORLD: Turbulence is not your first novel. What else have you written? Did they help you write this novel?

Three fantasy novels, a YA novel, lots of comics, journalism, columns and other things over a decade. Won’t talk your head off about all of these, but do hop over to samitbasu.com if you’d like to have a look. They all certainly helped to write this book; all the more so because I got a lot of new energy from the fact that I’d never written long-form fiction set in the real world before, and wanted to make this book as real as possible.

SFFWORLD: Why did you want to write a superhero novel?

Mostly because nothing embodies the zeitgeist these days better than the superhero – they’re everywhere, in one form or another! I’m a big fan of superheroes, across media. I think the basic idea behind superheroes is ageless, and classic, and always fascinating. And perhaps more importantly, it’s a genre where there’s a lot to explore, one of the few genres that are still getting better. The superhero genre has always been, in terms of fantasy and SF at least, the most flexible- changing with the times, expressing current cultures, opinions, crises, concerns.

SFFWORLD: Do you have a favourite character in Turbulence?

Tia is the one I love most, Aman is the one I identify with most, and the Godzilla-like creature that makes a brief appearance is the one i feel the most random affection for.

SFFWORLD: Now that you’ve finished, what are you proudest of in writing Turbulence?
I’m glad I wrote it in book form instead of creating another superhero comic. I wasn’t worried about the big character moments or the big ideas, but I wondered whether superhero action scenes would work in prose, since the genre is so visual, as a rule. But i really enjoyed writing those scenes, I hope you like reading them.

SFFWORLD: Which superpower would you like to have yourself?

Tia’s. I would love to be able to split into multiple bodies and live many lives, and never have to make a choice again. Do everything. I guess being a writer involves doing that in your head, but imagine how wonderful it would be to actually live that way. Most of the time, especially when I travel or meet people from far away, I want to live other lives.

SFFWORLD: What can you tell us of the progress of Resistance, the sequel to Turbulence?

I’m well behind schedule, because the book is getting more complex with every step. Let’s say if Turbulence is the Superman book, Resistance is the Batman book. It’s how the world reacts to superhuman presence, set a few years in the future. It should be standalone but of course key characters fromTurbulence will feature.

SFFWORLD: Many thanks, Samit.

It was a pleasure, thank you. It’s great to be back on SFFWorld.

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