Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature the talented Salik Shah. Salik is the editor and founder of Mithila Review as well as an accomplished fiction author, poet, filmmaker and reviewer. His work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and New Myths, among other outlets.
Recently, Salik and I discussed the genesis of Mithila Review as well as his future plans for writing, reviewing, and filmmaking.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
As a child, I fell in love with watercolors, and then came a flood of words at age eight. But I wouldn’t submit my poetry or fiction to literary publications until I was in my mid-twenties.
Thomas Hardy, V.S. Naipaul, Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami were critical to my understanding of literature, and the vocation of writing. And I absolutely adore Cordwainer Smith, Ted Chiang and Kij Johnson. There are so many brilliant writers writing today, it’s impossible to list all their names.
You are the editor and founder of Mithila Review. How did the idea for the publication originate, and what has been the most rewarding part so far of running Mithila Review?
There was a persistent status quo of an arrogant majority, which I wanted to break with Mithila Review. The silence before MR was deafening!
The most rewarding aspect of running a publication like Mithila Review is to be able to discover, nurture and support emerging, hidden and marginalized writers, poets and artists from around the world. I am grateful that we are able to host these alternative voices and forms of storytelling from different cultures.
As an editor, what do you look for in the slush pile? Likewise, what tips do you have for writers who are eager to be published in Mithila Review?
Please send us your best stories. As a new market in a part of the world where none exists, where nobody expects us to publish, we cannot afford to compromise on quality.
The personal is always political. We seek to publish fiction, poetry and art that reveal, resist or address various forms of tyrannies.
You are also a filmmaker. How did you first become involved with the world of cinema, and how, if at all, has your work as a filmmaker impacted your work as an author and fiction editor?
I never saw film as a serious art form until I discovered Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa about ten years ago or so when hi-speed Internet was a big deal (it still is in many part of the Indian subcontinent). I was 20-something when I first went to Bombay, full of crazy ideas and expectations. I’m still recovering from the massive culture shock—the Indian film crowd is very different (cynical and insecure) from what I encountered in old European books and documentaries!
Once again, I took refuge in books of my favorite auteurs to learn about their life and struggles; I read Akira Kurosawa and Werner Herzog to survive feverish months—years—in a lonely city. Satyajit Ray stopped being just a filmmaker for me—he also became a chronicler of fantastic tales. (One of his short stories later germinated into Steven Spielberg’s E.T.) But it wasn’t until I read one of Ingmar Bergman’s screenplays that I finally understood what I needed to do apart from studying film: read fiction and work on my fiction-writing chops. I mean, Bergman didn’t write standard screenplays—he wrote screenplays as stories or novellas.
Reading, writing and editing took more time than I expected. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that I somehow survived all these years without making a proper feature or a short film. Every time I read a great story, I cannot stop wanting to adapt it onto film. These days I’m beginning to feel confident about my writing—fiction and poetry acceptances by editors you admire tend to have that effect. As I often cannibalize my film ideas for my short stories, and the other way round, I strongly feel the time has come for me to combine these two art forms.
In addition to your work at Mithila and your filmmaking, you also review fiction at Strange Horizons. How did you first become involved with reviewing, and has it changed your own approach to writing in any way?
I used to review films and books for my blog, plus a couple of film sites. Then I stopped because I was supposed to be working on my writing chops! Never mind that I listened to people who told me to do something rather than commenting, critiquing.
When I read Indrapramit Das’s novel, I had to write about it. I love Indra’s short stories, but the book was a different monster altogether. I wrote a simple blog-like post and sent it to Strange Horizons, not really expecting it to get published. When it got accepted, I rewrote the whole thing to do justice to both the book and the review as a mode of in-depth criticism. And I didn’t mind the long hours and the thinking that went into it—it actually helped me to see the book in a new light. Honestly, I am grateful to Strange Horizons editors Dan Hartland and Maureen Kincaid Speller for every book review opportunity that has come my way.
What are your goals as a writer, editor, and filmmaker over the next few years?
As an editor, I want to help young and diverse voices to enter speculative fiction and fantasy from around the world. We’re planning a couple of SF anthologies and translation projects apart from the regular quarterly issues of Mithila Review. It’s been a challenge to turn Mithila Review into a paying market, but we’re slowly getting there: http://patreon.com/mithilareview.
As a writer and filmmaker, there is a lot of ground for me to cover. Money is always a problem, but I’m determined not to let it stop me. Hopefully, you can expect a novel or a feature film from me in another two-three years.
We’re also trying to set up Mithila Awards to discover, nurture and reward excellent contributors to speculative fiction and film from Asian writers, artists and filmmakers.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m considering turning more poetry and short stories into films—live action and animation—as part of Mithila Review.
Apart from short films, I’m developing a couple of feature film projects and web series. There are always short stories to be written, revised or completed, and a book-length poetry project that has been pending for ages.
All these small and big projects seem impossible, chaotic and difficult to manage at times, but I’m learning to prioritize and execute and execute well.
Where can we find you online?
You can find me on Twitter and Facebook. For occasional news and updates, there is my website.
Many thanks for having me here! Cheers!
Tremendous thanks to Salik Shah for being the featured author this week!