Frank Roger feels that currently the sci-fi genre is going down globally, with a shift towards fantasy.

The home page of Frank Roger’s website presents him as a man with five arms, wearing colour-shifting glasses, much like a character out of one of those futuristic action films. Meet him in person and he comes across as a reticent scientist with his soft spoken ways and formal attire. But the Belgian science fiction writer, who at last count has authored more than 500 short stories, is not your typical sci-fi writer either.

Mr. Roger who was in the city this week to attend an international seminar on science fiction, organised by the Department of English of Mar Ivanios College, spoke to The Hindu on his globe-trotting ways and on the challenges in writing in the genre.

His days are split between exploring the unseen parts of the world and staying cooped up inside his home to pen down stories.

“I travel quite a lot, either for conferences like this or for pleasure. The experiences from these trips creep into my stories sometimes. Over the years, I have visited around 50 countries. This is my third visit to India. I take notes while travelling and later weave these into my stories,” he says.

Anglo-Saxon tradition

Plunging deep into the sci-fi genre in his pre-teens, he announced his arrival with his first story in a Belgian sci-fi magazine in 1975. He classifies himself to be in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of writers, considering the fact that two of his greatest influences are Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard. “I like Philip for the richness of ideas and Ballard for his literary quality. My style is a combination of these two, along with typical Belgian elements tying in with surrealism and dark humour. Traditional Belgian visual arts have also influenced me in my collage work,” says Mr. Roger.

Love for Borges

According to him, short stories are more effective for his kind of writing, which runs around a single idea. This love for short stories makes Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges another favourite of him. He feels that currently the sci-fi genre is going down globally, with a shift towards fantasy.

“The renewed interest in stuff like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and the whole ‘Game of Thrones’ craze have made fantasy the top genre now. Personally, I don’t prefer that kind of fantasy,” he says.

The current state of movies also does not offer him much hope, he says, as many of them which are marketed as sci-fi movies have nothing to do with the genre at all. “Take the case of ‘Gravity’. It is a fine story of survival. Science fiction is not at the core of the story, rather it provides the backdrop. Most of the movies of this genre are essentially ‘good guys fighting bad guys with lot of special effects’. But in the olden days, there were films like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ being made,” says Mr. Roger.

When he is not travelling or writing, he prefers to spend his time listening to heavy metal and hard rock.

“From Black Sabbath to Iron Maiden, anything goes,” he says.

Translation

With his works being translated into 39 languages already, he is now expecting a Malayalam translation soon.

“The market for sci-fi in Belgium has shrunk. So I am looking at other languages. Some of my works have already been translated to Bengali. A few people have expressed interest in Malayalam translations now,” says Mr. Roger.