In Conversation Books

‘Some stories stay with you forever’: Indira Chandrasekhar

Indira Chandrasekhar

Indira Chandrasekhar

Scientist and fiction-writer Indira Chandrasekhar is founder-editor of the online literary magazine Out of Print , which celebrated its tenth anniversary in December 2020. The occasion was marked with the publication of Out of Print — Ten Years: An Anthology of Stories, which showcased some of the best works of short fiction that have appeared in the magazine over the years. The book didn’t get the attention it deserved as the pandemic intervened. Chandrasekhar is the author of Polymorphism: Stories, published in 2017 . She has been associated with the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, a non-profit focusing on experimental contemporary art, since its inception. In this interview, she explains what Out of Print means to her. Excerpts:

What prompted you to start Out of Print ?

At the time we started Out of Print , I was beginning to write fiction seriously myself and discovered that there were few spaces in India for publishing short stories, and almost no online platforms. The latter bring such immediacy and reach, which create a certain energy in itself. I felt a burst of conviction that we would be able to start and sustain an online magazine for short fiction and I just plunged in.

The submission guidelines for Out of Print specify that the stories need to have a connection with the Indian subcontinent. How do you define this connection?

We don’t have a set of rules for this. It is usually self-evident, emerging from geography, character, narrative... However, what it means in a deeper sense is something more elusive and less easily explained. Perhaps one way to grasp that connection is to read the anthology, with its many stories and nuanced realities.

What are some of the other parameters for selection in your publi cation?

drawn to works that have an inherent integrity, a lack of self-consciousness, an exploration of complex human emotions and relationships. They should have those “shadowy links that connect us to other people, to our pasts,” as Shashi Deshpande puts it in her essay, ‘Why Read?’ (Subversions: Essays on Life and Literature). And, if I may add, to our imagined futures and to our places in the universe.

Is running an online literary magazine different from running a print one?

The chief difference in the two media lies in the post-edit process. I have not run a print magazine, but in bringing out Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe (2012), Polymorphism and the Out of Print anthology, I have experienced the limitations that a physical page imposes that are not there in the online format. The writer need not be careful of the word count when writing for online publications.

Can you list some short stories that have stayed with you? Why are they unforgettable?

Some remarkable things have stood out — stories that have found new futures after being published in Out of Print, like the ones that initially appeared in a Lahore newspaper and in a higher-education textbook on English writing in Norway; stories by exciting new writers whom we develop, who go on to have notable writing careers; translations that bring works from other languages to a new audience. Even some stories we have not featured but which have stayed with me and moved me — like lost children, they stay with you forever.

What is the targeted readership of Out of Print? Is the short story getting enough love from readers, in your opinion?

How can it not? It is such a fine form — concise, succinct, essential, yet revealing the complexities of love, happiness, loneliness and isolations. Place, history, tradition, family can all be explored with a sharp focus.

We do not really target any specific readers. We simply offer the work to any reader, and our readership widens, which is most gratifying as it shows that there is a continuing need for us to know who we are as people, as communities, as societies, through our stories.

The interviewer is the author of A Happy Place and Other Stories.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 4:50:00 pm |