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Editor’s Note

Given the yesterday’s date, I would have loved to address everyone with a few words. Emulating Professor Dumbledore so to speak. However, since I doubt my ability to come up with odd sounding words without feeling a bit like a fool, I’m going to do this the old fashioned way. Even though it’s rather redundant, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome PGP22 back to campus. While it might be the same, something’s changed. No longer are we wide-eyed kids stumbling along. Here’s to yet another year filled with new learnings, experiences and memories.

To PGP23, welcome to MICA. Undoubtedly it has been a whirlwind of many things. Fasten your seat-belts. There’s heaps more from where that came from.

I wanted to take this opportunity to write about the sentiment that went behind creating Black Coffee. As the literary committee at MICA, we realised that while every student might have a story to tell, not everyone might have the confidence to express themselves on a public platform. The purpose of Black Coffee is to ensure that this insecurity is done away with, so that everyone feels free to send out their work. It’s the reason why Black Coffee doesn’t limit itself to stories or just the English language; we encourage students to send poems, pictures and even comics and doodles – whatever it is that they wish to share with this community.

On that note, I’d like to end this monologue by stating that MICA is the way it is only because of the manner in which we are allowed to express and share our innermost thoughts and experiences. Consider this to be your platform for whatever it is you wish to talk about.

Come, fall in Black Coffee.

 

Throwback to Red and Retold

This was a competition that gave participants an opportunity to add their own magic to Harry Potter stories, a little spin of their own in order to give us a unique creation. Although, the essence of the story remains the same, the standpoint alters. Enjoy a few gems from the many entries we received.

Nagini

A story in forked tongues

Team: Orange Brinjals (Aishvarya Raghavan and Ashwin Venugopal)

Aishvarya_Raghavan                 Ashwin

So, all these people involved in the menace and this madnessss, they believe their enemy is the “Great” Voldemort. Ha! look how they’re fighting againssst him, their simple mindsss not even considering the fact that me, a cold-blooded, legless creature can be capable of influencing the “dark lord”, but it’s jusst a matter of time, before the world knowss who rules them. The tenets of these wizarding humanss are going to crumble and fall and I, I will be the Queen. But thiss journey, this mission, it hass been hard. I alwayss had ambition, but opportunity- Ah! That is what lacked, all these yearsss. But it came to me, in the forest of Albania, itself, walking or rather, gliding, he did’nt have legs then, you see. He was just a weak spirit, powerless, hopelesss- It was I, I who showed him what he could be, with a little patience, a little direction. Oh, things would have been very different had we not communicated, had I not taken the first step into controlling him. He was weak and I had powers, powers only our kind have- of hypnosis, of control and oh of Love- A different kind, a different brand of it- but Love it was.

Then I didn’t know, of course. I had just wanted to rule the followerss of Tom. And then make my way up like any good enchantress does. But when i knew, Oh when I started to get hints about the Immortality of Tom. Oh, my whole plan changed, it became large “Nagini” I thought to myself “The opportunity is here, at last!” I made plans and plunged into it.

Aaah yess, it all started here. With the desstruction of the Diary. I did not like it one bit. We, the cold blooded fraternity are quite closely knit, you sseeee. We learn from each other and try to protect each other. How else do you think I learnt the art of killing with one glance if it wasn’t for the kind, old Basilisk of Sssssalazar Slytherin? So you see, I knew once Tommy here came to know that the diary has been dessstroyed, I knew something wass up. It wass just a diary, that too written 50 yearssss ago. I used this fine old art to know his Secrets. Oh how talented he thought he was, how Unique. That fool! Doesn’t he know our kind can shed skin and its afflictions and start afresh? None of this soul splitting business. But he’s like that, oh Tommy is. Modesty isn’t his strong suit. Sssso I got to know all of his deeds and tried to formulate my masssterplan. Other Horcruxes had to be desstroyed, and I needed to have full control of him. A plan was taking shape in my head. I controlled his dream, made sure he had this idea planted in his head- of making me hiss next Horcruxss. He would think that meant more control over ME. But he doesn’t know does he? The secrets of our clan. Oh yesssss…. Thisss art of mind-reading and memory haunting is quite amussing. Only if your target issss as interesting and ah, Amusssing, shall I say as dear Tom has been for me. not only did I learn a lot of the art this Wizardkind calls Magick, well I know better of coursse. But it hasss been an interesting discourse, which my community agrees. Ssso how did thiss art help me? Ssssimple, I came to know where thisss other horcrux of hisss was. Before making sure that I want to be a Horcrux, I need to be sure that there isss a chance that the otherssss are desstroyed. For my plan to work, I set out on a task. To make sure thisss Ring- which had powerful spellsss around it, was in plain sight to anyone who comess looking for it. And if it’s that nosy Dumbledore, the better it isss. For he won’t be able to live long after he killed a portion of Tommy’s soul either! And that iss what happened! Now the locket wasss tricky, beyond my control. What wass this whole RAB business? I flitted across from the boy’s mind to Tom’s with dexterity. This was nothing new to me- I who had controlled many at a time. This RAB nonsense was dealt with when I convinced Severuss during one of hi “Alone” times wih Tom. He may be an Occlumenss but it’s much difficult to evade me when he’s trying to block Tom so hard from his mind. Weakens the mind you see, makes it easier for someone else to control. Severus had to help the boy destroy the locket. Ha! piece of cake. The Bellatrix woman, who wassss anyway a fool. Tom never loved her. Never. Anyway the fool that she is tortured and questioned potter’s friendssss about Gryffindor’s sword and its presence in gringotts. One small memory that I implanted into Potter through Tom made sure that the foolssss went into gringotts looking for it. I thought Potterwould die after that dumb Dragon was awoken. But it’s better thiss way. This way Potter would have to destroy all of them, this way I will conntrol Tom alwayss. Tom was destined to be under me and me alone.

That boy potter studies with, Malfoy…sss…his friends are unpredictable and stupid, the Crabbe boy, made the death eaters teach him fiendfire before he went to hogwarts for the final battle. He used it like a fool on potter, It should have taken care of the potter boy but it did not go to waste. The boy thrust the diadem into the fire after stabbing it with the fang and destroyed it.

Ha! Now with Tom weakened beyond repair, he will surrender, to me.

Completely.Unconditionally.

And at last we come to the Boy. It is true that with Dumbledore gone and most of the Horcruxes destroyed, I need to destroy him. I am slythering slowly, when it comes to this prey. Ssstrategy, you see. I needed him, to desstroy that cup and the Diadem, but now, now I don’t need him anymore. Now that i’ve killed Severuss and the Elder Wand is truly MINE. Now I’ll instruct dear Tom to kill him too. Let me make eye contact with him, if only this Longbottom would get out of the way. Why is he brandishing that sword in front of me? What the…AAAAAAAARGH!

 

 

Ignotus

Team – Bala Sai Kiran Kumar A. and Nandan Majumdar (Winners)

11218079_968545573190186_7182818997827986699_o           nandan.jpg

Godric’s Hollow

Winter of 1289

The hailstorm has only grown worse through the night, and the pain in my bones as a reflection, only as sour as in the ones preceding it. Men are born with the curse of age, to burn and fade into the darkness of death. In my youth, when my words half as informed found ears twice as eager, I made death my fiercest rival. In fact, I find it the starkest of all human concepts, ageless and infinite. Death has always terrified me, standing just beyond the curves of my lanes and watching me stumble towards it. I have lived my life lurking at the edges of its shadows, feeding it men who weren’t afraid of it. I have eluded its icy grasps for all these years, holding fear as my greatest strength.

Tonight, I’ll let my quill breathe a tighter tale than it does every other night. Tonight I’m not writing a fairy tale, nor am I a bearded bard who doesn’t exist. Tonight I’ll let it live the real Tale Of The Three Brothers. For today is a special day, the day Cadmus died.

They called me Ignotus Peverell, the Boy who wasn’t meant to live. Cadmus once told me that at the time of my birth, my mother labored on for three days, and the shire gathered at the Godric’s Hollow to watch and squirm as my mangled form dropped out of her in a lump of twisted bones. I killed my mother as I was born, and I wasn’t expected to survive either. I was the curse of the Peverell family. I spent my childhood being mocked and demeaned, my deformity pinning me down in its wake as it strode past me in the lanes I was meant to motor. I travelled on the coat-tails of death, sowing contempt and therefore, a fatal blindness.

But nobody was blinder than Cadmus. Perhaps it was he who loved me the most. Though skilled and gifted like few others in history, he was always a hostage of emotions, passionate towards absolutes, made for a gentler world. Antioch could only protect him from reality for so long. The world has to be maneuvered through wit and cunning, still holding close the armor of nobility. Cadmus never understood that. And that is what did him in. Twenty-five years ago, this very night, when the veil was lifted off his corpse, and I saw a pale, crushing emptiness on his face, all I felt was pity.

The three of us were a fabric barely sewn together, always on the verge of tearing apart. I have to admit, after all these years of denying it, that Antioch was perhaps the greatest wizard of our times. He might in fact be the noblest person I have ever met. He was strong, powerful and commanded love and respect from those around him. Cadmus loved him as a brother, taking pleasure in his victories, trusting in his vision. Cadmus thrived in his shadow, while I, all my life, struggled to break free of it.

Antioch was barely at home, always on one or the other of his adventures, discovering new worlds I could never travel to, creating new, wondrous magic that he shared only with Cadmus, in hushed whispers, as I snuck around closed doors to get wind of it. He never trusted me, using me for menial chores and laughing at my imprudence. I could never wrench sacrifices out of him as I could of Cadmus. I hated Antioch because he could so easily see through what I was and what I would become.

I refuse to take responsibility for Cadmus’s death. I never meant for him to find out. He brought it upon himself by creating that wretched thing- that Resurrection stone. Certain things should stay buried, for they bring back to the world the stench they had been destroyed to protect it from. I had slept with the woman he loved because she saw him for the spineless being he was. To be fair, I did not force her into anything. She came to me. Cadmus, always a victim to love, shattered the very horizons of magic to craft the Resurrection Stone- all for what?

To bring back one who never truly loved him, who was happy to stay dead. The poor girl, reanimated and tortured by a blind and selfish love, finally confided in him about us. And Cadmus, as cowardly as ever, chose to take his own life than to face me with the knowledge. His was a sorry, unnecessary demise, indeed quite fitting of the sorry life he led.

To his credit, I would have never thought he would succeed in making that stone, so many years after her death, so many years after Antioch’s death. It was the darkest and craziest of his flights of fancy, crazier than the Elder Wand, crazier than the Invisibility Cloak.
I feel obligated to say a few nice words for him on this day of his death. Cadmus was indeed a kind man. He cured me of my deformity. He cared for me in an almost motherly manner. Most importantly, he helped me acquire the Invisibility Cloak from Antioch. And in return, in my heart I would never have for him anything lesser than pity.

The Cloak was the first and easily the happiest creation of my brothers’. And the most useful. It was Cadmus’s last ask of him, before Antioch was to leave us for good. It was, like the Elder Wand after it, a product of Antioch’s knowledge and Cadmus’s ingenuity. I hate to confess it, but I wanted the invisibility cloak to protect myself from Antioch, who I was afraid, wouldn’t hesitate to kill me if he found out about me and Cadmus’s lover. And the only way I could shield myself from Antioch’s Elder Wand, was with the Cloak.

The Elder wand was Antioch’s ticket to escape the trappings of this small community of feeble ambitions and venture out to a more glorious world, one he would belong in, where his honor would have enough space to breathe. I had seen the power of the Elder Wand with my own eyes and learned early to fear it. Antioch crafted it for himself, for he was the only one who could handle its power. If he had survived, with the Elder wand, he would have become the most celebrated wizard of all time, fulfilling his destiny. And I would have been left behind, staring at mine – death.

It is almost comical to think how Antioch was brought down by a rumor I had sown, hoping to stop him. In a tiny world where power as a term is shriveled and plagued, its lust can’t be more dangerous than in the hands of short-sighted men. I created the myth of the Elder Wand, a story that spread and ultimately claimed his life before he could take flight with it. The wand, then, made its own bloody legend, along the trail it etched. They called it the harbinger of death. Through the many lives it claimed, I caught up with death before death could catch up with me.

Through craft I outlived my brothers, I outlived my destiny, and through legend, I will be immortalized. In the nights, as I toss and turn, I become Beedle The Bard, a man who will exist in the future and through whose words I shall live on. I shall no longer be a pointless, crippled curse of the Peverells, but the humblest and wisest of all the three, the one who greeted death as an old friend- Ignotus Peverell, The Boy who lived.

 

Fenrir Greyback

Team – Felix Joy and Ramana Charan

12249590_10208368908484321_393258845661874891_n        ramana

Context: Towards the close of The Battle of Hogwarts, as Voldemort awaits Harry Potter in the Forbidden Forest, Fenrir Greyback breaks away from the chaos to pen down his thoughts in his diary, a habit that is among the last traces of humanity left in him. We take a look at the entry about his account of the Battle of Hogwarts.

The transformation is a painful process. But as it progresses, the pain fades away to give rise to a more curious feeling. Surreal. Now there’s an interesting word. If there was ever a word that came close, it would be just that – surreal. It is quite something to feel the initial rush… the sudden burst of power that seems to run through your veins. It begins with a pang of fear that seeps through you when you see the full moon. But it evaporates when the first moonbeam strikes you. You feel your spine thrusting out and your nails growing sharper, steelier. Your body tingles as your hair grows out. It’s an overwhelming experience. And perhaps, that is what made me let out a howl.

My howl pierced through the night as my brothers and I ran towards the castle of Hogwarts. As I felt my limbs growing taut, gaining strength with each step, I realized that my transformation was near completion. The feral wolf in me had taken control of my being in a lust for blood. My thoughts sped past me. It had always been difficult to think lucidly when I was a savage beast. But the dark nights seemed clearer, the smell of the world, richer and my reflexes sharper.

I liked this brute power; the feeling of being invincible.

As I raced ahead, I became suddenly aware of the fearsome company I was in. I had teamed up with the most dangerous wizards and creatures of my time, all united under the service of The Dark Lord. Of course, I wasn’t particularly intent on his quest for magical supremacy. But there was always enough blood to fill my rather insatiable thirst it was a decent bargain. As yet another victim succumbed to my appetite, the vestiges of my humanity stung me, giving me a pain that I had long grown numb to.

When had I given in to my animal side? I had tried so hard to fight it. Every day was a constant struggle. I used to fear the very progression of the moon. As it approached the full moon, I used to rue the fateful night when I was turned. The night of the full moon itself was spent in anger, cursing my ill fate where I would have to prey on yet another one of the community that had made me an outcast. I hated being weak in the face of this temptation. It hadn’t been a choice. But all this changed the night I was hunted down.

Lyall Lupin. A name I would never forget. What was it that he had called us? Soulless, evil and deserving of nothing but death. Did it not strike him that we couldn’t control these urges? Or did he choose to ignore it just because it was convenient? Either way, the words had found their mark. A wall had crumbled within me when I heard those words. I had finally let my animal instincts takeover me. He would know what it means to awaken a truly soulless, evil, terrible being. And in doing so, he had invited death to his door.

The chaos within Hogwarts would have seemed terrible to anyone else. But for us werewolves, it is the declaration of an impending feast. The orgy of smells and sounds in the wake of its destruction, thrill and excite. Now that I think of it, it was only after Lupin had proclaimed me a monster to the mob that I really unleashed the murderous fiend in me. I started feasting on the blood of innocents and made sure that I was close to as many people as possible when I transformed. I started to relish being a werewolf. To be able to invoke fear by my mere presence made me feel powerful. Being used to a life of hiding and helplessness, I became addicted to the chase and the thrill of the hunt. I refused to wait for the turn of the moon. My thirst for humans grew to the point where I used to hunt even when I wasn’t in my lycan form. I shed every last inhibition and revealed who I truly was. I became the souless, evil creature that people wanted me to be. I was consumed by my thirst for revenge and fanned these flames that would eventually torch Lyall Lupin’s life to ashes. And as my thoughts drifted back to those moments, I came about to glimpse the one person at the Battle of Hogwarts who had paid for Lyall Lupin’s hasty words with the ultimate price – Remus Lupin.

As Remus Lupin fired a volley of spells to fight off Lestrange, I remember tilting my head in a moment of weakness. My repressed humanity got the better of me as I experienced intrigue like only a human would. Was it sentiment? Nostalgia? Or are these words too alien for a werewolf? I remember the night I turned Remus Lupin as clear as day. I remember parting the delicate curtains to his bedroom. I remember him looking at me curiously as Fenrir Greyback, one of the most fearsome werewolves to have ever lived, stood over him. I remember his mother screaming in horror. But none of it would give the satisfaction that I got by the mere look on Lyall Lupin’s face. One of the loudest voices at my prosecution collapsed into deafening silence. Remus Lupin’s blood tasted of vengence.

Expelliarmus. A bolt of red flew from Remus’ wand. Lestrange diverted with some difficulty but managed to find herself on her feet. The battle raged on between the two. As Remus battled to live, I spotted a few wolfish quirks in the way he moved. The same agile movements, the quick reflexes and a hunter’s instinct. I suddenly became aware of how similar we were. Would things have been very different if I Lyall Lupin’s words had seared through my spirit? What would it have been like to still live in the fear of changing into something that the world would disapprove of? And then, I heard the damned words being spoken. Avada Kedavara. There was a flash of green and Remus dropped to the floor, motionless, lifeless eyes staring into an overcast sky.

Lestrange made her way through the battle, leaving more injured and dead in her wake. I walked over to Remus and stood over him. Were any of our choices worth it if it is all meant to end this way? Humanity was overated. It wasn’t that important. It couldn’t be. Not if you died for them, anyway. As yet another explosion rocked the castle, I made my way away from Remus’ still body. Choices once made can’t be altered. All we can do is stick to the path and do everything in our power to make sure things end the way we want to. And I had made the right ones.

As my thoughts faded a bit into the chaos, I took a whiff of the surrounding destruction. The smell filled my lungs and I let out a howl. I let my legs pick up pace, let go of my thoughts and became exactly what Lyall Lupin accused me of being. Soulless, evil and deserving of nothing but death.

Until next time

Greyback

 

Poems by PGP22

Moments by Sharanan Gogoi

gog

It was night,
One day,
And the moon was crimson red.
The clouds were playing,
Hide and seek
While the hooting owl
Perched on an elder branch.
I was there,
Sitting,
A green patch was my lair.
I was there,
Whistling,
The wind blew through my hair.
And moments such as these,
So far apart,
Come to me, as memories,
Of an olden me,
Of a broken time,
As vestiges,
Of what I left behind.

The Color of Light by Chakshu Bhandari

chakshu

I took a lesson in astronomy once. In the wild
where they took us to re-imagine the stars
I figured the movements by the hour were limitless.
I figured that the wisdom held in a ball of fire
deprived of a vision in its flawless existence
could have been lost a million miles ago, if not for this observation.
And seven stars aligned over my head
each a colour different than the rest.
How science and art were in it together, predicting
the future of a race overburdened by the weight of its guesstimates.
I figured that our contribution was to the void inside us
as it was to the void past the horizons
that was slowly eating away the layers of self-discovery we had put.
An abundance of force that was channelled through a prism
by the rickety hands of the technical prude
who formulised the symptoms of a heart ache into
an unimaginative theory of love affairs
merged and demerged into fragments of neon littering the space
chalked carefully on the cardboard.
And interpretations are disruptive – by both – men and mice
running paradoxically towards yet away
to the juxtaposition of truth on the hand crafted lie
in the form that it took – that dark night timeline.
I figured the bend in the rays of sun huddling together
to bombard the fertile grounds
displaying true colours of their exhibitionist agenda.

Hanita Bhambri

Hanita B.jpg

I cover my head and ruin the fix of the stars
As they melt like chocolate and marshmallow in the fire of our bellies
The kind that drives one inordinately crazy
You’ll see me dressed up in my floral skirt
The one we found house hunting in the sun
To me it seems, the days pass like seasons
Filled with boxes of memories as delicious as boxes of chocolates and drawers of surprises
Compact and unending
A continuum of helium balloons drifting us further up in the sky
Till we reach our ceiling of blue ocean and find our fingers slip up
Only to realise there is a world beyond what we realise
and if my body were to escape my soul
I swear, dear, it would mistake your shirt’s front pocket for its home
Unless you’re wearing the denim one again
Then it would run away from whoever you call yourself goof
And if words were only meant to be muttered and shapes of silences were actually things that brought meaning to our worlds
then we would have talked and then talked some more
Try and ruin the fix of the stars because I’m tired of them lining up every other night
It’s more than good fortune, it’s been a lot of work to get us where we are

The Night by Shabad Singh

shabad singh.jpg

The smoke rings are gone,
Blown away into the dark.
You never say it,
But I know where this goes.

My mind was lost,
On a train, a train that took me high.
2 wine bottles and an ashtray of cigarettes,
And in our city of darkness, we wake.

It’s all black and white,
But I see you in Technicolor.
I wish I could,
But even the hands of a clock can’t stop the time

May be we can pretend,
But there is no need to.
You don’t have to be shy,
No one knows the fortunes we find here.

One night,
One joint,
The one u burnt me with
It never died nor faded away, still fresh in my eye.

Even the sun cannot resist,
It rises from you.
I am not like them,
But I know the sun isn’t fading.

May be you are too beautiful,
But u haven’t seen the devil.
Oh it’s electric,
When you are criminal to me.

I know it shivers,
When I kiss your spine.
2 loaded shot guns,
And a leatherback seat on the beast we strangle

May be they could stay with us,
The ghosts of this night,
Stay by my side,
Cuz I can’t bear to watch this night die.

Song of My Lord by Ridhi Chugh

ridhi chugh

As clouds on a stormy night
blush-black; is He bewitching
Clothed and ornamented in gold
a singular peacock feather is His crown
My Lord herds the holy cows, Surbhi,
on Yamuna’s bank

Even lips; more pink than the lotus
and His eyes; like a deer’s, enchanting
My lord treads toward Banyan, His feet
imprinting the soil; carving
out perfect impressions; (too) divine,
to rest in its shade

Sitting with back at Banyan
His disarray; scattered hair, wavy
black cut across His tranquil face
Head raised, my Lord streamlines
His eyelashes to meditate upon His soul
He is all and all is His; all in Him

Aarti Hariramani

Aarti H iron man.jpg

We are people of colors, of care of kind,
We are people of love, of life, of smiles
We love unconditionally, uncontrollably we laugh,
but we work passionately without any guards
We wander around but we are not lost,
yes we are scary but we are humans not ghosts.

We are genius, we are nerds but we stand by our words,
We water the trees but also nurture buds
Yes we look different but we are all the same,
yes we make mistakes for which no one else is to blame.

We bask in the sunshine and dance in the rain,
yes we are naughty but for us life is not a game.
We don’t value jewels, which glitter and shine,
we rather enjoy painting, and poems that rhyme..

We have our own vibrance when we stand alone but
when we come together a rainbow is born…
We are people of colors of care and kind;
we have similar hearts with just different minds!

Travel with Rahul Nanda

Misty pathway on the way up to the hill.

1.jpg

Long day at work-goat grazing by the locals.

2.jpg

Explosive display by nature.

3.jpg

Soaking in the breathtaking atmosphere of Triund

4.jpg

After a long session of hide and seek,overlooking the view of the mighty dhauladhar range

5

What’s happening in Ahmedabad?

shodh

Shodh: A photography exhibition

Satya Art Gallery proudly invites everyone to engage and converse with a dynamic group of photographers. Shodh is a series of bi-annual exhiibitions hosted by Satya Art Gallery to engage with young practitioners of art from all disciplines.

When: 2nd August to 7th August

Venue: Satya Art Gallery

 

alliance_film.jpg

European Union Film Festival

The 21st European Union Film Festival is coming of age and invites you for the screenings of 24 award winning latest films from all over the European Union. The films range from hilarious comedies to gut-wrenching drama to fairy-tales.

When: 4th August – 9th August

Venue: Alliance Francaise d’Ahmedabad

 

the pizza music fest.jpg

The Pizza Music Festival (powered by VH1)

Don’t snap back to reality yet ‘coz we’re gonna shake things up! What are you waiting for?

When: Sunday Aug 07 2016 at 06:00 pm

Venue: Orion Ceremonial Lawns

Price: Rs. 400 onwards

 

utsav

12th All Gujarat Photography Exhibition and Prize Distribution: Utsav

Smt. V M Modi memorial Awards “Drishti Trophy 2016″Photography exhibition and prize distribution of 12th All Gujarat photography competition on theme UTSAV organized by Manav Pratishthan, Ahmedabad based charitable trust involved in promoting photography as an Art form since 2004.

When: 19th August to 21st August

Venue: Ravishankar Raval Kalabhavan

 

baddy

Socio Badminton Championship

Socio Games bringing once again Socio Badminton Championship, the most awaited and successful sporting event in Ahmedabad. We play, meet and engage!

When: 21st August

Venue: Eklavya Sports Academy

 

Keeping up with the World

Publishers are warming to Fan Fiction, but can it do mainstream?

An article written by Rachel Edidin featured in The Wire

KADY MORRISON’S DEBUT novel, Juniper Lane, won’t be on store shelves for months, but already her fans number in the six figures. They’re familiar with her work from Archive of Our Own, a fanwork site where Morrison writes fanfic under the handle ‘gyzym’.

Her publisher, Big Bang Press, is well aware—in fact, it links to her Ao3 page directly from its website. For a conventional publisher to acknowledge, let alone link directly to, a writers’ fan fiction is unprecedented, but Big Bang specializes in original works by authors recruited from the fan-fiction community.

The overlap between the professional and fan literary communities is one of those uncomfortable secrets no one denies, but few discuss. Fan fiction is mostly published pseudonymously, and the stigma surrounding it often causes writers to keep their professional and fan identities carefully compartmentalized.

Literary publishing’s uneasy relationship with fan fiction has been complicated by the realization that fandom is a huge potential market—one stocked with both prolific authors and enthusiastic readers.  But tapping that market is a dilemma few publishers seem quite prepared to engage.

That’s where Big Bang Press comes in.

Tapping a ready-made market

To Morgan Davies, Big Bang’s editor-in-chief, mainstream publishing’s difficulty tapping the fan market is a byproduct of its cultivated distance from fandom. “They know there’s something there, and they know they should be doing something about it, but they don’t really understand how it works,” Davies says. Most publishers who scout fanfiction, she says, simply look for popular works that can be repurposed as original novels–50 Shades of Grey, for example, started as a fan’s re-imagining of Twilight.

Big Bang takes a different approach: Instead of trawling platforms like Archive of Our Own or Wattpad for stories, Davies decided to focus her search on authors: “We want to take people who have been writing a lot of fan ficiton and honing their writing talent, but who are interested in writing original stuff and clearly have the talent and ability to do so.”

Big Bang isn’t the first publisher to plumb the fan community for new talent. For decades, it was understood that fanzines and amateur press associations were where writers—particularly in genre fiction and comics—got their chops: Ray Bradbury’s first published stories appeared in his four-issue fanzine, Futuria Fantasia. And there’s a long tradition of what’s known as “filing off the serial numbers”: removing trademarked names, settings, and other details to republish fanfic as a new original work. (Often, this happened with “AU,” or alternate-universe, fanfiction, which was already so distant from the original that the changes were little more than cosmetic.) Legend has it that Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor, the first book of her New York Times-bestselling Vorkosigan Saga, started as Star Trek fanfiction.

Blurred Lines

It’s easy to argue 50 Shades of Grey is an outlier, that its success isn’t indicative of a larger trend. However, since its publication in 2011, the lines between literary and fan publishing have continued to blur.

Hugh Howey, author of self-published bestseller Wool, has encouraged readers not only to write fan fiction based on his works, but to sell it. It’s an interesting case: Howey’s own history as a self-published, digital-first author brings him a good deal closer to the model and economy of fandom than most of his print-first counterparts. His model is becoming increasingly popular as the tools of digital publishing become more and more accessible, allowing writers to bypass the traditional gatekeepers to literary success. Notable, too, is Howey’s embracing the term “fanfiction” to refer to Peace in Amber, his recent pastiche of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

“Fellow writers got in touch and expressed shock that I would allow people to dabble and profit off my characters,” wrote Howey in a recent Slate essay. “But I was profiting while writing about Joseph Campbell’s singular hero of a thousand faces. We are all telling the same story with slight variations.”

Howey published Peace in Amber through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, a licensed portal that allows writers to publish and, critically, sell fiction based on a handful of properties through Amazon.com. It’s same market through which Howey’s fans can publish and sell fanfic based on his work. Worlds’ system has some significant problems–writers cede rights to not only their work, but also any original creations that crop up in context of it—but it’s a key marker of the increased legitimization of fandom, and its growing and increasingly visible place in the literary marketplace.

A new model?

But can fan fiction—and its authors—break out of self-publishing and into more traditional literary publishing models and markets? That’s what Davies and Big Bang Press are counting on.

“There wouldn’t be any reason for us to hide that the authors were coming from fandom,” said Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Big Bang’s managing editor and social media director. To Davies, the association with fandom is a critical means of distinguishing Big Bang from the competition: take away the fandom ties, and “we’d just be another little indie press, doing what all the other little indie presses are doing.”

So far, it’s worked: Publishing colleagues warned Davies about the stigma associated with fan writers, but Big Bang successfully raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter in November to fund its first wave of books. If the success of the Kickstarter is an indicator, then Big Bang has the potential to do more than give fan authors a path to publishing original works without abandoning their roots: it could deal a significant blow to the guardians of the gates that separate fan authors from their “real” counterparts—not just on the internet, but in the larger publishing marketplace.

 

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