Lanternfish Press

Rare & Strange

Afflictions

"What are you going to be?"

Advait Ubhayakar

The signs are all around us. And they are spreading — orange gourds sit outside doors; the innocuous lamp over a favorite café sprouts fangs overnight; at the local library, children carve out faces of terror and glee. As you read this, the H-word is also infiltrating popup ads and emails that promise speedy delivery of ready-made costumes by week’s end. 

Humph. 

If you’re like us, you inhabit characters all year long. For readers, role playing is not a once-a-year activity but a perennial bug that draws us in search of stories. The plots and the voices wait for us, whether we’re riding to work on the bus or curled up snug in our beds. (How great are the days when we have nothing to do but roam wild amid the forests of words!) 

Still, it is really cool to have a day where we can all dress up in public, showing off the personas we’ve slid into in the privacy of pages. This year at Lanternfish Press, we’ve decided to dress up as the contents of our first book ever: The Afflictions. There’s a lot to pick from — this faux-encyclopedia contains over 49 disorders of the mind, body, and soul. (That’s a lot of body paint.) Expect to see us infecting the internet over the course of this week!

As the great (and greatly afflicted) DFW once said, good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. We hope getting into character(s) can become timely proof of this dual role of fiction. A game of inhabiting another, and letting an other inhabit us. 

If you’ve ever stayed in with a book, you already know this: As much as fiction is an affliction, it is also a cure.

A trick. And a treat. 

This Halloween, look to your bookshelves for inspiration and share your literary avatars with the world! 

Join us as we #getafflicted.

Catching up with Vikram Paralkar, Author of The Afflictions

InterviewsAmanda Thomas

It has been two years since we published The Afflictions (time flies!), so we decided it was a good time to catch up with the author, Vikram Paralkar. 

For our readers who haven't met you yet, tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Mumbai, and lived there until the age of 24. I moved to Philadelphia in 2005, and am currently a physician-scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. Literature has been a passion for me since my teenage years, when the works of Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and Vladimir Nabokov introduced me to the power of words and ideas. The Afflictions is my first book, and it was wonderful to publish it with Lanternfish Press back in 2014.

It's been two years since The Afflictions was published, what's new in your writing life since then?

I have completed a novel The Wounds of the Dead, the protagonist of which is a misanthropic surgeon in rural India who is asked to operate on the dead to return them to life. My literary agent is currently looking for a publisher for the novel. I have also written some short stories during this time, one of which features a series of episodes in which the Hindu deity Vishnu appears at various scenes of inequity in modern-day Mumbai.

We hear that The Afflictions is being translated into both Spanish and Italian! Tell us more about that.

Soon after The Afflictions was published by Lanternfish Press, it caught the attention (through an blog entry) of Diego D’Onofrio, the editor of La Bestia Equilatera, a fantastic publishing house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They got a translator (Laura Wittner) to translate it into Spanish, and it was released in July 2016. Though my literary agent, I have also signed a contact with Bompiani, a prominent Italian press that has been the publisher of the late, great Umberto Eco. That manuscript will be released sometime within the next year.

Readers are always curious about how writers do their work. Tell us more about how you write. What's your process? Where do you get your inspiration?

The ‘Process’ question is easier to answer - I compose all my writing on my iMac, at my desk (No romance-of-pen-and-paper-in-a-pastoral-field for me!). Music plays a very important role in my editing process. I might pick a particular piece that (in my imagination) matches the literary “texture” that I’m trying to convey through my writing at that moment, and then I “weigh” the words against the music, and sculpt them accordingly.

The "Inspiration” question is much more difficult - both Calvino and Borges are obvious influences for The Afflictions, but, beyond that, what I write is a complicated amalgam of sources that I couldn’t tease out if I tried.

We've heard that you recently put out a scientific paper too (congrats!). Tell us more about your day job. How does your career intersect with your writing?

In my day job, I am a physician-scientist - a specialist in leukemia. I treat patients with acute and chronic leukemia, and I conduct research into the way in which normal blood cells develop, and how they sometimes turn cancerous. In April 2016, I published a research paper in the journal Molecular Cell dissecting how a class of RNAs known as “long noncoding RNAs” regulate genes. I find my research immensely enriching, because it involves asking fundamental questions about biology. In school, I used to be the kid who spent my summer vacations doing scientific experiments with the tools available to me - magnets, baking soda, potato batteries. Now, as an adult, a career in science allows me to ask questions about the world that no other human may ever have asked. It’s an immense privilege to have that opportunity. So far, my writing career has clearly been influenced by my medical training. For instance, ‘The Afflictions’ harnessed the idiom of the medical vignette to explore questions about identity, exile, language and desire. ‘The Wounds of the Dead’ is heavy with medical language and surgical detail. In some ways, literature has as its main subject the same thing as medicine - the human animal. The tools and approaches are different, but they seek to dissect the same beast.

Introducing THE AFFLICTIONS, by Vikram Paralkar

EventsChristine NeuliebComment
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We’re fast gearing up for the official release of this fall’s novella: THE AFFLICTIONS, a fictional encyclopedia of archaic medicine written by a contemporary physician and scientist, Dr. Vikram Paralkar.

If you’re a fan of magical realism in general, or of beautifully written pseudo-reference works like the Book of Imaginary Beings or Invisible Cities, you don’t want to miss this! You can pre-order through Barnes & Noble or our website; the book will be shipped at the end of the month and there will be a launch party on November 5 at the Mütter Muesum of the College of Physicians:

AFFLICTIONS BOOK LAUNCH
Wednesday, November 5
7:00pm
Mütter Museum
19 South 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA

The event is free and open to the public, but please visit the Facebook event page and let us know if you plan to attend!

Can’t wait to see you there!