We speak with Blaft Publications editor Rakesh Khanna about their new anthology The Obliterary Journal, comics about extraterrestrial robots, bleeding lizards, exploding donkeys, defecating cyclopses and talented kitchen appliances.
Chennai-based publishers Blaft have gained a lot of notoriety and acclaim for their anthologies, namely The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction Vol. 1 & 2. So when they announced the release of their new anthology The Obliterary Journal, we immediately decided to get in touch with Blaft editor Rakesh Khanna to get a lowdown on what readers can expect from it. Rakesh, a mathematician from U.C Berkeley and IIT-Madras, moved to Chennai in 1998. After almost ten years of being fascinated with the lurid covers of pulp magazines at local tea stands, he established Blaft with his wife, Rashmi Ruth Devdasan and Kaveri Lalchand to publish the aforementioned anthology, among other things. A few failed phone calls later, an interview was set up via email. Here it is, along with a sneak peek of pages from the anthology.
How did you come up with the idea of The Obliterary Journal? And why the name?
Blaft: We like graphic anthologies… We are big fans of books like BLAB!, Best American Comics, Hi-Fructose and McSweeney’s Quarterly #13. We’d gotten several submissions of short comics and illustrated stories that we liked and we thought we’d bind them together and try to make a wild & crazy India-centric graphic anthology.
The name of the journal is derived from the concept of Obliteracy: the doctrine that written literature without illustrations, and especially “literary fiction”, has reached the end of its usefulness to human society, and that we must now strive to obliterate it entirely from the face of the earth. This can best be achieved by encouraging people to read comics about extraterrestrial robots, bleeding lizards, exploding donkeys, and defecating cyclopses.
How did you select the artists you wanted to include in the anthology? Was there a process? How did you get in touch with people like Yukichi Yamamatsu, Zen Marie and others?
Blaft: No, there wasn’t a well-defined process. We collected some of the short pieces a while ago – Bharath Murthy gave us his piece back in 2009, when the concept of the book was a little different, and things trickled in over the next few years. Our friend Achal Prabhala introduced us to Zen Marie. We first heard about Yukichi Yamamatsu from some of the Delhi comics artists who met him while he was there selling udon.
Next issue we’ll do a proper “open for submissions” kind of thing.
I read your table of contents and saw a story called ‘Twenty Three from the One Gross’ written and meditated by Durrrrk Mixer Grinder Serial No. 30277 XM03. We’re very curious.
Blaft: Here is the bio as it appears in the book:
Durrrrk Mixer Grinder Serial No. 30277XM03 combines 2000 watts of power with four interchangeable lift/grind/chop/puree action blades, three double-wall stainless steel jars, and a friendly snap-shut locking system. Its uniquely resilient, sleek design was created specifically for the tough grinding tasks required in the diverse cuisines of India, but it is equally capable of handling international recipes. It also writes poetry.
This beautiful and very talented kitchen appliance collaborated with Puducherry-based artist Malavika.PC to create 144 (one gross) pieces of microfiction. “Twenty-three from the One Gross” is a selection of 23 of them.
Was there any new content created for solely for the anthology or is it going to publish work artists have done that hasn’t been previously published?
Blaft: About 60% is new work created for the anthology; 20% has been published before in other languages, but appears here for the first time in English; and 20% has been previously published in English in magazines, book form, or blogs, though some of it has been modified to fit the new format.
You are publishing Yukichi Yamamatsu’s manga (titled Stupid Guy Goes To India) about his experiences in India. Will you be publishing any of the other books you have included as excerpts in the anthology?
Blaft: No firm plans as yet… but we do hope to work with the authors again!
You’ve had a lot of signs painted by street painter S. Venkataraman. Will we see more of his work at the Blaft stall at Comic Con this year?
Blaft: Unfortunately, no… Jayalalithaa’s 64th birthday is coming up, and they’re keeping him really busy painting her name all over every wall in the city.
What else can we expect from Blaft this year?
Blaft: I’m a little hesitant to discuss the upcoming releases because they’re actually in direct contravention to the doctrine of Obliteracy… but… we’ve got some interesting translated fiction coming out. There will be a couple of eChapbooks (electronic chapbooks), one translated from Guaraní (an indigenous South American language, from Paraguay) and another translated from Bahasa Indonesia, and a novel called Sin Is a Puppy That Follows You Home by Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, translated from Hausa, a language spoken in Northern Nigeria.
A table of contents created for the journal was featured on the Blaft blog. You can check it out here. The Obliterary Journal will be launched (along with but not at the same time as Yukichi Yamamatsu’s Stupid Guy Goes To India) at the 2nd Annual Indian Comic Con in Delhi (stay tuned for more on that) on Friday, Feb 17.
Blaft will also be hosting an event featuring contributors from The Obliterary Journal on Monday, Feb 20 at YODAKIN, 2 Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi at 6.30pm.