The short story “Communal” by Shikhandin was published for the first time in 2020 by Future Fiction within the anthology “Avatar. Contemporary Indian Science Fiction”.
After humans exploit Earth’s resources to the point of causing enormous environmental damage, plants start mutating in ways that make human life difficult. In some cases, plants seem to have a will of their own when they attack humans, and eating them becomes more difficult. Will the joint efforts of the various nations find the solution?
Shikhandin is the pen name of a writer of various genres of fiction and poetry, in this case, a very particular apocalyptic tale. It’s the story of humanity separated from the rest of life on Earth, a situation that leads to the exploitation of natural resources as if they were property humans can dispose of. The consequences are environmental damage that at a certain point cause mutations in plants that turn out to be negative for humanity.
“Communal” is narrated with a style that brings it closer to a fairy tale than science fiction. Shikhandin also wrote children’s stories and was also awarded for her children’s book “Vibhuti Cat”. This tale is a fairy tale for young and old people that tells what is an apocalypse or a rebirth, depending on your point of view. This difference is due precisely to the fact that humanity is separated from the rest of life on Earth.
An Indian family witnesses the changes and reactions of humans, who continue to behave as if they’re at war with the rest of the planet’s creatures. There are those who turn to religion, others to science, in any case to no avail because nothing stops the new advance of plants.
Like every fairy tale, “Communal” has its own moral meaning that emerges from the observation of human beings’ myopia. The allegory is transparent, such as the fact that, faced with plant mutations, they join forces only to continue the contrast with nature, still choosing the path of violence instead of that of harmony.
In some ways, “Communal” is a bitter tale but it’s not without hope. It’s certainly not the first work on this subject but the mix of genres and the fairy tale style give this story an evocative force that seemed remarkable to me, and for this reason, I recommend reading it.