Introducing Arcx, a Podcast About Literary Inspiration

Anjali Alappat

What makes you want to tell a story? Every writer has at some point been asked about their inspiration. Was it something that they witnessed? A story they’d heard long ago? Or perhaps a glimpse at another carefully created world? That’s what Arcx is all about—delving into new worlds, looking at old ones with fresh eyes, and tracing inspiration from conception to the words that sprawl across pages.

We live in, as the timeless curse suggests, ‘interesting times’. So it felt natural to escape into worlds that resembled ours, but where the possibilities are endless. Science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction have long been passions of mine. I find the combination of plausible futures, technology, humanity, magic, and adventure irresistible. The idea that evolved into Arcx was simple: I just wanted to talk to some of my favourite storytellers, and ask them questions about their process.

I wanted to ask writers about the stories that had shaped them and made them want to write, and the stories they are yet to tell.

I wanted to sit down with them and dissect art, ideas, and dreams. I wanted to pop the hood (metaphorically speaking) of their fantastical brains, and take a peek at how it all worked.

And somewhere along the way, I started to wonder if other people would be interested in those conversations, too. Surely, I thought, there were other readers out there who wanted to listen to this too. So, when I pitched the idea to my team, I told them that I wanted Arcx to be fun. I wanted people who had never picked up a Herbert or Asiimov novel, or ever watched Star Wars, to feel tempted to listen. I wanted to ask questions without being scared of sounding stupid or ignorant. I wanted a safe space for opinions, ideas, and bizarre references. I think I’ve found it, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

The name ‘Arcx’ was the result of a lively team-wide discussion. We all had opinions (as you can imagine), and the seedling idea had several experimental monikers before we settled on this one. After all, what is a story without the arc? And yes, there’s an X. We just liked it. Xs are cool.

Now that we had a name, we needed some interviewees. We made a wishlist, six writers whose work we loved, and whose writing I was dying to discuss. We reached out to them over social media and via email, and hoped for the best. The wait was agonising, but the responses made it worth it. Every single person on our list responded with kindness and genuine interest. They gave us their time, encouragement, and allowed us to squeal over them like crazed fans. To say that we’re grateful would be an understatement, Arcx would not have been possible without their support.

Each writer we chose brings something unique to the table. Our first episode features Shiv Ramdas, whose short story Bhatia P.I had me in splits. Shiv is probably best known for his evocative short fiction, dark humour, and popular Twitter threads. We talked about his short stories, the importance of second books, and men from the NCR region called Monty. You’ll laugh your way through his episode, I know I did.

Next, we have Lavanya Lakshminarayan, whose book Analog/Virtual: And Other Simulations of Your Future is set in the not-so-distant future. Lavanya has a gift for tackling tough topics and themes with ease. This interconnected collection of short stories plays with bleak futures and social satire in a way that is fascinating and thought-provoking. Lavanya is articulate, passionate and loves Tolkien, which makes her the ideal podcast guest in my opinion.

For the third episode of Arcx, I had the chance to chat with Samit Basu. I discovered Samit at the same bookstore where I bought my first Pratchett, which seems especially fitting in hindsight. Samit is one of India’s best-known sci-fi and fantasy authors. An incredibly versatile writer, Samit has written sci-fi novels, fantasy epics, comic books, and movie scripts. His latest book, The City Inside, is set in the uncomfortably close future. Samit offers us a vivid portrait of a world of extremes, where privacy is a thing of the past, and fame and influence are the currency of choice.

In episode 4, we chat to S.B Divya about her debut novel Machinehood, which is filled with great science, and even better storylines. With two fascinating heroines at the helm, we visit a world where there’s no privacy, and humans tinker with their biochemistry to compete with machines. Machinehood explores some really complex themes which include bodily autonomy, religious extremism, family ties, and privacy.

To read Kuzhali Manickavel’s work is to be transported to wild, vicious and wacky places. Kuzhali is the maestro of everyday horror, using beautiful prose to keep us teetering on the edge of fear and loathing. Her work is both distinctive and provocative. Listen to episode 5 to hear more about her work, process and influences.

Indrapramit Das or Indra Das is a prolific sci-fi and fantasy writer and editor, whose debut novel, The Devourers, is both lyrical and brutal. Spanning centuries, the book examines what it means to be human, explores complicated relationships, and the concept of legacy. In the last episode of the mini-series, we sit down with Indra to discuss the book, his beginnings as a writer, and Miyazaki.

Putting this podcast together was a labour of love. I was lucky enough to work with a team of storytellers who recognised the importance of the writing process, influences, and investigating inspiration. With every conversation, I learned more about the different aspects of storytelling. Whether it was watching Doordarshan TV serials, or rereading classics from our childhoods, the preparation and production of Arcx has been fun, interesting and hilarious, much like the podcast itself. Please listen, laugh, share, and revisit. We hope that you enjoy it, we certainly did.