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Author interview: Sharang Biswas
2020-03-31 · by Stewart C Baker
Sharang Biswas is an artist, writer, and award-winning game designer based in New York. In addition to essays and stories for Sub Q, Sharang has written for First Person Scholar, Unwinnable, and ZAM. He’s currently working on “Honey & Hot Wax: An Anthology of Erotic Art Games”, to be published by Pelgrane Press.
Itch IO: https://astrolingus.itch.io/
DriveThru RPG: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php?author=Sharang%20Biswas
This interview was conducted over email in February of 2020.
sub-Q Magazine: You’ve written interactive fiction for us before. What challenges did you face as you approached this as the first piece of a multi-part game, rather than a self-contained whole?
Sharang Biswas: One area in which I’m less practiced in as a writer is outlining. Since I mainly do shorts, I tend to have a hazy image of the whole narrative, and let my writing lead me to where the story lies. For this piece, I’ve had to become a little more disciplined in my process, and have had to plan out more in advance!
sub-Q Magazine: I love the religion in this game, and the culture that lives at the edges of it. What drove you to religion in particular, and the specific elements of the Spectrum, as you brainstormed and wrote the game?
Sharang Biswas: The idea of a priest struggling to follow the letter of the (religious) law came to me when I was doing research for Honey & Hot Wax: An Anthology of Erotic Art Games, the collection of erotic games I’m co-editing. The game I ended up designing didn’t end up using that research, but the idea kept gnawing at me, until I finally birthed it as The Book of Chroma.
More generally, I’ve always been interested in religion as a human social factor, and fascinated by religious rules, rituals, and rites. Since games can be observed through the lens or rules and rituals, the two fit together pretty naturally? I suspect this won’t be the last time I focus on religion in a game or fiction piece!
I’ve also been doing a bit of reading around colour…and when I was trying to figure out the elements of this piece’s religion, I think my current reading just crept up on me!
sub-Q Magazine: As a follow-on to that last question, what’s your favourite unusual fact about a real or fictional religion (other than this one)?
Sharang Biswas: During my grandfather’s funeral, I remember sitting at a ritual with the pandit, who was making symbolic offerings of rice cakes to my grandfather’s spirit. I remember the pandit meticulously dropping the rice cakes by twisting his hand just so, and patiently explaining to me how dropping the cakes this way was an offering to the soul, but the other way was an offering to the Gods. I was intrigued by how particular the Gods were about their offerings…
I love the fact that in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, the gods desperately hunger for human belief, and how they need people as much as (or perhaps more than) humans needs them. Small Gods is still one of my favourite books.
sub-Q Magazine: If you were a guru, what colour would your robes be? Do you think your prospects for advancement would be as, uh, complicated as the narrator’s?
Sharang Biswas: Hah, no spoilers, but I probably wouldn’t rise very far in the Mandir, due to some similarities in the narrator and my own life!
Would I like to be of the Scarlet, lording it over everyone else, transmitting light and knowledge to the rest of the world through inscrutable means? Maybe…
sub-Q Magazine: I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of this game in June. What other cool things do you have planned for the year?
Sharang Biswas: I’m really proud of Honey & Hot Wax, coming out this year from Pelgrane Press! My co-editor Lucian Kahn and I worked really hard on it, and we think we have a nice slate of though-provoking games made by a diverse cadre of game designers.
I also wrote my first piece of erotic interactive fiction, coming out some time in March for 10th Muse! That was pretty challenging, but I’m proud of the outcome! It’s gonna be a delightfully weird one, just saying.
I’m also writing a bunch of short game stuff for a couple of Kickstarter projects, and *GASP*, maybe launching my own KS sometime this fall?