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Volume 16

Heroes and Villains - Summer 2016

About the Issue

Bina Shah

Written by
Bina Shah

Bina Shah is a writer of English fiction and a journalist living in Karachi, Pakistan. She is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. She is a regular columnist for the International New York Times. She has also contributed to international newspapers The Guardian, The Independent, and journals Granta.com, Wasafiri and Critical Muslim. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is an honorary fellow in writing of the University of Iowa, having attended its International Writers Program in 2011. Her most recent novel, A Season for Martyrs, was published in 2014.


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Guest Editor’s Note


When I was invited by Afia Aslam to guest edit Heroes and Villains, the latest issue of Papercuts magazine, I found it hard to say no. Afia and her partner in crime, Farheen Zehra, have steadily built the Desi Writers’ Lounge into the foremost incubator of new writing talent in Pakistan. Writers’ sessions, workshops, public events, and DWL’s consistent presence at literary and arts festivals has raised homegrown enthusiasm for writing over the last several years.

This is heartening for a writer like me who is now transitioning from “emerging” to “old guard.” Ten years ago I was co-editor, with Ilona Yusuf, of the Alhamra Literary Review, but for several reasons we weren’t able to make it last longer than two years, with two annual issues. Encouraging writing in Pakistan is about two elements: talent + opportunity, and Papercuts, DWL’s online and print magazine, combines both elegantly. I’m delighted to lend my support to its efforts to foster a new generation of writers.

But when I started working with the Papercuts team, I realized that DWL isn’t just a Pakistani effort, but a global one. Team members represent South Asia, but are located both in South Asia and the diaspora; the same is true for contributors. The result is a rich mix of writing informed by Eastern and Western sensibilities. Each piece of writing examines the theme of heroism and villainy from multiple angles: psychological, emotional, visceral, cerebral. Each piece made it clearer and clearer that the human condition is not a binary.

I savored essays about Bollywood, the Marsiya tradition in India, the Bengali writer Maitreyi Devi, and an interview with Pakistani crime writer Omar Shahid Hamid. Short stories from Madeeha Ansari, Fiza Sangi, Natashi Joshi and more opened my eyes to humanity and compassion, brutality and violence through a myriad of contexts and characters. It’s a particular honor for us to present a poem by British poet John Siddique, Ilona Yusuf, both veteran poets, alongside newer voices like Mark Yeow and Nancy Anne Miller.

I would like to thank Torsa Ghosal (Papercuts associate editor), Pooja Pande (Lead reportage editor), Omer Wahaj (managing editor) and Shehla Wynne (former associate editor) for being an excellent editorial team and taking care of all technical details involved with producing an excellent online and print magazine. I can only hope that you enjoy reading this issue of Papercuts as much as I did.

Bina Shah

May 6, 2016



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