Alumni Q&A: Gautam Bhatia (India & Balliol 2011)
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: "I'm finishing up my D.Phil thesis at Oxford, and finishing up edits to The Horizon, which is the second novel in my two-part science fiction duology (the first book, The Wall, came out last year). Pandemic permitting, it's due to be published this September."
Q: Has your career trajectory panned out as you planned?
A: "Not really. For example, when I began my master's degree at Oxford in 2011, I planned to do a doctorate immediately after - likely in the USA - and become an international law academic. Instead, I ended up going home to India to practice for four years, and then came back to Oxford for the (much shorter) English PhD, with the intention of going back to resume practice when I'm done. I also knew that I wanted to be a science fiction writer, but when it actually happened - i.e., when I signed with HarperCollins India for The Wall in 2018 - it was not something I'd been preparing for specifically.
I've also become a lot more involved with the science fiction community, on the editing side (I work with the Strange Horizons magazine) than I intended. I guess it shows that when you lay out your plans, you've always got to be aware that they may deviate as life goes by."
Q: Who inspires you as a leader, and why?
A: "The 20th-century German-French mathematician Alexander Grothendiek, who combined a love for his discipline with crystalline moral integrity. When the US was bombing Vietnam, he went to teach category theory in the forests around Hanoi, and later quit his institution because of its links with military funding. I can think of no better moral compass."
Gautam Bhatia is a D.Phil (Law) Candidate at the University of Oxford. He read for the BCL and the MPhil at Oxford (2011 – 2013), and for an LLM at the Yale Law School (2014). He is the author of Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Freedom of Speech under the Indian Constitution (OUP 2015) and The Transformative Constitution (HarperCollins India 2019). He practiced for four years as a lawyer in New Delhi, and was part of the legal teams challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (prohibiting same-sex relations) and the Aadhaar project (India’s national biometric identification scheme). His work has been cited by the Supreme Court of India, and by various High Courts.
Gautam is also a science fiction writer, reviewer and an editor of the award-winning Strange Horizons magazine. The Wall is his first novel, and The Horizon is due to be published later on in 2021.