When I first started publishing seriously (i.e. not teenage-angsty poems hastily scribbled and sent off to the local newspaper), I had no idea how hard it was to find intelligent or likeminded readers. I had a poetry blog that was fairly popular with my college friends, and I respected my college friends – English or Comparative Literature students at Jadavpur University, most of them – as intelligent and likeminded readers. They were a ready readership: we all knew and occasionally checked each other’s blogs; all I had to do was put up something on mine, and the readers would come automatically.
Real life is a different story altogether. Over the last years I have become a better, more readable writer than I was in my college days, but my readership has also sharply dwindled. My college friends are still smart, but all of them have moved on from blogging, most of them are doing jobs and PhDs and have very little time for reading outside what they actively need to. When I was at college, I would dismiss the post-collegiate people who stopped reading as somewhat inauthentic, easy to give up, but now that I’m several years out of college myself, I know exactly how life takes you. Adulting alone is a full-time job with endless unpaid overtime, especially if you’re an English grad, more so (as many of my friends are) if you’re female.
I was so proud in the spring of 2016 when my Other People stories started publishing from Juggernaut Books. And then I went into a rage in summer, because I believed I had finally hit the jackpot, and it turned out that nothing really happened.
There are so many really good writers in the world, not just good writers at college level, but writers with published books, writers with fabulous reviews and awards and so on. There are so many worthwhile, life-changing words being published all the time, and so little time for people to read them. I read 15–20 stories and/or articles every week. I really enjoy some of them, but I have no idea about all the other wonderful writing I am missing. I rarely ever write a review. Sometimes, I write a tweet.
And, because I have half a foot on the inner side of the publishing industry, I know that very few reviews happen organically. The regular reader – hard as they are to find – isn’t always inclined (or often equipped) to write eloquently about something they’ve read. People who hated your writing, for some reason, are more active about bringing it to your notice than people who liked it – that’s just one more puzzling fact of human nature, I suppose. I have a vague notion that there are people out there who enjoy what I write, since I do get the occasional commission or acceptance, even the rare agent query, but it’s not often that I am pleasantly surprised by praise from a stranger.
Anyway, so here’s a review of my recent essay for Uncanny Magazine, by Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews. At the link he reviewed the entire May 2017 issue of Uncanny, and once again I have taken a screenshot of the part about my essay, because I would like to keep it.
I am happy with the fact that he captured the essence of the essay, although I suppose my particular issues (being Dalit, for instance) are not familiar to him. I first started writing about being Dalit last year, and some of the readers of my earliest drafts – Americans all – were very convinced that no one in the US would understand or care about these issues that were too regional to my part of the world. That was deeply hurtful but I kept writing, because this was what came to me, it was what mattered – to myself, if not to anyone else. I wrote about it to a fantasy fiction magazine, where the readership presumably doesn’t expect or understand it. The magazine published it, and here seems to be a reader who gets the basic idea. Overall, that’s not too bad.