Blog/News

February 2018: New Writing and News!

One month in, 2018 has been great for writing news so far, which is not the same as great for writing, because the writing happens a long time before the news does. All the things I am receiving news for right now were written in 2017, even in 2016, but still, receiving news, acknowledgement and especially hearing back from readers is pretty sweet. Writing – like more or less everything else in life – is a game of delayed gratification. Some of us never receive it at all. One should be grateful for every little acknowledgement they receive, as I am.

To keep the proselytizing brief, here’s a list of the writing news I want to announce:

    • On January 1, I received in story acceptance from an anthology with Rebellion Publishing, UK. This is a shared-world story that was very much fun to write. It should be available sometime around August. My story takes place partly in Calcutta, and it let me sink deep in old Calcutta history as well as nostalgia for home.
    • Another story will be in another anthology this year, sometime around July. This is TBA.
    • This is not publication news, but in the second week of January I submitted my thesis and cleared up all paperwork for my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Rutgers University. So now I have completed three masters’ degrees – which is probably a bit excessive (and eccentric *sigh*) – but the MFA is also a terminal degree in the United States, so now I am eligible to teach at the university level. If any of you have an undergraduate creative writing class lying around, just saying.
    • I did a tiny story narration for PodCastle. It’s a fantastic story and should be out later this month, I think. This is also new to me. I never believed I was good at performance of any kind, and I’m not exactly good yet, but I’m surprised that I am even passable.
    • The first part of my short history of South Asian speculative fiction went up on Tor.com on January 30, my first publication on that site. The response to this article has been… overwhelming. I am still staring at the 1000+ share stats on social media.

      I am not entirely surprised, but also am. It took me an hour in November to draft that article (a few more to complete the final version), but that hour rides on the back of years of academic work and reading. All three of my masters’ degrees (in English, Publishing Studies and Creative Writing, each from a different continent) have prepared me to write these articles, as well as my time as a writer, fan and publishing professional. In every way, they’re the culmination of everything I’ve nerded out about all my life.

      But the response to the article is still overwhelming, because academic work – even more rigorous, longer work than mine – is not often read by a large number of people. This article turned out to be the most widely read of everything I’ve published so far. I assume that scale of perception expands once a writer has even a moderately successful book of fiction published, but I don’t yet, and I’m not accustomed to being read by such a large number of people I absolutely don’t know. I mean, *mumble* thank you! It’s been great. Overwhelming, but great. This is a subject I’m deeply passionate about. I’ve spent years of my life reading and talking to myself about it, and prodding busy people into half-reluctant conversations more times than I can count. It makes my heart soar to find so many people interested to read and want to talk about it now. This is the Revenge of the Nerd at its finest.

    • The ballot for the Locus Awards 2018 was announced on February 1, and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler happens to be there in the Best Non-fiction category! This is… I don’t even know. Click that link and look at the other names on that ballot. The part of me that’s still the kid from Calcutta in the 1990s, who firmly did not belong to the same galaxy as the authors of the books that made her (because she was made entirely by books), fails to register any of this as real. I’m sure at some point I’d be required to wake up and get ready for school. I’m just carefully not rupturing this moment as long as I can, because school has never been that much fun for me, really.

      That said, the Locus Awards ballot is open to votes at that link until April 15, so you should definitely consider putting in a nod for your favourite works. Voting is open all over the world and doesn’t require any affiliation, which I hope will bring in a wide range of fans into the fold, something I believe the SFF landscape in the United States really needs.

    I suppose that’s all I have to say at the moment? I have a persistent cough and haven’t done as much actual writing so far this year as I expected, so I’m going to disappear now. Come say hello if you feel like – I’m happy to hear back about anything and things.

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My 2017 Award Eligibility Post ._.

I have put off writing this post for months. That doesn’t make me special — I am not the only writer, by far, who cringes at the notion of having to beat their own drum. But others have already written theirs, and prioritizing my cringe over everyone else’s is nothing but complacence.

2017 has been a year of many disappointments and personal struggles for me, but it has also been a year of exemplary kindness from quarters I did not expect, and working with a lot of wonderful, talented people. It was the first year I was solicited to write anything at all, and the “What? Me? Really? Are you sure?” sensation of that hasn’t yet subsided. I worked with editors and teams from India, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, which is… not quite an achievement on the literary scale, and yet is for me, for where I come from and who my people are. I am writing this post in the spirit of celebrating all these amazing people who have given me opportunities and love. I feel very blessed.

1. Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler

Eligible for: Best Related Work at the Hugo Awards; Best Non-fiction at the Locus Awards

2017-12-03 13.33.00.jpgThis book was a labour of love. That’s a hackneyed phrase, but no publisher (or editors) expect to get rich from a nonfiction anthology that presumes the knowledge (and love) of another author’s work. I came into this project only halfway through, and I accepted it because it was a book I believed should exist, a vision that gave me strength and hope at a time little else did. That is the same reason Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce of Twelfth Planet Press started it. Every contributor in this book – well-known or not – has written out of love; and I hope everyone who has read has imbibed it from their words.

This is the entry I am campaigning the hardest for. I believe 100% in its capability to win All the Awards. If you really like me and for some reason want to spend a vote on me, vote Luminescent Threads up, please.

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An excerpt from Gary K. Wolfe’s review in Locus Magazine:

[B]y far the most moving section consists of contribu­tions by recipients of the Octavia Butler Scholar­ships to Clarion, not only because some of them have begun auspicious careers of their own (such as Rachel Swirsky and Indra Das), but because their own accounts are often powerful tales of self-discovery, even when they repeat the same points: no one expected to get in, no one certainly expected a scholarship, no one thinks Octavia would remem­ber them. Maybe not, but the point now is that they remember her, and they do it beautifully. She’d be cool with that, if a little embarrassed.

2. Missive from a Woman in a Room in a City in a Country in a World Not Her Own

Eligible for: Best Related Work at the Hugo Awards

I’ll be honest – this is a very long shot. This is more of political/identity/intersectionality article than an SFF article. But it is one of the first things I wrote in 2017. It loosened up an awful knot in my chest; brought me back from a very dark, unproductive place. I would love for some of you to read it again.

An excerpt from Charles Payseur’s review in Quick Sip Reviews (which I’ve posted before; my apologies for repetition):

This is an essay about erasure and about place. About feeling like you belong to a parallel dimension. Or that you’ve passed through some portal and instead of the fantasy realm where things were going to be magical and just, you find a banal and ruthless place that is actively seeking to create a past that never existed.

3. On Translating the Stories Yet Unwritten: A Dalit Perspective from India

Another political/identity/intersectionality article I wrote last year, touching only very slightly on SFF. It’s eligible for the same as above, and an even longer shot. Once again, I would mostly love for you to read it. I had never published this kind of nonfiction before these two articles. They are probably a new direction in my life, both as a writer and a human.

I have received heartwarming feedback about this essay, but I don’t think I can point to a review.

4. Learning to Swim

Eligible for: Best Short Story at the Nebula, Hugo, Locus Awards

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Honestly, the above line took me five minutes — and a lot of facial-muscle-and-diaphragm exertion — to write. I don’t believe yet that I’m ready to win any awards for my fiction. (I will tell you about the many, many really great stories I read last year that are. Let me do that on Twitter, since I’m rarely ever here, and so are you.) But this is the only story I published in 2017, and once again, it reflects all the thoughts and anxieties I was going through last year. I’ll be very glad if you read it. It somehow happens to be in the Nebula Reading List.

An excerpt from A. C. Wise’s review in Apex Magazine:

“Learning to Swim” is a beautiful story, even as it touches on the painful subjects of xenophobia, prejudice, and the way marginalized groups such as immigrants and religious minorities are too often treated in Western countries. However, it’s also a story of hope, found family, and community building, reminding us there is kindness in the world. Samantha and Raon’s refusal to give up on Uma, and the way they see her truly even when she cannot see herself shows that sometimes reaching out to someone in pain can make all the difference in the world.

Okay, that would be all. Hope all of you are having a very lovely 2018 so far, filled with beautiful stories and other things.

177

I had not remembered this, but in April last year I was writing a poem on my phone for the boy I then loved. I never finished the poem. I no longer have that love. Nor do I have, any longer, much pride in my skills as a poet—for years I have written only for my heart—so I think I will set that draft free.

 

Afterwards,
when all this is done,
all the fear and anxiety
and hunting, living

like a mouse in the cracks of
walls, all
that I will recall
is your smile, like a tearing
gash of sunshine through
these squalid skyscrapers.

That is all I wish to recall.

I wish to recall this spring,
cherry blossoms, the white
sand of beaches, your
half-bitten fingernails, the
torments of your youth, your
eyes like placid sea glass.

I wish to recall the promises
you’re too young to keep.

 

[That’s all I wrote. Float away from me in peace now, half-written poem.]

176

I have finally finished responding to all the poetry submissions from the October submission period of Uncanny. It took longer than I’d imagined. Since this was my first round as poetry editor, I had intended to read every submission myself (I did), but I hadn’t imagined just how many submissions a magazine like Uncanny receives in each submission period (400+, as it turned out), or how long it takes to read all of them.

Both ends of a set of submissions can be time-consuming for different reasons. On one hand, there are submissions that are so odd that you can’t merely hit the reject button — you stare and marvel at the henceforth unacquainted dimensions of the human mind. On the other, by the time you have narrowed down to a second tier of submissions, nearly every poem is strong, vibrant, important, deserving of publication space. I had spent many years of my early youth trying to learn to critique poetry, then shelved away that training in an unused section of my brain, since I moved on to editing and writing fiction. Never before has that training been so strongly called into application. It was exhilarating.

I have been trying to return to writing poetry myself, but moving back into that home is a slower process. Going back home is never the same as never leaving, anyway.

I have not gone back to my physical home in a long time. It occurs to me that 2017 is the first year I will have spent entirely away from home. It’s a year of no passport stamps. A first, ever since I acquired the passport.

I am waiting for many things, but solstice, and longer days, will be the easiest achieved and welcome. For the new year, I wish for more quietude of the heart, music, stories, writing, hope.

Writing in 2017, Part II

2017 was a difficult, depressing year, but sometimes when you’ve been through possibly the worst time(s) of your life and emerged on the other side, everything else feels relatively pale. So, let’s say 2017 was a relatively pale year.

In January, I moved to New York.

In March, I published an article in Uncanny Magazine.

(In May, I acquired a new therapist.)

In June, I became a fellow at the New York Foundation for the Arts.

(In July, I turned 30.)

In August, Luminescent Threads came out, a book that I co-edited with Alexandra Pierce of Twelfth Planet Press.

In September, I started working as the Poetry and Reprint Editor of Uncanny Magazine.

In October, I had my first New York reading at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, one of the two largest branches of the NYPL.

In November, I published an article in Words Without Borders.

In December, in a few more days, I will have a small story published in Anathema Magazine.

In between, bleakness, writing, occasional pleasure, entirely too many cigarettes. The political situations of both India and the United States get worse every day than I have ever known in my life. (In India, I was born a few years after the Emergency, and was too young during Babri Masjid. I was still too young during the Kargil War, and actually considered it a positive thing.)

I am darker, angrier, wearier than I have ever been before. I channel my obsessive streak into reading the news for hours, and still never catch up with all the horrors sprouting everywhere, every minute.

My heart, that overused organ, has been put to cryosleep. The only thing that stirs it up any more is the occasional nightmare.

I feel like an animal, which isn’t fantastic, but preferable to feeling like a corpse.

What else? New York is cold and I like where I’m living, but Clinton Street is many miles from here, in Lower Manhattan, too far for the music to waft in.

I am getting by. I am thankful for the sunshine on my face, the kindness of strangers — all that has come my way since the time I tried to commit suicide in 2015. I am living on borrowed time and grace. Everything is a miracle. All of you reading this (or not).

The world will get better, I promise. We will live to see it together.