The Berlin schedule is out!!! (September 13, 14, 15)

ilb 2019The program book for the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin is finally out. The tickets are booked. The Schengen is cooling fresh off the press. A new story on Artificial Intelligence, possibly called “Twenty-Nine Days Before Remaking The World,” is getting its finishing touches even as we type. Outfits and sightseeing will be planned soon.

It’s a long festival of eleven days, with full-day programming on the weekends and only evening programming during the weekdays. You can search for my name on the program, or you can scroll right down to p. 51 and 52, in the Science and the Humanities section. Or better, I can write them out here.

13 September 2019, Friday, 8 pm

A Science Fiction Tribute to AI, with Catherine Dufour, Simon Ings, Mimi Mondal and Malka Older, moderated by Maya Indira Ganesh

14 September 2019, Saturday, 5 pm

Of Talkative Bots and AI Gods, with Catherine Dufour, Mimi Mondal and Sacha Alanoca; moderated by Maya Indira Ganesh (This is where you can hear the new story!!!)

15 September 2019, Sunday, 12 pm 

Bionic Labs, Robot Bees and Cyborgs, with Karen Lord, Mimi Mondal, Tim Landgraf and Jan Müggenburg, moderated by Michelle Christensen

All three of my events are free to attend, though some of the other programs at the festival have tickets. All three are held at HAU2  at the Hebbel am Ufer in Kreuzberg, with the address Hallesches Ufer 32, 10963 Berlin. Yes, I know, I’m writing all this down in detail so that I can quickly copy-paste them into my GPS in case I get lost in the city. The only time I’ve been to Berlin before was an all-night layover five years ago. This is going to be fun!

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DC! New York! Berlin! ChengDu! (Is it a bird? Is it a plane?)

I’m never sure how these things happen, but it turns out I have a few events in the upcoming days, if you want to come and see me read a story or try (and often fail, tbh) to say clever things. I should’ve written this post a month ago and included Readercon in Quincy, MA, but that’s going to be for the next year now.

So if you’re in any of the abovementioned excellent cities, I’ll really love it if you came over and said hello and partook of the tomfoolery. Besides New York I’ve never been to any of those places, so dining recommendations afterwards are also welcome. Here are the rest of the deets:

Artboard-1-copy-1August 3 in Washington, DC! 

7:30 pm to 8 pm at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Eaton DC Crystal Room (Second Floor), you can listen to a new story by me and an open mic/music by the artist collective POstb1nary, if you get tired of listening to me. This is curated by Maya Acharya as a part of the 2019 Asian American Literature Festival (August 2–4), and the full festival schedule is here.

August 8 in New York, NY!

7 pm to 9 pm at the Erewhon Literary Salon, I’ll be reading a new story along with fellow SFF writer and Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers organizer Rob Cameron. Curated by Liz Gorinsky for Erewhon Books. RSVP on their Facebook/Twitter event closer to the date for the door address, although it’s in midtown.

September 13–15 in Berlin, Germany!

Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin, at which I have three events. Exact times and co-panelists TBA, but it’s a 10-day-long festival (September 11 to 21), and if you’re in Berlin it may be fun to attend the rest of the day as well!

September 13: Tribute to classic SFF writers
September 14: Reading from a new story
September 15: Panel discussion on Artificial Intelligence

November 22–24 in ChengDu, China!

International Science Fiction Conference. Everything else about this one is so far TBA, but if I happen to know anyone in ChengDu (or you happen to know who I am!) you may as well come over for the entire convention. I will also appreciate company for panda-spotting and amazing-but-non-spicy-food-spotting, and everyone who knows more Mandarin than I do, which is approximately 8 billion people in the world.

WisCon 40, OR a Very Nice Ending to One Year in the United States

Actually, if I quit writing in understatements for a moment, it was probably the most perfect and apt ending that this year could have. And now that I’m back home and recovering from jet lag and the overall fatigue of the year, the fact that I spent the last long weekend in Madison, WI, hanging out with a thousand spec-fic people is putting a huge smile on my face, and reminding me why I do what I do.

It’s been almost exactly 12 months for me in the United States. I first landed in America on 18 June 2015. It was on the West coast, in Seattle, where was picked up by Huw from the SeaTac airport and driven (on the right side of the road!) to the Clarion West house, where I was about to spend probably the most enriching six weeks of my life. I left earlier this month, on 1 June, from the JFK airport in New York. I haven’t travelled across the country, but I’ve had a long, eventful year. I went to Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Madison. I met a lot of (mostly) interesting people in different places. I was caught unawares and overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers, not-quite-strangers but friends I’ve known only a little, friends of friends whom I had never met. I shared a couple of kisses replete with tenderness and joy. I encountered covert racism and sexism from people who don’t espouse themselves as practitioners of such. I had a lot of remarkable conversations – and, on one occasion, some excellent homegrown weed (Disclaimer: this was in LA; totally legal homegrown weed) – with Uber drivers. I lived through a few dark months of self-hatred and soul-searching, and learned a few things about myself that I didn’t know or acknowledge before.

I wrote a few stories, and a few beginnings of stories.
I wrote a couple of memoir pieces, which I’ve never done before.
I wrote a draft-y poem for a love that had run its course.
I signed a book deal, which wasn’t in the US, but I printed out and scanned back the contract from the printing machine in Armitage Hall, where I had a little office.
I taught a class; admittedly, not with the greatest enjoyment.
I packed up and moved out of an apartment on my own.

Neil Gaiman wished me a happy birthday over Skype in July, which I don’t think he’ll do again this year, but well.

One’s first year in a country is always long and eventful, but I think my first year in the US has been much richer in experience than my first year in the UK. In the UK, for the longest time, I lived in the furthest interiors of a remote Scottish campus that was off the highway from a deadbeat town. Then I shifted to London, and lived with a partner who – for all his good qualities (of which he had many) – was aggressively unwilling to be social. I travelled a lot in my UK year, mostly out to Europe (Germany, Luxembourg, Hungary, Spain), but also to Oxford, Canterbury, Wales, Manchester, but I met fewer people, did fewer things that I’d never done before, and nursed different delusions about myself.

WisCon was the fourth con I’ve ever been to. The first three were all in England – DiscworldCon and WorldCon in 2014, then EasterCon in 2015 (I also went to the Hay Festival in 2014) – but con-going experience is very different when you don’t know anyone, and no one knows you. The ex-boyfriend and I attended a lot of panels. We played games with strangers at DiscworldCon; he chatted with and got books signed by his favourite author at WorldCon; there was that hilarious story of (literally) running into George R.R. Martin, but mostly what we did was hang out with each other, and discuss with each other the new things we’d seen and heard, and then go home. WisCon was very different from all that.

This time I went with friends: Julia, Magpie and Nibs from my Clarion West class. This time I knew a few people. I had started running into people going WisCon-wards right from my stopover at Minneapolis, so even before it officially started, it had begun to feeling like a large festival, a pilgrimage. The people I knew introduced me to other people. I had breakfasts and lunches and dinners and dances and ice-cream walks and 2-a.m.-cigarette-hunts with lovely and interesting people I’d never met before. (I was also aggressively propositioned by a stranger inside an elevator, but this was not a con attendee, and well, real life always finds a way to intervene.) I felt validated. I felt like I didn’t need to feel validated, which is an even nicer way to feel. I felt my brain engaging at its 100% capacity, zero indifference, which is probably the nicest way to feel, and beats every other emotion. Even my body felt rested and healed, almost energetic, even though it was a complete wreck. 

Since Clarion West ended last August, I felt like I was gently drifting out of touch with the speculative fiction community. The world of the MFA is very allied to “mainstream” writing; and Philly has a few spec-fic people, including my friend and Clarion West classmate Christine, but obviously everyone’s on their own schedule, as I was on mine. There was too much real life and too little nerding out all these months; and while real life isn’t essentially a bad thing, there’s that thing they say about too much of anything. I almost didn’t go to WisCon this year – I stayed around in Camden for a month after my classes ended; I missed two buses on the night I left and nearly failed to catch to my flight to Madison – but I’m glad it worked out. I’m glad I made it. I’m glad I now have other directions to go. It has been a good year. 

Book Week Scotland (25 November–1 December)

This week the Scottish Book Trust is celebrating Book Week Scotland with a mindblowing number of events (over four hundred their site says; I’m not going to count), not just in Edinburgh and Glasgow but all over the country. I’ve returned to Scotland only on Tuesday after a whirlwind book trip down south (detailed post on that soon!) and it just so happens to be the last week of class and assignment submission, so I’m missing out all the fun.

For those in my situation and those who aren’t even in Scotland, the Scottish Book Trust website has put up a couple of great fun things on their website. First, this Facebook game/app which answers Who in fiction are you? I had posted my own results on my Facebook page and it has caught on surprisingly well among my friends in India. The test has more answers than most other online tests and the takers seem to be overall quite happy with their results. (I turned out to be Charlie Bucket, if anyone’s interested.)

The other competition that I really like is called Pets Reading, for which one has to submit a photo of reading with their pets. Of course, all of us who own pets have a photo or two like that. This contest makes me miss my own cat back home in Calcutta, whom I haven’t lived with for about two years and who has probably ceased to be my cat in any sense of the term anyway.

People Who Are Going to the World Fantasy Con in Brighton (October 31-November 3):

– Brian Aldiss

– Elizabeth Bear

– Mike Carey

– David Hair

– Kaitlin R. Kiernan

– Terry Pratchett

– Amish Tripathi, interestingly

– Bill Willingham

– Many other variously interesting folks

People Who Are NOT Going to the World Fantasy Con in Brighton (October 31-November 3):

– Me