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.

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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.

NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program 2017

I recently became a fellow for the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program conducted by the New York Foundation for the Arts, where I am paired with the Iranian writer Poupeh Missaghi as my mentor for the next four months. This was the first non-science-fiction-related break I have had in this country, although Poupeh also wants to look at my magical realism writing, so that’s pretty cool.

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The 2017 cohort of NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program, on the first day of our meeting

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Announcing the Table of Contents for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler!

This went up on the website of Twelfth Planet Press a while ago, but I also wanted to put it up on my blog, because this has been a truly great set of works to edit, by writers who are friends, writers I didn’t know personally but admired, as well as writers who were complete strangers. No better opportunity than this to put their names on my blog.

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Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler
Edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal

ISBN: 978-1-922101-42-6 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-1-922101-43-3 (ebk)
To be published in August 2017

Continue reading “Announcing the Table of Contents for Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler!”

I have a review! – On File 770

Do you regularly Google yourselves? I still find it awkward to do that, so the only times I end up doing it is on the occasional end-of-the-night/early-morning when I can’t fall asleep but am too tired to do something else more fun. (This doesn’t happen often. There are always more Buzzfeed quizzes to do, which is always more fun than Googling myself.) And that’s how I found out that there was a little one-paragraph review of my Harry Potter essay on File 770 back in December.

This is cool, because File 770 is cool. This also feels more reasonable than the five or so comments that the article got on the original site, all at different points of the scale between splaining and trolling. Online abuse still manages to make me flinch, probably because I haven’t often “put myself out there” in the truest sense of the term, even though I have existed on the Internet for more than a decade. (I existed in networks and communities that were accountable, and in which online identities often led to real-life people.) In the public sense, I am not easily trolled, partly because I absolutely disappear from the site of trollage, refusing to engage. But in the private sense, I also end up wasting an unnecessary amount of time wondering about the kind of human beings who spend most of their life saying unpleasant things to people on the Internet, and what evolutionary turn has brought us to this.

Anyway, here’s a screenshot of the File 770 review, because I would like to keep a record:

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I hope I am not beginning to seem like the obnoxious celebrity who retweets every praise, which is apparently a stereotype, someone pointed out to me recently. This may be helped by the fact that I’m not, in fact, a celebrity. That essay was my only non-fiction publication last year, and this probably my only review. That’s totally okay to feel great about.