“Well, I did always prepare for the apocalypse,” and other updates from the alternative timeline + FREEBIES

On a different timeline I’d have woken up today at the Marriott Lakeside in Orlando, FL, gone out for a relaxed, sunny swim at the beautiful outdoor pool at the hotel, followed by lunch with some SFF friends and a reading at 2:30 pm at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. I bought my new swimsuit way back in winter in anticipation for this trip. There would be sunshine and cocktails and many friends to meet and interesting stories and research to learn about and even an alleged alligator or two in the lake… except that, of course, ICFA is not even happening this year.

Today’s post is almost a reversal of the second last post from here. ICFA is cancelled for the year; the Other Futures festival in Amsterdam is postponed to sometime later in the year; my Octavia E. Butler reading group isn’t meeting this month and we have no idea going forward; no official decision has been made about the Nebula Conference in May but there’s a high likeliness that it won’t take place. I was talking to other event organizers in DC and Seattle, and all of that is stalled for now. I’m increasingly dreading that Readercon in July may go the same way.

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A post-panel photo of me from the Caste and Intersectionality conference at Columbia University, with (L–R) writers Yashica Dutt, Suraj Yengde and Dhrubo Jyoti

The last event I did manage to attend before everything went to a standstill was the one-day Caste and Intersectionality conference at Columbia University, which went really well, and was possibly a landmark accomplishment for our community, organized superbly by Benson Neethipudi, Anupama Rao and Priya Pai. My friend the editor Kay T. Holt—also the last person to visit me before disaster timeline took over—accompanied me to the conference, in one of those rare confluences of my SFF world and my Dalit academia/activism world. I was very pleased at how much they enjoyed the conference! If you know me and my work for a while, you probably know that I’m not a big fan of echo chambers. I really want more of my SFF friends to engage with more of my Dalit friends. I want more Dalit writers to try out reading and writing SFF. These are some of the things I said during my turn at the panel, and Holt captured some of them on video. I don’t always upload documentation of my events but at some point I’ll be more regulated about it (or make enough money to hire an assistant, which is The Dream).

That was also the last day I went outdoors, so it’s been almost two weeks. I’m not a terribly outdoorsy person even on regular days but spring is when I start venturing outdoors after spending most of winter at home, so it has started making me a little frazzled. My immune system isn’t strong so I imagine I’m one of the more at-risk people for COVID–19, and I really don’t want to contract an incurable disease alone in a foreign country with no health insurance, especially with my freelance editing income taking a hit as well. I’ve ended up cooking more in these two weeks than I have in any other two weeks of my life. My cooking is not inedible but also not superlative. For the first time I’m wishing I did make more effort in the past. To be honest, once this pandemic passes, I’ll again be perfectly content following my other priorities.

The silver lining of this whole global pandemic social-distancing wave though? It has brought more people into the kind of lifestyle and social space I have inhabited for years. In these two weeks I’ve also had more Skype/Zoom/Google Meet/Facebook Live conversations with people, one-on-one and in groups, than ever before in my life, including friends who have never been into these things before. I did a really fun interview on Skype with Dhanya Addanki from DC, who’s collecting Dalit oral histories for a project by South Asian American Digital Archive. I attended a couple of sessions of a Google Meet book club being organized M-W-F by Arunava Sinha from Delhi. Next Monday I’m going to read at the book club, for a change not from my own work but from a book I love. (Which one? You’ll have to find out by attending.)

There’s also an amazingly generous array of free or discounted materials being offered by all of the arts community for this time of crisis. As for my own work, Serial Box is still offering the audio edition of His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light, narrated by Vikas Adam, for free download. And if you enjoyed that story and want to read some of the older stories in that universe, Juggernaut Books in India has just made many of their titles free, which includes the very first story Other People (not available anywhere else!) and the second story This Sullied Earth, Our Home. Both of these offers also include excellent works by multiple other authors, so go fill up your libraries! (For instance, if you’re into South Asian SFF, do pick up the works of Sami Ahmad Khan, Tashan Mehta, Shweta Taneja, Andaleeb Wajid and Salik Shah from Juggernaut Books, besides mine. If you’re into Dalit literature, don’t miss Meena Kandasamy.)

Finally, though I don’t feel particularly driven to this right now, the Nebula Award nominations end on March 31, and if you’re a SFWA member you can cast a vote for His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light in the Novelette category. The Locus Award ballot is also currently open for all SFF fans, and once again you can vote for His Footsteps and also your other favourite works from 2019. This is possibly a semblance of normalcy in a world gone oddly astray. As always, don’t forget to wash your hands for 20 seconds after you’re done, and see you and yours safely on the other side. <3

His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light is a Nebula Award nominee what.

It was probably apt that I’d just come out of BAM Rose Theatre on after having watched Parasite with a group of friends. We were waiting outside a restaurant to be seated, around the corner from Center for Fiction where I start moderating an Octavia E. Butler reading group next week. (Luminescent Threads was two years ago. Everything comes a full circle.) The evening chill was beginning to seep into my bones which don’t seem to have acclimatized to the freezing winters even after five years of living in the US. Obviously, I ignored the first call from an unknown number in California because nobody ever calls me from California (or much anywhere else, to be honest).

Photo by Lisa Stock!

Afterwards, after I’d finished mumbling incoherently and weeping a little and pretending I had a cold and only half-registering what I was being told, I persuaded my long-suffering editor Marco Palmieri to pose for this photo with me because it’s kind of super that His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light has been nominated for the Nebula Award in the Novelette category.

The Nebula is the award at which I believed I would never have a chance. Unlike the Hugo, this award is voted exclusively by author peers from what is largely the North American SFF industry. The requirements for an SFWA membership are nearly impossible to meet for an author who doesn’t publish in one of the developed-nation economies. And I have always believed that most my readers were not located in the US and not themselves writers. Inside my head I do write first for readers in India, often specifically for the younger person I had been and the stories I’d have loved to read but didn’t find. I write often about unpopular topics like Dalit love and Dalit hope and Dalit anger, and always, always against the majoritarian drive of Hindutva. I didn’t think stories like that would get nominated for the Nebula Award, and I’d taught myself to be ok with that. 

There isn’t actually a print book but hey, Tor.com gave us a virtual Nebula sticker!

This is also the first of my stories to ever get shortlisted for anything! (I’d won a poetry award back in India in 2011; about three people remember that now, and sometimes that doesn’t include my mom.) I’ve been writing for a long time but I don’t actually have a lot of published fiction. I also “write” a lot of other things for a living, mainly nonfiction, editorial notes, and long imploring emails to freelance clients saying please my landlady wants rent. It took me almost two years and a lot of scolding from Marco to finish writing His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light. The audio edition of the novelette came out from Serial Box on Valentine’s Day, narrated by Vikas Adam, who also narrates for the likes of Salman Rushdie and Aravind Adiga, and wins audiobook narrator awards. I’m nursing a slow-grinding heartbreak that I’m determined not to write about (but hey). And now we have a Nebula Award nomination. Life is… bittersweet and unpredictable, I guess?

Tonight I am also reading through the Nebula ballot and cheering for all these really quite unbelievable authors whose works I’ve had the honour and delight to read in 2019, stories that changed hearts and lives and deserve all the accolades they get. I am  thinking of some of my favourite stories that did not get into this ballot, and that there are other award ballots still open to be voted (both the Hugo and the Locus awards are currently accepting votes), and of the heart and integrity of all the authors who will write the next story even when their last one didn’t make it to awards or shortlists. We are all that author in turn; and here’s to another year–and every single one–when I cannot be happier than to champion the works all my friends, teachers and heroes. 

I come late to these words because I switched off my social media just before noon yesterday. I’d spent much of the night before at the WBAI radio station for Hour of the Wolf, a commitment I had made weeks ago, getting to bed only around 5 a.m., and was  back in Brooklyn for another meeting around noon. I spent much of the freezing day outdoors, and bleary-eyed and  jittery on coffee and spoonfuls of sugar. I did a few hours of no-Internet reading at the Center for Fiction, then grocery shopping in Murray Hill for cooking I must do tomorrow. I chatted with the Bangladeshi uncle at the store about things we miss from back home. By evening I was worn fairly thin, and took a little nap on a couch at the Erewhon Books office, which Liz, Sarah and Martin were kind enough to allow, before the beginning of the Erewhon Literary Salon.

Binu/Shehzad by Sreejita Biswas :)

If budgets permit (ah well) I would love to be present at the Nebula Awards ceremony in Los Angeles in May, if only to lose to Gemma, Siobhan, Sarah, Cat or Caroline, each of whom is an author I have in turn loved, enjoyed and learned from, and none I would hesitate for a second to recommend before me. It’s a momentous occasion to be represented on this ballot alongside so many women, queer and/or non-white SFF authors, so many fellow Clarion and Clarion West alumni,  among them two other fellow Indians.

I should wind up this post before it gets too long. I miss rambling in the first person, and the time from a decade ago when this blog used to be a more social space, back in the days of a slower Internet. I miss many things and people from a decade ago, miss feeling safer in my country, miss being so naïvely certain about love and life and what the future may bring, but learning to be a better storyteller has been a largely rewarding journey. Thank you for all of your gentleness, companionship and patience with me. Thank you for every tweet, message, email and text in the past few hours, all of which I cherish more than I might be sufficiently able to express (though I’m going to try). As a reclusive stranger five years ago with a sore heart and social anxiety I had come to disappear in this country where so many immigrants stop being people, and have instead found myself shored up in your love. No words would quite be enough to express how I feel about that. :)

May 2018: Gently laying down this blog :)

I don’t really blog here any more, not the least to dissuade the ex-boyfriend-turned-stalker who shows up to abuse me every time the blog feed is updated (but not so much when I update static pages, because static pages don’t affect any RSS feed), but also because who even reads blogs these days? My close friends are on my private social media, any news I have usually goes on Twitter and Facebook, and all of you have probably heard by now about the Hugo Award nomination for Luminescent Threads – which generated a surprising amount of attention and a number of formal-media coverages, mostly from India – but none of you heard it here first.

Any other long-form rambling, increasingly infrequent, I have started to put up on my Patreon. You don’t have to subscribe to my Patreon to be able to see each of those posts, though some of them are subscribers-only, and a subscription is obviously appreciated, if you feel so inclined.

The rest of this website will stay. It’s mostly static pages at this point – a general bio, photo and contact details for anyone who looks me up; a page to share links of my published works; a FAQ page for questions I keep getting asked over and over again (this is a new development, but it escalated really fast); and a public appearances page for documenting past and forthcoming events. (I used to never have forthcoming events till about a month ago, but now I seem to have a few.) I will update these pages as and when things happen, but if you subscribe to this blog you will possibly not receive notifications for them, because static pages don’t notify.

The old blog posts will stay too. I don’t know what else to do with them and don’t have any particular need to hide them away. The ones from nearly a decade ago are somewhat more personal in their tone, but *shrug* personal is not incriminating. I was a fairly boring young person. The Internet is vast and full of uninteresting things.

You’re possibly already in touch with me elsewhere. If you aren’t and want to be, some of those links up there will help. This is a gentle memorializing post for this blog. It has been with me for over a decade, longer than the static pages that I only started adding later, and blogging itself is a thing I’ve done for even longer than that. All the friends who used to blog with me in the mid-2000s have grown up and moved on. Some of them are doing very interesting, very accomplished academic and artistic things, some of them have fallen completely out of touch. None of them blogs any more. I guess it’s about time. :)



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.


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.]

Space Unicorns Get New Poetry Editor: Talking with Mimi Mondal

Here’s a fantastic interview I did with Bryan Thao Worra, President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Contains details about what I enjoy in poetry, and also how editors should approach Dalit writers, besides other things.



I recently had the pleasure to learn more about the Dalit community of South Asia and one of their wonderful emerging writers, Mimi Mondal. You can see my interview with her over at SPECPO, the blog for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

She is the new poetry editor at Uncanny Magazine, which has been a long-time supporter of my work, particularly imaginative pieces that might have struggled elsewhere to find a home.

Mimi Mondal and I had an extensive conversation on how to encourage more voices from the Dalit community and writers to watch for, and what she looks for in her own writing and verse. I enjoyed discussing literature with her greatly, and found there to be some exciting opportunities for collaboration and mutual support of each other’s emerging literary voices in the future. I recommend keeping an eye out for her over the years ahead!

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