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.
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