Tasveer South Asian Litfest is on! My first panel tomorrow!

The Tasveer South Asian Litfest, for which I worked as a curator and consultant the last few months, has just started, and you can watch it from anywhere in the world with a free registration. please please come register (and attend) if you can!

click for panel link!

This is a six-day-long event with a panel every evening during the weekdays, and a few more during the afternoon on the weekend. The panel I am moderating called Dalitness in Diaspora takes place tomorrow evening, and on Saturday at noon I’m one of the panelists on Plural Worlds, Plural Futures: South Asian Speculative Fiction. Following my panel on Saturday is The World that Belongs to Us: Queer Poetry from South Asia, which I partly helped curate with some of my favourite diasporic poets. And on Sunday morning there is Not Just ABCD: A New Generation in Young Adult and Children’s Literature, which I didn’t curate myself but I came up with the excellent punny title. (What? It is excellent, right?)

click for panel link!

Tasveer is physically located in Seattle, so the time on the event posters is all for the West Coast. Dalitness in diaspora is at 9 pm in New York for me tomorrow, so in India it would be 6:30 am on Friday morning. And then, on Saturday afternoon Plural Worlds, Plural Futures will be at 3 p.m. in New York, and in India it will be at 12:30 am, right after midnight into Sunday, when many of you are possibly awake?

As a guest author or panelist I don’t often worry about how many people end up attending an event besides sharing it on my social media, but as a curator for the first time I feel like I should be putting more heart into it. My main curation for this festival was the Dalitness in Diaspora panel, which features Yashica Dutt, Suraj Yengde, Toral Gajarawala and John Boopalan, authors whose works I’ve admired and whom I am really excited to bring together in conversation. It is also an especially momentous panel because conversations on Dalit writing don’t usually happen in the South Asian diaspora. Tasveer may just be the first literary festival doing it, and it’s really super high time that it starts, and not only among the Dalits ourselves. I’ll be really glad if you can come to listen, meet these wonderfully erudite and thoughtful authors, and participate in the conversation tomorrow.

Looking forward to an amazing week of South Asian diasporic literature, intellectualism, identities, and imaginations!

Up for the 2020 shinies! Jinni, trapeze master, devadasi, printer’s devil, tiger-man & assorted bestitudes!

The hoary winds of winter are here, as are the reminders for all the wonderful and numerous works great science fiction and fantasy that were published round the year. As always, I would love for you to read my two most recent stories, always mainly for your entertainment and also if you’re voting for the awards.

As always, especially if you’re a new and/or international SFF reader (hi, my friends from India!), I would love for you to consider voting for the awards if you’re able. You don’t need to have an expert’s opinion on all the award categories; not all voters do, and the awards benefit from the opinions of a wider range of readers. The Locus Awards which open for voting in February are a free online vote, and the Hugo Awards can be voted for online with the purchase of a Supporting Membership to the award year’s WorldCon (which is different every year, but for 2020 it’s ConZealand). I’ll be really glad if you take some time to familiarize yourself with these processes and participate in them, because your presence in the fandom makes me feel more visible. Voting for my works is absolutely optional to this. If you’d like a handy and frankly awesome list of the books by other authors that I enjoyed this year, don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of this post.

And now for these two:

His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light (7521 words, Tor.com)

Eligible for: Novelette at the Hugo, Nebula, Locus Awards; Short story (no separate novelette category) for the World Fantasy Awards

binu, shezhad
If you’ve only ever read one story by me, you’ve probably read “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light.” I received my first ever royalty statement for this novelette! A professor in Pakistan is teaching it in her graduate class! Someone very kindly put it on the Nebula suggested reading list months before I even wrote an award eligibility post! More cool news that’s currently TBA but soon, very soon!

And, uh, look, we all know that drawing isn’t my strongest suit but I love these boys, ok? Both Binu and Shehzad were characters in my other stories before. They’ve come a long way, grown up in ways I didn’t expect and taken me by surprise.

Karen Burnham’s review in Locus Magazine

Continue reading “Up for the 2020 shinies! Jinni, trapeze master, devadasi, printer’s devil, tiger-man & assorted bestitudes!”

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!

My 2018 Award Eligibility Post ._.

I don’t imagine I will ever get more comfortable doing this, so I may as well do it sooner in the season than later. The season is *sigh* of nominating and voting for science fiction and fantasy awards, which is incredible, because it feels like the last season only just got over. But Nebula Award nominations have just opened, Locus Award nominations will possibly open in January, Hugo Award nominations will possibly open in February, and… those are the only ones I remember right now. So this is the time of the year to re-read the best works of science fiction and fantasy you read this year, take recommendations for more works that you haven’t read earlier, and… this is the hardest part for me: talk about your own publications from the year so that others may take them into consideration while nominating or voting for awards.

I really don’t talk about deeply personal things online, and my fiction is usually deeply personal. For a long time I didn’t try to publish my fiction, because I wasn’t emotionally prepared to receive other people’s reactions or even their indifference to those vulnerable parts of my life. Publishing fiction feels exposing and devastating, in a way publishing nonfiction never has for me.

This year I published two stories, and more than half of me is actively cringing from writing about their award eligibility. I don’t want to be in this race. But writing this post also means a few other people may read those stories, and I… I’d like that, won’t I? (You can see how I’m gently coaxing that reluctant half of my brain here. It’s easy, brain. Everyone writes these posts—it’s more good form than seeking unnecessary attention, promise. Think of it less of as a race and more of as a party—you show up, and then you have fun.)

I’m not sure that last line worked very well. That part of my brain does not like going to parties. (It probably avoids parties only slightly less than races.) I have always enjoyed award eligibility seasons of the past, when I didn’t have to participate them. A lot of new stories from the year are brought back into attention so it’s a reader’s delight. I suppose as soon as I can get done with this post, I can go back to reading great stories from other writers. Yeah, now that sounds like an incentive.

So here we go:

1. The Trees of My Youth Grew Tall (6094 words, Strange Horizons)

Eligible for: Short fiction/story at the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and World Fantasy Awards

This story took me four years to write, mostly because of the personal aspects of it. It’s not an entirely primary world but it’s close enough, and the characters are the kind of people I grew up around–rural, lower-caste people from India who don’t often get written in stories as anything but the miserable “other.” There’s a sludgy, bedrock kind of misery in this story as well, but I like to think it’s a story about resilience and hope. It was a hard-to-write story, but I needed to write it, and publish it, to remind myself why I write in the first place.

Like some reviewers have remarked, there aren’t many core fantastic elements in this story. There’s no magic, nothing that couldn’t potentially happen in this world, so it’s just a secondary world where some things are different. For me, I think, the shape of these characters’ lives and potentials is different, because poor, uneducated, always reviled people like that don’t often see a lot of potential for themselves in the world. From their perspective much of the world is fantastic, just because those things didn’t exist in their worldview until then. The city in this story is a mostly regular city (it’s a slightly less regular city in some of my other stories, but all these stories are standalone), but to the narrator it’s a fantasy adventure landscape with strange, unknown potentials. I needed to write that; needed to see if I could.

From A.C. Wise’s review in Apex Magazine:

Mondal’s writing is lovely, and there’s a strong emotional core to the story. It speaks to the role women are often expected to take, but also the genuine and fierce love that can be found in that role. The story also explores the balance between adaptation and cultural assimilation, and keeping tradition alive, and what it means to be home—to have a home, to build a home, or to find one. Binu’s mother’s strength comes through in all her choices, and she’s a fascinating character, both in her relationship with others, and in her rediscovery of herself.

From Karen Burnham’s review in Locus Magazine:

Another take on aging appears in “The Trees of My Youth Grew Tall” by Mimi Mondal. A mother follows her son to the city after they’re pushed out of their arboreal home in India. While others of their tribesmen thrive, her son falls in with a bad crowd and disappears. Spending her nights in the treetops looking for him, his mother lands work in various households and kitchens. Looking for her son, she eventually finds more of herself. A classic immigrant story brought to life in vivid prose.

From Vanessa Fogg’s review on It’s a Jumble:

Mondal’s story is a reminder that not all narratives have to be about big acts of resistance and the overthrow of oppressors. Survival is itself powerful. A sad yet beautiful story of resilience, change, and survival.

2. So It Was Foretold (1000 words, Fireside Magazine)

Eligible for: Short fiction/story at the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and World Fantasy Awards

A flash story I wrote last year in just two days of intense thought, and first read at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts before I submitted it to Fireside Magazine. It’s a tiny story with most of the worldbuilding in the background. I don’t know if a story so short is a worthy contender for awards, but I was incredibly touched by some of the reviews, so I’ll quote them anyway.

From A. Merc Rustad’s review on their blog:

Damn. This one is powerful, emotional, beautifully written and full of rage and loss and grief and refusal to give in, be forgotten, let the stories of one’s history and ancestors die untold. Mondal delivers a powerhouse narrative in few words and it will haunt you long after you read the last lines.

From Charles Payseur’s review on Quick Sip Reviews:

[T]he story, for me, follows her burning that away in order to reach a place where true freedom is actually possible. Where she doesn’t have the baggage she had been carrying around. Where she can be anybody, unbound by the names and rules that marginalized her. And it’s a punchy story and a fine read!

From Eliotte Baye’s review on E & E Reviews:

I have strong, yet delicate feelings about this story. It’s a sensitive subject to write about, but one that must be written about all the same. The author is Dalit, which I confess I knew very little about before reading this. Still, as someone whose Ojibwe grandfather was forced into Christian schools when he was a child, I found my very spirit aching as I read along. It was all too familiar of a tale. It’s something that shouldn’t be relatable, but is clearly still a major struggle for many, many people. Given Mondal’s background, it’s clearly an issue she feels strongly about, and I’m glad she wrote on it. It made for a powerful story.

The writing itself, the language used, was concise, clear, cohesive, controlled. There’s a lot of emotion behind it–the fiery soul is there, passionate and strong, but just like the protagonist in this tale, it holds back right until the very end.

One aspect I strongly enjoyed was perhaps how little detail the readers are actually given. Because of its ambiguity, it is more identifiable to more people, or so I’d like to believe. Actually, I can’t think of any part of this story that I didn’t enjoy. The ending was, perhaps neither wondrous nor amazing, but it was most certainly fitting. It was good. Like the rest of the story, it was earnest.

Overall, I think this one is a 5 out of 5.

From Neil W.’s review on Night of the Hats:

This story by Mimi Mondal is a luminous tale of destruction and escape; of leaving but finding nowhere home. It’s beautiful, but not for the faint hearted.

Read This: For a short piece about a past that is gone
Don’t Read This: If overblown strangeness is not for you

So that will be all of the awkward task of talking about myself, and I’ll now go back to reading and cheering on other people’s stories. Hope your holiday season is filled with warmth, delicious food, and lots of exciting tales around the fire.

ETA: A small note on award nominations for those of my readers who don’t know. The Locus Awards are voted online from anywhere in the world, there is no charge, and there will be a page published on the website of the Locus Magazine when they open in January. The Hugo Awards are voted online or by paper ballot from anywhere in the world; voting eligibility is the purchase of a Supporting Membership to the relevant year’s Worldcon, this year being the Dublin Worldcon 2019. The Nebula Awards are voted by members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. There are different criteria for being eligible to vote for some other awards, but this is off the top of my head. I may update this post later.


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.