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.

 

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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.

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.

Writing in 2017, Part II

2017 was a difficult, depressing year, but sometimes when you’ve been through possibly the worst time(s) of your life and emerged on the other side, everything else feels relatively pale. So, let’s say 2017 was a relatively pale year.

In January, I moved to New York.

In March, I published an article in Uncanny Magazine.

(In May, I acquired a new therapist.)

In June, I became a fellow at the New York Foundation for the Arts.

(In July, I turned 30.)

In August, Luminescent Threads came out, a book that I co-edited with Alexandra Pierce of Twelfth Planet Press.

In September, I started working as the Poetry and Reprint Editor of Uncanny Magazine.

In October, I had my first New York reading at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, one of the two largest branches of the NYPL.

In November, I published an article in Words Without Borders.

In December, in a few more days, I will have a small story published in Anathema Magazine.

In between, bleakness, writing, occasional pleasure, entirely too many cigarettes. The political situations of both India and the United States get worse every day than I have ever known in my life. (In India, I was born a few years after the Emergency, and was too young during Babri Masjid. I was still too young during the Kargil War, and actually considered it a positive thing.)

I am darker, angrier, wearier than I have ever been before. I channel my obsessive streak into reading the news for hours, and still never catch up with all the horrors sprouting everywhere, every minute.

My heart, that overused organ, has been put to cryosleep. The only thing that stirs it up any more is the occasional nightmare.

I feel like an animal, which isn’t fantastic, but preferable to feeling like a corpse.

What else? New York is cold and I like where I’m living, but Clinton Street is many miles from here, in Lower Manhattan, too far for the music to waft in.

I am getting by. I am thankful for the sunshine on my face, the kindness of strangers — all that has come my way since the time I tried to commit suicide in 2015. I am living on borrowed time and grace. Everything is a miracle. All of you reading this (or not).

The world will get better, I promise. We will live to see it together.

 

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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