Violent Delights: “Which species of bird is a drone?” 

salik shah_partition

Field Notes: A photograph from my debut poetry reading at the Partition Museum project – Oxford Bookstore in Delhi / August 2016

War deadens you; street hardens you. I’ve seen boys beaten to pulp, and could do nothing to help them. I’ve come this close to getting smashed, cut or shot, and during those darkest moments of rage, considered violence, its violent delights. Art saved me. Somehow I would end up pouring all that vengefulness and anger, fear and blood, into whatever I was doing at the moment: drawing, journaling, poetry, screenwriting. And find peace. A kind of solace. Continue…

HT Interview

I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to introduce Mithila Review to the wonderful readers of Hindustan Times!


We just launched our first quarterly issue for 2017, and I hope you’ll love it!

Apart from excellent poetry, fiction and essays, Issue 7 of Mithila Review features my interview with Hugo-winning Chinese author Cixin Liu (translated by Shaoyan Hu), roundtable discussions on the state of speculative fiction in Czech Republic and Latin America!

Please subscribe or donate to support Mithila Review and our contributors. We cannot become a paying market without your support.

Starting 2017, Mithila Review Becomes A Paying Quarterly

Issue 7_Cover

Our new multilingual edition with a special focus on the state of science fiction and fantasy in China, Czech Republic and Latin America is now out: Issue 7.

Starting this year, Mithila Review is finally turning into a paying quarterly publication thanks to the generous support of our patrons!

If you enjoy reading Mithila Review and value what we do, please subscribe or donate to Mithila Review on Patreon, or help us with a signal boost, review or interview.

You could also support us by purchasing this issue (epub/mobi) directly from Amazon, PayHip or InstaMojo (India).

Thank you!

McDonald’s vs Kamadhenu — Debkumar Chakrabarti

Kolkata-based artist and professor Debkumar Chakrabarti on how he sees Indian capitalism:

“McDonald’s stands as a representative of global capitalism… and Kamadhenu was a [miraculous] cow. Whatever you want, it’ll give it to you. That is to me some sort of representative of the Indian type of capitalism. [In my art,] I try to show that a synthesis is taking place between them. Whatever we get is obtained from the tussle between the two.”

Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Center
September 25, 2016

The Asian SF Issue – Mithila Review

The “Asian SF” double issue of Mithila Review is now out.

Mithila Review - Ebook


Aliette de Bodard, Alyssa Wong, Isabel Yap, John Chu, JY Yang and Priya Sharma, Lavie Tidhar, Glen Hirshberg, Mia S-N, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Mark Russell, Dean Francis Alfar, Ng Yi-Sheng, Isha Karki, David S. Golding, Charles Tan, Jennifer Crow, Shobhana Kumar, Ken Poyner, Niyati Bhat and others.

This special issue of Mithila Review is also available for free download!

iBooks/Android: EPUB
Kindle: MOBI

We’re now on Patreon. Please help us meet our goals.

On the Challenges of Reading, Writing & Publishing Science Fiction & Fantasy in South Asia


Cover Illustration: “Enclosed” by Ashim Shakya, from Issue 4 of Mithila Review.

In my new Strange Horizons column, I talk about Geoff Ryman’s story that inspired the Mithila Review / Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy project and my earliest forays into SF as a reader. My childhood revolved around comics and other things but none as vital and transfixing as some of the stories in “Perilous Journey,” a high school textbook edited by Northrop Frye and W. T. Jewkes in 1973. It was a miracle of a book for me. Then there were McLuhan and Gibson, the two towering influences in my life even before I knew it.

I plugged into a mind-space that couldn’t exist in the real world ever since I coded my first website as a pre-teen in the late 90s. The “cyberspace” offered me an escape from the hard truth of reality and violence that was going on all around me. I remain t/here even as I’m still confined, physically, to the fringes of the “empire” that is Anglo-American. That’s why, I think, Ryman’s work means so much to me. But I didn’t know yet which “genre” I belonged to when I thought and pitched my films during my early 20s. Now that I know there is a language in which I exist, I’m truly grateful.

Strange Horizons: 2015 In Review

Cypher 2

My relationship with speculative fiction took a serious turn in 2015. Darko Suvin’s Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979) and Seo-Young Chu’s Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? (2010) captivated me as much as critical notes and essays on the craft of writing and storytelling by Samuel R Delany, Damon Knight and Ursula Le K Guin.

My current reading strategy seems inadequate to tackle the growing field of SF. I found myself reading and rereading stories from the excellent oeuvres of Kelly Link, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne M Valente, Kij Johnson and Karin Tidbeck, among others. Apart from World SF, I developed a special taste and critical eye for a small but fantastic body of speculative work from South Asian writers living and working outside the Indian subcontinent: Usman T Malik, Vandana Singh, Indra Das, among others.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina proved that live action science fiction films could be more than hero worship in 2015. Vincenzo Natali’s Cypher (2002) and Splice (2009) also blew my mind. Together, they have convinced me that SF film could match the genius of the best of contemporary SF prose. Now I can’t wait to see Natali’s adaption of William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984). (I hope that he finally gets ‘lucky’ in 2016.)

This year, I couldn’t stop recommending Drabblecast to close friends. And I finally joined a long list of amazing people who have fallen utterly in love with Uncanny Magazine.

PS: A shortened version of this review first appeared in Strange Horizons with excellent recommendations from a host of amazing SF writers and readers.

Annie-Ted Complex

Ted Cgiang

Photograph by José Mandojana / The California Sunday Magazine

I’ve reached a phase where my fast-food approach to creative writing simply doesn’t work. It’s not enough to get printed. Now I’m asking editors to hold a piece because I think it could be better, which means I’m making no new submissions for a while. And that’s okay for the slow thinker and writer in me.

I am going to call this approach or state of being Annie-Ted complex:

“It makes more sense to write one big book—a novel or nonfiction narrative—than to write many stories or essays.”

Thanks for spoiling me, Usman.  When I first discovered Ted Chiang’s work and interviews many years ago, I knew his approach made sense. But it took longer than I had hoped to break out of my old habits.

For nearly a decade, I welcomed and flirted with tight deadlines whether I was in media or advertising. The deadline to produce new work would be a few hours or days. I don’t remember ever working on a single piece of writing, design, video or presentation for a week except on one pet project which eventually trended on SlideShare. That one took two-three years in the making with a considerable gap in between where I did nothing about it. And I wasn’t even planning to trend.

Understand: The most amazing thing about the SlideShare trend wasn’t views, shares or downloads. A Turkish girl said that she wanted to become a ‘content architect’ just like me someday, which meant a lot. And then when I saw the presentation translated into French, it was simply incredible!

The Apex Book of World SF 4

The Archivist - Julie Dillon

The Archivist by Julie Dillon ©

My review of The Apex Book of World SF 4 is now up at Strange Horizons. Excerpt:

The first story in the collection is Usman T. Malik’s Bram Stoker-winning “The Vaporization Enthalpy Of a Peculiar Pakistani Family.” I’ve read it many times here and elsewhere. This time I was struck by the author’s note: “For the 145 innocents of the 12/16 Peshawar terrorist attack and countless known & unknown before.” In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, this story achieves greater significance and delivers tender insight as well as the solace we have come to expect from the work of artists. Tara Khan, the protagonist, represents millions of Muslim women who have lost their loved ones to religious fanatics, wars, and terrorism:

“Salam,” she said. “Peace be upon you, brother.”

The nuktah that was him twitched. His fried vocal cords were not capable of producing words anymore.

“I used to think,” she continued, licking her dry lips, watching the infinitesimal shifting of matter and emptiness inside him, “that love was all that mattered. That the bonds that pull us all together are of timeless love. But it is not true. It has never been true, has it?”

He shimmered and said nothing. (p.14)

One of Malik’s earliest stories, ‘Vitriol,’ (Papercuts, 2012) featured a woman whose body had been disfigured during an acid attack. In ‘Vaporization,’ both male and female bodies melt in a drone attack. In ‘Vitriol,’ the cause of the protagonist’s suffering—the acid attack—is a taboo subject. The narrator respects her seeming unwillingness to talk about the public and private nature of her shame, and limits himself to the exploration of the social mores of her time and culture. After reading ‘Vitriol,’ I felt that perhaps there is no way we could fully grasp the ‘horrors’ of our world even if we tried. ‘Vaporization,’ however, is preoccupied with an attempt to examine and understand even the most horrendous of human encounters and experiences through faith and science. While Malik’s earlier attempt is less concerned with the norms of the horror genre and more interested in building character and suspense, ‘Vaporization’ is an elegant proof of superior craftsmanship and the scope of speculative fiction and poetry.

Malik’s prose turns into poetry in the story’s final act, and it manages to stay appealing and enigmatic even after multiple readings. The author’s journey from “Vitriol” to “Vaporization” is a triumphant one. It shows why new writers from around the world are abandoning the mode of exhausted realism and embracing the conventions of contemporary SF in order to entertain, shock or heal people in the age of cyber warfare, widespread terrorism and unmanned bombers. Malik provides a robust model for writers from both his own part of the globe and beyond.

This is true for most of the twenty-eight writers from twenty-four countries featured in the new anthology, including Zen Cho (Malaysia), Vajra Chandrasekera (Sri Lanka), Haralambi Markov (Bulgaria), Natalia Theodoridou (Greece), Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Netherlands), Julie Novakova (Czech Republic), Samuel Marolla (Italy), Dilman Dila (Uganda), Isabel Yap (Philippines), Yukimi Ogawa (Japan), and Bernardo Fernández (Mexico). Together with authors featured in the previous anthologies, they represent the best of international SF today.


You can read the full review at Strange Horizons.