Poetry: “A Personal Index of Our Times” (Strange Horizons, January 2022)

My poem “A Personal Index of Our Times” is up here on Strange Horizons (January 2022).

Salik Shah offers an abcedarium of the jinn for our global village in ‘A Personal Index of Our Times.'” — Strange Horizons 

Many thanks to Bogi Takács (eir bio reads: Lamda + Hugo winner) for a glowing review:

Vijayalakshmi Harish (bio: author of Strange Times and Co-Editor, Write in Power: An Anthology of the Personal & the Political (2021)) writes in a private Twitter thread:

“‘A Personal Index of Our Times,’ by @salik, is an inventive poem, that uses both form and content, to challenge the reader, and invites us to look for meaning beyond the words, and in the spaces between them.”

You can read the poem here on Strange Horizons.

By |2022-01-18T05:13:11+00:00January 12th, 2022|Poetry, Writing Life|0 Comments

Notes from Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold

So I finally managed to get through David Gerrold’s short but excellent guide to writing science fiction and fantasy: Worlds of Wonders (Writers Digest Books, 2001) / Amazon. The whole book is bookmark-worthy. Here are three excerpts:

Focus on clarity. Concentrate on precision. 

The single most important lesson of effective communication is this: Focus on clarity. Concentrate on precision. Don’t worry about constructing beautiful sentences. Beauty comes from meaning, not language. Accuracy is the most effective style of all. Of course, you won’t really understand this until after you’ve written your first million words—until after you’ve discovered this for yourself. You have to make a lot of mistakes, so you can recognize them when you make them the second, third, fourth, and twentieth time. […]

Learn your tools well and you can create the voices you need. The ultimate skill of the effective stylist is to remember that style is only voice, not content. Style is the pretense you put on for each and every story—and who you pretend to be is who you become.

Discipline not only serves success—it deserves success.

Discipline works. Of course, it helps if you live in New York. Why? Because then you can open your window in the morning and listen to the city growl at you: “If you don’t write today, I will kill you. I will crush you, I will grind your bones, I will drink your blood and destroy you. Oh, maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow—but if you don’t write today, in a month you’ll be broke . . . and then I’ll get you!” There are few better incentives than the threat of starvation. (Fear is almost as good as rage to fuel your writing engine.) Today, more than ever, I remain a firm believer in a strict writing discipline. Instead of counting pages, though, I count words. I set myself a target of 1,000-3,000 words a day, depending on the type of project I’m writing.  […] You train by doing. And you have to enjoy the doing. […] Discipline not only serves success—it deserves success.

What kind of difference do you want to make? 

As a human being, you make a difference. Simply by existing, simply by being in the room, you make a difference. The question that I had to ask myself was this—what kind of difference do I want to make? That was the most important lesson. And now I pass it on to you. Before you sit down at your keyboard, ask yourself: What kind of difference do you want to make? What you write has an effect on the people who read it. Words have meaning. Ideas have consequences. Your book, your story, your script—whatever you write—that’s your way of challenging the world. What do you want to say to the rest of your species?


You can find the book here on Amazon.

By |2022-01-11T05:53:26+00:00January 11th, 2022|Writing Life|0 Comments

Writerly Grace – News & Updates, January 2022

Writerly Grace: A good start for the new year with full-hearted gratitude to the universe!

Poetry News

I’ve just signed the contract for my poem “A Personal Index of Our Times.” It will appear on Strange Horizons maybe next week or so. I wrote the first version of the poem two years ago, and then took a long break from most things writing and publishing. Mad-stupid? Yeah! I know.

The good news is that I’ve started to write again. I wrote and sold a new poem “The Valley of Kings” to Star*Line in December. The work will appear in one of the next two issues.

Fiction News

I have a story coming out this year: “The Architecture of Loss” in Kalicalypse: an Anthology of Science Fiction from the Subcontinent from Future Fiction, Italy (2022).

I wrote three short stories in the past two-three months; one of which is a chapter for a historical novel. Writing gets better with writing, that’s for sure; the last story was the best writing I have done in a long time.

Also, I developed the outline for a trilogy of novels, but I have decided to put it on hold to write a shorter standalone novel first.

Editing/Publishing News

Mithila Review (and “India 2049”) is on hiatus until further notice. I will bring it back when funds/time permits.

By |2022-01-06T06:17:43+00:00January 6th, 2022|Writing Life|0 Comments

Interview: “Shambhala,” Tibet, and Mithila Review

Photograph: My workstation around 2015 at the time of writing “Shambhala.”

Here is my interview with Juggernaut Books, which published “Shambhala” as part of a science fiction series edited by Indrapramit Das in 2016:

Do you write everyday? Where and when do you write?

Writing is thinking through small and hard problems for me; being aware of one’s surroundings and emotions. In a way, I’m always in this meditative zone. After I’ve thought through a problem or an emotion or a set of them, the physical act of recording these thoughts, the outpouring of words occur in feverish bursts that last days, weeks even.

Do you listen to music while writing? What’s on your playlist at the moment?

Yes. These days I’m listening to the best of French songs, and the official soundtrack of the wonderful Persian-American vampire movie, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Director. Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014).

What is your go-to-site for distracting yourself? Or do you refuse to browse the net while writing?

I read books or watch movies from around the world to distract myself. I use the Internet mostly for work—it took me years of practice to reach a state where I’m conscious, hence more or less in control of choices that I make while I’m online.

Your story “Shambhala” is replete with imagery from Tibet – what is it about the land that inspires you?

“Shambhala” is a story of Tibet, a story of a people who have had to abandon their homeland. It’s also my story, story of my love for Tibetan myths, Chinese philosophy and poetry, which started early in my teens. I went to school in Kathmandu—the other home of Tibetan refugees. As an ethnic Indian boy who grew up in a Khas-Newar city, the sense of wonder, displacement and alienation depicted in the story is as much mine as it is Tenzin’s or Niu Jian’s.

When I was 18, I took refuge in Dhamma. Over the years, I have attended short and long Vipassana meditation courses, and have begun to combine it with Samatha practice recently. “Shambhala” is a result of these experiences, and a deep yearning for reconciliation and understanding between the opposing classes of people. The meditation technique, which Tenzin practices to heal the self and history, comes from the master Thich Nhat Hanh. And it’s extremely effective for those looking for a way to vanquish persistent ghosts of the past from their body and psyche. To become one with peace and understanding through speculation and poetry.

South Asian speculative writing is increasingly being identified with mythological retelling. Why do you think this is happening?

South Asia’s evolution from idyllic small-towns like RK Narayan’s Malgudi into the urban sprawl that it is today wasn’t so organic. Science and technology are products of mindsets, generations of rigorous thinking. We’re a people who haven’t really inhabited this kind of mindset of Western scientific rationality. Even though we are grappling to make sense of the world around us with its high technology and low life.

The rise of mythological retellings is the result of our trying to come to terms with our own historical modes of narration in order to understand the nature of self and the world. The best of these retellings should and can make the modern self and the world accessible, understandable in a tradition familiar yet new to the people. A good story, original and retold, leaves you a new person, provides a worthwhile escape. However, there is a real danger that these mythological retellings end up either serving our superstition or providing little function other than entertainment.

You also run a literary magazine called Mithila Review. Can you tell us how it came to be? Why did you choose to focus on speculative fiction?

Speculative fiction is a literature of ideas and emotions, and Mithila Review is our attempt to tear down the wall of borders, and bring some of the greatest minds working in the field of literature together on a global platform. Mithila Review grew out of a personal response to Canadian grand master Geoff Ryman’s fantastic novelette, “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter.” It’s a lovely story about love, forgiveness and reconciliation between “enemy classes,” which I can’t recommend enough.

Mithila Review was in the making by late 2015. At the time, we were deeply troubled by the violence and bloodshed in the Southern Terai region of Nepal bordering India, and the hate campaigns that had seized the Indian subcontinent during Bihar elections—these great plains form the historic Mithila region. The Jawaharlal Nehru University controversy also fueled its birth as along with my colleague Ajapa Sharma, who is a scholar at the university, we began to think about the fluid languages of protest. We chose Mithila—a very unconventional name for a new kind of magazine—because it had become a referent, a symbol which could “speak to the times when we have felt that we don’t quite belong.” We wanted it to speak to the times when we liberated our anger and pain in ways that have fed the creative river (her words) within us.

There was an acute need for a responsive market and a nurturing platform for readers and writers of such an exciting form of literature in Asia. We’re hopeful that Mithila Review can fill some of this void. The terrific response we have received from within the diverse, global SF community has been a blessing, beautiful joy.

Thank you to Juggernaut and my editor Indrapramit Das for having me here. Cheers!

PS. “Shambhala” appears in the second volume of The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction  (Hachette India, 2021). You can order the print edition here on Amazon India. The Kindle edition (US) is available here. Happy reading!

By |2021-10-03T11:54:08+00:00October 3rd, 2021|Interviews, Writing Life|0 Comments

“Shambhala” – The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Volume 2 (Hachette, 2021)

A childhood dream comes true: my fiction debut in print!
I am so excited and humbled to announce that my short story, “Shambhala,” appears in The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction Volume 2 now available from Amazon and leading Indian book stores.

You can order the print edition here on Amazon (India).

The Kindle edition (US) is available here.
Many thanks to the anthology editor Tarun K Saint, and Poulomi Chatterjee, the Hachette India editor-in-chief and publisher for her careful feedback/edits, and the entire team that made this wonderful series possible on behalf of all the readers and authors!
I share the TOC with writers whom I truly admire and have had the good fortune to work with at Mithila Review. Some of the works here first appeared or were featured in Mithila Review.
“Shambhala” originally appeared on Juggernaut Books, edited by award-winning author and editor Indrapramit Das. My eternal thanks to Indra, Juggernaut Books publisher Chiki Sarkar and team.

Happy reading!

PS. You can boost the signal to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook & Linkedin. Thank you!

By |2021-10-01T09:52:31+00:00October 1st, 2021|Fiction, Press, Writing Life|0 Comments

Indian Science Fiction: Patterns, History and Hybridity (New Dimensions in Science Fiction) – University of Wales Press, 2021

I am thrilled and humbled to see this first of significant books to come on Indian Science Fiction, which mentions the work of Mithila Review and Kalpabiswa, among others, and also cites my article on the Indian SF: Indian Science Fiction: Patterns, History and Hybridity (New Dimensions in Science Fiction) by Suparno Banerjee – University of Wales Press, 2021.

You can find / re/tweet the publication announcement here on Twitter.

By |2021-10-01T09:49:35+00:00April 18th, 2021|Book Reviews, Writing Life|0 Comments

The City Was Missing

“The City Was Missing,” one of my city poems appear in the latest issue of Star*Line, edited by Vince Gotera, and published by SFPA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (America). I just received a contributor’s copy, and the cover illustration is gorgeous, also the poems!

The opening two lines of this poem will be featured in The Mumbai Collaborative Poetry Project (MCPP) — the first ever video poem themed on the city of Mumbai — curated by Vinita Agrawal. Twenty-five poets will be featured in the project, including Nabina Das and Priya Sarukkai Chabria.

Here are my notes for the poem from March 22, 2015:

“Two weeks after The New York Times asked PM Modi to speak about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities, he broke his dangerous silence. ‘My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,’ he assured Christian leaders. The attack on a Navi Mumbai church this Saturday showed that it would take more than rhetoric from the iron man of secular India to protect its minorities. This poem is a warning against the departure of religious tolerance and cosmopolitan spirit from Mumbai, formerly Bombay. (The city’s name was officially changed to Mumbai at the behest of a local Hindu-nationalist party because Bombay sounded so British.) Ultimately, it is about our personal relationships with cities we come to associate ourselves with.”

“The City Was Missing” first appeared in my poetry collection Khas Pidgin (Amazon, Barnes & Noble & iBooks). If you haven’t purchased or read it already and would like to receive a review copy, let me know. Happy reading! ???

By |2018-02-22T04:46:31+00:00February 22nd, 2018|Poetry, Writing Life|0 Comments

New Book: The Story of India’s Partition

On July 8, 1947, Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India for the first time. He had five weeks and four judges to settle the boundary between the newly independent India and a newborn state of Pakistan. After drawing the “ Radcliffe Line,” the British officer burnt his papers, refused his fee, and left the wounded continent never to set foot on it again. Based on W.H. Auden’s famous poem, “Partition,” this is an illustrated account of the man who oversaw the controversial border settlement which left one million dead and twelve million homeless and permanently displaced.

Available to purchase on Apple iTunes Store & Amazon.com.

Sample Pages:

Back:

Available to purchase on Apple iTunes Store & Amazon.com.

Update: August 19, 2017

Yay! Our debut picture book, “The Story of India’s Partition,” is currently No. 1 New Release in Children’s Biography Comics on Amazon.com right now. Thank you for your love and support!

By |2017-08-19T06:37:30+00:00July 24th, 2017|Comics, Graphic, Press, Writing Life|0 Comments
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