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.

By |2016-07-16T17:21:38+00:00June 14th, 2016|Cinema, Mithila Review, Writing Life|0 Comments

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.

By |2016-09-12T16:06:21+00:00January 5th, 2016|Book Reviews, Writing Life|Comments Off on Strange Horizons: 2015 In Review

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!

By |2016-05-21T13:59:02+00:00December 10th, 2015|Writing Life|Comments Off on Annie-Ted Complex

Let’s Get Back to Business


I’ve waited for certain moments with great yearning. But when they finally arrived, I wasn’t always there to experience them. What could an aspiring writer wait more eagerly than his publication?

I was making a rare appearance in the college that day when I saw a group of students with their necks stretched up to the notice board. I wondered if I had missed anything of import. Yes, I had: a copy of my first published work was pinned on the board.

I had always yenned for this big moment for years. I wanted to be the first person to announce my debut. But I would never get the chance. Afterwards publishing became so ordinary a feeling, there would be nothing special about it.

I felt the same way when Barack Obama was elected as the president of the United States. I had fever, and the last thing on my mind was the presidential elections. When I recovered, it was already time to get back to business.

By |2017-08-10T05:32:49+00:00November 7th, 2008|Press, Writing Life|Comments Off on Let’s Get Back to Business
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