I knew there was something odd about that chaiwalla on the corner….

Because I am a sucker for any good story inspired in part or wholly from the places, people, nature, art, music, history, politics, or social customs of the subcontinent, I had to post this link to an essay by Sami Ahmad Khan about speculative fiction in India. Khan’s just published Aliens in Delhi, a geopolitical science-fiction thriller depicting how contemporary India responds to an alien invasion. Speaking as someone who lived in Delhi for five years, If I were a member of an extraterrestrial race of reptiloids preparing to invade Earth, Delhi is the last place I’d try to invade, but the book sounds fun.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times. We need more writers, native and foreign, sharing the fascinating particularities of the subcontinent with the rest of the world. And, we need better international distribution channels because, as I type this, I’m also trying to order the book and I am getting the dreaded  “not available to ship to the United States” message!!! Damn it, why? Why is this always an issue for books published in India? Ok, rant over. I’ll get it sooner or later. Watch this space.

The Hugo Awards, writing and the shifting world

As soon as the Nebula Awards wrapped up, I reluctantly looked at the Hugo nominees, hoping there might be a few new glittering titles worth reading. Now that’s a pisspoor attitude to have toward one of the few popular award programs for my preferred genres of good writing, but there we are. After several years of small-minded snipes and scandals, I was not excited about the Hugos. I must admit, however, the 2017 nominees look pretty good on the surface. Will 2017 be the year that we stop trying to make science fiction great again and simply try to produce good writing and tolerate our unique talents and differences?

The full list of nominees is here. You will see  a lot of overlap with the Nebulas in several categories and a smattering of titles that bellow their continued alignment with a particular contrariness purporting to be authentic, bold and politically incorrect. They may be any or all those things to some readers. I just find them boring and/or childish, but this is not another critique of the Sad Puppies, or whatever they are calling themselves now. It’s a musing on how our polarized literary landscape mirrors the polarized political landscape. It seems that the reactionary protests among some authors about “real” science fiction, fantasy and horror and their disgust with writers and works that don’t follow the traditional scripts and genre features were just foreshadowing of what we see happening today in many different parts of society and political expressions.

I hope the writerly community is on an upward trajectory, but even if it is questions and considerations remain. Where, in the continuum of motivations, does this reactionary surge come from? Is it more fear- or hate-based? Can that even be quantified or does it simply depend on the individual? While we go on arguing nature versus nurture, my experience in the world of public health makes me wonder if perhaps fear/hate is caught like a virus. If it is the latter, how do we inoculate ourselves? The well-known public health preventive measure of social distancing seems exactly what we should not do, so maybe that metaphor doesn’t hold up.  Continue reading