Happy New Year: I had a great 2020! Here’s to 2021

happy new year!

Yes, I had a great 2020 and I wish you a happy new year.

This post is about all the little thankful things that come into our brains, bodies and soul, while the world is churning viruses. It was while developing a talk for my alumni network at Lady Sriram College, that I realized I had a great year.

Since the past few years, I had been in a kind of a slump. Possibly self created. Everything was going well in my life. I was physically fit, I had just moved to a new country (my idea) and in 2018-2019 travelled like flights would freeze in 2020 (ahem).

However, all through these two years, through mostly ups and some downs, the slump, this feeling of being low niggled at my heart, dousing everything marvellous I did was a rancid aftertaste. I sold a movie option to Anantya Tantrist Mysteries to a big producer. Nada. I founded a Swiss startup with amazing colleagues, earned well, and travelled to Dublin to speak at the WorldCon. Nada. I even waved at JRR Martin. Nada. I wrote short stories – a few of which were translated and published in French and Romanian and Dutch. Nada.

When even meeting JRR Martin does not stay with you for long, you know something’s wrong.

I was in some sort of a constant rut – constantly feeling like something was amiss when everything was perfect. Maybe it was a midlife crisis. Maybe I had finally changed too much, too frequently.  I don’t know. And it’s not someone I am! I used to be the person who celebrated every little milestone – a piddly salary increase, finishing of draft 1 (followed by finishing of draft 2, 3…), on an invite to talk at a literary festival. I love being joyous! And here I was, with a perfect life, but chugging through it.

This new year, take risks

And then the virus-created pandemic and the government-created lockdown hit us. As the world went into a crazy spur, I for some reason jumped out of mine. Early in 2020, we had settled in our beautiful home, I had a study. I became happy (though not always. My country’s people who had to walk back homes because of government-induced mismanagement was horribly tragic). All through April, I was in a flurry, writing my new book – a non-fiction which comes out in January – something I had never attempted. I was so busy, I had no time to see the Covid tickers that were everyone’s favourites or read those endless Whatsapp analysis.

Since the past few years, I had been in a kind of a slump. In 2020, as the world went into a crazy spur, I jumped out of mine. Here's how
A new wonderful project can bring a constant smile on your face. I was lucky that way!

In May, I took up a new opportunity with Nature Conservation Foundation – doing what I slowly didn’t realize that I loved – working on partnerships between organisations. I found a work-knack that I had never explored before. I also became a finalist in a prestigious French literary award – for The Daughter That Bleeds – which I had written in 2018, distracted, just for fun.

Do things you’ve never tried before

As lockdown opened up, I took on new hobbies and new way of life. I tried my hand at planting. In June, I started playing squash and lawn tennis – both games were new to me. In August, I bought a cycle, started cycling  25-30 kilometers, make a girls group for cycling in my community. All through the year, I was also working on a new science fiction novel (finished draft 1, which I celebrated just before Diwali!).

Can’t get enough to riding my bike, everyday!

I don’t know what happened to flip it, to get me out of that mood I had been in for a few years. Maybe it’s the fact that when tragedy comes knocking, really knocking – for the world – you stop feeling sorry for yourself and live your life as you were meant to do.

As we tumble into 2021, I wish this happiness and realisation and newness to all you wonderful folks. Keep travelling, keep taking risks and don’t forget that whatever you do, it’s the small joys that stay with you. Happy new year, folks!

BLF 2020: Book launch at a hybrid festival

Milind Soman and I almost met at the Bangalore Literature Festival this year, a hybrid festival.

It was a cool Sunday evening. I was to speak in the last session at the festival – a panel to launch a fantastic anthology on Bengaluru’s history, Eleven Stops to the Present: Stories of Bengaluru with Meera Iyer, Menaka Raman with Kartik Venkatesh. Formidable, sweet company. My story in the anthology is a rollercoaster tale of Salma, a fiesty 11-year-old who lives in the Shivajinagar area in the 1930s (See the walk that inspired this story).

Milind‘s panel was in audi 1, mine in audi 2. I decided to pop into his, swoon a bit, before sitting in mine. On the second flood of the Bangalore International Centre, I waved a hello to Milind’s larger-than-life screen version.

Talk on writing historical fiction

The hybrid festival version was as good as it gets considering this year. Still grinning, I headed to my panel, facing a camera and 30 odd people in the audience (sitting in real life) and more than a 100 people attending virtually (livestreamed through the camera).

Me, Menaka Raman and Meera Iyer talking about research that makes historical fiction hard to write. With Kartik Venkatesh (Don’t miss the livestream in the right corner. #Hybrid

There were three questions at the panel, all of them from the audience that attended virtually. Frankly, I’m a bit old fashioned and looked beyond the camera towards the attendees who sat masked, having navigated virus exposure and Bangalore traffic – I was all about giving them precedence –however they were okay letting the virtualees ask questions.

The unseen, listening audience

We waved a cheery goodnight to the audience and the camera and stepped off stage to go into the bar downstairs. Before that, to say a last bye to my time-sharer at the festival, I headed to the third floor, where the BIC office is and met Lekha, Raghu and Ravi, the wonderful team who was the hands behind the camera, making sure all us could entertain the attendees without any faux pas like glitches, frozen screens, or author-mutism. I hugged them all from a distance and clicked this photograph.

The devices around you. This person is responsible for me almost meeting Milind.

Because, as in the hybrid event, this part, that happens in the background is important. Our lives are populated by the machines, the phones, the cameras, the audio-listening devices and soon the drones and bots. We’re living the science fiction dream, yo. Hybrid events are here to stay as both the virtual and real attendees become important.

Hybrid’s here to stay, but meeting pals is fun

It was marvellous. The crowds were limited as most people could attend online. The fact that I was attending a festival in Bangalore after such a long time, the fact that I met all my wonderful friends (all duly masked, except for the brief moment we took the photograph below) and the fact that 2020 so comfortably has made us slide into hybridity.

Happy meeting coffee friends: With Andaleeb Wajid, Milan Vohra and Nirmala Govindarajan

Beginning of 2021, I’m launching a new book and I’m already planning both physical events and hybrid ones. Will keep you posted on that one folks. Till then, happy virtual lives.  

Book Launch: How biryani chokes a history book

What do biryani, wrestling, Russel Market and children have in common? A fantastic ride through 1920s in Bangalore! My new short story ‘The Biryani Choke’ is a rollicking tumble set around the opening of the Russell Market in Shivajinagar of the 1920s.

The story is being published in an anthology by INTACH Bangalore appropriately called Eleven Stops to the Present: Stories of Bengaluru. If you don’t know, INTACH Bangalore are folks who are known to conduct terribly entertaining heritage walks in the city. The anthology is the brainchild of Meera Iyer (who wrote Discovering Bengaluru: History. Neighbourhoods. Walks, a must-have book if you like discovering history by foot) who has also written a story in it. Other amazing writers in it include: Aditi De, Anirudh Kanisetti, Anitha Murthy, Edgar Demello, Meera Iyer, Menaka Raman, Nagaraj Vastarey, Sandhya Rao, Shruthi Rao, and of course Zac O’Yeah.

Upcoming anthology by INTACH

Eleven short stories for children, by eleven awesome writers who take you on a journey through Bengaluru and Bangalore, from about 2000 years ago to the 1980s

Releases soon!

The book is an ambitious idea to introduce the city’s history to children through fiction stories set in different periods of Bangalore (or Bengaluru, that’s also history now). When Meera asked me to write a story, I knew the place in Bangalore I wanted to write about. I had already been there….

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Short story shortlisted in prestigious French awards

This is surreal at a serious level. A short story I wrote a couple of years back, The Daughter That Bleeds was translated in French as ‘La Fille qui saigne’ by Mikael Cabon and published in Galaxies magazine, an SFF fanzine in France. This happened last year and I was gleed at that point and then forgot about it.

I just found out that the translated short story has been selected for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards of 2020 in France. It has a hilarious tale attached to it.

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Me: Top 50 Startup Women in Switzerland

Woah. I am in a list of Top 50 Startup Women in Switzerland. What most of you don’t know if that I founded a startup in Zurich in the #FinTech space in 2018. The idea was to do new projects and to meet people and to earn money so I could feed my mainstream career – fiction writing.

So this accolade, is completely daze-inducing and glee. I’m surprised on how the little paths we choose to walk on, send us somewhere we hadn’t planned upon at all. Life is so beautiful.

The startup, Cooby, is a global cooperative and I’m one of the co-founders. We are developing blockchain-based SaaS products, which are open source. We also create technical and white papers for clients. It’s quite fun for the geek part of me as I get to meet people and listen to stories in the crypto, blockchain and fintech spaces.

Never thought it would get me in a Top anything list. This was something I started for fun. Isn’t that the most important? I tell this to myself as I see another rejection for my fiction in my inbox. Such is life. A constant rollercoaster.

Giving a talk at WorldCon 2019 + Evil Plan

It’s this week! I have some exciting news from my end. I’ve been invited to Dublin for WorldCon 2019, the biggest convention for the speculative fiction industry in the world, to give a talk on my work and on the work of emerging speculative fiction authors from South Asia. 

My talk will explore science and fantasy fiction voices from the South Asian community that are reworking the genre, playing with its tropes and redefining it by inverting colonial motifs.

I’m hoping to give this talk again in India sometime later this year or early next. Let’s see.

Follow this thread for updates

This is where I’ve listed my evil plan during my talk to introduce them to the wonderful work being published in South Asia. Mhahaha.

WorldCon Schedule

TALK: Current trends in South Asian SFF

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Eurocon: How I got interviewed by French media

During my visit to Eurocon 2018, I met a French lady in a corner. I was quickly stuffing my stroller and getting ready to talk about Indian fantasy.

She juggled with equipment. We got talking. She turned out to be a TV journalist from a French webzine ActuSF and I invited her for the talk I was about to give.

And that’s how I got interviewed by Samantha. I had no experience of talking while being translated and how to learn how to stop my thoughts. It was funny.

Also read, Five lessons I learnt at Eurocon.

(Thankful to Thomas for his patience with me!)

New: Short Story in Magical Women, a feminist fantasy anthology

Happy to announce that my hilarious, wacky short on a chudail get-together: ‘Grandma Garam’s Kitty Party’ has released in Magical Women, a feminist fantasy anthology published by Hachette India and edited by author and friend Sukanya Venkataraghavan.

It’s a fantastic collection that brings together authors writing on feminism from across the country, including powerful voices like Kiran Manral, Krishna Udaysankar, Sujatha SV, Trisha Das, Samhita Arni and may powerfu others.

You can order a copy on Amazon.

Blurb: Magical Women

A weaver is initiated into the ancient art of bringing a universe into existence. A demon hunter encounters an unlikely opponent. Four goddesses engage in a cosmic brawl. A graphic designer duels with a dark secret involving a mysterious tattoo. A defiant chudail makes a shocking announcement at a kitty party. A puppet seeking adventure discovers who she really is. A young woman’s resolute choice leads her to haunt Death across millennia. . .

A compelling collection of stories that speak of love, rage, rebellion, choices and chances, Magical Women brings together some of the strongest female voices in contemporary Indian writing. Combining astounding imagination with superlative craft, these tales will intrigue and delight readers in equal measure.

Continue reading for excerpt from the story. Order a copy on Amazon.

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Interview: Bangalore is perfect to write

Interview in Economic Times on how Bangalore’s slow pace gives Shweta Taneja time to weave stories.

Having grown up in Delhi and working there as a journalist, working there as a journalist, Taneja was drawn to India’s software hub through what she read about it and heard from people who had travelled there. It was also Bengaluru that Taneja thought would be a great place to start her career as a novelist. “At that time, I didn’t know anyone in Bengaluru.I had never visited it. But to me, it was a city with a relaxed pace, beautiful weather, a vibrant music scene and friendly people,“ she says .

From the capital city to Bengaluru

As she went on with her life in the national capital, moving to national capital, moving to Bengaluru remained a distant dream. “By 2008, I was tired of living in Delhi. I got married and it was when my spouse gave me the option of trying out life in another city that I chose Bengaluru,“ she says.

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SF story released in a blockchain-powered anthology

Excited to announce that my short story Agni’s Tattoo was released in Whose Future Is It? the first anthology published by Cellarius, a collaborative SF universe based on blockchain.

Cellarius is a collaborative science-fiction storytelling project. focused on a near-future mythology and powered by the Ethereum Blockchain. Right now, they are inviting authors to write stories within the scope of the universe (Read their Universe Guide here) however in future, it will be open to everyone, across the world.

When they approached me, after reading their Universe Guide, I decided to find out what happens when AI-powered gods come into a destroyed, dystopian Mumbai, where caste groups rule.

That’s Agni’s Tattoo. I’ve kept the story open-ended as I hope once the collaborative platform develops, someone picks Agni up and talks about her. (Keep reading for excerpt).

About the Cellarius Anthology

Whose Future is It? is the first Cellarius anthology includes 13 works of short cyberpunk fiction exploring humans’ response to a superintelligent AI takeover in the year 2084. From 9 notable writers, including a New York Times bestseller, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Nebula Award winner, the Cellarius stories range from mind-bending thrillers to classic adventure tales, human-machine love stories to the formation of new religions. Decide for yourself: whose future is it? Buy online on Amazon.

Homotranscendus by Gwen Singley (from Cellarius)
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