Story translated to French, Romanian and Dutch

I’m glee to announce that my short story, The Daughter That Bleeds, has been translated and published in three European languages: French, Romanian, and Dutch. (Details below)

About The Daughter That Bleeds

The Daughter That Bleeds is a tale about a market for fertile women who have become rare in a post-apocalyptic India, told with humour and empathy. The story reflects upon notions of gender, class, fertility and parental affection. 

The story as been awarded the Editor’s Choice Award in Asia. First published in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018 in English, you can buy a copy here. (Read excerpt)

Translated in French: Galaxies SF

Galaxies SF is a reputed French magazine that publishes science fiction and non-fiction on authors from across the world. These are the people who organised Eurocon 2018.

I’m quite chuffed that Daughter That Bleeds was translated into #French by and was published in Galaxies magazine, the people who organised last year’s Eurocon 2018. I can read a bit of French, thanks to lessons for a few months and the title seems to be translated literally. I did interact with Mikael Cabon, the translator of this story, over email where we discussed the word ‘soorma’.

Translated in Romanian: HelionSF

 It’s called Sângele Fiicei Mele in Romanian and has been published in HelionSF, the biggest SF fan magazine based in Romania. Read the story online.

When journalist and friend Darius Hupov, who interviewed me for a podcast about my work, asked me if I wanted to translate, I wasn’t sure The Daughter That Bleeds would translate well. Judge yourself by reading it online.

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How to be an author: Five lessons I learnt at Europe’s biggest science fiction and fantasy convention

One day, among other emails, I received one from Galaxies, a French fanzine. I had been invited to Eurocon, Europe’s largest convention for science fiction and fantasy, to give a talk on my novel The Rakta Queen: An Anantya Tantrist Mystery and the Indian fantasy and science fiction scene in general. With glee, I prepared for the talk, packed my bag and jumped into the 500-km/hour train from my home in Zurich to Paris, taking another hour-long train to Amiens, a small town in France where the festival was being held. It was in Amiens that Jules Verne, the fantastic author of the 1900s, lived and wrote most of his marvellous works.

The festival was overwhelming and an eye-opener in many ways, including how welcoming the science fiction and fantasy community in Europe can be. Not only did I meet talented authors as well as passionate and curious readers who love the genre, but I also understood that no matter where you’re based, if you’re a science fiction author and not part of the top 0.1 percent, you are struggling. And humility goes a long way in endearing yourself to anyone.

Here then are a few lessons I learned.

Lesson 1: Learn to do everything on your own, including setting up equipment for your talk

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Indian fantasy has come of age. Here’s why

Almost surreptitiously, Indian fantasy has made a niche for itself in the English language in India. Three years ago, when HarperCollins published my urban fantasy novel Cult Of Chaos, An Anantya Tantrist Mystery (2015), I was at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. My editor contacted me and requested a video for the upcoming HarperCollins sales conference to explain the genre of the novel.

I dressed up, cycled through the campus and found myself in a professor’s office in the computer science department trying to angle my MacBook to make sure the background was filled with academic books, and not beams. “It’s like Sherlock Holmes solving supernatural crime,” I exclaimed, trying to make eye contact with booksellers through the little black dot on my laptop.

The nightmare for an Indian fantasy author

My aim was to make them avoid the one thing that gives nightmares to every fantasy author: A deep-seated fear that your novel will end up in either the Indian writing or mythology shelves in book stores. This fear has roots in reality: Because for decades, the Fantasy section has been petrificus totalus, with reprints of The Chronicles Of Narnia (1950-56), The Lord Of The Rings (1954-55), the Harry Potter series (1997-2007), A Song Of Ice And Fire (1996-) and, recently, the likes of the Percy Jackson series (2005-) and The Hunger Games (2008-10), with no space for Indian fantasy titles.

The Liar’s Weave by Tashan Mehta

Internationally, the urban fantasy subgenre wasn’t an uncharted section. Even the sub-subgenre that Anantya Tantrist mysteries belonged to, that of an occult detective dealing with the supernatural underworld of her city, was thriving enough for some literary agents to actively look for them and for others to discard them because too many of these “occult detective types” had been submitted to them.

Urban human-ish occult detectives with a problematic personal life had invaded subgenres ranging from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Notable examples included the vampire hunter series Anita Blake by Laurell K. Hamilton (1993-) and The Dresden Files (2000-) by Jim Butcher, told from the point of view of a private investigator and wizard based in Chicago. Indian author Mainak Dhar’s anti-hero zombie hunter in the Alice In Deadland series (2011-12) had also been on shelves for a while.

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Slavery in India and how it compares to the world

While browsing the layers that is the internet, I came across Global Slavery Index and found the facts that they’d written about India after research quite intriguing. There are lots of little nuggets there to mull over and think about various ways we ignore, encourage and are okay with slavery in our country. I had hoped this is not true, that it’s fiction, or something that can come under my Tall Tales section, but unfortunately, that is not to be. An excerpt from the report.


How many people are in modern slavery in India?

India is undergoing a remarkable ‘triple transition’, in which economic growth is both driving and is being affected by rapid social and political change. Economic growth has rapidly transformed the country over the past 20 years, including the creation of a burgeoning middle-class. In 1993, some 45 percent of the population were living in poverty; by 2011 that had been reduced to 21 percent.In addition to economic growth, ambitious programmes of legal and social reform are being undertaken right across the board, from regulation of labour relations to systems of social insurance for the most vulnerable.

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Guest fiction: The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov

Thought should start the new year with something smashing. Here’s a short story by my ever favourite author Isaac Asimov to inspire you (and me) to write some good science fiction this year.

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The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov — © 1980

Murray Templeton was forty-five years old, in the prime of life, and with all parts of his body in perfect working order except for certain key portions of his coronary arteries, but that was enough.

The pain had come suddenly, had mounted to an unbearable peak, and had then ebbed steadily.  He could feel his breath slowing and a kind of gathering peace washing over him.

There is no pleasure like the absence of pain – immediately after pain.  Murray felt an almost giddy lightness as though he were lifting in the air and hovering.

He opened his eyes and noted with distant amusement that the others in the room were still agitated.  He had been in the laboratory when the pain had struck, quite without warning, and when he had staggered, he had heard surprised outcries from the others before everything vanished into overwhelming agony.

Now, with the pain gone, the others were still hovering, still anxious, still gathered about his fallen body –– Which, he suddenly realised, he was looking down on.

He was down there, sprawled, face contorted.  He was up here, at peace and watching.

He thought: Miracle of miracles!  The life-after-life nuts were right.

And although that was a humiliating way for an atheistic physicist to die, he felt only the mildest surprise, and no alteration of the peace in which he was immersed.

He thought: There should be some angel – or something – coming for me.

The Earthly scene was fading.  Darkness was invading his consciousness and off in a distance, as a last glimmer of sight, there was a figure of light, vaguely human in form, and radiating warmth.

Murray thought: What a joke on me.  I’m going to Heaven.

Even as he thought that, the light faded, but the warmth remained.  There was no lessening of the peace even though in all the Universe only he remained – and the Voice.

The Voice said, “I have done this so often and yet I still have the capacity to be pleased at success.”

It was in Murray’s mind to say something, but he was not conscious of possessing a mouth, tongue, or vocal chords.  Nevertheless, tried to make a sound.  He tried, mouthlessly, to hum words or breathe them or just push them out by a contraction of – something.

And they came out.  He heard his own voice, quite recognisable, and his own words, infinitely clear.

Murray said, “Is this Heaven?”

The Voice said, “This is no place as you understand place.”

Murray was embarrassed, but the next question had to be asked.  “Pardon me if I sound like a jackass.  Are you God?”

Without changing intonation or in any way marring the perfection of the sound, the Voice managed to sound amused.  “It is strange that I am always asked that in, of course, an infinite number of ways.  There is no answer I can give that you would comprehend.  I am – which is all that I can say significantly and you may cover that with any word or concept you please.”

Murray said, “And what am I?  A soul?  Or am I only personified existence too?”  He tried not to sound sarcastic, but it seemed to him that he had failed.  He thought then, fleetingly, of adding a ‘Your Grace’ or ‘Holy One’ or something to counteract the sarcasm, and could not bring himself to do so even though for the first time in his existence he speculated on the possibility of being punished for his insolence – or sin? – with Hell, and what that might be like. Continue reading “Guest fiction: The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov”

Horrible plots to avoid in science fiction

Strange Horizons is a fabulous online speculative fiction magazine. I’ve been going there for ages, hogging on the freebies, including fiction, poetry, reviews of new books and articles on fantasy, horror, science fiction and its various sub-genres. While exploring the site, I found this useful list of things that the folks at Strange Horizons have seen too many times in their submissions. Typical plots, story tropes, characters, storylines that they DON’T want to see. I read the whole list and was surprised to find how close I’d come to a few of these typical, boring, done-to-death things, myself. (Red below are my comments.) Listing down a few here which I found particularly hilarious. For more, please head to this page, where they keep adding more tropes.


The following list is an attempt at classifying the kinds of non-horror plots and themes that we’ve received too frequently. Here’s the list:

  1. Creative person is having trouble creating.
    1. Writer has writer’s block.
    2. Painter can’t seem to paint anything good.
    3. Sculptor can’t seem to sculpt anything good.
    4. Creative person’s work is reviled by critics who don’t understand how brilliant it is.
    5. Creative person meets a muse (either one of the nine classical Muses or a more individual muse) and interacts with them, usually by keeping them captive.
  2. Visitor to alien planet ignores information about local rules, inadvertantly violates them, is punished.
    1. New diplomat arrives on alien planet, ignores anthropologist’s attempts to explain local rules, is punished.
  3. Weird things happen, but it turns out they’re not real.
    1. In the end, it turns out it was all a dream.
    2. In the end, it turns out it was all in virtual reality.
    3. In the end, it turns out the protagonist is insane.
    4. In the end, it turns out the protagonist is writing a novel and the events we’ve seen are part of the novel.
  4. Technology and/or modern life turn out to be soulless. (Haven’t we all done this one?)
    1. Office life turns out to be soul-deadening, literally or metaphorically.
    2. All technology is shown to be soulless; in contrast, anything “natural” is by definition good. For example, living in a weather-controlled environment is bad, because it’s artificial, while dying of pneumonia is good, because it’s natural.
    3. The future is utopian and is considered by some or many to be perfect, but perfection turns out to be boring and stagnant and soul-deadening; it turns out that only through imperfection, pain, misery, and nature can life actually be good.
    4. In the future, all learning is soulless and electronic, until kid is exposed to ancient wisdom in the form of a book.
    5. In the future, everything is soulless and electronic, until protagonist (usually a kid) is exposed to ancient wisdom in the form of a wise old person who’s lived a non-electronic life.
  5. Protagonist is a bad person. [We don’t object to this in a story; we merely object to it being the main point of the plot.]
    1. Bad person is told they’ll get the reward that they “deserve,” which ends up being something bad.
    2. Terrorists (especially Osama bin Laden) discover that horrible things happen to them in the afterlife (or otherwise get their comeuppance).
    3. Protagonist is portrayed as really awful, but that portrayal is merely a setup for the ending, in which they see the error of their ways and are redeemed. (But reading about the awfulness is so awful that we never get to the end to see the redemption.)
  6. A “surprise” twist ending occurs. [Note that we do like endings that we didn’t expect, as long as they derive naturally from character action. But note, too, that we’ve seen a lot of twist endings, and we find most of them to be pretty predictable, even the ones not on this list.]
    1. The characters’ actions are described in a way meant to fool the reader into thinking they’re humans, but in the end it turns out they’re not humans, as would have been obvious to anyone looking at them.
    2. Creatures are described as “vermin” or “pests” or “monsters,” but in the end it turns out they’re humans.
    3. The author conceals some essential piece of information from the reader that would be obvious if the reader were present at the scene, and then suddenly reveals that information at the end of the story. [This can be done well, but rarely is.]
    4. Person is floating in a formless void; in the end, they’re born.
    5. Person uses time travel to achieve some particular result, but in the end something unexpected happens that thwarts their plan.
    6. The main point of the story is for the author to metaphorically tell the reader, “Ha, ha, I tricked you! You thought one thing was going on, but it was really something else! You sure are dumb!”
    7. A mysteriously-named Event is about to happen (“Today was the day Jimmy would have to report for The Procedure”), but the nature of the Event isn’t revealed until the end of the story, when it turns out to involve death or other unpleasantness. [Several classic sf stories use this approach, which is one reason we’re tired of seeing it. Another reason is that we can usually guess the twist well ahead of time, which makes the mysteriousness annoying.]
    8. In the future, an official government permit is required in order to do some particular ordinary thing, but the specific thing a permit is required for isn’t (usually) revealed until the end of the story.
    9. Characters speculate (usually jokingly): “What if X were true of the universe?” (For example: “What if the universe is a simulation?”) At the end, something happens that implies that X is true.
    10. Characters in the story (usually in the far future and/or on an alien planet) use phrases that are phonetic respellings or variations of modern English words or phrases, such as “Hyoo Manz” or “Pleja Legions,” which the reader isn’t intended to notice; in the end, a surprise twist reveals that there’s a connection to 20th/21st-century English speakers.
  7. Scientist uses himself or herself as test subject.
  8. White protagonist is given wise and mystical advice by Holy Simple Native Folk. (This one made me laugh my head off. Avatar anyone?)
  9. An alien or an AI/robot/android observes and comments on the peculiar habits of humans, for allegedly comic effect. (Hitchhikers did have a few of these, to wonderful entertainment.)
    1. The alien or AI is fluent in English and completely familiar with various English idioms, but is completely unfamiliar with human biology and/or with such concepts as sex or violence and/or with certain specific extremely common English words (such as “cat”).
    2. The alien or AI takes everything literally.
    3. Instead of an alien or AI, it’s people in the future commenting on the ridiculous things (usually including internal combustion engines) that people used to use in the unenlightened past.
  10. Person A tells a story to person B (or to a room full of people) about person C. (This is so Hercule Poirot in SF!)
    1. In the end, it turns out that person B is really person C (or from the same organization).
    2. In the end, it turns out that person A is really person C (or has the same goals).
    3. In the end, there’s some other ironic but predictable twist that would cast the whole story in a different light if the reader hadn’t guessed the ending early on.
  11. It’s immediately obvious to the reader that a mysterious character is from the future, but the other characters (usually including the protagonist) can’t figure it out.
  12. Someone takes revenge for the wrongs done to them. (Ahem. This was the original Anantya plot, before it became Cult of Chaos. Glad I got rid of it.)
    1. Protagonist is put through heavy-handed humiliation after humiliation, and takes it meekly, until the end when he or she murders someone.
  13. Author showcases their premise of what the afterlife is like; there’s little or no story, other than demonstrating that premise. (This actually is an interesting trope for me. I would love to see Yamraj running it as a business. But again, done quite a lot of times.)
    1. Hell and Heaven are run like businesses.
    2. The afterlife is really monotonous and dull.
    3. The afterlife is a bureaucracy.
    4. The afterlife is nothingness.
    5. The afterlife reunites you with your loved ones.
  14. Protagonist agrees to go along with a plan or action despite not having enough information about it, and despite their worries that the thing will be bad. Then the thing turns out to be bad after all. (Most movies/books of single, white, urban hero. Always wondered why doesn’t he ask the questions?)
  15. In a comedic/satirical story, vampires and/or other supernatural creatures come out publicly and demand (and/or get) the vote and other rights, but people are prejudiced against them. (Sigh. Vampires, in the whole lot, should be banned for a few decades.)
  16. There’s a machine that cryptically predicts the manner of a person’s death by printing it on a slip of paper; the machine is never wrong, but often it’s right in surprising or ironic ways. [There’s nothing wrong with theMachine of Death anthologies, but we’ve seen a large number of MoD rejects, and we’re extremely unlikely to buy one.] hahahaha!
  17. Story is set in a world in which some common modern Western power structure is inverted, and we’re meant to sympathize with the people who are oppressed in the world of the story. [Such stories usually end up reinforcing the real-world dominant paradigm; and regardless, they rarely do anything we haven’t seen many times before.] This one is an interesting tool, and I wouldn’t say not to use it. Especially 1. I want to try it in a story someday.
    1. Women have more power than men, and it’s very sad how oppressed the men are.
    2. Everyone in the society is gay or lesbian, and straight people are considered perverts.
    3. White people are oppressed by oppressive people with other skin colors.
  18. Kids with special abilities are kidnapped by the government and imprisoned and tested in a lab.
  19. The author attempts to lead the reader to think a character is going to die, but instead the character is uploaded into VR or undergoes some other transformative but non-dying process. (Learn from GRR Martin people!)
  20. Someone dies and then wanders around as a ghost.
    1. They meet other ghosts who’ve been around longer and who show them the ropes, and/or help them come to terms with being dead, and/or explain that nobody knows what happens after ghosts move on to the next stage of the afterlife.
    2. They’re initially stuck in the place where they died or the place where their body is. In some cases, they eventually figure out how to roam the world.

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