#AwardsEligibility 2021

I have this fantasy where I win stuff but continue to Not Be Perceived, which uhhh. Anyway I had several things out in 2021: two short stories, three nonfiction articles, and (pls do not tell 2010s Priya) a poem. Not sure about the nonfiction (although I am very proud that I managed to go full Classics nerd in a blog about technical skills! Like seriously I got my sister to send me a picture from Hesiod’s Theogony), but the other stuff is eligible for…stuff, as long as it’s applicable to US residents whose first language is English.

Before I get into it, I would like to shout out all the editors who made this happen :’O You are very appreciated! Especially when you don’t run away screaming from my bullshit haha.


Fiction

Neither of these are freely available online, so here are links to the blog posts I wrote about them, which contain details on where to buy:

Woman, Soldier, Girl ~5800 words in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2021

Where the Light Had Been ~2600 words in Neon Hemlock’s Unfettered Hexes anthology


Poetry

Dragonslayer – Fantasy Magazine, February 2021


Nonfiction

As mentioned above I don’t think these are as relevant to SFF awards, but I’m linking them anyway because they might be interesting??

Using Unreliable Narration to Create Voice – SFWA blog. Some thoughts I had on voice and how fiction is at its best when you lie a lot. (I kid. Or do I? Read it and find out!)

What Do Merfolk Notice on Land? – Mermaids Monthly, September issue. This was part of the climate change issue so there’s a lot here about what humans have done to the ocean, framed in terms of…what the title says. Also the time I followed a turtle around. Also something like 1 reference for every 10 words. Bless Zotero.

On the Destruction and Restoration of Habitats – Reckoning Issue 5. Listen I am not Captain Creative Titles here, it’s ruminations on stewardship work I’ve done.

Neon Hemlock’s Unfettered Hexes, a multimedia adventure I’m part of O:

This is such a cool project that I can’t believe I got to be in (and also got a shoutout in the Publishers Weekly starred review?! Whaaaat, holy crap major credit to dave’s solid editing). Look at Robin Ha’s cover, look at it now!

In what scientists are calling “classic Priya overthinking” I determined that my protagonist uses female pronouns because the world only has binary pronouns, but if they spoke English they’d use ‘they.’ (I just saw a viz competition where one of the contestants built the charts based on preferred pronoun rather than listed gender identity. Gotta say I like this route….)

And I am pretty sure this is the first time ever anyone has illustrated my work, Matt Spencer did such a great job 😀 (pls respect my inability to even remotely crack bindings open)

More information about the collection here, and you can buy it as a physical copy or ebook!

What would merfolk notice on land?

ICYMI, I contributed an essay to the climate change issue of Mermaids Monthly! It’s exciting to be in the middle of so many stories about the story not just of our lifetime, but of several lifetimes, now. Starting with Svante Arrhenius in the early 1900s suggesting that adding gases to our gaseous atmosphere might have long-term effects, through the sad blip of 50s/60s computer modelling, and then with a direct mention in Ursula K. Le Guin’s THE LATHE OF HEAVEN (1973), and onward to all the depressing shit that is well summarized in Naomi Oreskes’ MERCHANTS OF DOUBT, and finally…now. When we’re at the point where global warming is becoming visible climate change.

I keep starting to explain the contents of the essay, which is quite short, so I’m going to cut myself off and drop in a few bullet points (ok one is clearly a paragraph) instead:

  • yes the honu thing happened exactly as described
  • yes gravity is my land nemesis
  • yes it super bothers me that we don’t talk more about land/resource management
  • I swear the ending is hopeful!
  • I like really backing up what I’m saying, but a lot of the bibliography is also meant as further reading (losing the rest of my word count for it was worthwhile, haha). As with all things ecological there’s foundational details that I think are essential to deepening one’s understanding of what is happening. Granted, I’m a bit biased cause I’ve spent my whole life soaking up this stuff (literally, if you put me within 30 meters of a beach I will shortly be in the water).
underwater picture. honestly not that much to it, there's some vague fish and the coral bottom but mostly it's blue with sunlight coming down.
Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawai’i, 2014. I had some very unrealistic expectations for the underwater disposable camera.

The Yoni Sutra in Fusion Fragment (originally published in Analog SF)

As always I am exceedingly late with these blog posts, I’ll start claiming this is because this is an ICYMI and not simply that I’ve been horrifically out of town 😬 but anyway without further ado!

Amazing cover art by Kitt St. Joans! Click to view the issue.

There’s a lovely interview with me (and of course all the other amazing contributors) included in the issue, which really says most of what I need to say about this story that I didn’t say when it first came out, and at least somewhat addresses why it’s gendered the way it is. I have considered being more specific with the inspirational details, but honestly in Early Priya style, this story is less subtle about the references so I don’t think it’s as necessary.

The one piece of updated context that’s weird to me is that thanks to the BJP’s extremism luring off the hardcore Hindu nationalists, the Mumbai Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray’s party) is now apparently relatively moderate. Mind boggling.

Anyway though, this story got a shoutout in Alex Brown’s short fiction roundup on Tor. Thanks!

Now in F&SF: Anticolonialism, Steampunk and Agency

Oops I’m a little late, but in my defense it was a long weekend. (Yes, of course I’m tempted to make a sardonic remark re: the weekend in question being the Fourth of July.)

At any rate! You can purchase a copy of the latest Fantasy & Science Fiction digitally here (there’s also subscription options), or pick up a print subscription here. There’s so much great stuff in it, it’s a delight to be included.

Look at it O:

I’ve said most of what I wanted to say about this piece elsewhere (link coming soon), but one of the things I like about speculative fiction is, well, the speculation. One of the reasons colonialism proliferated so widely was technology asymmetry, both for the obvious reason and, I suspect, because it enticed more people to collaborate than might have otherwise. So most of the offscreen worldbuilding was spent thinking out what a world would look like where the two sides were closer, though not identical, in technology.

Rural people are more literate than in the real-world analogue, and as a consequence of the wider connectivity the locals have always had (there’s just no way Mysteriously Unnamed Country had nearly as many principalities), the Mysteriously Unnamed Empire is less able to hold on to its acquired territory. In this regard, THE YEAR 1000 by Valerie Hansen was helpful, because it’s about an era in which globalization was happening on more technologically coequal footing. Also, I wish I’d read all of INDIA AFTER GANDHI by Ramachandra Guha before writing the end.

As the title should give away, there’s also agency with regards to feminism. I do want to note that aspect of it is more closely based on my experiences in modern India, and that it would be a mistake to assume precolonial India was automatically more misogynist than such. I mean, Kautilya’s Arthashastra has a bit on how if a woman’s husband disappears for a year, that property’s now hers and she should move on with her life. At least based on that, sati was not standard practice.

At any rate, if you’ve made it this far, here are some pictures from Chowmahalla Palace. I don’t know who all writes the Wikipedia articles relevant to India, but it’s a bit amusing to see the same tiptoeing around the Asaf Jahi dynasty‘s collaboration as on the actual displays there. (Not an expert, but read the article on the Nizams.)

Tragically most of my pictures were terrible. Bad equipment (2012) + I’m a third-rate photographer anyway, haha. (What is composition? I just want to keep all the humans out of the frame.)

the exterior of Chowmahalla Palace
interior hall with lots of chandeliers and a nice marble floor
Please take a moment to pity my cousin, who probably had to drag me out of the room with the weapons in it, *after* putting up with a kajillion snrking noises at all the biased captions. TBH this happens in every museum (the one in Springfield was nearly empty! Come oooon no one would’ve heard), so you should also pity my friends.

I Have Thoughts on Privilege and Nature Stewardship

Now live at Reckoning

I originally wrote this piece around, mm, April/May 2020, and one of the cool things about having seasons is that in the middle of winter, I barely even recognize the landscape I’m describing here! (Everything is SNOW at the moment, although it is finally melting, which is

While it is all nonfiction, fortunately and less fortunately, I didn’t go out of my way to fact check the exact sequence of events, so it’s possible some things happened out of the order in which they’re described.

The photo for my bio is a particularly excellent specimen of spring beauties, which was worth ruining my sock (it was on the other side of a muddy patch, and also at that point I thought regular laundry would make the stains go away). The cool thing about these flowers is they have pink pollen, in addition to the distinctive pink lines (which can be of variable visibility to a human eye).

Here are some bonus images!

White violets. Very high on my list of poorly named flowers, along with….
YELLOW VIOLETS
Trillium grandiflorum. There’s a dark red version with smaller petals as well. One of those flowers that we routinely call by its scientific name for whatever reason
Shooting stars

DINOSAURS IN SPAAAAAACE

At last my obsession with dinosaurs has paid off! Check out the story on Cast of Wonders, Andrew K. Hoe did an amazing job with edits and Tatiana Grey rocked the narration. Come for the dinos in space, stay for the…er, anticapitalism and interrogation of discrimination? (Look, the last time I tried to write humor it turned into scathing commentary on colonialism.)

*sniff* it’s beautiful. Art by Alexis Goble

Anyway I did reference a lot of sources including NASA to find out if asteroid dust can even be sucked up, and then repeatedly went back to Wikipedia for size comparisons. I definitely owe a bunch to Stephen L. Brusatte’s THE RISE AND FALL OF THE DINOSAURS. Y’all, at a bare minimum, you need the T. rex chapter in your life.

I have decided my purchase of Beasts of the Mezozoic adult collectibles (says it on the box!) counts as an investment cause honestly? 3D models are very very helpful in conceptualizing how they’d move through space. There is some dispute over tail length and the model below is a Velociraptor mongoliensis, not a Deinonychus antirrhopus (fun fact, my friend prompted an early draft of this where all the names were based off the species), but anyway.

Aside from having the plastic featherless toys and at least one illustrated book as a kid, I’ve spent a lifetime ogling the dinosaur section of museums. It was actually the display at the Natural History Museum in London that got me specifically into Deinonychus. LOOK AT THEM THEY ARE SO FLUFFY

Deinonychus reconstruction with a light coating of hairlike feathers. Early feathers weren’t hollow like on modern birds (actually by the time of Deinonychus, Aves had split from theropods iirc anyway). Did I mention I once wrote a ten page paper on the evolution of flight in birds for a college class?

Because I vaguely mentioned Stegosaurus I would like to flex that I have SEEN THE HOLOTYPE

LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT THE HOLOTYPE SKELETON.
I’ve seen a decent number of ceratopsians, the Field Museum has a great collection, but it was a PITA to dig up so pls enjoy this one example from London!

That said I must close out with Sue, after whom the T. rex character is named of course. O:

This is Sue’s real skull, too heavy to mount on the display! The pitting in the jaw is from a fungal infection Sue had while alive, iirc.
The updated display looks SO GOOD! Seriously it is very fancy.

Now on Clarkesworld: My take on a Jain dystopia (utopia?)

Optimizing the Path to Enlightenment‘ is featured along with a whole lot of excellent work in the June 2020 issue of Clarkesworld, check it out!

Oh man…so I went from a prompt by a friend about eyelids in a glass case to this. Well, what happened is a somewhat convoluted eyelids -> eyes -> watching -> hey, you know what I’ve never done, incorporated my religious upbringing into a story, and also isn’t omniscience like a surveillance state?

That last bit is probably one of the reasons I didn’t get a metaphorical gold star in Pathshala (our version of Sunday School).

Anyway – I do want to mention that the religion here isn’t pure Jainism. The elements of “pollution” are taken more so from the Japanese and Chinese Buddhist folklore I used to read. Also, it was really hard getting into the mindset of someone who’s diametrically opposed to me – I do martial arts a lot, and finding ways to block trackers is practically a hobby at this point; I work at a hospital, I’m involved with public health, and I genuinely don’t know if I’d download a contact tracing app. (It would probably be useless since GPS is disabled on my phone, TBH.)

It did take me about a decade to be okay with killing mosquitoes, though.

Also, please don’t tell my mother about this one. 🙂

It’s cli-fi season: THE DESERT IN ME is now live at Little Blue Marble

Delighted to contribute to this publication’s mission–check my flash fiction, among other topical works, out here.

Note that the main consumer of our water supply is agriculture, much of which is consumed in the production of grain to feed livestock. So basically this piece is set in a future where things have gotten dire enough to limit even personal water consumption.

Starting A Story: HELP I’M STUCK

I’m a plot-driven writer. Before I commit anything to paper, I know where the full arc is going (setting + plot), how the characters will drive it forward, and what the themes will be.

All this should make it easy to start writing, right?

Being horrible at facial recognition doesn't pair well with drag...which is to say I think this is Katya and I love her? Haha

Yeah, so there’s a story idea I’ve been kicking around for at least a year – probably more – where I’ve written the ending, I know how I need to get to the ending, I even wrote a draft way back when, and I still have no idea where to start it.

Note that’s a where, not a how. How to start stories is simple. Subvert expectations so that the reader does a double take and before they know it, they’re sucked into the rest, like a demon summoning gone wrong.

Seriously though

What’s the deal with this story? Why isn’t it coming together when all the pieces are there?

The plot of this story is, in essence, a relationship that turns into a codependent mess because a shitty human being unintentionally trains an AI to also be shitty.

There’s three different approaches I could take to beginning this.

  1. Start with the broken human relationship that sets this off. (Which is where I began it originally.)
  2. Start with the accident, which breaks said human relationship and is integral to the plot.
  3. Start with the AI relationship, which is the meat of the main plot.

What are the pros of each?

Why not cons? Because those can be fixed in editing. I could have listed how they each influence the plot arc and ambience, but that’s the whole point of the beginning: creating that initial impression. If that starting point isn’t plonking readers where you want them, it’s not right.

I have a clear starting image for all of these, so I haven’t listed it as a pro, but that’s worth considering too.

Option 1 pros

  • Shows how the AI is supposed to work
  • Sets up the protagonist as selfish

Option 2 pros

  • Shows the moment of the AI upgrade (twist!)
  • Shows the accident

Option 3 pros

  • Can surprise readers with the revelation that the lover is an AI
  • This is the true main arc (but it needs to be explained by prior events)
  • Also, I want to

I was reluctant to jump into Option 3, even though I want to, because it’s so far ahead of the events that predicate the climax. But, as I said above, that’s something which could be fixed in editing. This is where “kill your darlings” comes in. Be open to unfixing a fixed point.

Yes, it’s gonna suck a bit to fill in the backstory. But at the same time, I’m not grabbed by the other two options, and I thought of the damn thing.

I’m not a “just start writing and sort it all later” type – I don’t work well without any direction (I am Captain Tangent) – but it is sometimes necessary to put off solving a problem until later, when you have something to look at. Simultaneously holding the words in your head and trying to sort them out is friggin’ hard.

The process of writing out the pros helped me realize just how unenthusiastic I am about the first two options, even though they’re more logical than the third. I don’t write a lot of nonlinear plots, but it looks like that’s where I’m headed right now.

So, we’ll see how that goes.