Imagining new futures: Shweta Taneja’s sci-fi story nominated for Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards

Shweta Taneja   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shweta Taneja is back in Bengaluru for good. “After having travelled the world these past two years, I am back in Bangalore, finally settled in north Bangalore, again,” the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) writer says. “Though the city is trembling through a developing phase, I feel it is a wonderful place for writers to grow. There is just the right mix of attitude, creative exposure and people in the creative and scientific fields, for me to continue being inspired.”

And there is a wonderful homecoming gift for Shweta. Her short story, The Daughter That Bleeds (translated into French as La Fille Qui Saigne by Mikael Cabon) has been shortlisted for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards of 2020, a French literary award for science fiction and fantasy.

Shweta says, “I wrote it between the Anantya Tantrist (a fantasy trilogy featuring a tantric detective) books, submitted it to a couple of places in 2017, got rejections and forgot about it. Then when the editor of an anthology asked me for a story, I remembered that I had written this one and submitted it. It was finally published in English in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction in 2018 and received the Editor's Choice Award.”

Shweta says in 2019, the story was translated into French and published by Galaxies SF, a science fiction magazine in France which publishes short stories and articles in French, all related to speculative fiction. “I met the editor, Pierre Gevart, at Eurocon, a SFF festival where I gave a talk on Asian Science fiction and fantasy. The story was also published in Dutch and Romanian science fiction magazines last year.”

Electric underground
  • Anantya Tantrist, is a feisty foul-mouthed occult detective solving crimes in a Delhi where all manner of fantastic creatures co-exist with regular people. As of now there are three Anantya Tantrist novels — The Cult of Chaos (2015), The Matsya Curse (2017) and The Rakta Queen (2018)

Galaxies sent the story to the national committee for The Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards. “It was a jury that read all the short stories in translation released in France in 2019 and selected mine as one of the finalists. I am still amazed at the nomination. I found out when I received a congratulatory email from Gevart.”

Admitting to enjoying writing speculative fiction, Shweta says, “It is such a wonderful genre to look at alternatives in societies, imagine new futures, or even mirror on the present. I have already written shorts for two anthologies this year and plan to write a few more. The Daughter That Bleeds will be republished in a new anthology this year on South Asian women’s voices on violence against women which have works from people like Deepti Naval, Kamala Das, and Aruna Chakravarti.” The Daughter That Bleeds tells of a post-apocalyptic India where very few women can menstruate and so have children. “In the world, girls who bleed are valued both socially and economically and sold in special markets to the highest bidder. It was while researching menstruation for the third Anantya Tantrist’s novel, The Rakta Queen, that the idea germinated in my head. I wondered what would happen in a patriarchal society where women-who-bled are rare. Since I love exploring issues through humour, the story had to be laugh-out-loud. I am happy to see that is how it turned out to be.”

On women’s reproductive health in speculative fiction, Shweta says, “Speculative fiction is about exploring future alternatives and how new technology, new possibilities change the fabric of our society and how we perceive gender. That is the reason that SF writers have, and continue to explore societal, cultural, biological consequences of new reproduction technologies. The explorations could range from new roles for women around reproduction as in Margaret Atwood’s work, inter-species reproduction as in the works of Octavia E Butler, or even gender fluidity and politics around it as we see in Ursula Le Guin's novels.”

Shweta does not, however, feel women’s reproductive health has become a trope. “Most SF writing keeps to newer, more streamlined spaceships and weaponry systems, continuing colonial-era desires in space.”

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 1:38:48 AM |

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