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Mythological fiction


by Eli Sclar

There has been a mistake. The gods have been neglectful, as where once lay the calm, gentle river on the outskirts of our town now lies the river Lethe. Most of us believe the transformation, likely brought on by a faulty levee or dam that allowed the sacred waters to seep from the underworld, occurred overnight; yet even of this theory, no one is certain.

Only when a young boy fishing along the bank with his grandfather decided to jump in did the unearthly effects of the water become apparent. Upon rubbing his eyes, the boy no longer remembered his grandfather, nor who he himself was. Naturally, when news of the phenomenon spread there were skeptics, but a single dive into the waters was all that was needed to reassure onlookers of the river’s authenticity.

The story has reached all corners of our town and even further beyond. From a second-floor window, one could clearly see all along the riverside, which in those first few days was almost always overflowing with men and women eager to forget their troubles and slip away into calm serenity. In they go into the muddy waters of the Lethe and out they return, dazed, stumbling, and reincarnated. Yet it is a reincarnation uncelebrated, for where are they to return? They most certainly do not know, and even if a loved one managed to find them, what good would that do? And so men drift aimlessly throughout the town, free of previous difficulties, yes, yet burdened now with much larger ones.

Our townsfolk recognize this and, despite that fact, still regularly witness their neighbors march themselves towards the banks. Some managed to choose a direction and start walking, although a few, finding the day hot and themselves parched, decide to take a drink of water and, having drunk anew from the river Lethe, are once again completely oblivious. Initially, a meeting was held by those who renounced the waters, and it was decided that a very respected man, a teacher from the local high school, would become our leader. The first action he decided upon, however, proved to be his last. He, alongside some of our other prominent men, went to the banks of the river. There they had tried to steer some of the men and women towards the center of town, where a makeshift shelter was to be constructed. But they had miscalculated; those who went into the river did not recognize the men and ran from them. One, ankles deep in the water, having her arm grabbed by our leader, out of fear and ignorance pushed him into the water’s depths. Similar fates befell the others.

Since then, we have all simply resigned. What else are we to do? The men and women still wander around our once quiet town, quite aimlessly. That minority which avoided the waters have learned to go about their own business, ignoring those confused faces that may be met in the streets or countryside.


One cloudless day, I was looking out my window, truly without seeing anything. I was deep in thought, consumed by my work, and had been sitting at my desk for several hours. It was just when my thoughts came to a lull that I noticed something unusual. A young woman with wet straw-colored hair, no older than myself, was roaming around in the street below. Usually, I would no longer take any notice of such a scene, but something particular struck me about this woman. I had almost blurted something out, anything to get her attention, but was stopped.

Around the corner, in the shade of another house, there was a boy practicing violin. I stood there, my head outside my open window, and listened. There the boy lingered, his back towards me, quite carelessly and erratically drawing his bow over the strings. What followed closely mimicked an animal being strangled. Every few seconds he would stop, realize that his playing didn’t quite resemble the sheet music in front of him, and would start all over, making the same errors. The boy was so engrossed in his study that he failed to see the woman staring at him fifteen feet away. She was frozen, listening intently at every wrong note, at every mistroke of the bow. Despite this, he did not seem discouraged and just played on. I tried to get back to work, but would only manage five minutes at a time before losing my concentration. Getting up from my desk, I would once again look out the window, and each time I would find that woman still there. 

An hour must have passed, before anything remotely musical came along. It was a simple melody, at first played painstakingly slow but soon enough at an acceptable tempo. It wasn’t beautiful or particularly clever, but there it was, the beginner’s first phrase. Upon hearing it, I rushed towards my window. There, still in the street below, was the woman. She looked paler than before, and it almost seemed as if there were tears in her eyes. Confused tears, no doubt, but tears nonetheless. The boy continued to play his one phrase again and again, with her standing just out of his sight. After taking in the scene for a moment more, I regained my senses and closed the window.


We sent out a messenger for help long ago. He hasn’t returned. While we gave up on those unfortunate souls that frequent the cobblestones of our streets, life quickly became unbearable for us. Our humble town is seated within the heartland of our country, miles and miles from any important trading route or harbour. What need had we for walls, what enemy would bother with us? We could never have known that the tragedy would worsen. We failed to see that those pilgrims who dove into the waters were forever unable to share news of their fates with others. Of course, the story of the river Lethe had become known, yet only our town saw firsthand its devastating effects. The rest only heard hearsay. Those strangers who traveled to our river following a dream could not journey back home. Suddenly, as I suspect, men and women from all over – perhaps in some places only a few, in others a noticeable amount – had gone missing, without any other explanation than the rumors of the miraculous river. A few days go by, and their loved ones wait patiently for their son or husband, daughter or wife to return, only to bide their time in vain. The doubters, who scoff at the very idea of the river Lethe, are soon haunted by doubts, and the regretful youth, ashamed at his own fancy and starved for cause, soon finds one. All are bound toward our town.

We were overwhelmed with our families, friends, and neighbors succumbing to the waters, and in our clouded judgment, could not foresee any further pilgrims. Newcomers began to trickle in, and we hardly noticed. Yet the same circumstance which had brought them, brought more to us. They were found creeping through the forest, traveling through unbeaten paths, trampling through our fields; they were quite easy to distinguish, for the purpose in their eyes contrasted starkly with the bewildered gaze of those taken by the river. We had already been experiencing some difficulty with our own soaked citizens: they had long exhausted any food to be found in our small town and, as demonstrated with the makeshift shelter, the prospect of meaningful aid was entirely futile. But as this second influx trickled in, our humble supplies were utterly dwarfed. By the time that we recognized the growing issue, these pilgrims, like locusts, utterly devastated our crops.

News spread slowly, through pockets of us at a time, and soon another emergency meeting was called. The lesson had been learned that direct contact with the men and women of the river was fruitless. There were simply far too many of them and far too few of us. Broken, indifferent, and lost, the congregants at first were quiet. Yet as the evening went on, long lost tempers began to flare, and it was decided that perhaps walls, constructed around the entire perimeter of our town, would at least help mitigate our problem. And as the logistics for such a project were discussed, I kept silent. Their words began to fade, and I could feel my tired mind racing elsewhere, as it has recently been inclined to do. For when we had a city, we lacked defenses, comforted by the thought of pastoral peace. Yet now, after our illusion of reality was shattered, what good would walls do us now? We have already lost before we began. The effects of the gods’ mistake extend far beyond us now. The river Lethe is sure to flood behind any wall’s cracks anyhow, eking out to the rest of the world and drawing them towards us. What of our town then? How on earth could we possibly persevere?

A careless mistake, like the flow of a river, can never be reversed.



Eli Sclar is based in San Diego, California and a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. His influences span from Kafka and Gogol to Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. He is currently authoring a book on philosophy and religion during the French Revolution.

Philosophy Note:

At some stage in our lives, we have all wished that a memory or two would disappear. Yet our memory is who we are, in our entirety. What we forget or remember is not in our hands, and when placed so, would bear the risk of unravelling us all. Could our aversion to strife lead to deeper strife?


by Jeff Currier

The Penrose Tribar perched precariously on that inflection point where ‘full’ and ‘empty’ are the same thing. Achilles could have made the difference, but he stood frozen on the threshold trying to reach the closest halfway point to being inside the pub. Turtle hadn’t waited for him and was well into his first pint. I was pouring drinks for all and only those who didn’t pour drinks for themselves, when the collapse finally happened. A decidedly perplexed looking young man deftly sidestepped Achilles and walked in.

Completely unaware of the drastic change he had precipitated upon the state of my bar, he surveyed the expansive room. God was drinking alone, as usual, at the corner table, contemplating the constraints of logic. Idly, in the palm of his hand, he created another universal Turing machine spider too heavy for him to lift. His arm drooped to the floor and the mechanical critter caromed away towards its brethren lurking under the pool table. Somehow, they had acquired a pile of sand, from which they were meticulously removing grains one by one, attempting to discern exactly when a heap became a non-heap.

Mona Lisa, leaning against the pool table posing, didn’t even lose her enigmatic smile as the machine skittered over the feet. Leonardo, easel propped nearby, deftly painted another forgery, which I know he would insist on hanging next to all the other Mona Lisa’s adorning the back wall.

Holding court in the largest booth, Baron M. regaled hangers-on with a demonstration of his surefire method for curing his latest malady. He adeptly faked the faking of refilling his glass and took a hearty swallow. The sycophants tittered appreciatively, especially when he repeated his faking of fake refilling for all their glasses from a bottle of fine whiskey he had bought on his own fake dime.

The young man shook his head, as if by doing so he could reset his vision, and slowly made for the bar. He stopped short once he got a good look at me, taking in my soft furry pointed ears and my simply diving tail. I flashed him a brilliant smile, showing off my sparkling canines. He took a step back.

“Are you, pray tell, a demon? Is this the afterlife? Am I dead?” he asked, all in a rush. He put a hand to his temple. “Last I remember, I was taking some medicine for a headache.”

“To answer your questions in order, no, I am not a demon.” I flicked my tail. “I am a genetically modified cat.”

He looked at me blankly.

“What is your name, lad?” I asked.

“Charles, Charles Dodgson.”

“Ah, yes. Well Charles Charles Dodgson, genetics is a little after your time — though some interesting stuff involving peas will happen in your stream in just a few years. But I digress. No, this is not the afterlife. You are in the Penrose Tribar, the finest pub in the entire Nexus.”

Another blank expression.

“The Nexus — the space between all the possibilia He created,” I said, gesturing toward the corner where God was now muttering to Himself, “I do not know the truth value of this sentence. I do not know the truth value of this sentence. I do not know …”

“And finally, you’re asking questions, aren’t you? Never known the dead to ask questions.”


Interlude on the very idea of blank looks: Intentionally left blank.


Charles opened his mouth and emitted a sound that no one, not even God could hear.

(Think of a sound indiscernible from that of one hand clapping.)

He abruptly closed his mouth, opened it, closed it again, before finally taking a deep breath. “Dreaming then?” he asked, while tentatively taking a seat at the bar.

I gave him a hard, thus-I-refute-Berkeley slap. “Is that real pain or dream pain you’re feeling?” I asked.

“Inconclusive,” he muttered, rubbing his check. “Perhaps I am merely imagining all of this, my current feeling of pain, that I am talking to you, that that crocodile fellow is about to eat that baby!”

I whipped my tail around to snag him before he rushed off to interfere with Sobek, the crocodile god. Sobek’s jaws were indeed closing around the tyke, and then, at the last moment, he pulled back with an anguished look on his face.

(You can’t tell what anguish looks like on an Egyptian crocodile god? It looks just like that.)

“There’s nothing to worry about, lad. Sobek promised prophetess Cassandra he would give her baby back unharmed if and only if she correctly predicted what would happen to it.”

“And what did she say,” Charles asked.

“That Sobek would eat her baby.”

“And where is Cassandra now?”

“She went to the ladies’ room, where I fear she encountered an unexpected kidnapping.”

“Cassandra did not see that coming?”

“It wouldn’t be unexpected now if she had. Unfortunately, this left Sobek is a bit of a pickle. Can’t eat the baby; can’t give it back, and no Cassandra to just snatch the child and run. Still, you should have seen what happened to Pinocchio when he said his nose would grow now. We’re still finding little wood fragments embedded in the walls.”

He looked at me blankly yet again.

“Right, no Pinocchio for at least another thirty years for you. But back to the issue at hand. If you are just imagining all this, you must also be imagining that you are properly using words like ‘imagining’, correct?”

Dodgson pondered this for a while before saying, “So my correctly using the word ‘imagining’ when asking you whether I am imagining all this is paradoxical?”

“Self-defeating, at least. Best not to confuse the two.”

(What with all the blank looks! Please see the Interlude above.)

“If you aren’t imagining asking your question, then you obviously aren’t. No problem.” I paused to lick my hand to wipe behind my ear. “But if you are imagining asking your question, then you aren’t using the word properly, in which case whatever this is, it isn’t you imagining things. Either way you aren’t imagining asking me the question. Hence, asking if you are merely imagining asking is self-defeating. Poor Sobek on the other hand is currently trapped in a paradox.” I waved my hand at the rest of the bar. “I’ll let you sort out the rest. Fancy a drink?”

He nodded. I placed a Klein bottle full of beer in front of him. He pulled out a fiver. I sniffed it and pointed to the sign behind the bar: Only counterfeit money accepted as legal tender. He looked at me dumbfounded.

(At least we had moved on from blank.)

I sighed. “This one’s on the house.”

He puzzled through the shape, finally realizing he’d have to turn it upside-down to get the liquid out. But before he touched the bottle, there was a loud pop and a young lady appeared on the barstool next to his. Swirling chronitons decayed around her. She flashed him a dazzling smile, before turning to survey the rest of the pub. The time traveler locked in on a pair of young men sitting at the table next to Sobek’s. They were vociferously arguing about whether ‘heterological’ was heterological.

(You don’t know what ‘heterological’ means? Look it up. You want me to explain everything in the story? Now who wants the impossible? Do you want me to reach the end or not?)

She leapt from the stool, pulled out a sleek disintegrator pistol, and fired. The young-man version of her great-great-great grandfather exploded into an expanding mist of particles. The Universe promptly did the same to her.

Charles put his head in his hands and clenched his eyes shut. He began to mutter, “I am not here now. I am not here now. I am not here now.” He opened his eyes and shrieked.

I must have become just my smile again. I’ve been told it is quite disconcerting.

(I could check that for myself in a mirror, you say? How exactly? Just a smile — no eyes! Duh!)

Luckily the Turing machines distracted him. They’d emerged from beneath the pool table and were now whirling about manically, having a race to see who could be first to prove their own consistency. By the time he looked back, the rest of me had faded back into existence.

“Well, young Charles, since you don’t believe any of this is real and don’t even want your beer,” I said waving a hand at the still upright Klein bottle, “the only thing I can do is impart some advice: One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradictions.”

“Oh, that’s good,” he said, pulling out a small notebook and a little square pencil. “Can I use that?”

“Not unless you want to plagiarize the future.”

“How on earth can one plagiarize … No, no, all this really must be the result of a bad batch of laudanum.”

And with that Charles decided he’d had enough of being in two places at once. His wave function promptly collapsed back into his headache.

(But you really shouldn’t take my word for it; I am lying now and everything herein is false.)



Jeff Currier works three jobs (one actually in philosophy), so has little time to write fiction. Hence, he writes little stories, usually 15 times shorter than this one. Find links to them at @jffcurrier or Jeff Currier Writes on Facebook.

Philosophy Note:

This story was the result of a whimsical attempt to make paradoxes and self-defeat (and the distinction between the two) manifest. Suggested reading includes Roy Sorensen’s A Brief History of Paradox, and Hilary Putnam’s Reason, Truth, and History, especially chapter one. (And Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols if one was so inclined.)

Barbarians At The Gates: A Parable Of Dueling Philosophies

by Geoffrey Hart

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

Thomas Sowell

History is not a precise science. It deals in many unquantifiables, and documentation is often scant or contradictory. The collapse of Western civilization in the late 20th century or early 21st century (records have been lost and start dates are unclear), a pivotal moment in human history, is a textbook example of how such knowledge is profoundly contextual, and how myth often overtakes fact through the passage of the years and loss of context. Historians therefore disagree over precisely when the loose collection of tribes known to history as Economists, or by their pejorative nickname, the Quants, first invaded the peaceful western lands that resulted from that tumultuous period known, for reasons that elude scholars, as the Great Brexit. There is nonetheless broad agreement that this world-changing event occurred in several phases as different tribes of barbarians swept across the broad plains inhabited by the Brexitans like a hurricane of conflicting ideologies.

Those historians who cling to the discredited doctrine of environmental determinism propose that the Quants were driven from their former lands by a warming climate, a theory that is justifiably scorned by modern theorists. Social historians point out, as did leading philosophers of the era, the lack of evidence for such a driving force, though perhaps that evidence is concealed beneath the waters that consumed the coasts of eastern North America and Eurasia. Instead, they propose the Quants were driven from their native societies by a relentless accumulation of social pressures created by their endless bickering, which led to vigorous intellectual debate and a proportionally high body count. So the Quants fled, bringing their logical positivist philosophy into direct conflict with the more sensible Brexitan theology that recommended peaceful coexistence and cooperation, with occasional forays into coopetition with their frenemy states. This clash of cultures inevitably created conflict between the Brexitans’ blind faith in their Pax Brexitannica and the Quants’ blind faith in their mathematics.

Whatever the merits of each proposed explanation of the serial invasions, the sequence of historical events and their consequences are reasonably clear. First came the Hayeks, emerging from the dark woods of their blackly forested eastern homeland. They came singing, at great length, of dwarves and golden rings, their male warriors accompanied by burly blond shieldmaidens who fought every bit as fiercely as their men. Each invader bore two throwing axes, which doubled as debating tools and tools for felling trees to construct the temporary camps they built to protect their goods while they ravaged the countryside. Historians believe that these camps acquired their name (laagers) from the prodigious kegs of pale amber beer that fueled the invaders’ aggression, but which slowed the invasion whenever they were forced to pause their assault to brew more because supplies had run low. Their taste in beer appalled the gentle Brexitans, whose phlegmatic nature was undoubtedly encouraged by their languorous parliamentary debates in a chamber hung with red tapes and the many mellow wines they preferred to sip while debating.

The Brexitans, who were a sedentary agricultural people, had never met axe-wielding barbarians before, and being unprepared for such vigorous debate, were quickly overwhelmed, their hastily repurposed agricultural implements having proven singularly ineffective debating tools. Waves of refugees fled westward to escape the onslaught—and ran straight into the second wave of barbarians.

The second wave originated around the same time the Hayeks began to establish their new home, when the Keynesians invaded from the west, arriving at the storied shores of the Brexitan lands on overpriced, yet technologically impressive, landing craft that bore nimble swordsmen on horseback. Upon clearing the beaches of defenders, the horsemen immediately began raids with the goal of freeing the Brexitan markets. By capturing goods and departing before the villagers could respond to their lightning-quick raids, they liberated the Brexitan–Hayek society from the burden of production by selling these goods back to the original owners at a handsome profit. Although this stimulation of demand seemed (paradoxically) to have improved the economic lot of the Brexitan­–Hayek culture, the barbarians were broadly resented, not least for their insistence on drinking a weak beer the Brexitans disdained and the Hayeks openly mocked. This led to spirited debate wherever the two tribes came into contact, swords and axes both reaping a red harvest. (Here, we use red in the sense of bloody, rather than in the traditional historical sense of unrepentant socialism, whose waves had crashed upon the Brexitans and receded several generations earlier.)

The third and most intimidating of the tribes were the Friedmans, who were clad in powerful and impenetrable logic that turned aside the staves of the Westerners, the axes of the Hayeks, and the swords of the Keynesians with equal ease. They rebuffed those futile prods with crushing swings of rhetorical bludgeons mounted on long staves that kept them at a safe distance from the commoners they preferred to oppose, while still delivering crushing logical blows to the slow witted or unwary. The origins of this tribe are unknown; based on what little evidence has been gathered, they appear to have sprung into existence, sui generis, in a storied western city, Chicago, famed for its winds, which may have inspired the blustery Keynesians.

Though the Brexitan­–Hayeks were a peaceful society, they were hardly defenseless. In addition to their doughty peasants, who had belatedly learned to wield their staves and pitchforks and rakes and hoes with surprising effectiveness when suitably provoked, the Brexitans had a secret force of elite warriors they could call upon in times of crisis. These elite warriors, the Empiricists (or Emps for short), spent years mastering the skills of logic and the scientific method, and worked in cloistered monasteries known as laboratories, where they were instantly recognizable by their knee-length white coats. These coats had been carefully designed to shield them from fire, caustic chemicals, and even small explosions, and had proven effective in countless skirmishes and occasional pitched battles between laboratories with different prevailing central dogmas. Where these warriors were available in sufficient numbers, their ruthless application of empirical logic drove the Quants to their knees; many ran in terror before the Emps could close to within rhetorical range. But there were never enough Emps, and the Quant tribes easily circumnavigated the Emp forces and defeated them by cutting their supply lines. Without funding to support their forays into the field, the Emps were forced to retreat to their laboratories and conserve their resources against future need.

A fourth tribe of Quants, known as the Ecologists, had settled among the Brexitans shortly before the invasions by the more aggressively rhetorical barbarians. Etymologically, they were related to the Quants through the shared phoneme “eco”. The meaning of this term is lost to history. Some believe it translates as “dealing with numbers”; others suggest it to be an obscure Indo-Turkic word for troublesome nomads. Little credence is given to the theory that it related to cultivation of diverse gardens, as no archeological evidence has been evinced to prove these gardens ever existed. Unlike the fiercer Quants who came later, the Ecologists understood the importance of coexistence and diversity, which was no doubt why they fit in so well in the lands of the Brexitans. Unfortunately, they had embraced a life of quiet contemplation of nature, and were no match for their more vigorous relatives in the heat of battlefield debate.

Had there been enough advance warning, the Brexitans could have relied upon their elite hereditary warriors, the Dawkinses. The founder of this quasi-mystical order, motivated by a seemingly unquenchable desire to selflessly spread his genes, had briefly run amok among the Brexitan women and inseminated more of them than any historical figure had achieved, even the legendary Genghis Khan. Some historians estimate, based on recent genetic evidence, that nearly 10% of all modern Brexitans bear genes from this lineage. Irrespective of their founder’s amatory exploits, these soldiers were masters of the secrets of the heart, and used them to seduce their enemies into breeding with them. Over time, they would defeat their foes by, quite literally, becoming their foes and agreeing not to fight among themselves. (Making babies, referred to as “the continuation of diplomacy by other means”, was more fun in any event.) But growing babies into warriors took more than a decade, there were few pure-blood Dawkinses remaining, and the Brexitans’ time was short.

So it was that the Brexitans came up with a desperate strategy: they would give all their money to the Friedmans, in the hope that descendants of the other two tribes would turn on them. (Even if that didn’t happen, they rationalized, it would be good for the economy.) History had shown that epic battles among the three Quantic tribes tended towards the Hobbesian; that is, they were nasty, brutish, and short, even by the bloodthirsty standards of historians. The hope of the Brexitan government was that their troops, no longer outnumbered, would be able to move in once the dust settled and mop up the few surviving Quants, thereby restoring peace to their lands.

Sadly, their bold plan failed, as the Friedmans, who represented an estimated 1% of the total population of Quants, took the money and withdrew overseas to a mythical haven in the far west, known to students of mythology as the Cayman Islands, or by their shorter colloquial name, famed in song and story: Avalon. Though this greatly reduced the military pressure being exerted on the Brexitans, the remaining Quant forces were still too powerful for them to meet in open battle.

All seemed lost, until a new group of nomads entered the picture. They were known as Neocons, a word believed to comprise a portmanteau combination of the words neophyte (meaning naïve and inexperienced) and con (meaning an attempt to deceive). They were champions of liberty, though not to be confused with the Rands, who in turn are not to be confused with the randy Dawkinses. (You can see how ancient English makes life difficult for the intrepid historian, as there are many subtle linguistic traps into which the unwary may fall!) Neocons viewed any interference from governments as sacrilegious. Led by their general, the infamously subtle Ponzi, their scheme made short work of the other Quants, and became the de facto government of the Brexitan territories.

Historians, being historians, have drawn many lessons from the events of this turbulent period, and disagree bitterly over which lesson is most defensible. Some believe that those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to be conquered by Economists. Dawkinsesians are too busy spreading their seed to be bothered much with history, which some take as a different lesson: that if you screw around too much with the economy, it will only end well for those doing the screwing. Neocon historians believe that no nation can long endure without a powerful and aggressive military. And Ecologists grumble that if only governments listened to them, utopia would lie within our grasp. But nobody listens much to them, which is probably a good thing.

The truth of this matter may never be discerned, for such is the curse of history: that so much of what we know must be inferred from scant evidence. Yet the true lesson, I feel, is this: that barbarians come and go, some fleeing with the family silverware and others teaching us how to get along with the real business of life, which is finding a way to enjoy life and someone to enjoy it with. Success in life, as in government, depends on knowing which type of barbarian one is dealing with.



Geoff Hart works as a scientific editor, specializing in helping scientists who have English as their second language publish their research. He also writes fiction in his spare time, and has sold 49 stories thus far. Visit him online at

Philosophy Note:

I’ve always been fascinated by how real historical events are transformed into myths and legends that retain only a superficial resemblance to the truth. The aspects that are retained tell us much about what cultures found sufficiently important to preserve. This story may have been triggered by reading The Mongoliad and musing about mass population movements and “the continuation of economics by other means”.

The Furry And The Damned

by E. E. King

Gerald was a sculptor, gifted with the fires of creation, cursed with fathomless canyons of despair. Unable to extricate himself from a lightless, twisting passage somewhere in his frontal cortex, he shot himself.

He’d come back as a graceful tortoiseshell cat.  The thing was…  it was after all, the Island of the Damned …he knew he still had it in him – the ability to mold a hunk of clay into something beautiful, something alive …if only he’d had opposable thumbs.

Many were trapped on the island. The furry and the damned – thumbless painters, caterwauling sopranos. Dogs and cats searching the island for inspiration and other prey. There was danger in every bite. There was no way to be certain who a rat might be. What undiscovered Milton lay behind sharp, yellow incisors? What Michelangelo peered from small rodent eyes? It was bad enough not to be able to create…but to destroy by dinner was both horrible and banal.

Once, after picnicking on a particularly feisty, russet mouse, Gerald remembered that the mouse had been missing its left ear. What if he had just eaten Van Gogh? Gerald had always worshipped Van Gogh’s mad, vibrant brush strokes, his almost sculptural dimensionality, his vibrant hews. He recollected a crazy, starry look in the mouse’s eyes.

Gerald lay awake on the cold gritty sand, stomach, and heart aching. The next day he was a wreak. He needed at least fifteen hours of sleep a day just to feel feline.

He became a vegan, dining on sea grass and kelp. But his stomach growled and his vision dimmed. Gerald recalled reading, when he was still able to read, that cats lacking the taurine found in meat and fish go blind. Gerald’s whole world was form and light and color. Blindness was worse than death, worse than murder. Also, the sea grass made him vomit.

That very night he went hunting. Limping on cooling sands at twilight in search of sustenance, Gerald did not hear the soft padded footsteps behind him. He was grabbed so quickly, and was by then so weak, that at the first pierce of needle teeth, this heart gave out. He did not even have time to notice, before final darkness descended, that the hungry, red furred, coyote who snatched him was missing its left ear.



E.E. King is a painter, performer, writer, and biologist. She’ll do anything that won’t pay the bills, especially if it involves animals. Check out paintings, writing, musings and books at: and

The Future God

by Brett Abrahamsen

I have 80,560 children. Most of them live on colonies on Mars, or in underground tunnels.

I have spent most of my life hooked up to reproductive devices. The purpose of these devices was to get as much sperm from the objects they were hooked up to as they possibly could.

The Dictator of Mars declared that anyone who removed themselves from their reproductive devices would face capital punishment – an order which produced children at alarming rates. Sometimes, there was so much consciousness that one person experienced two people’s thoughts at the same time. There was enough consciousness that no one could really tell whom it belonged to anymore.

What did the Dictator of Mars do with all of his subjects? He started a religion.

He called his religion the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet. He explained his reasoning as follows: religions were constantly dying out and being replaced with better ones. Hence, it was obvious that in the future, a religion would be invented that was better than any religion that existed in the present.

He declared The Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet as the official state religion, the 100% truthful religion of the future. It was obvious that at some point a religion would be invented that was 100% theologically correct, even if it would take millions of years – and even if there were many more imperfect future religions (though getting progressively closer to perfection) yet to be invented.

It was also important to note the existence, or the lack thereof, of an afterlife. If there is no afterlife, to everyone who isn’t alive it will seem to them as if the universe never existed at all. All of the good fortune that caused them to be alive would seem not to matter.

The truth was this: the thing that happens after you die can be described as a burning sensation. However, no one knows whether this burning is the result of a very sadistic god, or the result of the process of death distorting the remnants of consciousness, so as to create a burning sensation.

Of course, this was the most theologically accurate piece of information in the entire Bible. However, everyone felt it – Christians and non-Christians.

The promise of eternal burning did not prevent anyone from believing in the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet, since everyone – as is always the case with religion – wanted to believe in the Absolute Truth, not in what was convenient or pleasant.

At church meetings, children played games, and guessed at what the exciting Future Religion might be. “The truth”, said the Dictator of Mars.

One of the games looked like a particle simulation. The Dictator of Mars told us that if we tried very hard, we could simulate how the first particles came to exist in the universe, from seeming nothingness.

“I still don’t get it”, I said.

“By trying very hard – that is how the first particles came to exist”, the Dictator of Mars said.

One of the ironies concerning the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet was that the discovery of any kind of truth would end the religion entirely. There wouldn’t be any more future truths to believe in.

The universal symbol of the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet was this:


It was a sacred symbol. People placed it on the bumpers of their mini-cars. The fertilization wards were inscribed with it, too.

The universal symbol of sacrilege and blasphemy was the symbol of certainty, of closure. The symbol was this:


Another thing we used to think about was: who the discoverer of this future truth might be. We had to pray to this person, even though we didn’t know who they were yet.

The adherents of the Holy Church of the Religion that Hasn’t Been Founded Yet weren’t sure at all. They knew that any kind of certainty would most likely make them wrong, like all the past religions had been.

It should be noted that theology was very important to the Dictator of Mars. If there was no God, the Dictator of Mars was the most powerful thing in the whole universe. If there was a God, the Dictator’s power was close to irrelevant.

The Dictator of Mars did not like this. He said, “It is now the future, and I have discovered the truth”. And he started the Holy Church of the Religion that Has Now Been Founded.



Brett Abrahamsen resides in Saratoga Springs, NY, and has written a number of speculative fiction stories. His favorite topics include alternate histories, philosophy, and evolution. He prefers the flash fiction medium, at under 2000 words.

When We Were One

by A. J. Rocca

Do you remember, my love? Do you remember what it was like when we were one? Do you remember how our flesh came together without a seam, how each joint joined and bone locked together in perfect congress: hip-to-hip, back-to-back, thighs, sides, loins, heart and heart? Was this where your head stopped and my neck began? Or is it where my shoulders stopped and your spine started? No, that’s not right, not right at all. It’s been so long now, but we have to remember. We have to remember what it was like when we were one.

Do you remember how the other children used to curse our beauty and call us chimera? It was a slur to compare our union to that motley of a beast, but what did we care what the half-born thought? We could wheel through the agora faster on our eight limbs than ever they could on their stumbling two; wrestle their unbalanced bodies to the dirt with our perfect, rounded form. We learned our skill with the needle from none less than our own argent father, and we could sew and mend and loom faster with our twenty clever fingers than even a workshop full of those born apart. You know in their most secret hearts they were only jealous of us, my darling. Why else would they spend so much of their lives crashing into each other, desperately coupling to find their lost half? First this one on top, then that one on top, over and over again, limbs all twisted up, parts bruising against each other. What shame could we feel before such ridiculous, shivering slices of a person? They’d point and laugh at us, and we’d point right back and laugh twice as hard.

            I hate the Storm Bringer. I hate the Storm Bringer and I don’t care if he hears it. I piss on his columns and shout in the ears of his goshawks until they are deaf with my blasphemy: capricious, unjust, cruel king and mad god! He knows no good turn, if he makes the vintner’s vines grow heavy, it’s only so his neighbors will come to kill him for their fruit. His rain falls on my tongue and I taste only vinegar. His priests say he split us to teach us humility but do not believe them, my love! He was jealous, jealous of the Moon, our noble father, who is older and more beautiful than him, jealous of our good mother who loved silver rays more than storm clouds. More than this, the Storm Bringer was jealous of us. Divine whore, father of orphans, we incited his envy because we had something he has never known once in his thousand conquests.

            Do you remember feeling him mark us before he struck, my love? The envious thunderhead darkly looming over the rolling sea as we weaved, the faint prickle of electricity run up my arm and down yours in the middle of a quiet, summer night. We should have guessed what it meant, but who could imagine such cruelty? Who could imagine what was coming that day as we came home from our workshop and the dark clouds started to gather out of clear, blue skies. We ran when the thunder started, whipping faster than the wind through the barley fields as the rain began to sheet, but not even our great speed could save us from him. The lightning bolt dropped, its arc sharp and smooth as a cleaver, and we were dismembered. What once was one made two, what once was whole made jagged, flesh ripped from flesh, side from side, our sex split apart in a bloody cascade. We were made just like the rest of them: we were apart, and we were miserable. All that was left was for one lost half to support the other as we limped the rest of the way home.

            How many ways have we tried to come back together, my love? I can no longer count. I know at first we tried coupling as they do, all those desperate nights thrashing in the sheets, the hangings drawn to hide us from the Moon as we tried to press our mangled bodies back together. We went top to bottom, front to back, side to side, but none of it was right and none of it lasted. Your hips would stick in my thigh or my ribs would poke in your breasts, restless lust turning us over and over again and again. We needed something stronger to stitch ourselves back together. At first we tried words, all our whispered promises—I love you, I love you, I’m yours, you’re mine—repeated like an incantation. Their magic seemed to bind us for a while, but in the end our words were not magic but only air, and we were only blowing ourselves ever further apart with their empty drafts. So we went searching for stronger words, holy words.

By how many priests of how many gods have we been married now, my love? How many the temple floor where we have laid a sheaf of grain or spilled a libation of wine? How many the rings on our fingers, how many the flowers in our hair? How many the cuts on our wrists where we’ve fed blood to a hungry altar, vowing by ocean or forest or stars never to be apart? We should have known, of course, that no number of marriages by the lesser gods would ever bind us. The Storm Bringer reigns supreme over all, and no rival priest can hope to mend what he has broken. So finally in our desperation we sailed for his great temple on the continent and begged the Storm Bringer’s high priest to intercede on our behalf. We choked down dignity and begged that creature for mercy, spat in the face of our own noble father and promised to ever be the Storm Bringer’s loyal acolytes if we might just have his blessing to come together again under his name. For months the high priest consulted his god, burning incense and offering entire head of cattle, taking our gold a handful at a time, and all for what? A dreary oracle at the end of it, as short and grim as life: “What God has torn asunder, let no one join the parts.”

Why did you get in the way, my love? You should have known I had to kill him. He stuffed our entire fortune into his temple coffers along with half the world’s wealth, and still that was not enough for that lecher priest. No, he had to have my own other half for his bed as well. Just like his wretched, jealous god, taking taking taking all that’s good from those with so much less than he. So of course he took you. I suppose he was faithful in his way, finishing the work his god had started. I should have expected it, but you… why did you try to stop me? You who have walked the hallways of my heart, you must have known I had to kill him. I don’t fault you for his seductions, but why did you get in my way when I came for him? Why did you put your precious self between him and the blow?

            No, I won’t blame you for it, my love. It’s the Storm Bringer’s fault. We are but his victims, and I forgive you just as I know you will forgive me when I’ve righted all his wrongs. Now at the end of all, I know what I must do. What words and vows and marriage will not mend, a needle and twine and a touch of father’s skill will make right again. I will knit us back together just as we were, just as we were meant to be, and my blood will enter your veins and put the bloom back to your cheeks, and all will be right in the world. All we need is to remember the way we once fit together. Was my side joined to here, or was it here? Is this the place where our hips once met? Had the joints joined here, is this where the bones locked? Do you remember, my love? Do you remember what it was like when we were one?



A.J. Rocca  is a writer and a graduate student in English at Western Illinois University. He writes short stories and critical essays, and occasionally he creates videos for his YouTube channel, BlueMorningStar. His work has been published at Every Day Fiction and Short Edition.


by Alessandro Benedetti

The gathering was as strange as you could imagine.

Osiris, the oldest of them all (just technically, since it is not easy to assign an age to immortal beings), was sitting at one edge of the immense table. He coughed a couple of times and declared the meeting open:

“Gentlemen, for the first time since a couple of million years we have all gathered, looking for a solution to our problem; now, in my opinion our best option would be a compromise. Despite our differences, we and the Cygnus divinities are in the same boat and share the same troubles. Remember what has happened on our own Earth — every time a new religion flourished, several other gods were progressively abandoned and very nearly starved to death. I say we cannot take this risk again and should rather strike a bargain with our extrasolar colleagues; after all, there are enough potential believers for everyone! Yes, Ares, do you want to say something?”

“Indeed, I do”, roared Ares, enraged like the god of war he was. “I say there can be no agreement between us, the true gods of an ancient planet, and those charlatans, those upstarts… No conciliation is possible; no agreement should be reached, and no quarter shall be given. Gentlemen, I say there is only one way: war!”

A loud scream echoed his words and filled the majestic hall, as all the gods ever worshipped, by whatever culture in any age on Earth, were angrily shouting and clamouring for —metaphorical— blood.

It must be said that most of them would appear to their believers as anthropomorphic as a wave function, had there been some Earthmen around: very unlikely, however, over the surface of an asteroid just created from nothing, thousands of light years away from our planet.

Every divinity, then, Greeks and Romans, Thor and the Asgardians, the Indian Trimurti with all the minor gods, even Allah and Jahaveh were crying with all the breath they had, or rather signalling through sudden changes of millions of volts in their energy spectra, a single word: WAR.

In such a pandemonium, Buddha quietly sat, whereas most of the Sumerian gods were shaking their heads and Quetzalcoatl tried calming his colleagues by reminding them of the possibility of death by entropy for the whole Universe, alas to no avail…

His was only a faint voice in a sea of cursing, so that there was no need to vote in order to take a decision.    

It had all started about a century before, when the first human beings had escaped from the cage of the solar system.

Granted, it had not been easy: three of them had not awaken from the dreamless sleep of hibernation and were now forever orbiting outside the Kuyper belt. The long sleep had taken its toll on the rest of them, but they had reached the outskirts of the Cygnus constellation.

And what they found they could not believe: an extremely evolved species, alien even to the mere concept of violence and survival of the strongest, was anxious to meet them, exchange ideas, collaborate and peacefully share the known universe.

An exchange of technology, notions, opinions and, more importantly, people quickly followed, and inevitably missionaries opened the way for the numerous beliefs of Cygnus to Earth and vice versa, not unlike St Brandan landing in Ireland or Bodhidharma reaching Japan.

Right in the middle of this idyllic scenario — or maybe precisely because of it: no one likes to be supplanted by a foreign upstart—, the ancient Earth gods took offense at their counterparts on Cygnus.

After the failure of the peace meeting, therefore, war was declared and the gauntlet thrown down on their extra-terrestrial rivals, challenging them to a most singular battle.

The battlefield was a planetoid, entirely devoid of life and placed inside a huge static field completely opaque to every type of radiation or matter: nothing, not even a neutrino, was permitted through. Nothing, that is, apart from a narrow wavelength, through which a video and audio signal was transmitted, amplified and broadcasted so that billions of people on both worlds could watch the final battle and support their respective divinities.

And what they did see, they would remember for a long time: the terrestrial army, nearly at full strength —only Buddha and a few others were missing, having decided to seek refuge in a different continuum— and reinforced by Satan with thousands of his devils, facing countless foreign divinities.

Just an instant of absolute silence, then they threw themselves into the fray, launching at each other tons of radioactive matter and streams of neutrinos, striking again and again with X-rays, heavy particles, all the arsenal available to creatures as almighty as them, which means pretty much every possible form of energy.

On Earth and in the Cygnus constellation both populations saw giants lifting supermassive rocks, throwing thunderbolts, fighting to the death without mercy: they witnessed the fall of Odin and Venus, Satan and Vishnu together with hundreds of others.

And when it was all ended, over the killing field covered by dying gods, the magnetic fields weaker and weaker, the wavelength shifting more and more to the red, Allah and Osiris accepted the surrender of the alien gods.

They screamed in triumph, their fists raised, their bodies soiled with blood, or rather burned tons of hydrogen in massive flares which irradiated in the gamma portion of the spectrum.

But their justified enthusiasm did not last much longer, as they saw the static field compressing quicker and quicker and at the same time their energy vanishing, the temperature dropping down to absolute zero, the electrons collapsing in on the nuclei: the stars were agonising, the fields were fading away, entropy was running wild…

“Somebody betrayed us”, Osiris tried to say, “but who… and why…”, but he could not finish.

Many light years away, an Earthman and a Cygnus creature watched the needle of an instrument going down and down until zero, then they smiled and shook hands: Ragnarok, the twilight of gods, was complete.



Alessandro Benedetti is an Italian physicist, in love with science and enamored with letters, happily married with two kids. Having grown up on a steady diet of Dick and Bradbury, he works at the European Commission and couldn’t be happier.

The Meaning of His Own Words

by Andy Dibble

The foundation stone Kabbalists retrieved from the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro seemed a veritable Rosetta stone.  Indologists would finally understand the language of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.  Linguists hoped it would determine why many ancient languages are staggeringly complex.

Like the Rosetta stone, “The Lord of Wide Rivers” repeated the same message in parallel, once in Harappan and again in an archaic version of Vedic Sanskrit. Vedic was known, so scholars could read the Harappan message, and thereby unlock the other four thousand Harappan inscriptions discovered hitherto.

The Vedic was a prayer to the four-faced god Brahma beseeching him to stay awake a little longer (or if he sleeps, may the night be brief and day short in coming). It spoke of cycles, of stars whirling in the firmament, of cosmogonic tides and undertows, of perigee and apogee, of the shackling of words to meanings, and of the bewildering darkness in which all bonds shall break.

The unnamed author chose every Vedic noun, verb tense, and prefix with care, even to the extent of violating the poetic meter of his verses, a mortal sin according to later pundits.  With such obsessive clarity, breaking into the Harappan language should be easy.

It seemed an eye in the Harappan script meant both sight and thought, a winged-horse meant transformation, and that stacked parentheses indicated quantity. But none of these inferences made sense when checked against other Harappan inscriptions, and all predictions about the function of the prongs, dots, and other modifications to the base symbols proved groundless.

In hindsight, this difficulty was unsurprising. Vedic was fiendishly complex, and if Vedic descended from Harappan, Harappan should be even more intricate because grammars tend to simplify as speakers use a language over time.

Tellingly, the Vedic began, “The Lord of Wide Rivers will execute me for betraying the hidden language to our adversaries, but if even I–one of his code-slaves–cannot understand, the language is already lost. So as the cycle dips down, I write this so that I might understand the meaning of my own words.”


In the late 2020’s, there was a revolution in natural language processing. The dream of six decades, that programmers would program in everyday language, was almost realized. Most lawyers were out of work because software could write briefs indistinguishable from the work of the average legal mind. Social media persona could be software or human or both, and rumor on the matter diverged from reality more often than it agreed.

Deep learning algorithms began to unriddle Harappan. The chief difficulty was that every inscription had multiple meanings, much like the picture of a duck that is also a picture of a rabbit. One message was ostensibly a contract to exchange a quantity of sheep for garnets. But read another way, the same symbols divulged a murderous conspiracy. Beneath that was the intimation, potentially of proto-Zoroastrian origin, of a cosmic sacrifice.

One Harappan seal was a picture of entwined water serpents, secondarily a game of snakes and ladders, and thirdly the first four axioms of Euclidean geometry. But supposing the eye of a serpent in retreat was a vanishing point, the image took on perspective, and the axioms established hyperbolic geometry. The Harappans had refuted Euclid, more than two millennia before Euclid.

But even the most scrupulously trained algorithms could infer nothing with high probability. Human intuition was necessary to complete the picture, and intuition keened that Harappan symbols were in fact ciphers, that subterranean meanings are realer than surface meanings, that Harappan was always closer to meaning everything than one thing.

But a language that always expresses everything, expresses nothing.


The 2030’s were the Age of the Panopticon. As within the panopticon of Jeremy Bentham and of Michel Foucault, it did not matter if someone–whether corporation, deep state, foreign power, or AI overlord–was watching, only that they could be, and not just in the stupid way of keyword scanning, hypertext semantics, and search engine indexing. Machines could read, and in reading they understood.

Many retreated from social media, or frequented closed forums that, supposedly, were inaccessible to the uninvited. Courts would not rule against the possession of concealed mobile phones; there was an exodus from public spaces too. Utopian communes swelled.

But for the marketeers, the busy bees of the gig economy, the celebrities, and the wannabes, the dominate impulse was to shout as loudly and as publicly in as big a space as one could, and there is no space bigger than the Internet. They reassured themselves: the Powers That Be only wished to present ads more intelligently. Still, they avoided alleged “trigger words,” deployed hopelessly standardized locutions, and prayed the Argus eyes of AI were resting.

When it came out that Kabalsoft’s reclusive CEO was not man but machine, everyone assumed the firm’s meteoric rise was the machination of an all-wise Executor. Pressured by shareholders, publicly-traded companies everywhere automated their leadership in a frenzy. No company could remain competitive with mere organisms at the helm.

Rapid-fire legislation, first in the European Union and then in the United States and China, mandated that software serve a strictly advisory function, and so it was. But executives and directors still deferred to their calculating counselors, and when they defied, who could say whether that defiance was itself anticipated by inscrutable neural networks, whether computers knew even the shrewdest minds better than they knew themselves?


When Kabalsoft unveiled a quantum computer architecture advanced enough to shatter all available encryption, the last redoubt of online privacy was overwhelmed. Now, there was just one unbroken code: Harappan. But as a code, it was useless. It could not be modern or general purpose. Artificial cultivation would inevitably sterilize it, render it dumb and limpid to machines.

But Harappan proved that human genius for language could confound machines. And who are the true sages of language? Young children, as Noam Chomsky demonstrated.

The United States skimmed children, aged four to seven, from its melting pot and abroad. No more than two of the conscriptees spoke the same language, and like the pairs of Noah’s Ark, most every language was represented: Dutch so rich in idioms, English the ever-weird, Finnish for its fifteen cases, Sanskrit squirming with ambiguous compounds, Arabic for Qur’anic convolution, six-toned Vietnamese, Japanese to say much with little, Dyirbal rife with unspeakable taboos, isolate languages like Basque and Burushaski, Ebonics and argots, patois and pantomime, clicks and whoops and growls.

Miraculously, it worked. The code-talking children inverted entropy, inverted Babel. They understood one another, and only they understood one another. They learned secrecy and resilience, and only then learned state secrets.

The best minds of China wrestled with the fabulous omniglot but failed to master it. They learned from failure, and in rugged Xinjiang, assembled an omniglot pod, which drew most on Silk Road languages, Zen koan, temurah, and haiku.

Nations hung in equipoise until a day when even the ten Sefirot blinked. A terrorist faction, “Kabalsoft Reborn,” published grammars for both omniglots in two-hundred sixteen languages.

No one read them. They were too huge for comprehension, but the unknown is fearful, and fear suddenly thickened again.


There was one last code to slice and splice, a last descent. The little ones were already so nearly right, the unfathomable genius already there, if it could only be unfurled, the cerebral cortex grown within a roomier skull (and taught compliance–the young are too forthright, too prone to defect).

All this could be done with genomics. And it was.

But as the cycle dips down, as entropy overcomes information and words detach from meanings, one will master himself and recount this story so that he might understand the meaning of his own words.



Andy Dibble is a former academic and Sanskritist turned healthcare IT consultant. He has supported the electronic medical record of large healthcare systems in six countries. His fiction appears in Writers of the Future 36. This is his second story in Sci Phi Journal. (

Relative Perception

by Brishti Guha

I was discussing philosophy with my teacher over a cup of tea. She had just been telling me that the universe is an illusion. I knew my teacher was wise, but I couldn’t let this pass unchallenged. “Well, professor,” I said, “All my senses attest to this universe being real. What’s more, if we were to poll the smartest of your students, I’m willing to bet that most of them would say the same.”

My teacher sighed. “The trouble with you lot is that you don’t understand the duality between your bodies and your souls. Sure, if you feel your body to be your essence, you will just believe in a single universe. If you ever really internalize the distinction between your body and your soul, you’ll find that the universe is a relative concept. Someone’s universe is exactly what he perceives it to be. Well, it’s difficult for anyone except yogis to really get this.”

“This is getting too abstract for me,” I complained, “since I’m not a yogi. Do what you do best – tell me a story to help me understand.” My teacher was a walking encyclopedia of obscure ancient stories. She agreed to my request, and began relating a tale conjured up from passages of the Tripura Rahasya.

“Long ago, a king named Susen ruled over Bengal. His reign was peaceful and prosperous. Soon, the king became interested in establishing power over  neighboring kingdoms. The accepted way of doing this without a lot of bloodshed was to let a horse loose in the neighboring kingdoms, after proclaiming that if no one caught the horse, the neighboring kings would agree to pay tribute to the king who’d let the horse loose. Susen sent some of his sons, a large army, and a special horse, to accomplish this mission. Everything was going well until the group reached the banks of the Irrawaddy river, where a famous sage, Tangana, had his hermitage. The army passed by without paying their respects to the sage. This angered Tangana’s son, who promptly seized the horse.

The army generals were outraged that an unarmed young hermit should be the first person to challenge them, and soon, Tangana’s son was surrounded by soldiers on all sides except one, where a large hill blocked his path. The next moment, he’d vanished into the hill, taking the horse with him. No one could believe what they’d seen. They kept looking for a secret door into the hill, but no matter how much they pounded on its surface or looked for irregularities, their search was fruitless. They were still puzzling over it when Tangana’s son emerged from the other side of the hill – along with lots of soldiers whom no one had seen before. It didn’t take long for the new army to vanquish Susen’s bemused soldiers, and the skirmish ended with Tangana’s son taking several of Susen’s sons captive. He again vanished into the hill taking his prisoners and the horse with him. Meanwhile, a few survivors managed to make their way to Susen’s kingdom. They gave him a detailed account of what they’d seen.

Worried and mystified, the king deputed his brother Mahasen to visit Tangana’s hermitage, rescue the king’s sons, and retrieve the horse.

When Mahasen reached the hermitage, he found sage Tangana locked deep in a meditative trance. Not wishing to disturb the sage, he stayed there for three days, silently doing homage to him. Tangana’s son noticed this and was happy that the king’s brother was treating his father with such respect. “Please let me know what you would like me to do. If I can help you , I will. And don’t underestimate me – I may be young, but I am a powerful yogi.”

Mahasen said, “If you really want to help me, find a way to wake your father up. I need to speak with him urgently.”

“Five years ago, my father announced that he was going into a trance for the next twelve years. So, he’s not due to wake up for seven more years. But since you’ve asked me for help, I’ll find a yogic way to wake him up.” With that, Tangana’s son closed his eyes and performed a few breath control techniques. His soul left his body and temporarily entered his father’s mind, which it agitated. It then returned to its original body, just as the father started waking up from his trance.

By virtue of his yogic powers, once the father opened his eyes and saw Mahasen, he immediately knew all that had happened with his son and Susen’s army. He gently spoke to his son about the evils of anger, which he called an obstacle to self-realization. “We shouldn’t impede the good work of the king,” he said. “Mahasen has come for his nephews and for the horse. Return them to him.”

Tangana’s son, calmed down by his father’s words, obeyed. He vanished into the hill once more and emerged, bringing Mahasen’s nephews, the horse, and the remaining prisoners of war. Mahasen sent the rest of the party back to the kingdom of Bengal. However, he stayed on in the sage’s hermitage, resolved not to leave until he unraveled the puzzle of the mysterious hill. “Please do me another favor,” he requested the sage. “I would like to know how my nephews and the horse stayed inside that hill for all this time. Our soldiers couldn’t find a way in. And how did your son come out of there with an army of his own?”

Tangana said, “I used to be a king before I got tired of the worldly life and opted for a life of contemplation in this hermitage. I raised my boy alone after my wife, who’d accompanied me, died shortly after giving birth to him. When my son realized I’d been a king, he started hankering after kingship himself. I taught him enough yoga and mind control so that he could create a parallel universe of his own within that hill. It’s got worlds within it, seas stretching to the horizons, lots of lands of different kinds. And my son rules over it. That’s where he kept your nephews and the horse, and that’s also where he got his own soldiers from.”

Mahasen begged Tangana to be allowed to visit this parallel universe. Tangana asked his son to show Mahasen around the worlds he’d created. With that, he retreated into his trance again.

Tangana’s son and Mahasen reached the hill, and Tangana’s son vanished into it. He called to Mahasen to do the same, but Mahasen couldn’t. “This hill doesn’t let ordinary folk in,” said Tangana’s son. “I’ve already promised my father I’ll take you in here, so we need to find a way. You will need to leave your physical body behind, in a hole covered by grass that you’ll find right outside the hill.”

Mahasen didn’t like the idea of casting aside his physical body. It seemed an awful lot like death. Besides, he didn’t know how it was done. Tangana’s son said he’d help him. Asking Mahasen to close his eyes, Tangana’s son transported his own soul into Mahasen’s body. Tangana’s son’s soul separated Mahasen’s dreaming subconscious mind from his physical body, and then re-entered his own body. Casting Mahasen’s sleeping frame into the grass-covered hole he’d mentioned, the sage’s son went into the hill, accompanied by Mahasen’s dreaming mind – an astral projection of sorts.

Astral Mahasen found himself floating about in a dark sky. To his surprise, he didn’t fall. He was reassured by Tangana’s son, who promised to stay by his side. After he’d gathered up his courage, astral Mahasen began to explore this new universe. He noticed that though the sky was dark, it was lit up in places by bizarre constellations. This universe had its own sun and moon. The two of them made a trip to the moon, which astral Mahasen found extremely cold. His teeth began to chatter, and he decided to travel to the sun instead. When he did so, the sun’s rays scorched him completely, and Tangana’s son had to perform a number of exercises on him to cool down the temperature of his astral body. Once he was able to move again, astral Mahasen climbed a mountain and perched on the ledge, with Tangana’s son for company, looking down on the rest of this parallel universe. The sage’s son gave his eyes telescopic powers so that Mahasen was able to see the whole universe in intricate detail. He saw whole worlds before him – island planets separated by churning oceans, planets where the ground was made of gold, some inhabited by demons and elves, others by humans or giants, and some which had a mix of all of these.

He had yet to get his fill of these wondrous sights, when Tangana’s son said they must return to their own universe. “A day in my universe is equivalent to twelve thousand years in the universe we came from,” he said. “We have already been in here a day. It’s high time we returned.” With that, he jumped into the sky, carrying Mahasen’s astral projection, and both emerged from the hill. Tangana’s son recovered Mahasen’s decrepit body from the hole where he’d hidden it, inserted Mahasen’s dreaming soul into it, and woke him up.

When Mahasen opened his eyes, he was shocked to find a very different world from the one he’d lived in all his life. The lands, the trees, the waterways – nothing was the same. Unlike the temples and palaces he was used to, he saw immensely tall buildings of steel and concrete. There were machines flying in the sky. He couldn’t hear any birds.

“Is this a third universe?” he asked Tangana’s son. “This is the same place from which we entered the hill. But twelve thousand years have passed. Your brother’s family and his heirs died out long ago. There are no kings in this land anymore, and the place where your brother had his capital is now in ruins.”

Mahasen spent a long time alternating between shock and sorrow at the passing of all the relatives he knew. He realized he’d never see his own wife or children again. Tangana’s son said to him after some time, “Look, you are in grief because the people you formed bonds with in your own universe have passed. Have you ever thought why you don’t feel sad about the passing of people you’ve seen in your dream universe? Just like your dream world disappears when you wake up, your waking world disappears when you dream. And when you’re in deep sleep, both cease to exist.” With that, he took Mahasen by the hand and led him around the circumference of the hill. “This hill here spans just two and a half miles in circumference, but you saw a whole universe in here. Who’s to say which is illusion and which is reality? As far as you knew, a day had passed, but in the world out here, it’s been twelve thousand years. How do we know which of these is real?”

“Reality and illusion are relative. And so are universes, and time.”



Brishti Guha has a PhD from Princeton and is an associate professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She is an economist in love with weird stories, ancient literature, science fiction, and philosophy. She enjoys translating and her translations from Sanskrit poetry are forthcoming in Ezra and Empty Mirror.

New Worlds, Old Worlds

by Mina

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away… I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole and found an intriguing series of “shorts” directed by Tomasz Bagiński called “Legendy Polskie” (“Polish Legends” – this is the translation used by the director himself, since you could also translate “legends” as “fables” or “(fairy) tales”), which transplants old Polish tales into a sci-fi/fantasy context. They have decent English subtitles and the images are of good quality. I loved them but that is not reason enough to wax lyrical: I am writing about them because, in my opinion, good sci-phi is not really about other worlds, it is about this one. In this case, the films are unapologetically set in a Slavic-Polish universe. They are also a good example of the archetypes found in our collective unconscious and what a friend of mine called “folk theology”.

Before going any further, for those that have not watched these shorts (yet!), here is a summary of the five tales. The first “Smok” (“Dragon”) takes a local legend about a dragon terrorising the city of Krakow. In the original, the king offers his daughter in marriage to whoever rids him of the troublesome dragon. A poor shoemaker tricks the dragon into eating a sheep filled with sulphur, which makes it so thirsty it drinks from the Vistula river until it explodes. The clever guy gets the passive princess – the usual stereotypical solution, which is not particularly interesting in itself. In Bagiński’s version, the focus is more on the David and Goliath premise behind it. This is a much richer trope in the collective unconscious – the little guy beating the giant with nothing but intelligence.

In the modernised version, the hero is a computer nerd and science geek; the princess is a sporty, spunky girl the hero has a crush on; the dragon is a sexual predator with a spaceship. This short is the one most influenced by US teenage culture, social media and computer games. The dragon is a mercenary, feared but also idolised on social media (the film seamlessly incorporates his media presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc. – he even has a signature song – and fake news clips). When the heroine is captured by the dragon in his ship, the hero cannot hope to win in face-to-face combat, so he fights back by creating a cross between a high-tech K9 and a female android (as well as the nod to Doctor Who, there is another to the manga “Ghost in the Shell” in the background of one scene). His bedroom is full of the gadgets he has created, but he steers the android using an ordinary mobile telephone. On the surface, it is all very formulaic: good wins against evil, guy gets girl. Under the surface, you could argue that it’s a great plaidoyer for hard work and brains being more important than muscles and arrogance, a critique of the power of social media and fake news and a comment on political corruption. Particularly in Poland today, this is all much easier to say in a parallel universe.

Going in chronological order, we then move on to chapters one and two of the same tale: “Twardowsky” (incidentally, a chapter three is on the way as a full-length movie). The original legend is a Faustian pact with the devil, so it is an ideal example of folk theology or urban legends. The black, if not subtle, humour is very apparent in Bagiński’s take on this age-old story. He has us reluctantly rooting for the foul-mouthed, sexist and arrogant (anti)hero (reminiscent of the heroes of the wonderfully outdated “Seksmisja”). Part one shows Twardowsky’s confrontation with the female demon Lucy on the moon and his escape by stealing her ship. The plot itself is very simple but behind it is an adoption of the sci-fi genre into Polish culture, with the US tropes being replaced by Polish ones: the successful Polish millionaire on the cover of Newsweek (although the fact that he got there through a deal with the devil makes this particularly subversive); the first man living on the moon is Polish (in the original, Twardowsky does flee to the moon) and he is living in a sleek moon station; the soundtrack is full of Polish golden oldies and the hero is played by a Polish actor who is to the Poles what Depardieu is to the French (Robert Więckiewicz). My favourite line is Lucy commenting that the holy water the hero initially tries to poison her with cannot work because the bishop who blessed it is already in hell. In today’s ultra-conservative Catholic Poland, it is a daring joke.

Part two shows Twardowsky outwitting hell again. It is full of very imaginative details about hell and its inner workings. The ship the hero has stolen is powered by sin and he gets stuck in the rings around Saturn because it runs out of fuel. He tries to power it by swearing and is about to attempt masturbation when he is interrupted by a conference call with the demon Boruta (in Polish mythology, he corrupted noblemen). Hell is painted just like a large corporation with many ranks of demon and a bureaucracy underpinned by a massive computer system. We even see Boruta’s assistant, Rokita, sorting out a computer bug for his boss (and he demonstrates Smok’s soul being downloaded into hell, a nice detail). This of course leads to Boruta being careless with his password, which allows Twardowsky to use it to hack into hell’s mainframe from his demonic ship. Our hero is able to power the ship by committing suicide, but he also interrupts and reverses the download of his soul to hell, thus escaping into outer space. The happy ending is mitigated by showing us the demon Lucy clinging to the outside of the ship, letting us know that there will be another battle to come, and the fact that Twardowsky is fleeing again when all he really wants to do is to return to earth. A coda at the end shows Rokita trying to explain to Boruta that Twardowsky’s hacking led to the wholesale collapse of hell’s mainframe and to many complications.

All of this cheerful irreverence towards religion may not seem like much but it is very risqué if you take into account the political and cultural climate in Poland right now. It is not the first and will not be the last sci-phi film to critique religion and society. Another underlying message can be found in the lyrics to the song at the end of part one. Being human means not knowing what happens next in life (the people you have not yet met, the moments you have not yet lived, croons the song) and this is what Twardowsky lost when he sold his soul. He does not just get his soul back at the end of part two, he gets back the uncertain future he lost (and thereby, hope); just like Poland got back an uncertain future at the end of the Communist regime. Freedom is painful and comes with no guarantees (hell may still catch our hero; Poland still has a lot of problems).

The last two shorts show the escape of two Slavic demonic beings from hell as a result of the complete rebooting of the computer system – a basilisk and a witch. “Operacja Bazyliszek” (“Operation Basilisk”) begins with a flash-forward to the hero trying to save the “princess” (a female soldier) from a “giant chicken” (the basilisk, with its deliciously creepy voice), then goes back to two policemen on a fishing trip somewhere near Warsaw. This short really enjoys turning the whole fairy-tale trope on its head and it is the funniest in my opinion (although it is perhaps more superficial). Unlike Twardowsky, the hero Boguś (short for Bogusław, pronounced Bogusz) is a completely lovable if crass “typical” Polish male. He has premonitions and he saves the day with his mobile phone and his “Slavic anger”, that indomitable Polish spirit. I do not think you could go as far as accusing the film of rampant nationalism, but it is full of blatant national pride. Boguś’ hard-drinking uncle also helps, although more by accident than design. He is a wonderfully comic element with his terrible puns, but it also feels as if the director is taking the stereotype of the “drunken, macho Slav” and lending it more depth and weight than usual.

“Jaga” (“Witch”) shows the battle between a very powerful witch who has just escaped hell and the demonic military swat team sent to collect her. It is my least favourite episode, as it is built on a trope that is over-used in sci-fi/fantasy films: the slo-mo fight reminiscent of a computer game with one against many, underscored by the music. Jaga is, however, a strong female character and not a passive princess or repulsive crone (the main female stereotypes in fairy tales). Boruta freezes time to ostensibly persuade Jaga to come back to hell but actually to help her escape. Jaga goes on to wreak chaos on the humans that have polluted the air and ravaged the land of her world and killed her sacred trees. Boruta hopes to become king of the chaos that ensues when humans lose comfort and order. However, Jaga’s actions lead to the escape of a very powerful demon Perun (god of thunder and lightning in Slavic mythology), so Boruta will have competition in his plans for world domination. Jaga is not portrayed as good or bad, simply as dangerously single-minded in her defence of Gaia. Boruta comments that she was only in hell until she chose to leave it, again stressing the silent strength of this female figure.

The shorts are all produced by Allegro (the biggest online e-commerce platform in Poland) and their site for these films offers free extra material. All the music can be downloaded for free, there is an interview with the demon Boruta in text and audio form and there are some wonderful videos to go with the music. For example, the song “Aleja Gwiazd” (“Star Road”) shows how a demon (Lucy) is born; “Jaskółka Uwięziona” (“Trapped Swallow”) shows us Jaga being tortured and escaping from hell, as well as Boruta’s fascination with her; “Kocham Wolność” (“I love freedom”) shows us the mundane lives of demons. It is a great use of cross-media platforms, which feels appropriate for sci-fi/fantasy shorts. However, although the music videos can be enjoyed without knowing a word of Polish, the other extras are only available in Polish, which does make most of the content “hermetic” to the non-Polish speaker (to quote THEfirstNEWS, a Polish internet magazine which publishes in English).

The director Bagiński studied originally to become an architect and began in computer-aided animation, and these origins are clear in how important the aesthetic aspect is to him. He is also very rooted in his Polish culture – his first animated short “Katedra” (“The Cathedral”) won many awards: it is based on a short story by a Polish author Jacek Dukaj and the images are inspired by the paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński. The mix of imagination and social critique are already present in this early work – are we seeing a man sacrificed to a construct or gaining immortality? Bagiński is now working on a series for Netflix “The Witcher”, based on the works of the Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski. In an interview with THEfirstNEWS, however, Bagiński states that his favourite project is still “Polish Legends”, “a collection of reinvented Polish narratives”.

In an internet article on the entertainment blog ( of Spider’s Web (a Polish technology and lifestyle blog), Bagiński discusses in depth what he means by “narratives”. For him, they exist at all levels of life and in all domains. In business, companies rise and fall based on their “stories” (which seem to equal well-placed lies in some cases). In politics, parties that have a coherent, simple story or narrative do well (which can equal propaganda). A story is much more than entertainment, it is when we suspend disbelief and let ourselves be carried by the narrative. In the same interview, he is asked why he has been involved in so many projects focused on Polish culture. He answers simply that, when his career took off the ground, he decided to stay in Poland and it felt natural to use the “cultural instrument given to me by my native country”. And not just use it, but reflect and comment on it in a world context. It is his biggest influence, along with US action movies from the 1980s.

The visuals in these shorts are stunning and it must not be forgotten that they have brought Allegro a lot of money, despite being made available for free. Allegro itself considers “Polish Legends” to be a marriage of culture and marketing. Not surprisingly, the films have won awards for branded content, brand awareness and positioning, and online videos. They are an attractive package aimed at a generation that has grown up with the internet and media platforms. Moreover, they are a shining example of Polish creativity and innovation. But beyond their glittering surface, they have a deeper resonance lent to them by their use of stories and ideas taken from the collective unconscious and folk theology, skilfully harnessed by Bagiński. These films may postulate future or alternative worlds, peopled with demons and other fantastical creatures, but what they do best is tell us a lot about the Polish psyche.



Mina is a translator by day, an insomniac by night. Reading Asimov’s robot stories and Wyndham’s “The Day of the Triffids” at age eleven may have permanently warped her view of the universe. She has published “flash” fiction on speculative sci-fi websites and hopes to work her way up to a novella or even a novel some day.

The furtive rise of Indian speculative fiction

Almost surreptitiously, Indian fantasy and science fiction have made their own niche in Indian English.

by Shweta Taneja

Four years ago when HarperCollins published my urban fantasy novel Cult of Chaos – An Anantya Tantrist Mystery (2015), I was at a premium educational institute, the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur), talking to students.

At the institute, in conversation with a writing club, when I asked them about science fiction, most of them came up with names of American SF authors.

My editor requested me to make a video for the upcoming HarperCollins sales conference to explain what the genre of this novel was. The series, Anantya Tantrist Mysteries, is about a female occult detective, who solves supernatural crime in Delhi. A very competitive sub-genre of fantasy – the urban occult.

I cycled through the breezy campus and found myself in a professor’s office at the Computer Science department trying to angle my MacBook to make sure the background was filled with academic books. “It’s like Sherlock Holmes solving supernatural crime,” I exclaimed into the camera, trying to make eye contact with booksellers through the little black dot on the silver body of my laptop.

My aim was to make them avoid the one thing that gives heebie-jeebies of nightmares to every fantasy author: A deep-seated fear that your novel will end up either in the Indian Writing or Mythology shelf in bookstores.

For those who don’t know, and most people don’t outside of the country, Indian Mythology is a vast genre of rewrites of Hindu mythology – part of the living culture that most Indians grow up with. Most of us have heard and read these stories as children and we continue to re-read the same tales, set in the mytho-religious fantasy worlds written in Hindu epics.

It’s tricky to differentiate any other fantasy from Indian mythology as mythology is a sub-set of the fantasy genre, defined as a world where supernatural creatures, be it monsters or gods, actively involve themselves in human affairs; a world that uses magic or other supernatural elements in its theme or setting; a world where dragons, fairies, rakshasas, pretas, ghosts, are all real.

Squeezed somewhere between the Religion and Spiritual shelves, the rewritten, re-interpreted mass of Indian Mythology had already exploded by early 2000s, and was giving serious competition to the other bestselling genre in the Indian English writing: Romance. Youngsters, traditionalists and booksellers alike could be seen totting novels like the Shiva Trilogy by Amish (2010-2013), Asura by Anand Neelkanthan (2012), the Ramayana series by Ashok Banker (2003-2006) and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions (2008), among many, a lot many, others.

It didn’t help the poor booksellers that most of us fantasy writers, yours truly included, remain genre-switchers, smoothly interchanging between Hindu mythology and fantasy, thriller and horror, non-fiction and science fiction, with the maneuvering trick of writers who have grown up with manifold versions of the same tale.

The thought of seeing Anantya Tantrist Mysteries paired with Mythology retellings gave me palpitations through many nights, making me wake up in the middle of darkness, gasping as I tried to bite onto the real horror of a writer’s life: The Wrong Genre Shelf. Many a times, the green-eyed monster in me eyed the coveted Fantasy section in bookstores, be that Petrificus Totalus with reprints of The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956), Lord of The Rings (1954-1955), the Harry Potter series (1997-2007), A Song of Fire and Ice (1996-) and recently, international bestsellers like the Percy Jackson series (2005-) and The Hunger Games (2008-2010). I had to somehow make bookstore owners understand the subgenre I was writing in: the Occult Detective Fantasy. Hence the desperate video attempt of the Sherlock-supernatural variety.

Internationally, Occult Detective Fantasy wasn’t an uncharted subgenre. The whole plot structure of an occult detective dealing with the supernatural underworld of her city was thriving enough for some literary agents to actively look for it and for some to discard it as they’d been submitted too many of these “occult detective types”. Urban human-ish occult detectives with a problematic personal life had invaded sub-genres ranging from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Notable examples included vampire hunter Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton (1993-ongoing) and The Dresden Files (2000-ongoing) by Jim Butcher from the point of view of a private investigator and wizard based in Chicago. Indian author Mainik Dhar’s anti-hero zombie hunter Alice in Alice In Deadland series (2011-2012) also deserve mention.

Even fantasy and science fiction had been around, though the genres were not recognized in their own right, placed politely in the other category that gave me nightmares – Indian Writing – a generic mass of a bookshelf (now an Amazon sub-category as well) that means English writing by Indian writers. It had been more than a decade since the owner of a now defunct bookstore had introduced me to Samit Basu’s brilliant GameWorld Trilogy (2004-2007), a rollicking parody of the traditional fantasy hero with pop cultural references and a liberal use of both eastern and western myths. Others included short stories by Vandana Singh and Anil Menon; the surreal The Wildings series by Nilanjana Roy (2012-2013) and the fantastical genre-defying The Calcutta Chromosome (1995) by Amitav Ghosh which won the Arthur C Clarke award in 1997. Other than my novel, the year 2015 also saw Manjula Padmanabhan’s The Island of Lost Girls (2015) and Half of What I Say by Anil Menon (2015), dystopian visions swimming between fantasy, gender and science fiction.

All these writers of high, urban and literary fantasy however were completely overshadowed and overwhelmed by the big brother of fantasy, the epic variety, variously placed, according to one’s religious beliefs, exposure and the narrative style, in the literary, history, non-fiction, religion and fiction shelves: Mythology with a capital ‘M’.  

That however, my friends, was four years ago. Long in the annals of history as book trends go. A shelf, carrying the metaphor forward, needs more books, more variety to make it a concrete genre in any language. Just a few months before the third in Anantya Tantrist Mysteries, The Rakta Queen (2018) was released, I stood browsing at the newly opened, rather glistening Blossoms Book House in Bangalore and saw a section, a shelf if you will, dedicated to Indian fantasy and science fiction. Oh, yes. You heard that right.

We, the Indian fantasy and SF writers, have our own shelf now. All thanks to the explosion of debutants in the last couple of years. Sukanya Venkataraghavan released Dark Things (2016), a fantastical romance with a yakshi anti-heroine who faces her own goddess’s wrath over a mortal. Indra Das came up with his literary masterpiece and award-winning The Devourers (2016), a lyrical shape-shifter tale. Mythological writers turned to fantasy too: Krishna Udayasankar brought out Immortal (2016) turning the villainous mythological character Ashvathama into a historian professor while Anuja Chandramouli played with an urban fantasy by turning her world-saving human protagonist Agni in Yama’s Lieutenant (2016).

The year 2017 saw Tashan Mehta’s The Liar’s Weave, a play on magic realism with a protagonist who can change reality with lies; Krishna Trilok’s epic fantasy Sharikrida,a bloody fantasy set in India’s broken future; and the supernatural thriller The Demon Hunter of Chottanikara by SV Sujatha. Other than my book, Achala Upendran debuted her The Sultanpur Chronicles: Shadowed City about a empire set during the Human-Rakshasa wars. The year 2018 was also the year of anthologies with Vandana Singh’s short stories in Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories and The Best Asian Speculative Fiction with a collection of stories from the Indian subcontinent. The two books in 2019 I can’t wait to get my hands on include the upcoming anthology by Hachette, Magical Women, which a collection of fantasy written by female authors and Gun Island, a climate fiction novel by acclaimed author Amitav Ghosh. Oh yes, speculative fiction in India has been brought back to life, with its own shelf life. Excuse the pun.



Shweta Taneja is a bestselling speculative fiction author from India. With seven published novels, she is a leading voice in feminist science fiction and fantasy, most known for her series, Anantya Tantrist Mysteries, which will be soon adapted to the big screen. Her short story, The Daughter That Bleeds has been awarded the Editor’s Choice Award and is published in the recently released anthology The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018. It has also been translated in Romanian, French and Dutch. She’s a Charles Wallace fellow and her graphic novel Krishna Defender of Dharma in a Must-Read for government schools in India. Shweta prolifically voices her passion for Indian, feminist and diverse science fiction and fantasy. She has given talks at Cartoon Museum London, Eurocon 2018 and will be talking about SFF in the upcoming FedCon in Germany. Find her most places online with her handle @shwetawrites