Keyan’s Blog

“Blowing Hell-glass” in Helios Quarterly

My story, Blowing Hell-glass: A Step-by-Step Guide is out in the June 2020 issue of Helios Quarterly.  This is one of the rare cases (for me!) where the story sold very soon after it was written – last year. I also rarely write horror, but this is one. The magazine is available on the website of the publisher Aurelia Leo, and on Amazon, both in e-versions.

Look at this amazing cover!

Keyan: A Digital Signature

The other day, I found in my in-box a letter from World Fantasy Con, asking if I’d like to submit a digital signature. Busy with other things, I put it in my mental file labeled Things to Get Around To. But today, it came with a reminder that the deadline was Sept 24 2020.

They had linked a signature maker, but I wasn’t happy with the results. So I thought I’d cobble something together in MSPaint, my favorite emergency illustration software. My first try was just a signature using one of the included fonts. It was okay, though impersonal.

I thought I’d design my own – something that would work for fantasy and for science fiction, vaguely contemporary and playful. And which I could complete in about 30 minutes, because I was running out of time.

This is the result. I’m quite happy with it, at least for now.

Nagarahole: Elephant, Leaving

Nagarahole, India, January 2020. Indian forests aren’t like Africa, where the animal density is so high that zebras graze like cows in the Great Rift Valley and giraffe invade your hotel premises. In India, you have to *look*. So we were in a bus, driving around in the sanctuary, with an excellent naturalist guide, looking. (See Nagarahole, with Tigers and  Gaur Bull in Love for some of what we saw.)

The fallen trees were the first clue. There hadn’t been a storm, and only middle-sized trees were down. Could it be…. elephants?

Yes. Because shortly afterward, our guide said, “There’s an elephant ahead.” There was. It wasn’t very large, as elephants go. As we drew nearer, he added, “It’s a young male.”

The elephant gave a plaintive trumpeting call. No one responded. Where was his herd?

As it turned out, just across the road, in a thicket, browsing.

“But they’re not responding,” I said.

“No,” said the naturalist.  “They won’t let him come back. It avoids in-breeding.”

Elephant herds are females and their calves. Male elephants get pushed out of their herds when they reach puberty.

The young fellow got the message. Time to go.

He took off down the road. Soon he was out of sight.

Leaving home, leaving his herd. Young males sometimes make friends with other young male elephants, or they end up alone. Wonder what happened to this young guy.

“Lepers” in Insignia 2020

My story “Lepers” will be coming out in an awesome new anthology from Insignia.
This is one of my most-reprinted stories, and this will be its fifth outing. Each version is slightly different from the others. In a digital world, I don’t feel the need to have a definitive text!

This anthology is
INSIGNIA 2020: BEST ASIAN SPECULATIVE FICTION
Here’s the cover:

And here are the stories:

‘Shadows’ by  Celestine Trinidad  

‘Moon Rabbit’ by Jo Wu  

‘A Matter of Possession’ by Joyce Chng

‘Railroad to Potalaka’ by Juan Takai Toshiya Kamei

‘Lepers’ by Keyan Bowes

‘The Enchantress Princess & the Mysterious Child’

by  Massimo Soumaré Toshiya Kamei 

The Washing Machine Ate the Socks’ by Sayo Onoda /  Toshiya Kamei 

‘The Craving’ by  Tutu Dutta

‘Kindness’ by  Vonnie Winslow Crist 

Poetry:

Meisho’s Dodo’s’, ‘Lantern Festival’, ‘The Eighth Son of Ganbataar’, ’Lotus Moon’, ‘The Wild Horses Came Hastening’, and ‘How to Weave the Stars’ by Mary Soon Lee

The publication date is to be decided, but it looks like it’ll be interesting.

Gaur Bull in Love

It wasn’t just tigers, of course, at Nagarahole. One of the more charming moments was the Gaur Bull in love.

Gaur are Indian Bison, the largest species of wild cattle. They’re considered a vulnerable species, because of habitat loss and hunting. Nagarahole is one of the sanctuaries where they’re thriving.

So when we encountered this small herd of gaur, of course we stopped. There were calves asleep on one side of the dirt track, and this female gaur on the other, placidly flicking her tail.  Then we heard lowing, and saw a bull emerging from a thicket.


He was clearly in love. He approached her, carefully, since he didn’t want to offend her.


But making his interest evident… coming closer…


… and closer…

Until her stood right behind her.


They stood there placidly; she chewed the cud and swished her tail some more, he tossed his head.

At that point it was getting late, so we had to leave. (All visitors are supposed to leave by sunset.)

But things looked promising. Perhaps there’ll be another little gaur calf in nine or so months.

Nagarahole, With Tigers

The first time I went to Nagarahole (“Nah-gurra-ho-lay”) was decades ago. Back then, they allowed private cars to drive through the wildlife sanctuary between sunrise and sundown. I recall seeing deer and monkeys – and magically, a leopard. But no tigers, no surprise because tigers were very rare.

In fact, I’ve been visiting wildlife sanctuaries in north and south India for decades. Sarishka. Ranthambhor. Bandipur. Mudumalai. Many a time, we came that close to seeing a tiger. Pugmarks. The vehicle ahead saw one. A tigress usually hangs out on this rock, but she’s not here today. I’ve seen them in zoos, of course, and in “safari parks.” But never in the wild.

Then – in January 2020, I returned to Nagarahole. We spent the night at a Jungle Lodge near the Kabini entrance, and took two “safaris” into the reserve in the government-provided bus. It was on the chilly early morning ride, after bumping around the dirt roads for maybe 30 minutes – it happened. “Tigers,” said the naturalist-guide who was leading the expedition.

And sure enough, through the morning mist – there was a tiger. And another, and another. It was a mother tiger with her three grown cubs. (Otherwise, tigers don’t usually hang out in groups.)

I just had my cellphone for picture-taking. But a couple of people on the bus had serious equipment. Like this.

I don’t actually mind too much. No photographs actually do the big cats justice in terms of their presence. And these pictures have a painterly, impressionist quality that I rather like.

Little Blue Marble 2019 Anthology

Look what arrived in the mail while I was away in India!

It’s the paperback anthology of 2019 stories from The Little Blue Marble magazine. It includes my story, Dilemma, With Omnivore… which features a very omnivorous little monster. This is a very nicely-produced publication, and I’m really proud to have my story in it.

 

 

My New Stories Published in 2019

It’s that time of the year, and I thought I’d list the new stories I’ve had published. The score for this year may be my best ever, with four new stories published and four edifying reprints.

NEW STORIES

  • A Scent of Roses in Constellary Tales, February 2019. In a deeply traditional world, a newborn child isn’t allowed to survive.
  • Octonet in Escape Pod, March 2019. This is my Octopuses get Smartphones short story. It’s also a sweet love story in around 5K words.
  • In Dreams Awake in Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter, August 2019. Virtual Reality for a small child as the world ends.  It’s flash fiction, about 1000 words.
  • Dilemma, with Omnivore in Little Blue Marble, September 2019. A light-hearted Litttle Green Monster story, with a darker environmental subtext. Also a flash short story, about 1000 words.
Illustration - cute monster
Dilemma, with Omnivore

REPRINTS

I was delighted when Escape Pod republished my story, Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station, and did a fabulous podcast of it. And I was thrilled that Working Futures anthology chose to republish my story Genetic Changelings. And when the Two Hour Transport anthology republished my story, Nor Yet Feed the Swine.  Finally, Mysterion republished my story Lepers, which might now be my most-republished story.

 

“Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station” on Escape Pod

Escape Pod has just republished my story, Light and Death on the Indian Battle Station just in time for Diwali, the Festival of lights (which falls on October 27th in 2019). The story is read by Farah Naz Rishi. But it’s more than just reading, she’s had experience as a voice actor, and that’s what she brings to this production. The result is a simply lovely reading. Some bits almost moved me to tears. And it’s hosted by SB Divya, who also talks about Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and the resonance with the story. I am soooo thrilled! Here’s the LINK.

The story was first published last year in Fireside, illustrated (perfectly!) by Saleha Chowdhury. That’s the picture above.

“Genetic Changelings” in Working Futures Anthology

My story, Genetic Changelings, has been published (again) in Working Futures.  (A slightly shorter version of this story was published by Flame Tree Press in its Science Fiction Anthology.)  This anthology focuses on how work and lives will change with technological change. Genetic Changelings is about designer kids in a world where gene modification is easy – though expensive – and the social pressures developing around it. Excerpt:

““Randall, no! Get your tail off Imran’s neck right now!”
Two dozen squealing preschoolers are scampering around the rubber-matted playground, making infant mischief. They’re all Dezzies, designer kids, and they’re a handful.
“No wrapping your tail round anyone’s neck,” I say, crouching down to the boys’ level. “I don’t care if Imran raised his crest at you. Look guys, you’re both too smart to keep getting in trouble.”
Randall’s impish face, curly red hair and freckles somehow match his prehensile monkey-tail. Imran is darkly handsome, with a crest lying flat along his head and back. It’s mostly hidden under his weatherproof jacket, but he raises the red bit on top of his head to show me.
It’s bittersweet for me, being around small children – even these cute lovable not-quite-humans.”

 

“Dilemma, with Omnivore” in Little Blue Marble

My story, Dilemma, with Omnivore, is out in Little Blue Marble!

The first part of this story was written long years ago, when I was a teenager. It reflects the feeling of magic I’d get at the marvelous little Tibetan shops in Janpath in New Delhi. One day, I ran across the old piece, typed it into my computer, and started to revise it.

Illustration - cute monster

All these years later, it’s a new story and it’s come out today. Click HERE to read the story.

“In Dreams Awake” in Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter

I’m thrilled that my flash-fiction short “In Dreams Awake” has been published by the Flame Tree Fiction newsletter! This newsletter goes out to everyone who subscribes to it, and it’s free. (Here’s the link if you want to SUBSCRIBE.)

(Warning: It’s a sad story.)
The world is dying. “It was the kids that hurt most. We adults, we’d lived, realized some of our dreams. But the kids? What Dr K offered was a life. A dream life, but the kids wouldn’t know it from the inside.”

This story was written especially for their monthly flash fiction call, ‘Virtual Worlds’ and it’s only the second time ever that one of my stories has been accepted the first time I’ve sent it out. I’m delighted.

“Nor Yet Feed the Swine” in the Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019

First, let me talk about Two Hour Transport.

Cover picture of Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019It’s a wonderful monthly event held in Seattle, organized by Nicole Bade and Theresa Barker. On the fourth Wednesday of each month, they meet in Cafe Racer at 7 p.m. The first hour is open mic for anyone who wants to read their work for 5 minutes. (Sign-ups required.) The second hour is for two invited readers. I’ve been a regular at these events since I started spending time in Seattle, and really enjoyed both the community and the work being shared.

Last year, Theresa and Nicole decided to do an anthology. I offered them my story, “Nor Yet Feed the Swine” that was originally published in 2010 in Cabinet des Fees.  I was delighted when they accepted it.

Now the Two Hour Transport Anthology 2019 is available on Amazon, and there’s a launch party at Cafe Racer on June 15th, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you’d like to come and get autographs from the authors, you would need to buy your copy in advance (they probably won’t be for sale there).

[Edited to Add: Copies actually will be on sale, for around $20 including taxes etc.]

Stow Lake with Goslings, Ducklings and Nesting Herons

Spring at Stow Lake comes with cute. No sooner had we started our walk than we encountered a Canada Goose mom with a couple of goslings first trying to hide under her, then climb on top. One succeeded, and promptly fell asleep.


There were a lot of goslings. As we continued our walk to the sunnier side of the lake, we saw three other goose families, with goslings of different ages. These were larger than the first ones. The parents looked at us searchingly, but generally trusted we’d be careful of their kids.

I only saw one batch of ducklings, hiding under some overhanging vegetation.

Three little mallard duckling hiding - Stow Lake, San Francisco

Mom and Dad were dabbling nearby, and when the trio tried to move out of their nursery, Dad chased them back in.

Mallard dad chasing his ducklings back into hiding

The great blue herons were also nesting, but those pictures were hard to get with on a phone.

Tree silhouette with barely visible nest of great blue herons

If you couldn’t find them, here they are!

Squirrel Carry

The other day in Seattle, looking out the window, I thought I saw some gray plastic blow across the sidewalk below. I looked again, and saw it was actually a squirrel. But it didn’t look normal. It was much longer than usual. Looking more carefully, I made out it was carrying something – probably another squirrel, because a tail was wrapped around its torso. I took a quick iPhone photo, but it was moving jerkily across the street and I didn’t get a good picture.

My first thought was that this was the gruesome aftermath of a squirrel battle, and that was a dead squirrel.  But then I did a search, and found that this is how squirrels carry their young.

This was likely the mother, transporting her youngster to a different location. She ran to shelter under a parked car, then darted across the road when the coast was clear and made it safely into the backyard of a house across the street.

Octonet got Reviews!

I am so thrilled with the reviews for my story, Octonet!

Here’s one from Cameron Coulter on the blog of the Skiffy and Fanty Show.

This is a story where the main characters “just happen to be” POC/disabled/queer. I definitely enjoyed Sue and Martina’s romance, but first and foremost, this is a love story about octopuses.

And one on BarnesAndNoble.com from Maria Haskins!

“After hearing that a bored octopus can get into all sorts of trouble, Suveera jokingly suggests the creatures might like to use cellphones. One thing leads to another, and when the researchers put adapted phones into the tentacles of the cephalopods, strange and wonderful things begin to happen (selfies aren’t just for humans, it turns out).”

A Kindness of Octopuses

I’m just back from Norwescon 42, and it was marvelous. For the first time, I did a reading – the beginning of my most recently published story, Octonet, which came out on Escape Pod. I don’t usually like to read just part of a story, but this time, since it was available on-line and free, anyone who wanted could read the rest quite easily.

I met the artist Guest of Honor, Tran Nguyen, the first day at the Guest of Honor banquet. She was charming and very interesting. Her artwork is delicate and luminous. Toward the end of the convention, I asked for her autograph in my Norwescon program book (which is a beautiful full-color thing with illustrations from artists in their art show). I was utterly delighted when she did this wonderful little doodle for me – an octopus girl.

 

(The color illustration below is the cover she did for “Kushiel’s Dart”)

My friend Goldeen Ogawa, writer and artist, also had her art in the art show. I got her autograph as well, and she asked me if I’d like a doodle. Of course I said yes, and she did the adorable octokitty below. (If you read my story – or listen to the podcast – you’ll see why this is completely appropriate.)

Researching the Octopus

“The people were interesting, especially in their various interactions,” wrote a friend to whom I’d sent my story, Octonet, recently published by Escape Pod, “but the octopuses were definitely the center of the action for me.  How did you happen to focus on them and learn so much about them?”

With most stories, the sources of inspiration are buried somewhere in my mind. Maybe something surfaces, like the end of a tangled ball of twine, and it pulls me into a story.

 

 

The octopus story might have started at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco back in 2012, when they acquired three Giant Pacific Octopuses that were bycatch for crab-fishers. We went to see them – and it was remarkably difficult, because they camouflaged so well, and could slide their ample bodies into tiny crevices. In fact, we only saw one of them – with the help of a docent and careful directions.

Fast forward to three books about octopuses: The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. And Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, by Roland C. Anderson, Jennifer A. Mather, and James B. Wood. I read them all in the space of a few weeks, and then I knew I wanted to write this story.

Of course that meant a deep dive (sorry!) into octopus territory.  I found a 149-page care manual for GPOs from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. And a thirty-page Giant Pacific Octopus Husbandry Manual from the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums. An article in Cosmos magazine, How the Octopus got its Smarts. Any number of Youtube videos, including this one which was a literal deep dive into octopus territory! And lots more random articles.

When I had the first draft done, I wanted an authenticity read (Within the limits of a sci-fi story!). I wondered if one of the authors of the last book would be willing. Dr Anderson had sadly died in 2014, but Dr Jennifer Mather was kind enough to review the draft for me and provided some helpful comments. I’m very pleased to acknowledge her help.

(Octonet has been through many iterations and edits since then – and a big thank you to all my critiquers! That was the writing part, not the researching part.)

So that’s the story of the story. I’m delighted Escape Pod published it – and also had an interview Dr Mather for the podcast!

 

SOME REFERENCES:

  • The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery.
  • Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
  • Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, by Roland C. Anderson, Jennifer A. Mather, and James B. Wood.
  • AZA Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (AITAG) (2014). Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Care Manual. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD.
  • Giant Pacific Octopus Husbandry Manual, British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (2011)
  • https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/how-the-octopus-got-its-smarts

“Octonet” in Escape Pod’s Artemis Rising

I’m thrilled that Escape Pod has published my story, Octonet as both a Podcast (read by S. B. Divya) and in text.
I love how it’s come out. And special thanks to Dr Jennifer Mather, co-author of Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, for reviewing my draft.

 

Sometimes at night when my mind is calm, I think I hear the octopuses. Around the world, the great network of molluscan philosophers.

#

I had many reasons for moving to the Pacific Northwest – weather, closeness to potential clients and my big brother Rav, distance from a very ex ex. Slimy cephalopods definitely didn’t make the list.

But then Rav needed someone to fix their new IT system. And that’s how I met the octopuses.