Keyan’s Blog

“Spoiling Veena” and “Souk of Dreams” in Academia

The other day, I discovered on Google an odd concatenation of my name with a 2018 academic conference in Vienna. I hadn’t been to any such conference, so I was curious.

With a deeper dive, I found that Simon Whybrew at the University of Graz was presenting a paper on transgender in Science Fiction, and had used my story “Spoiling Veena” in the analysis.

I was surprised and thrilled. Here’s the abstract of the paper as published in the program for the 45th Austrian Association for American Studies Conference.

“Disappearing into the Future? Reclaiming Transgender Experiences in Contemporary US Science Fiction”
Simon Whybrew (University of Graz)

Science fiction (sf) has long been fascinated with transgender phenomena. Nevertheless, the genre’s authors have been reluctant to acknowledge humanity’s inherent transness. Rather, sf stories have largely viewed trans potentialities exclusively through the lens of medical and technological advancement. Thus, trans identities have often been transposed onto alien societies or dissolved into futuristic, cisnormative fantasies of perfect gender transformation. As a result, transgender histories, identities, and becoming have largely been absent from these texts. Instead, the focus has been on the promise of temporary, cisnormative gender mobility.

The recent publication of four anthologies of sf short stories by trans authors provides a significant challenge to this legacy of trans erasure. In this paper, I will explore how the authors of these stories employ the genre’s conventions to subvert its normative tendencies and write trans identities into the future. To do this, I will compare John Varley’s 1992 novel “Steel Beach” with K.M. Szpara’s “Nothing is Pixels Here” and Keyan Bowes’ “Spoiling Veena.”

It made me remember the time I found another academic reference to another of my stories – this time, “The Souk of Dreams.” John Patrick Pazdziora (University of St. Andrews) presented a paper “Enchanted Conversations: The Reverse Adaptation of Fairy Tales in Online Culture” at a conference in Ghent in January 2010. Here’s the quote:

“The hopeful tales read more like short fantasies than fairy tales. ‘The Souk of Dreams’ by Keyan Bowes, for instance, is a touching romance about a gay couple who rediscover their faith in love and human goodness. However, the setting of the tale—a fantasy market in the desert—is described much like a sci-fi convention with real extraterrestrials. Any moorings to mythic versions of fairy tales have been cast off. Hope is discovered in reinventing according to a new medium—speculative fiction. Reverse adaptations are primarily to rebuke and tear down the alleged deceptions of childhood.”

I am glad these stories are reaching beyond their usual audiences into the wonderful world of academe.

Flights of Foundry April 2021

Last weekend, I attended the second Flights of Foundry (FoF) virtual convention. It was quite amazing. It aimed to be global for April 17th and 18th , so programming actually started on April 16th in the US… they had a total of 300 hours of programs! Of course I didn’t attend all of it. There was no way.

So I split my time between panels (which were on Webex but disseminated via YouTube, with a chat on Discord alongside) and author readings, which were in Webex and allowed the audience to see each other and interact. Everything I attended was awesome.

The highlight for me was a launch party for Constelacion, the Spanish-English bilingual magazine. It publishes everything in both languages. Editors Coral Alejandra Moore and Eliana Gonzalez Ugarte were Guests of Honor at  FoF. Coral invited me to read my story, The Excruciating Beauty of Ephemera, published in their first issue, at the party. Which I did.  And then, when I said I’d love to hear it in Spanish, Eliana obliged. Though I don’t speak Spanish, it sounded so good.

Another author, read from her story Imilla, in Spanish. I followed along in English, and immediately went and read the whole thing. And the whole magazine, to which I have a subscription.

 

“Excruciating Beauty” Gets a Mention in Locus

Karen Burnham mentioned my recent story in the new magazine Constelacion in the March 2021 Locus magazine!

“The Excruciating Beauty of Ephemera” is a strangely sweet story centered on a sentient volcano that is as horrified by the damage it wreaks on a colony of frogs as on a group of volcanologists.”

“The Excruciating Beauty of Ephemera” in Constelación magazine

I’m really excited that my story, “The Excruciating Beauty of Ephemera” is out in the first issue of Constelacion magazine. In English and Spanish! It’s about a sentient volcano trying to do better.

“The slopes of the sentient volcano were covered with dying purple frogs. Vultures and other scavengers perched on the trees and picked at the little corpses. The volcano shuddered in agonies of guilt. Were the gases it emitted responsible? “

The illustration for the story is perfect!

illustration - volcano erupting
And look at this cover!

Magazine cover - Constelacion Jan 2021

Edited to Add:

I was delighted to find this story reviewed in Quick Sips reviews from Charles Payseur.

“The Excruciating Beauty of Ephemera” by Keyan Bowes (short story) – A strange and almost mythological story of a volcano distressed about the destruction it authors, seeking a way to live and let live, and finding an answer from a mysterious source. Grim but also kinda cute.

http://quicksipreviews.blogspot.com/2021/03/quick-sips-03052021.html

“Lepers” in Mysterion 2 Anthology

Back in January 2019, Mysterion reprinted my story, “Lepers.” (This may be my most-reprinted story by now!)

Anyway, Donald Crankshaw and Kristen Janz, the editors of Mysterion, have brought out a beautiful paperback anthology collecting the stories they published in 2018-19. “Lepers” is in it. 

This is a really good anthology. Its values are humane (not necessarily religious), its characters intriguing. In most anthologies, I like perhaps half the stories. In this one, I liked them all. (I also love that atmospheric cover art!)

“Wildest Dreams” in Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter

What a great way to start 2021! My story, “Wildest Dreams” appeared in the Flame Tree Fiction Newsletter for January.  It’s about a purveyor of Nightmares.

“The market’s saturated,” said Tey. The four of us lounged around the Starbucks table, sipping our coffee and arguing. Friends since college, arguing was what we did. “Once the dream-download software went open-source, everyone and their aunt got into the business. Online search’ll get you 19 million hits, minimum.”

“Right,’ I said. “What we’ll offer is downloadable nightmares.”

“Nightmares?” laughed Dany. “Who’d buy those?”

This story was written to their call for science fiction about online nightmares. I’m so pleased they accepted it!

“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.]