I recently filled out an author interview at Smashwords, and one of the questions had to do with my approach to the writing process. I’m posting the answer to that question here on the blog, since there was some interest in the question after my commentary on the release of Draft Beta. I answer this and nine other questions in the full interview, so check it out!
My debut novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, is one step closer to publication! Thanks to the excellent feedback I got in response to Draft Alpha, I was able to implement a number of much-needed revisions. Draft Beta went out last night with several structural changes, a more streamlined set of character arcs, and over 6,000 words of “deepening”… character backstory, fleshed out relationships, more windows into emotional reactions of POV characters, and higher stakes for scene-level character motivations.
During the world-building process for Red Soil Through Our Fingers, I spent a lot of time on Google Mars exploring the surface of the red planet for possible settings. I settled (no pun intended) on a region just northeast of the Hellas Planitia, a large depression in the southern hemisphere. Hellas is the lowest altitude point on Mars’ surface, and hence the highest ambient pressure and temperature. It is one of the areas with the highest probability of liquid or near-liquid water on the planet.
Below are some excepts from the novel, currently approaching Draft Alpha (first complete revision).
My novel-in-progress, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, takes place in a farming settlement that is part of a Mars colony. As I wrote Draft Zero, there was a lot of handwavium going on with respect to various technical details — the focus on just finishing the story. Now that I’ve progressed about a quarter of the way into Draft Alpha, I’m needing to clean up some inconsistencies and gaps. Today I figured out a piece of the story world that is good for me to know as I construct the novel, but probably won’t make it explicitly into the next of the work: how various molecules necessary for both human life and agriculture are going to be circulated on this Mars colony.
I’m excited to be collaborating with graphic artist (and childhood friend) Stephenie Hoover on cover art for some of my work. A few months ago I sent out an email query to several friends that I knew were into graphic art, asking if anyone could be interested in working with a writer to develop cover art and other hybrid creative projects. Stephanie responded, and a few weeks later she had the first pass of a cover for my short story Remembering Turinam ready. I really like how she made Grandfather’s farm real in the near-ground, with the imagery of the Turinam valley, the Khem river, and the Dorhal mountain range forming a grand backdrop in in the distance. I’ll be honest — it’s not actually how I imagined the scene as the writer. And I think that’s a great thing.
Language is a technology, a doorway, a weapon, and an agent of change and hope. As it shifts both form and function, the metaphors that describe it change too.
Language is a technology that has shaped our brains. Ted Chiang’s novelette The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling (a Hugo nominee last year) particularly struck me as revolving around the same complex issues — how important language and particularly writing has been to the human psyche. Language changes the way we think — it is a tool that can be both used and misused to great effect.
The podcast The Writer and the Critic has reviewed both “We See a Different Frontier” and “Long Hidden” in their Episode 39. They discuss “Remembering Turinam” specifically as well.
The review was several months ago, but I figured better late than never. My response time to everything outside of work drops to almost zero during the school year!
Thanks for the review!
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do anything writing related, including update this blog. But there has been exciting news!
The anthology is overtly political from the standpoint of the editors:
This anthology of speculative fiction stories on the themes of colonialism and cultural imperialism focuses on the viewpoints of the colonized. Sixteen authors share their experiences of being the silent voices in history and on the wrong side of the final frontier; their fantasies of a reality in which straight, cis, able-bodied, rich, anglophone, white males don’t tell us how they won every war; and their revenge against the alien oppressor settling their “new world”.
But this does not mean that the collection is one-sided or polemical. I have been alternately intrigued, challenged, angered, and inspired when reading this anthology.
Nalin has written the short story “Remembering Turinam,” a complex story which spoke to me on many levels. It is a sad story about a meeting between a young man and his grandfather. Also, the idea of language as a tool in colonization is strong in the story, something I believe to be very true. One thing is a dominant military force, but the silent conquer through education, language, culture, is perhaps even more brutal. Like the editors Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad write in the introduction in the anthology: «That suppression of culture and especially language are common tactics in the repression of a people, and as effective as violence itself.” I really liked how Nalin weaved the plot around this.
The story gives much food for thoughts and pondering, which I love. I’m so happy Nalin took the time to answer some of my questions.
You can read the interview in full over at her blog.
A complete listing of publication venues and reviews is available from the editor’s blog at The Future Fire.
Tournevis at the blog Le Pouding à l’arsenic has posted an early review of the colonialism-themed anthology We See a Different Frontier. The anthology will be published this month in both print and electronic versions and includes my first professional sale, a short story called Rembering Turinam.
I’m honored to have been called out for particular attention in the review:
I could laud every single story in the collection, but let me turn the light on two in particular that have stayed with me and even found their way into my dreams.
A more powerful exploration of Politics of Memory is found in the incredibly well-written, nearly perfect “Remembering Turinam” by N.A. Ratnayake. Here the scholar Salai walks from his world’s (a future-Earth maybe) equivalent of a university the Heremitian Anushasan, formely [sic] specialized in the exploration of the abstract sciences. He goes to visit his grand-father, a former member of the same Anushasan, now living as a near hermit in his very final days. […] Ratnayake is brilliant in showing the subtleties of Salai’s colonized mind. More importantly, the author displays in all its tragedy the paradoxes of cultural survival in the face of conquest: how only those who choose assimilation can live long enough to ultimately reclaim the culture that has been willfully lost.
Wow! I am so happy to hear that others have enjoyed my stories, and that they have found deep personal meaning within them. Nothing like the warm fuzzies as motivation to keep writing!
My first professional publication emerged earlier this month in Crossed Genres Magazine, Issue 7. The Parched Lands delves into the tangled issues of race, tracking, high-stakes testing, and creativity starvation that run through America’s public school systems.
When the bell rang at the end of class, Amanthi was crashing from a dopamine high. She raised her slight, brown hand as her thin body shook, and when her arm brushed against her long, black hair she felt the slick dampness of sweat.
Mr. Daveys was moving around the classroom helping students disconnect from their desks, congratulating or reprimanding as appropriate based on measured performance for the day.
Amanthi could feel that something was wrong, but found herself unable to articulate any words though the shaking of her body. Kassidi, sitting next to her, looked over and noticed her wan trembling, and spoke up.
“Mr. Daveys” Kassidi said sharply. “Something’s wrong with Amanthi!” The teacher glanced up from his IV work and in a moment rushed over, fussing over Amanthi and checking her forehead. He held up a datapad and allowed its cameras to analyze her. The red eye of the infrared and the black eye of the optical glass stared at Amanthi, and she suddenly felt weak and ill.
Find out more at CG…