Imagining New Futures: The Sci-Fi Story of Shweta Taneja Nominated for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire
Shweta Taneja is delighted her short story set in post-apocalyptic India has been nominated for a French literary award
Shweta Taneja is back in Bangalore for good. “After traveling the world for the past two years, I am back in Bangalore, finally settled in North Bangalore again,” said the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) writer. “Although the city is shaking through a phase of development, I think it is a wonderful place for writers to thrive. There’s just the right mix of attitude, creative exposure, and people in the creative and scientific fields, to keep me inspired.
And there is a wonderful homecoming gift for Shweta. Its short history, The bleeding girl (translated into French by The Bleeding Girl by Mikael Cabon) was shortlisted for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards 2020, a French literary prize for science fiction and fantasy.
Shweta says, “I wrote it between the books of Anantya Tantrist (a fantasy trilogy starring a tantric detective), submitted it to a few places in 2017, got rejected and forgot about it.” . Then, when the editor of an anthology asked me for a story, I remembered that I had written this one and submitted it. It was eventually published in English in The best Asian speculative fiction in 2018 and received the Editor’s Choice Award.
Shweta says that in 2019 the story was translated into French and published by SF galaxies, a science fiction magazine in France that publishes news and articles in French, all related to speculative fiction. “I met publisher Pierre Gevart at Eurocon, an SFF festival where I gave a conference on Asian science fiction and fantasy. The story was also published in Dutch and Romanian science fiction magazines last year.
- Anantya Tantrist, is a fiery and rude occult detective who solves crimes in a Delhi where all kinds of fantastic creatures coexist with ordinary people. To date, there are three Tantrist novels from Anantya – The cult of chaos (2015), The Matsya Curse (2017) and Queen Rakta (2018)
Galaxies sent the story to the national committee for the Grands Prix de l’Imaginaire. “It was a jury that read all the news in translation released in France in 2019 and selected mine as one of the finalists. I am still amazed at the appointment. I found out when I received a congratulatory email from Gevart.
Admitting to love writing speculative fiction, Shweta says, “It’s such a wonderful genre to examine alternatives in societies, imagine new futures, or even reflect the present. I have already written short films for two anthologies this year and I plan to write a few more. The bleeding girl will be republished in a new anthology this year on South Asian Women’s Voices on Violence Against Women which features works by people like Deepti Naval, Kamala Das and Aruna Chakravarti. ” The bleeding girl tells of a post-apocalyptic India where very few women can have their period and therefore have children. “Around the world, girls who bleed are valued both socially and economically and sold in special markets to the highest bidder. It was while researching menstruation for Anantya Tantrist’s third novel, Queen Rakta, that the idea germinated in my head. I wondered what would happen in a patriarchal society where bleeding women are rare. As I like to explore issues through humor, the story had to be bursting with laughter. I am happy to see that this is how it turned out. “
On women’s reproductive health in speculative fiction, Shweta says, “Speculative fiction is about exploring future alternatives and how new technologies, new possibilities are changing the fabric of our society and the way we perceive gender. This is why the authors of SF explore and continue to explore the societal, cultural and biological consequences of new reproductive technologies. Explorations could range from new roles for women around reproduction as in the work of Margaret Atwood, to interspecies reproduction as in the work of Octavia E Butler, or even the fluidity of gender and politics that surrounds him as seen in the novels of Ursula Le Guin.
Shweta does not believe, however, that women’s reproductive health has become a trope. “Much of SF writing sticks to newer, more streamlined spaceships and weapon systems, pursuing colonial-era desires in space.”