More reviews & publications: Locus, Book Muse, The Monarch Review, Lightspeed, Catapult, Scroll, 3 Quarks Daily

Another round of great reviews, press, and publications. Rave reviews for Technologies of the Self at Locus Magazine (Recommended Read from Rich Horton), Book Muse  (Recommended Read), The Monarch Review, and Sofia Samatar’s blog. Also, a reprint story and interview at Lightspeed, a thought piece at Catapult, and press at Scroll and 3 Quarks Daily.

Rich Horton reviewed Technologies in the June 2016 Issue of Locus as a Recommended Read: “The SF/fantasy angle is important, but it is one of those stories that use that angle as a way of getting at its (very involving) story of Jihad and his identity (or identities).”

Bookmuse Award BadgeCatriona Troth wrote a wonderful review at Book Muse, also as a Recommended Read. She describes “lamb with okra and a cup of fragrant tea” as the “perfect accompaniment” to the book and has these kind words to say: “Technologies of the Self is not exactly what the general reader might expect from science fiction / fantasy. Magic realism perhaps comes closer. But the book defies categorisation. The nearest I can come to summing it up is: a reflection on religion, philosophy and identity, by an author with the mind of a scientist and the soul of a poet.”

Ahsan Butt’s review at The Monarch Review might be my favorite yet. I wish the review said more about the craft, but Butt has precisely analyzed the story’s Foucauldian/Asadian/Hallaqian themes and subtext like none other. It’s an honor to see the work approached as I hoped it would be: “Part of the project of Technologies is the attempt, through symbol and speculative science, to reframe assumptions of neutrality and make visible the systems of power, as Durrani sees them. The devil, literally a “knight in shining armor”, buzzes in the shared space between his world and ours, manipulating histories, perpetuating genocides, and colonizing souls—imperceptible, until Tomas or Joe develop the inner sight to see him.”

And Sofia Samatar had these nice things to say about the book on her blog, categorizing Technologies as a “feast”: “This debut novella may be small, but it’s packed with the sights and sounds of crowded apartments, larger-than-life uncles, Dominican-Pakistani-Muslim life lessons, and oh yeah, a time-traveling space knight.”

Francisco Ortiz, The Capitulation of Granada, 1882.
Francisco Ortiz, The Capitulation of Granada, 1882.

Meanwhile, my essay on Andalucía, the Dominican Republic, modernity, and the patron saint of Spain, Santiago — the time-traveling demon from Technologies of the Self — just dropped at Catapult. Thank you to Daniel José Older for inviting me to write and Mensah Demary at Catapult for his astute editorial direction. It was an honor. I am grateful to Aneem Talukder, Sauleha Kamal, Anan Barqawi, Armando Lozano, and Sameea Butt for being supportive, critical first readers.

Lightspeed reprinted my 2013 Analog novelette, Tethered in its May 2016 Issue. It’s an interracial romantic tragedy/geopolitical thriller about space debris, oil, refugees, China, the U.N., Pakistan, surveillance, commercialized spaceflight, and the quite literal tragedies of the global commons. I wrote the story before the film Gravity, which I believe did not adequately capture the politics of the debris problem. Also, Lightspeed published an “Author Spotlight” interview with me about the story. You should buy the whole issue here. Thank you to John Joseph Adams and Rich Horton for mining this from its original publication in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and to Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers, where I wrote the earliest drafts. An earlier version was a Writers of the Future Semifinalist. This story was my first professional sale, so it is close to my heart.

Also, 3 Quarks Daily re-posted Writers of Colour’s glowing first review of Technologies. And Scroll released an excerpt about matriarchs, women generals, and Pasquale Paoli. Many thanks to the generous and supportive H.M. Naqvi for these promotions; he who was cool enough to call the book “a confident, wildly inventive debut, not to mention fizzy and fun and funny as hell – one of the best I have read in a long time.”

Lastly, I would like to share a fascinating response to the Catapult thought piece on Santiago. In the weeks since the book came out, readers have graciously told me how it sent them into tears, laughs, and existential mindtrips — all of which leaves me sadistically honored. That said, this detailed comment replying to the Santiago essay has to be among the most fascinating, disturbing, and politically invigorating responses to my work:

“I’m from Galicia, and I currently live in Santiago de Compostela, the holy city of catholicism where the Apostle is said to be buried. In Spain there’s a lot of self-criticism and self-punishment because of our ancestors “sins”: almost everyone (in full use of their reason) recognizes Santiago Matamoros as one of the most striking phenomena of late-medieval, early-modern imperialist propaganda, one even more outlandish and repulsive than, for an example, Viking raiding, to be sure. However, a week ago I entered the building of a religious school (Catholic, needless to say) and, to my huge surprise, Saint James was there in the hall, sword in hand, slaying moor kings with a nonchalant, mystical stare, in a giant (and expensive looking) vitral. Children played at his feet, and I felt they could as well be playing with the hair of the slayed moor head: it was a brutal and sinister vision. I ran through that door, never to return. The children, rolling in the floor looked into my eyes, their uniforms donned: I felt evil stemming from their strange goodbye stares, and mind it, I’m no moralist. If things doesn’t change, those children will grow to become the conservative elite of their city, their province, the country. Some will enter the church, some other the wolrd of business, most of them will mingle with politicians, with the sons and daughters of their parents’ friends, exerting some kind of rule upon the future of this old land…

“The cult of a violent Saint James is part of our heritage as people of Iberian culture (all of the diffrent Peninsular and American cultures), but it’s its survival in our times, and its dark shadow being cast upon current religious institutions and international relations that sends a shiver down my spine.

“Despite disagreeing in several points and reactions, I find this article well-thought and much needed, because certain old icons that “shame us” (an effect that casts an inmediate silence upon them, effectively cancelling any kind of discourse) need to be thoroughly analyzed, to be polemicized over, in order to shine a new light upon our cultures and atavic fears.”

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