Sigh. I’ve been watching Madam Secretary while sewing masks recently, and the current episode is on Sri Lanka (season 4, episode 13), and as you might expect, I was excited to see how they’d engage with the complex Sri Lankan political situation…this could be really juicy.

There’s certainly PLENTY to engage with on a political show, even if you stick to the previous decades of ethnic conflict and don’t try to bring in the current Sri Lankan administration or the recent elections, which I admit might be tricky ground for an entertainment show, but you could totally bring in the current situation with China buying up so much of Sri Lanka’s shoreline, which would tie in well to the ongoing U.S. / China rivalry thread on the show…

Until I realized that oh, no. The entire episode is going to be focused on the Sri Lankan President’s tasseographer (tea leaf reader), and how the spirits have told him that this trade deal cannot go forward. Just, gah.

This is just such lazy orientalist writing. If the producers had bothered to get a Sri Lankan writer as a consultant on this — me, or Sugi Ganeshananthan, or Nayomi Munaweera, or a host of others, we could have helped them write SUCH a better episode. Seriously disappointing.

And the dialogue, gah:

The Sri Lankan president: “Ranuga is going to grace us with a reading. He will tell you things about yourself you never knew…”

Ranuga: “In truth, I say nothing. I am merely the earthly chalice the spirits have chosen to fill with their wisdom….”


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Morning Mask-Sewing

Morning mask-sewing; this batch is ready to go out. A little more gardening next, some lunch, then writing-related work for the afternoon — urgent e-mail and Wild Cards joint plotting and revising a short story, drafting a food essay, perhaps. Okay, that probably won’t ALL get done this afternoon. But it’s okay if some of it spills over to tomorrow.

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Science-y Brainstorming Help?

Science-y brainstorming help? So, I’m about to start on what I hope will the final revision of my current SF novel (lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we’ve thought THAT before, but anyway…) — and a lot of what I want to do with this last revision is…color in the world, a bit more, if that makes sense.

Layer in more of the world’s physicality, specifically, because while I think I’ve done a decent job on the human culture, the environment is a little lacking. And partly that’s because I don’t know as much as I’d like about terraforming, even in theory.

This is what I have so far:

– a planet that is low on oxygen for humans — breathable, but borderline
– its temperature where the humans live is temperate (but I haven’t specified yet where on the planet the humans live, so they could be at the equator, or near the pole, or in between)
– it’s overall somewhat arid — producing more water is part of the terraforming process (um, how do you do that?)

– domed cities (2 of them, one big capital city, one smaller) with good human air recirculated, mixed income
– agricultural and mining and industrial settlements out in the ‘badlands,’ essentially, with that population fairly poor
– lots of terraforming work happening, at least in part through big algae production to put more oxygen in the atmosphere (which I’m assuming is a generations-long process)

– some native plants, some of which will presumably survive the changing atmosphere, and some won’t
– some native animals? But here’s where I start to get a bit fuzzy; I’ve specified almost nothing about them
– some native insects (not mentioned yet, but presumably have to be there for pollination and on the evolutionary path towards the animals?)

I think that’s it. I’d like especially to fill in more of the landscape, the insects and animals, the plants, the seasons / climate, pin down where the cities and settlements are on the planet, and there’s a lot of wiggle room there. Would love any brainstorm-y thoughts you have, even if they’re mutually contradictory. 

Science people, if we can ground this in something real, even better!

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Another Pitch Sale for Wild Cards

Pleased to note another pitch sale for Wild Cards, to the upcoming volume “Sleeper Straddle”. This is going to be a perhaps slightly challenging story to write; I pitched them an alternate history Sri Lanka, set in the present day. In the Wild Cards universe, Jayawardene negotiated a peace with the Tamil Tigers some time back, so for a long time, the island was relatively quiet, and the LTTE are no longer a major political force.

But in this story, rising Sinhala nationalism has become coupled to narratives of purity and anti-joker (and ace) sentiment, leading to ghettoization, etc. and a new resistance movement has formed; my protagonist Nikisha, is a young rebel woman fighting with them. She’s Tamil, but also affected by the Wild Card, with a body that has been changed and a little bit of a superpower…

This new group is trying to occupy a moral high ground, so they haven’t utilized suicide bombers, child soldiers, etc. But it’s still complex and murky, as such conflicts often are. Will be fascinating to explore.

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Jump Space Reading

This is fun: “Join the Sanskaari Girls Book Club for a reading of “Jump Space” by Mary Anne Mohanraj, this pride month. The queer short stories are about a family, which goes on a trip, and encounters the appeals and limits of intimacy.”

When June 17, 8.30-10 PM
Contact: @sanskaarigirls, Instagram

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Fingers and Spoons

Woot! It looks like one of my picture book projects, “Fingers and Spoons,” is going to be picked up by a lovely indie press. More details when the contract is inked, in about a month or so, but it’s a very nice way to start the summer-of-writing.

Thanks again to everyone who gave me feedback on this manuscript over the years it’s taken to get to this point. Who would have thought getting so few words right would be so hard? 

I do think I want to write under a slightly different name for my kids / middle-grade / YA ventures. (I haven’t published any of the latter, but there are books in progress.). So I need to settle on a name to use. If you have opinions (esp. if you know about publishing, or if you’re a teacher or kids’ librarian), feel free to weigh in:

– Mary Mohanraj

– Mary A. Mohanraj

– Amirthi Mohanraj

(Amirthi is my middle name, and what I’m known by in my family and the Sri Lankan community.)

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First Day of Summer Writing Report

First day of summer writing report — I started an hour later than intended, and interrupted myself many times, but hey, 1400 words on a new story. The goal was 1000, and even if it took twice as long as it should’ve, we’ll call it a win. Onwards. Here’s the opening. 


Anika reached out to touch her husband’s hand, knowing she shouldn’t disturb his sleep, but needing the reassurance. Her sleep had been troubled, a roiling mass of incoherent dreams, dark figures striding across a shadowed landscape, torches blazing. Stephen made small, grumbly noise, but then his fingers curled around hers, squeezing.

“You okay?”

“Bad dreams.”

He tugged, and she shifted closer, into the shelter of his arms. “Me too,” he said. “All those torches…”

Anika took a quick, startled breath. It had been a long, long time since they’d walked in each others’ dreams. It happened so rarely once the children had arrived, and she’d assumed the gift had mostly been smothered by the daily weight of meal planning, homework supervising, doctor’s appointments and clothes sorting. Their minds were so full, between the children and their own work, there wasn’t much room left for…well, whatever the dream-walking had been. They’d never really found a good word for it.

“Mom!” Roshan at the bedroom door, sounding vaguely irritated. “Your phone keeps buzzing and buzzing.” He held it out in one hand, his eyes still fixed on the device in his other hand, undoubtedly deep into whatever game he was currently playing.

“Thanks, sweetie.” She’d decided to try keeping the phone *not* in the bedroom, hoping to sleep better, but hadn’t factored in that some callers could be persistent. “It’s Shruthi; I’d better call her back. She was on-call last night, and all the riots are bringing back bad memories. I’m sure she got a lot less sleep than we did.”

Stephen squeezed and released her, and Anika rolled out of bed, knowing he’d be deep in sleep again shortly. Time to get to work.


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Does Anyone Read Newsletters Anymore?

Folks, does anyone actually read newsletters anymore? One of the Nebula panels I attended yesterday was insistent on the need for newsletters for authors, esp. indie authors, and claimed that readers LOVED them. My own e-mail is a trash fire, and as a result, I have been very slack about setting up a monthly newsletter, but if people would actually like one from me, I can do that…

…or rather, I can probably assign one of my brilliant young part-time Serendib staffers (former interns for the SLF, but I have snagged them!) to troll through my posts for the last month, pull out the most important things, and compile a little newsletter draft, which I would then look over and tweak.

(How long should such a thing be? A single page, including pictures, seems very short to fit much in, but maybe I am overly verbose?)

I mean, maybe you’re the wrong people to ask, since you’re reading me here way too often as it is. But in case you have thoughts, would love to hear them.

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World Fantasy Going Virtual

Quick note for SF/F writers. World Fantasy just e-mailed to announce that they’re cancelling and going virtual. I’m saddened that I won’t be going to Salt Lake City this fall, but I do think this was the wise decision (and taken out of their hands by the hotel cancelling.)

Having just attended the Nebulas this weekend virtually, and found it immensely useful and much more social than I’d expected, I’m delighted to note that this is happening, and that the registration cost of $125 for the virtual WFC is a very good investment for those serious about their writing career.

Usually attending WFC is much more expensive, esp. when you factor in travel costs. I’m registering now, and recommend it unto you. October 29 – November 1.

ALSO, they will surely need a lot of volunteers to pull this off well, so if you have time to volunteer, do consider it. It’s a great way to get involved and get to know people.

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In the Midst of All This

In the midst of all this, books still come out, and writers tell you about them. This recently arrived at my door, and I have to admit, it’s a little bit of a thrill, still, seeing my name in that table of contents.

Twenty-five years into this writing thing, I’m clear that I’m never going to get over the fact that I turned into a person who writes books. The little ardent reader child who practically lived in the library is delighted. When I publish my 100th book (yes, I’m aiming for that, if Asimov could do it, why not me?), I’ll still be delighted.

Three Kings works as a stand-alone Wild Cards (George R.R. Martin’s superhero series) book, though you might get a bit more out of it if you read the first British book beforehand, Knaves over Queens. That introduces some of the characters. Three Kings isn’t yet available in the U.S., but can be purchased through Amazon UK, I believe?

Which seems like it sort of makes a mockery of the whole national boundaries thing, given that I think I can buy it right now for my Kindle and have it instantly downloaded, or even get it free with an Audible trial, but anything that makes a mockery of the idea of national boundaries is probably okay with me anyway…


There are a lot of Wild Cards books listed there! Fort Freak is a good starting point, with the reboot of the series, which is also where I come in. If you’re just looking for the ones I’ve contributed to, you’d want:

The Fort Freak Triad:

• Fort Freak

• Lowball

• High Stakes (I didn’t actually write for this, because I was going through cancer treatment at the time, but my characters’ story arcs complete here for the trilogy)

…then you could read:

• Low Chicago (picks up the Natya character from the Fort Freak triad, standalone book otherwise)


• Three Kings (my main character here is Alan Turing!)

and forthcoming standalone books:

• reissue of Deuces Down (featuring Retazos)

• Joker Moon (featuring The Moon Maid)

I’m going to be working on some pitches for three new WC books next. We’ll see if George likes any of them. (All of them? That’d be nice. )

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