Why We Started the Podcast

I’m not sure I ever told you folks WHY I decided to do a podcast with

Benjamin Rosenbaum. Ben and I tell one story, about our car ride up to WisCon every year, and the book tour road trip that didn’t happen because of the pandemic, and that’s a true story. But I think that wouldn’t have been enough to push us to podcast, not without the Portolan Project at the SLF.

That project started with the interviews I was doing for the SLF. My original idea was that I’d build out something like Khan Academy, but for creative writing, and I’d start with two kinds of interviews:

a) interviews with master writers, like George R.R. Martin (that was our first one), and those would be short, maybe 15-20 minutes, so it wouldn’t be too onerous for them to do, and so we could create little digestible chunks of writing craft instruction. We’d talk to them about specific things (George, epic fantasy; Paolo Bacigalupi, message fiction; Kate Elliott (world building), etc.

b) more in-depth interviews with up-and-coming writers, often highlighting writers of color, queer writers, women, and other marginalized voices, helping to bring them front and center in the conversation — that why we interviewed Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Vida Cruz, Minal Hajratwala, Nalo Hopkinson, Ajit George and Divya Srinivasan Breed — you can listen to all of those interviews on the SLF site.

But once I started recording, I realized I wanted to talk to other people too.

Scott Woods, for example.


Listen or read here: http://speculativeliterature.org/…/interviews/scott-woods/


Scott is a writer himself, certainly, a fabulous poet who also commits fiction, and we could have just spoken about that. But he’s also been central to revitalizing Columbus’s art scene, with a focus on making sure Black writers have their voices heard. It’s similar to the work @L.D. Lewis has been doing with FIYAH (and L.D. is a force of nature, having now also taken over as Grants Administrator for us at the SLF), and that Audrey T. Williams and Jasmine H. Wade have been doing with Ancestral Futures Press. (The two of them joined with Becca Gomez Farrell to create the SLF’s Bay Area chapter, and are already humming with activity.)

So none of that fits neatly into ‘interviewing writers,’ though they are all writers, of course. I want to talk to editors too, and agents, and heck, librarians and teachers and everyone involved in this business of cultural literary production, of shaping the world through the stories we tell. We need diverse futures, and inclusive ones. We need these people to help us imagine the possible, so we can get started building it.

I think it’s so important, to get those stories out there. In many ways, that’s become my life’s work. And talking to Ben about all this is a sheer joy — it makes the important work a pleasure and delight.

If you think that’s worthwhile, I hope you’ll contribute to our little Kickstarter. We need $1500 for pay for the first season’s audio and video editing, and we’re almost at $400 now. If you can spare a dollar or two, we’d love your support.

And if you can support us by liking / commenting / sharing, that’s super-valuable too. (Save me from having to pay Facebook ad money to boost these posts! It’s a little counter-productive when you’re running a fundraiser.)

Thanks, folks!

Join us: https://www.kickstarter.com/…/slf-podcast-mohanraj-and…/

SLF Interviews mentioned above: http://speculativeliterature.org/portolan…/interviews/

I Love SF/F, I Swear

Okay, so this is just funny to me. We asked Darius Vinesar to pull some clips from the podcast that we could use to advertise the Kickstarter. Right?

I have to note here, because it’s very relevant, that in addition to being our audio / video editor on the podcast, he’s also a young writer as well, who sometimes commits SF/F, and has studied with me teaching him in college.

So then he pulled this clip, which is me pontificating for 2.5 minutes on why college student sci-fi / fantasy actually often is pretty bad, and it’s no wonder that so many professors don’t allow it in their classrooms. (I know, some of you want to fight me now. Listen to the clip first! I love SF/F, I swear.)

And note that he DIDN’T pull the next bit, which is Benjamin Rosenbaum responding to my contention, even though you can see in the video that Ben has started counting on his fingers in response to my points, so he’ll remember how many things he wants to say in response…

…and I don’t actually remember now what he said, so we’ll have to listen to the podcast, I guess, to find out if he agreed with me or not. Eep.

Assuming we actually launch it! Did we mention, there’s a Kickstarter going? We’re at $399 out of a $1500 goal last month, and if you can throw a couple bucks our way to help pay our audio/video editor, then we can say a lot more things that you might want to argue with? That’s a great pitch, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

Join our Kickstarter here! For just $1, you could be one of the cool kids:


(As always, likes / comments / shares greatly appreciated for visibility!)

The Stars Change, but the Mind Remains the Same

Another tea towel arrived! I want to give a special shout-out to Jack Kotz here, my artist on The Stars Change (both cover and interior illustrations), who let me use his sketch of the capitol city of Kriti as the basis for my vintage travel tea towel design.

The slogan is the fictional university slogan from my book, borrowed from The University of Sydney: The stars change, but the mind remains the same. It seemed so apropos — I imagine the founders of the University of Sydney might have been thinking southern hemisphere and different constellations when they picked it. For my book, set on a terraforming planet far, far away, it’s even more appropriate.

I did intend that ‘mind remains the same’ to also work in a somewhat foreboding way — the book is set just as the first interstellar war is about to break out, when the old evils of fear of the Other have risen up once again. We may have made it to space, but we carry our blinkered human minds with us, with all that entails. Racism and xenophobia erupt, expressed in violence against both aliens, and genetically modified humans. My characters have to decide where they stand in that struggle, and what they’re willing to risk in order to help the more marginalized.

I wish I could send along chai and samosas when people order the book — this planet is mostly settled by South Asians, and there’s a great scene where they have to stop battle planning to fry up some samosas in the middle of the night. But that’s not really practical, so we’ll settle for a tea towel instead. You’ll have to make your own chai. ๐Ÿ™‚


“This is the world. This is the world he has come to destroy, a jewel of a world in the crown of the galaxy. The locals call it Kriti, which means creation. From his ship high above, he sees it all from the cabin windows. Charted Space, traced in lights against the midnight sky, worlds variously bright and dim and invisible, but there. There today, but not tomorrow. Some of those lights will die in what is to come; he has been promised that. Promised by quiet men in velvet-dressed rooms. There would be storms, there would be fire. The sturdy central core, Old Earth and its six daughters, might hold inviolate, at first. But the planets on the fringe, where alien, humod, and human mixed, where like rubbed up against unlike on a daily basis — those worlds were ripe for destruction, ready for the cleansing fire.

So said the men in the velvet rooms, grave and certain in their embroidered robes. They said Jump, and he jumped. And here he was, on a ship that had Jumped from the center to the fringe. Seven Jumps through holes across the galaxy, and now he was far, farther from home than he had ever been or wanted to be. They had paid him for his labor, had insisted. He could have wished for Old Earth coins instead of credits on his chip, thirty silver coins that he could pour from one hand to the next, that he could spill onto the floor in bitter bright profusion…”


May Need a Cup of Tea

Definitely writing slower than yesterday, but chugging along. May need a cup of tea to keep me going. 9780 words so far, breaking for an hour for dinner, then planning to come back to write for a few more hours. I don’t really have to get to 15,000 words; if I turn in 13,000, that’ll just leave some room for expansion in the second draft. We’ll see how it goes.


She soon discovered that attempts at preserving the girlsโ€™ modesty was mostly a sham. The joker girls all seemed to be wild junglee girls; they acted as if it didnโ€™t matter what they did, or with whom. Since now none of them would be allowed to legally marry, maybe they had the right of it. One or the other of them was always sneaking off (and sometimes, two of them together); the other girls seemed to think it was all a big joke.

For Readers and Writers Both

We’re almost up to $400 on the Kickstarter, which is pretty good progress for 5 days in, I think! (Aiming for $1500 total.) Here’s today’s three-minute podcast clip — this one’s for readers and for writers both.

Ben and I start this clip talking about my trying not to mis-step around trans issues with my story, “Webs,” about sensitivity readers and not hurting people around historical oppressions, but then Ben goes off into what actually happens when readers read your story, which gives me a whole new way to think about this process.

One of the reasons I wanted Ben as a co-host is that he often has a really different angle of view on these issues, a different way of framing them, that I find fascinating and productive.

If you liked this and want lots more, you can support our podcast Kickstarter here — “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans”:


(Likes / comments / shares very much appreciated for visibility!)

The Death of Each Day’s Life

Story is finished and turned in, and since it’s not midnight in California yet, I’m going to claim I made my deadline. Just 11,350 words in the end, so quite a bit shorter than the 15K goal, but that can be addressed in revision. It’s been a while since I did this kind of marathon writing session; nice to know I still have it in me. I even like the story. ๐Ÿ™‚

And now, to bed. Oh, sweet, sweet bed. Sweet sweet sleep.

โ€œSleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.โ€ – Shakespeare

That dude knew what he was talking about.