Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Knock, Knock!

My story, "Knock, Knock!", published earlier in the Australian print magazine, Skive, has been reprinted in their sister mag, "Skiveflash", which is a webzine as well as a downloadable magazine for mobile phones and pdas. Here is the link to the story: Knock, Knock!.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Magic of The Rings

My critical essay, The Magic of the Rings is Temperamental, is now online at New Myths. Click on the link above, read the article and let me know what you think about it.

ADDENDUM TO THE ARTICLE

I have been receiving some very intelligent and interesting comments on my article and I plan to post excerpts from these comments right here as an addendum to the article. Those who enjoyed the article will definitely find enjoyment and information in these comments.

"The serial publication of The Pickwick Papers was a hundred years before TLOTR was being written. Tolkien was addicted to reading and could easily have read it in his school library as a youth. I'll have to check if Snodgrass is anything like Fredegar Bolger, the fifth hobbit who stayed behind. (It's my personal theory that Neville Longbottom owes a lot in the last Harry Potter novel to Fatty Bolger and his resistance efforts on the home front while his pals were off in the wilderness.) But the clincher for the Pickwick influence suggestion (beyond the characters of Sam and Sam) is the character of Trotter. During the first few drafts of Book One, the character of Strider was called Trotter." [Paula Johanson, writer and member of SF Canada]

*****

"I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of influence was there, however -- I mean, it seems likely that Tolkien was very familiar with Dickens's works in general and The Pickwick Papers in particular. And let's face it: In one sense, Tolkien was trying to make the The Lord of the Rings trilogy derivative. In his mind he was crafting those English legends that should have been born; and in order to craft them convincingly, he drew from what he regarded as fundamental themes, values, and archetypes. He incorporated the seemingly universal notion of a lost Golden age, the heroism of Beowulf and the Nibelungenlied, the consequences of industrialization on the countryside, the horrors of World War I, and, of course, the principles of Roman Catholicism. Faced with the task of involving quintessentially English characters, why would he search beyond Dickens's works?" [Sean M. Foster, writer. The above quote is taken from his comments to this post.]

*****

"Tolkien being derivative of the common heritage of myths and folklore does not disturb me, whether we're talking of the Nibelungen or of the many other sources he uses for Middle-Earth. (Once upon a time, when I read a lot of medieval romances in a row for my Ph.D., I noticed a few things that Tolkien might have lifted, but then writers should be congratulated on stealing things from obscure sources; bringing them out of obscurity and into the light might deserve thanks, no?) After all, it's one of the conceits of Tolkien that Middle-Earth is the past of our own world, so that it might be expected for stories of Middle-Earth to still echo in the myths and legends remembered centuries later.

"It's when he is derivative of modern popular fiction that I am more unsettled. (That might include _The Pickwick Papers_, if only Icould recollect the tales clearly.) For instance, there's an entire sequence where the unwary reader might think he's wandered into a Western. Take the last chapters of the first volume, when the Fellowship is sailing down Anduin, and they are shadowed by skulking orcs (or something) in the woods, sometimes escaping volleys of arrows... Just imagine Boromir muttering darkly "The natives are restless" and you can see this as an artless rewrite of a lot of colonial adventures with the small hardy band of European explorers venturing down (or up) an unknown river while the natives are chanting in the night... The horror, the horror!

"This leads us into the long chase led by Aragorn into Rohan. And there you have him peering into the distance, tracking the orcs and hobbits like a true frontiersman, and putting an ear to the ground in the best Leatherstocking/Hawkeye---or Winnetou---fashion. (It makes probably more sense in Middle-Earth than on the Kansas plains, come to think of it.) Or is that John Wayne chasing after some Indian captives? I spotted that when I first read it, but it doesn't really detract from it for me. By now, when I return to TLOTR, it's more for the enjoyment of the familiar. And, like I've said before, I've also made discoveries over time. Ever since I've hiked some of the lanes and byways of rural France, I've gained a new appreciation for the realism of the first volume, where Tolkien depicts quite well the challenges of long-distance travel on foot.

"I think that part of the effect of TLOTR on young readers came from the fact that Tolkien was leaping across the early twentieth century and literary modernism by importing into his fiction some of the commonplaces of nineteenth century popular fiction (westerns, the translated medieval romances that were popular in English at the time, and now Dickens, it seems). The unfamiliarity of some of this for younger readers made it seem fresher than it might have at an earlier time. There may be a lesson in that for older writers. If you wait long enough, what you write may actually gain in apparent originality. :-)" [Jean-Louis Trudel, writer and member of SF Canada]

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Meaning of Life and Other Clichés

The above story has been reprinted in the latest issue of "7th Dimension", in both print and web versions. Here is the link to the web version: Meaning of Life and Other Clichés.

Now, I hope the title of this post does not invite some spam. The other day, when I mentioned this story in another post, I received a spam comment from some person about a book he has written which objectively explains the meaning of life. Don't go looking for that comment. I deleted it. Hence, the meaning of life still remains a mystery.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Updates Backlog

It has been ages since I updated my blog and therefore there is quite a bit of news to share:

1. My critical essay on Lord of The Rings, titled "The Magic of the Rings is Temperamental", will be appearing next month in the first issue of "New Myths" at NewMyths.com.

2. My story, "Synchronicity", has been published in Vulgata at www.vulgatamagazine.org. I am really happy about the publishing of this story because in spite of the fact that this is one of my stories that are very near and dear to my heart, I had a hard time placing it as this is one of those stories that don't seem to fit any known classification pigeon hole.

[As an added bonus, I have found 2 more editors to be added to my list of good editors: Scott Barnes of New Myths and Melinda Selmys of Vulgata.]

3. My story, "Knock, Knock", will be published in the December 2007 issue of Skive, a print magazine. In fact the editor, Matt Ward, informed me that the cover of the magazine is based on my story - and I loved that cover! Here is the link. Look for yourself: Skive Cover.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Anthology Call from Moi

While the current anthology that I was editing, "SF Waxes Philosophical", undergoes preparation to be published in November, I have been commissioned to do another anthology.

Mohammad Aurangzeb Ahmad is a freelance writer and doctoral student in Computer Science. He created and maintains what is probably the most extensive resource on the subject of "Islam and SF" - Muslims Writing Science Fiction.

He has asked me to co-edit an anthology of SF stories that feature Islam or at least one Muslim character in a positive light. He feels that at these times when Islam and Muslims are being negatively stereotyped, an anthology of this kind would be a good idea. And I agree.

So here is the call:

Theme: As above.

Genre: SF or fantasy. No horror, please.

Length: Any

Reprints: Okay.

Simultaneous Submissions: No

Deadline: January 31, 2008

Rights: One time anthology rights

Send submissions as .doc or .rtf attachments to ai_59@yahoo.com.

Payment: Oh yes! This time, the authors will be paid, though the payment will be nominal - 1 cent per word, with a minimum of $10 and maximum of $40 + a contributor's copy. The payment will be upon publication.

Meanwhile, call for the other anthology that I was planning, i.e. on the theme of communication barriers, will probably go out in a couple of weeks.

Hoo boy! Am I going to be busy!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eid

Yesterday was the last day of fasting. Today, I celebrate Eid.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Election Day

Provincial election day, here. And something funny happened to me. I just found out that some hacker somehow managed to use my email address to send emails to the local candidates. Thank God, the emails sent in my name are decent enough. Nevertheless, I will try to inform the candidates that that email was not from me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Stylish Rejection

The form rejection that I received today from "Defenestration" magazine was both stylish and funny. It came in the form of a haiku:

Thank you for the stuff.
With great care, we all read it.
Sadly: not for us

If one does receive rejections, wish they are this entertaining.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Month of Ramadhan Commences

Today is the first day of fasting. Good wishes for the month of Ramadhan to everyone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Writerly Work

Found some new genre and mainstream markets through Duotrope (http://www.duotrope.com) and submitted 8 stories (7 reprints and 1 original) to 8 venues - the breakdown of the stories being: 1 SF, 2 fantasies, 2 mysteries and 3 mainstream.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Submissions update

Of the 12 stories in circulation, I received one acceptance (the one from Mindflights, reported earlier). Two stories came back home. I patted their heads and sent them out in the wide world again. So now I have 11 stories in circulation.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Pulsar and the Planet

Another story of mine has been published: this one at Anotherealm, here:

The Pulsar And The Planet.

Please read and comment.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Acceptance at Mindflights

My story, "Infringement", has been accepted for publication at "Mindflights". It is a short-short of only about 80 words. I will provide the link to the story once it is published. At 80 words, it should be an easy read. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007



Different color text, based on Jetse's suggestion. Also, a quote from Shakespeare has been added at the top. Click on the image to enlarge it and read the quote. I would like to thank Matt Hughes for pointing out the appropriateness of this quote to the theme of the anthology.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Anthology Cover


Here is the rough draft of the cover for "SF Waxes Philosophical". The cover design and artwork is by Laura Givens.

Ego Boosters and Other Things

Since its publication in Interzone 211, I have been hungrily searching for reviews of my story, particularly the positive ones. So far, my searches have been amply rewarded.

I felt like collecting the reviews here so that any time in future I felt particularly low about any of my writing projects, I could just re-read this post and get a boost.

Here goes:

Ahmed A. Khan's one-page short-short "Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres" delivers what it can reasonably promise given its concept and length, a playful piece on the slipperiness of genre boundaries, flitting from one to another between one sentence or paragraph and the next. In relating the simple story of a science teacher's vacation on the moon (that, of course, would be the science-fiction part), it tends toward the cute rather than the revolutionary, but the wry humor in the last bit made for a very satisfying cap to the tale. Tangent Online

...a rather sardonic piece Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres by Ahmed A. Khan, which tells a very short story, switching between genre conventions as it does so. Anthony G. Williams on his "Science Fiction and Fantasy" blog

Ahmed A. Khan’s 'Elevator Episodes' is a neat little trick, but depends on it's multi-genre gimmick rather than plot or character, hardly surprising given that it's only a thousand words long. Colin Harvey at "Suite101"

"Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres" by Ahmed A Khan: Short-short comedy with a nice punchline,and a serious point about the limitations of genre assignments. Londonkds blog at livejournal

Ahmed A. Khan's short piece gave me a good chuckle, too - and it's nice to see someone playing around with form in an SF context. Mike Alexander on the TTA Press forum

"Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres" by Ahmed A. Khan gave me a solid chuckle. Douglas Cohen - the Slushmaster at Realms of Fantasy - on his blog

Okay, that is for the ego-boost.

On other fronts, this weekend I went camping with my family and friends and had loads of fun in spite of a huge thunderstorm one night.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Obit - Qurratulain Hyder

Just heard the sad news of the passing away of one of my favourite Urdu writer: Qurratulain Hyder. Here is a link to a nice OBIT.

Her novel, Aag Ka Darya (River of Fire), is one of the best novels (Urdu or otherwise) ever written.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On the Writing Front...

...the last couple of weeks have been good.

- Completed and submitted 2 new stories.
- Complied with revision request for 1 story.
- Recirculated 4 of my stories.

And with that, I have all my unpublished stories (12, to be exact) in circulation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A PEACE OF SORTS

I have just finished writing an SF story. It is titled "A Peace of Sorts" and runs to about 1500 words. I am quite happy with how this story turned out. I think I have done something right, and in just so many words too. Out it goes today, probably to F&SF. Let's see what GVG and JJA think about it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mundane SF

Just completed and submitted a 1000 word story to the Mundane SF issue of Interzone.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Free Story of the Week #3

Anotherealm often runs flash contests. I rarely participate but sometimes, the contest theme is so intriguing that I cannot resist. One such competition was run back in 2001. Jean Goldstrom, then editor of Anotherealm, came up with a starting sentence:

It started out like any typical day in suburbia. Percolators perked, toasters toasted, garage doors opened to disgorge cars heading toward the freeway. Everything was beautifully ordinary, until the shadow passed over it changing everything in its wake.

The writers would continue from this point and go every which way they wanted to go. Somehow, the sentence managed to get my creative juices flowing and I dashed off a flash (about 250 words) in the next 15 minutes and sent it to Anotherealm.

And here it is: Until The Shadow....

Saturday, August 4, 2007

SF Waxes Philosophical

Those of you who had been following my old blog at http://ahmedakhan.journalspace.com know that I was editing an anthology of SF with philosophical underpinnings. The TOC of that anthology, SF Waxes Philosophical, has been finalised. Here it is in alphabetical order:

Michael Bishop: Diary of a Dead Man
Douglas van Belle: The Squirrel That Didn't Bark
Paul Carlson: Waveform
Sean Foster: Different and Again Different
Ren Holton: Lords of Light
Matt Hughes: Liw Osfeo and the Worm
Luke Jackson: The Saving Power
Ahmed A. Khan: The Shores of Id (I have reasons for including one of mine. See below.)
Ted Kosmatka: The God Engine
Marian Powell: Categorical Imperative
Ian Shoebridge: The Day the World Lost Gravity
Steven Utley: Chaos and the Gods
Jetse de Vries: The Third Scholar
Casey Wolf: These Old Bones

Need it be said that I am extremely happy with this anthology? I have received excellent stories in spite of (or because of) the challenging theme.

I have included one of my stories in the anthology for 4 reasons:

Reason #1: When I did not include any story of mine in the previous anthology, "Fall and Rise" (because I thought it was not good form), some of my friends and fellow writers (including some who were included in that anthology) berated me for not doing so. I care more about friends than form.

Reason #2: The anthology had stories dealing with western philosophy; it had stories dealing with far-eastern philosophy; but it did not have any story dealing with middle-eastern philosophy. So I thought my story would strike a right balance.

Reason #3: I think it is a nice story.

Reason #4: Haven't you ever heard of shameless self-promotion?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Free Story of the Week #2

Story time, again.

This week's story is a little fantasy titled "See-Saw".

It was published in Anotherealm in 2003. At that time, it was one of the most commented upon story on the Anotherealm bulletin board. Ninety percent of the comments were highly positive. There were a couple of criticisms because of the negative way I portrayed masturbation in the story. Well (imagine a shrug, here), that was my take. And I have no qualms about it.

Here is See-Saw.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Baen's Universe, Issue #3

A couple of months back, I had received a complimentary pdf copy of Baen's Universe #3 that I was supposed to review by end of June. Unfortunately, several factors intervened to prevent me from reviewing it on time but - as the saying goes - better late than never. So here is my review. However, the stories and features are too numerous to review all at once. So I am going to split the review over a few installments. In this first installment, I am going to review five of the eight SF stories.

First, the generalities:

The over-all look of the magazine is beautiful. The cover art, including the the font used, and the two column page layouts are quite pleasing to the eye. The interior, full-color art is breathtaking. It brought out the good old sensa-wunda feeling in me.

Now the particulars:

All The Things You Are - Mike Resnick

A security officer investigates the bravado death of a man and finds that the dead man expected someone (a "she") to come to him in times of crisis. The investigation further reveals that there have been similar deaths before and all the people who died this way had one thing in common: they had fought a war on the planet Nikita and had been sent back home after being seriously wounded in service. From this point on, the story moves to its conclusion in a very predictable manner. It is a tribute to Mike Resnick's skills as a writer that the story remains very readable in spite of its predictability.

The Old Woman in the Young Woman - Gene Wolfe

A story about cloning, written in the inimitable Gene Wolfe style. Contains at least one ill-explained (for me) plot jump - why does the old woman, who had been tenaciously clinging to life, decide to die? Thoroughly enjoyable, nevertheless.

A Time To Kill - Andrew Swann

A time-travel story (involving the usual paradoxes) dealing with the political situation of the world today. When I started the story, I expected the worst, but by the time I ended reading it, I got the best. Highly recommended.

The Man Who Wasn't There - Gregory Benford

This is not a story. This is just a journalistic narration of an army operation. Totally flat, full of stereotypes, full of clichés, disappointing. I expected better from Benford.

Great Minds - Edward M. Lerner

A very short story, and readable because of its shortness. Multiple universe theory is becoming stale in SF, and there is nothing new in this story to raise it above average.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Free Story of the Week #1

I have decided that on the days that I do not have any news or views to share on my blog, I will be providing a published story of mine as a free read. I will also provide some background on the writing and publishing of that story. I plan to make this a weekly feature.

Today's story is: DAY OF DUST. It is 1000 words long.

This is my earliest SF effort, written when I was 19. I was always one of the people who have sympathy for the underdog. I was reading about Percival Lowell and the ridicule he faced due to his "canals" of Mars. As serendipity usually works, I read about Mariner 9 at about the same time. Things clicked and I thought of a way I could give Lowell a second chance. The story was published in Anotherealm in 2001. I was paid $10 for the story, but then, someone read the story and liked it and offered me $200 for reprint rights. Thus the story was reprinted in the FCAT Grade 8 Test Preparation book, in 2003.

Here is a challenge: While you read the story, keep your eyes open and see if you can spot a passing reference to one of the classic SF stories about life on Mars. Just to make the challenge even more interesting, the first person to correctly name the classic SF story before next Tuesday, i.e. July 31st, will receive a copy of my book, "Ghelenden". How about it?

And now, here is the story: Day of Dust

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres

The very first review of my story has been posted at Tangent Online and the reviewer did have some nice things to say about my story. :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Indian Television Soaps

I don't know how many readers of my blog are interested in Indian TV but I have to go into a cathartic rant about it anyway.

Ekta Kapoor is the #1 producer of soaps telecast on Indian television networks like Zee, Sony, Sahara, Star Plus, etc. Some of her long-running and highly popular serials are: Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhee, Kajjal, Kkusum, Kutumb, etc.

What's with all those K's? Ah! You noticed? K is her lucky letter. She is so much enamored with K that some of her serials begin with a totally unnecessary, un-phonetic (is there such a word?) double K.

Ekta Kapoor should be congratulated for doing a fantastic job of turning the minds of her viewers (mostly women) to mush.

If an alien ever tried to deduce about humanity from Ekta's soaps, this is what he, she or it would conclude:

1. Every one person in four will get total amnesia some time in life.

2. Every one man in five will go mad some time in life and his wife will bring him back to sanity.

3. Every one woman in three is a bitch.

4. Every one woman in three will have a total face change through plastic surgery. The change will be so complete that it will even change her height and voice.

5. Every woman thus changed is so stupid that she is not able to convince even her close family that she is who she is.

5. Every human (man, woman or child) is so stupid that he or she is not able to identify the woman with the altered face by checking through her past shared memories.

6. It is very difficult to sort out the relations: who is whose spouse and ex-spouse and friend and enemy - and why.

The list could go on but not without an upset stomach.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Maker Myth

My story, "The Maker Myth", has been featured on the website of SF Canada, here. Please check it out and comment.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Do Literati Turn up Their Noses at Genre Fiction?

The almost-eternal question flares anew in the blog of Mathew Cheney and continues in the well-expressed and balanced response of L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

It all started with Jason Sanford's essay in the New York Review of Science Fiction. Read more about this essay in Jason's blog.

All the above mentioned blogs - and the comments following them - provide good reading to anyone interested in the F&SF genres.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Interzone 211

Let me start my first blog entry at blogspot with a bit of good news - for me:

My story, "Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres", will appear in Interzone #211, scheduled to be out in a week or so.