Excerpts from the interviews:
“In the last couple of decades I've been uncomfortable with many aspects of American nationalism. Then I go to Sri Lanka and I listen to the Tamils and the Sinhalese talk about the sort of ethnic patriotism that led to the civil war, and I just think, 'It's pure chance, whether you were born to one or the other.' It's pure chance that I was born in Sri Lanka and that my skin is brown, and so on. How is it that you can then develop this deep and abiding passion?
“Growing up as an immigrant, I spent a lot of time claiming my American-ness, dissociating myself from being South Asian. My parents used to have huge arguments where they'd shout at me, 'You're never going to be an American!' and I'd shout 'I am an American!', and it would go back and forth like that. Somehow, after turning 30 I didn't feel like I had to fight that fight anymore -- no one was going to force me to go to Sri Lanka and have an arranged marriage or lock me in a convent (which is what my mother used to threaten when I was younger). I found I was no longer afraid of spending time with brown people. I realized I could relax.”
“Transitioning from a mainstream story to a fantasy story is a difficult thing to do. I haven't figured out how to write within a fantasy framework while maintaining the level of realism that I need in my fiction. Right now my agent tells me probably the best career move is to solidify my mainstream fiction, and then I can write all the fantasy novels I want. Go the Michael Chabon route: win a Pulitzer first!”
“Though I'd always been interested in writing about sexuality, now I got to the point where I was more interested in the intersection of sexuality with race and ethnicity. That's what Bodies in Motion is primarily about. There are a few stories about other things -- the war going on in the background, people dealing with crises in their jobs or family matters. But underlying most of it are the questions of sexuality within this ethnic context, for I find that fascinating and that's still what I'm most engaged in.
“Right now all my attention is on the novel. The Arrangement is a contemporary 'threesome' novel that I hope will be done soon and out in 2007. After that, I want to work on a non-fiction book I started last year after I went to Sri Lanka for a month in April. We used to go a lot when I was a kid and we spent summers there for a couple of years, but when the war started in '83 we stopped going for a long time. We had peace in Sri Lanka for a few years, so I was able to return, though large scale fighting recently started again. It's strange going back. You feel very alien and guilty because you feel you should speak the language. I understand Tamil but I don't speak it, and Tamil is a minority language there in any case.”
“When I was living in the Bay Area, Debbie Notkin said I should go to WisCon, and when I explained that I, a very broke grad student, couldn't possibly afford it, SF3 very kindly purchased a plane ticket for me. At one con I was talking with Kent Brewster, who told me that only 27 new writers had appeared in the pro markets in the last year. I thought that was a shame and there should be more slots in the pro market. What we needed was another magazine that would pay SFWA's pro rates and would be very open to new writers. With Asimov's and F&SF there's a certain market pressure to have some familiar names in every issue, to keep the readers coming back. We didn't want to have to rely on that, so we decided to start Strange Horizons as a donation-supported non-profit magazine, so that it wouldn't be subject to quite the same market pressures. We launched in 2000 with the goal of publishing a story, poem, article, and review every week, and an illustration and art gallery every month. I ran Strange Horizons for about three years and then handed it off when it felt like it had gotten to a pretty stable level. ...
“We started the Speculative Literature Foundation a few years ago to be a grants foundation for the genre. That mostly came out of my realizing science fiction and fantasy writers don't apply for Arts Council grants, not at the state level or the national level. I think that's a big mistake -- they shoot themselves in the foot. So the idea behind the SLF was that it would do a lot of things the NEA does but do them specifically for the genre. Part of it was just to be a sort of training ground so people would get used to applying for grants from the local arts council or decide they'd shoot for that NEA grant.”
“I feel like realism was this fascinating little bubble, a fad that came out of nowhere after eons of fantastic literature, and everyone got very excited about it for a while. Now people seem to be relaxing about all this. Partly that's been the influence of the Magical Realists, partly international literature becoming more present. They're starting to realize there's much more, and they can go back and start using these other tools in the toolbox.”