BENGALURU: When Bengaluru-based author Shweta Taneja received a congratulatory email from the editor at Galaxies SF that her short story has been shortlisted for the French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards 2020, Taneja was drinking coffee, and did not really think about it.
“I don’t take things very seriously. Later in the day, I sent a couple of messages to my friends in France to know more about the award. To my surprise, I found that my short story has been selected by a national jury in France, and that it’s a prestigious national award with not many Asian names in it,” says Taneja, the author of The Daughter That Bleeds (translated in French as ‘La Fille Qui Saigne’ by Mikael Cabon).
The plot of her story is based in a dystopian future version of India where very few women can have children, so the girls that menstruate are sold in a special market – they are valued by their families as commodities.
“It’s a poignant tale, yet it’s full of weird laugh-out-loud moments and it does not take itself too seriously,” says Taneja, adding that the story came to her a few years ago.”I wanted to explore a world in the future, where fertile girls are rare and seen as commodities, but I wanted to use humour to keep it light, as the subject itself is so dark. Since I love laughing and reading humorous fiction, I have realised that humour works really well in fantasy/sci-fi to talk about issues close to my heart, like gender and inequality,” she adds.
Taneja recalls that she had submitted this story to a couple of places in 2017, got rejections, and forgot about it. “Later, when the editor of an anthology asked me for a story, I remembered that I had written this one and submitted it. In 2019, the story was translated in French and published by Galaxies SF, a science fiction magazine in France. It was also published in Dutch and Romanian science fiction magazines last year,” says Taneja, who began her writing career with novels.
“I wrote short stories for fun, to experiment in new worlds, to see how characters moved in the scenes that came to me. Now, I am beginning to appreciate the thematic spurt of energy that can be bundled into a short story,” she says.
Having just written and submitted two short stories to different anthologies in Asia, she is currently working on her first non-fiction book for kids, which will be published later this year. “It is a challenge for me as I have never worked on non-fiction in long-form before, but it’s about science and I am talking to a lot of Indian scientists and discovering new marvellous things myself, so I love it,” she says.