Questioning the Paradigms

Tue 20 Mar 2018 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

Ambiguity Machines coverThis weekend Vandana Singh was interviewed on the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast, which is featured on Wired. Although it has an odd title which doesn’t really fit the book or author (this is an author who whenever I talk to her she is always juggling 3 different tasks), it’s well worth a listen to try and catch up on some of Vandana’s thinking about the world, Arctic ice, the universe, and writing.

Since it came out last month Vandana’s first North American collection, Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories is shooting like a rocket through the sky and it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll have to send it to back to the printer — always a cause for celebration! I am pretty optimistic when it comes to print runs:

Spreadsheets: There are 273 preorders for this title that publishes in 62 days.
Me: Everyone’s doing Just-in-Time Ordering these days. Let’s print 5,000!

And sometimes that means going over, oops, and even yet, sometimes the world is hungrier for a book than I expected. In which case everyone from the printer to the distributor to the bookstore to the author will be delighted — except for that period when it’s out of stock at the distributor, hmm.

The reviews have been pouring in from newspapers and magazines large and small:

“There’s a wonderful discordance between the cool, reflective quality of Singh’s prose and the colorful imagery and powerful longing in her narratives” (Washington Post) | “The capstone to this hopeful, enriching collection is the small masterpiece ‘Requiem.'”(Wall Street Journal) | “Rich, dense, and balanced.” ( | “Singh’s compassionate imagination and storytelling talents are here clearly on display.” (Intergalactic Medicine Show) | “Singh underscores the ultimate point that stories make the world and the universe has a place for all of them.”(Woven Tale Press) | “Full of risky experiments that turn out beautifully: colorful, emotionally resonant, and consistently entertaining.” (Publishers Weekly [starred review])

And this review by Aditya Desai on Aerogram is particularly fascinating:

Singh is laying the groundwork attempt to re-write the plots of Chosen Ones, dystopian governments, and self-actualizing hero tropes common to Western literature, where the quest for “the meaning of life” is often seeking a single endpoint, an origin. Singh’s characters wish only to know for the sake of knowing. Life isn’t defined by linear time, it is the richness of experience.

And there’s be more reviews coming along soon.

Kelly and I have known Vandana and admired her writing for many years. One of her early stories, “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet, was published in an anthology Kelly edited, Trampoline. Occasionally we’d run into Vandana at Readercon or at a Boston event and we’d talk about a collection but I don’t think it was until 2015 that I actually got Vandana to send us some stories.

A total bonus of publishing this book has been the reading the two essays Vandana wrote on the intersection of her work as a physics professor and her writing, one for Tor and one for Powell’s. Climate change is a semi-regular cause of personal despair, and these thorough and thoughtful essays are useful bulwarks against that.

You can read some of Vandana’s stories here: Life-pod · Wake-Rider · Ruminations in an Alien Tongue · Ambiguity Machines: An Examination; listen to Vandana on PW Radio with Rose Fox; or read an interview by Kylie Korsnack in the Los Angeles Review of Books: Transcending Boundaries, and of course pick up the book (or DRM-free ebook) here.


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