Today is the Sinhala (and Tamil) New Year day. As I sit in front of the computer to partake in my trade—as one does according to tradition—I want to try an answer a certain question.
Whatever happened to that book you were writing?—is not a question I have been asked too many times. You see, I am not a well-known writer at all—but I digress. I have in fact, been working for a while on at least two, maybe two and a half books—none of which are actually ready yet.
- an untitled poetry book (in Sinhala)
- an untitled sci-fi novel (in English)
- an untitled poetry maybe chapbook (in English)
If—for whatever unfathomable reason—you wish to know more about what has been happening with these, you might like this update. Let me start with what is closest to being complete.
Untitled poetry book (Sinhala)
Eventhough I work in technology—and am very passionate about that—there are other aspects of my life. One of those involves poetry, to the point I would say I am as much poet as I am geek.
Taking quite a bit of liberty with the term “poetry”, I have been writing poetry since I was in grade school. More importantly, I always felt free the most when I was left in my mind to mind my own. Given a pen and a blank page—like many that came before me—I turned to writing, and poetry was my first choice of a medium.
Somewhere, roughly around fifteen years ago, I naively thought I had enough poems to compile into a book. While I did not have any need of getting published—just a dream—I just wanted to put things into a form.
To make a long story short, fifteen years is a long time—specially if you are practising a form of art. I definitely am not the same person I used to be—nor is my art. My values have changed quite drastically, and some firmly believed ethos—I have shed without leaving a trace. More importantly I got to read tons of poetry from around the world.
As a result, I did something to my old writing. To borrow an action from Paustovsky, and from one of my own poems (roughly translated):
“I set the field of paper flowers on fire
so that none may see”
I did that in the most literal way possible. I discarded most of my old writing without any guilt or remorse whatsoever. As the papers burn, I felt the weight of being associated with them lift off my shoulders.
Today, I am much more closer to a book of poetry than I have ever been. I worked without any time lines to keep. So I took my time. The funny thing is, there might be a chance that I never quite finish them. Even now, I find myself editing the words of a poem I had written years ago. I am actually hoping that the time would be soon because the more I delay, bigger is the risk of me taking a flame to this particular collection of papers as well.
For what it is worth, I think there soon would be a time when I decide, that it is as good time as any to take a snapshot of my words, and call it a book. Who knows, it might even get published.
Untitled sci-fi novel (English)
I had not really written anything this ambitious on longer formats. I once tried to write a fiction in Sinhala, a long time ago, and managed to have fun writing the first act. Then I realized a couple of things. First, it was going to end up a short story—which was fine. But the next realization was a much more severe blow. I felt I was writing a derived story. It was not a plagiarized plot, but it felt like something anyone has heard before. And, that proved to be the end of it.
I cannot really remember where the initial spark came from. But there is a story unfolding in my mind. Somewhere in November, 2016, I started writing it down—bits and pieces, from here and there.
When I started working on this sci-fi/fantasy novel, I not only started having a ridiculous amount of fun figuring out how the story was unfolding, but I also found the need to write. It felt like a story no one else would write, it felt like a story only I could write. Every time my inner critic felt, “that bit is not that great”, my sense of wonder kicked-in, enthusiastically saying things like: “Well, you are the one creating it! Make it awesome!”
Right around the time I was carefully climbing down that euphoric high, a few stars happened to align just the wrong way. For one, I got supper busy with work, where I had to juggle three different full-time job roles.
Then, I embraced anime and pretty much gave up on TV shows (with the occasional exception on Netflix). Previously I had only watched anime which were special to me (e.g., Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden) or were rated as some of the all-time best (e.g., Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Steins;Gate, Code Geass, Psycho-Pass, Death Note, Attack on Titan). I eventually fully understood that anime is not a genre, but rather a medium. I started venturing outside my comfort zone to watch anime that had not been rated yet, or were lesser known, or did not sound like something I would normally enjoy. This proved to be amazingly rewarding as I got to watch some amazing shows (e.g., Made in Abyss, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, The Promised Neverland, Mob Psycho 100, etc.).
I digress, again. The point is—having being exposed to an entire medium of storytelling—I gained a new perspective about storytelling, at the same time becoming painfully aware how clichéd some of the plot devices which I had previously thought innovative going by western media standards. This was a lesson for me. I never underestimated anime, but I had overestimated what I thought as good storytelling.
Finally, Black Panther happened. It is easy to overlook it as just another superhero film leading up to the next Avengers film. But as an outsider and a person of color, I could see Black Panther checking so many boxes I felt had been left unchecked for too long—things such as colored protagonists, colored characters in their native settings, celebration of their cultures, garb, music, etc., lack of white-saviors or white-narrators, etc. Black Panther may have been yet another superhero movie, but there is no denying how big a breakthrough it was. It made me happy and left me somewhat satiated for a while. I felt, at least a part of what I set out to do had been achieved—probably far better than I ever could. So I did put the book on hold indefinitely, even though not entirely deliberately.
The good news is, I am going to tell the story I have. I will keep working on it and I will keep writing. In fact, I quite recently figured out a key driving point which I had not been able to nail-down before. The world-building is not entirely complete, some of the character arcs are not fully developed yet, I still do not know how some of the plot points in the middle gets worked out, but the story is unravelling—and, I fully intend to write it.
As there is not much else to say about the poetry chapbook (in English) other than it may or may not become a thing, I will leave a bit of early details about the novel as a token of my appreciation for reaching this point in the post.
The novels’ setting will be in South Asia—Sri Lanka and adjacent area to be a little more specific. The names of the two main protagonists start with R and A. It generally fits into sci-fi/fantasy classification. The novel will be the first book (out of perhaps three), but that is just for me to structure things. I am only going to work on the first book. The rest will follow, if they do.
There will be no time line plans, but it is also not something “someday, eventually” either. I will keep working on it, and it will be ready when it is. When it is, I will keep you posted.