by Saladin Ahmed
read by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
hosted by Farah Rishi
First published in Slate Magazine
Qumqam stood upside-down atop a cellphone tower, twirling at its pinnacle on his fingertip. When the humans had first started to besmirch the Earth with the things, Qumqam had thought them hideous. But he’d come to love dancing on them the way he’d once loved dancing on ziggurats. Click here to continue reading.
Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit. His debut novel THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, praised by George RR Martin as ‘a rollicking swashbuckler,’ received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. THRONE won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and has been translated into a half-dozen foreign languages.
Saladin’s poems and short stories, nominated for numerous awards, have appeared in publications ranging from Slate to Callaloo to BuzzFeed, and have been widely anthologized and translated. His essays on politics, geek culture, and Muslim American issues have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Salon. He lives near Detroit, and is currently writing BLACK BOLT for Marvel Comics.
Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children. By day she works as a breast oncology nurse. At all other times she juggles, none too successfully, writing, reading, gaming, and gardening. She has written one novel entitled An Unproductive Woman available on Amazon. She has also been published in or has stories upcoming in Escape Pod, Diabolical Plots, and Fiyah! Magazine. Khaalidah also coedits Podcastle.org where she is on a mission to encourage more women to submit fantasy stories. Of her alter ego, K from the planet Vega, it is rumored that she owns a time machine and knows the secret to long youth. She can be found online at http://khaalidah.com and on Twitter at @khaalidah.
An interview with Saladin Ahmed:
How has your faith/culture influenced your writing?
I grew up in an Arab immigrant enclave in the US rust belt, a kind of particular culture unto itself. The sounds of Arabic, the smells of Lebanese and Yemeni food, the call to prayer — these were all part of my fabric of being growing up, and they remain so to this day. We write who we are even when we think we’re doing otherwise. So it was almost inevitable that the sounds and tastes and brown faces that were such a part of forging me would emerge often when I write.
The question of faith is a different one. I’m very unorthodox in my practice of Islam, but I am a person who believes in God. As a person who considers himself part of an divinely ordered universe, I think I approach questions of plot and causation and narrative framing a bit differently than the average secular writer.
Have you ever worried that your faith/culture would be a barrier to other people enjoying/accepting your writing or your ability to publish? How did you overcome that?
Yes, and it’s not a baseless worry. If you are a Muslim writer you WILL encounter skittish publishers, clueless editors, well-meaning readers expecting you dispel their racist stereotypes, and hardcore hate-spewing jerks. You have to be ready for that. Sadly, many Muslims in the west ARE ready for skittishness, cluelessness, and hate because we’ve lived with it our whole lives.
Everybody finds their own way to fight this darkness. For me it has helped to connect with other ‘Other’ writers – Black writers, women writers, Asian writers, queer writers, trans writers. To try to stand together even when that camaraderie is imperfect. And to remind myself that there are thousands of curious, open-minded, empathetic readers out there looking to hear different stories than the ones they’ve been told. If you’re going to survive you HAVE to listen to these people harder than you listen to the haters.
Is there a topic or style you have yet to tackle but would like to in future writing? If yes, elaborate.
TV or film would be great! But I’ve been pretty blessed in that I’ve had a a chance to try out and publish in a pretty wide variety of forms and styles. For instance I’m working on a project right now that goes further in the direction of horror than I’ve gone before, and that’s fun and challenging. I will say that I am trying do a better job of writing characters who aren’t heterosexual men. But that sort of thing is a lifetime’s work.
What’s next for you regarding your writing?
Each week, I chip away at a sequel for THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, but it’s very very slow going and it will be years before that’s done. In the meantime, I’ll be publishing more short stories, essays, and even poems. I’m currently writing BLACK BOLT for Marvel, and there are other possible projects on the horizon. The best way to keep up with all this is my twitter feed @saladinahmed.