Publication Notes: “Dreams Strung Like Pearls Between War and Peace”, Issue 150 of Clarkesworld Magazine

Important note of caution: Although a lot of my stories have been inspired by life, none of my characters are self-inserts. I prefer my characters to be separate and to have fully three dimensional lives even though not all of those lives may be apparent in the texts.

The seeds of this story began in 2017 when I had a bit of a financial windfall thanks to the Employee’s Provident Fund (around the time when I was confirmed/made permanent in my post and put on the pension scheme) but it wasn’t A LOT of money. Before I even received the money I was panicking. I knew a lot of it would go towards essential things I’d been putting off during the lean years after I came back from my PhD studies in Australia, also paying off credit card debt accrued during those terrifyingly lean years.

I could see the money just disappearing (and I was right!) into repairs and payments etc. But I was also shopping. I mean, suddenly I needed to replace a broken phone with a new one so of course I had to get an iPhone! And new clothes! You know how it goes. Suddenly you’re able to buy stuff for the kitchen, stuff your house needs. And then a voice in your head goes “Slow down, girl, or you’ll spend it all”.

(as it turns out, I did use nearly all of it but hey now my outdoor yard is a proper wet kitchen so I have No Regrets)

In that time I reflected that I felt a lot like Mrs. Dalloway, disappearing into a world of materialism while everything was falling apart around me, berating myself with every purchase. It was around the time when I fell ill, so there was that additional layer of being unsettled, along w/ a specific kind of paranoia that comes from living in a state of constant surveillance. So I turned it into a short story and set in on Sesen with a familiar cast of characters and constructed a narrative about the night before the last (or latest) Yroi-Dvenri War, the subject of my Yrole Triptych novel WIP.

That was the initial idea/premise behind the short story and it was my homage to Virginia Woolf but it would up Kafkaesque with Gogolian references. Those of us who have gone through lean years are always suspicious when windfalls occur, we all come out from under Gogol’s overcoat after all (there you go, another reference, this time Jhumpa Lahiri!).

That same year, I started having arrhythmia as a side-effect of murder drug, and a lot of it was also connected to anxiety. I still have arrhythmia every now and then, and had a particularly nasty bout of it (exacerbated by anaemia) towards the end of 2018 when I was working on revising this story. So I gave it to Raneka, and wrote about it. It’s probably the first time I’ve given words to my particular form of anxiety.

This story’s gained a lot of positive reviews so I’m glad something positive came out of a very difficult (in hindsight) period of my life in 2017 when a financial windfall came with illness and grief. Like I said, in the current economy, it wasn’t a HUGE windfall, but it was enough to make my home slightly more comfortable. It had me meditating about the kind of accountability that should come with privilege and continue in fiction my meditations on war, resistance and the price of legacies.

 

Dreams Strung Like Pearls Between War and Peace in Clarkesworld MagazineIssue #150, 1 March 2019. (Print/ebook/Web).