Vajra Chandrasekera struck gold with his first ever submission to our magazine, “Running the Gullet,” which we proudly published in our March/April issue [on sale now]. In this interview, he gives us insight into the writing process and what else he’s working on right now.
Analog Editor: How did the title for this piece come to you?
Vajra Chandrasekera: It’s a play on words, of which there are many in this story—not only because of a love of puns but also because the story is about (among other things) how things change in deep time: language, ideas, perceptions. History is far less complex in the telling than the living: narrativizing is a lossy compression algorithm, and it seems to work by turning big, messy, complicated events into neat punchlines. So a sense of the absurd becomes essential.
AE: What is your history with Analog?
VC: As it so happens, this is the first story I ever sent to Analog! I remember reading random old issues of Analog and Asimov’s in the ’90s—they were the first SF magazines I ever encountered, unsurprisingly. After I started writing and publishing stories in the twenty-teens, I focused more on online magazines, which had become prominent in the meantime. I always meant to send something to Analog, but for various reasons kept putting it off. I didn’t expect this one to sell, but something about it seemed right, so I thought I’d try and collect my long-delayed first Analog rejection with it. Now it turns out I still haven’t!
“I write short stories relatively quickly: often in a single session, sometimes spread out over a few weeks.”
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
VC: Writers’ block is what we call burnout when it’s experienced by writers as opposed to anybody else—it’s not something unique to writers or particularly related to art or creation. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck and unable to work, usually out of some combination of exhaustion, depression, fear of failure, and stress from other aspects of our lives. Those things are real problems in their own right and need to be addressed as such—so the important thing is to remind yourself not to treat writers’ block as some kind of mysterious affliction of the creative spirit.
AE: How did you break into writing?
VC: I started writing stories in mid 2012 and sold my first story to Apex a few months later. That didn’t appear for about a year, so my first published story, in mid 2013, was my second sale, to Clarkesworld. That first year was strange. I taught myself how to write stories by writing a lot of them very quickly and throwing most of it away.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
VC: I have a few short stories that are mid-draft, and I’m working on a novel, though this has been—predictably, I suppose!—somewhat more tortuous than short stories. I write short stories relatively quickly: often in a single session, sometimes spread out over a few weeks. But you can’t hold an entire book in your head like that, so I’m improvising.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
VC: Hmm, the psychedelic-utopian other world from Joanna Russ’s And Chaos Died. It has a wonderful, if terrifying, sense of freedom—a way of experiencing the world that is truly without constraint.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
VC: Fully automated luxury gay space communism, probably. Though, you know, I’m not optimistic.
AE: What are you reading right now?
VC: I’m alternating Deborah Crombie cozy mysteries and Mick Herron espionage-noir thrillers. Both are London-adjacent and feature large casts of memorable characters, so I’m starting to mix them up in my head—very trippy, I recommend it. In SF/F, I just started on Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Elysium and my copy of M. John Harrison’s Things That Could Never Happen just got here, so I’m looking forward to that.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
VC: Most writing advice is awful, so try not to waste too much time or money on it. Some people are scamming you, some are deluding themselves as well as others, and a great many perfectly well-meaning people are just trying to describe their own idiosyncratic methods that probably wouldn’t work for you anyway. Eventually you will have to discover your own process through practice, and after that you too will struggle to describe it in a way that is helpful to others. Write in any way that you can.
AE: What is something we should know about you that we haven’t thought to ask?
VC: The magazine I’m holding in my picture is Science Fiction World, a very cool Chinese SF magazine. In this issue they have a translation of my first published short story, “Pockets Full of Stones.”
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?