Reflections on Tentacle by Rita Indiana

I find it comforting to immerse myself in stories that bear some resemblance to the reality we’re living in. I wonder if I might be the type of person who struggles with the inconceivable—which is also why I played a lot of Plague, Inc. in the early days of COVID-19. If you can conceive of something, you give it shape.

That means it you give it limitations. You know just how awful it gets. It won’t be better, but it certainly won’t be worse. This is all in abstract, of course. In truth, things could always be better, and things could always be worse.

But a little bit of quasi-certainty is, at an emotional level, more soothing that a complete lack of certainty. It’s why sometimes journalists at emergency press conferences ask the most ridiculous questions about things no one can predict. And why humans often jump to conclusions without gathering all the facts first. Our psyches are fragile, particularly in stressful circumstances beyond our control. We need that comfort to survive this moment long enough to make it to the next.

So even with a setting as god-awful as an ecologically ravaged Dominican Republic—rife with toxic waters, dystopian technology, and too often a blatant disregard for humanity—I still found some comfort in Tentacle by Rita Indiana (translated by Achy Obejas).

Tentacle is queerpunk sci-fi that at first seems like culturally vivid escapist fiction, but later turns out to be a breathtakingly interwoven non-linear narrative. It centres primarily around Acilde, a trans man who must go back in time to save the ocean with the help of an ancient Yoruba god. It raises questions of desire and destiny, and asks whether humanity really can be saved, or will the darker sides of human nature prevail?

I like it when a book makes me think. And it has taken me a long time to process my feelings about this one enough to be able to reflect on it. I don’t want to live in a world with toxic oceans. I don’t want the power to kill someone in need if they ring my doorbell at the wrong time. I don’t want to hold the future of the world in the palm of my hand. But the more I ponder this story, the more it looks like some bizarre allegory for how things are today.

I mean, okay, it’s probably not the smartest book to pick up right now, while the world is in such a weird place. But then, maybe it also is…?

The problems plaguing us right now aren’t going to disappear on their own. Even if it’s depressing af, there are conversations we need to have about climate and pollution, and how these are ultimately affected by how we behave and regard each other. We are, after all, stuck together in this space and time.

Stuff to share: Mar 2022

Hot off the press is Sarah Skye’s new steamy romance, Vibes & Feels. Falling for your enemy never felt so good.


Pia Manning’s latest steamy read is Coming Home, a small-town contemporary menage romance published by Siren-BookStrand.


The Erotic Reads for March bundle is giving away steamy books until the end of the month.


The Magical March book fair showcases indie works of paranormal, fantasy, urban fantasy, fairytale and science fiction.


Jan Selbourne recently released Full Circle, an historical novel of mystery, intrigue, revenge and love.


Robecca Austin’s contemporary romance Wedded by the Billionaire is available now in selected e-book stores.


Tales of the Future is a sci-fi and fantasy freebie book bundle open until 1st April.


International best-selling author Tina Donahue recently released Privilege, a dark mafia romance.


Erotica powerhouse Lisabet Sarai recently released a new edition of her BDSM erotic romance, The Gazillionaire and the Virgin.


This book fair features short stories, novellas and anthologies for fans of easy short reads.


Sloan McBride’s Together in Darkness is available on Author’s Direct. Word on the street says the prices are better if you buy from there.


Finally, here’s a month-long fantasy, sci-fi and horror book giveaway on StoryOrigin: Flights of Fantasy.

Reflections on The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Lately, I’ve been thinking about our climate future and it stresses the hell out of me. I blame it partly on starting Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl just before a big heatwave, which was followed by a small heatwave, and now here we are looking forward to a peak of 40°C (104°F) on Wednesday. And did you know that recently one of the towns up north hit 50°C (122°F)? Hnnnnngggggh

Getting into cli-fi at this point in recent history was maybe not the smartest choice. Or is it a necessary choice? Only time will tell.

The Windup Girl is a dystopian science fiction novel set in a futuristic Thai Kingdom that is weathering the storm of climate change, genetic modification, commercial greed, corrupt politics, “colonial” expansion and more. The Kingdom holds fast where other nations have collapsed or capitulated. Its citizens are tenacious.

The world-building was incredible, although maybe I’m biased at how Southeast Asian it was. I saw pieces of my culture in it, which is naturally enticing, though it was kind of weird seeing words I grew up with get italicised as if they should be treated as something other than ordinary. Not grumbling; I understand why it must be so.

I did catch one snippet of Mandarin that struck me as oddly Western influenced, which either speaks to my poor grasp of Mandarin or an intentionally clever hint from the author about the history of the world in his book. The idea of the latter tickles me, as one of the book’s themes is the relationship between East and West.

I couldn’t disagree with some of the less flattering reviews on Goodreads, but strangely the shortcomings they described ended up being things I enjoyed about The Windup Girl. The detached writing style left a lot to the imagination, especially when it came to the characters’ motivations and emotional states. And ironic as it sounds, this just made me get more invested in the characters and the story.

I was going to say something here about how writing romance has taught me that more exposition around thoughts and feelings is needed to guide readers through an emotional journey… but that’s not true, is it? For example, one of the things I love most about Stefanie Simpson’s romance books is that her style has elements of this too. I sense “gaps” when reading her work, and I instinctively want to fill them with my own interpretations and empathy.

The Windup Girl was an uncomfortable and at times stressful read, but it’s also artfully written (if you have a sense for those “gaps”) and features fascinating characters with well-considered flaws. Personally, I also loved the underlying messages and ideas that surfaced at the end. Even with a slightly ugly dystopian finish, they offered a glimmer of hope.

An elephant-like creature and robed people walk the market streets in futuristic Thailand on the cover of The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Iteration Eleven — a short story

My latest story, Iteration Eleven, has just been published by HyphenPunk, a magazine that examines the human condition through a postmodern lens.

The stories they publish really sit with me, and I’m absolutely stoked to have my work included in their collection.

Iteration Eleven is a quiet cyberpunk horror flashfic. I’ll estimate it’s about a 5-minute read.

Read Iteration Eleven in HyphenPunk magazine