Monsters! They’re not just for Halloween anymore! They’re also for American presidential elections. Which is why, this year, I went out trick-or-treating dressed as a rancid racist tangerine sparsely covered in golden retriever hair. I didn’t get much candy.
In cooperation with editors Kelsi Morris and Kaitlin Tremblay, I present to you Those Who Write Us, an interview series devoted to the authors who make up the new anthology Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories.
And please note I am far from unbiased here, as mine own contribution “The Outside Monster” makes an appearance within the anthology’s pages.
Click here for information on how to purchase your very own copy of Those Who Make Us.
Today’s monster: Rati Mehrotra
Rati Mehrotra is a Toronto-based speculative fiction writer whose short stories have appeared in AE – The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Apex Magazine, Abyss & Apex, Inscription, and many more. Her debut novel, Markswoman, will be published in early 2018.
Tell us of your story, “Vetala.”
My story deals with the self, the search for identity, and coming to terms with loss and grief. We all make our own monsters, and sometimes they may be what save us, and keep us sane.
“Vetala” is set in a near-future Canada that features driverless buses and vanishing trains. My protagonist is a woman who leaves India for Toronto to work in a company that builds simulations of a past that is dead and gone. But with her she carries a stalker-ish spirit — a vetala that will not leave her alone, that infects her work, and haunts her waking hours. She draws inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita, her grandmother, and her coding work to confront the vetala and devise ways to banish him. But along the way, she must first confront her own past, her own grief.
The closest translation of vetala would be an ‘Indian vampire’. However, unlike their bloodsucking Western cousins, a vetala is not always a predator. In some villages, it is perceived as a protective spirit. It is this ambiguity that I wanted to explore, and that hopefully makes my so-called vampire a little different.
What is your favourite monster?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like monsters or monster stories very much. Or at least, that’s what I thought until I read this call from Exile Publications! Something clicked inside me and I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and how to say it. And having read Those Who Make Us, I confess that I have changed my mind. I like stories that bridge the gap between self and other. Monsters are only symbols after all, and writing about them is one way to do this.