Sukanya Venkatraghavan’s 2019 Magical Women is a speculative fiction anthology that showcases a few of India’s best women writers.
“Gul” by Shreya Ila Anasuya
An aged woman once a courtesan, now a professional singer and married woman, tells how she met the love of her lifeduring the bloody aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Decades later, the story had an unexpected sequel.
“Gandaberunda” by S.V. Sujatha
Men saw Amaya as easily seduced or at least easily forced. Her twin Anani saw men as deserving prey. Anani was never far from Amaya.
“Rulebook For Creating A Universe” by Tashan Mehta
The people of the island are charged with creating new universes, a process guided by a detailed and inflexible rulebook. An idealist young woman sets out to correct a systemic error in their method. Too bad for her that this society abhors innovation and innovators. Particularly if they are women stepping out of their ordained roles.
“The Demon Hunter’s Dilemma” by Samhita Arni
Sent out by her beloved guru to stalk and capture the monsters who fill the Hasdeo Arand forest, Antara begins to doubt. How does she know what her teacher has told her is true?
“Earth And Evolution Walk Into A Bar…” by Sejal Mehta
A cruel and self-centred mankind tests the limits of the Earth’s tolerance and finds them.
It’s not a coincidence that I use the word “mankind” and not “humanity” in the previous lines.
“Tridevi Turbulence” by Trisha Das
Faced with the fact that embracing their traditional roles means being exploited by men, goddesses conclude that the only winning move is not to play the game at all.
“Stone Cold” by Kiran Manral
The Brotherhood had a crystal clear vision of humanity’s future. Their inflexible, authoritarian vision failed to account for the desires of mortal flesh — and the wishes of forgotten gods.
“The Gatekeeper’s Intern” by Ruchika Roy
What seemed to be a near-death experience was in fact an actual death experience followed by a resurrection. The survivor may attain godlike status … if they are willing to accept godlike responsibility.
“Grandma Garam’s Kitty Party” by Shweta Taneja
Tired of life as a Chudail, Jaanu yearns to become a normal human woman. Conformity comes at a price that Jaanu may not be willing to pay.
“The Carnival At The Edge Of The Worlds” by Shveta Thakrar
Prajakta embraces the adage “know thyself.” She succeeds, at a cost.
“The Rakshasi’s Rose Garden” by Sukanya Venkatraghavan
The rakshasi who lives in Apartment 606 A tends a garden. From time to time she presents her gossiping neighbours with extra-special gifts.
“Bahameen” by Asma Kazi
A time traveler is trapped in a particularly unpleasant version of Earth, one with features that make escape both impossible and inconceivable.
“The Girl Who Haunted Death” by Nikita Deshpande
Legend says Savitri stalked Death until Savitri’s beloved husband was resurrected. Legend leaves out important details.…
“Apocalyptica” by Krishna Udayasankar
Mankind is irredeemable. Nor is it immune to a vengeance undertaken by motivated goddesses.
Most of the stories feature gods and goddesses, even the stories set in the future.
The editor’s introduction makes the collection sound optimistic. It is not. Many of the stories explore sexism, injustice, resistance, and revenge. A few stories make the case for burning down the world.
The authors are angered by the state of their world. This does not prevent their stories from being finely told and skillfully shaped. Anger has honed craft, which makes the stories eminently readable even when they break one’s heart.
If you found Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy too optimistic, consider this anthology.