I’ve been told that my love affair with words began when I was four years old. I guess I was reading, books, newspapers, and bibles, anything I could get my grubby little hands on, by the time I was five. Despite that love of reading, writing stories wasn’t an idea that even crossed my mind.
When I was twelve, though, I had a friend who grew so sick of my unsolicited book critiques that one day, she finally became exasperated enough to ask, “if you know so much about books, why don’t you try writing one?”
I didn’t even hear the sarcasm dripping from her voice. In that moment, my entire universe turned upside down. I’d been struck, like lighting, by one completely unfamiliar yet indescribably thrilling thought about my beloved books and stories.
I can write them!
In My Journey (The Quiet One), I mentioned how the captain and crew of Star Trek TNG’s Enterprise made me fall in love with science fiction; but it was Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day that first brought me to tears and made me yearn to write an amazing story too; a great sci-fi story unlike anything that someone, somewhere out there in the world, had ever read.
In 2006, I came across the website of certain young artist. One of her trippy, futuristic pieces completely took my breath away. The words “space age mermaid” randomly popped into my mind then, for the very first time. There was nothing else. Just those words accompanied by a vague sense of wonder and the inchoate stirrings of inspiration.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with those words. I just knew, someday, I was going to have some incredible fun making something coherent out of that teeny-tiny story seed.
Ten whole years later, as a late-blooming university undergrad, I was flipping through my old notebooks, fishing for ideas to fulfill a short fiction assignment. Those three hurriedly scrawled words leapt out at me from one of the pages.
Space. Age. Mermaid.
Just like that, inspiration struck. I had no plot and no idea. I just sat at my desk and I started writing. Stream of consciousness, one hundred percent. A thousand words later, I’d churned out a piece of flash fiction that got me full marks, titled Space Age Mermaid.
That flashfic sat on my computer for several more years before I gave any thought to sharing it with the world. Then earlier, this year, I published an omnibus of my short works, titled Odes to the Multiverse. I’m quite possibly the only one who thinks so, but in my view, Space Age Mermaid was the very backbone of that entire book.
Without giving it too much thought, I eventually started using SpaceAgeMermaid as a social media handle, first on Twitter, then Instagram. I made it my new Gmail address. Then I bought the gosh-darned web domain. Before I knew it, Space Age Mermaid had become a concept that had somehow fused with my self-identity as a speculative fiction writer.
Thinking back, though, I’ve always loved both mythology and far-future stories. I’ve always loved the magic that happens when those universes collide. For instance, I wrote Witch and Spider—another story included in Odes to the Multiverse, about a far-future witch eking out a meager existence on the shores a derelict Earth, when one stormy night, the trickster god, Anansi himself, shows up on her door step, trying to sell her the mother of all cons.
That was way before I ever even knew what genre-bending was.
Using SpaceAgeMermaid as an online handle and making it a part of my literary identity, pays humble homage to everything I love about writing and speculative fiction. It articulates my very reason for being. It represents the unbridled joy that comes from unleashing the imagination and just letting it careen out of control as words bubble up out of the soul like water from a fountain.