My acceptance speech for the 2016 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella

Earlier today, I went hiking with my brother-in-law at Camden State Park in Maine. We did about 12 miles of fairly steep trails and returned exhausted to discover my novella “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” had won the 2016 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. 

Exciting stuff, yes, but I’m doubly glad a work of speculative fiction that explores Indian subcontinental folklore and Islamic metaphysics will hopefully now enjoy a broader readership. We simply don’t have enough of such stories (obviously issues of representation come into play here as well) and it is nice to know “Pauper Prince”–a novella I worked on for nearly 2 years — will make a bit of a difference.

The following is the acceptance speech which my friend and brilliant writer Vince Haig (Malcolm Devlin) delivered on my behalf at FantasyCon 2016 in Scarborough, England. He omitted the para pertaining to himself; I’ve taken the liberty of publishing the speech in its entirety here:

“I’m honored, thrilled, and a bit shocked to be here today. Thank you, all of you lovely people who made this happen. Thank you, Vince, for agreeing to say these words on my behalf. Someday, I hope I will have the chance to return the favor.
I don’t know very many people on your side of the pond. Those I do are wonderful, wonderful folk who were/are either literary heroes of mine whom I’ve worshipped since I was ten (Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker top that list) or kind strangers who, since we discovered each other’s work, have become my friends. They are thus my siblings in ink and that is a kind of magic too.
I believe the world has been getting better for a long time and I believe it is the quiet moderate rather than the vocal extremist on any side who has a superior chance at bettering it still. Be it issues like the bust of Lovecraft, the intensely melodramatic and ultimately fruitless Puppy movement, or the coming together of artists from over the world against inequity in all its inglorious forms–dialogue, empathy, and, most important, humility remain our most wondrous tools.
I hope we will all keep listening, vigorously debating, and crusading in love. Everything else is easy, so comfortable. These are not times for comfort. Frankly, they never were for us.
We are not the House of Lords, after all.
Thank you!”



Why, As A Person of Color, I Will Sit Down And Chat With A White Supremacist

People tend to think of kerfuffles in binaries (I really like that word, don’t you? It so easily dismisses or minimizes real world issues with genuine impact on real people). Painting everything in black or white has its uses (it brings out stark contrast and highlights the sternest elements of any picture so as to allow detailed debate), but we forget that true light is composed of every known color. Without even one of ’em, we lose Light.

Drawing lines is fine, but punishing hiccups or lapses of judgment or past mistakes with eternal damnation is probably not the best way to approach any matter. I despise militant-anything because it never changes minds. It polarises and divides people and that attitude has created the current tremendously damaged political system in the US. People like Trump are powered not by thoughtful dissent but thoughtless outrage on both sides.

The alleged supremacist/fascist appointed to the Bram Stoker Award jury has publicly renounced his views. It is impossible to ascertain whether someone has or hasn’t rescinded their prior views on any subject. No one knows what’s in a person’s heart. What we do know is up till 2011 he had some affiliation or sympathy for fascist organizations (Ataka in Bulgaria). That he ran for the presidency of his National Front chapter three times. That he expressed solidarity with HPL’s views on white supremacy and dismay at the ongoing heterogenization of said group.

That said, If he now claims to renounce his views on race, I will absolutely give him the benefit of the doubt. If he’d like to have dialogue with me, I’d love to. I have always believed in dialogue, bridge forming, striving to find common grounds and solutions, and, well, humanity. I believe it is imperative to be able to move on from one’s past and the mistakes one might have made in one’s younger days (I have made many as I’m sure everyone on this forum has) and accept others’ apologies. If he were around, I’d love to sit down and have tea or dinner with him if he’d like and chat about all matters mundane and literary.

However, I believe it is unfair to allow someone with potential conflict of interest with their duties because of previously espoused severe extremist views to hold a position of power. Horror is not the field of a select few anymore. It never was. Only difference is previously the spotlight was nearly always on a certain group. Well, that is changing. We have incredible new voices and visions that are global, different, bold, and potent; and it would be a travesty to allow bias of any sort to divest them of recognition. The mere idea that a juror once thought them subhuman would be enough to repel many new/young writers/editors from submitting work to be considered for the Bram Stoker Award and even if they did submit, the results will always be suspect to them. I believe, besides sending a message of unwelcome to all would be members on the HWA’s side, the gentleman’s selection as juror would damage the award and cast the Stoker in a terrible light.

So, yes, while on a personal level one can have dialogue with said gent, I still believe the organization should recuse a potentially biased juror from such duties if said organization wants to stay relevant and useful to the field.

Chinese Translation: “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”

Translation rights for my little-story-that-could have been acquired by Jing Yanfei for China’s most widely circulated print mag Science Fiction World Magazine.

I’m so pleased by this. We’re moving toward a world where, thanks to the internet and e-publishing, cross genre, multicultural, and global literature will dominate the marketplace. There’s no question in my mind about it. Injection of fresh themes, settings, and voices is already revitalizing western and eastern literature and that’s only bound to increase. Hence finding new fans in different languages and cultures can only help the artist/writer.

I hope this bodes even better for Pakistani speculative literature’s future.

So cheers, all!

On Being Nominated for the Nebula and Bram Stoker Awards

My story “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” has been nominated for both the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.

I remember, as a 20-year-old, sitting at my computer in college and Googling the Bram Stoker and Nebula Awards. I’d see them on book covers and daydream about being on those ballots. But it was a dream, right? Real life doesn’t work that way. You might as well dream about leaving your mundane life behind and hitchhiking to the moon.

Except that it did happen.

A few years back, I entered a small hotel room at the 2012 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, where Mort Castle, a writer whom I hadn’t read then, was teaching a class. It was a 2-day session and on the second day Mort made us read aloud what we’d written in response to his prompts. I was very nervous, had never taken a real writing class before, and had never read my work in public. But I did and after class was over Mort came to me, patted my shoulder and said, “You’re close. You’re very close.”

That was April 2012. This is Feb, 2015. Less than 3 years since I began writing professionally.

What strange lives we lead. Had you told me back then I had this to look forward to, I’d have laughed in your face and turned and run away.

So. . . all aspiring writers out there, especially South Asian writers and all persons of color: Never stop dreaming. Dream big. Dream strong and clear and loud and lovingly. What is there to stop any of us? Only fear, right? Go ahead and exorcise it, my friends. Hard work pays off.

Believe it.


Eligibility Post for the John W. Campbell Award

Resurrection Points selected for Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2; cover art by Tomasz Alen Kopera and cover design by Vince Haig

Following my friends’ lead I thought I should also create a separate eligibility post for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and place links to my online stories here for your reading convenience.

* My first pro sale was in 2013. Since then, I’ve had a decent couple of years. I sold several stories including a novella to (Ellen Datlow) and a novelette to Prime Books.

* I’ve been nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Fiction. I am the first Pakistani writer to be nominated for either award.

* So far I’ve made two Best of the Year anthologies: “Resurrection Points” will appear in Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2 ed. by Kathe Koja & Michael Kelly (Undertow/Chizine) and “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” will appear in Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 9 ed. by Jonathan Strahan (Solaris Books).

* Between “Resurrection Points” and “Vaporization”, I’ve made several best of the year lists including’s, the Strange Horizons Readers Poll for top 5 stories of the year, the incredible Locus Online Recommended Reading List, Tangent Online’s, and Novelocity’s. Several award winning writers and editors have recommended my work. The marvelous Ken Liu even recommended me for the Campbell Award, which honestly I still find surreal.

You can read/listen to my stories here:

1. The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family (Qualia Nous).  You can listen to the podcast here.

2. Resurrection Points (Strange Horizons). Podcast available here.

3. Ishq (Black Static #43). Will be available to read in the 2015 Campbellian anthology being released soon, or you can buy an e-copy of the antho here.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed what you read.





Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2

I made Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2. I’m especially proud of this because getting in the Year’s Best Horror & Weird has been my dream since I was a kid browsing through the dusty bookshelves of Old Book Shop in Lahore’s Main Market.

Edited by guest editor Kathe Koja and series editor Michael Kelly, Year’s Best Weird Fiction with its debut volume launched in 2014 fulfills an important need that Year’s Best SFF and Horror don’t quite fill. Weird Fiction is the literature of crevasses; of crosscurrents and porous connective tissues. By dint of its very nature it is hard to define although academic attempts have been made, most notably by S.T Joshi. In its present form, it permeates and subsumes several other genres, including SF, horror, and magic realism. This is why Mike venture is laudable and historical.

Here’s the TOC:

“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud (Fearful Symmetries, ed. Ellen Datlow, ChiZine Publications)

“Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll (Fearful Symmetries, ed. Ellen Datlow, ChiZine Publications)

“Headache” by Julio Cortázar. English-language translation by Michael Cisco (, September 2014)

“Loving Armageddon” by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres Magazine #19, July 2014)

“The Earth and Everything Under” by K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer Magazine #19, May 2014)

“Nanny Anne and the Christmas Story” by Karen Joy Fowler (Subterranean Press Magazine, Winter 2014)

“The Girls Who Go Below” by Cat Hellisen (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2014)

“Nine” by Kima Jones (Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History, eds. Rose Fox & Daniel José Older, Crossed Genres Publications)

“Bus Fare” by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean Press Magazine, Spring 2014)

“The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy” by Rich Larson (Strange Horizons Magazine, August 2014)

“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado (Granta Magazine, October 2014)

“Observations About Eggs From the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa” by Carmen Maria Machado (Lightspeed Magazine #47, April 2014)

“Resurrection Points” by Usman T. Malik (Strange Horizons Magazine, August 2014)

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” by Nick Mamatas (Searchers After Horror: New Tales of the Weird and Fantastic, ed. S.T. Joshi, Fedogan & Bremer)

“So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” by Sunny Moraine (Lightspeed Magazine #45, February 2014)

“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide” by Sarah Pinsker (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2014)

“Migration” by Karin Tidbeck (Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Solaris)

“Hidden in the Alphabet” by Charles Wilkinson (Shadows & Tall Trees 2014, ed. Michael Kelly, Undertow Publications)

“A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap (, August 2014)

“The Ghoul” by Jean Muno, translated by Edward Gauvin (, June 2014)


2014 Award Eligible Work and my Year in Review

My Year in Review

2014 was a decent year for me. I wrote a couple stories, a novelette, & a novella, and sold them all to decent markets. I did a reading with the wonderful Jeff Vandermeer as part of Burrow Press’s Functionally Literate Reading Series in Orlando. I also ran Pakistan’s first Scifi, Fantasy, and Horror workshop “The Rising Dust” in Lahore in conjunction with Man Asia Literary Prize nominee Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Desi Writers Lounge. The event was covered by Pakistan Television and Radio.

I made two Best of the Year anthologies. Jonathan Strahan’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume 9 and Kathe Koja & Michael Kelly’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2. It is an absolute honor for me to share those TOCs with the best writers in the field. I also made the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. I understand the final ballot will be announced in a couple months or so.

My biggest sale was a 21K beast called “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” to the excellent Ellen Datlow, which will appear at in April 2015. I’m looking forward to its release — I spent more than a year working on it and it tackles some interesting ontological and metaphysical themes explored in the great Sufi master Ibn Arabi’s masterpiece “The Meccan Revelations.”

This was a bit of a pleasant surprise: Clarion West‘s former director Leslie Howle emailed me a couple months back that at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention’s Best of the Year panel Paula Guran and Ellen Datlow gave me a shout out. I’m told they predicted that “he is going to be hot” and will be “a name to watch out for”.

I am honored and humbled by their kindness. I hope that in coming years I will do justice to their faith in me.

Award Eligible Work

Before I move on to my award-eligible stories, I’d like to point out that I am eligible (in my second year) for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I will also point out that several excellent writers have emerged on the SF/ Horror scene in the last two years: Kai Ashante Wilson, Sam J. Miller, Alyssa Wong, JY Yang, Kelly Sandoval, Shannon Peavey, Isabel Yap, Henry Lien, Carmen Maria Machado, and Lara Elena Donnelly. Their work is important & impressive and I recommend that you explore all their available stories before nominating your favorite candidate (s).

I had 4 stories published in 2014. Between them, they’re eligible for the Hugo, Nebula, Ted Sturgeon, World Fantasy, Shirley Jackson, and Bram Stoker Awards.

“Ishq” and “Laal andhi” are in print journals/anthos. If you’d like a pdf copy for review, please email me at

1. The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family (Qualia Nous, August 2014).

2. Resurrection Points (Strange Horizons, August 2014).

  • Will be reprinted in The Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2 edited by Kathe Koja & Michael Kelly (series editor). Out in October, 2015 from Undertow Publications (imprint of Chizine)
  • Voted one of the top 5 stories of the year in the Strange Horizons 2014 Readers’ Poll.
  • Ken Liu called it “a powerful story about faith, love, and remaining moral in a time of evil.” Ellen Datlow called it a “terrific story”. Elizabeth Hand said it was “a gorgeous, chilling new story. . . if you don’t yet know Usman’s work, you will — he’s one of the best and most original voices in weird fiction in many years.”
  • Tangent Online said it “is a powerful story about self-discovery, disillusion, retribution and the unholy power of faith. . . . A compelling tale and definitely recommended.” The story also made their 2014 Recommended Reading List with two stars. The story was also reviewed favorably by Lois Tilton and The Drunken Odyssey. The latter said the story “handles its examination of both the regenerative and destructive abilities of faith with a supernatural edge, foggy genre lines, and a literary finesse that is a thrill to read.”
  • Several writers I admire including Joe Hill, Saladin Ahmad, Jeffrey Ford, Henry Lien, Vandana Singh, Sam J. Miller, Scott Nicolay, Damien Angelica Walters, Richard Bowes, Livia Llewellyn, Sunny Moraine, and Fran Wilde liked it and shared it on their social media.

3. Ishq (Black Static 43, November 2014)

  • Reviewed favorably by the excellent critic Des Lewis:  “Blown away . . . by this exquisitely heart-wrenching confabulation of disease, sexual and/or sororal betrayal — love unrequited for the living, but requited for the dead . . . the poetic traction of language blending, in its special way, nightmare and reality, as well as the deepest emotions possible . . .”
  • Dread Central said it was “a solemn ghost story, steeped in the tradition, history and superstition of Pakistan. . . with a coating of mysticism and emotion. The descriptive prose is very strong, right down to the mouth-watering sweet potato treats offered by the young street vendor and the realisation of the physical setting.”
  • Writer Simon Bestwick called it “one of my favorite stories this year”. Andrew Hook said it was “one of my favourite stories this issue. Richly evocative.” Ross Warren said, “My favourite story of the issue. A fully immersive setting and an unsettling premise combined to great effect.”
  • Writer James Everington included “Ishq” in his Favorite Short Stories of 2014.

4. “Laal Andhi” (Truth or Dare, October 2014)

Thanks for reading and have a great 2015.


Some Of My Favorite Works of 2014

Several excellent writers have emerged on the SF/ Horror scene in the last two years: Kai Ashante Wilson, Sam J. Miller, Alyssa Wong, JY Yang, Kelly Sandoval, Shannon Peavey, Isabel Yap, Henry Lien, Carmen Maria Machado, and Lara Elena Donnelly. Their work is important & impressive and I recommend that you explore all their available stories before nominating your favorite candidate (s) for whatever awards you’re nominating for.
I read quite a bit of fiction in 2014–mostly short, but I managed several novels by listening to the audiobooks. Below are listed some of my favorite works. I’ll try to keep adding to these as I read more. But the following, I believe, are some of the best works of Scifi, Fantasy, Horror, and Weird published in 2014.
 2014 Novel
  • Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG)
  • Revival by Stephen King (Scribner)
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) (Tor Books)
2014 Novella
  • Claudius Rex by John Murphy (Alembical 3, Paper Golem LLC)
  • Sleep Donation by Karen Russell (Atavist Books)
  • The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert (
2014 Novelette
2014 Short Story


“Vaporization Enthalpy” made Best SF & F of the Year

I wrote about it on Facebook the other day. Jonathan Strahan has picked up “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Vol 9.

It’s my first appearance in a Year’s Best, and more importantly, far as I know, the first time a Pakistani writer has appeared in any Year’s Best anthology. Which makes me happy. Growing up, I yearned to see desi names in Year’s Best anthos and could hardly find any from Asia, let alone Indo-Pakistan. That is changing happily. And well. . .  here we are. I’m told the anthology will be out in May from Solaris Books.

Thank you all who liked and spread word about this story. It means a lot.