As his eBook will be out also in English, here you can find the original interview with Vajra Chandrasekera.
Would you like to introduce you as a writer, your work and these two tales in particular?
My name is Vajra Chandrasekera. I've been writing and publishing short stories for about a year and a half now, in magazines such as Clarkesword, Lightspeed, Apex and Black Static. I've written hard sf, ghost stories, shapeshifter fantasies and weird postcolonial slipstream story-objects. These two selected stories both fall into that last category.
Because of the very nature of this category I won't say what these stories are "about"; I feel that this would be a disservice. But I can say that "On Being Undone by a Light Breeze" is a sad story about being open to possibilities, while "Dharmas" is a happy story about being trapped by impossibilities.
Philosophy, science, politics: though brief, these two tales are rich and deep. My first curiosity: your education? And then: where do you draw from for your stories? Where do your stories come from?
I don't have a university education; insofar as I might seem to know anything, I am either an autodidact or an unusually good liar. On the other hand, I don't really claim to know anything. I am definitely not my narrators; my concerns are usually less cosmic.
Big weird story ideas are usually germinated in perfectly prosaic soil, though. Stories come from the same place as all ideas, the same place as everything that goes through all our minds –-from the interplay of imagination and experience. You know, something that happened twenty years ago pops up suddenly in juxtaposition with a word or a phrase that just ran through your mind, and suddenly you have an idea. But it's also often said that ideas are cheap and all the effort is in execution: this is true.
I guess I understand your choice to write in English instead of Sinhalese, but what is your relationship to the English language? Can you imagine your stories in your mother tongue?
I speak Sinhala and English and learned both in early childhood from multilingual parents. Ideas like "mother tongue" are rather complicated for people who speak more than one language in postcolonial nations, especially if one of them actually was the language of the occupation. I think perhaps the clearest way to put this would be to say that I personally don't think of English as a foreign language or as a second language at all (while many Sri Lankans would disagree on both counts): it is one of the languages I speak natively, and it's my preferred language for reading and writing fiction.
I can imagine writing stories in Sinhala, sure, but this doesn't interest me right now. What I'm trying to do is participate in this existing (and explicitly anglophone) speculative short fiction culture and industry largely dominated by western publications, which has its own audience, paying markets, history, literary traditions, critical infrastructure and so forth. Writing fiction in Sinhala, where those things don't exist (not for speculative short fiction, certainly) would be playing an entirely different game. Still, I'm not ruling it out at some point in the future. Certainly it would be very interesting to translate myself!
I really love Dharmas. Who are really Piter and the narrator?
I'm glad you enjoyed it! Everything I know about these characters, though, the reader also already knows. The story is not a riddle: the characters are simply themselves and the arguments that they make, which is as much as any of us could say.
And I love “On being undone by a light breeze” too. The destiny of the protagonist seems so terrible and tragic.. What pushed you to write this story?
Thank you! A couple of the seeds of this story are true events that I have recounted faithfully: the brief scare over the asteroid 1997XF11 and the explosion at the Joint Operations Command, both of which made a big impression on me at the time. So in a way I suppose I've been waiting a long time to write this story.
Are your working on something new?
I'm working on more short stories, of course, and perhaps some longer stories as well, though it's still too early to tell if I have an affinity for that! I maintain an up-to-date bibliography at http://vajra.me/publications so that's where to check to keep up with what I'm doing.
Thank you so much, Vajra!