Vandana Singh is a common Indian female name. So, just to clarify, I am not Vandana Singh the plant pathologist, the chiropractor, or the fashion designer. I have also been mistaken for Vandana R. Singh, editor and translator (of, for example, the excellent anthology To Each Her Own) — and while I take this as a compliment, honesty compels me to direct you to her website. Despite all that I am not, I am many things, not least of which are Earthling, human, female, and Indian, but this page is devoted to one aspect of my being: my writing.
I’m a writer of speculative fiction, which includes science fiction and fantasy. I love this genre for its imaginative richness, its vast canvas, and the sophistication with which its best practitioners wield their pens. Science fiction and fantasy have come a long way from the lurid caricatures of ray-guns and little green men (which, by the way, I still insist on enjoying, for the most part); in fact no other genre asks deeper questions about the human condition or sets up literary thought experiments about our interaction with the physical world, including other worlds and new technologies.
I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India, which is still home to me although I now live near Boston, in the United States, my other home (why be content with just one?). Being a card-carrying alien writing science fiction is an interesting experience; my distance from my native shores necessarily affects what and how I write. Most of my family is in India and I go as often as I can, and hope to return there for an extended period, or even for good, at some point in my life. I dream of a little cottage in the foothills of the Himalayas, and real mangos, among other things…
I’ve written in two languages, English and Hindi, since I was about five. I now write almost exclusively in English for the world, and every once in a while in Hindi, for myself. While Hindi is my mother tongue, English is not a strange language to me, as I learned it around the age of four. My parents both had graduate degrees in English literature, so I grew up as much with Shakespeare and Keats as I did with the great Indian epics and literary writers in Hindi such as the inimitable Premchand. I grew up with a brother and sister and parents in the embrace of a huge family that included aunts, uncles, cousins and the world’s best grandparents. My mother and grandmother told us the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and various folk tales and village lore; aunts, cousins and uncles shared stories both real and imaginary. Being in India, stories seemed to appear from nowhere, from ordinary encounters such as shopping for vegetables to family gossip overheard during siestas. In my teen years and early adulthood I also became involved (in a modest and occasional way) in environmental and women’s movements, which had a lasting impact on my world-view. My brother and I also had an early interest in science, which we have retained in our adulthood and our careers.
I obtained early training in oral story-telling from my sister, who, as the youngest of the three of us, demanded original stories of a fantastic nature on a near-daily basis. Later my daughter took over this task, so that over the years I’ve forgotten more epic sagas than (I imagine) many writers might have written over their careers. My entire (long-suffering) family supports and encourages my eccentric writerly pursuits, especially my brother and my sister-in-law, who, being local, are able to nag me more efficiently. Meanwhile I have the best day job in the world, being an assistant professor of physics at a small and lively 4-year state college. I’ve returned to physics after a decade outside academia and it has been a wonderful homecoming. My background (and my Ph.D.) is in theoretical particle physics and although I don’t do research any more and find it a continual challenge to balance family, worklife and wider social responsibilities, I have the leisure to ponder deep questions about the universe, and the joy of interacting with students and infecting them with enthusiasm for physics. I continue to learn as many new things as possible with the very little time I have available. Currently I’m learning more about global warming, complex systems, differential geometry and life in ancient India, to name but a few things.