S.B. Divya is joining us today to talk about her novel, Meru. Here’s the publisher’s description:
One woman and her pilot are about to change the future of the species in an epic space opera about aspiration, compassion, and redemption by Hugo and Nebula Award finalist S. B. Divya. For five centuries, human life has been restricted to Earth, while posthuman descendants called alloys freely explore the galaxy. But when the Earthlike planet of Meru is discovered, two unlikely companions venture forth to test the habitability of this unoccupied new world and the future of human-alloy relations. For Jayanthi, the adopted human child of alloy parents, it’s an opportunity to rectify the ancient reputation of her species as avaricious and destructive, and to give humanity a new place in the universe. For Vaha, Jayanthi’s alloy pilot, it’s a daunting yet irresistible adventure to find success as an individual. The journey challenges their resolve in unexpected ways, the two form a bond that only deepens with their time alone on Meru. But how can Jayanthi succeed at freeing humanity from its past when she and Vaha have been set up to fail? Against all odds, hope is human, too.
What’s Name’s favorite bit?
In my final year of high school, I was lucky enough to take several classes at the University of Minnesota. One of those was a graduate level linguistics course in classical Sanskrit. The professor, Dr. Malandra, was soft-spoken and quick to smile. He and the other students were amused by my presence, but I did well and enjoyed the class so much that in the second quarter, I was one of only three people who continued taking it.
Being in such a small group, I got to know the professor pretty well. I mentioned that my mom was helping me with the subject at home. She had also studied Sanskrit once upon a time, while attending school in India. The details are fuzzy now (it’s been a few decades), but my mom ended up auditing the class with me, and it’s one of my fondest memories from my senior year.
When it came time to write Meru, I needed to figure out what I wanted for my chapter titles. The story is inspired by one of my favorite tales from the epic Mahabharata. I shifted the plot and characters into a far future setting, and I changed many details until the book evolved into something entirely different (it’s definitely not a retelling), but its origin stuck with me. I decided to honor that by choosing classical Sanskrit words for my chapter titles.
My decision allowed me to traipse down memory lane. The written alphabet used for Sanskrit is called Devanāgarī, and it’s the same (mostly) as that for Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, and other modern languages. It emerged roughly a thousand years after the classical Sanskrit language, sometime around 600 CE. Back in high school, I had the script memorized along with Sanskrit grammar and sandhi, a set of rules for combining sounds and words. Having left that knowledge behind, though, I had to refresh my memory while writing my chapter titles. My mom came along for the ride again, going so far as to help me ensure that the font used by the publisher came as close to the original form of the script as possible.
The majority of readers aren’t going to pay too much attention to these kinds of details, not even the ones in India, many of whom might interpret the titles as Hindi words instead. I could just as well have written them in English, however, I decided to indulge myself and revisit my past with my mother by my side. I expect that this time around will also be one of my favorite memories in the decades to come.
S. B. Divya is a Hugo- and Nebula-nominated author whose work includes Machinehood, Runtime, and the short-story collection Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations. Her stories have been published in various magazines, such as Analog and Uncanny; on Tor.com; and in several anthologies, including Seasons Between Us and Rebuilding Tomorrow. She holds degrees in computational neuroscience and signal processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author. A lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma, she enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. For more information visit www.sbdivya.com.