I don’t know if you did this when you were a kid, but I was always interested to find out who else shared my birthday (July 6). There were a number of kids in my elementary school who were born on the 5th, and even more, it seemed, on the 7th, but the day in between, I had all to myself. When it came to celebrities/historical figures of note, I didn’t fare much better: Sylvester Stallone and Nancy Reagan (I kid you not). John Paul Jones was born on the 6th, which I guess was something, except that my middle name is, you guessed it, Paul, and my fellow students took great delight in calling me “John Paul Jones.” Not that any of the little thugs knew about the birthday connection: it was just something obnoxious to say.
(During college, I think it was, I found that both Guy de Maupassant and William Faulkner had died on July 6th–not the same July 6th, mind you, but I supposed that was…well, you couldn’t call it auspicious, exactly, unless you believed that one or both of their souls/essences had traveled through the ether to take up residence in my infant brain. Which I never thought. Never.)
More recently, I learned I share a birthday with the great Frida Kahlo, which pretty much makes up for the whole Sly/Nancy thing. But I also learned I have it in common with a fellow writer of weird fiction, the very talented Jayaprakash Satyamurthy.
As you can see from the photo above , he and his wife run an animal rescue/shelter operation out of their home. That alone would make him okay in my book. But he’s also a fantastic writer. Over the last several years, he’s released a pair of slim collections of weird stories, as well as a standalone story (I think it’s a long novelette, but it might cross into novella territory) called Strength of Water. All of it is excellent work, its prose elegant and lucid without being overly stilted or formal. Set in and around Bangalore, which is where he lives, the shorter stories evoke those of M.R. James and Robert Aickman without ever feeling derivative, while deftly evoking day to day life in contemporary India. In terms of both story and ideas, Strength of Water packs more into its pages than many long novels. I like to describe it by evoking the scene in Gaiman’s American Gods where Shadow gets to see the space behind the world, and then telling whomever I’m talking to to imagine that what you’re seeing when you’re in that space is actually the ideological constructs that shape and govern our societies brought to life. And that’s not to mention the psychic kids and the painfully sharp portrayal of India sliding towards authoritarianism.
Recently, Satyamurthy has released a new collection of stories, Come Tomorrow: and Other Tales of Bangalore Terror, which brings together the material of his previous two collections with new work. I purchased it the second I found out it was available: that’s the kind of writer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy is, the kind whose every new story you snap up the minute you hear about it. If you want to wish one of our finer writers of weird fiction a Happy Birthday, head over to your preferred vendor and treat yourself to his work.