I had reviewed Anjali Sachdeva’s debut short story collection, All the Names They Used for God, earlier this year. Then, I got the chance to do an interview with her. We discussed how she approached the themes of the stories in this collection and the choices she makes regarding style and structure. We also talked, particularly, about her love for the short story form and what she is working on next.
Q. In this collection, the stories have several themes: gender issues, marginalization, and others. The main one, of course, is this reach toward something greater and beyond oneself — the new gods. I loved your introduction to this. Please tell us a bit more about your thoughts on old gods versus new gods.
It’s funny, I went back and forth for a long time about whether or not to include the introduction in the final version and, in the end, decided not to. The basic idea I was addressing there was this concept that many of us today worship science or nature or other forces the same way that people have always worshipped deities, but we do it with this sense that deities are unfailingly benevolent. As though science will fix everything if we can just understand it well enough. I just don’t think that’s true.
I think there’s always a connection between creation and destruction, and when I read old fairy tales and mythology, it’s clear that the people who wrote those tales thought the same thing. Those stories are filled with blood and suffering and violence just as much as they are with the kind of beautiful magical salvation that the term “fairy tale” invokes in a colloquial sense. It’s important that we consider how that same principle of balance applies to the things we worship these days.