Saladin Ahmed

Writer’s Ink: Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed is the author of the award-winning Throne of the Crescent Moon [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] (reviewed here), in addition to a number of short stories. You can find some of those stories in his free collection Engraved on the Eye.

He also offers editing/critique services.

From Saladin:

My tattoo says “Hurriya” – roughly, “freedom” – in very stylized Arabic. It’s based on calligraphy by Nihad Dukhan.

It’s green because green is significant in Arab and Muslim cultures and in Irish culture (I’m Irish on my Mom’s side). It’s on my left arm for political associations and because I’m a southpaw.

The work was done by the late great Ann Arbor tattoo artist Suzanne Fauser. And it was a gift from my father for graduating college.


Podcast Fiction: El-Mohtar and Ahmed

Two more recommendations from PodCastle.

First up is Saladin Ahmed’s Where Virtue Lives. This story takes place before the events of Ahmed’s award-winning novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, and shows how the aged ghul-hunter Doctor Adoulla Makhslood first met the young and rather uptight warrior Dervish Raseed bas Raseed. The story is also available at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The story would be a great way to sample Ahmed’s world and writing. If you like it, you should enjoy the book as well.

I’m particularly fond of Adoulla, his impatience with the trappings of virtue combined with his determination to do what’s right. I appreciate the role religion plays in this world, how it’s woven through the magic and day-to-day interactions of the characters. This story also touches on the dynamics of power and control in an abusive relationship. There’s a “strong-guys-rescuing-the-women” overtone to the story, which I would have liked to see challenged a bit more, but overall I enjoyed it.

Next is A Hollow Play, by Amal El-Mohtar. This story was also published in the Glitter & Mayhem anthology, and is a tale of love and sacrifice and relationships and alienation and magic. This is the second of El-Mohtar’s stories that I’ve listened to and loved. In many ways, it’s a quiet story. There are no swords, no battles with evil demons, no end-of-the-world stakes.

But it’s a very powerful story. El-Mohtar makes the reader feel Emily’s sense of loss and being lost, her awkwardness and courage, and her love.

I was told that this is the kind of story some people might describe as being Full of Gay Agenda!!!1!!1! Having listened to the story, I’ve decided that’s just silly. There’s no agenda here, unless you feel that acknowledging the existence of gay or genderqueer or poly people is an agenda. (In which case, please go away.)

I’m particularly impressed with the way El-Mohtar wrote about feeling trapped in one’s own body, both from a human perspective and a not-quite-human one. Though this isn’t an area where I have first-hand experience, to me the story felt both respectful and genuine.

Podcast Fiction: Ahmed and Bear

I’ve had a harder time lately making time to read for pleasure. It’s something I usually try to do before bed, but between working double-time on the book and the kids staying up later, this hasn’t been working out as well. Then, after listening to Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted on the drive to and from GenCon, it occurred to me that I could at least squeeze some audio fiction into my 15-minute commute to and from the day job.

This is how I ended up on PodCastle and Escape Pod, searching for stories to listen to.

I started out with Saladin Ahmed‘s “Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions,” a short first-person superhero piece. At 14 minutes in length, it felt like flash fiction, though I don’t know the exact word count. More snapshot/commentary than full-length story, it contained a number of good, Ahmed-style observations about race, prison culture, and superhero tropes. Poor Doctor Diablo…

Next up was “The Tricks of London,” by Elizabeth Bear. PodCastle describes this as a “Giant Episode,” coming in at 79 minutes. The story is set in Bear’s New Amsterdam world, and features Detective Crown Investigator Abigail Irene Garrett, a forensic sorcerer and the only woman in the late nineteenth century Enchancery. (April 1879, to be exact.)

The story is told from the point of view of Detective Sergeant Sean Cuan, and describes their investigation into a supernatural serial killer.

Let me put it this way. I now need to read all of Bear’s New Amsterdam stuff.

The plot itself isn’t overly twisty, but the details she provides reminded me that Bear has a lot of practice writing this kind of fiction (see Shadow Unit), not to mention being a fan of Criminal Minds 🙂 )

It’s the characterization and the language that really drew me in, though. While this story does fall into the “only one active female surrounded by male characters” category, it’s a deliberate historical choice, and handled quite well. I like Garrett a lot, and enjoyed her developing quasi-mentoring/friendship with Cuan. And Bear’s description is vivid and evocative. She chooses each word carefully, and it shows.


Have you read or listened to either of these stories? If so, what did you think? And what other sites would you recommend for someone starting to get into podcast fiction?

PC Monsters of Genre: Collect Them All!

A week or two back, someone started a Twitter account called SFWA Fascists, dedicated to attacking the “screeching feminist witches” who are destroying the natural order — not to mention RUINING science fiction and fantasy — in the name of their twisted PC ideology.

The account itself is mostly spittle and flailing, but the creators also posted a list of the PC Monsters of SFWA (which they then renamed PC C**ts of SFWA, because I guess Monsters was too classy). These are the people deemed to be “immoral, vicious, manipulative snakes.”

DL Thurston has a copy of the list here.

Interestingly enough, people on the SFWA Fascist Enemies List reported suddenly gaining new followers, some as many as 50 to 100 in a few days.

Watching people use this list as a suggestion for “Who to follow on Twitter” made me happy. And because I was putting off working on the book one afternoon, I decided it would be fun to create PC Monster of Genre cards to go with it. (Note: All of these were made with the permission and blessing of the subjects.)

I started with myself, to celebrate my inclusion on the list. As of today, I’ve done cards for 7 of the 16 list members.


Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is Saladin Ahmed‘s first fantasy novel.

It’s good. You should read it.

What, you want more? Okay, fine. Here’s the official summary from the publisher:

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince.  In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

One of those heroes is Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” and he’s awesome. He’s old, he’s burnt out, and dammitall he’s doing the best he can. He’s not invulnerable or superhuman, and he’s facing a darkness more powerful than anything he’s encountered in his long career as a ghul hunter.

You also have Raseed bas Raseed, a badass holy warrior whose time with Adoulla creates a wonderful conflict between the rigid purity of Raseed’s religious beliefs and the messiness of the real world. He and Adoulla are joined by Zamia Badawi, who is just as deadly as Raseed, but where Raseed is disciplined and focused, Badawi is raw and passionate and angry.

Ahmed does a great job with his characters, making you feel for them in a way few authors can. The worldbuilding was refreshing as well. I love that Adoulla’s magic is faith-based, and the contrast between his faith and Raseed’s. The city, the tribes, the history … everything feels real. Ahmed isn’t just slapping in two-dimensional set pieces.

The book gets rather dark at time. Our villains are genuinely Evil, and that comes through from page one.

Much as I loved this book (and I’ll definitely be picking up the next), the ending didn’t sit quite right with me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It’s hard to get into details without spoiling things, but I think it comes down to the emotional payoff not quite matching up to what I was hoping for. That might just be a matter of personal taste.

Overall, a strong first novel, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Throne of the Crescent Moon comes out on February 7.

What Should Jim Read Next?

I finished the book I was reading for research purposes, which means it’s time to figure out what to start next. I’m torn between three ARCs, all of which I’m excited to read. So I decided I’d throw it open for a vote, because I’m just too damn lazy to make a decision.

Throne of the Crescent Moon [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Saladin Ahmed (February, 2012). The debut novel from a Nebula and Campbell award finalist.

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince.  In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

Arctic Rising [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by NYT bestselling author Tobias Buckell (February, 2012).

Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it’s about to get even hotter. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean.

Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. Thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air can create a giant sunshade, capable of redirecting heat and cooling the earth’s surface. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself—but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Shadow Ops: Control Point [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Myke Cole (February, 2012). This is Cole’s first novel, described as “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men.”

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

So which one would you start with?

Jim C. Hines