Some time ago on this page I promised that my new standalone novelette, The Virgin Birth of Sharks, would be available this month.
I gave some details about this book, along with a small sample, in a previous post that went up before it was published. What more can I tell you now?
Well, Virgin Sharks has a new feature that I will likely retrofit into some, if not all, of my previous publications, a section entitled The Facts in the Fiction.
This section gives background on some of the factual details that lie behind the fictional story. It also includes links to web sites, PDF documents, and videos, all related to various features of the story, so if you’re reading the book on a web-enabled device you can click through directly from this section to get information on a topic that interests you from online resources.
What kind of topics are covered in The Facts in the Fiction? In this case I look at a range of things including:
- the actual (though very rare) virgin birth of sharks in the real world through a process known as parthenogenesis
- the Indian bandits known as dacoits and the most famous of the dacoits, Phoolan Devi
- the inimitable Carmen Miranda
- the seven deadly sins (both as actual sins and as jumping-off points for a book of essays edited by Ian Fleming), and
- how to keep a pet shark in Toronto, Canada without breaking the law.
Rather than describe this section any further, I’m going to post a sample. Here’s the section entitled The Dacoits and the Bandit Queen.
Rachelle tells Rani that her ancestors were dacoits, Indian bandits, just like Phoolan Devi the Bandit Queen:
A dacoit? A dacoit is what you are, girl. A robber. A bandit. In India dacoits run around in the countryside, robbing traders and travelers. Sometimes raiding small villages. Most of them are men, and usually female dacoits are just the wives of robbers, they don’t do much. But there are some women who are real bandits, your mother said. Like Phoolan Devi, the Bandit Queen. Your grandma was that kind of dacoit. She was shot dead in northern India somewhere. Your mother told me where but I forget the name of the place now.
Devi (1963–2001), who became known as the Bandit Queen, was a girl from a low caste (the mallahs) who was mistreated from a very young age, even within her own family. As a result of a family dispute she was married off to an abusive man in his 30s when she was just eleven years old, although she eventually left him. Her cousin had her jailed on trumped up charges when she was 16 and in jail she was raped and beaten by police.
Devi was then either abducted by, or ran away with, a gang of dacoits and married the man who became its leader. In 1981 internal strife within the gang eventually led to her husband’s murder and to Devi being locked up in the village of Behmai, where a number of local men of a higher caste raped her. She escaped and started her own gang, engaging in robberies and carrying out a massacre of twenty-two men in Behmai, some of whom were involved in the assault on her, although others were not.
The Behmai incident led to an intense man-hunt. Many Indians regarded Devi as just another outlaw, while for others she became a folk hero as a kind of Robin Hood figure. She was celebrated as the incarnation of the Hindu goddesses Durga and Kali by members of low castes, especially other mallah women, and was respected for fighting back against the upper-caste men who had raped her and for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
In 1983 Devi, who was by then in poor health and who had lost several members of her gang, finally negotiated with the Indian government to surrender. She imposed a number of conditions, however, including the stipulation that she would not surrender to police — instead she would surrender to an image of Mahatma Gandhi and an image of the goddess Durga. She did so at a public event attended by 10,000 onlookers. Devi went to jail, where she remained until 1994.
In 1996, Devi was elected to the Indian Parliament as a member of the Samajwadi Party. She lost her seat two years later but then regained it in 1999. She was killed in 2001 by by masked assassins who shot her outside her home.
There are numerous biographies of Devi, including the acclaimed Outlaw by Roy Moxham, who knew her from 1992 until her death. There are at least two autobiographies as well, I, Phoolan Devi, of which she is the sole author, and The Bandit Queen of India, with co-authors Marie-Therese Cuny and Paul Rambali.
Devi is the subject of more than one film, the best known being Bandit Queen (1994) directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Seema Biswas. In May 2012 the opera Phoolan Devi premiered in the United States.
Curious? Get The Virgin Birth of Sharks now for just $1.99 by clicking one of the links at the top of this page.
And in the future, watch for these developments:
- Next up, a short story called Gone Again, which is in its final edit.
- After that, a Gat Burroughs short story tentatively titled Los Angeles Honey, which I hope to publish before the end of August.