The Cradle: a 1970s story, by Tasha Suri

Second paragraph of third chapter:

I don’t love everyone knowing my business. And I don’t love the way you have to run, sometimes, from people who want to bash your head in.

Where the previous story in this series took a fictional town and a timespan mainly in the 1960s but stretching to the present day, The Cradle is set very firmly in 1978 in Southall, at a time of maximum tension caused by the National Front, with the protagonist a gay Indian teenager who is at the front line of racism. I know Tash Suri a bit from our joint stint as guests of honour at the 2022 Eastercon:

I remember an Eastercon discussion a few years ago about places that Doctor Who cannot go – the Holocaust, for example, or indeed Ireland (other than symbolically). 1970s racist London might at first sight seem to be potentially one of those places, but Tasha Suri has found a way of doing it, taking her protagonist and friends on a personal journey mentored by the Twelfth Doctor. At the end of the story everything is not all right, everyone is not OK, but the Doctor has helped and the future looks just a little better than it did. I liked this one too. You can get it here.

Bechdel pass in the first chapter when Seema and her grandmother talk about cooking and the strange lights in the sky.

Empire Of Sand, by Tasha Suri

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Below her, echoing up from the central courtyard of her home, came the sound of a woman weeping.

I got this because the author and I were both guests of honour at this year’s Eastercon, but did not get around to reading it until now. We’d previously had brief communication when she was a finalist for the first Astounding Award in 2020, though I’m sorry to say that I did not get around to reading the extract from this novel included in that year’s voter packet (there was a global pandemic on, and some things slipped through the cracks).

It’s similar to the standard fantasy romance (arranged marriage which works out, against the odds, with both couples having magical powers), but there are a couple of very interesting twists. The fantasy world is based on Mughal India rather than medieval Europe, and that gives a whole new set of cultural references to play with. There’s court politics among both the empire where the protagonist is from and her husband’s people who are very culturally different. And the settings are vividly realised. Recommended. You can get it here.

This was the top SF novel on my unread pile. Next on that list is Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, which I have previously read but a very long time ago.