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On Creating an Indian Cryptid (and Not Quitting)

Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging Fireflies and Thieves Neethu Krishnan Volume Silver

By Neethu Krishnan

Dark Cheer Cryptids Emerging Volume Silver

I had never written a story featuring a fantastical creature before – that is, before my story "Fireflies and Thieves." My first impulse at the submission call for the Cryptids Emerging, anthology was to sigh and self-sabotage, citing the following reasons:

* I was scantily, if at all, informed about the cryptid universe.

* I stood no chance against excellent high-fantasy writers, who I pictured plucking a bunch of just-perfect drafts off their towering desk pile and sending them out into the world of sure-fire acceptance.

* I could de facto eliminate the possibility of rejection by not trying, and thus avert the burn of definite future embarrassment.

A part of me had already quit the endeavour. Another disjointed part, however, wanted to skim the internet, you know, just for fun, just to confirm my self-assessed assurance of failure was justified.

The World of Cryptids

The world of cryptids was intimidating. And vast. And also, limited?

Overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the global catalog of popular cryptids, I decided to start small and local. I searched for Indian cryptids. The results were dismal and few. When I streamlined the search further, for cryptids associated with South India, where I’m from, the threads were fewer still.

Moreover, most Indian cryptids demanded specific geographical settings like impenetrable forests, treacherous water bodies, or the Himalayas, and bowel deep in the double-digit pages of Google, I found myself wanting to write a short story, one with a cryptid just around the corner, hiding in plain sight in a regular landscape. It was then that the line from the submission call came back to me. Pick a cryptid from legend or make one up, it had said. And so, I did.

Hometown Kerala Cryptid

I placed my protagonist in my hometown in Kerala, South India, in a house surrounded by ordinary lush greenery, of coconut palms, wild jack trees and oaks, and my cryptid closer still. I exoticized nothing, for it was my home. I was writing about a corner of the world – my world, I found rare representation of, if at all, in international media.

By the end of the story, I was exhilarated. I had created a native cryptid, filling a gap in representation, even if it was for my own sake.

I did not expect to be accepted when I sent the story in. I expected the Indian-ness of the setting, the character and even the cryptid to stand in stark relief against the pool of familiar and popular cryptids and geographies, and thus easily be the least-likely to be picked. The fact that the incredible Atlin accepted my story feels unreal still. Scheduled to be published in a two-volume anthology with seductive covers, I can’t wait for the world to meet my cryptid, and maybe, fall in love with them a little.

Neethu Krishnan is a writer from Mumbai, India, whose story "Fireflies and Thieves" appears in Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging, Volume Silver. Neethu holds postgraduate degrees in English and Microbiology. She writes essayistic nonfiction and (occasionally) poetry. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in The Spectacle. You can connect with Neethu on Facebook.

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