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The Minerva Sierra Challenge is a grueling spectacle, the cyborg’s Tour de France. Rich thrill-seekers with corporate sponsorships, extensive support teams, and top-of-the-line exoskeletal and internal augmentations pit themselves against the elements in a day-long race across the Sierra Nevada.

Marmeg Guinto doesn’t have funding, and she doesn’t have support. She cobbled her gear together from parts she found in rich people’s garbage and spent the money her mother wanted her to use for nursing school to enter the race. But the Minerva Challenge is the only chance she has at a better life for herself and her younger brothers, and she’s ready to risk it all.

“A thrilling romp through a gleaming cybernetic future that’s neither dystopia nor utopia, but embedded in our reality― I wish more science fiction were as exciting and relevant as Runtime.” ― Ken Liu, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award winner and author of The Grace of Kings

“S. B. Divya is a new light on the science fiction scene, a writer with the promise and talent to become one of our genre’s stars. Have a read; she’s a wonderful storyteller.” ― Catherine Asaro, Nebula Award winning author.


What initially got you interested in writing?


An English class exercise in 8th grade is where I wrote my first bit of science fiction (after being a reader for several years). My friend asking me to continue the story – it had a cliff-hanger of a non-ending – is what kept me going. After dabbling for a few years without submitting a thing, I went to off to college – and a career in science & technology – and dropped fiction writing for over a decade. The itch to tell stories never went away, though. I kept writing (on Live Journal, mostly), and then decided to make a serious effort to publish fiction a few years ago.


What genres do you write in?


Science fiction and fantasy. With the former, I mostly focus on near or far future. With the latter, I tend to write magical realism or slipstream. I have nothing against other genres and would love to intersect with mystery, especially, but I’m a slow writer so it may take the rest of my life to explore all the subgenres that pique my interest.


What drew you to writing these specific genres?


In part, I’ve been a reader and fan for much of my life, but also, I have a love for the underlying subjects: science, engineering, space travel, futurism, directed evolution/post-humanism. Writing genre fiction that incorporates these subjects gives me the opportunity to research them. Learning about cutting-edge developments in technology or the latest scientific discoveries makes me a happy person. Writing fiction that explores how these might affect individuals, or the whole of society, satisfies my need to tell stories.


How did you break into the field?


I went the short story route. My initial focus was on flash-length fiction (i.e., stories under 1500 words), and my first sale was to Daily Science Fiction, which almost exclusively publishes flash. One of the great things about this length was that I could play in a lot of sandboxes and improve my writing skills without sinking a huge amount time into one story. For someone with a demanding engineering dayjob and young child at home, this was a saving grace.


What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?


My two goals as a writer are to stimulate questions and evoke strong emotions. I’m happiest when my readers are left feeling elated or in tears at the end of a story. I also love having them pick apart the underlying assumptions I make while building a world. My stories are speculative in nature so there’s never a “right answer” as far as I’m concerned, but I hope to leave them thinking and wondering about the story long after they’re done reading it.


What do you find most rewarding about writing?


Writing science fiction and fantasy gives me a sense of hope. What might the future hold for us? Not all good, but not all bad either – at least, not in the ones I like to write! In a way, writing ends up being cathartic for me, especially when I’m discouraged by real-world events.


What do you find most challenging about writing?


Honestly, the answer to this question keeps changing. If you’d asked me a few years ago, my answer would’ve been, “To finish a story.” Once I did that, the challenge was the revision process. Now, it’s that there’s never enough time to write all the stories I want to tell! I spend a lot of time thinking which slows down my writing. I get frustrated with my perceived lack of productivity, but much like debugging code, I’m learning to be patient and not hold myself to arbitrary schedules. I’m sure if you ask me this question in another year or two, I will be facing a new set of challenges.


What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?


Read a lot in the length you’re working on. Also, take a class, or find a genre-writing group that can help you learn the basics. There is no replacement for a good critique, and getting that from a professional (and learning from it) will go a long way in helping you write the story you want to tell. I’ve heard it said – and I agree – that storytelling ability is not the same as prose writing ability. Learn to be good at both.


What type of books do you enjoy reading?


I mostly read within my genre or else really old fiction. Once in a blue moon, I’ll pick up something contemporary, but I don’t find them as satisfying to read. The books that transport me to another world, whether it’s invented or historical, are my favorites.


Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?


Besides writing and engineering, I’m an Assistant Editor at Escape Pod. I started out reading submissions for them, and then moved up to mid-level editorial work. I’ve really enjoyed my time on the other side of the desk, and it’s given me good insight into what happens when I submit a story to a magazine. It’s also helped me realize how many wonderful authors and stories are out there, and I love being part of the process that shares those stories with the world.


What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?


I’m moderately active on Twitter (@divyastweets) and I blog on my website (www.eff-words.com). My Amazon author page (www.amazon.com/author/sbdivya) has a list of my publications that are available for purchase, and my website has a full bibliography, including several short stories that are free to read online.


S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. After spending twenty years working as an electrical engineer, she gave more weight to fiction than reality and became an author. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Lightspeed and Daily Science Fiction, and her writing appears in the indie game Rogue Wizards. She’s currently the Assistant Editor for Escape Pod, a podcast of science fiction short stories. Her novella Runtime is available from Tor.com Publications as of May, 2016. You can find more online at www.eff-words.com or on Twitter as @divyastweets.

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