It started a decade ago in a fiction workshop taught by F&M Professor of English Nicholas Montemarano. This spring, it has come full circle for Indrapramit (Indra) Das ’08.
When he was a student at F&M, Das wrote a short story as part of that creative writing class. His piece won the College’s Jerome Irving Bank Memorial Short Story Prize, and he read it aloud at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House. The story became the opening chapter of his first novel, “The Devourers,” published last year by Del Rey Books. Das describes the book as cross-genre, most closely aligning with contemporary and mythic fantasy. The Washington Post calls it one of the best books of the year.
Das, who currently lives in his hometown of Kolkata, India, returned to campus in April as a participant in the Emerging Writers Festival (EWF), an annual event organized by the Department of English and Philadelphia Alumni Writers House that showcases talented and promising writers. This time, he had a larger audience than when he performed at the Green Room many years earlier; dozens of professors and students were on hand to welcome the first F&M alumnus to be featured in the EWF.
“EWF went beautifully,” Das says. “The audiences were engaged. It was also wonderful to see how many students from other majors were there.”
Das’ work has appeared in several publications, including Clarkesworld Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons and Tor.com, and it also has been widely anthologized in collections such as The Year's Best Science Fiction (St. Martin's Press). The Devourers has been nominated for the 2016 Crawford Award and is a finalist for a 2017 Lambda Literary Award.
He is quick to credit his F&M professors for being instrumental in the development of the novel and his career as a writer. He loved the experience of coming back to the place where he began writing. “I was swimming around in a sea of nostalgia. It really felt right.”
It also was a treat for his former professors.
“It was wonderful, a real homecoming, to have him back on campus for EWF, and he couldn’t have been more gracious, or, I think, more tickled,” says Jeff Steinbrink, Alumni Professor of English Literature and Belles Lettres. “On the one hand, he quickly bonded with the four other Emerging Writers and seemed at home in their company. On the other, he easily mixed with our students – his successors – and took a real interest in them and their life and work at F&M.”
Das followed in his brother’s footsteps in attending F&M. Movies and television exposed the brothers to American culture and provided them with a strong impression of American colleges.
“I was a good student and handled social and academic life pretty easily,” he says. “I took my classes and loved meeting people, and I made many close friends at F&M.”
He found his niche as an English student. “Indra was one of the brightest students I've worked with in 15 years at F&M,” recalls Montemarano. “His talent was evident from the first creative writing course he took with me.”
Das describes his writing process as creative and not methodical. “I tend to write in huge binges, and then go through long stretches of not writing and panicking. I have strong images and impressions that lead to the story, but the process is rather haphazard.”
“There are only two genres of novels: great ones and less than great ones,” Montemarano says. “Indra's is the former. That's really all that matters.”