Author creates fantastic fiction grounded in reality

LAWRENCE — At some level, you have to write what you know, and Bogi Takács Perelmutter does that in their new collection of fantastical stories.

"The Power to Yield" book cover

Some, for instance, are inspired by the academic, scientific milieu in which the author moves as assistant teaching professor in the University of Kansas departments of Slavic, German & Eurasian Studies and Jewish Studies. But “Power to Yield and Other Stories” (Broken Eye Books, 2024) is hardly just for nonbinary, neurodivergent Jewish immigrants from Hungary.

Rather, the author aspires to capture something universal about the human condition in extremis – whether that’s the Kafkaesque tale of a woman turned into a potted plant or a sadomasochistic, futuristic allegory about the sacrifices required to maintain life in a hostile environment.

Allusions to, for example, the yearlong traditional Jewish mourning ritual or a specific neighborhood in Budapest just add color of a particularly grounded sort within some pretty fantastical settings, Takács said.

“I sometimes get reader comments like, ‘I'm not Jewish, but was I supposed to relate to this?’ Of course, if you relate to this, that's not a problem. But I also get people who say, ‘I didn't necessarily understand everything, but I went and looked it up,’ which I think is also great. ... I'm not going to police how much background knowledge is required. God forbid! I understand that readers come to the story with really different backgrounds,” Takács said.

Bogi Takács Perelmutter
Bogi Takács Perelmutter

“I really liked what Malka Older said on Twitter a few years ago: ‘I write for the people whose names are underlined in Word.’ I think that's very relatable. When I write, the readers I have in mind are those who have some experience of being on the margins or being in the minority in some way. But it can be any minority or any type of situation,” Takács said. 

There is pride, Takács said, in being recognized as a voice for such a population. For instance, they recently won the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Jewish Gender Studies Research Award for their work on gender nonconformity in Hungarian Jewish woman writer Zsuzsa Kántor's oeuvre. They have won Hugo and Lambda awards in the categories of fan writing (for their book reviews) and transgender fiction, respectively, and were a finalist for Ignyte and Locus awards. A book they edited, “Rosalind’s Siblings: Fiction and Poetry Celebrating Scientists of Marginalized Genders,” is on the long list for 2024’s British Science Fiction Awards and the Locus Award in the category of Best Collection.

“I just had somebody tell me specifically about the intersex stories that are in the new book,” Takács said, “and as an intersex person, I was just super happy that somebody is seeing and noticing and realizing that. An intersex book club is going to be reading the book, so I'm excited about that, too.”

Takács earned their doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology from KU in 2022. They said some of their story ideas spring directly from scientific papers they’ve read.

“There was one in my previous collection, ‘The Trans Space Octopus Congregation,’ that especially had a lot of people say, ‘Oh, this is like a fantasy story set in the far future.’ And it was actually a science fiction story, inspired by very specific research papers,” Takács said. “I wanted to cite the research papers at the end of the original publication, but the editor was like, ‘We don't do that, no.’  ... That was also specifically about artificial intelligence and about adversarial inputs, where you give some kind of input to an AI system that wouldn't throw off a typical human at all, but it’s very confusing to the AI system. And I feel like nowadays, there's more discussion about this.”

Thu, 02/08/2024


Rick Hellman

Media Contacts

Rick Hellman

KU News Service