Grief Map

Technologies of the Self

Haris A. Durrani


Driftless Unsolicited Novella Series • Release Date: February 22, 2016

Print ISBN: 978-1-942083-18-4 • Ebook ISBN: 978-1-942083-19-1

Brain Mill Press offers Technologies of the Self for direct sale in ebook and mass-market print editions. Ebook buyers receive access to MOBI (Kindle), EPUB, and PDF files, offered without DRM restrictions.

Haris Durrani's wonderful tale is as much about family, jobs, friends and growing up as it is about demons, time travel, and God -- and that's as it should be. Rich, humane, funny and outlandish, it presages a great career for a young writer with lavish gifts and a generous spirit.

—John Crowley, author of Little, Big


Fantastic, taut, lyrical, funny, and vivid—a family history of faith, time travel, and selfhood in the face of saints and demons.

—Max Gladstone, author of Last First Snow


Technologies of the Self is brave and ruthless, gorgeous, and delicious. It is really magical and magically real: an unfiltered, unapologetic, and unforgettable narrative.

—Daniel José Older, author of Shadowshaper and the Bone Street Rumba series


A subtle and controlled gaze at the contemporary coming-of-age that trusts the reader to travel across time and science. Prerequisites in demonology and philosophy not required but are recommended. This is the kind of yes-yes world-embracing story-telling to challenge plastic realism and announce a writer.

—Ali Eteraz, author of Native Believer


Haris Durrani's debut is both a quirky coming-of-age story and a meditation on the technologies we use to make ourselves: immigration, religious conversion, science fiction, sex. It's so true to mixed experience, it feels defiant.

—Sofia Samatar, winner of the World Fantasy Award


Beautifully written, eloquent, Mr. Durrani's novella evokes time travel in the only way we can make sense of it--through memory. The book is thick with images that rise up larger than themselves, stronger than themselves, softer than themselves.

—Paul Park, author of A Princess of Roumania


In the tradition of Junot Díaz, Durrani offers a rare peek into the rich, often surprising cultural complexities of being Latino and Muslim in post-9/11 America. An inimitable novella about wrestling with identity where the costs couldn’t be higher. Funny, original, and wonderfully written, Technologies of the Self will keep you turning pages and leave you impressed.

—Murad Kalam, author of Night Journey


"A confident, wildly inventive debut, not to mention fizzy and fun and funny as hell--one of the best I have read in a long time."

—H. M. Naqvi, author of Home Boy


In this timely and instantly notable fiction debut, Haris Durrani immerses readers in the life of a young American Muslim struggling to understand himself in the context of his family, classmates, and contemporary urban life.

Engineering student Jihad, or “Joe” as he introduces himself in the confusing intersections of post-9/11 New York City, finds himself on a personal quest of possibly a spiritual nature, even if he isn’t sure that’s what it is – after all, it’s hard enough to keep halal in his Dominican-Pakistani-Muslim Washington Heights household.

He’s surprised to find himself in the stories his Uncle Tomás tells of his own youth, stories in which Tomás fights both the devil and the weaknesses of the flesh – often at the same time. Culture, nation, religion, family, identity, race, and time fight for dominion over Jihad until he realizes he is facing the same demon his uncle claims to have defeated, and all Jihad has to fight with is himself.

Durrani’s stories, memoirs, and essays have appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, The University of Toronto Undergraduate Journal of Middle East Studies, The 2014 Campbellian Anthology, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and The Best Teen Writing of 2012, 2011, and 2010. He writes for altMuslimah and has appeared regularly on John Hockenberry’s NPR show The Takeaway.


Haris A. Durrani is an M.Phil. candidate in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He holds a B.S. in Applied Physics from Columbia University, where he minored in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies and cofounded the Muslim Protagonist Symposium. He is the winner of the McSweeney’s Student Short Story Contest. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Lightspeed, Comparative Islamic Studies, Buffalo Almanack, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Media Diversified, altMuslimah, and The Best Teen Writing of 2012 (editor), 2011, and 2010. He is an alum of the Alpha Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Workshop for Young Writers and was a 2011 Portfolio Gold Medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, for which he currently serves on the Alumni Council. He will enroll at Columbia Law School in fall 2016. When he grows up, he would like to live on Gliese 581 g, if it exists.

AN EXCERPT from Technologies of the Self by Haris A. Durrani

© Haris A. Durrani, 2016


“Bend over.”

Tomás chewed the insides of his cheeks and focused on his toes atop the tiles. He inhaled the habichuela and plátanos. A moment passed, another, and with a grunt and a muffled whoosh, Abuelo struck him.

“Eyyaaaa!” Tomás screamed.

He heard Abuelo step back. “Do you know why this is happening, Tomás?”

Tomás balled his fists at his knees. He was going to be the king of the world.

“She was s-so hot!” he cried. “I c-couldn’t help it!”

Abuelo’s voice teetered to a higher volume. “Excuse me, Tomás?”

“She was s-so damn hot!”

He heard Abuelo step forward and swing. The pain came an instant later and burned.

“How dare you speak back to me!” Abuelo thundered.

Again, he swung the leather.

“B-but she was s-so hot, Papá!”


“B-but she was so fucking hot!”


“Papá! I c-couldn’t help it!”


“Her ass was r-right there, what was I—”


“Aaaa! Papá!”



The pain caught up with Tomás. It clung to him with urgency, singing shrilly in his ears. His back arched and his toes curled. His tongue twisted into itself and his teeth ground against one another. For a moment, he felt that he had left his body. First he believed he was in Abuelo’s body, delivering his own wounds. And then the body of the light from the window behind him, old and waning as the day completed itself. And then he was in the clothesline, vibrating, pulsing, flickering to a rapid beat, jazz maybe, or bachata, but bereft of melody. All drums. He jerked his head as if from a pool of cold water and discovered himself in his own body again, neck craned upward, staring into the hall. He heard Abuelo’s footsteps fade into an adjacent room. “Mi hijo . . .” Abuelo whispered.

Something black slipped from the clothesline. The tip of a boot, big as an ogre’s, then a thick, armored pant leg sealed to the boot, followed by half a torso, an arm, the blade of a sword, and a morion with its visor lowered. The rest of the body fell through the clothesline, moving impossibly into three dimensions like a beam of light split along all trajectories. The figure knelt in the doorway, and at last Tomás could discern what it was. A knight in shining armor, suited in black and, kneeling, as tall as the doorframe. The figure reeked of gasoline.

The knight rested his forearm on his upright knee and with his free hand lifted his visor. It clanked. Beneath was a sheath of stained glass and a breathing apparatus. He punched a rusted protrusion beneath his chin. The apparatus exhaled and the glass slipped away, revealing blue eyes, bushy brown eyebrows, and thin lips adorned with a generous, vibrant red mustache. He made a point of smiling.

“Hello, Tomás. Didn’t think I’d find you?” He spoke Spanish like a Spaniard, steady and formal, and at first Tomás did not understand his accent. The knight looked over Tomás’s shoulder and shrugged. His garments banged and scraped against one another. He smirked. “Was her ass worth yours?”

“Who the hell a-are you, man?” Tomás demanded.

The knight paused and stroked his nose with an iron-gloved finger.

“What year is it?”

“Uh, 1967.”

The knight spat onto the floor. “Shit.” He shook his head. “Shit shit shit.”

Tomás gestured with his chin at the knight. “You gotta problem?”

“I was supposed to kill you at a different time. Clean. No paradoxes.” He stared off. “Shit. Shit shit shit.”

“Kill me?” Tomás lifted a hand from his knee and beat his chest. “Why not k-kill me now, cabrón?”

“You would want to fight me. You stupid, stupid boy.” The knight continued to stare into the wall. “But I can’t. No paradoxes. I said that. No paradoxes.”

“What did I d-do to you, man?” Tomás asked, digging a fingernail into his palm to counter the pain in his ass.

The knight tilted his head, but his eyes remained on the wall. The cupboards rose on either side of the door, bearing rows of plates, glasses, and condiments. The air was still, as if a hurricane had passed through these rooms hours ago. Tomás could hear his father’s urine spool into the toilet in the adjacent room, and he wanted to call out. Fear and pain paralyzed him.

“You kill me. Killed me. Will kill me. One of those,” the knight murmured. And then, with distant confidence: “It’s a fucking mess.” He faced Tomás and pointed his thumbs in opposite directions. “You and I, we’re going along, downstream upstream. Time travel, man. How many times have we fought? Will we fight? Are we fighting? You’re still here, you know, and so am I. I have to wipe the slate clean. I killed so many . . . but you I can’t. I try so hard. I really do.”

“Hey! Answer me. Who the hell a-are you?” Tomás demanded, louder now.

The man shifted his left boot. His mustache twitched.

“You wouldn’t remember. We’re side by side, you and me.” He began to turn. “I’ll be back soon.” He turned back. “Oh, and don’t forget: Keep some change in your pocket. It’s very important you do that, Tomás.”

With this, the man turned. The floorboards groaned under his weight. He coughed, punched his chin, and slipped through the clothesline. The line twanged.

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