The Story Behind “Siren” by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

ChayaBToday’s post is written by Chaya Bhuvaneswar. We published her short story “Siren” in our Fall 2017 issue.

Congratulations, as well, go out to Chaya, the recent recipient of the Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize. Please follow her on Twitter for updates on the book or if you would like to read your fiction, poetry or narrative nonfiction with her in New York, Boston, San Francisco, London or elsewhere.

When I wrote this short-short story, I’d just written a series of stories about women in medicine, the theme of my forthcoming story collection (spring 2018 – please stay tuned re: the release by checking my Twitter at @chayab77 or my website at

In these stories, there was a thread of (at least attempted) nobility among the women – but then I considered: Why do women characters have to be “good”?

A different kind of woman doctor character took shape – a woman brilliant and ambitious, but also mercenary, wanting to use her medical training to enter the highly lucrative and competitive world of “big pharma,” and able to flex her authority there as a self-aware “Dragon Lady.”  I was interested most of all in how she maintained that awareness, of utilizing a persona in order to exercise her will at work – while still somehow holding onto the ability to choose what kind of sexual and romantic relationships she had in private.

I wanted her to be strong, fearless, ruthless even – while still being able to be as ambivalent and honest with herself as she needed to be. This would never be a Stepford wife, nor a sacrificing single “career woman,” but someone in between, capable of a yearning sideways glance or two at men who were completely inadvisable to be around, for all kinds of reasons.

The doctor she becomes somewhat enamored with, though also annoyed by, is based on a composite of several real people.

And to the person who bears a truly uncanny resemblance, including in his speech patterns, to Anthony Perkins in his role as Norman Bates, in case he reads this or the story, I say – well, actually, I don’t say anything. That is the beauty of having choices.

About the Author

Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative MagazineNimrodThe Asian American Literary ReviewMichigan Quarterly Review, and The Notre Dame Review, along with several web journals such as r.k.v.r.y.ReduxaadunaBangalore Review, and elsewhere. She is interested and in love with poetry, lyricism, moral reflection, racial and social justice, solidarity, courage, and humor (full range, from smirking to giggling to laughing out loud to smiling angrily and plotting insurrections).

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