Aatif Rashid is a writer living in Los Angeles and a graduate of UC Berkeley and Oxford University. His debut novel, Portrait of Sebastian Khan, came out in 2019 from 7.13 Books. His short stories appear in The Massachusetts Review, Arcturus, Barrelhouse, and Triangle House Review and nonfiction in The Los Angeles Review of Books and Lit Hub, among other places. He writes regularly for The Kenyon Review blog.
Like Star Wars, but from the perspective of a ten-year-old kid. He has a sword and a laser gun, and he and his friend save the galaxy from a group of evil aliens.
Space Battles II (2000)
Sequel to Space Battles I. The kid is now eleven, and he saves the galaxy again from an even bigger group of aliens.
Space Battles III (2001)
Sequel to Space Battles I and Space Battles II. The kid is now twelve, and he and his friend have a falling out. The first group of aliens comes back, though, so they reconcile in order to save the galaxy again.
The Lord of the Scepter (2002)
An epic fantasy set in a Lord of the Rings style world where Dwarves, Elves, Humans, and Wizards battle over a magical scepter. The main character is a fourteen-year-old elf who’s secretly the son of the Elf king and will one day inherit the throne.
A dark dystopian novel set in a world where humans are regularly sacrificed by a tyrannical government to keep the population stable, and about a group of teenage revolutionaries who try to overthrow the system. The main character is a fifteen-year-old guy who leads the group. There’s a girl in the group too, and he’s in love with her but doesn’t want to admit it.
A World of Kingdoms (2005)
A dark, epic fantasy novel set on a continent of warring kingdoms, about a group of children whose parents are killed and who have to make their way through the dangerous world. The main character is the oldest in the family, a sixteen-year-old who’s studying to be a mage. At one point, he meets a girl, the daughter of one of the kings, and they fall in love even though she’s engaged to another prince.
Untitled High School Coming of Age Story (2007)
A nerdy high school kid in a small suburban town falls in with a new group of friends and experiences the wonders of drugs, sex, and partying. He also falls in love with a girl in his grade, a dark-haired, half-Asian girl, super smart, into literature and art like him, but they break up after she decides to go to college in New York instead of U.C. Berkeley, where he’s going. When this happens, it’s late at night, and they’re sitting in a car in the Safeway parking lot, and he feels like crying but tries his hardest not to. They try to have sex one last time in the backseat, but it’s awkward and he doesn’t feel like it, and so they just lie in each other’s arms on the felt seat, and he listens to her heartbeat, and he wonders if he’ll ever feel this way about someone again.
Untitled Edgy College Novel (2010)
An experimental novel about a kid from a suburb who comes to college and finds a new group of cool artsy friends. Make sure it has a cool, hipster vibe, everyone saying ironic things, drinking PBR, smoking European cigarettes, talking about Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault.
The novel shouldn’t really have a plot, but maybe make it center on a romance between the main guy and a girl—a cool, blonde girl who studies French and Art History and wants to be a writer too. They have lots of sex, but then get bored of each other and wander into increasingly separate, dissolute pursuits, and maybe after a few years, after they’ve been humbled in some way and feel low and down, they meet each other again on the quad in Berkeley, maybe she’s smoking a cigarette and he’s holding a Thomas Pynchon novel under his arm, and they reminisce about the good times they had and how it had been a lot of fun and how they miss those days, before saying goodbye and never seeing each other again.
The Postmodern Prometheus (2011)
A novel about a twenty-two-year-old guy who’s just graduated college and is traveling through Asia on some money he’s saved up. Each chapter should be set in a different city, and instead of focusing on plot, make it more about the vibe, the people he meets, the bars he drinks at, the clubs he goes to, the women he sleeps with, interspersed with his reflections on art and history.
He’s also a writer, so maybe make the frame of the book a novel he’s writing (maybe make super meta so it’s the book we’re reading). Ultimately, it should be about the main character finding himself and feeling a sense of fulfillment.
The Boomerang Generation (2013)
After failing to find a job, a young man moves back in with his parents in the California suburb where he grew up. He reconnects with old high school friends, all of whom are likewise unemployed and depressed, and they drink a lot at the town’s one bar, or else play old video games (mainly Super Smash Brothers on N64) in one of their basements. Make it about generational listlessness, and have the main character reflect on the socioeconomic forces that have led him to become such a failure.
The style should be terse, with short sentences, and a spare, Hemingway rhythm to match the lifelessness he feels inside.
Untitled Multigenerational Family Saga (2014)
A novel about three generations of a Pakistani-American family. Start with grandfather’s generation in British India: they’re part of the nationalist movement, they witness Partition, etc. Then move on to parents’ generation: born into an independent Pakistan, immigrate to America, struggle, work hard, become doctors and engineers, etc. Finally, my generation: ungrateful, shitty kids who fail to live up to their parents’ expectations and fail to make anything of themselves in America. End with the eldest son of the family living at home after college, twenty-five years old and working as a waiter for minimum wage.
Make it all an ironic commentary on the American Dream and subvert the tropes of the optimistic American immigrant story.
Untitled Campus Novel Satire (2016)
A novel set at a low-ranked creative writing MFA program that follows a group of fiction writers struggling to make Art (make sure to capitalize it whenever they say it). Satirize their pretensions by highlighting the massive gap between their literary ideals (David Foster Wallace, etc.) and their own work, which is middling and subpar. Also, make fun of the teachers, who don’t really seem happy either. Above all, try and get at the feeling that literary success is impossible in late capitalism, that no one reads books anymore, and that these fiction writers are like easel painters or classical musicians trying to work with outdated forms.
At some point, the main character should have a meeting with an agent in New York. The meeting doesn’t go well—he’s out of his depth, fails to make an impression, and thus loses what he feels like was his one chance.
Untitled Millennial Love Story (2018)
A novel about two young people living in New York who meet at a party and start dating. He’s a twenty-nine-year-old (unpublished) writer and a part-time bartender, and she’s a twenty-four-year-old actress trying to make it in theater. They fall in love and grow close, but after a few years, they start to drift apart, mostly because he’s very depressed about his writing, how it’s not going anywhere, and how the dreams he had in childhood seem so far away now. Every day he wakes up and feels like a failure, and this rubs off on her, because she’s a little younger than him and still optimistic about things and doesn’t share his exhausting nihilism. Eventually, she leaves for Paris to be in a friend’s indie movie, and he gets an email a few weeks later saying they should break up and that she’s been seeing Emile (the indie director friend) for about a month now. He’s sitting in their shared apartment, a tiny studio in Queens, and when he hears the news, he throws his laptop at the wall and then goes out and buys a bottle of whiskey and drinks it from a paper bag while walking around the city, before returning home, masturbating to some porn (something demeaning probably, like a man getting choked and slapped and maybe even pissed on), and then passing out on his couch.
The Solitary City (2019)
A first-person, autofiction novel about a failed thirty-year-old writer living by himself in New York City. Aside from working as a bartender to try and make ends meet, he takes long walks, reflects on the city’s buildings and history, occasionally sees art shows and readings put on by his friends, smokes and drinks a lot, sits in cafes and tries to write. He’s estranged from his parents, who tell him he has to get a real job and get his life together, and his attempts at relationships always go nowhere, as he feels no connection at all with the people he meets. He starts to resent his own generation, and he wishes he lived in an earlier time, in the 1960s, or the 1920s, or the 1890s, when people still read books and the world was still exciting.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, a thirty-one-year-old man comes down with symptoms and is admitted to the hospital. Even though he’s young, he’s smoked and drank a lot throughout his short life, so he’s not in great health, and the virus affects him severely. He has to be hooked up to a ventilator, and he feels pain all over his body, his chest, his arms, his back, and especially his head. Worst of all, his vision gets so blurry that he can’t read books—the text gets jumbled and he can’t make sense of it, as if he’s dyslexic. He tries listening to audiobooks, but the sound from his headphones makes his headache unbearable. And so he finds himself in a literature-less state. It may be the first time since he was a child that he hasn’t been reading a book. When he is lucid, he spends his hours thinking, about his life and what it meant and whether he accomplished the things he wanted. He contacts his parents, but they’re not allowed to come and see him for fear of contamination, so he has to talk to them on Zoom. His mother is crying, and while his father tries to smile and keep things optimistic and talk to him about books and “what he’s been writing,” he can see even in his eyes despair hiding behind the cheery disposition. He texts his ex-girlfriend, and she sends her condolences, and they even chat once over Zoom. She’s no longer seeing Emile the director, and she’s living in New York again, and he feels a sense of pain in his chest when he sees her face on the screen lit up by light from a window behind her, like the one in their old apartment. It might be COVID-induced synesthesia, but he feels like he can smell her hair again, feel her skin against his, her body through the sheets whenever he would wake up in the morning, the taste of coffee on her lips when he kissed her in their kitchen. Eventually, he’s left to himself, in the darkening hospital room, the beeping of machines of the older patients nearby, the distant sound of a nurse sighing in the hallway. He thinks about his failed writing career, all those novels he wanted to write but never finished. He imagines one final novel, something earnest and authentic that could justify his existence. He doesn’t know what style he’d write it in—postmodern, realist, dystopian, autoficion—and he doesn’t even know which events it would include, who the characters would be, how the plot would unfold. Still, he has a profound sense of it, a burning presence at the edges of his vision, and he knows that if he could write it, it would be absolutely perfect—everything he’d sought to capture since he first came up with Space Battles back in 1999, a representation that solved the riddle of literary mimesis, a document, ultimately, of what it had meant to him to be alive. The last scene before he dies would be him reaching out at something with his aching hand.