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2nd Arab SF Convention

The Syrian Arab News Agency reported on the 2nd Arab SF Convention held in August this year in Damascus:

The [Minister of Culture Dr. Riad Naasan Agha] concluded by calling for bolstering science fiction literature in Arab culture due to its ability to open up new horizons.

Dr. Taleb Omran affirmed the importance of science fiction literature, stressing that this genre can develop civilization and noting that Syria was a pioneer in caring for this genre. - read the rest.

There have been several exciting developments in Arab SF this year - more in upcoming posts!

Danish SF Reviewed

 [via Cheryl Morgan] Ommadawn.dk is an English-language site offering reviews of Danish science fiction works.


Lavie Tidhar interview at SF Signal

Apex Book of World SF editor Lavie Tidhar discusses the anthology, world SF and more over at SF Signal.

 SFS: What defines "World SF"? Does it mean that it was originally published in language other than English? Or that it comes from a land where English is not the primary language? What, in your opinion, is the best definition?

LT: It's a good question. I wish I had a good answer! Like all definitions, it can be quite hazy. To me, it's first of all the kind of SF written in languages other than English, but that doesn't take into account that small - but visible! - part of writers choosing to work in English despite it being their second - or even third! - language. And then, English has become such a universal language that in many places it has acquired its own regional flavor - take India or Malaysia or South Africa. And then, what about writers from one background living in another? Is Nnedi Okorafor an American writer or a Nigerian writer? Identities today can easily have two or three layers. You know, I have two different citizenships and a permanent residency somewhere else - I can vote in three countries! So what am I? Who am I? I try not to think about it before the morning coffee...

But I think there's a very serious question of how we depict different cultures. You know, what's the difference between Ian McDonald writing about India, and Vandana Singh writing about India?

... that Ian McDonald gets nominated for a Hugo?

Which I think sums it up, if a little crudely. Is it a question of who's the better writer? I think they're both very good writers. Or does it mean the English-language readership, the American and British and Australian readers prefer an India as viewed from outside, or from inside? There's a very interesting review on Strange Horizons that tries to deal with that question. The point where it becomes interesting is where it says, "Singh's stories were written initially for an American audience, and her stories cannot be painted wholly as a sort of primer for another type of science fiction. . . . This is Singh as teacher of two classrooms. It is here where Singh parts ways with Ian McDonald, a British writer whose novels are about, but not of, India."

You know, I'm hogging this question a little, but this makes me think of reading Philip K. Dick when I was younger. I read a lot of American SF, but I think my heart will always belong to PKD because he was the only one who put me in his books.

I grew up on a kibbutz in Israel. It's a sort of socialist cooperative. Or was when I was growing up. And you know - in the midst of all these American SF novels, with their bright American futures, there was PKD - and he had kibbutzim on Mars! That was me, up there! Not John W. Campbell Jr.'s superior white western Europeans, but people like me! There were Jews in space! Socialist Jews! Campbell wouldn't have liked that, maybe - but to me it was a revelation.

So what is World SF? And more importantly, what shape is it going to take in, say, the next two decades? That's the real interesting question. And that's something that has to be answered by both "sides" of it, the English writers and readers and the non-English writers and readers. But the future simply isn't American any more. The Asian space race is a reality, China and India are massive economic powers - the balance of power is shifting. It's going to be an interesting century to live in... - read the rest of the interview

Over at Philippines blog Rocket Kapre, an excellent round-table discussion:

Taking our cue from SF Signal, in Rocket Round Table, we pose a single question to those who toil in the fields of Philippine SF. Our aim is to promote reflection and discussion, as well as to simply compare notes on the genre we know and love. This month we ask the question:

What is your favorite Filipino-created Speculative Fiction story? 

Click here to read the answers!

European SF anthology

As we said, we wanted to look at some anthologies, and here is a short review, as well as a table of contents, of a very interesting anthology - Creatures of Glass and Light: New European Stories of the Fantastic was published in 2007 in Denmark, featuring stories in English from European writers, edited by Klaus Mogensen. It's not clear how to get hold of a copy - it seems to have been published for the 2007 Eurocon.

Getting hold of continental European SF in English is difficult and such offerings are rare. Indeed, though we very occasionally get some translated novels, collections of continental European shorts in English are extremely rare. The reasons for this includes difficulty in translation and in British publishers' commissioning editors being aware of the good stuff in languages other than English. Then there is the further problem that some of the good stuff is really only good for readers from a particular country should it be steeped in that nation's specific cultural references. Furthermore, if the writing is complex translation is all the more difficult such are the idiomatic hurdles. Take all these elements together and it becomes easy to see why it is very difficult for non-Anglophone SF to come out in English, hence become exposed to the SF book reader markets of Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, India, the US etc. All of which made the decision of the 2007 Eurocon (Copenhagen, Denmark) and publishers SF Cirklen either very brave or one born of ignorance as to the scale of the problem. Either way it is hats off to Klaus Mogensen for taking on the challenge to publish the best SF stories continental Europe currently has to offer. If Klaus was not aware of the magnitude of his project to begin with (he was not) then he certainly was by its end. Klaus outlines some of the difficulties in a pragmatic introduction. - read the rest of the review.

 World Fantasy Award winner, and Apex Book of World SF contributor, Zoran Živković will be Guest of Honor at the 35th World Fantasy Convetion. It will take place in San Jose, California, Ocrober 29–November 1, 2009.

Congratulations Zoran!

Zoran's novelette, "Compartments", is the closing story in the Apex Book of World SF.
Apex Books have just announced that the November issue of Apex Magazine will be a special issue dedicated to World SF, and guest-edited by Lavie Tidhar. The magazine specialises in dark science fiction short stories.

The November issue will be published to coincide with the publication of The Apex Book of World SF, and will feature two brand-new stories, a story sample from the anthology, as well as interviews with some of the contributors.

Exotic Gothic 3

Via Charles Tan, we came across the complete table of contents for the anthology Exotic Gothic 3, and not only does it contain a story from Apex Book of World SF contributor Tunku Halim, as we reported, but also - it's uncanny! - stories from no less than three other of our contributors! These being Kaaron Warren, Dean Francis Alfar and Zoran Živković.

First Angry Robot, now Ash-Tree Press... proving the writers assembled in The Apex Book of World SF really are some of the best in the world today.

The full table of contents is available at this link.

Exotic Gothic

Canadian publishers Ash-Tree Press have been putting together a series of anthologies, Exotic Gothic, which have a nice international flavour. Volume 2 features Apex Book of World SF contributor Dean Francis Alfar (Philippines) as well as Serbian writer Milorad Pavić (author of the Dictionary of the Khazars!) and African writer George Makana Clark, while the forthcoming volume 3 will feature another Apex Book of World SF contributor, Malaysian writer Tunku Halim.

And with (yet another ABoWS contributor) Jetse de Vries' own forthcoming anthology, Shine, rumoured to have something of an international line-up, things are looking up for international writers. We'll try and point your way to some other relevant anthologies this week - and as always, suggestions would be welcome in the comments.
Anil Menon posts his impressions from the recently-concluded Indian writing workshop held at the Kanpur Institute of Technology (IIT-K), which he ran. Part One is here, and Part Two here.

We went around the room and introduced ourselves, in anti-clockwise order (the Lesson Plan was very definite on that). In order: Anil, Shish, Kaushik, Pervin, Manish, Amarjeet, Suneetha, Bodhi, Akshat, Sonali, Sumeet, Vaibhav, Himanshu, Rinku, and Radhika. I remember the order because I wrote their names down. Radhika was missing, but Suneetha, her friend and roomie, explained that their trip to IIT-K had been pretty horrendous, and Radhika was still decompressing. Also absent, was Abha; a leg sprain would keep her from joining the group until later in the week.

As I listened to the intros, I privately marvelled at our luck. The group was incredibly varied. Five women, nine men. Six women, counting Abha. The original group had had eight women, but unfortunately-- and it’s really unfortunate-- two of them-- Swapna Kishore and Fehmida Zakeer-- had had to drop out at the last minute. Shish at twelve years old (claimed to be eighteen) was the youngest, and a math major at IIT-Kanpur. Bodhi at ninety-five was the oldest, and taught literature at the prestigious Xavier’s College in Delhi. Sonali was from Jharkhand, a state that hadn’t existed when I was her age. Amarjeet had a doctorate in literature. Akshat had worked on the set of Lage Raho Munna Bhai.  And with kids. And had a degree in English literature. Pervin worked in publishing and had just published a book of poems. Suneetha was involved in a major translation project and had just finished a stint at the Sangam Residency (a writer’s retreat in Pondicherry).  Rinku had a doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, taught in Pakistan and edited a book. Himanshu had trained in architecture and now worked as an ad-guy; he’d *resigned* from his job to get the time to attend the workshop. Sumeet was a journalist, now working as a copy-editor. Vaibhav was an engineering student. Manish was a Chem Engg major at IIT-K. Kaushik was in a lit program at IIT-Madras. Radhika (she’d joined us by then), already a published author, lived and worked in London and was attending a Creative Writing program part-time.

I saw Venn diagrams as they spoke. I’d known we had a varied bunch, but this varied? It was a categorical extravaganza. The workshop had four full-time students, two Ph.Ds, five women, nine men, four Bengalis, one Parsi, two Tamilians, one Kashmiri, one Bihari, one Jat, one Oriya, one Malayalee, two Punjabis…. This was India made manifest. The Lesson Plan didn’t allow me to gloat or freak out, so I had to stay calm and pretend this sort of thing happened in every workshop. Bloody hell. Bloody effing hell. Now, if they could write-- well, they could write, which was why they were here, but if they would write-- then the workshop was all set. 


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