A good introductory resource to Russian SF writers online is the Russian Science Fiction & Fantasy page, offering English pages on such writers as the Strugatsky Brothers, Sergey Lukyanenko and others. It’s a little out-of-date, but still full of good information.
Another excellent page, Russian Science Fiction is an English-language page put up by the Solaris club of Russian fans. It includes articles on Russian SF, information about the fan club and even convention reports. More recent, and well worth checking out.
Over at Concatenation, A Brief History of Science Fiction in Romania up to 1990:
Things changed radically after 1950, when under Soviet control, Romania underwent a forced transformation process of its social, economic and cultural structure. The Romanian writers were required to reflect in their work the social and scientific accomplishments of the communist area within the so-called ‘socialist realism’ trend. Censorship was everywhere: the Russian-Soviet model was imposed and the works of most of Romania’s writers of the previous period, and relating to nearly all genres, were banned. Paradoxically these restrictions favoured the spreading of the SF literature which the authorities considered ‘harmless’, and a means of technical and scientific education. Meanwhile for the readers it was a way of escaping the immediate reality of communist drudgery. - Read the rest of the article.
Continuing our coverage of Arab science fiction, here is Nesrine Malik in the Guardian on What Happened to Arab Science Fiction?
Isaac Asimov once said that "true science fiction could not really exist until people understood the rationalism of science and began to use it with respect in their stories". As Khaled Diab highlighted recently in an article for Cif, there is a discernible suspicion of science in the region, particularly when it sits uncomfortably with faith. In terms of science fiction, the genre could be viewed as an extension of a "foreign" heritage with its roots in Darwinism – one at odds with a monotheist world view. Those that have managed to reconcile the two have attempted to, according to Islam Online, use science fiction as a da’wah (proselytising) tool. In one particular book the mathematical structure of the Quran and obscure religious scriptures help avert the disaster of a swelling sun, reinforcing that Islam is the "ultimate revelation".
But this deprives science fiction of its inherently subversive potential; if there is a sense of despair and censorship, what better way to counter the former and circumvent the latter than engage in flights of fancy and imagination? To vicariously revolutionise and hope via a medium of fantasy? With Arab literature so focused on classical themes, an Orwellian allegory, for instance, would tackle the present and envision a future in a more clandestine fashion than a straightforward political attack. – read the rest of the article.
Over at Amazon blog Omnivoracious, Nick Mamatas, editor of the new Haikasoru line of translated Japanese SF novels, talks to Jeff VanderMeer:
Amazon.com: Between now and the end of the year, are there any other releases you’re particularly excited about?
Mamatas: Well, Usurper of the Sun–our first hard SF title. It’s a planetary adventure about aliens who build a ring around the Sun using planetary material from Mercury. It’s interesting for several reasons: it’s got scope, we follow the main character from high school to late middle-age as she dedicates herself to understanding the Builders. There’s some strange humor in it (Paul Levinson namedropped Murakami in his blurb for a reason!) and a fair amount of it takes place in Berkeley, my current hometown. Also, Battle Royale: The Novel. It’s a reissue, with a revised text and a long afterword by the author. At 22 pages, [the afterword is] the longest thing Takami has published, I believe, since Battle Royale itself. It’s in the form of a Q/A: we cover everything from his literary influences to his favorite pro wrestlers. – read the rest of the interview.
On Strange Horizons this week, a story by Italian writer and translator Anna Feruglio Dal Dan: And This Also Has Been One of the Dark Places of the Earth.
Kilburn High Road at five—the evening rush hour—is like a tinkling river of fireflies, each bicycle with its own wavering, quivering little light, all rattling and clicking as they make their way up towards Cricklewood or down towards London. The hated rickshaws take up too much space—they are getting more numerous each day. The infrequent buses get stranded at this hour, their train of patient, puffing horses easily sidestepped by human muscle. – read the rest of the story.
ALECSO (The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization) has announced several exciting plans for developing science fiction in the Arab world, having held a meeting on the topic at its Tunisian offices earlier this year.
The full press release is below:
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!
[via Cheryl Morgan] Ommadawn.dk is an English-language site offering reviews of Danish science fiction works.
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