Grasping for the wind has just posted a new interview with me about international speculative fiction and editing The Apex Book of World SF 2, with some comments from anthology contributors Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Silvia Moreno Garcia.
SFFWRTCHT: How long does it take you to edit and assemble these anthologies?
LT: A long time! If you think about it, The Apex Book of World SF came out in 2009, while The Apex Book of World SF 2 came out in 2012–that’s four years between volumes! There are all kinds of reasons for that sort of time difference–and a lot that has changed in SFF in general over that period–but a part of it is certainly that it takes time and patience to put together an anthology of this kind.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you have plans to do more in the future? And what are outlets for readers intrigued by this to find more non-Western SF to read?
LT: Jason and I are very hopeful we get to do at least one more volume in the series. It depends on sales making it worthwhile for Apex, though. I’m keeping my eyes open and flagging interesting stories for consideration. We also have an idea for a separate–but very exciting– anthology with a more specific focus, which I hope we get to do. – read the full interview.
Over at io9, we have Lauren Beukes‘s short story, Branded, available to read – one of the 26 stories now available in The Apex Book of World SF 2. Check it out and consider buying the anthology – direct from the publisher or via Amazon or Amazon UK!
We were at Stones, playing pool, drinking, goofing around, maybe hoping to score a little sugar, when Kendra arrived, all moffied up and gloaming like an Aito/329. “Ahoy, Special K, where you been, girl, so juiced to kill?” Tendeka asked while he racked up the balls, all click-clack in their white plastic triangle. Old school this pool bar was. But Kendra didn’t answer. Girl just grinned, reached into her back pocket for her phone, hung skate-rat style off a silver chain connected to her belt, and infra’d five Rand to the table to get tata machance on the next game.
But I was watching the girl and as she slipped her phone back into her pocket, I saw that telltale glow ‘neath her sleeve. Long sleeves in summer didn’t cut it. So, it didn’t surprise me none in the least when K waxed the table. Ten-Ten was surprised though. Ten-Ten slipped his groove. But boy kept it in, didn’t say anything, just infra’d another five to the table and racked ‘em again. Anyone else but Ten woulda racked ‘em hard, woulda slammed those balls on the table, eish. But Ten, Ten went the other way. Just by how careful he was. Precise ‘n clipped like an assembly line. So you could see. – continue reading!
More reviews of The Apex Book of World SF 2 keep coming in. At Val’s Random Comments:
The Apex Book of Word SF 2 is bigger, more geographically balanced and, if possible, more diverse than its predecessor. I’m impressed with Lavie’s selection and the work it must have taken to collect these stories from all over the planet … The Apex Book of Word SF 2 aims to show the genre in all its diversity and tries to show that it is much more widespread than the English language world. In that respect it succeeds admirably. Not all stories in this collection work equally well for me but collectively they make a statement. Even in the days of instant communication, the world is larger and stranger than any one of us can possibly imagine. This anthology gives us a taste of it and invites us to explore the world of science fiction in the widest possible sense of the word. Working with such a fuzzy concept as world SF can’t have been easy but Lavie has managed to create an anthology that no fan of the genre should ignore. I suggest you go do some exploring of your own.
And at Requires Only That You Hate:
This is a collection of 26 (!) stories and, as far as I can tell, this is one of the more truly diverse, global anthologies in genre–if not easily the most, what with there being writers in here who aren’t from the US … As always with anthologies, the quality’s uneven, but as far as sheer range (not only in nationalities but subjects and styles), there’s nothing to criticize. It includes a lot of content for the money, including but not limited to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s excellent “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life.”
The reviewers focus on different stories, and highlight, besides “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life”, Daliso Chaponda’s “Trees of Bone”, Joyce Chng’s “The Sound of Breaking Glass”, Csilla Kleinheincz’s “A Single Year”, Shweta Narayan’s “Nira and I”, Jaques Barcia’s “A Life Made Possible Behind the Barricades”, Ekaterina Sedia’s “Zombie Lenin” (“easily the star of the collection”), Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Maquech”, and Daniel Salvo’s “The First Peruvian in Space”.
The following article by Charles Tan is reprinted from Apex Magazine. It was published in the pre-order edition of The Apex Book of World SF 2. The trade edition is out now – it is available direct from the publisher, through Amazon and Amazon UK, and or Kindle (US - UK).
World SF: Our Possible Future
By Charles Tan
For some, the fact that you are reading this on a screen is amazing. For me, however, what’s impressive is that you could be from any part of the world: London, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Perth, Cape Town, etc, and you’re reading this now, not several months—or years—later. Welcome to publishing in the 21st century where, theoretically, everyone in the world has access to what you write.
This sounds like the premise of a science fictional—or fantastical—story. So why aren’t we living in a publishing utopia? As ideal as the scenario might sound, there are still borders that aren’t limited to geography. Take myself for example: I’m Filipino-Chinese, and writing to you in English is both an advantage and a disadvantage. A lot of cultural nuances are lost, and, perhaps, in an ideal world, I would not necessarily have chosen English as my primary language. But, as far as practicality is concerned, English is prominent in a lot of countries—thus reaching a wider audience—and I’ll most likely get paid more for writing in English.
Which brings me to World SF. This might sound strange coming from someone who’s been promoting World SF, but the term is problematic. Whenever I talk about the subject, I need disclaimers. And that’s one example of the borders I’m talking about, at how language is sometimes inadequate to convey everything that I want to say.
Why World SF is Problematic
The first constraint is to define what World SF is. I won’t even touch the “SF” part—arguments for and against genre borders have been a never-ending debate, whether the discussion took place two decades ago or takes place half a century from now. And in many ways, that’s the brilliance of editor Lavie Tidhar, who chose the title The Apex Book of World SF for his initial anthology: he didn’t have to define what SF stood for, whether it’s science fiction, speculative fiction, or something else. Nor, I think, should an anthology (or magazine, in this case) featuring fiction from all over the world be limited by such constraints. Terms like magic realism, speculative fiction or even fantasy can offend, especially when we act like tourists of another nation’s culture. And while we might easily shrug off the difference between fantasy, fantastique, and the fantastika, the nuances between those terms can be as wide and dangerous as the journey from the Shire to Mordor.
No, let’s talk about the first part of the term: world. What does it mean to be part of the world? Strictly speaking, isn’t every SF story part of World SF? How can one not be part of the world? By writing your story in space?
What we mean by World SF is something closer to International SF—beyond your nation, beyond your borders. But that in itself is problematic, because that implies a reference point. Unfortunately for the rest of us, that reference point is the US.
It shouldn’t surprise you that the US is not the only source of SF in the world. There’s Russia, China, Japan, Croatia, Romania, France, India, Africa, etc. But a lot of SF that we read is either set in the West, based on Western cosmology and belief, or written by Western authors (to say nothing of the inherent patriarchy, colonialism, and racism of such narratives). In the case of my childhood, despite having a rich—albeit seemingly invisible—tradition of SF in the Philippines, most of the SF I’ve read is from the US, and the bookshelves of local bookstores reflect this. Ask any Filipino SF fan: they can name you a lot of Western SF authors but will be hard-pressed to name a local SF author, a phenomenon not limited to the Philippines. If we’re just talking about the zeitgeist, a lot of cultures are Western-centric (for good or for ill) when that doesn’t have to be the case, especially when there’s a rich—and different—tradition of SF radically different from what Western readers are used to.
It’s not that people haven’t tried. But if you look at the SF works from other countries that have been translated into English, compared to SF works in English that have been translated into other languages, there’s a large disproportion in favor of the latter. Which can get quite ridiculous considering the US is just one country.
So there’s clearly a need to drift away from US SF—no offense to US writers (and I still read your books!)—and to highlight fiction from the rest of the world. Yet at the same time, because US readers hold a significant influence; we need to win them over as well. Right now, a lot of us are literate in English. This issue is being published by an American company. A lot of the books being sold in our bookstores are imports from the US.
And then there’s the gray area of Canada, the UK, and Australia. On one hand, they have more exporting capability compared to a country like Singapore or the Philippines, even when English is mutually their first language. But on the other hand, awareness and accessiblity to their literature isn’t automatically assured, and their fiction can be obscure. It’s an unfair generalization to group them as part of the US, but they clearly have a better advantage than most third-world countries.
Which brings me to the second problem: if World SF excludes the US, then how do we define who writes World SF? The term is malleable, open to interpretation, and will mean different things to different people. For example, let’s determine that for a work to be considered World SF, it needs to be written by an author that’s not American. Does that mean by nationality? Ethnicity? Do we do percentages of heredity? What happens if an American author moves to another country? Or the children of foreigners who migrate to the US? Do we strive for a more inclusive policy, or an exclusive one?
It’s not a question that can easily be answered. Nor should it be. It ignores plurality. Take myself for example: I’m Filipino-Chinese, a Filipino citizen born to pure-blooded Chinese parents. Don’t make me choose between being Filipino or being Chinese. I’m a product of both worlds and if I were to simply pick one over the other, I’d feel completely alien. You can’t isolate and excise the parts of me that are Filipino from the parts that are Chinese. If I hypothetically migrate to another country, that creates a new dynamic. My children will similarly have an entirely different paradigm compared to mine.
The third problem is that no one is an expert on World SF. It’s hard enough to keep track of all things SF in the Philippines (and I’m not necessarily succeeding). Or the US. Or—insert country here. How much harder would it be to keep track of the whole world, which implies hundreds of countries? And then we go back to plurality: no culture or race is a monolithic entity. There will be opinions, debates, even schisms within a particular community: just because I find a particular story to be very Filipino doesn’t necessarily mean another Filipino will find the same value in it, for example.
Although no one can be an expert in World SF, we shouldn’t stop trying. Perhaps, after reading this issue, or a copy of the The Apex Book of World SF, you think that you’ve fulfilled your quota of SF beyond the US. But no. Neither this magazine nor Tidhar’s anthologies are a comprehensive (or even holistic) summary of the World SF scene. If you gave us half a million words to work with, it still wouldn’t be enough. Heck, it’s not even enough to comprehensively tackle the literature of a single nation. Instead, they are biased snapshots, which will hopefully pique your curiosity. This should be the beginning of discovering what World SF truly means, rather than the final word on it. So don’t be surprised if I’m wrong when it comes to a lot of things.
There’s a certain comfort when you’re asked about SF from other countries. If you mention Serbia, I can name Zoran Živković. South Africa, Lauren Beukes. France, Aliette de Bodard. Finland, Johanna Sinisalo. But that’s actually false relief. For example, what else do I know about Serbian SF aside from Živković? It’s easy to jump to conclusions based on the works of a few writers, but just as no single author encapsulates all of American SF, there’s no single author—or even a set of writers—that fully encapsulates the SF field of any country.
Awards and Recognition
There’s no perfect system to gauge or determine acceptance—except perhaps being an actual best-seller, selling in the hundreds of thousands—but awards give the impression of recognition, by the voting jury at least. So awards are important.
It would be remiss of me not to mention what is perhaps the most important award when it comes to World SF: the relatively new Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards. One of the most difficult processes in propagating World SF, whether financially or logistically, is translation. For such an award to exist is a great boon, and their agenda similarly reminds me of one of our shortcomings: recognizing translators. Just approach your typical SF fan and they’d (and by they, I include myself) be hard-pressed to name a translator who works in the genre specifically, unless the translator is a prominent author to begin with, such as Ursula K. Le Guin or Ken Liu.
In 2011, the Translation Awards winners for long form and short form were A Life on Paper: Stories, Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, translated by Edward Gauvin, and Elegy for a Young Elk, Hannu Rajaniemi, translated by Hannu Rajaniemi, respectively. Honourable mentions went to The Golden Age, Michal Ajvaz, translated by Andrew Oakland, and Wagtail, Marketta Niemelä, translated by Liisa Rantalaiho. The special award went to Brian Stableford.
One of Lavie Tidhar’s frequent complaints is that the World Fantasy Awards is a misnomer, for while there’s the occasional nominee or two that’s not from the US, it’s mostly a very Western-centric award. However, last year’s nominees, at least for the novel category, were impressive: Nnedi Okorafor, Lauren Beukes, N.K. Jemisin, Graham Joyce, Guy Gabriel Kay, and Karen Lord were the nominees, with Okorafor winning the award for Who Fears Death. Angélica Gorodischer was the lifetime achievement winner, while Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press won the special award in the non-professional category. I hope to see this trend continue.
There’s also the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, which Dubravka Ugresic won in 2010 for Baba Yaga Laid an Egg.
The Future of World SF
I honestly don’t know where World SF is headed, or if our efforts to spread awareness will succeed. But I’m cautiously optimistic about the field. Half a decade ago, for example, who would have thought there would be a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards, an imprint dedicated to translating Japanese fiction into English, or a second—much less a first—anthology dedicated to featuring SF from around the world? While there have been a few such anthologies in the past, there have been none this century and, previously, such efforts were by American or British editors who did not themselves represent World SF as we have attempted to define it.
Who would have thought readers would be interested to hear what I have to say? I’m not from America. I’m not white. I’m not famous.
That’s not to say all is well. The status quo is still against a global SF field. But change is coming and, hopefully, it swings in our favour. There’re a lot of voices that haven’t been heard; it’s not because authors aren’t writing.
I’m delighted to announce that The Apex Book of World SF 2, is now officially out! It is now on Amazon and Amazon UK (Kindle, Paperback), in both Kindle and paperback editions, or can be ordered directly from the publisher.
Table of Contents:
- “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
- “Mr. Goop” by Ivor W. Hartmann
- “Trees of Bone” by Daliso Chaponda
- “The First Peruvian in Space” by Daniel Salvo (translated by Jose B. Adolph)
- “Eyes in the Vastness of Forever” by Gustavo Bondoni
- “The Tomb” by Chen Qiufan (translated by the author)
- “The Sound of Breaking Glass” by Joyce Chng
- “A Single Year” by Csilla Kleinheincz (translated by the author)
- “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man” by Andrew Drilon
- “Borrowed Time” by Anabel Enríquez Piñeiro (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
- “Branded” by Lauren Beukes
- “December 8th” by Raúl Flores (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
- “Hungry Man” by Will Elliott
- “Nira and I” by Shweta Narayan
- “Nothing Happened in 1999” by Fábio Fernandes
- “Shadow” by Tade Thompson
- “Shibuya no Love” by Hannu Rajaniemi
- “Maquech” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- “The Glory of the World” by Sergey Gerasimov
- “The New Neighbours” by Tim Jones
- “From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” by Nnedi Okorafor
- “The Slows” by Gail Hareven (translated by Yaacov Jeffrey Green)
- “Zombie Lenin” by Ekaterina Sedia
- “Electric Sonalika” by Samit Basu
- “The Malady” by Andrzej Sapkowski (translated by Wiesiek Powaga)
- “A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades” by Jacques Barcia
Publishers Weekly starred review:
Apex’s second international anthology hits the right chord for readers looking for mostly non-Western perspectives on science fiction and the world at large. Some stories are original to this anthology; others appear in their first English translation. Cultural roots may not always be obvious, but they run deep in most of the stories, and all illuminate traditional storytelling and new ideas. In Ivor W. Hartmann’s “Mr. Goop,” young Tamuka comes to realize the worth of an embarrassing Geneform servant in a post–climate change world. The title characters of Shweta Narayan’s “Nira and I” find freedom through a mist they believe comes from a beloved honor-murdered family member. Nnedi Okorafor’s “From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” chronicles the hunt for an ancient master CPU on a world of organic technology. Each story pushes past established boundaries, bringing readers experiences that are unique and familiar all at once. (Oct.)
In order to promote the forthcoming release of The Apex Book of World SF 2, we’ve decided to offer a very special edition to anyone pre-ordering the paperback edition. While the trade edition is scheduled for August, anyone ordering a copy by April 30th will receive their copy in May (three months early!) and with unique bonus content.
Pre-order the anthology and it will include, as a special bonus, Nir Yaniv‘s never-before-published-in-English novelette “Undercity” (8800 words) as well as Charles Tan‘s essay, “World SF: Our Possible Future”!
Edited by Lavie Tidhar, The Apex Book of World SF 2 collects works from award-winning SF writers from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. Featured authors include Will Elliot, Hannu Rajaniemi, Shweta Narayan, Lauren Beukes, Ekaterina Sedia, Nnedi Okorafor, and Andrzej Sapkowski. Several of the stories are published for the first time in English.
Preorders of the special edition can be placed at
We are aiming for 100 pre-orders – please consider supporting Apex and the World SF Blog by pre-ordering!
I’m delighted to announce that The Apex Book of World SF 2 is, at long last, available for pre-orders!
And we get to reveal the fabulous cover, by Mexican artist Raúl Cruz.
*Preorder and receive the first volume of The Apex Book of World SF for only $5*
Scheduled release date of April, 2012
An expedition to an alien planet; Lenin rising from the dead; a superhero so secret he does not exist; inThe Apex Book of World SF 2, World Fantasy Award nominated editor Lavie Tidhar brings together a unique collection of stories from around the world. Quiet horror from Cuba and Australia; surrealist fantasy from Russia and epic fantasy from Poland; near-future tales from Mexico and Finland, or cyberpunk from South Africa: in this anthology one gets a glimpse of the complex and fascinating world of genre fiction – from all over our world. Featuring work from noted international authors such as Will Elliot, Hannu Rajaniemi, Shweta Narayan, Lauren Bukes, Ekaterina Sedia, Nnedi Okorafor, and Andrzej Sapkowski.
Don’t miss the first volume of great international fiction in volume one of The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar.
Table of Contents:
“Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
“Mr. Goop” by Ivor W. Hartmann
“Trees of Bone” by Daliso Chaponda
“The First Peruvian in Space” by Daniel Salvo (translated by Jose B. Adolph)
“Eyes in the Vastness of Forever” by Gustavo Bondoni
“The Tomb” by Chen Qiufan (translated by the author)
“The Sound of Breaking Glass” by Joyce Chng
“A Single Year” by Csilla Kleinheincz (translated by the author)
“The Secret Origin of Spin-Man” by Andrew Drilon
“Borrowed Time” by Anabel Enríquez Piñeiro (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
“Branded” by Lauren Beukes
“December 8th” by Raúl Flores (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
“Hungry Man” by Will Elliott
“Nira and I” by Shweta Narayan
“Nothing Happened in 1999” by Fábio Fernandes
“Shadow” by Tade Thompson
“Shibuya no Love” by Hannu Rajaniemi
“Maquech” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“The Glory of the World” by Sergey Gerasimov
“The New Neighbours” by Tim Jones
“From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” by Nnedi Okorafor
“The Slows” by Gail Hareven (translated by Yaacov Jeffrey Green)
“Zombie Lenin” by Ekaterina Sedia
“Electric Sonalika” by Samit Basu
“The Malady” by Andrzej Sapkowski (translated by Wiesiek Powaga)
“A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades” by Jacques Barcia
Cover art “Santa Adela” by Raúl Cruz
Over at SF Signal, their latest Mind Meld feature looks at women in science fiction, with a long comment thread. I get to rave about some of the contributors to The Apex Book of World SF and the (forthcoming) Apex Book of World SF 2:
If I look at the writers I’m excited about today, the ones working in short fiction or getting into novels, the ones in my two (to date) Apex Book of World SFanthologies, they’re people like Lauren Beukes, who picked up the Clarke Award recently for her novelZoo City; it’s Aliette de Bodard, who won the BSFA Award for short story, was up for a Nebula and is still up for a Hugo; it’s Kaaron Warren, who just has this very weird mind… all three happen to be with Angry Robot (also my publishers for the Bookman books), but that just shows we may have similar editorial tastes! AR are also bringing out debut novelist Anne Lyle soon, which is very exciting.
The second Apex Book of World SF volume opens with a writer I’m very excited about (can you tell there’s a recurrent theme here??) – Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, with “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life”, fromInterzone. I think she’s a wonderful writer and I know she’s working on a novel, and I can’t wait to see it!
And we have, for instance, Joyce Chng from Singapore, who recently released a novel, A Wolf at the Door (as by J. Damask) – werewolves in Singapore! Who could resist that?
And we have Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is working on a couple of very exciting novels, writes wonderful stuff. Shweta Narayan, who was up for a Nebula recently. Ekaterina Sedia, who is just such a great writer – you have to read A Secret History of Moscow! And I just love her short stories. We were lucky to get a story from Nnedi Okorafor, who is incredible. Or Gail Har’even, a highly regarded Israeli author who does both mainstream and SF (the story we reprint is from the New Yorker). We have original stories from Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro from Cuba, and Csilla Kleinheincz from Hungary.
So, you know, do we want to talk about women writers? Well, obviously I do! They’re such a vital and vibrant part of the field that I see – and this is just talking international stuff, you know.
Check it out. Comment if so inclined.
The best comment quote so far comes from “Chad”. Thought I’d share it!
It’s not projection. It’s anger. It’s being tired of being told you are evil, a racist and a sexist since you were born, because you are a white male. That you should provide every advantage possible to everyone else, even though you have never conciously discriminated against anyone. That you are constantly being told that every negative thing that happens to everyone else is either racist or sexist. You get tired of hearing the boy cry wolf so much that you struggle to listen to legit issues anymore.
A writer in present-day China does not even have to make an effort to imagine the future, as any day-to-day record of urban China’s dramatic transformations is futuristic in itself, Han Song says.
“To be a journalist in present-day China is like inhabiting a science fiction world,” he explains.
Han, who wears several hats – those of a Xinhua journalist, blogger, science fiction writer and sci-fi historian – feels today’s China lends itself to science fiction writing like never before, being “both a pre-industrial and a post-industrial culture”.
While most mainstream literature today focuses on China’s past, sci-fi looks into the future, he says. “And in China, the future is now.”
He comes across as a self-effacing, mild-mannered guy who, given a choice, would love to spend all day burrowing into the mini mountain of sci-fi reads that keep accumulating on his desk.
The softness in his voice and deportment are quite at odds with Han’s ruthless vision of the future in which the conflicts and confusions experienced in a fast-changing culture are not only exaggerated manifold but also fraught with a deep sense of foreboding. – continue reading!