Arabic Speculative Fiction

Obviously I’m into speculative fiction, but I’ve also been reading more and more books in translation in recent years, and have developed a fascination with Arabic fiction, speculative or not. So Iraq + 100 was already on my to-read list, but after reading this roundtable at Strange Horizons, I’m putting it on special order immediately. The roundtable brings together two of the contributors to the volume and two journalists who write about Arabic fiction, and the conversation ranges from the specifics of this book, to the reasons why there hasn’t historically been a strong Arabic speculative fiction tradition, to the ways current and near-past political realities may influence Arabic SF in the future.

One of the most interesting sections stems from Robin Yassin-Kassab’s comments on the influence from the situation in Syria:

I suppose I could add the trauma of war. I have a feeling that social realism would be a relevant way to approach the Syrian situation until 2013. From then on, the scale of the damage becomes so incomprehensibly enormous that some other genre becomes necessary. I think here of Ahmad Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad. How else can you write about a reality of random dismemberment without calling on the resources of horror, fantasy, or SF?

Frankenstein in Baghdad is also going straight onto my to-read list.

What’s your favorite Arabic or Arabic-themed speculative fiction?

To-Read Tuesday, April 25

Four speculative fiction books from my to-read shelves/stacks.

Some of these have been on my to-read shelf WAY too long.

No library books this week? Well, no speculative fiction library books this week. I’m working on my to-read stack for this weekend’s Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon, and needed some more genre variety. This stack reaches way back into my to-read shelves. Three of these have been hanging out there in limbo for at least a year. The PKD book, however, I just recently picked up at Michigan News in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A fantastic bookstore with a great science fiction section. (I wasn’t able to wander over to the fantasy section, or indeed, any other section before I had already exceeded my book budget for the day.)

What new bookstores have you discovered lately?

The speculative fiction of resistance

All morning I was mulling over what I would write for a “why speculative fiction?” post. And then I read this article:

Imagine and Survive: Resistance Through Speculative Fiction

“There’s another reason why stories like the ones Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood tell are so important to me, why I think they’re so important period. And what it comes down to is that they’re not just stories of future horror and oppression and domination, or destruction and death, and the images of ourselves in the midst of it all.

They’re stories about resistance.

This is why speculative fiction is exactly what we need right now. It allows us to imagine ourselves into these futures, and that’s a vital first step, but that’s not all they do. These stories of the future, stories that feel so piercingly true, allows us to imagine what it looks like to fight in those futures. We can imagine resistance, and if we can imagine a future in which we are present and matter and resist, we can imagine a present in which we can do the same. We can look at the nightmarish aspects of our current America and we can dream of Butler’s Earthseed, and that dream is real. We aren’t trapped in this present moment, no matter how overwhelming the feeling is. Stories of the future show us a way out.

Imagining what the monstrous people in power might do next will only take us so far. But when we tell the stories of our futures, we can imagine what we’ll need to do to care for each other, to protect each other, to fight for each other. The truth is that we can’t imagine a finish line, because there very possibly isn’t one. But we can imagine the race, and what it’ll take to make sure we can all keep running.”