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?

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