Greetings from Tiamat’s very warm Terrain. Summer is in and the weather is getting to sweltering temperatures. Not that that’s slowing down SFF production. I suggest you take a seat underneath a nice cool olive grove, catch your breath, and see what June has in store for us. More movie news, more comic classics coming out in English, Greeks writing short stories, and a graphic anthology of resistance emerging out of Turkey.
Those of you paying attention to the SFF scene in the region before TT’s tenure will be all too familiar with Cairo-based Ahmed Towfik’s bestselling novel Utopia—now set to become a film:
“Arab best-selling novel “Utopia,” set in an apocalyptic future Egypt where the wealthy have retreated to a U.S. Marine-protected coastal colony, will get the cinematic treatment, directed by Egyptian multi-hyphenate Rami Imam… The “Utopia” pic is being developed and co-produced by Rami Imam’s own production company, Cairo-based True Motion, in partnership with several international special effects outfits to ensure top-notch effects and cinematography highlighting the contrast between the lifestyles in both cities.”
Published in Egypt in 2008 Utopia came to the English speaking audience in 2011 to rave reviews. Towfik’s novel is set in 2023 Egypt where the country is now split into two communities: the privileged inhabitants of protected “Utopia” and the oppressed poor known as “the Others.” Those belonging to Utopia often kill and mutilate the Others for sport: a terrifying vision of a society split across a horrendous divide. The storyline follows two characters, one from each section, and their unexpected interaction. But be warned, “Towfik’s novel is bleak and his characters are almost without any redeeming qualities. It is also utterly compelling.” For a more critical review, Sofia Samatar discusses both the Arabic and the English version over at Strange Horizons.
Eurocomics are still onto a good thing. Their publication of Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese: Under the Sign of the Capricorn, as discussed in TT last January, is up for an Eisner Award in the Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material category. And they’re not stopping there. They’ve got two great Spanish classics coming out in translation soon too, though no release date has been given just yet. The first is Paracuellos by Carlos Giménez, an autobiographical account of the plight of children in post-World War II Fascist Spain, with a preface by Will Eisner. And next up is an omnibus edition of Dieter Lumpen by Jorge Zentner and Rubén Pellejero.
I’ve been sitting on this news for a while and I’m so frickin’ happy to announce that #ResistComics, otherwise known as #DirenÇizgiroman in Turkish, is finally out in English. Editor Can Yalcinkaya who also wrote the forward was kind enough to outline the thoughts behind this anthology of Turkish comics, inspired by the Gezi resistance:
“#ResistComics was inspired by the Gezi resistance, which was quite a polyphonic movement that embraced people from various political, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It was also movement that made great use of art and humour. The solidarity and collective action in the Gezi Park process was enlightening for us. So, our anthology’s philosophy has been to carry on that spirit of resistance to state violence and take collective action to create a book that emulates the polyphony, collaboration and communality of Gezi. Crowdfunding enabled us to fund this project through the support and solidarity of like-minded people. Their generosity and trust in our project means a lot to us.
There are exciting things happening in Turkey’s comics scene at the moment. Traditionally, humor magazines have been the main venue for comic art. Of course, this meant most comics were humorous in some way. In the last decade, some comics and graphic novels that went beyond that category were published. These include the Deli Gücük books, Levent Cantek’s graphic novels (Dumankara and Emanet Şehir), Devrim Kunter’s paranormal detective series Seyfettin Efendi, Cem Özüduru’s horror graphic novels just to name a few. Many of the artists in #DirenÇizgiRoman are part of a collective called Uzak Şehir (Distant City), who also collaborated on the Deli Gücük books and Levent Cantek’s Dumankara. So, there is some resonance, there. And some of the stories in our book wouldn’t be seen as too strange in the pages of a humour magazine in Turkey… but our main inspiration for this book was the Occupy Comics anthology edited by Matt Pizzolo and Matt Miner.
The e-book version is now available on Comixology. People can also download a drm free version of it here. There is also an option to buy it from Gumroad without signing up on Comixology. The print copy, posters, postcards, totebags and t-shirts will be sold through Big Cartel, which is currently under maintenance, but I will open it once I receive all the print copies in a few weeks.”
Here’s some of the phenomenal artwork found within:
I’m always amazed when I come across writers who are adept at writing in two or more languages. Natalia Theodoridou writes in both Greek and English in her spare time. For those fluent in modern Greek (hah!) her bibliography is right here. For those of you wanting a taste of her English SFF, look no further than her short story “An Inventory of Ghosts” in Strange Horizons’ April issue, or “On Post-Mortem Birds” in Interfictions. I particularly love Theodoridou’s cultivated lyricism that fluidly creates surreal imagery: “Grandfathers’ ghosts have little balloons in their hearts. At night, they grasp my arm and try to speak, but can’t.” Her short stories thus far read like moving windows into poignant narratives.
Throwback: Beneath Ceaseless Skies have released an audio of Saladin Ahmed’s 2010 story “Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride.” Ahmed introduces the story’s “aim in exploring the fun tropes of Westerns while presenting a seldom-discussed aspect of the history of Muslims in America.” Hadj or Hajj is an honorary title given to men who have returned from the Hadj pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam, so I already love how Ahmed’s title alone brings Mecca into the spaghetti western trope of the sunset ride. The story, re-included in BCS’s 2015 Special Weird Western Issue, participates in the best kind of genre-bending I’ve come to expect from and admire in Ahmed.
Alex Mangles lives in the Levant. She tweets from @alexantra.