Islam Science Fiction Anthology Islamicates: Volume I Tackles Algorithms, Time Travel, and Divine Inspiration

Islam and Science Fiction, the long-running website dedicated to “fill[ing] a gap in the literature about Muslims and Islamic cultures in Science Fiction,” has just published Islamicates: Volume I, as a free-to-download release.

Islamicates is the first of several planned anthologies of sci-fi short fiction inspired by Muslim cultures. The twelve stories were chosen from submissions to the Islamicate Science Fiction Short Story Contest held earlier this year, their content ranging from algorithms that allow humans to take fate into their own hands and predict the future (at least three choices ahead) to military time travel missions in India.

“With respect to characterization of Muslims there isn’t any single way to describe how Muslims are portrayed in Science Fiction,” editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad writes on the About page for Islam and Science Fiction. “There are many cases where Muslims are cast in somewhat negative light in SF stories which are set in the near future. On the other hand stories set in the distant future have rather positive portrayal of Muslims.” However, he explains in the anthology announcement post, there simply aren’t enough stories: “It was eight years ago that the first anthology based on Science Fiction inspired by Islamic cultures was released. Not only has the Geek Muslim community increased in numbers considerably but interest in Islam and Muslim cultures has increased to a great extent in pop media in general.”

Enter the short story competition; the term Islamicate “refers to the cultural output of predominantly Islamic culture or polity,” similar to Western encompassing various cultures, ethnicities, and schools of thought. The competition welcomed nearly every type of sci-fi story (under 8,000 words), including space opera, time travel, alternate history, technothrillers, biopunk, steampunk, dystopia, and much more. Three winners were awarded cash prizes and publication; nine other stories were also selected for inclusion in the anthology. The winners post describes the top three stories:

  • First Prize: Alex Kreis’s story Calligraphy delves infinite patterns, the word of God and Islamic Calligraphy
  • Second Prize: R. F. Dunham’s story Insha’Allah takes a fascinating take on the concept of freewill, freedom and algorithmic prediction
  • Third Prize: Sami Ahmad Khan’s story Operation Mi’raj is a take on time travel set in the context of South Asia

Table of contents:

  • Calligraphy by Alex Kreis
  • Insha’Allah by R. F. Dunham
  • Operation Mi’raj by Sami Ahmad Khan
  • Connected by Marianne Edwards
  • The Day No One Died by Gwen Bellinger
  • Searching for Azrail by Nick “Nasr” Pierce
  • Watching the Heavens by Peter Henderson
  • The Answer by Niloufar Behrooz
  • The Last Map Reader by Sazida Desai
  • The End of the World by Nora Salem
  • Congruence by Jehanzeb Dar
  • Pilgrims Descent by JP Heeley

The editors at Islam and Science Fiction hope to continue the short story competition and publish future volumes of Islamicates. You can download Volume I here.

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