Celebrating International Speculative Fiction: Lavie Tidhar on The Best of World SF Anthology

I spent the past decade trying to pitch a simple idea to publishers: a mass market anthology of international speculative fiction for the bookstore shelf. The responses varied from, well, no response at all to an under-an-hour rejection (that one still hurts).

The idea is simple and, to me, both logical and necessary. I am of that new generation of writers who grew up in a language other than English, and who decided at some point that our way in is to write in this peculiar, second language. Somehow, we reasoned, against all odds and common sense, we’ll break through into that rarefied Anglophone world, maybe even make a go of it. After all, how hard could English be?

Many of the writers in The Best of World SF do indeed write in English as a second language. Others are translated, thanks to the tireless effort of passionate translators from around the world. As a sometimes translator myself, I know how rarely translators get acknowledged or, indeed, paid, and I made sure that they were paid the same for these stories as the authors themselves.

I was fortunate enough to publish five anthologies of international speculative fiction for the small press in the past decade. The Apex Books of World SF (the last two edited by the fantastic Mahvesh Murad and Cristina Jurado, respectively), are an incredible project, and the unsung Jason Sizemore is my hero for doing them all this time. I promised him he won’t make any money from them when I first pitched the idea, but he’s stubborn fool and still thought they were worth doing—which indeed they were.

But the barrier to bookshop shelves remained. Even as the genre landscape was radically changing publishers were slow to take note. We saw the change in the genre magazines first, because the short stories always lead the way. The Internet acted as the great leveler. For the first time, writers from India or Nigeria or Cuba or—well, take a look at the Table of Contents below!—could send out their stories, and this time, if only gradually, they found the editors who recognized the need for them. As a short story writer myself I know how hard it’s been, how often one was rejected, how difficult it was to convince those in charge that these voices mattered. It’s still hard! But at least one no longer needs to hunt down International Reply Coupons, postage stamps, printouts and self-addressed stamped envelopes (and if you never heard of IRCs or SASEs, then consider yourself lucky).

So here we are. Here are some terrific writers and some terrific stories. They’re not representative of anything other than themselves. Some have robots in them (I like robots), some have spaceships. Some are weird (because I like the weird!). Many were published in my previous, small press anthologies and some of them are now big names. Others will be new to you. Maybe they all will. It’s been my honour and my privilege to be entrusted with them, and I’m grateful to publishers Head of Zeus for taking this leap of faith with us. May these voices ring across the stars.

Cover design by Ben Prior

The Best of World SF publishes June 1, 2021 with Ad Astra.

Table of Contents

  • “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Debtless” by Chen Qiufan (trans. from Chinese by Blake Stone-Banks)
  • “Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
  • “Virtual Snapshots” by Tlotlo Tsamaase
  • “What The Dead Man Said” by Chinelo Onwualu
  • “Delhi” by Vandana Singh
  • “The Wheel of Samsara” by Han Song (trans. from Chinese by the author)
  • “Xingzhou” by Yi-Sheng Ng
  • “Prayer” by Taiyo Fujii (trans. from Japanese by Kamil Spychalski)
  • “The Green Ship” by Francesco Verso (trans. from Italian by Michael Colbert)
  • “Eyes of the Crocodile” by Malena Salazar Maciá (trans. from Spanish by Toshiya Kamei)
  • “Bootblack” by Tade Thompson
  • “The Emptiness in the Heart of all Things” by Fabio Fernandes
  • “The Sun From Both Sides” by R.S.A. Garcia
  • “Dump” by Cristina Jurado (trans. from Spanish by Steve Redwood)
  • “Rue Chair” by Gerardo Horacio Porcayo (trans. from Spanish by the author)
  • “His Master”s Voice” by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • “Benjamin Schneider”s Little Greys” by Nir Yaniv (trans. from Hebrew by Lavie Tidhar)
  • “The Cryptid” by Emil H. Petersen (trans. from Icelandic by the author)
  • “The Bank of Burkina Faso” by Ekaterina Sedia
  • “An Incomplete Guide…” by Kuzhali Manickavel
  • “The Old Man with The Third Hand” by Kofi Nyameye
  • “The Green” by Lauren Beukes
  • “The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir” by Karin Tidbeck
  • “Prime Meridian” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • “If At First You Don”t Succeed” by Zen Cho

Lavie Tidhar is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Osama (2011), The Violent Century (2013), the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), and the Campbell Award-winning Central Station (2016), in addition to many other works and several other awards. He works across genres, combining detective and thriller modes with poetry, science fiction and historical and autobiographical material. His work has been compared to that of Philip K. Dick by the Guardian and the Financial Times, and to Kurt Vonnegut”s by Locus.

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