|The TL/DR Synopsis||Synopsis: new column, “Around the World,” looks at world SF (full text).
Links to: International Speculative Fiction magazine, multiple news items about international SF.
Embedded videos and music: R.U.R. Genesis (full video), The Day They Came, Episode 1 (full video), “Rani’s Theme” (full song), “Overnight to Amsterdam” (full song).
Downloads: International Speculative Fiction #5 (full issue, free), The Virgin Birth of Sharks: the Soundtrack for the Movie in Your Head (full album, free).
The new issue of International Speculative Fiction (which is, as always, available entirely free in PDF, ePUB, and Kindle formats) will be available for download starting tomorrow, January 19, 2014, on the ISF web site.
- Fiction by Hugo Award nominee and Paul Harland Prize winner Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Netherlands), Francesco Verso (Italy), and Manuel Alves (Portugal)
- “At Home in the Wasteland: The Art of Sergi Brosa,” which is a profile by Saul Bottcher of this issue’s awesome cover artist (click the cover art below to see it much larger)
- A review by Sean Wright of The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010 , and
- A non-fiction article by Hunter Liguore, “Social Science Fiction.”
It also includes a new column by the non-fiction editor–that’s me–called “Around the World,” which is a chatty summary of news and links relating to international SF from the far-flung corners of the web.
Each new installment of “Around the World” will appear in ISF and here on this page. You’ll find the inaugural column below, so dig in.
Around the World #1, (from ISF #5)
Around the World is a round-up of news, reviews, and other links from around the Internet that relate to ISF’s mandate: increasing the profile of speculative fiction that focuses on the international, or that comes from regions not normally associated with the speculative fiction mainstream. It also includes news regarding authors who have published in ISF.
Awesome Campaign for a Grant to Increase Diversity in SF
Ellen B. Wright and Faye Bi are both speculative fiction fans, they both work in book publishing, and they’re both runners. Last year the two joined forces for an awesome cause that’s close to the heart of the ISF community: a marathon to raise funds for a brand new writing grant (to be administered by the Speculative Literature Foundation) that will go toward supporting diversity in science fiction and fantasy.
As the pair noted on their fundraising page (screenshot below), science fiction and fantasy fans are a diverse group, but our beloved SF books, television, and movies don’t always reflect that diversity:
“…those of us who don’t fit into one particular box (and some who do) have noticed something. There’s one story that’s told in the genre over and over again. You’ve probably seen it. It’s about a straight white man, or often a bunch of straight white men, creating things with science, wielding magic, saving the world, blowing stuff up. If there are women or people of color involved, we’re probably love interests or sidekicks. We probably only talk to, or about, the white male lead. We probably die first, or to provide motivation for the protagonist.”
None of this is news to the staff and readers of ISF—after all, recognizing and enjoying diversity in speculative fiction is what this publication is all about. But it’s nice to see someone taking concrete steps to do something about it.
“… help writers from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the genre to start and continue publishing. As good science fiction and fantasy worlds should, this grant will welcome all kinds of diversity: gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, ability level, religion, etc.”
The two women ran the 2013 NYC Marathon to raise funds for the new grant. Their efforts were a huge success, and the campaign exceeded its $2,500.00 goal, raising a total of $3,356.00, or 134% of their target amount.
On behalf of ISF, congratulations to Ellen and Faye, and congratulations to the speculative fiction community, which will be deepened and enriched by their efforts.
Rebooting the Original Robots: Classic Czech SF Revisited
The word “robot” came into the English language via a Czech play called R.U.R., written by Karel Čapek in 1920. R.U.R. also marked the first appearance of a theme that would be revisited more than once afterward, notably in the Terminator films: a robot uprising.
Now, R.U.R. is having a renaissance of sorts, having been adapted into the short film R.U.R. Genesis. The original play was set in the 1950s or 1960s—then far in the future. The film is set in the same time period, in an alternate version of 1969, but from the vantage point of 2013 the 1960s have become retro-futuristic.
The team at Helicon Arts Cooperative, who previously made the feature Yesterday Was A Lie (2008), hope to turn R.U.R. Genesis into a feature as well. The cast includes Chase Masterson, whom SF fans may know from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
SF News from Nigeria
Item One: Nigeria has a thriving film industry, often referred to as Nollywood. When Ficson Films—a new Nigerian company providing film production, event coverage, documentaries, and commercials—wanted to announce their presence recently, they did it in an imaginative way: they released a short science fiction video on YouTube.
The Day They Came, Episode 1 (embedded below) doesn’t have a very expansive plot, but maybe it’ll be fleshed out in later episodes. A man comes out of a house to have a cigarette and clear his head. Everything is normal—a rooster crows somewhere nearby. Then he hears something and looks toward the horizon, which is when the aliens arrive and all hell breaks loose.
It’s a fun little short and, given the number of times it’s been posted and reposted on Facebook and elsewhere, it appears to be doing what it’s supposed to do: get attention.
Item Two: Nigeria is also the location for a small SF miracle—the discovery of nine “lost” episodes of Doctor Who just in time for the Doctor’s 50th anniversary (BBC page, Wikipedia page). The trove includes four episodes of the six-part story The Web of Fear, in which the Doctor battles robot Yetis who are spreading a poisonous fungus on the London Underground.
- “It’s official: Missing Doctor Who episodes have been found!” on io9
- “About time: Nine ‘lost’ Doctor Who episodes discovered in Nigeria” on The Guardian
Swedish Prime Minister’s Science Fiction Novel Becomes a Hit Play
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt wrote a dystopian novel called Det Sovande Folket (“The Sleeping People” or “The Sleeping Nation”) twenty years ago. It was all but forgotten, and isn’t in print any more, although a pirated version is available on internet torrent sites. But now that Reinfeldt is running the country it’s become a hot property and it’s been turned into a play that has sold out every performance. Reinfeldt has refused to comment.
Written when he was 28, the novel is set this year, in 2013, making this a perfect time to resurrect it. It portrays a Sweden that is feeling the effects of twenty years of Social Democratic government, where the populace is divided into the Fools, who do all the work and who finance the welfare state, and the Sleeping Brains, who lazily watch television all day long while living on benefits. Sounds positively Ayn-Rand-ian!
- “Swedish Prime Minister’s sci-fi novel becomes hit play” on UPI.com
- “PM’s sci-fi book becomes surprise stage success” on The Local
- “Fredrik Reinfeldt” on Wikipedia
Hit Film Gravity Crosses Borders
Caution: spoilers ahead.
There’s some debate as to whether or not the new film Gravity (home page, Wikipedia, YouTube trailer embedded below), which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and which set an all-time record for an October film opening, should be classified as science fiction. There’s nothing fundamentally speculative about it—everything in it could happen today, with current technology and in the current social context—so maybe it’s better considered simply as a space-based thriller.
Whatever the merits of the arguments on each side, it certainly features a setting associated with science fiction (indeed, that was science fiction until fairly recently), has been well received by SF fans, and is considered SF by many people, so I’ll let that classification stand for the purposes of this column.
Being a major Hollywood release, Gravity isn’t the usual fare covered in ISF, but it has several international aspects, both in story and execution. The film was co-written, co-produced, and directed by Alphonso Cuarón, the Mexican director of Spanish-language films like Y Tu Mama También and English language features like Children of Men.
And then there’s the Chinese connection. The massive Chinese film audience is being courted by innumerable film projects these days, often through co-productions with Chinese companies or through the casting of Chinese actors.
But as the International Business Times notes, Gravity appears to be have its sights set on China using story elements alone. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) first takes refuge in a state-of-the-art Chinese space station, then hitches a ride home in a Chinese capsule—giving uncommon cinematic recognition to the growing Chinese space program. It couldn’t come at a better time: just this month China’s space program celebrated its first decade of manned flight, later this month it’s scheduled to send an unmanned rover to the Moon, and it has longer-term plans to return man to the Moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972.
And it appears possible that the Chinese story elements succeeded in pleasing Chinese authorities, because the film has just been approved for distribution in China.
The ISF Alumni Department: The Entire Roster from ISF#2
ISF #2 featured fiction by three authors, Ken Liu, Lavie Tidhar, and me, Nas Hedron, and each of these alumni has news this issue.
Ken Liu has actually appeared in two issues of ISF (#2 and #4). Given that this is only issue #5, that makes him practically a member of the family. Recently Ken had a brief profile on the Malaysian news site The Star Online. It recaps his historic sweep of the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and World Fantasy Award in 2012, the first work of fiction to take all three awards in a year. Ken was in nearby Singapore as part of the Read! Singapore program. Until now he has focused on short fiction, but told the Star that he’s now at work on his first novel, which he hopes to finish by the end of the year. I’m sure I’m not the only one at ISF looking forward to it.
Lavie Tidhar, meanwhile, has been interviewed at length for the current issue of Clarkesworld, in “Deep Into the Dark: A Conversation with Lavie Tidhar.”
Finally, I’ve just released a free soundtrack album to accompany my 2012 magic realist novelette The Virgin Birth of Sharks. The story is about a Desi street kid in Toronto who learns that she was, inexplicably, conceived while her mother was in prison and had no contact at all with men. The book has a home page here. The album includes music ranging from blues to tango to ambient, and features artists from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, Ukraine, and the United States, and is available as a free download here.
Two tracks are embedded below via SoundCloud. The first is by musician and ArtisTech Media founder Jason Brock and the second is by me. I’ll let them play us out.
If you know of an item you think should be included in the next installment of Around the World, please send it to us at ISFAroundTheWorld@gmail.com.