The December issue of Words Without Borders was devoted to International Science Fiction. One sign of the vitality of the genre is The Apex Book of World SF, a new anthology edited by Lavie Tidhar, the author of a collection of linked stories called HebrewPunk.
The Apex Book includes stories from twelve countries, including two each from France, Israel, China, and the Philippines. Seven of the sixteen stories are translated from other languages, including Hebrew and Chinese (two stories each), French, Croatian, and Serbian. Another three were written in English — but by authors whose first language is something else.
Though SF can stand for science fiction, here it more aptly stands for speculative fiction. The stories included cross genres and subgenres with abandon, ranging from high-tech nuts and bolts to myth and folktale.
Among the translated stories, “Cinderers” by Nir Yaniv, translated from Hebrew, takes place in the head of a severely disturbed arsonist and murderer, whose mind has spawned three personalities named Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
“Elegy,” by the French writer Melanie Fazi, is a strange and moving story of a mother’s loss. In it, the mother addresses the creature she believes has taken her children, which has taken the form of a tree. Her pain is obvious, but it remains unsettlingly unclear whether she is the victim of alien abduction or whether she is in the grip of a delusion.
“An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, with Lydia on My Mind,” translated from Croatian by the author, Aleksandar Žiljak, stars a high-tech pornographer who will spot an enticing subject and let loose a cloud of tiny aerial cameras that follow her around like a swarm of flies. All goes well until he checks the footage of a subject named Lydia … but that would be telling.
Not every story in The Apex Book of World SF is as powerful and creative as these, but few anthologies open windows onto as many new worlds as this one does.