Islam and Science Fiction has been a resource in the SFF community for 10 years, and it’s with great pleasure that I got in touch with its founding editor, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad. Since 2005, Islam and Science Fiction‘s goal has been to gather depictions of Islam and Islamic themes in science fiction and spotlight science fiction written by Muslims. Muhammad has even co-edited an anthology about the topic, A Mosque Among the Stars,with Ahmed A. Khan. In our interview we talk about the state of Islam in sci-fi, its global reach in speculative fiction, and much more.
Tag Archives: science fiction
“We need to talk about diversity,” has been the conversation starter in SF/F as of late. But the best fiction, as the saying goes, shows, not tells. The anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, reveals representation as more than a tally-count concerning diversity, and highlights how the act of reading across difference can be an intensely immersive experience.
Reading Long Hidden very much felt like sitting in on late-night conversations in a room full of strangers, darting from one conversation to the next. I might not immediately recognize the context of one tale or another, nor did I feel pressure or ridicule for not knowing something beforehand. What was important was recognizing the generosity and trust in which these stories were being told, and letting the conversation flow.
I’ve had the pleasure of conducting such a conversation with Rose and Daniel after my read. We discuss their challenges and joys during the editing process, the logistics of outreach and crowd-funding, and the impact of marginalized voices in the future of speculative fiction.
Nowadays, I read so many steampunk-labeled books that very few retain the innovation factor for me. It’s fine to see tropes that establishes the aesthetic as a subgenre, but it takes a lot to make a steampunk book read fresh to me.
Then, comes along Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac: a book that’a steampunk by way of Mad Max rather than gaslamp London. Killer of Enemies is not just a gulp of fresh air, but a hyperventilating-inducing adrenaline rush. Oh, and did I mention that this young adult book was initially pitched to me as “post-apoc Apache steampunk?” Yeah, let that catchphrase sink in a bit.
In the hubbub of the past week, I completely forgot to mention my participation in Journal of Victorian Culture Online‘s Neo-Victorian Studies & Digital Humanities Week 2013. Check out an excerpt below, and follow the jump to read this academic article online.
Thanks to Prof. Lisa Hager and the editorial board of the JVCO for giving me this opportunity.
Steampunk studies is an outlier in Victorian scholarship. In fact, steampunk subculture can arguably be called “neo-Victorian” or even “non-Victorian” in the way that it defies strict adherence to a certain periodization or topic relevance. Steampunk is an aesthetic movement inspired by nineteenth-century science fiction and fantasy. Over the years, however, that umbrella phrase has expanded to include speculation outside of an established time-frame (such as post-apocalyptic or futuristic), outside of the established geography of the Western world, and even outside of history (as with alternate history and secondary fantasy worlds). How can we, then, describe the relationship between steampunk academic work and Victorian studies?
The Steampunk World Anthology is a planned collection of steampunk short stories set in places outside of Europe. Edited by Sarah Hans, this anthology will feature veteran and up-and-coming writers from the science fiction community, including Nisi Shawl, Maurice Broaddus, Alex Bledsoe, and Leanna Renee Hieber, plus many more to be announced. I’ve been asked to write the introduction and James Ng will be doing the cover art. This anthology will be funded primarily by Kickstarter that will be launched in October.
Besides the planned line-up, the gorgeous cover art, and yeah, multicultural steampunk being a thing, y’know what’s also exciting about this anthology? Hans strongly encourages to have writers of color involved as much as possible.
She’s looking for more writers to submit before the Kickstarter launches. According to her blog, she writes:
One problem I’m having is a dearth of stories by writers of color. I’ve invited some more writers of color in the hopes of achieving a better balance, but I could use some more. If you are (or know) a writer of color who might be appropriate for this project, please forward your (or their) name and email address to me at steampunkworldantho(at)gmail(dot)com.
The anthology pays pro rates of $.05/word for original work. I’m especially interested in stories that take place in Africa, the Caribbean, Russia, the far North (think Sweden), the Americas (i.e. Native American tribes), and Australia. I have a lot of stories set in Asia, so a story in Asia will be a tough sell. You’re still welcome to try if you think you have something really stellar.
So please signal-boost and submit! We can make this happen!
So, if you’re here then you probably like steampunk, but you’re also probably just a little tired of seeing the same old English professor or American cowboy riding his clockwork horse to save western civilization. Me too. And after following the Racefail discussions back in 2009, I set out to create a steampunk series that would be different in every way I could imagine.
I started with research. Lots of it. I learned everything I could about the history and cultures of North Africa and the rest of the Mediterranean to create a time and place for my series that was original and fantastical, and yet thoroughly grounded in reality. Instead of drawing new maps, I looked at ancient maps. Instead of inventing emperors and wars and nations, I discovered the real ones from history (although none of them had appeared in my high school classes, disappointingly). And I carefully knitted them all together as the backdrop for my stories.
Here’s what I came up with.
The Engine was created by “W. Grove” and appeared in A Mexican Mystery (1888) and The Wreck of a World (1889). Nothing is known about “W. Grove” apart from his British citizenship. Both novels are moderately entertaining, and are early examples of the Revolt Of The Machines subgenre of science fiction.
A Mexican Mystery is the diary of John Brown, a Scottish locomotive engineer who is sent to Mexico to oversee the construction of a new railway line for the “new Emperor” (implicitly the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph). Brown is sent to the small town of Xiqipu, which will be the location of his headquarters during the project. It is in Xiqipu that he meets Pedro da Luz, the local engineer for the project. Da Luz is a descendant of Montezuma and is independently wealthy, and although proud still welcomes Brown to the project. Brown, for his part, sees that da Luz is close to brilliant and respects his intelligence. Brown goes off to the front of the line, which is high in the mountains, to oversee its construction. Da Luz, meanwhile, stays in Xiqipu and works on his special creation. The Emperor is holding a contest for the best new locomotive, and da Luz intends to win the contest.
The Xipéhuz were created by “J. H. Rosny (aîné)” and appeared in “Les Xipéhuz” (“The Shapes,” L’Immolation, 1887). “J. H. Rosny (aîné)” was the pen name of Joseph Henri Honoré Böex (1866-1940), a French author. For many years after his death Böex was forgotten, primarily because the majority of his work was written in disrespected genres like science fiction and the prehistoric romance. But in recent years critics and academics have begun paying him more attention and giving him the credit he deserves. Böex produced some remarkable science fiction and is considered (with Jules Verne) to be one of the most influential figures in the development of science fiction in France. “Les Xipéhuz” is one of his most famous, and best, stories.
“Les Xipéhuz” is set in the Middle East, circa 5000 B.C.E. A nomad tribe, the Pjehu, discover a group of “translucent bluish cones, point uppermost, each nearly half the bulk of a man…each one had a dazzling star near its base,” clustered around a spring. When the Pjehu draw close to the cones, or “the Shapes” as the narrator calls them, the Shapes attack them, killing many, although they only target warriors and avoid killing women, children, the sick and the aged. But the Shapes do not pursue the Pjehu beyond a certain distance and ignore them if they leave the Shapes alone. The Pjehu, shaken, consult a group of local priests who decide that the Shapes are gods and that they must be sacrificed to. But the Shapes kill those priests who approach them.
The priests experiment with slaves and determine the distance beyond which the Shapes will not pursue humans, and then the priests set that boundary with stakes and decree that the Shapes are to be left alone. But other tribes are not told about the priests’ decree or ignore it, and members of those tribes cross the boundary and are massacred. Then the Shapes begin expanding their territory. When the tribes try to resist, hundreds of their warriors are killed by the Shapes. All the tribes of Mesopotamia begin fearing for the existence of Man, and some men turn to dark cults.
The tribes’ wise men at last consult the hermit Bakhun. Long ago he had abandoned a nomadic life for a pastoral one, and in so doing flourished. Bakhun believes in odd and unusual things, like the sun, moon, and stars being “luminous masses” rather than gods, and that “men should really believe only in those things tested by measurement.” Bakhun tells the wise men that he will dedicate his life to studying the Shapes. He does so, and draws a number of significant conclusions, most important of which is that the Shapes are living beings rather than spirits or gods.
For those of you who know me well (or even not so well), my current Day Job is in sci-fi publishing. And with that comes some great opportunities. Last year, I interviewed Cherie Priest at Dragon*Con. More recently, I sat down with Scott Westerfeld at the gorgeous King’s Carriage House in New York City for a one-on-one chat about his Leviathan trilogy:
In addition, tonight I participated with several other notable steampunks in Average Intelligence’s podcast. For those who had missed out, you can still listen to the whole thing here.