Arab and Muslim Science Fiction: Critical Essays

McFarland. (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy). Mar. 2022. 396p. ed. by Hosam A. Ibrahim Elzembely & Emad El-Din Aysha. ISBN 9781476685236. pap. $55. REF
With this essay collection aimed at science fiction scholars, publishers, translators, and advocates, Aysha (Out of this World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the Millennium) and Elzembely (director, Egyptian Society for Science Fiction) aim to balance prevailing Western academic perspectives on sf from Arab and Muslim novelists. The collection opens with several essays on the topic “Whose Science Fiction?” The second section contains interviews with and essays by sf authors, organized by the regions where they live (North Africa; the Levant; Gulf states; Europe, Russia, and Central Asia; South Asia; Africa; Southeast Asia). Here novelists discuss their experiences in genre fiction; a recurring argument is that Islamic sf is often downplayed as merely “genre” or “YA” fiction and still struggles for literary status. Among the book’s other essays are surveys of Iranian and Turkish sf and an expert academic evaluation of sf from the Arab world. Aysha writes an especially useful essay on definitional, cultural, and economic “problems facing Arab-Islamic science fiction.” Many of the sf authors discussed here are part-time novelists with backgrounds in science, whose works largely focus on technology (or horror) rather than philosophy; a smaller group of the book’s authors focus more on social and political themes.
VERDICT Readers should not expect academic rigor; instead they’ll find wide-ranging specialized material on the disparate emerging field of multilingual sf from the Arab and Islamic worlds.
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