Science fiction critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan has a Q&A with Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khaled Towfik this week on “The World SF Blog.” There are a number of interesting moments — I suppose I hadn’t thought of a connection between Towfik’s Utopia and Galal Amin’s What Ever Happened to the Egyptians, but now that he mentions it….
Morgan also asked Towfik about the penetration of science fiction in Egypt:
I have translated a lot of science fiction. Young people in Egypttoday can read Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov. I am very proud to have done this. But science fiction is a relatively new innovation in Egypt. People there have only been writing novels for just over 100 years, starting with Francis Fathallah in Syriaor Haikal in Egypt. Before that we had very little fantastical literature, except for the Arabian Nights. Sophisticated new inventions such as science fiction are very rare. Most people still are not aware of it, or don’t understand it. It will take 50 to 100 years before it is respected.
Towfik was generally pessimistic about Egyptian SF, saying: “I have yet to see any genuinely original Egyptian SF. Possibly the closest we have come is a story called ‘The Spider’ by Mustafa Mahmud, which I think is available in translation.”
Morgan also asked Towfik if people set novels at the time of the pharaohs; he mentions Mohamed Soleiman; of course there are any number. Naguib Mahfouz, for one. She also asked about non-Egyptian SF writers, and Towfik pointed to Syrian authors, who once upon a time staged SF conventions. In a future, free Syria, insha’allah, they will do so again.
The interview originally appeared in Locus. Thanks to Cheryl for emailing me to say that it was up online. She has also reviewed Towfik’s Utopia: here.