Friday Finds: Two Contributors to Iraq + 100 Reflect on Science Fiction in Arabic Literature

Some reflections on the Iraq + 100 anthology, ed. Hassan Blasim and Ra Page, by two contributors, appeared this week on the Tor/Forge blog ahead of the book’s US release next week:

Contributor “Anoud,” who contributed the short story “Kahramana,” said, in part:

When asked to contribute to the anthology I struggled. It was just too much headspace and I didn’t know where to start. Normally I look at things I’ve lived or seen and dissect them. I can paint a vivid picture of sights, smells, and sounds of a market place in Baghdad, but ask me to imagine it with time travel, aliens, a post apocalypse and I’d not be able to get past that first four lines. I felt strange when I read some of the other writers’ contributions like “Kuszib,” “Nujefa” or “Baghdad Syndrome”. It was a good kind of strange. I’d never imagined Iraq that way and it was as if the other writers just opened up a new portal into Iraq for me, and it was kind of exciting. I find my story “Kahramana” as more futuristic than full on Sci-Fi, if that makes sense.

From the comments by Ibrahim Al-Marashi, author of “Najufa”:

As a historian, I was intrigued by Hassan’s lament in the introduction that there is not a strong science fiction and fantasy literary tradition in the modern Middle East. This dearth of genre fiction is surprising given the history of the region. One Thousand and One Nights, the quintessential fantasy collection, was first compiled and published in the Middle East. I also found elements of proto-speculative fiction in the works of the Sufi scholar Ibn Arabi from Murcia (today’s Spain). In his Futuhat al-Makiyya, written around 1238, he describes his travels to “vast cities (outside earth), possessing technologies far superior than ours.”

Read the whole piece at the Tor/Forge Blog.


A review of Iraq + 100 on In These Times by ArabLit’s founding editor

‘Iraq + 100’ Contributor Anoud on Writing Anger, Violence, and Comedy

Iraq + 100 Writers Anoud and Diyaa al-Jubeili, Writing ‘About the Fires Burning You Up from Within’


Anoud refers to Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, which won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and will (finally) be forthcoming in translation by Jonathan Wright in January 2018, timed with the 200th anniversary of the publication of the original Frankenstein.