To Infinity & Beyond… International Speculative Fiction
Is it August or is it international speculative fiction month? Check out our top three, handily-themed pre-orders, all 10% off, and some quantumly-entangled threads of recommended faves that stream from them like comet tails. Each book contains infinity: this blog post contains all the infinities.
But first! A shout-out to Shoreline of Infinity for their new BAME Science Fiction special issue, eds. Tendai Huchu and Raman Mundair, which prompted our infinite re-readings… <<buy it here direct from the publisher>>
The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa, tr. Stephen Snyder <<pre-order here>> 10% off in July
Our top August pick is this outstanding parable of cultural memory & resistance, now out in paperback. If you're a fan of the parabular (parabolic?) form with its subtle politics and unfurling strangeness, may we recommend…
The Vegetarian, Han Kang, tr. Deborah Smith <<buy here>>
Just your average woman-turning-into-a-plant story: it happens all the time in mythology so why not in modern South Korea? A feminist update on Kafka's The Hunger Artist, this mesmeric invention will haunt your dreams.
Primeval and Other Times, Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones <<buy here>>
But what if Marc Chagall was actually a realist? Tokarczuk's subtle story suite watches the Kabbalistic angels watching over a small Polish village, which may or may not disappear, from WWI to the present.
Trafalgar, Angélica Gorodischer, tr. Amalia Gladhart <<pre-order here>> 10% off in July
Brand-new to the UK in August is this subtly satirical Argentinean space picaresque by a fave of Ursula K. Le Guin, who translated her fabular Kalpa Imperial (Small Beer). An essential part of the new Penguin Science Fiction Classics series that includes…
The Ark Sakura, Kobo Abe, tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter <<pre-order here>>
Coming Jan 2021, it's nuclear apocalypse fiction about a mole trapped in a giant, powerful underground toilet by some wily insects… Sounds about right. Abe's urgent satire is by turns bleak & hilarious. Which also sounds about right for now.
We, Yevgeny Zamyatin, tr. Clarence Brown <<pre-order here>>
One of the most important novels of the 20th century: a cry for individuality against totalitarian conformism. In a world of glass houses, the private feeling of love is a crime. Zamyatin satirises both technology & the Machine that revolution becomes. Still chilling.
One Billion Years to the End of the World, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky <<pre-order here>>
AKA Definitely Maybe, this is a wickedly funny satire on the very pursuit of science itself, as (possibly) the Universe tries, via vodka and attractive women, to stop Dmitry Malyanov from scoring a Nobel by discovering its secrets.
The Hair Carpet Weavers, Andreas Eschbach, tr. Doryl Jensen <<pre-order here>>
Why are there tens of thousands of isolated planets entirely dedicated to weaving rugs out of human hair? Where do they go once they're delivered to the black hole? What secrets does the Imperial Archivist keep? A fable about power, craft & tradition.
The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age, Stanislaw Lem, tr. Michael Kandel <<pre-order here>>
Best known in the West for Solaris, in the mid-70s Lem was the most widely-read SF writer in the world. The Cyberiad is a whimsical symphony of invention both scientific and verbal, Lem at his most "Jorge Luis Borges for the Space Age."
Dark Constellations, Polo Oloixarac, tr. Roy Kesey <<buy here>>
Gorodischer isn't the only post-Borgesian space picaresquer: Oloixarac's furious romp through colonial and digital-neocolonial future histories is Argentinean fiction at its most philosophically mind-bending & politically radical. As infectious as its spores.
The Dreamed Part, Rodrigo Frésan, tr. Will Vanderhyden <<buy here>>
An Argentinean now based in Barcelona, Frésan's cosmicomics are a readerly delight, even if The Writer failed to merge with the God particle at the end of The Imagined Part. Still, in the sequel there's Brontës, lepidoptery, and a plague that erases dreams. Obviously.
Tentacle, Rita Indiana, tr. Achy Obejas <<buy here>>
The first Spanish-language novel to win the Grand Prize of the Association of Caribbean Writers is a Burley Fisher fave. Transition via anemone, buccaneer porn, art world satire, the high life & eco-emergency collide in this astounding jeu d'esprit.
Condomnauts, Yoss, tr. David Frye <<buy here>>
And from Cuba, the greatest SFF conceit of all time: first contact means… first (uh) contact. Josue escapes his life of cockroach-racing by becoming Earth's second-best alien sex ambassador. When a new species shows up, it's all to play for.
Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World, ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, tr. Fabio Fernandes <<buy here>>
SF hasn't traditionally been big on the eco – & this Brazilian & Portuguese project challenges that, although not all green futures are utopian here, with non-fossil energy sources including organic matter… and the human soul!
Mysteries of the Quantum Universe, Thibault Damour & Mathieu Burniat, tr. Sarah-Louise Raillard <<pre-order here>> 10% off in July
Here's the science bit… Our fourth pre-order title is a dazzling graphic history by a French theoretical physicist. Bob and Rick (the dog) will ensure you totally, finally get this quantum stuff, including tricksy cats and (most importantly) Planck crepes.
There Are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important than Kindness, Carlo Rovelli <<pre-order here>> 10% off
Not enough popular science gets translated into English, and Carlo Rovelli's elegant essays make you wonder WHY. Following his quantum inquisitiveness, Nov 2020 brings these thoughts on/with octopodes, psychedelics & where Einstein went wrong.
Earthlings, Sayaka Murata, tr. Ginny Tapley Takemori <<pre-order here>> 10% off
And finally… because international speculative fiction is not just for summer, but for all year, set your stasis chamber to awake you in Oct for this follow-up to global smash Convenience Store Woman. It's very similar. Except with aliens and a magic mirror.