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[SFFWRTCHT] A Chat With Author-Editor Lavie Tidhar and Apex World Book of SF 2 Authors

One of the more ambitious and important anthology projects of the last several years is Apex Book Company’s World SF series, edited by Lavie Tidhar, which collects the best speculative fiction from non-Western writers around the world. With the release of the second volume, Apex Book Of World SF 2, we sat down for a chat with Tidhar and two of his authors.

Lavie Tidhar is the author of the BSFA Award nominated novel Osama, the steampunk Bookman Histories Trilogy, the collection HebrewPunk and the novellas Jesus & The Eightfold Path and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God, amongst others. His short fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty Eighth Annual Collection, amongst others. He edited Apex Book Of World SF 1 in 2009 and now the follow up has been released, both from Apex Book Company. He is a World Fantasy Award nominated blogger for his work on the World SF Blog, he can be found online as @lavietidhar on Twitter, on Facebook or via his website at

 SFFWRTCHT: Lavie, this is the second collection of international speculative fiction you’ve done for Apex Book Company. How did the idea for these collections come about?

Lavie Tidhar: A few years ago a group of German SF fans decided to start an international SF magazine called Internova. They only managed one issue, and it was actually very hard to get hold of a copy (they later restarted it as an online magazine, which is now going strong), but it was, to me, a breakthrough moment. The idea that we can’t count on American or British editors–however well-meaning–to represent us (by “us” I mean pretty much anyone from the non-Anglophone sphere), but that the dialogue must come from without. Any such anthology project before–and we’re talking pre-2000 here!–was rare and came from within that Anglophone world. And you got some terrible things, like an anthology of “African SF” without any African writers in it. When Internova didn’t last, it occurred to me that sometimes a single person can do things more effectively than when a whole committee of people is involved. And that’s when the idea began to take a more concrete shape.

SFFWRTCHT: And how did you connect with Jason and Apex?

LT: I’ve worked with Jason for a long time–I had a story in the very first issue of Apex Magazine (then Apex Digest), and Apex Book Company did my HebrewPunk mini-collection in 2007. Jason was very open to diversity, which I think comes across in both the magazines and the books Apex have published. I pitched him the idea, and he gave me the green light for the first anthology. It was very much a labour of love for all of us involved.

SFFWRTCHT: Had you edited anthologies before? What was that experience like as a writer?

LT: I edited one previous anthology, a small chapbook published by the British Fantasy Society called A Dick & Jane Primer for Adults. It was original flash stories by writers like Adam Roberts, Liz Williams, James Lovegrove and Conrad Williams. It was fun, but I’m not sure it prepares you exactly for a project on the scope of The Apex Book of World SF! It’s a very different experience from writing, of course, and it can be very challenging, even frustrating–but also very exciting when you find a story you simply want to shout about to people.

SFFWRTCHT: What kind of research did you do in locating stories/writers?

LT: I read! A lot. I still do. We envisioned the anthology as a sort of Year’s Best project, composed mostly of reprints. So it was a lot of reading stories, selecting stories, hunting for stories, and using whatever contacts I had–particularly in China–to send me material. For The Apex Book of World SF 2 we got I think six original stories, and we had four in the first anthology.

SFFWRTCHT: How did you go about evaluating stories in other languages? Did you have them translated first?

LT: It’s worth noting many of the stories in both anthologies were written in English in the first place. Others were translated by the authors, while others still had translators. I personally translated one story in the first anthology, from Hebrew–Nir Yaniv’s “Cinderers”–and I did extensive translation editing on the two Chinese stories in that anthology, Han Song’s “The Wheel of Samsara” and Yang Ping’s “Wizard World”.

SFFWRTCHT: How did you find translators and ensure the work was represented well by their efforts?

LT: We weren’t in a position to commission original translations, which we would have done on a bigger budget. But we were lucky that more translations are appearing–one of the stories in The Apex Book of World SF 2 is reprinted from none other than The New Yorker, for instance. It’s an exciting time to be doing this sort of anthology, with more stories appearing, online and in print, than ever before. Ken Liu, for example, is doing a simply amazing job of translating some brilliant Chinese SF–we published Ma Boyong’s “The City of Silence” on the World SF Blog, but the stories have also been appearing in places like Clarkesworld and Interzone. For Cuba, I was very lucky to have the help of Daniel W. Koon, who translates and who put me in touch with the writers.

SFFWRTCHT: What were your goals with this as far as selecting stories and cultures to include? And did the process evolve at all from the first book to the second?

LT: You want to be as inclusive as possible–our guiding philosophy for both the anthologies and the blog is to do more rather than less. The first anthology has mostly stories from Asia and Europe, so in the second I was making a very conscious effort to find more stories from African and Latin American writers. I’d still love to get some Arabic SF–I’ve not had much luck so far.

SFFWRTCHT: What do you see as the importance of making sure these non-Western voices get heard, particularly by Western dominated readership?

LT: Well, I assume you’re right, in that the readership for the World SF anthologies is mostly Western, but–especially with e-book editions–it’s certainly not limited to a Western audience. Part of what I find exciting about running the World SF Blog is that a lot of the discussion that’s going on at the moment, the cross-pollination, is between different non-Anglophone writing communities. I think it’s exciting to bring these diverse voices together and getting them into readers’ hands, whoever those readers might be.

SFFWRTCHT: How long does it take you to edit and assemble these anthologies?

LT: A long time! If you think about it, The Apex Book of World SF came out in 2009, while The Apex Book of World SF 2 came out in 2012–that’s four years between volumes! There are all kinds of reasons for that sort of time difference–and a lot that has changed in SFF in general over that period–but a part of it is certainly that it takes time and patience to put together an anthology of this kind.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you have plans to do more in the future? And what are outlets for readers intrigued by this to find more non-Western SF to read?

LT: Jason and I are very hopeful we get to do at least one more volume in the series. It depends on sales making it worthwhile for Apex, though. I’m keeping my eyes open and flagging interesting stories for consideration. We also have an idea for a separate–but very exciting– anthology with a more specific focus, which I hope we get to do. For anyone interested in more, though, there’s the World SF Blog, which I’ve been maintaining, with the help of Charles Tan, since 2009. We cover all aspects of speculative fiction from around the world, including much original material–articles, interviews and short stories.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a writer from the Philippines now living in the Netherlands with a degree in piano from Philippine Women’s University. Her first short story was published in Philippine Panorama, others have since appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales and Interzone amongst others.. Her poetry and creative non-fiction have been published in PATMOS (an international publication of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture), Isip-Isak (the local version of PATMOS), and the Second Hay(na)ku anthology. She has also co-authored an inspirational book for Overseas Filipino Workers entitled Hope Away from Home. In 2005, she joined the Online Writer’s Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers. In 2008, Ann VanderMeer selected “The Wordeaters” for inclusion in Weird Tales Magazine’s International issue. This proved to be a key point in Rochita’s career. In the same year, she joined the Villa Diodati Expatworkshop. With the encouragement of her fellow writers at the workshop, Rochita applied for and attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in 2009 and was granted the Octavia Butler Scholarship. She can be found online at her blog at

SFFWRTCHT: How’d you come to be a part of this project?

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” was first published in Interzone 229. When Lavie Tidhar wrote and asked to see it, I said yes. Imagine how I felt when he asked if I would be agreeable to having it reprinted in the Apex Book of World SF2. Of course, I said yes.

SFFWRTCHT: Please tell us a little about your story?

RLR: This story started out as an experiment with the hay(na)ku form—a poetic form invented by Fil-Am poet, Eileen Tabios. At the time, there was a lot of conversation going on about identity, heritage and diaspora. I was also very much concerned with the assimilation vs. integration debate wherein migrants are pressured to conform to what is considered the standard in the cultures that they enter. These conversations coincided with my own ruminations on the standards women are expected to live up to if they are to be “proper women”. Alternate Girl is programmed to fulfill these expectations, but at heart, she doesn’t really want to conform or to assimilate. Another element that influenced this story stems from the judgments people make about Asian (thirdworld) women marrying men from the firstworld. This is an issue that I am still very much concerned with.

SFFWRTCHT: What does it mean to you to see your story reach a broad readership?

RLR: It means a lot to me that Lavie had faith in this story and I feel very honored to see my name listed alongside the names of authors whose work I’ve read and admired. It’s kind of surreal when something like that happens and I don’t think I’ll ever lose the feeling of wonder that I get when something I’ve written gets published.

SFFWRTCHT: How many publications have you had in the past?

RLR: That’s a hard question. People keep reminding me to list stuff down and I keep forgetting, so I’m not really sure how many I’ve had in the past. Quite a good number. My bibliography needs a serious reworking. People are always nudging me to remember to update the list.

SFFWRTCHT: What are your goals for your writing future?

RLR: I want to keep on writing and I want to keep encouraging others to write. I am working on a novella that I hope to finish before the end of October and I have a novel-length work that I also want to complete. I have a good number of stories in various states of completion. These all need to be finished and sent out into the world.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia was born and raised in Mexico and currently lives in Canada. Her short stories have appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Futurismic, The Book of Cthulhu, Imaginarium 2012The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction, amongst others.  She has co-edited the anthologies Historical LovecraftFuture Lovecraft and Candle in the Attic Window: An Anthology of Gothic Horror. In 2011, Silvia won the Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize (in the Emerging Writer category), sponsored by  Gloria Vanderbilt and Exile Quarterly. She was also a finalist for the Manchester Fiction Prize. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+. and she publishes the online zine The Innsmouth Free Press. Her online blog can be found at

SFFWRTCHT: How’d you come to be a part of this project?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia: I was asked to reprint my story “Maquech” in the anthology by the peeps at Apex.

SFFWRTCHT: Please tell us a little about your story? 

SMG: It’s a near-future tale set in Mexico City. A man who sells exotic animals gets a hold of maquech, a live insect decorated with jewels. I saw these kind of insects as a child, so I’m not making them up. It’s an introspective story.

SFFWRTCHT: What does it mean to you to see your story reach a broad readership?

SMG: I’ve likely had broader readerships by now, but it’s always nice to be published again.

SFFWRTCHT: How many publications have you had in the past?

SMG: I’ve published more than 40 stories which have appeared in a number of anthologies, including The Book of Cthulhu, Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. I’m also a winner of the Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize and a finalist for the Manchester Fiction Prize.

SFFWRTCHT: What are your goals for your writing future?

SMG: To publish a novel. I’ve written two and sold neither one. I’m attempting to work on a third one, a YA, but I keep getting derailed by other work. My first collection, Shedding Her Own Skin, is also out next year, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s not a writing goal, but in 2014 I’d like to do another anthology with Orrin Grey, this time called The New Flesh, focusing on body horror.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun, forthcoming. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+