About a year ago, a book arrived in the mail. It was right after I had finished some reading I had to do for some projects and right before I was scheduled to leave for my daughter’s graduation in New Orleans. The book went to the back of my desk and I’m afraid it disappeared behind other work that arrived after I returned from that trip. I recently uncovered the book, started reading and couldn’t put it down.
The book is an anthology of Israeli science fiction stories called Zion’s Fiction, edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emanuel Lottem and features a foreword by Robert Silverberg. Each story is accompanied by a compelling illustration by Avi Katz.
Here in the United States, with the possible exceptions of England and Canada, it can be difficult to find science fiction first published in other countries, especially if that science fiction wasn’t published in English. I find it fascinating to see how people in other parts of the world see the future and I like to learn about the “what if” questions they’re asking.
Silverberg’s foreword and the introduction by the editors help the reader understand the development of Israel’s community of speculative fiction writers against the backdrop of Israel’s history. After that, the anthology presents sixteen stories, many of which were first published within the last decade.
I enjoyed all of the stories in the collection, but among the standouts were “Burn Alexandria” by Karen Landsman, which tells the tale of a time-traveling, future Library of Alexandria that appears every couple of centuries, Brigadoon-like. In this story, it finds itself in a post-apocalyptic future and the librarians must ask whether there is a point in continuing to go forward.
In “The Perfect Girl” by Guy Hasson, a woman enters a school for psychics and is assigned a job watching the morgue, where bodies are donated for study. She learns to read the mind of a girl who killed herself and learns not only about the girl but about herself.
Some stories look at the choices we make and ask what if we could change the course of our lives such as “In the Mirror” by Rotem Baruchem. Other stories take a hard look at faith and religion and ask what they mean. In “The Believers” by Nir Yaniv, God comes to Earth as a violent, vengeful spirit.
“The Stern-Gerlach Mice” by Mordechai Sasson tells the story of scientists who experiment on animals resulting in size-shifting mice who infiltrate homes in a town to overthrow the humans. In this world, the artists are mechanical beggars who people take advantage of, but these automata may be humanity’s only hope.
In “Death in Jerusalem” by Elana Gomel, a woman literally courts death. In this case, it’s death by gunshot personified. He introduces her to his extended family and she begins playing a dangerous game reminiscent of the chess match between a knight and Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.
“Two Minutes Too Early” by Gur Shomron shows us a puzzle-solving contest of the future my wife and daughters would envy while hinting at a darker mystery.
I was delighted to read this sampling of speculative fiction from Israel. The editors hint at the possibility of more collections in the future, which would be great. Of course, I would love to see collections from other countries as well. Zion’s Fiction is available at online retailers Amazon.com and BN.com and I’m sure you can ask for it from your favorite, local independent bookstore.