May 21, 2019

The First-Ever Collection of Israeli Sci-Fi

“Of the making of anthologies there is no end. But not all anthologies are equal—and what is true in general is true also of anthologies in specific fields of endeavor, like the field of literature, not to mention that field’s various genres and their subdivisions.

What prompts these vague pronouncements is the appearance of the first-ever anthology of one particular literary subdivision: stories, by contemporary Israeli authors, in the areas of science fiction and fantasy (SFF). Whether or not you like the pun in its two-word main title—try saying it quickly—Zion’s Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Speculative Literature is an impressive English-language collection of stories originally written in either Hebrew or English. It includes tales of invasions both alien and angelic, dystopias in which childrearing is outlawed in favor of technologically produced adulthood, a marriage between Death and a Jerusalem maiden, and other inventive imaginings.

To grasp the special virtues of this effort, it helps to contrast it with the last major anthology of a similar kind, People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy, published in 2010. Although two contributors to that earlier work were British and two others—the Israeli-born Lavie Tidhar and the Kiev-born Israeli writer and scholar Elana Gomel—also appear in Zion’s Fiction, most of the other contributors to People of the Book were Americans, and so were the volume’s editors. That difference tells, and in what follows I mean to pursue it.”

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