Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

‘Zi-fi’ opens a window on a seldom-viewed wellspring of Israeli sci-fi

”Zi-fi?” you ask?

Israel is the quintessential ”science fiction” nation, according to book mavens Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emanuel Lottem, co-editors of  of an anthology of 17 short stories in  a new collection titled “Zion’s Fiction.”

Published by Mandel Vilar Press, the two editors hope the book will open a window on a seldom-viewed wellspring of Israeli sci-fi, a new literary genre they have dubbed ”Zi-fi.”

“We define this term as the speculative literature written by citizens and permanent residents of Israel — Jewish, Arab, or otherwise, whether living in Israel proper or abroad, writing in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian or any othere language,” they note in the introduction to the book.

According to Jonathan Kirsch, a book critic for the Jewish Journal in New York who recently previewed the anthology, the introduction to “Zion’s Fiction” along with an introduction by Robert Silverberg, one of the living masters of the sci-fi genre, ”are admirable works of literary history and commentary in themselves, and they provide an illuminating context for the stories that follow.”

But the 17 short stories, Kirsch says, are the real attraction.

“Buried in these fascinating exercises in imaginative fiction are glimpses of the anxieties and aspirations of the real Israel,” he says.

Ones story is titled “The Smell of Orange Groves” and it comes from the pen of sci-fi writer Lavie Tidhar. The story imagines a future version of Israel as a poly-ethnic nation that includes not only Arabs and Jews but men and women whose ancestry reaches all the way to Mars, according to Kirsch.

In another story in the collection, titled “The Believers” and written by Nir Yaniv, readers are treated to ”the sudden appearance of God on Earth in the guise of a judge who inflicts sudden and gruesome death on anyone he judges and finds wanting.

“I have always believed in God,” the narrator of the tale tells readers. “It’s about time that he started believing in me.”

In “Death in Jerusalem” by Elana Gomel, begins as a simple and poignant boy-meets-girl story, but soon turns into something quite different as befits a good sci-fi story.

In “My Crappy Autumn” by Nitay Peretz, there’s a Yiddish-speaking and wisecracking donkey named Tony.

“Believe me, everyone’s an ass,” the donkey insists. “But at least this ass knows what he’s talking about.”

You’ll have to order the book and read these stories to see them up close and personal.

The world’s first English-language historical anthology of Israeli fantasy and science fiction, ”Zion’s Fiction” opens a door to a new way of seeing the world.

The 17 stories were originally written in Hebrew, Russian and English by a gallery of genre-savvy Israeli writers including, in addition to Tidhar and Yaniv, Shimon Adaf, Pesakh (Pavel) Amnuel, Rottem Baruchin, Gail Hareven, Yael Furman, Guy Hasson, Keren Landsman, Mordechai Sasson, Nava Semel, Nitay Peretz, and Eyal Teler. The stories portray, according to the publisher, ”the hidden dreams and fears of a people whose literary imagination has been squeezed in a vise of threat and uncertainty – and conversely, untold possibilities.”

Subtitled ”A Treasury of Israeli Speculative Literature,” the anthology features an afterword by Aharon Hauptman, the founding editor of Fantasia 2000, an Israeli SFF magazine. In additon, illustrations for each story are by award-winning artist Avi Katz.

In a book blurb for the collection, sci-fi author David Brin says the book ”explores the unlimited dreams of a people who have learned to stand on shifting ground. To face a future filled with danger and hope, forging into territory that can only be surveyed with the lamp of imagination on our brows.”

Yup, ”Zi-fi” has arrived.

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report at www.cli-fi.net. Danny graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Yiddish Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Alaska, Japan and Taiwan, he has lived and worked in 14 countries and speaks French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live until 2032, when his tombstone will read "I came, I saw, I ate cho-dofu."
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