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It’s a great day when we get another volume in the Apex Book of World SF series, begun by Lavie Tidhar (series editor) and Apex Publications nearly a decade ago, and continued first by Mahvesh Murad and now, Chistina Jurado. Together, the five volumes feature some of the greatest speculative fiction you’ll ever read from around the world, including stories that have been translated into English from other languages. In Volume 5, Jurado has focused not just on finding great stories but also on representing parts of the world that hadn’t received as much attention in previous volumes. The result is a collection that takes you from Singapore to Venezuela, Germany to Egypt, and many places in between. Here ghosts rub shoulders with untamed code, androids that are indistinguishable from humans cross paths with 3D-printed food, and space and time suddenly seem much more complex and beautiful. Most of these stories play with how people perceive their world, move through time, or adapt to sudden change. You won't find space operas or generation-ship stories here, but that's fine because Volume 5 is all about the mind: how and what we believe, how we know what we know.

I had already read the stories by Taiyo Fujii, Vandana Singh, Basma Abdel Aziz, Karla Schmidt, Liliana Colanzi, and Chi Hui before getting my hands on this collection, and some of those I had read a few years ago. WSF5, though, was an opportunity for me to reread them (which I rarely get the chance to do these days), and I am glad that I did. In many cases, I loved the story even more the second time. Japanese hard-SF author Taiyo Fujii is probably familiar to many English-language readers because he already has two novels, one story, and one excerpt available in translation, all since 2015. “Violation of the TrueNet Security Act” (tr. Jim Hubbert), which was published that year in Lightspeed, fits well in WSF5. The first time I read it, I thought it was a fun, fast-paced, gripping piece, but now that I’ve also read Gene Mapper and Orbital Cloud, I can better appreciate Fujii’s ability to seamlessly weave in discussions about computer code into his larger story of a post-internet world. Part detective story, part thought experiment, “TrueNet” forces readers to think about what the next stage of global connectivity might be and how the internet we know today is as much about power and freedom as it is about code and calculations.

Bolivian author Liliana Colanzi’s “Our Dead World” (tr. Jessica Sequeira), too, was even better the second time. I had first read this tale of Mars and the stress of living on another planet in her collection of the same name (2014; translated into English in 2017), but reading it in the context of the other stories in WSF5 was enlightening. Perhaps surprisingly, very few stories in this collection take place on another planet. Colanzi's piece, then, stands out as a meditation on humans breaking their bond with Earth and working in a landscape so foreign that it alters their minds. Psychological stress and self-doubt, though, run through many of the stories in WSF5, like Israel Alonso's “You Will See the Moon Rise” (tr. Steve Redwood), Eliza Victoria's “The Seventh,” and Giovanni De Feo's “Ugo,” in which characters are suddenly forced to rethink their identity and place in time and space.

War and aggression also inform many of these stories, whether they focus on conflict between humans or between humans and aliens/ghosts/vampires/etc. Chi Hui’s “The Calculations of Artificials” (tr. John Chu), a chilling and sorrowful story about androids trying to keep humans apart (so they won’t kill each other in yet another nuclear war), goes to the heart of what it means to be human and why people are aggressive toward one another. Does the elimination of violence and acts of rage mean that the species has changed beyond recognition? Can such elements ever be entirely purged from humanity, and should they be? Like Chi Hui’s story, Karla Schmidt’s is a long, complex tale about war between humans living on a desolate earth and a different species of human living on the shattered rocks hanging in the sky. Careful plotting and painstakingly detailed worldbuilding make this intense story into an experience. We so rarely get German SF in translation these days, and “Alone, On the Wind” is a lovely example.

I adore Vandana Singh's “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination” for its inventiveness and lyricism. Structured as an exam for “intrepid explorers venturing into Conceptual Machine-Space, which is the abstract space of all possible machines,” the explorers of the story are given three scenarios, each of which includes “machines that do not and cannot exist.” Singh weaves together science fiction and fantasy in a most unique and enjoyable way here, as she does throughout her collection of the same title.

And finally, I must call out Vina Jie-Min Prasad's “A Series of Steaks,” one of the only stories in WSF5 that absolutely drips with dry humor and passages that made this reader laugh out loud. Prasad's narrator is so jaded and resentful, and yet still able to connect with another human being and carry out a complicated task that only she can perform. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

The rich variety of stories in WSF5 makes it a perfect addition to the Apex series, hopefully to be followed by many more such anthologies.



Rachel Cordasco has a PhD in literary studies and currently works as a developmental editor. When she's not at her day job or chasing three kids, she's writing reviews and translating Italian speculative fiction. She runs the website sfintranslation.com, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Current Issue
18 Jan 2021

Soft Shoulder speaking softly / quick-stop-tongued lanky cur dog / lisping languid in jeans
By: Zach Ozma
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Zach Ozma
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Zach Ozma's “Soft Shoulder (Excerpt)” with a reading by the poet.
Splinters, old and new. How else can the skin remember the tree? If it hurts, that is the point.
The way I see it, this story is full of symbolic touchstones, visual elements with layers of meaning that are not always obvious, or even accessible, to the reader.
Wednesday: Bulbbul 
Friday: The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson 
Issue 11 Jan 2021
By: Ryu Ando
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Nikki Caffier Smith
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 4 Jan 2021
By: Maya Beck
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Stephanie Burt
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Stephanie Burt
Issue 21 Dec 2020
By: Octavia Cade
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Meep Matsushima
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Issue 14 Dec 2020
By: ML Kejera
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Brigid Nemeton
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Brigid Nemeton
7 Dec 2020
Strange Horizons is now accepting fiction submissions for the Palestinian Special issue! The issue, edited by Rasha Abdulhadi and Basma Ghalayini will be published at the end of March 2021. We are open for submissions from now until January 31, 2021. Don't wait till the end to send your work!
7 Dec 2020
تقديم الطلبات مفتوح من الان و حتى تاريخ 31 يناير 2021. قدم/ قدمي عملك عاجلا و ليس آجلا!
Issue 7 Dec 2020
By: Toby MacNutt
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Anna Cates
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 1 Dec 2020
By: Ateri Miyawatl
Translated by: Ateri Miyawatl
By: Ateri Miyawatl
Translated by: Adam Coon
By: Vraiux Dorós
Translated by: Toshiya Kamei
By: Luz Rosales
Translated by: Andrea Chapela
By: Libia Brenda
Translated by: Allana C. Noyes
By: Ateri Miyawatl
Podcast read by: Ateri Miyawatl
Podcast: Bromelia (English) 
Podcast: Bromelia (Español) 
Issue 23 Nov 2020
By: Michael Bazzett
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Michael Bazzett
Issue 16 Nov 2020
By: Cat Aquino
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Michael Chang
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
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