20 & 31 August 2014
Arabic Science Fiction at the Worldcon
On Sunday afternoon 17 August, Yasmin Khan’s panel convened to discuss Arabic Science Fiction : the first time such a group has met in the seventy-five-year history of the convention.
The panelists included London-based curator Yasmin Khan (organizer and moderator) ; Noura al-Nouman, Sharjah-based author of two novels in Arabic, Ajwan and Mandan (2014) ; Amal El-Mohtar, author of The Honey Month (2010) ; Ibrahim Abbas, author of two novels in Arabic, HWJN and Hunaak ; Yasser Bahjatt, Jedda-based publisher and author of the English edition of HWJN. The audience of slightly more than a hundred people included readers (of Arabic and English), scholars, librarians, and fans. The tradition of the fantastic in Arabic culture can be traced to Lucian of Samosata and the Arabian Nights, and much of the survival of Greek science is due to Damascus and Baghdad. It is far older than the English language or the modern field of science fiction but until now there have been many appropriations from Arabic literature and few dialogues between the traditions. This panel had the feel of opening doors.
Questions of the definition of Arabic science fiction arose immediately. Amal El-Mohtar spoke succinctly of the imperative for “ the most inclusive definition possible ”. Ibrahim Abbas argued that the chief criteria are that the works display “ significant cultural