Iraq + 100 - Tor/Forge Blog



Books to Give the Sci-Fi Fan On Your List

There are some people out there who finish their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. We admire them–and we’re a little jealous of them, because we tend to leave things to the last minute. Luckily, we know the perfect last minute gift for nearly everyone: books. If you’re like us, and looking for some last minute gifts, never fear–we’re here to help. Here are some recommendations for the sci-fi fans in your life. Don’t forget to check out our Fantasy and Young Adult lists as well!

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Poster Placeholder of - 91 Is there anyone on your list who loves the SyFy show The Expanse? If so, maybe give them a copy of The Collapsing Empire! What happens when the Flow, the extradimensional interstellar highway in the universe, collapses? Can thousands of stranded planets, thousands of light years apart, be saved?
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

Image Place holder  of - 91 The world can be a frustrating place these days. If there’s anyone on your list who’s contemplating just walking away from it all, then this is the book for them. In Walkaway, Hubert joins a small but growing segment of society who have decided to go fully off the grid, walking away from the breakdown of modern society. Then the walkaways discover something even the ultra-rich haven’t been able to buy: how to beat death. Now it’s war–a war that will turn the world upside down.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Place holder  of - 57 For the philosopher on your list, we recommend Autonomous. It’s a cerebral and morally complex read that covers issues from patent law, artificial intelligence, modern slavery, and more. Patent-pirate Jack, indentured military robot Paladin, and a diverse cast of characters will make you question whether freedom is truly possible in this frighteningly realistic future.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Image Placeholder of - 52 Everyone knows someone who just wants to be left alone binging Netflix. All Systems Red is the perfect companion read for them. All Murderbot wants is to be left alone to watch their shows, but of course, that’s not possible. Instead, they’re trying to protect near-suicidally curious scientists as they take on the powerful corporation that owns Murderbot.

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

Placeholder of  -78 Is there a Game of Thrones fan in your life who’s interested in branching out to science fiction? Then give them Luna: New Moon! In McDonald’s imagined future, the Moon is controlled by five ultra-rich corporations in a futuristic feudal society. Full of the power struggles, violence, and backstabbing that make Game of Thrones so fun, Luna: New Moon will suck you in and leave you wondering who you really should be rooting for in its vicious political atmosphere.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

For the person on your list who loves the classic literature, but maybe hasn’t dipped their toes into the world of genre yet, we recommend this science fiction must-read. Plus, this gorgeous new edition will fit right in between Albert Camus and Lewis Carroll on your shelves. Love the look of the new mini-edition? There are five more of them! (link to minis website)

Iraq + 100 edited by Hassan Blasim

Perfect for the person who’s always the most interesting to talk to at parties, this groundbreaking anthology of science fiction from Iraq will give them fuel for 100 more interesting conversations. Iraqi authors use science fiction, allegory, magical realism and more to try to answer the question: what might your home country look like in the year 2103?

Steal the Stars by Mac Rogers and Nat Cassidy

Is there someone in your life who’s always recommending new podcasts for you to listen to? Then we have a double recommendation for them: Steal the Stars, in both book and podcast form! From the brand new imprint Tor Labs, Steal the Stars the podcast is the story of Dak and Matt as they go from guarding the biggest secret in the world, the alien Moss, to trying to steal it and fund their new lives together. The 14 episode series, by award-winning audio dramatist and playwright Mac Rogers, moves at a breakneck pace. Want to go deeper into the story? Then check out Nat Cassidy’s novelization!


New Releases: 9/12/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Iraq + 100 by Hassan Blasim

Image Placeholder of - 77 In a calm and serene world, one has the luxury of imagining what the future might look like. Now try to imagine that future when your way of life has been devastated by forces beyond your control.

Iraq + 100 poses a question to Iraqi writers (those who still live in that nation, and those who have joined the worldwide diaspora): What might your home country look like in the year 2103, a century after a disastrous foreign invasion?

The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

Poster Placeholder of - 56 Humanity’s last hope of survival lies in space…but will a random death doom the venture?

Our planet is dying and the world’s remaining nations have pooled their resources to build a seed ship that will carry colonists on a multi-generational journey to a distant planet.

Everything is set for a bright adventure…and then someone is found hanging dead just weeks before the launch. Fear and paranoia spread as the death begins to look more and more like a murder.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Placeholder of  -53 A teenage girl calls her beloved older brother back from the grave, with disastrous consequences….

Haunted by her dead brother, unable to let him go, Ruby must figure out whether his nightly appearances in her dreams are the answer to her prayers—or a nightmare come true.


Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Image Place holder  of - 16 What if the African natives developed steam power ahead of their colonial oppressors? What might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier?

Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies by David Lubar

Place holder  of - 63 Welcome to the Weenie Zone! Here are thirty hilarious and harrowing stories that will scare you, make you laugh, or get you to see the world in a whole new way. Find out where the author got the idea for each story at the end of the book.


Thessaly by Jo Walton

The goddess Athena thought she was creating a utopia. Populate the island of Thera with extraordinary men, women, and children from throughout history, and watch as the mortals forge a harmonious society based on the tenets of Plato’s Republic.

Meanwhile, following his famous spurning by a nymph, Athena’s ever-curious brother Apollo has decided to live a mortal human life on the island, in an effort to gain a better understanding of humanity.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

When Vassa’s stepsister sends her out to buy lightbulbs in the middle of the night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…


Kase-San and Shortcake Story and art by Hiromi Takashima

Non Non Biyori Vol. 8 Story and art by Atto


Two Contributors to Iraq + 100 Reflect on Science Fiction in Arabic Literature

Image Placeholder of - 79From contributor Anoud, author of “Kahramana”

I didn’t think too much about Sci-Fi’s absence from Arabic literature or the fact that I was quite ignorant in Arabic Sci-Fi until I was approached to contribute to Iraq + 100. I’d read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a child, as well as superhero comics translated into Arabic, but as an adult, I can only recall reading Orwell’s 1984 and Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad in that genre. You must have noticed by now that, with the exception of Saadawi, none of these titles are Arabic.

The debate in Arab media about the lack of Sci-Fi in Arab literature attributes it to the Arab world hitting a slump when it comes to scientific advances and inventions in the 20th century, in comparison to other parts of the world. Stories of violence and ongoing conflict stomp science when it comes to news headlines. Some Arab writers blame it on religious taboos where—in some countries—imagination offends the clergy as a defiance of nature, a challenge to god. I remember when I was 8, my school teacher in Baghdad told us that the NASA “Challenger” space shuttle exploded because NASA were challenging god. My parents snickered when I told them but you get the idea.

Since getting involved with Iraq + 100, I have been making more of an effort to explore this genre in contemporary Arabic fiction. My reading list includes Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, published in 2008, and Noura Al Noman’s Ajwan, which won the 2013 Etisalat Award for Young Adult Fiction.

When asked to contribute to the anthology I struggled. It was just too much headspace and I didn’t know where to start. Normally I look at things I’ve lived or seen and dissect them. I can paint a vivid picture of sights, smells, and sounds of a market place in Baghdad, but ask me to imagine it with time travel, aliens, a post apocalypse and I’d not be able to get past that first four lines. I felt strange when I read some of the other writers’ contributions like “Kuszib,” “Nujefa” or “Baghdad Syndrome”. It was a good kind of strange. I’d never imagined Iraq that way and it was as if the other writers just opened up a new portal into Iraq for me, and it was kind of exciting. I find my story “Kahramana” as more futuristic than full on Sci-Fi, if that makes sense.

I’m optimistic that with a little more nourishment more Iraqi writers will turn to Sci-Fi, fantasy, and magical realism. Both as a way to take a break from our miserable realities, and as a way to safely mock and critique the status quo and those in power without seeming too obvious. I’m glad Iraq + 100 started this and I’m both eager and terrified of how the Iraqi readers will respond to the anthology. Will we excite? Offend? Both? Time will tell.

Poster Placeholder of - 11From contributor Ibrahim Al-Marashi, author of “Najufa”

Contributing to Hassan Blasim’s project Iraq + 100 appealed to me, given I’m Iraqi-(American), a historian of sci-fi, and a consumer of sci-fi as well.

As a historian, I was intrigued by Hassan’s lament in the introduction that there is not a strong science fiction and fantasy literary tradition in the modern Middle East. This dearth of genre fiction is surprising given the history of the region. One Thousand and One Nights, the quintessential fantasy collection, was first compiled and published in the Middle East. I also found elements of proto-speculative fiction in the works of the Sufi scholar Ibn Arabi from Murcia (today’s Spain). In his Futuhat al-Makiyya, written around 1238, he describes his travels to “vast cities (outside earth), possessing technologies far superior than ours.”

I have long been fascinated by modern works of science fiction and fantasy as the genre developed in English. H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was a commentary on the British role of the extermination of the local population of Tasmania, while the Godzilla franchise and the post-apocalyptic genre of Japanese manga, such as Akira, are imaginative spaces to deal with real trauma: the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

My contribution to this anthology is “Najufa,” a story based on my first trip to my family’s ancestral city of Najaf as an adult with my father and mother in 2010, the site of the shrine of Imam Ali. My use of droids in my story was inspired by the fact that cell phones are not allowed within the confines of any shrine, since terrorists use cell phones to detonate explosives remotely. Visitors and pilgrims have to check their cell phones outside the shrine, like a coat check. Within the Najaf shrine I remembered how the younger pilgrims became fidgety, anxious to see if they had any missed calls or texts. I felt a disconnect between the spirituality of the place and something as mundane as worrying about a missed call. This phenomenon is no different from life anywhere else in the world. We are living in a techno-addicted world. But in Iraq, whether it is a terrorist or a pilgrim, the phone had become an extension of ourselves, and it was in Najaf that I realized we are essentially cyborgs, human-techno hybrids, where the phone might as well be an extension of ourselves.

My story was also inspired by the writer Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (made into the film Blade Runner), and the French thinker Jean Baudrillard, whose oeuvre provided the inspiration for the Matrix franchise. I found those works bring up philosophical issues of how one determines reality in an age of digital and virtual reality. My story sought to bring our current techno-phobias, and combine them with Iraq’s real problems that began after the 2003 invasion by U.S. forces.

Collectively, the authors of Iraq + 100 project their ideas into Iraq’s future, which highlights Iraq’s reality in the present. That is what attracts me to speculative fiction. While as a genre it is escapist in nature, it simultaneously brings our current reality into greater focus. Sci-fi reveals our anxieties of the convergence between science, automated realities, and what it means to be human. Science fiction is a reflection of our socio-political facts.

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