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THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF 4 Interviews: Sese Yane, Swabir Silayi, Tang Fei and Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Lavie Tidhar, the series editor for The Apex Book of World SF series has kindly asked us to share a series of interviews with the authors that have stories in the newest installment, The Apex Book of World SF 4.

Here’s the synopsis:

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.

From Spanish steampunk and Italian horror to Nigerian science fiction and subverted Japanese folktales, from love in the time of drones to teenagers at the end of the world, the stories in this volume showcase the best of contemporary speculative fiction, wherever it’s written.

You can also check out the table of contents here!

Now on with the interviews!


SESE YANE

Sese Yane was born in Kenya. He’s also lived in Uganda but currently resides in Nairobi where he practices law. This short story was his first published work.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Sese Yane: I have no idea where to start with this question, because I can’t see the end either. But if we limit the parameters to literature, then allow me to say that for a long time I was writing but I didn’t know that what I was doing was called ‘literature’; I just thought I was doing away with one more annoying assignment (because, unfortunately, school doesn’t create enthusiasm for education; which is quite strange; everyone simply wants to hand in their assignment and be left in peace; which means ‘doing nothing’). I had no idea books were written by humans. Everything was simply distant. The world was strange. Everything seemed readymade, even conversation. I hardly understood a thing. I performed poorly in school because of this.

Now, this introduction, to me, is more important than my saying where I come from, how many siblings I have, when I was born, etc, etc… For if these details were switched they could probably have very little impact to the person I am today.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

SY: This story is about an absurd person in the form of a so-called man of science. He finds it difficult to communicate with the world, especially his wife, because “it’s unnecessary to speak when one is not talking about facts.” But one day he happens to see something which totally excites him, and unfortunately when one is excited they have to share. But he can’t talk about what he’s seen (because it’s not a fact, even though he has it in his garden shed). I don’t know what inspired this story; I just wrote it. Well, the origin of the opening part of the story is known to me, but whatever follows just came from nowhere. I was coming from work and I saw this guy coming toward me and he had this moustache that left me in stitches. And on the bus I saw this dead dog and I held my breath…and then I was like aha…and that’s pretty much it.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

SY: I think after being victimised by the facts, as I have already said, I decided that’s it! No more facts!

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

SY: This is a difficult question. For instance I thought I had something coming out, but we had all these misunderstandings, someone said fine, I said fine, and they said ‘is that right, ok, fine’, and before I could put my thoughts together they had already said ‘we can’t work you’, and it was simply awful. Just awful. I was on the other side namedropping and they were on the other side all injured and saying all these nasty things like ‘you need to attend some literary workshops or something before you can talk to us like that’. I think we all cried privately.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

SY: It’ll be unfair to mention the names without giving a reason first. I love these writers because they do not take literature too seriously. They are playful like little kids. It’s not lost to me that some readers might regard them as serious writers but I have always seen them in another light (which includes them being serious writers). If I have misinterpreted their works, then good for me: Borges, Bolano, Gombrowicz, Mabanckou, Binyavanga, Kafka, Bernhard, NoViolet, Olufemi Terry… writers ejusdem generis.

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

SY: I think death will satisfy me greatly. I’m not looking forward to it, but once it’s done with I’ll not be looking forward to some kind of post-existence either. But if it’s a case of (and there’s so much bullying, you know) either you choose or we’ll choose for you (and you won’t like what we have in mind, by the way), I think I’ll choose to come back as a pretty woman; it’ll be fine by me even if nobody wants me. I’ll be called Diana, or Rachel, or some other name with flair. I’ll bring back furs.


SWABIR SILAYI

Swabir Silayi is a Kenyan writer and occasional poet. He draws from his travels, training as a physicist and studies in post-modern and African literature to weave his narrations.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Swabir Silayi: I am Kenyan, currently living in DC working on my PhD in Computational Physics. I read a lot, but not as much as I would like and write even less often, mostly when I feel a bit sad. I hope to get better at writing and am increasing my focus on it.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

SS: The story “Color me Grey” is an excerpt from a longer tale on how we are not so different from our parents. A lot of us for a lot of different reasons expend a lot of effort to become as different from our parents as we can but one day you wake up and find out you have grown into them. We cannot escape ourselves it seems.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

SS: I don’t think that I write in any particular genre, but I love thinking about what things could be and what they might have been. This is probably a result of my Africanness, an obsession with probabilities in the face of great wasted potential. Add to that my fondness for science and the philosophies behind it and any stories I weave would probably incline towards science fiction.

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

SS: I am currently trying to discipline myself and write out a full length novel. I also keep writing shorter length pieces and lots of poetry which I hope will in time grow into a serious poetry book.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

SS: If I had a list of favourite writers I would have Chinua Achebe on it because I love both his books and poems. I’m more about individual works though, like Mohsin Hamid’s “Reluctant Fundamentalist”, Binyavanga Wainaina’s “One Day I Will Write about This Place”, Teju Cole’s “Open City”, or Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. I love Warsan Shire’s poems too.

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

SS: I’m not quite done with this life yet. By the time it ends I hope to have done and become everything I needed to be.


TANG FEI

Interview translated by John Chu.

Tang Fei is a speculative fiction writer whose fiction has been featured (under various pen names) in magazines in China such as Science Fiction World, Jiuzhou Fantasy, and Fantasy Old and New. She is also a genre critic, and her critical essays have been published in The Economic Observer. Her story “Call Girl” was published in Apex Magazine. and reprinted in Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014. Her stories “Pepe” and “A Universal Elegy” were published in Clarkesworld.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

Tang Fei: I’m a writer of fantastic fiction. I write science fiction, fantasy, and occasionally wuxia. Besides that, I’m also a photographer in my free time. Along with a deep interest in all the world’s cultures, I’m especially interested in how humanity experiences the world as well as how different cultures interact and influence each other.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

TF: “Pepe” was written in 2007. At the time, I was writing for magazines and I was really interested in the then fad of interview features where people, especially famous people, recounted their personal experiences. The relationship between “story” and “diary entry” is something I’ve thought about a lot.

As for “Pepe”, I think it’d be great if there were an animated version.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

TF: Writing genre fiction is something that happens naturally for me. Compared to the possibilities of realistic fiction, I like the possibilities of genre fiction more. They include possibilities that seem impossible. On one hand, genre fiction offers a lot of freedom. On the other hand, every kind of literature has its own preferences and ways of appreciating beauty. They all have their own melodies. Writing these stories makes me so happy, as though I’m playing the role of the writer of my dreams. But, sometimes, I want to challenge these preferences, to try to write something unexpected.

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

TF: I’m almost done with some long pieces that I’ve been working on for a long time. I’m looking forward to that, but I have to be careful not to ruin them at the final, crucial moment.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

TF: I have so many favorite authors, but I’m terrible at remembering names. So, I can only mention some people everyone likes. For example, Woolf and Penelope Fitzgerald. Yukio Mishima, as well as, Osamu Dazai (whom Yukio Mishima really disliked), J. G. Ballard, Wu Jingzi and Cao Xueqin.

[Translator note: Wu Jingzi and Cao Xueqin both lived during the Qing dynasty. The former is best known for his novel known in English as The Scholars. The latter is best known for Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.]

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

TF: I’d like to be an anthropologist or physicist (if I’m smart enough, that is). I’m filled with awe for the world and I’d want to specialize in one field constantly striving for its mystical center. I’d like that sort of life. In addition, if there is a next life, I should also not be a very social person so that I’d be happy to spend my days peacefully working within a specialty. Actually, along those lines, I’d like also like to be a traditional craftsman, inheriting a tradition and persistently creating fine things. Even if they’re just things you use everyday, it’d still be wonderful.


THOMAS OLDE HEUVELT

Dutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt (1983) is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. It has been awarded the Paul Harland Prize (for best Dutch fantasy) on three occasions, and was nominated for both the Hugo Award (twice) and the World Fantasy Award. In 2016 Olde Heuvelt’s horror novel Hex, which became a bestseller in The Netherlands, sees a worldwide release with Macmillan/Tor in the US and Canada, and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK and Australia. Warner Bros is currently developing a TV series based on the book.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself

Thomas Olde Heuvelt: I am a Dutch author of horror fiction and magical realism. Apart from writing, I’m also a mountain climber – rock and preferably ice, swimmer, cliff diver, I totally dig Thai food and I play rock & roll guitar. My favorite band (apart from the oldies) is The Baseballs. These are they guys that did Umbrella, and showed Rihanna how to do it right.

Q: Tell us a little about the story selected for the anthology & what this story means to you & what it’s inspiration was.

TOH: “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” is a story that’s close to my heart. I wrote it in a four day rush when I got stuck in a novel. It’s a coming-of-age story about being weird and different. It’s also a story about two boys discovering themselves though their weirdness – the one has no reflection, the other is all reflection. The story has been very good to me: it won an award in the Netherlands, the translation was sold in the UK, it got nominated for a Hugo, and then I got an agent and international book deals.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

TOH: It’s the only genre I can write in.

Q: What are you working on now & what do you have coming out next?

TOH: In spring of 2016, MacMillan/Tor will publish my horror novel Hex in the US, and Hodder & Stoughton will publish in the UK. It’s my English language debut. Warner Bros is working on a TV series based on the book.

Meanwhile, I’m writing on my sixth novel in the Netherlands, called Hidden Faces.

Q: Who are some of your favourite writers?

TOH: I love Stephen King – he was the only horror author you could find in Dutch bookstores when I was young. I also love the works of Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Roald Dahl, Yann Martel, Nathan Ballingrud, Joe Hill, Peter Straub, Clive Barker.

Q: What or who do you want to be next lifetime?

TOH: Just me, with a little extra hindsight knowledge.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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