Mahvesh Murad is a book critic and recovering radio show host from Karachi, Pakistan, where she still lives and works. She hosted Pakistan’s only book show for 7 years on the country’s biggest English language commercial radio station. She writes for multiple publications including Dawn Books & Authors, Tor.com, Strange Horizons and Pornokitsch, and does commercial voice work for both TV and radio.
Charles Tan: How did you first get acquainted with the Apex Book of World SF? How did you end up editing the 4th volume?
Mahvesh Murad: It’s a bit blurry now but I think I volunteered when I realised Lavie may genuinely be too busy with his own writing to keep editing further volumes. So it was just like Katniss, honest. Except it wasn’t to save my sister, it was for the good of mankind.
Charles Tan: What was the reading/editing process like?
Mahvash Murad: For many months it was constant! Lavie sent me stories, anthologies, collection he’d been sent or had been collecting faster than I could read at first. Then I caught up.
CT: What was your criteria in selecting the stories?
MM: Other than the no Americans or Brits factor? No, seriously though – it’s hard to define why a story engages you, isnt it? OF course, I’m also very aware that I have my own personal tastes and biases so there were times when I knew a story should be included because it was relevant to the conversations in SF right now, even though it may not have been (for example), in a sub genre I choose to read often.
CT: What does the series editor, Lavie Tidhar, do? How does it affect your work?
MM: Funny story about Lavie: he kept looking at some Google spreadsheet we had shared for a possible ToC and somehow it hadn’t updated for him. For about 5 months Lavie thought I hadn’t selected a single story and just between us, I think he’d started sweating about it a bit.
But seriously, Lavie is a great sounding board and he’s done this before, successfully! He handled a whole bunch of the technical contractual stuff too, after we had fixed a TOC, which was nice. Then I had to do the other admin, which was…interesting.
CT: What are some of the challenges in editing the Apex Book of World SF 4?
MM: I really wanted to include stories from some of the previous contributors, who have grown immensely as writers since their earlier stories but couldn’t, since the anthologies don’t repeat the same writers again. So the need to find new writers and to try and not use stories that were very old was very much present. I had this absurd idea that we could find stories in English from every part of the world but of course, in many parts of the world English isn’t the first language of fiction at all and translations are often hard to come by, particularly for genre work. I’d love to have found more work in translation.
The biggest challenge was probably to make sure my own personal tastes didn’t take over this anthology. I do think that sometimes you need to include a story because it’s important or relevant in some way, even if it isn’t what you personally go for (see above).
CT: What vision did you have for the book? Or how is it different from other anthologies/volumes?
MM: I just wanted to find stories from as large and wide a range of writes and cultures as possible. We tried our best though of course there’s miles to go!
Apex have already rebranded the books themselves, in terms of design. I think the new design by Sarah Anne Langton is just fantastic. I still can’t believe I got the flying saucer I pretended I was jokingly suggesting. It’s just such a great flying saucer, isn’t it?
CT: Would you like to edit the next Apex Book of World SF? How about other anthologies?
MM: It was really fun putting together Book 4. I’d do it again, yes. Did Lavie put you up to this?!
I’d love to work on more anthologies, especially of original fiction. I have lots of ideas. Publishers – hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my number, call me, maybe?
CT: Anything else you’d want to plug?
MM: I’m co-editing (with Jared Shurin of Jurassic London) an anthology of jinn stories for Solaris, UK. It’s due to be published in early 2017 and so far, we have a fantastic ToC for it. You’re just going to have to take my word for it.