A new anthology is working to give geeky Muslims a bigger voice in science fiction with a collection of short stories both based on and inspired by Islamic culture.
Islam and Science Fiction founder Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad has released Islamicates Volume I, a free collection of 12 short stories. Ahmad said he started the anthology (and the website 10 years prior) because he didn’t see enough Muslim representation in science fiction. At least any that he could find.
“Nobody has brought all this material together in a single resource,” he said.
Ahmad said the anthology received about 78 submissions from both Muslim and non-Muslim writers. Most of the stories look at traditional science fiction tropes (like time travel or alien invasions) through a Muslim lens, but others specifically took inspiration from Islamic culture, like “Calligraphy” by Alex Kreis.
Even though specifically Muslim works aren’t always easy to come by, Islam is represented in both traditional and modern science fiction. For example, Dune carries a lot of themes and terms from Islamic culture. Ahmad said it’s partly because Islamic countries have a wide range of stories, fables and legends that resonate in both fantasy and science fiction, like Arabian Nights.
It’s also because of Islam’s contribution to the scientific community. Back when Europe was going through the Middle Ages, Islam was having a golden age of scientific and mathematic discovery. From the elephant clock to the camera obscura, the Islamic civilization brought us many technological marvels of the modern world.
Islamic scholars also translated thousands of additional texts on science, medicine, and mathematics, at least 1,000 of which are currently available at the Qatar Digital Library.
That dedication to science, technology, and world-building also inspired many works of fiction that are considered part of the roots of science fiction. While Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is considered the first work of true science fiction, there are several books from Islamic authors that carry many of the characteristics that have defined scifi.
These include A True History by Lucian of Samosata, a 2nd century novel about a man who travels to the Moon through a water spout and encounters strange creatures. There was also Hayy ibn Yaqdhan by Ibn Tufail in the 12th century, and, in 1905, we got what many consider to be the first feminist science fiction book ever written, Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain.