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ISRAELI SF AND FANTASY IN THE YEARS 2004-2005 : A SURVEY

 

 

APPEARED IN THE  OCTOBER 2005 ISSUE  OF THE MAGAZINE LOCUS

 

 In Israel at the beginning of 2005 there seem to be hopeful signs that perhaps the hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians are lessening and maybe will temporarily cease.

In the year 2004 and at the beginning of 2005 two major Israeli writers died and the final literary work of each one was connected to fantastic literature.

Moshe Shamir, who had become famous as one of the major Israeli writers as a result of novels about the Israeli War of Independence and historical novels, published before his death the beginning of what was supposed to be his new novel The Visit From Mercury which apparently was supposed to deal with the question of extraterrestrial life and intelligence visiting Earth with the background of Israel in the middle of the 20 century.  Unfortunately the novel wasn’t finished.                                                                             

Another major writer who died was world famous humorist Ephraim Kishon.  His last book published just several weeks before his death at the beginning of 2005 Mishpat Ha-abahut Shel Hanagar Yosef [The Fatherhood Process Of the Carpenter Joseph] (Yediot Acharonot 2005) was a  satire in which the carpenter Joseph the father of Jesus puts God on trial for his adulterous affair with Mary

 

.

Dan Tsalka

 

Major Israeli writer Dan Tsalka had recently passed away as a result of cancer

Tsalka was one of the first fans of American and polish science fiction in Israel and wrote about those genres Hebrew articles in the 60s among the first of their kind .

THE THIRD VOYAGE OF THE ALDEBRAN cover

 By himself hew had wrote the best Israeli young adult SF novel ever written  HaMasa HaShelishi shel Aldeberan [The Third Voyage of the Aldeberan] (1979, about a boy who travels in time to various periods in the Land of Israel’s past and makes contact with an alien robot who has been sent by an intelligence from another star  in the Byzantine age.

 

The War Between the Children of the Earth and the Children of the Pit cover

 

 

Tsalka also wrote Milhemet Bnei Eretz biVnei Shahat [The War Between the Children of the Earth and the Children of the Pit] (Am Oved, 1992), an outstanding young adult fantasy about the battle of King Solomon with a race of devils and their leader Ashmadai, a struggle in which the city of the immortals, Luz, becomes involved. This is one of the best original Hebrew fantasy novels for young adults ever written if not the very best of all .

More recently he hade wrote for adults : 

B’Siman HaLotus [Under the Sign of the Lotus] (Xargol, 2002), a near future thriller about an attempt to crown a descendent of the House of David as King of Israel, which was written  in response to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin;.

he also had written several short stories on fantastic and cabalistic subjects

Usually set in different historical periods.

A Year his death Tsalka had won the prestigious Sapir Prize.

His death is a great loss for the Israeli literature. 

 

 

 

Israeli original sf magazine Chalomot Beaspamaia succeeded in publishing 13 issues, and is continuing despite various problems, a kind of record.

 

Original sf writing continues to be found in web sites and in various projects like the Zodiac project in  the Bli Panika site in which various writers wrote a story for each sign of the zodiac.      

The year 2004 winner of The Gefen Award which is presented by the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy in the category of Best Original SF/Fantasy Short Story was “Dragon Checkpoint by Rami Shalheveth (The Tenth Dimension, issue 18).  Shalheveth is better known in Israeli sf circles as the editor of the sf site Bli Panika (Don't Panic!) and as a critic, and not AS A writer, and his winning was something of a surprise.

 

Shalheveth also recently published a big article in the Israeli sf magazine The Tenth Dimension, issue24 , in which he surveyed the current state of original Hebrew sf writing.  He has come to the unsurprising conclusion that original sf writing cannot for economic reasons prosper today in Israel though there is a strong sf sub-culture here.  But he finishes with a cautious hope for future unique voices in Israeli sf which will be inspired both by Jewish-Hebrew culture and Israeli current culture.

A new publishing house Yanshuf was created this year by sf fan and editor Eli Herstein and while it will deal with general literature there will be some emphasis on sf and fantasy works, and particularly on original Hebrew works in the genres.

 

Three particularly interesting books

 

  important original sf and fantasy books which won much attention by the mainstream critics were

 

End`s World by Ofir Thouch Gafla cover

Olam Hasof [End`s World] (Keter 2004) this   book by a new unknown writer received much critical acclaim for its description of a strange technological after-life world .It had wone the Gefen prize for best Israeli sf novel fof 2005 .

Lea Ini Anak Malca VeOman Hamischakim [Giant, Queen and The Master Of Games] (Hakibbutz Hameuchad 2004), a story about a virtual world in the hero discovers that our world is the creation of a mad being.  Ini is considered as one of the best young Israeli writers.

 

Writer Yaki Menschenfreund

 

A quite nice historical fantasy is Yaki Menschenfreund Hacovesh VeHakelev [The Conqueror And The Dog] (Bavel 2004) which describes the adventures of Alexander the Great alongside the philosopher Diagnose in the fantastic Far East and is based on the ancient fantasy Alexander Romance.

 

 

Political sf

As usual there appeared several works which deal with political subjects about the war with the Arabs:

 

Gill Illutowich Yesh Kan Mishehu? [Is There Anybody Out There?] (Yedioth Acharonot, 2004) describes an Israeli wakening into a reality in which and he and a Palestinian woman are the only living beings.  Illutowich some years ago wrote an sf novel Tikun in which it was discovered that the Jewish people are the creation of a secret and illegal experiment of an alien race.

 

Yehudit Shemer Baruach Uvadam [With  spirit  And Blood] (Tzivonim 2004) in which the Arabs try to destroy Israel in the year 2037 after decades of peaceful co-existence.

 

Political sf about the near future relationship of Jews and Arabs is a regular subject in Israeli sf for obvious reasons, but what was quite unusual this year was a book from the other side's viewpoint.  It was written by Arab Israeli journalist Seyed Kashua. Vayehi Boker [Let It Be Morning] (Keter 2004) describes the deteriorating relationship between Jews and Arabs in the future from the Arab point of view of a young Arab in an  Israeli Arab village which is cut off from the world by the Israeli army.  The book became a best seller in Israel and Kashua got the prime minister’s award.

 

Another political sf book but this time about future relationships of the Jews among themselves was Chaim Chaimoff Hakadachat Hashchora Umot Hachiloni Haacharon [THE BLACK FEVER AND THE DEATH OF THE LAST NON-BELIEVER] (Am Oved,  2003).  It is an anti religious sf novel in which all non religious Jews are killed in a future Israel and only the fanatic Orthodox are left.

Fantasy

Writer Alona Kimchi

Alona Kimchi  novel Lili La Tigresse (Keter 2004) is a book by a well known young woman writer about the experiences of a woman who periodically becomes a tigress.

 

David Travai Stalker (published by Am Oved 2004) is a surrealistic work about the fantastic adventures of a boy in a surrealistic East European country, partly inspired by the famous movie with the same name by Russian director Tarkovsky.  It was published simultaneously in Hebrew and Hungarian.

 

 

writer Hagar Yanay

Mechonat Hanetzach Shel Alex [Alex’s Perpetuum Mobile] (Keter 2004) is another novel by a mystically oriented young woman writer about the attempt of a young obsessed scientist to find a solution to the final theory in physics.

 

Children’s fantasy

 

Writer Tamar weiss

 

Tamar Weiss Inana Bocheret Melekh [

] (Keter, 2004 ).  The writer, who had formerly collaborated with her husband on a retelling of ancient Mesopotamian myths, retells for children several of the most ancient of those about the first kings of Sumer (those that had come before the world famous Gilgamesh) and does this with great success and fidelity to the originals.

 

 

Inana Chooses the King cover

 

 

Yael Inbar Tashe Omed Al Harosh [Upside Down Time] (Sifryat Hapoalim 2004) is a good fantasy about a woman dislocated in time who found herself in the body of her younger self.


Comics

Etgar Keret and Assaf Hanuka Pizzeria Kamikaze (Kineret 2004)

Comics artist Hanuka took a story by well known fantasy writer Keret about a very gray after-life and remade it as comics.  While the art was generally lauded the story itself was a bad one.                                                                                                                          

 

Cinema

 

 And finally the most interesting news in cinema from Israel is from the cinema of the Ultra Orthodox.  They have a very thriving industry in the last few years which includes many adventure movies.  Very recently enterprising actor Nissim Varta began to experiment with supernatural and horror movies for this audience, and with great success.  Perhaps the Orthodox directors will become the equivalents of American directors like Roger Corman as the providers of ultra low budget movies about supernatural subjects relevant to the religious Jewish audience like Dybbuks and Golems.                                                                                 

 

 

                           relevant links

 

 

 

 

Hebrew sf from Biblical times to the 90ssp

 

Israeli sf at the 90s

 

 

 

 

Israeli sf at the beginning of the 21 century :part 1

 

part 2

 

 

 

A Survey of Israeli Science Fiction and Fantasy in the Year 2003

 

       

 

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