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First published in the UK in 2021 by Head of Zeus Ltd

An Ad Astra book

In the compilation and introductory material ยฉ Lavie Tidhar

The moral right of Lavie Tidhar to be identified as the editor of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

The moral right of the contributing authors of this anthology to be identified as such is asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

The list of individual titles and respective copyrights to be found on page 597 constitutes an extension of this copyright page.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is an anthology of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in each story are either products of each authorโ€™s imagination or are used fictitiously.

All excerpts have been reproduced according to the styles found in the original works. As a result, some spellings and accents used can vary throughout this anthology.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN (HB) 9781838937645

ISBN (TPB) 9781800240407

ISBN (E) 9781838937669

Head of Zeus Ltd

First Floor East

5โ€“8 Hardwick Street

London EC1R 4RG



Title Page



Aliette de Bodard


Chen Qiufan


translated by Blake Stone-Banks


Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Fandom For Robots

Tlotlo Tsamaase

Virtual Snapshots

Chinelo Onwualu

What the Dead Man Said

Vandana Singh


Han Song

The Wheel of Samsara

Ng Yi-Sheng


Taiyo Fujii


translated by Kamil Spychalski


Francesco Verso

The Green Ship

translated by Michael Colbert


Malena Salazar Maciรก

Eyes of the Crocodile

translated by Toshiya Kamei


Tade Thompson


Fabio Fernandes

The Emptiness in the Heart of All Things

R. S. A. Garcia

The Sun From Both Sides

Cristina Jurado


translated by Steve Redwood


Gerardo Horacio Porcayo

Rue Chair

Hannu Rajaniemi

His Masterโ€™s Voice

Nir Yaniv

Benjamin Schneiderโ€™s Little Greys

translated by Lavie Tidhar


Emil Hjรถrvar Petersen

The Cryptid

Ekaterina Sedia

The Bank of Burkina Faso

Kuzhali Manickavel

An Incomplete Guide to Understanding the Rose Petal Infestation Associated With EverTyphoid Patients in the Tropicool IcyLand Urban Indian Slum

Kofi Nyameye

The Old Man with the Third Hand

Lauren Beukes

The Green

Karin Tidbeck

The Last Voyage of Skidbladnir

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Prime Meridian

Zen Cho

If At First You Donโ€™t Succeed, Try, Try Again

Extended Copyright

About the author

An Invitation from the Publisher



They say the more things change the more they stay the same, but things do change, and science fiction has to change in order to survive. For too long, the future was dominated by one country and one viewpoint: the future was white, male and American, and it was going to stay that way โ€“ until it didnโ€™t.

I look at The Best of World SF with something like awe, because it doesnโ€™t feel real. As I write this, it isnโ€™t yet real. I look to the future and imagine holding the book, reading the introduction. I have read anthologies and Iโ€™ve been published in anthologies but I never thought I would see one like this. The sheer breadth of talent from across the planet gathered here is something no one could imagine twenty years ago. Publishing certainly wasnโ€™t interested. And it wasnโ€™t just then. I spent ten years trying to get someone, anyone, to publish this book, or one like it. The last time I tried it took the publisher an hour to turn it down.

Less than an hour, if Iโ€™m being honest.

If you make yourself enough of a pain, eventually people notice. Or so I tried to tell myself. In 2008, I convinced my friend Jason Sizemore to publish an anthology of international speculative fiction. Jason runs a small press out of Kentucky, of all places, and is a stubborn man, and I told him he will make no money doing this but that it will be good. We put together The Apex Book of World SF out of string and sticks and polish and buttons and it came out in 2009. No one had done a book like that before, not in this way, not with an editor who himself didnโ€™t belong to the Anglo world. And I was right: we didnโ€™t make any money, but the book was good.

It was a ridiculous thing to do. And no one was interested. Reviewers didnโ€™t even know how to talk about the book. It wasnโ€™t exotic, it wasnโ€™t strange: it was just a collection of stories written by people from places like Malaysia and China, Croatia and the Philippines, and the only thing they did share was that they werenโ€™t a part of Anglo-American science fiction. And they were good.

So we did it again. I edited The Apex Book of World SF 2 in 2012. And then we did it again with The Apex Book of World SF 3 in 2014. We published writers no one had heard of โ€“ then. Aliette de Bodard and Tade Thompson and Lauren Beukes and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Nnedi Okoraforโ€™s in there. So are Hannu Rajaniemi and Amal El-Mohtar. Between them, now, these writers are science fiction. They have the awards and the hardcovers in the bookstores and the film and TV deals. It was easy to see this is how it should be, back then, because they were good. But then youโ€™d talk to publishers and theyโ€™d say things like, โ€˜Oh, we donโ€™t publish books set in Nigeria.โ€™ And that would be the end of the discussion. I had never heard a more ridiculous thing. I went and wrote a science fiction novel set in Israel in the sure and liberating knowledge no one would publish it, and it came out from an independent press and won a couple of awards and

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