A few weeks ago, when travel was a normal thing, I went to London for a meeting. The venue happened to be near Piccadilly Circus, so I took the opportunity to visit a shop I wanted to support. The Second Shelf is a second-hand bookstore specialising in books by women. Much as I would like a signed Le Guin or Butler, I can’t afford such things and mainly I just wanted to thank the shop’s owners for being so supportive of trans people on their social media feeds. But I asked about SF and a kind lady thrust a little book into my hand.
It was green, and said “Mars” on the cover. The author, Asja Bakić, was Croatian, which immediately perked my interest. Then I turned the book over and saw an enthusiastic recommendation from Jeff VanderMeer. Sold.
Mars is best described as a collection of stories of feminist weird fiction. If you are a fan of Karin Tidbeck, for example, you will want this book. Because the author comes from the Balkans, there are also echoes of Zoran Živković here. But of course Asja Bakić is her own person so such comparisons are only guides.
The stories in Mars mostly feature women in unusual circumstances. You will start each story not quite knowing what is going on. About a page before the end it all becomes clear that things are much more strange than you thought. There are stories about women who turn out to be androids, or clones, or dead.
The title of the book refers to the final story, “The Underworld”, in which the government of Earth has outlawed all literature, and all writers have been banished to the failed colony on Mars.
Since buying the book I have found Bakić on Twitter. Like most Croatians I have met, her English is excellent, but even so the book is translated. Jennifer Zoble co-edits an online journal about translation to I’m not surprised to see her do a fine job.
Had I known about it in time, I would have been pushing for the folks who read collections for the Locus Recommended Reading List to take a look. But of course like so much translated SF it has come out from a literary publisher – in this case The Feminist Press in New York – and has fallen under the radar. Now you know about it though. Check it out.
By: Asja Bakić
Publisher: The Feminist Press