This month we sail the seven seas with some of the BEST sci-fi from around the globe. Tired of international conspiracies that never leave the continental US? We’ve got you covered. From a haunted fable that bubbles up from the depths of South Korea to a collection of short stories as varied as the worlds they explore, you are sure to find an adventure worth taking and worlds worth discovering right here on Earth. (And if you’re still not convinced, in our BOOKS section, our Editor-At-Large, Clarence Young, has Six Good Reasons why you need some international lovin’ in your life.)
All Indie. All Awesome.
by Takashi Shimizu
Horror fans know filmmaker Takashi Shimizu from his brilliant and influential Ju-on series (and his, well, decidedly less brilliant American series The Grudge). However, Shimizu also created a lesser-known, more experimental, and considerably more disturbing film before bringing his horror franchise to the states, which was 2004’s Marebito. With references to disaffected media, H.P. Lovecraft, and the vampire genre, Marebito functions as both a critique of TV news numbness and a deeply unsettling parable about loneliness in Japan. At the center of the story is a photographer who finds himself drawn to studying fear, which soon leads him to explore a strange underground world where he finds a feral girl chained to a wall. Taking her back to his lonely apartment, he engages in an unconventional fatherhood of the young girl, who can only be nourished by blood. The film has a bracing feeling of dread despite its extremely low budget, with none of the overblown jump-scares audiences would soon find in the American sequel The Grudge ,and is especially recommended for horror fans who like to slowly unpack a distressing mystery. You can find Marebitoon Amazon (DVD only) or stream it on Vudu.
by Piotr Dylewski
Newcomer Polish director Piotr Dylewski released his accomplished and beautiful sci-fi short Konstruktor back in 2016, offering an interesting companion piece to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. The short is focused on the relationship between recluse roboticist Viktor and Ewa, the cybernetic companion he crafted to be his sexual and intellectual partner. A physically beautiful technological marvel, Ewa’s attitude is somewhat chilly, and Viktor is trying to insert a greater sense of emotion in his housewife automaton, adding chaotic factors which eventually end up harder to control. Much like Ex Machina, Konstruktortakes place entirely in a scenic bungalow and utilizes a number of subtle but effective special effects to help establish a well-realized sense of advanced technology in its world. The production values, on the whole, are top-notch and include a mesmerizing and elegant score of dramatic strings and keys. The isolation between inventor and invented also heightens that drama and the cinematography is impressively adept and delivers some stunning and memorable frames in its 20-minute runtime. You can watch Konstruktor for free on Dylewski’s website.
by Park Chan-wook
Finally, we have Park Chan-wook, who stands as my single favorite working filmmaker. While he gained international fame for his powerful Vengeance Trilogy and, most recently, the critically acclaimed The Handmaiden, there’s a unique entry in the Korean director’s catalog that remains under-appreciated in the United States. Night Fishing first released back in 2011, and is a 30-minute experimental film shot entirely on an iPhone 4 by the director and his brother. Part of Park Chan-wook’s directorial signature are his impressive set designs and visual flourishes, ingredients which usually require a considerable budget, which is why Night Fishing’s pared-down approach (the film was funded by South Korea’s iPhone distributor for approximately $130k) only expands my appreciation of his talents. It’s still visually remarkable and eschews set recordings for a swamp locale, telling a haunted fable about a fisherman who pulls a woman out of the water, a woman who may still be alive. Like much of Park Chan-wook’s storytelling, the plot of Night Fishing is morally ambiguous and enigmatic, but there’s a defined narrative to follow as well as some impressive performances. You can rent Night Fishing digitally on YouTube for $2.99 (and consider yourself lucky, because it was unavailable in this country for two years after release).
1) How wonderful can you be
You will never learn how fascinating you are to others if you don’t at least go half way to meet them. This is true in life, this is true in books. Had any Nigerian sci-fi lately? How about a little Finnish? If sci-fi is about expansive thinking, taking a small step into other cultures is a perfect win.
2) Where you are might not be where you’re meant to grow
What if you were to consider the possibility that the best book you’ve never read is in Australia? Or Japan? India? Iceland? The world exists to be explored, and it’s way more cost effective to do so literarily than begging friends for their airline miles.
How far you’ll travel to find something worth looking for is entirely up to you!
3) Give yourself more credit
When we’re in our comfort zones we tend to ignore the limits we place on ourselves, which, paradoxically, leads to placing more limits on ourselves.
It only takes a single instance of stepping outside of your comfort zone to see other viewpoints, other cultural ideas, other ways that narratives entwine with imaginations, all combining to add to the depths that are already within you.
4) Being wrong is not a mark against you; being intentionally wrong is
There are those who stay in comfort zones specifically to avoid ever being wrong about something else. It could be a sports zone, a book zone, a political zone, or a social zone; so many different kinds of zones, but in this context, they all fall under a common name: the Echo Chamber.
Echo chambers are all about staying safe when there’s a good chance you’re wrong about something or there’s a good chance of discomfort, but you will never learn anything more about life than what pings within the chamber walls.
You know the tropes of US material; you know its narrative flow and expected outcomes. How about surprising yourself? Take a book ride without knowing where you’re going. It’s fine if you try to guess along the way, and it’s doubly fine if you’re wrong. That’s where surprise comes in. That’s where mental challenge happens. Work that brain-meat good.
5) Life is wonderful
The closer you get to the edge of a comfort zone, the more vibrant the view outside the haze. Yes, there are still idiotic politicians, galling reality shows, and daily parades of humanity’s worst moments, but those are hardly the sum of the world.
Reading outside your usual borders helps you see that fact quite clearly and for one simple reason: the world expands. Your view of life is not confined to the somewhat addictive preconceived notions and reinforced patterns inherent in a comfort zone.
So pick up books by international indie authors. (Book Depository ships worldwide for free.) Minister Faust is our Canadian neighbor. Joyce Chng waves from Singapore. Luis Bras, Brazil. Andri Magnason offers hot cocoa from Iceland. Grace Dillon presents off-the-charts Indigenous sci-fi writers in her anthologies. and Rosarium Publishing knocks international sci-fi out the ballpark with its ground-breaking Future Fiction anthology.
Search. Explore. Google’s good for way more than finding out what Kanye said, or trying to stay up on the latest memes. There’s a world of words out there, with more imaginations adding to our glorious pot of creativity every day!
6) Challenge is good
The heart is a muscle. The brain is a muscle. The body is a network of muscles, and we’ll likely find out soon enough that the souls are too.
But you’ll never learn this lesson if you don’t challenge yourself.
Muscles need to be challenged, otherwise, they atrophy. Comfort zones need to be pushed against, thereby increasing our mental mass. They need to jump across, giving our hearts a workout.
And they should always, always, be questioned, because questioning increases our self-awareness, which allows us to see more precisely where we limit ourselves with self-imposed boundaries and restrictions.
Writer/Creator/Publisher – Roye Okupe
Penciler – Sunkanmi Akingboye
Inker – Sunkanmi Akingboye
Colorist – Raphael Kazeem
This near-future story by Roye Okupe and crew captures the fun and excitement of Static or a young Peter Parker, as our hero Wale Williams, a young engineering genius, returns home after 5 years following the accidental death of his mother.
Using the experimental E.X.O. combat armor that his missing father has left him, Wale fights crime and corruption in his hometown of Lagoon City in Lagos, Nigeria. Part Green Lantern, part Ironman, E.X.O. is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure good for all ages with a slightly non-traditional ending for the first volume. And finding these books is easy as Okupe is always grinding, selling at cons big or small around the northeast. If you can’t make it that far you can cop either volume of E.X.O. online at Youneek Studios.
Writers – Fahad Al Saud and Stan Berkowitz
Artist – Sebastian Navas
Colorist – Gat Melvyn
Cover Artist – Oscar Romer
Full disclosure about my next pick, earlier this month I was at the Women in Comics Con After Party, where I won a copy of Latifa issue #1, but after reading this first issue I’ll be looking for these guys at the next con. What I won was an action adventure set in a post-nuclear holocaust world, where our heroine Latifa travels the wastelands of the middle east with her sentient super-intelligent sword Al Faisal, the technological culmination of the New Arabian Empire’s need to create a new impartial system of judgment. Orphaned after a mutant raid, Latifa is a no-nonsense character forged in a barren world who kicks ass and beheads mutants and human predators with a tangible ferocity. Al Saud and Berkowitz craft a tight, fast-moving story of survival and determination, but if that wasn’t enough they also have a free downloadable game, Latifa: The Bedouin Blade, available in the Google Play and Apple App stores, and the book at na3am.com or ComiXology.
My flashback bonus goes to one of my previous picks. Back in May of 2017, I recommended a space opera type book. The only issue at the time was in French. As of this month, Lion Forge has gotten the rights to it and has translated it for your enjoyment. For my original review of Orphans click on Out of This World for the details.