Project Brief: A River of Ink - The Lost Library SF Project


Given the recent international interest in Iraq + 100, and the way it has been heralded by hundreds of readers across the world, as 'the first anthology of science fiction from Iraq', Comma has decided to build on this project and commission a second anthology, this time exploring future technology (and new science), rather than just a specific date in the future (2103).

The idea for the book is as follows:

In 1258 the Mongol warlord Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad, and famously destroyed its House of Wisdom - burning the building to the ground and throwing its thousands of books into the Tigris. So many books were thrown into the river that day that they waters of the river famously ran black with the ink of the books. Some books were saved (by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi who smuggled them to the Maragheh Observatory in Persia before the siege), but thousands of others were lost.

This anthology poses a question:

What if, at some point in the unspecifiied future, texts started to be uncovered from that great library. Texts that had been presumed lost, great works of science, plans for new technologies, new machines, new ways of living...

For this anthology, we are asking Iraqi authors to devise a new short story that does four things:
   (i) The story must imagine a future Baghdad that has been drastically changed (and seemingly improved) by the development of a piece of new technology (developed since the discovery of a specific 'ouse of Wisdom' text, thought to have been lost).
(NB This has to be a new kind of technology to Science Fiction audiences, not a well-worn SF cliche, nor should it be one that lies too far beyond the realm of what we imagine mighht be possible in the future.)
   (ii) The story must develops a 'stand alone' story in this new Iraq, following a seemingly ordinary character as he/she struggles to come to terms with a secondary consequence of this new technology - several years down the line from its first implementation
    (iii) The story must include a separate, secondary 'backstory' about how/where its particular text (from House of Wisdom) was found, how it escaped being lost for ever, and what it lead to, technologically. This needs to be a minor backstory, or side-story, not the main one. (NB Please try to be inventive in the way backstories are 'told' to the reader; in other words, simply having the backstory delivered to the reader in the same narrative voice as the rest of the story might seem a little convenient; please explore other ways of transferring this information - e.g. through a specific character, telling the backstory as an essential part of the main story; or through documents or other means.) Preserving and maintaining consistent 'points of view' is as important as avoiding repetition, or keeping the reader on the edge of their seat (waiting for missing, new information: what happened next? etc.).

As the stories come in, we would prefer it if each story's version of how their 'House of Wisdom text' was discovered was different; each discovery of each lost text should be unexpected and unconnected (to the others in the book), but they should all be triggered by events happening now in Iraq (or in the near future). We want each one to be particular and unique. We also want the science/technology enabled by each newly discovered text to be different. So please make your text (and its discovery) as unexpected and unpredictable as possible, to avoid repeating what other writers might have come up with!