Q. How long have you been publishing Bli Panika, and how did it get started?
A: Bli Panika was established on October 28th 2000 by the members of the Ort science fiction and fantasy forum. Its name was a tribute to Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker Guide" series – "Don't Panic" in Hebrew. At the beginning it was a "forum magazine", i.e. a platform to publish the forum users reviews, stories and even inner jokes and fans folklore. Several months later, after I saw that Hadas, the original editor, didn't find enough time to update it regularly, I asked to take over Bli Panika and turned it into a more professional zine. Sadly, the ORT forum is long gone, like most internet forums, but Bli Panika is still here.
Q. Is there much science fiction published in Hebrew?
A. The Israeli SF market is very small and consists primarily of translated fiction, mostly long form and mostly from English. Nevertheless, each year about 15-30 original books are written in the genre in Hebrew, mainly YA but also novels published by mainstream publishers.
Short Israeli fiction is published at BP, of course, and also at "Hayo Iyeh" (meaning "Once upon a Future") yearly anthology published by the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Several other stories are published at the ISFSF web magazine, both original and foreign. Both publications are edited by Ehud Maimon. The only paying market for short fiction is the magazine "Chalomot Be'Aspamia" (an ancient Hebrew idiom that means "daydreaming", but its literal meaning is "dreams in Spain". Spain was considered a very remote place in ancient times J) – a bimonthly print+ebook magazine edited also by me.
Q. How would you describe Israeli SF? Is there a defining characteristic?
A. Israeli SF fiction is small. Very small. There are too few writers and not enough publishers. The short fiction is very varied and it's quite similar to English written fiction. Same topics, same genres and ideas.
As I said, long forms Israeli fiction is mostly YA. Many adult books printed by mainstream publishers tend to deal with Hebrew myths and demonology, like the Golem, biblical and Mesopotamian myths etc. There's also a trend for political apocalyptic/dystopic fiction dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflicts or the inner Israeli conflict between secular Jews and orthodox Haredi Jews.
Q. Who are some SF authors writing in Hebrew that we can also read in English?
A. Not many. Most Hebrew fiction wasn't translated to other languages. There are several Israeli authors who write in English and publish to the English-reading markets. They include Lavie Tidhar, Guy Hasson and Ron Friedman (living in Canada). Nir Yaniv translated several of his stories to English and Vered Tochterman had a short story at F&SF magazine several years ago.
Q. What are you looking for in English-language stories that you accept for translation?
A. They got to be good, of course, with a kind of sense of wonder – enough to make me Wow. I prefer character-based stories, both SF and fantasy, but not Swords & Sorcery or horror. If it has many puns, dialects or other "translational hazards" it will make it harder for me to accept the story, but I won't avoid the challenge if I like it enough.
Q. What plans do you have for this year?
A. I just found a new translations editor for Bli Panika, so I hope we'll be able to publish more stories this year. I'm collecting now original stories for an eBook dedicated for a new Israeli SF film called "Tslila Hofshit" (Free Diving).