The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Survey: Western Authors working in Non-Western Settings?

It occurs to me a list of Western writers setting novels in non-Western settings might be useful, for several reasons. Not sure anything like that is available online, so I wondered if some of our readers might make suggestions. Please use the comments below! It would also be interesting to note if the main protagonists are outsiders or from within the depicted culture, or any other data points you can think of. It would also be interesting to note dates of publication and see how it fits in a historical context – most of these titles are fairly recent? Not read most of the books on this list, apart from the McHugh, the Ryman and the Williams, all of which I enjoyed.

I’ll kick it off with the few I can think of off-hand:

  • River of Gods, Ian McDonald (India)
  • Brasyl, Ian McDonald (Brazil)
  • Chaga and Kirinya, Ian McDonald (Kenya)
  • China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh (China)
  • The Wind-Up Girl,Paolo Bacigalupi (Thailand)
  • Bengal Station, Eric Brown (India/Thailand)
  • Air, Geoff Ryman (Kazakhstan)
  • Nine Layers of Sky, Liz Williams (Kazakhstan)
  • Kirinyaga, Mike Resnick (Kenya)

ETA:

  • Kalimantan, Lucius Shepard (Borneo – Indonesia)

What writers/locations are missing? Comments below would be appreciated, and I’ll post an updated list once we get enough material.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Black Coat Press Announces Ambitious “Best of French SF” Program

Black Coat Press have announced their forthcoming plans for an ambitious release of a whole slew of translated French science fiction – here is the press release:

This month, Black Coat Press is launching an extensive program of translations of both classic and contemporary works of French science fiction and fantasy, spearheaded by award-winning writer and translator Brian Stableford, under the editorship of Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier.

At the top of the list of titles to be released in 2010 are a five-volume series of works by Maurice Renard and a six-volume series of works by J.-H. Rosny Aîné, best known to English-speaking audiences for The Hands of Orlac and Quest for Fire, respectively. More classic works by André Couvreur, Henri Falk, Jules Lermina, Gustave Le Rouge, José Moselli, Han Ryner, and Jacques Spitz are currently in the planning stage.

Contemporary authors to be translated include Kurt Steiner (a.k.a. André Ruellan), G.-J. Arnaud, Richard Bessière, André Caroff and P.-J. Hérault. New editions of previously translated works by Gérard Klein and Michel Jeury are also planned.

In total, over two dozen new translations will be released during 2010, an unprecedented effort in the history of genre publishing.

Among the proto- and golden age French science fiction classics already released by Black Coat Press are such significant works as Félix Bodin’s The Novel of the Future (1834), Didier de Chousy’s Ignis (1883), C.I. Defontenay’s Star-Psi Cassiopeia (1854), Charles Derennes’ The People of the Pole (1907), Arthur Galopin’s Doctor Omega (1906), Octave Joncquel & Théo Varlet’s The Martian Epic (1921), Jean de La Hire’s Nyctalope novels (1911-21), Georges Le Faure & Henri de Graffigny’s The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist across the Solar System (1888-96), Gustave Le Rouge’s The Vampires of Mars (1908), Jules Lermina’s Panic in Paris (1910), Henri de Parville’s An Inhabitant of the Planet Mars (1865), Gaston de Pawlowski’s Journey to the Land of the 4th Dimension (1912), Albert Robida’s The Adventures of Saturnin Farandoul (1879) and The Clock of the Centuries (1902), as well as two collections of Villiers de l’Isle-Adam stories, two collections of the pulp hero adventures of Sâr Dubnotal and Harry Dickson, and two anthologies of ground-breaking proto-SF stories by Brian Stableford.

Contemporary works include two collections by Jean-Claude Dunyach, The Night Orchid and The Thieves of Silence, a collection of stories by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier, Pacifica, Xavier Mauméjean’s award-winning novel The League of Heroes, and Philippe Ward’s contemporary horror thriller, Artahe.

Since its inception in the summer of 2003, Black Coat Press has been the foremost publisher of French science fiction and crime thrillers in the English-language.

A division of Hollywood Comics.com, LLC, Black Coat Press, named after Paul Féval’s seminal 19th century crime thriller saga The Black Coats, which it publishes, is a Encino, CA-based small press publisher whose products are listed on the Bowker’s Books in Print â index and Publishers Authority Database. Its books are produced by Lightning Source, a subsidiary of Ingram Industries, Inc.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

Wednesday Editorial: Guy Hasson on Writing for Two Cultures

SF FROM THE RIM:

WRITING FOR AMERICANS VS. WRITING FOR “FOREIGNERS”

By Guy Hasson

Having spent my childhood in both the U.S. and Israel, I am a man who belongs to both cultures and yet remains an outsider in both. I am an author of – and for – two cultures. When writing a story or a book, I consciously write stories that would easily fit the two different audiences I know. This allows for an interesting perspective, which I hope to explore here: Writing for Americans vs. Writing for Israelis (or, on a wider scale, ‘foreign countries’).

THE RACE OF THE CHARACTERS

The American audience needs strong justification for the lead character not to be an American.

The American audience as a whole (not everyone) sees the U.S. as the center of the world in which, naturally, almost all important things happen. The archetypical protagonist is American.

Non-American characters are exotic to the American audience. It is harder to connect with them, it is harder to feel they are ‘one of us’, and in any case, an explanation is always necessary in the back of the reader’s mind. The author needs to subtly-or-otherwise explain his choice of foreign protagonist within the story.

The foreign audience needs strong justification for the lead character to be of that country.

While the Americans subconsciously see themselves as an empire and in the center of the world, people in most other countries see their own countries as part of a greater whole, usually dependent on America’s (or, in the past, the Soviet Union’s) foreign aid, dependent on other countries’ protection, and equipped with a regional bad blood (usually) that goes back thousands of years. People of most ‘foreign’ countries feel subconsciously that they are in a country that is but a cog in a greater complex.

Add to the mix the fact that more than 95% of the most influential and powerful literary and cinematic SF has historically come from the U.S. and the U.K. and you’ll understand why the audiences of other countries are preconditioned to see the dwellers of the English-speaking world as the natural protagonists of most SF stories.

And so to write protagonists that are ‘foreign’ (meaning ‘native to the country in which the books/stories are written’) the author needs a strong justification why the story can only be moved forward using a non-traditional hero. The author needs to show the audience that no other character of any other country could possibly have been the main character.

SEXUAL AND POLITICAL TABOOS

Different cultures have different sexual, political, and moral taboos. Authors are sometimes interested in pushing the envelope on one or more of these taboos. In trying to write for two cultures simultaneously, the author has to find a way to bring both audiences to the moral starting point of his story.

The trick is for the author to realize that when he’s stepping over a line, he’s stepping over a line. As long as he is aware of it, he will treat it in a manner that befits it (gently or crudely, understanding the reader’s difficulty or being ‘in your face’ about it; letting the characters join in on how hard it is to cross the line or in letting the characters step over the line and discover that they’ve done it and it’s not so bad; etc.) There are many ways to help the readers along a new moral path.

The American audience, for example, comes from a more repressed sexual upbringing/morality, and yet American SF authors (like Silverberg, Heinlein, and Pohl, to name but a few) have brought in sexual content more extreme than their readers were ready for. These authors took their readers’ existing morality, and helped them down new paths. In writing for at least two cultures, the author has to subtly do the work for two readerships, not one.

MIDDLE CLASS WOES VS. REAL LIFE WOES

The American SF audience prefers reading about middle class woes.

Most of American SF fans have a pretty good life. They live in the richest country in the world, they are usually not homeless or in a position in which they must physically fight for their lives. Most SF literature (and cinema) comes from a point of view that describes the small woes of a life that is generally good. This is true even when describing SF conditions that are harsh. Since the audience doesn’t ‘connect’ with the harshness, neither do the characters. Reading or seeing about the true harshness of homelessness, rape, war, etc. is not the cup of tea for most readers although there are, always, a few exceptions.

The foreign SF audience prefers reading about harsh woes and/or non-existent woes

Life in foreign countries is harder, and the potential readers are usually faced with harsher daily news and harsher events of the day. In addition, life (job, money, family) is usually a greater struggle. Many countries have been exposed to dictatorships, civil unrest, poverty, violence, war, or terrorism on a much grander scale than American citizens have. Life is harder, and therefore SF literature is usually about harsher subjects and certainly not about middle class woes. The opposite side of this is that sometimes an audience that lives in a harsh life prefers escapist literature.

My own solution for this dichotomy: in writing stories for both cultures I either write about middle class woes in a way that is seen as escapist in other cultures or about harsher woes while leading the audience there in a way described above in the morality section.

WRITING ABOUT THE FUTURE

The future for the American audience is relatively stable.

The Americans live on a rather stable tectonic political plate. Even big events like the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, the Cuba crisis, and 9/11 did little in the overall run to change the inertia of the American future. The American readers feel the present as a relatively stable one, and therefore writing about the future for the American audience is not a problem.

The future for the foreign audience is less stable.

This depends on the country. Since Israel is the ‘foreign’ country in question, writing about the long-term future for the Israeli audience is a big problem. Political and regional realities change every two years or so in major ways: Peace breaks out, war breaks out, terrorism breaks out, life-changing elections break out, nuclear war might break out in a couple of years, etc. These change the political landscape and with it the landscape of the future. What seems a reasonable assumption when you write a story becomes ridiculously outdated by the time the story is published.

This has been a small, short glimpse into the mind of an author with a dual perspective. Feel free to check out two of my stories, reprinted at Infinity Plus, and see the duality that exists in them: ‘Her Destiny’ and ‘The Dark Side’.

I hope you enjoy your new dual perspective.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 8 Comments

British Science Fiction Association Awards shortlist announced

The nominees for the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Award have just been announced. The complete list is available at Torque Control. There are a few international nominees, listed below:

  • Short story category – Roberto Quaglia (with Ian Watson), for The Beloved Time of Their Lives (Italy)
  • Non-fiction category – Deepa D for I Didn’t Dream of Dragons (India)

While the artwork category is dominated by international artists, specifically Polish artist Adam Tredowski with three nominations (he illustrated all six Interzone covers last year):

  • Adam Tredowski (Poland)
  • Nitzan Klamer (Israel)
  • Stephan Martinière (France)

Congratulations to all the nominees!

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Monday Original Content: An Interview With Wu Yan

This week on the WSNB, Charles Tan interviews Chinese editor, writer and teacher Wu Yan.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what’s the appeal of science fiction for you?

When I was a child, science fiction was a colorful rainbow in front of me. It helped me overcome the difficulties of school life. I told Lavie Tidhar in previous interviews, I grew up in the days of the Cultural Revolution, and at that time, there was no literature in China. Culture was destroyed by revolution. Little Red Books were everywhere, each person having a copy.  It contained Chairman Mao’s quotations. So realistic! Most of these quotations were related to class struggle. How communists fight against capitalists. You can understand how exciting it was when I found Soviet science fiction, Jules Verne’s novels and the old magazine such as We Love Science, Popular Science, Science Pictorial, which was published during 1954-1966, contained Chinese short science fiction stories in the dark, locked library.  We broke the windows and entered the library.  We were told that all the books were bourgeois dirt.  We stole the dirt and read them crazily.  It shows a big different world.  Bright sunny future sky!  A lovely and wonderful world and there was a lack of class struggle. Scientists, what a great person they were!  I thought the most appealing spot of science fiction were both the characters and illustrations, as it can heal your wounded mind and spirit, and made you feel Prosperity.

What made you decide to create a university course on science fiction? In Lavie’s previous interview with you, yours was the only one. Is that still the case now in China?

In 1991, when Beijing Normal University wished to extend its curriculum resources, they began to permit teachers to launch a course which was a little bit away from his own area.  Generally, you only have the right to teach inside your own area.  For example, I was trained as a psychologist, so, I can only teach my organizational behavior class.  I was assured at that time that it was the only university class about science fiction taught using the native language.  Before me, as far as I know, was in 1982 where Wu Dingbo (Dingbo Wu in English name order) and Philip Smith had launched an English language class by using science fiction as materials. But the aim of that curriculum was not science fiction, but language.

I used this chance to create an undergraduate course of science fiction, then titled Science Fiction: Reading and Criticism.  This course lasted ten years. In some semesters, the enrollment reached 600 students. Then, from 2003, Prof. Wang Quangen, Vice-Dean, Dept. of Chinese Language and Literature of our university called me and asked if I would like to enhance this science fiction class up to graduate level.  I fully agreed.  So, beginning from that year, I stopped the undergraduate course, created a master’s program titled Science Fiction Studies. Each year, 20 or more students apply for this program. But only 2-3 passed the national examinations. 

Up to now, as far as I know, there are around 10 universities that have the undergraduate curriculum on science fiction, but only our university has a Master’s program that focuses on the studies of science fiction.  I do not know about other countries, how many graduate level programs specialize in science fiction studies today.  I guess not very much. We’re still looking forward to launch a Doctoral Degree.

You’ve lived in America and Australia. What made you decide to come back to China? How do you see yourself in terms of culture?

I entered the science fiction field in 1978.  My first short story, “Adventure in an Iceberg”, was published in 1979.  Then, I passed the college entrance examination in 1982 and became a student of the Dept. of Psychology, Beijing Normal University.  My doctorate area is organizational behavior.  I published two novels and dozens of anthologies during 1978 to 2003.  Within these six years, I focused on science fiction studies. I edited and organized 15 critic books. Eight of them have been published.

I have been in the States during 1993-1994, teaching an organizational science curriculum MBA program at the Wright State University for two semesters.  I used this chance to participate in some of the United States science fiction activities.  I have to say, Americans have the most active fandom activities in the world.  Such a lot of cons, a lot of signings, a lot of readings.  At that time, China is more conservative.  I wrote some articles on Science Fiction World magazine about these activities.  Fans were adored by it and yearned for the States.

Then, during 2003-2004, I stay at Queensland University of Technology and acted as a “visiting scholar”.  I joined a children’s literature research group which was led by Kerry Mallan, the former president of Australian Children’s Literature Association.  This activity gave me some idea to know how a Western children’s literature person viewed science fiction.  It is very interesting. Because in China, for the past few years, science fiction is a sub-literature which belongs to children’s literature. 

I know a lot of Chinese choose to stay in a foreign country, but I do not know how I could do it at that place.  My native language is Chinese. I love to remain in the science fiction field so I have to stay in China. At least the cultural sphere of China.

What made you decide to become a writer? An editor?

I published my first article; it is a critical essay on science fiction, in my secondary school in a national newspaper in 1978.  Then, in my second year, I published my first popular science article and short science fiction story.  Beginning from that time, I turned to be an author of 16 years old.  Then, I met nearly all the famous writers of science fiction and popular science.  Some of them gave me good points on my work.  And others gave me very good help. For example, Mr. Ye Yonglie, who is a famous science fiction writer at that time, helped me transfer my science fiction to the magazines.  Another author, Guo Yishi, was also an editor in a publishing house and added my name in National Conference in Science Literature and Children’s Popular Science in 1980.  This time, I turned into a famous national person.  I asked my secondary school to support my transportation to take a train to Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province which is near Russia.  The conference was held there.  

I think I am a lucky one in the writing field. I know some people who tried many times to submit their manuscripts to publishing houses or journals or newspapers.  But they always failed.  But I got it published only in my first try!

What are the hurdles of getting published in China?

Before the 1990s, the most important influential factor of the development of Chinese science fiction was the political situation.  Science fiction was always stirred or stopped by political movements.  These kinds of movement came one after another.  Some of them accelerated science fiction and some of them were hurdles to science fiction.  For example, if the movement was aiming to enhance science and technology in the nation, science fiction would get very good treatment.  1956-1958 and 1978-1981 were two very important dates for the nourishing of Chinese science fiction.  Both times were under the propaganda of “scale the heights of science”.  Science fiction was booming.  But during 1966-1976 and 1984-1989, science fiction was strongly damaged.  The first period was Mao’s Cultural Revolution that I had already mentioned.  All cultural things were damaged by the Red Guard.  The second period was under the Deng Xiaoping’s regime.  This time, the movement’s slogan was anti- bourgeois freedomization.  Sounds very strange?  Yes, strange.  But you can imply that science fiction is a kind of literature which seeks freedom in all aspects.

After the 1990s, the Chinese marketing system economy turned to its beginnings. The hurdles was not political issues, but “supply and demand”.  In these two periods, Science Fiction World magazine took on an important role in the development of Chinese science fiction.  For example, in January of 1999, Science Fiction World published an essay about the transplant of human memory.  Fortunately, in July, the National College Entrance Examination uses this topic as a test for writing.  This made Science Fiction World and science fiction itself very well known to the whole nation.  The circulation of the magazine rose to nearly 400,000 copies per month.  But after the turn of the century, after the Fantasy revolution created by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, the demand for science fiction declined very quickly.  Now, most science fiction shelves turned into fantasy shelves in the bookstore.  I guess, in the future, Chinese science fiction will be less and less influenced by political issues, but more and more influence by market demand.

How would you describe the fantasy and science fiction field there?

I think I have already answered this question. The only one I will add: influenced by Harry Potter, Chinese native fantasy has strongly developed.  The Chinese way of fantasy is not Lord of the Rings style or Harry Potter’s style; it is more related to the Chinese classical novels, fairy tales, and legends.  New stories of the old characters is what new Chinese fantasy looks like.  Another fact I want to say is that most fantasy writers are all very young.  They not only write for publishing house, but also for websites.  They are richer than science fiction writers.

Who are the Chinese writers that we should be reading but the rest of the world is not aware of?

For a long time, the Chinese science fiction was not very mature.  That is why science fiction has always been included into children’s literature.  But within these few years, some  writers have really grown.  I strongly recommend two of them.  Liu Cixin, a writer from Shanxi province, is very well known in the field because of his novel The Era of Supernova (1991), Magic Bricks (2002), Ball Lightning (2004) , Three Bodies (2007), Dark Forest-Three Bodies II (2008), and novelettes like Please Bring Her Eyes (1999), The Wandering Earth (2000), Country Doctor (2001), Micro Era (2001) have all won prizes and readers’ favor.  Cixin tends to use a kind of globalization viewpoint to look at the world.  He thought science could solve most of the problems in the future.  His story has a lot of changing styles.  Sometimes it looks like a thought experiment.  For example, he wrote a story titled “I Do not Care to Die If I Have Got the Tao of Nature” (2002).  It comes from a quote from Confucius Analects.  Talks about people devoting their life to seeking the Tao (way) inside the world.  In Liu’s story, it turns to be a testing platform in front of earthmen. Answer the question correctly, or die for not succeeding!  He also has a story titled “The Cloud of Poems” (2003).  It talks of an earth artist who tries to compete with an alien artist.  They use Earth Sea as the materials to form their micro scale creation work.  After his work, the earth’s surface is covered by clouds of the poem which was made of ocean water.  Some of Cixin’s other novels and stories focuses on the future of the world; especially a world that contains China and Chinese.  For example, his first novel The Era of Supernova is a story about a near earth supernova suddenly shining.  The consequence is radiation will kill all earth people if you are over 14 years old.  Only children under 14 years old can survive, because their blood mechanism can heal from total damage.  But after a year, the whole world is under the control of children.  How can we help children to survive?  Each country tries to select their leading girls and boys.  Each parent is trying to train their child to learn their own work.  How can a child manage their world?  What will happen?  Does this child-managed world have a peaceful international relationship or a world war?  Cixin’s novel answers all these questions.  They initiate a world war game.  But the game will be held in the real world!

Three Body is a trilogy.  Now only two volumes have been published.  The novel begins from the period of the Cultural Revolution.  At that time, China began its secret plan to seek extraterrestrials and tried to contact alien beings before the U.S. and U.S.S.R.  Fortunately, China is the first country to get a response from the sky!  But it is a warning:  “Please do not contact us again; because our race is very bloody, I am the exception”.  The receptor is a young scientist and her father was just beaten to death by the Red Guard.  She was very angry with the Chinese politicians.  So she replied to this message and said we do not care.  The message evokes their bloodlust and aliens start to conquer Earth.  Due to the long distance, the foreign space fleet will take 400 years to reach Earth.  The Cultural Revolution stopped, and the world is turning into a global village.  But the threat is in front of Earth.  This concludes the first book.  The consequence is talking about the 400 years preparation to fight against aliens.  Earth’s development in technology has been locked by alien technology.  And aliens can use special methods to probe people’s behavior.  They still have not developed a useful technology to get what people think through scanning of the human mind.  To find freedom from this control, human beings start a secret plan.  It is called the Face with Wall Project.  Only super talented people were selected by world government.  They were invited to work their way individually to break out of the alien’s block.  Because the alien agents which are controlled by them are everywhere, the project person needs to protect themselves, especially their creative strategy.  Unfortunately, all the project people have been broken by alien agents.  Only exception is the Chinese.  But this strategy is to show our position in the universe, which is aimed to let all creatures know we are here.  Another alien species suddenly finds the shining star and also arrived at our solar system.  Two super species will fight against each other near Earth.  Can this strategy save humans?  The books stop as the alien spaceship destroys the frontline defense of the border and earth is in danger.  What will happen then?

I assure you Cixin’s work is very interesting for the people who wish to know how the Chinese in general perceive the world today.  When China turns into a superpower in economics, what will happen in the future?  His way of writing is in the traditional way of science fiction.  Not an obstacle to readers, including foreign readers.  

The second author I want to introduce is Sichuan-born writer Han Song.  Song’s novels are Red Star Over The United States of America (2000), Red Ocean (2004), while short stories and novelettes include Gravestone in Universe (1991), Escape out of Depressive Mountain (1998), Spring comes to Liangshan (2000).  Song is a writer and journalist, and his work is mixed with Buddhism and Taoism. 

Most of the meaning of Song’s work is very ambiguous. In Red Star over the United States of America, the main protangonist is a Chinese youngster who goes to the States to participate as a world champion of weiqi, a game played with black and white pieces on a board of 361 crosses.  As soon as he gets there, a revolution starts.  American gets thrown into chaos.  He tries to survive by himself and finds a way back to China.  In this work, China looks like the States and the States looks like contemporary China.

Red Ocean is a novel full of metaphor. In the far far future, people live among oceans, because the land is polluted.  This is not new.  Water World also has the same theme.  But how to live in the harsh situation is the focus of the author.  In Han’s Song’s novel, people have to mutually eat each other.  Those not familiar with Chinese ancient power struggles will not be aware of what the author intended.  It made people recall a lot of cruel stories of ancient politics and dynasty murders and usurpation.  Song’s work is a very complex style.  Most of it is implicit.  The timeline is also damaged, the future is the past, and the past looks like it could turn into the future.

Song is an author who is very sensitive of culture.  His novelette Spring Comes to Liang Shan is a rewrite of the famous ancient novel Heroes of the Marshes (Ming Dynasty) which was written by Shi Naian and Luo Guanzhong of the Ming Dynasty.  The original novel is about 108 heroes who conquered Liang Shang (Mount Liang) to fight against the government.  But in Song’s new story, Ming Dynasty troops have a new weapon to block them from getting out.  The universe was been closed, turned over.  So heroes need to find a way to live in this isolated mountain and water margins.  Finally they find that the weapon is not made by the government. It is imported from the United States of America. The story is very funny, but it implies the contemporary Chinese situation and the international relationship.

Unfortunately, the above authors, novels, and stories have rarely been translated into English.  Only one of Song’s stories have been published, in an anthology edited by Lavie Tihdar.

What are the hurdles of promoting Chinese fiction outside of your country? Do you think it’s a big challenge for Chinese science fiction and fantasy writers to write in English?

Yes, definitely.  The most important hurdle to overcome is that contemporary authors rarely have good English.  So, if they wish to send their work outside China, it needs to be interpreted.  Unfortunately, there is no good translator who has interests in science fiction.

Within a couple of years, China became a world power.  The aggregate GDP of China is exceeding Italy, Britain, France, and Germany.  Some economists even considered that the Chinese economy will exceed the States in the coming two decades.  Under this situation, I assume foreigners will be more and more concerned with the Chinese way of thinking. How do these people think about the future? How have they imagined their scenario for the future? For foreigners who have read only China Mountain Zhang of Maureen F. McHugh and The Middle Kingdom of David Wingrove, it will not be enough. Three Bodies Trilogy and The Red Ocean are all very good for your entertainment, as well as thinking.

The good thing is that young authors born from 1980s have very good training in English.  I assure you that in the future, some of their works will be written directly in English.

How does piracy play a role in the fandom there, especially during the height of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series when a lot of counterfeit books were popping up?

These are two different questions.  Piracy is very strong in Chinese printing and media.  Some famous writers here often collaborate with publishing house to organize a group of people to go to different provinces to find pirates and sue them.  For example, famous fantasy author Zheng Yuanjie always does this.  I have heard some unverified news about publishing houses sending the manuscript to a printing factory; the factory will print more copies than ordered.  Then, they sell the extra copies themselves and earn money.  Because China is such a big country and the copyright idea is very new for this country, enforcing it is sometimes an impossible mission.  Also, if your work is posted on the web, some fans really do it, and other websites transfer them, you cannot stop this chain of effects.

The second question is Harry Potter. This novel stimulated Chinese authors to revive old-style myths and fairy tales in our own culture.  Now fantasy novels are more prevalent than science fiction in the shelves of bookstores.  And the Chinese original fantasy is also divided into two directions.  One direction aims to create a new world.  It is a kind of western style, like J.R.R. Tolkien. We called it WEST-style fantasy.  The other direction is to describe a totally Chinese style story.  Sometimes it is about the life cycle of a naïve boy/girl who was circumvented or whose family was slaughtered in the beginning, and finally, he/she turns out to have the ability to master the world through Taoism.  It is just an example.  There are a lot of differences in this genre.  Some of them are a direct rewrite of ancient history.  We called this kind of novel CHINESE-style fantasy. Maybe the Chinese style is not suitable for this kind of work.  Oriental style is better.  Because Japan and Korea also share the same cultural sphere. They will understand easier than westerners.

Could you give us an update on the state of the fiction magazine market there?

The circulation of genre books and magazines are as follows:

Good fantasy will sell 1,000,000-2,000,000 copies. 

Good science fiction will sell more than 100,000 copies. 

Good science fiction magazine will sell 100,000 per month. 

Other science fiction magazine will sell only 10,000-50,000 copies.

I have no information about the pure fantasy magazine, horror magazine, and detective magazine.  But these kinds of magazines can be found in the street.

Could you tell us more about the relationship China has with Russia, at least as far as fiction is concerned. Do you think China is developing/will develop such relationships with other nearby countries such as Korea or Japan?

China and Russia had a very good relationship during the 1950s. After Mao refused to help Stalin to build a long wave radio station and military base in China, and especially after U.S.S.R. and the U.S. signed the treaty for nuclear weapons, the China-Russia relationship was broken.  Even these things happened a long time ago but the common Chinese people have very good memories.  People from my father’s age to myself are very familiar with Soviet and Russian literature.  Of course we are influenced by Soviet science fiction.  After the break of the Sino-Russian relationship, and after the Cultural Revolution, Russian literature declined and the new generation is not familiar with it.  

Right now, China and Russia looks like they have a very good relationship though there are a lot of problems.  China wishes to install a pipe so as to buy Russian’s gas and oil, but the negotiation is already over 10 years.  But still no deal.  I doubt Russia wishes to sell to China oil and gas.  In my opinion China and Russia still have a lot of problems in mutual trust. 

Talking about Japan, it is also very complicated.  Before 1978, we did not know a lot about Japanese literature, in spite of old generations.  But after the Deng’s administration, Japan and China’s relations turned very hot period during 1980s.  We began to know their modern works.  But in recent years, China and Japan always encounter problems with how to describe history. In 2007, I first went to Japan to join in the 65th Worldcon. Japan and Japanese friends gave me deep impressions. I also read some contemporary novels of Japanese science fiction.  I think I am fond of them very much.  I wish to join in next year’s Japanese SF conference.

For Korea, China got influenced by Korea more and more within this decade, from TV drama, books, clothes, and food. Right now, North Korea’s nuclear weapons test threatens China. So, how to keep North-East Asia in a peaceful situation is very important for China. I think the only way for China is to maintain balance and try to have a good relationship with these countries.

I’m from the Philippines and sometimes, translating science fiction terms into the local language is difficult. Is Chinese writing plagued with the same problems, especially with the unique characteristics of Hanzi? Do you go more for pronunciation or meaning?

Hope I am not misunderstanding your question. Chinese people translate foreign science fiction for more than a hundred years.  So, a lot of experience has been accumulated.  Sometimes we translate by meaning, and sometimes we translate by pronunciation.  It depends on what kind of concept. Generally if we can find some root in our culture, we use meaning translation.  If there is something brand new and looks like there is a lack of corresponding cultural reference, we use pronunciation and give explanations.  The very good thing is we have three big sub-groups of translators: mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.  We can look at each other and then adjust our own translations.

Where can Western readers find out more about Chinese science fiction?

I will provide you a list of Chinese works in English speaking media.  It is very rare. There is only one book that has been published in English which edited by Wu Dingbo(Dingbo Wu) and Patrick D. Murphy, it is Science Fiction from China (Hardcover).  It contain eight stories by six authors.  All of them are from the 1970s and 1980s, incuding Wei Yahua’s “Conjugal Happiness in the Arms of Morpheus”, Wang Xiaoda’s “The Mysterious Wave”, Tong Enzheng’s “Death Ray on a Coral Island” ,Ye Yonglie’s “Corrosion” and so on.  If you wish to taste Chinese SF in the period of its revival, you can find it and read it.  The Publisher is Praeger Trade.  And the publishing date was September 11, 1989.  In Vol 6 of James Gunn’s The Road to Science Fiction there are two Chinese short stories:  Zheng Wenguang’s “Mirror Image of Earth” and Ye Yonglie’s “Corrosion”.  In Tales from Planet Earth (1986) created by Fred Pohl and Elizabeth Anne Hull and published by St. Martin’s Press, there is Tong Enzheng’s short story named “The Middle Kingdom”.  All of the above stories belong to the age of the 80’s.  Within these years, as far as I know, only my short story “Mouse Pad” has been published in Issue one of Internova: the Magazine of International Science Fiction (2005) edited by Ronald M. Hahn, Olaf G. Hilscher and Michael K. Iwoleit.  The latest one is Lavie Tidhar’s The Apex Book of World SF (2009) which contains Han Song’s “The Wheel of Samsara” and Yang Ping’s “Wizard World”. The book is already published by Apex Publications.  Probably there are other short stories that have been published in English, but I assure you there is not any novel that has been translated into English.

How about your own work, where can they find more of them?

I have two novels and a couple of anthologies.  But most of my work is for children, though some of my short stories are written for adults. For example, I have a story talking about a special flower which can be the index of decline. So, most Chinese governments, factories, companies, schools, and even families, began to dig them around their own place.  The more you destroy, the more it grows.  And the more it grows, the end times comes closer.  How to deal with this critical problem?  At the end of the story, the huge population and the thousands of years of cooking art saves China.  Eat them as much as you can.  Cantonese restaurant lead China to overcome this difficult time.  I have not written any novel and stories since 2003.  Heavy teaching work and research work!  But I plan to come back next year. So sorry, for up to now, there is only one of my short stories that has been translated into English.  I hope in the future, there will be more of them translated.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

Includes Chinese SF stories from Han Song and Yang Ping!

January 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Sherry Yao on the 30th Anniversary of China’s SF World Magazine

Over at Concatenation, Sherry Yao, of the editorial staff of the world’s largest SF magazine, Science Fiction World in China, talks about the history of the magazine as it celebrates its 30th year of publication:

Founded in 1979 magazine Science Fiction World (SFW) is China’s leading monthly science fiction magazine. It dominates the Chinese science fiction magazine market with a circulation of 300,000 copies per issue. So assuming 3-5 readers per copy it has an estimated total readership of at least 1 million and as such is the World’s most-read SF periodical.

Science Fiction World is published by the SFW group. Today the SFW group runs four magazines serving different age groups.: SFW (Science Fiction World) and FW (Fantasy World) is aimed mainly at teenagers; SFWT (Science Fiction World Translations) is read mostly by adults; Little Newton serves school pupils. All told the SFW group has a large amount of readers. – continue reading!

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

Includes Chinese SF stories from Han Song and Yang Ping!

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off

Fábio Fernandes on working in two languages

Over at Tor.com, Brazilian author Fábio Fernandes talks about working in two langauges:

And with that, she had just found out a simple thing that many of us, alas, may take an entire life to find – and most never do: the miracle of understanding a language other than your native one. This expands our universe of knowledge and leaves us wide open to new sources of information. New cultures. New ways of life. New modes of thinking. Things outside your comfort zone. Things that are alien to you. – read the rest of the post.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off

Luna: The Genetic Paradise

Over at the Mad Hatter book blog, I get to talk about one of my favourite obscure books – the Hebrew SF novel Luna: Gan Ha’eden Ha’geneti (Luna: The Genetic Paradise) by Israeli author Ram Moav:

I first came across Luna in the school library, and to my horror that must have been almost twenty years ago. It stood out, being one of the only—if not the only—titles on the science fiction shelf not to be a translation from the English. It was—almost miraculously, it seemed—written by an Israeli writer.

And what a writer!

Luna is, to a large extent, the last will and testament of its author, the Israeli geneticist Ram Moav. Like the unnamed narrator of his novel, he was dying of a terminal illness—he passed away shortly after completing the novel. His illness, and the narrator’s, inform the novel on a deep level—

But what is it about?

Luna’s narrator is a disillusioned scientist who, while slowly dying, is granted visions of the future by means of “The Camera”, a device that allows him (and us) to explore a future colony on the moon, a utopian place founded on extreme ideas of eugenics. Luna’s story is split in two: one follows the life story of the narrator, while the other follows a group of new immigrants to the lunar colony. – read the rest of the article.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off

Wednesday Editorial: On Book Covers

Wednesday Editorial: On Book Covers

Lavie Tidhar

We actually had a guest-editorial scheduled this week, but we’re pushing it back a week to talk a little about book covers.

There’s been a lot of interest surrounding yesterday’s post about the Dragon and the Stars anthology cover (see responses in the comments thread, as well as from JolantruJanet Chui and Sean Wallace), but that merely ties into a larger discussion going on at the moment. And that, in turn goes back to the fact 2009 saw a first large-scale discussion on race in science fiction, which is still on-going.

Now, the World SF News Blog is dedicated to highlighting international SF, but that is not to say we can, or should, ignore what is going on within the American and UK world of publishing. A discussion on race is important. So are discussions on gender, and sexuality, all of which are going on still, and will continue for a good long while.

And so.

N.K. Jemisin discusses Why I Think RaceFail Was The Bestest Thing Evar for SFF:

it used to be very noticeable that I could at least broach the subject of race in every other aspect of my life — academia, the counseling psych field, political activism of course, literature/art in general — but not in SFF. The conversations would simply shut down, often thanks to respected personages/fans who would emphatically declare that there was no racism in the genre outside of a few unimportant loudmouths, and no need to discuss race since there was no racism, so let’s move on to something interesting like quantum physics.

Now, suddenly, everyone’s talking about race, and I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. – read the rest of the post.

Lots of comments in the thread above, as could be expected. And yet the current topic stirring people is that Bloomsbury had once again featured a white model on the cover of a book about a dark-skinned girl:

Prompting Ellen Datlow, amongst others, to write an open letter to Bloomsbury:

I was very aware of the controversy over Justine Larbalestier Liar last year (for one thing, she’s a friend of mine) and note that Bloomsbury backed off and changed the cover image from a young white woman to a (very light) African American woman. But it seems that your company still hasn’t learned that this kind of racism is no longer going to be ignored by the children’s lit community. You’ve done it again with Jaclyn Dolamore’s first novel Magic Under Glass about a dark-skinned young woman from the far east. Please stop assuming that 1) no one (black or white) notices and 2) that we don’t care.
I’ve been in publishing for over thirty five years so you don’t need to inform me about marketing, etc.

These things affect all writers. Just an an anecdotal instance, a South African friend of mine was asked to change his main character from South African to British because “the readers don’t want to buy stories featuring South African characters”. Which is reminiscent of John W. Campbell Jr. asking one of the writers for Astounding to change his name for the magazine because it was “too Jewish, and readers won’t pick up the magazine”. As Isaac Asimov pointed out in his memoirs, Campbell meant it was too Jewish for him.

You can always blame the readers, it seems to me. And so, it is nice to see at least one publisher who seems to have no problem with black people on the covers of their books, which happens to return back to proper WSNB territory: the recently-revealed cover for South African writer Lauren Beukes‘ second novel, Zoo City (art by John Picacio):

Who earlier also released the cover for Maurice Broaddus‘ first novel, King Maker (cover by Steve Stone):

And so we get discussion, which is a good thing – and we get to question some basic assumptions of the publishing world, and of the people who make decisions in it, which is a good thing, too. There’s a lot to talk about, a lot to question – and isn’t that the point of speculative fiction?

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

The Dragon and the Stars anthology Cover

The Dragon and the Stars, edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi, and featuring stories by ethnic Chinese writers from around the world – including Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Canada and the United States – is now available for pre-order on Amazon, published by DAW Books in May this year. Here is the recently-unveiled cover!

More details, including the full table of contents and one line summaries, at Eric Choi’s website.

SUPPORT THE WORLD SF NEWS BLOG!

Buy a copy of THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF directly from the publisher

And help us meet our goal of selling 92 copies until the end of the month!

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 26 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 251 other followers

%d bloggers like this: