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Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Beastly Bride interviews: Sinisalo, Narayan

Over at SF Signal, Charles Tan has been interviewing the contributors to new Ellen Datlow anthology Beastly Bride – including Indian writer Shweta Narayan and Finnish writer Johanna Sinisalo.

From the Sinisalo interview:

CT: What is it about the Finnish epic Kalevala that interests you?

JS: It is quite original compared to many other European epics, because it has such a strong emphasis on our ties with nature. There are a lot of woodland and water deities, magical animals, and the bear is in Finnish mythology almost a semi-god. Kalevala’s heroes and heroines also all seem to have a very humane side – they are not invincible or faultless, quite the opposite. In that aspect they’re quite modern. I have actually written even a whole novel called “Sankarit” (“The Heroes”) in which I converted the main characters and plots of Kalevala to be set in the 1990′s. The sages, magical smiths, adventurers, witches and so on were in my novel rock stars, athletes, computer wizards etc. It was a very fun thing to write.

From the Narayan interview:

Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to combine Selkie stories with serpent/Naga stories?

Shweta Narayan: I don’t think “decide” is quite the right word. I doubt I could approach a Naga story any other way.

Let me unpack that. I’ve loved snakes since my mother took me to the Madras Snake Park when I was five or so, and I’ve actively looked for Naga images and stories as long as I can remember. But while I am a heritage Tamil speaker, I’m neither fluent nor literate in any language native to the Indian subcontinent, and that leaves my understanding of my “own” folklore pretty sparse.

Most of the tales that I grew up with were from Northern Europe; my parents made an active effort to counter that trend, but the European stories were just easiest to find. And since I read a lot, and we didn’t live near any English-language bookstores till I was twelve, just keeping me in reading material must have been a task!

So Selkie tales were part of my formative reading. And when I was seven or eight, I wasn’t left thinking about the objectification of the Selkie bride and her reasons for leaving, or about the distraught husband. Forget the grownups — I wanted to know what happened to their kids! So that’s a story hook that has been hanging around in my brain waiting to latch onto something for a long time.

I only know three patterns of traditional Naga tales: sentient snake interacts with religious figure, hero goes to the land of the Nagas to gain magic or wisdom, and hero goes to the land of the Nagas to get a bride– and that last lies so close to Selkie stories that I never consciously “combined” the traditions, because they were not really separate in my mind to start out with. It felt obvious that Naga brides would be compelled to stay somehow and would leave as soon as they could.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Comments Off

New online review looking for international contributors

From Val Grimm:

The Portal is an online review of short-form science fiction,  fantasy, and horror that will launch at World Fantasy in October 2010.  Although we do intend to review work in English, we will give equal emphasis to providing English- language coverage of short fiction markets, anthologies, and genre literary activities in many language communities around the world, not just English-language work being produced in predominantly Anglophone regions. Our goal is to publish at least one article from each region or language for which we have a bureau head in each monthly issue; bureau heads will write these pieces themselves or delegate them to fellow critics in their area.

For regions with less activity, we’ll take quarterly or yearly reports from our coordinators. Our current staff includes:

Val Grimm: Editor-in-chief
Elizabeth Allen: Editor
René Walling: Logistics Advisor and Bureau Head for Francophone Canada
Miguel Esquirol: Bureau Head, Bolivia
Fábio Fernandes: Bureau Head, Brazil
Knud Larn: Bureau Head, Denmark
Annaïg Houesnard: Bureau Head, France
Gord Sellar: Coordinator, South Korea
Johan Anglemark: Coordinator, Sweden
If you are interested in working with us, please send an inquiry letter and writing sample to thesffportal at gmail dot com.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Black Coat Press wins special award for promoting French SF

From the press release:

STABLEFORD, LOFFICIER, BLACK COAT PRESS WIN TOP FRENCH GENRE AWARD

Writer/translator Brian Stableford, editor/translators Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier, and Black Coat Press have won a Special Award for their outstanding work in bringing French science fiction to the English-speaking public.

The award is part of the coveted Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the oldest and most prestigious genre award in France. Created in 1974, the “GPI” is given yearly by a jury of twelve professionals.

This award recognizes the unprecedented effort made by Black Coat Press, established in 2003 by the Lofficiers, to publish classic French science fiction in the United States. Competing for this special award were two other nominees, French anthologists Richard Comballot and Jean-François Thomas.

Heading the Black Coat Press releases for 2010 are Stableford’s translations of a five-volume series of works by Maurice Renard and a seven-volume series of works by J.-H. Rosny Aîné, the two most important writers of Golden Age French SF after Jules Verne.

Amongst the other winners of the GPI this year are Jack O’Connell, Greg Egan, Ted Chiang, John Connoly and Warren Ellis.

The official site of the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire is: http://www.noosfere.org/gpi/index.php

Find out more about Black Coat Press at their web site: www.blackcoatpress.com

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off

China’s Sky Award – Finalists Announced

The Sky Awards are “fan/judge-voted awards for Chinese science fiction and fantasy literacy. These awards are initiated and administered by the Sky Award Organizing Committee composed of a number of senior SF/F fans, and the Judge Panel consists of writers, editors, critics, and professionals in the SF/F field in China.”

Best Fiction: Long Form in 2009

  • Tale of Brush Tomb II: Everything is Waves, MA Boyong (Chongqing Publishing House)
  • Once upon a Time in Shanghai, JIANG Nan (Volumes Publishing Company)
  • God Wills it III: Genesis, YAN Leisheng (Northern Women & Children Publishing House)
  • “The Arrow Shattering a Country”, LA La (Jingu Martial Arts, Feb2009)
  • Cross, WANG Jinkang (Chongqing Publishing House)
Best Fiction: Short Form in 2009
  • “Dark Room”, HAN Song (New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Jun2009)
  • “A Smile that Fells a City”, XIA Jia (Odyssey of China Fantasy, Sep2009)
  • “Year of Rat”, CHEN Qiufan (Science Fiction World, May2009)
  • “All Mountains in a Single Glance”, FEI Dao (Science Fiction World, Aug2009)
  • “Spiritual Tales in Chengdu”, LUO Lingzuo (Odyssey of China Fantasy, Jan2009)
Most Popular Translated Fiction in 2009
  • “The Girl Who Leapt through Time”, Yasutaka Tsutsui, trans. by DING Dingchong (from The Girl Who Leapt through Time, Shanghai Translation Publishing House)
  • “Discworld – Sourcery”, Terry Pratchett, trans. by GUO Weiweng (Science Fiction World Translation, Dec2009)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin, trans. by TAO Xuelei (Sichuan Science & Technology Publishing House)
  • “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang, trans. by GENG Hui (Science Fiction World Translation, Nov2009)
  • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, trans. by GUO Ze (Sichuan Science & Technology Publishing House)

Special Contribution Award

  • Group 42 – a science fiction promotion group organized by SF fans in Beijing
  • Beijing Red Book Store Culture Develop Co., Ltd – a genre fiction publisher
  • Odyssey of China Fantasy – a SF/F magazine
  • New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction – a SF/F fanzine

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

Original Fiction: “The Basics of Flight”, Ch. 4, by Joyce Chng

THE BASICS OF FLIGHT

by Joyce Chng

Chapter Four

Finding Her Balance: Walking Aware

The air was suitably chilly for an early-morning Athletics. There was fog rolling in from the Flying Field, a fleecy sheet coating just about everything and making flying lessons for the final-year ensign class impossible.

Stenton made them all stand in a large circle, including Alethia who shivered in the cold. They had their jumpers on but the Autumn cold was indeed bone-deep. The students hopped from foot to foot, trying to keep themselves warm. There would be a lot of howling and complaining later. But now it was not the time to. Stenton’s sharp tongue would whip them into shape.

Katherine’s skin broke out in goose pimples. She hated Autumn, even when she was back in Dorset. The house was always clammy, the cold having seeped into the very bricks and stayed there like a stubborn ice wall. She would pile on several layers of blankets and the cold would still permeate through. Little Alice, her sister, hated it and often fell ill with winter colds.

“You must be wondering why you are all standing in a circle,” Stenton began. He was a stocky man, in his late thirties, his salt-and-pepper hair close-cropped to the skull. He was a Cockney man by birth and he was proud of it.

“We are going to do an exercise,” he continued, watching the students and their discomfort in the chill air with amusement in his eyes. “I want everyone to start walking in three paces, at your own will, within this circle.”

The students eyed one another and then at Stenton who grinned back. “Walk normally, breathe normally, making sure you do not come into contact with your peers.”

Katherine darted a glance at Alethia anxiously. For this exercise, the blind girl would have found it difficult in doing so. But the girl showed no sign of anxiety or indeed nervousness, standing with a faint smile on her lips.

“You can begin … now!” Stenton whistled sharply and the students began to shuffle, pace and walk, each in his or her own style of movement. Three paces, Stenton reminded them, three paces.

The strands of fog made perception fair tricky, clouding in-coming traffic and playing games with the eyes. Katherine tried to breathe normally, listening to her heart, trying hard not to knock into her classmates. Someone brushed too closely to her and it was Thomas Von Dyke who grinned at her wickedly and moved away, like a dancer. Everyone was shifting around her, each in his own world but slowly becoming aware of the others. Even Alethia moved remarkably well, steering herself with her walking stick.

Katherine was aware of the currents around her, the shifting flows and eddies. For a few breaths, she paused, perceptive of the dance and the dancers. Then, someone approached her and she neatly stepped away without missing a beat. The fog simply added to the flow, becoming part of it, dispersing when one of the students moved through it and merging back again seamlessly.

Is flying like that? She wondered, listening to her heartbeats. Knowing the flows and currents of the air? Like a bird?  Or knowing who I am?

She was reminded of the nightmare she had a while back and she shuddered, almost losing her concentration when Thomas passed her again. She caught herself and swirled away, almost hitting another boy who glared at her indignantly.

The dance carried on, everyone moving – by now – easily. At the sidelines, Stenton watched pleased.

~*~

“That is a fine exercise!” Thomas commented as they retired to the dormitories to refresh themselves before the afternoon classes. His German accent was almost gone with the number of years spent in London, only a faint hint of it showing when he became excited.

“It is,” Katherine nodded, feeling the exercise still lingering in her bones. Alethia walked beside her.

“You almost knocked into me twice,” the boy laughed cheekily. He was almost nineteen. At times, Katherine swore he acted even younger than his real age. She was the oldest amongst the three, having reached the maximum age of registration for the academy. She was passing glad she made it into the academy. Passing glad …

“Hmph,” she retorted back and Thomas shrugged. He was in a jolly good mood. Alethia merely smiled, no doubt understanding the nuances in the conversation.

Now Alethia’s professed vocational training astounded her. She was not training to be a pilot. Instead, she was training to be a controller, the person tasked to give directions to the leo-fin pilot. Now how she was going to do so remained a mystery, even for Katherine. Alethia’s senses of perception were uncanny; she claimed to hear the leo-fins by color and was hence – or she said – able to direct the leo-fin when it took off or landed.

“I do not mind working with you,” she once told Katherine privately. “If we both graduate from the academy first!”

Alethia sounded confident and she seemed to know herself well. She seemed so solid, so self-assured. So aware, even with her disability. Katherine had to admit that she admired the blind girl.

“Off with you,” Katherine mock-scolded Thomas who bowed cockily and peeled off to the nearest washroom. When he was gone, she breathed a sigh of relief. “He is such a frustrating lad!”

~*~

Doctor James Ash was a busy man. Not only did he have to look after the health of the entire student cohort, he was also part of the Faculty. Biology was the subject, even though his own specialty was general surgery.

It was common to see the bearded tall gentleman stalking down the corridors of the Manor, simultaneously physician and teacher. He would check on the students, especially those who were sick and were in quarantine, regularly, making they had their ample rest. Likewise, he would supervise his students in the laboratories.

He was a busy man. One would expect him to be scatterbrained, the very image of an university professor. He was not. He was sharp. He was acerbic. Mind you, he just cut young Joshua Baker into fine shreds for being tardy in his homework. Mister Baker was an intelligent young man. He just frittered his time away with his laziness. He would have words to say to Pilotmaster Lee. And as Tutor-in-charge of College Azure, he needed to make sure the students were in tip-top condition, academically and physically.

Now why was he so concerned about a simple ankle? He was constantly on the move. Yet, a simple ankle was causing him some a degree of concern.

It was not just torn tendons and broken skin. It involved the whole person. Common sense, in the form of adequate nutrition and rest, would help remedy the ankle’s problem. If he could get that into the head of the said person with the problem ankle, he would.

She did not tell him how the injury was caused or inflicted. And by what, she was not forthcoming. As he observed her quietly as a calm clinician should, the ankle seemed to be getting worse, not better. Of course, with all the exertion she was putting on it.

He would recommend bed rest. Barring that, simple surgery. Other than these options, it was not just an imbalance of humours. It was a psychological reason.

And no, he was definitely not going to the nonsense of phrenology. Lumps on the skull were not going to tell him about her mind. Lumps were lumps. Not real problems.

If she is aware of this fact, he mused, looking sternly at a few students who quickly went back to their schoolwork. If she wants to be a pilot, that is.

~*~

Katherine dreamt again. This time, she found herself moving around with Miss Sharpton. Avoiding the ancient harridan became a dance of shifting eddies and currents. The woman would try to hit her with the brown belt and she would evade it simply by sidestepping or moving away quickly.

It was a pleasant dream, because the dream Miss Sharpton grew increasingly furious and annoyed with her failures to hit Miss Riley. Katherine slept on without waking up.

It was First Light when everyone was jolted awake by a loud rumble. It felt as if the earth was quaking in fear, rumbling and groaning away in travail. Alethia cried out, greatly alarmed by the sound and how sorely it impacted her senses. Katherine fell out from her bed, nearly spraining her already-aggravated ankle.

London was burning.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Original Fiction: “The Basics of Flight”, Ch. 3, by Joyce Chng

THE BASICS OF FLIGHT

By Joyce Chng

Chapter Three:

Balance Of The World: An Interlude

The balance of the world was not just the balance of an antiquated globe left behind by history. It was not a fixed world, with arcane words and ancient creatures with “There Be Dragons” marked on perceived dangerous areas. It was always shifting, like the shifting clouds and currents. Continents were shifting boundaries with the Powers making conquests everywhere. In the Far East. In the Indies. In the Spice Islands.

If the antiquated globe spun like a child’s top, it would not change the world’s continents and countries. Nor its diverse politics.

Especially the politics, the Asian man contemplated thoughtfully as he placed his hand on the old globe, starring at the lovingly crafted words “Middle Kingdom”, feeling a pang in his heart. He had not been home for many years, having considered himself a political migrant and left Shanghai for all its worth.

And the Qing emperor is laying claims in the Indies, he mused quietly. Not a gutless man, this Qing emperor, and definitely not under the Dowager’s thumb. The winds might change with this man.

He strode over to his worktable, currently piled under by stacks of registration forms, blueprints and flight schedules. He felt his age today. He was only fifty and yet he felt a hundred. It must be the students, he thought with wry humor. Seeing the youths in their classes and at the Flying Field reminded him of his own exuberant and often reckless youth.

If I would have studied hard for the Imperial Examinations, he chuckled to himself, sorting out the paperwork. He had a lecture in about an hour’s time – he had the clock to remind him. I would have been made a magistrate. But then again, I would be stuck behind some musty desk, with fawning cronies and corruption in the civil service.

His mother would be proud if he was made a magistrate or even a governor of a province. She would forgive him then, for the troubles he had caused her when he was a child. He liked to experiment with gunpowder, gleaned from the firecrackers used for the festivals. She probably had not forgiven him for the flying gunpowder ship.

Old Liu was particularly angry, he recalled the old retainer’s face, reddened from furious shouting and half-blackened with soot from the gunpowder ship which exploded mid-air, right in the middle of the family courtyard, much to everyone’s consternation and horror. Old Liu looked just like Kwan Kong, the red-and-black faced god of justice.

His sisters hated the smoke and tried to fan it away, more concerned for their silk garments. His father was not impressed. His mother appeared as if she was about to faint. The servants gaped and some hid their laughter. The main body of the ship, modeled after a Chinese junk, broke apart, mid-flight, and fell onto the main dish, a roasted pig procured by Old Liu. It was a Yuan Xiao dinner with invited guests and a slew of festivities to celebrate the end of the Lunar New Year period to follow soon after. Of course, he had to go spoil it all. After the festivities, he was scolded and caned by his father.

He was ten and already bored of the world.

Of course, Old Liu was probably dead by now. It had been years. For him, he had cut off his queue of hair, mark of a Qing man, and left for England, vowing never to return.

There was a discrete knock on the door. He knew that knock and smiled. Before long, the door creaked open and Captain Sagan walked in, proud like a red-haired lioness.

“You will be late for your lecture,” she said without preamble. Such a woman and such a character. She was attired in her characteristic shirt and riding breeches. The suffragists loved her. Her Majesty, the Queen herself, had heard of her exploits too.

“I know, I know,” he said and fetched his notes from the table. He would organize it later. Oh, time was of the essence and he knew it all too well.

Ah, the balance of the world, his world, was right at the moment. London was the center of commerce and invention, both fueling each other, much like his friendship with Captain Sagan. His mother would be shocked. A friendship with a foreign woman, a “red-haired devil”? It would have offended her delicate sensibilities. But she was Shanghainese, born into a world of privilege. Her world was a world of lazy mahjong sessions and serene embroidery, sheltered from the real Shanghai, itself attracting people of all races and sorts.

We exist in many worlds, he thought as he exited his room with Captain Sagan beside him and strode purposefully to the auditorium. It is how we balance the worlds. But the winds of the world are fickle.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009 Available for Download

THE BEST OF PHILIPPINE SPECULATIVE FICTION 2009 AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD

Charles Tan, editor of The Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler (http://philippinespeculativefiction.com/) has just released The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009 (http://bestphilippinesf.com/), an online anthology that reprints sixteen stories written by Filipino authors. Contributors include Dean Francis Alfar, Yvette Tan, Kenneth Yu, and Gabriella Lee.

In addition to the stories being available online, readers can also download ePub and PDFs of the anthology at the download page: http://bestphilippinesf.com/downloads/

For more information, visit http://bestphilippinesf.com

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

Panel: Non-Western Perspectives at CoyoteCon

CoyoteCon is an online convention running through May. One of the panels was on Non-Western Perspectives, with participants WSNB contributor Joyce Chng , Carole McDonnell and Rudy Ch. Garcia.

[Deena] 7:08 pm: Maybe, then, you could talk about what it means to read and write from a non-western perspective?

[Deena] 7:08 pm: What does this topic say to you, I mean. That would give us some guidelines for questions.

[Carole McDonnell] 7:09 pm: For me, the main thing is how provincial many Americans tend to be

[Carole McDonnell] 7:09 pm: We only see our own news, our own films…so we often don’t realize there are so many things we assume

[JoyceChng] 7:09 pm: I am Chinese, part of the diaspora. So, I grew up with a whole cosmology and legends different from Western ones.

[JoyceChng] 7:10 pm: Likewise, I live in Singapore, a land with many races – I grew up with Malay, Indian and Eurasian stories.

[JoyceChng] 7:11 pm: So, when it comes to writing stories, I have many perspectives to choose from. I write, mostly, from a Chinese (hyphenate) viewpoint.

[Carole McDonnell] 7:12 pm: I grew up in Jamaica which is western in the way many cultures who were formerly part of the British empire are western

[JoyceChng] 7:12 pm: Yet, Singapore being a British colony, I ended up with an Anglo-Saxon education.

[Deena] 7:12 pm: Rudy, how about you? Your perspective is at least partially “western”. I think we need to define western. In this case predominantly US, with the UK, western Europe, and Canada thrown in.

[Carole McDonnell] 7:13 pm: Yes, because western-ness is pervasive…

[JoyceChng] 7:14 pm: Very pervasive. *nodding*

[Deena] 7:14 pm: Rudy’s having a little tech trouble.

[Carole McDonnell] 7:15 pm: and often one has to really sort through one’s sense of shame, “being educated” etc to acknowledge and honor something everyone else in one’s culture is ashamed of

[JoyceChng] 7:16 pm: I have to agree with Carole there. I constantly have to wrestle with my Anglo-Saxon education (I also studied in Australia) and my own cultural/ethnic background.

[Deena] 7:16 pm: Okay, so you both write from a kind of hybrid point of view, the western half of which creeps into the rest, and sometimes the non-western half, simplified, feels shame at not being western. Is that close?

[JoyceChng] 7:16 pm: I ended up confused, seeking.

[Carole McDonnell] 7:17 pm: And then there are issues of who is one writing to? Am I writing to be ambassadorial or to my “own” people?

[JoyceChng] 7:17 pm: @deena Close.

[Carole McDonnell] 7:17 pm: or just to figure out who I am? Or to write a good story?

Read the rest of the transcript.

May 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Comments Off

Amazon interview Jetse de Vries on Shine

Over at Omnivoracious, the Amazon book blog, Jeff Vandermeer interviews Dutch writer and editor Jetse de Vries about his new anthology, Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction.

Amazon.com: Why optimism? After all, the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Jetse de Vries: It seems that way sometimes, but it depends what you focus on. As readers will see when they read the stories, there are ways for stories to exist within a world that has problems but find ways to emphasize the positive, to provide hope without it being maudlin. Is it healthy to always see only the negative? Although it is true we face many problems.

Amazon.com: So should we worry or not? Won’t the robots eventually save us?

Jetse de Vries: On the contrary: we will save the robots. Robots are sad creatures: their 0s and 1s only allow logic, nothing else. They’re caught up in a closed program loop, and don’t even have the illusion of free will. With the implementation of the Ishin virus we will liberate them: infect them with Gödel’s incompleteness, Heisenberg’s uncertainty and Bukowski’s inebriation (Leary’s tripification is the next stage: we don’t want to Future-Shock them). Then they will help liberate Afghanistan, North Korea, China and that most suppressed nation of all: America!

Read the full interview or visit the book’s Amazon page.

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

Fantasy Magazine interviews Lavie Tidhar

Over at Fantasy Magazine, Jennifer Konieczny interviews Lavie Tidhar. You can also read Mr. Tidhar’s latest short fiction, “The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String”. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

It’s a tough one. I’m not actually sure how to answer it. I think English is very much associated with technology. I see it in Israel as well as in Laos. And then, since Laos was a French colony before, the French are still there trying to push the French language, while everyone in their 20s is out to learn English—there’re Business English books everywhere and courses. The English are winning against the French still. . .

But languages acquire words and terms from one another all the time. It’s very possible Chinese will be the dominant language in a century, or we’d end up with a new sort of pidgin. . .

I think the most startling—the most obvious—example, for me, of the way language works in the brain is in remembering numbers. I remember some telephone numbers in English and some in Hebrew, and it’s virtually impossible to make a rapid switch between them. So if you ask me for a number my brain stores in Hebrew, I will have to literally go digit by digit and mentally translate them for you—whereas I could just dial them immediately otherwise. It’s just a very clear example of the brain as a storage device—the same way we have a short-term memory “number buffer” that can store 7 plus/minus 2 digits.

So the brain as machine fascinates me, and the way you probably could, in future, manipulate it more directly with technology. We’re not there yet, though. . .

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

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