Apex Magazine’s latest issue has a new short story by Chinese author Tang Fei, translated by Ken Liu: Call Girl.
Morning climbs in through the window as shadow recedes from Tang Xiaoyi’s body like a green tide imbued with the fragrance of trees. Where the tidewater used to be, now there is just Xiaoyi’s slender body, naked under the thin sunlight.
She opens her eyes, gets up, dresses, brushes her teeth, wipes away the foam at the corner of her mouth with a towel. Staring at the mirror, all serious, her face eventually breaks into a fifteen–year–old’s smile. Above her, a section of the rose–colored wallpaper applied to the ceiling droops down. This is the fourth place where this has happened.
My house is full of blooming flowers, Xiaoyi thinks.
“There must be another leak in the pipes,” her mother says. “There’s a large water stain growing on the wall.”
They sit down together to have a lavish breakfast: soy milk, eggs, pan–fried baozi, porridge. Xiaoyi eats without speaking.
When she’s ready to leave the apartment, she takes out a stack of money from her backpack and leaves it on the table. Her mother pretends not to see as she turns to do the dishes. She has turned up the faucet so that the sound of the gushing water is louder than Xiaoyi’s footsteps.
Xiaoyi walks past her mother and the money on the table and closes the door. She can no longer hear the water. It’s so quiet she doesn’t hear anything at all.
Her knees shake.
She reaches up for the silver pendant hanging from her neck, a dog whistle. – continue reading.
I’ve been meaning to post about the Hugo Awards, which were recently announced. Usually with awards, we tend to post a note highlighting any writers of international interest (if any) and leave it at that, but I feel it might be worth saying a few more words this time, so please bear with me.
There seems to be a conversation about the Hugos every year, of roughly the same nature. A good example is this recent one, which takes them to task by saying:
Although the Hugos present the image of something more cosmopolitan or representative than the standard convention award, it’s becoming increasingly apparent every year that, despite being the most recognizable award in science fiction and fantasy cultural awareness, the Hugos are nothing more than an amalgamation of like minded WorldCon members, or agendized voting blocs, bent on vociferous back patting.
I have sympathy with this sort of argument, though it’s worth noting neither the Hugos nor the “WorldCon” were ever meant to be international or all-inclusive. “WorldCon” gets its name from the World’s Fair that took place in New York in 1939, and the “Hugos” take their name from a Jewish immigrant to the United States, Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the first science fiction pulp magazine. Moreover, the Hugos do reflect popular taste – a quick look at the sales figures of the shortlisted novels suggests they are very popular indeed, and are recognised as such.
I think a part of the sense of – disaffection – we get every year is the very real sense that science fiction [ETA: I'm using this as an umbrella term for speculative fiction, including fantasy] itself has profoundly changed over the decades. Some terribly ambitious novels had won the award since it began in 1953, a period during which science fiction was in a very real sense an avant garde literary movement. The first novel to win was Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, and the 1960s saw such novels as A Canticle for Leibowitz, Stranger in a Strange Land, Dune and Lord of Light winning – surely some of the most remarkable and ambitious examples of American science fiction ever written.
But the nature of genre publishing itself changed. It is now a massively successful, commercial genre, with thousands of titles published annually, multiple franchises and diverse fandoms. William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a winner in 1985, still seems to me to represent a watershed moment for SF, a when-it-changed – less the arrival of a new era as the death of an older one, and it is suggestive that is was followed, a year later, by Ender’s Game, a novel that very much stands for the new kind of SF.
Ambition, experiment, a sense of being at the vanguard are not necessarily the qualities one looks for in a Hugo winner, though certainly ambitious and challenging work continues to be recognised – Mieville’s The City and the City, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to take two.
And science fiction fans, globally, continue to be invested in the Hugos, whether they vote for them or attend a Worldcon. It is not seen as belonging to the thousand or so people who vote for it, but to anyone who is a fan of SF. And they are not easy to vote for. Attending a WorldCon is an expensive proposition, and even a supporting membership, purely for voting, can be a massive expense for someone not earning “First World” salaries.
The arguments, I suspect, will continue for years to come, but I thought it valuable to highlight just what I see as so remarkable in this year’s shortlist.
And the thing is this – this is perhaps the first year in the award’s history (and the Campbell, a “Not a Hugo” award) where we see such a strong representation of international voices. I’m not sure I can highlight this enough. Saladin Ahmed‘s Throne of the Crescent Moon, for instance, is the first novel by a Muslim writer ever to be nominated for a Hugo. The first by an Arab-American, for that matter. (And this is when being Muslim in SF is still cause for a lot of nasty sniping, to put it mildly). Ken Liu, a Chinese-American author doing amazing work, amongst others, in translating Chinese science fiction into English, is nominated for Best Short Story. Aliette de Bodard, a French author of Vietnamese ancestry, is nominated for both Best Novella and Best Short Story, while Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a surprise nominee with a translated story in the Best Novelette category.
Even more exciting, the Campbell Award, recognising emerging writers, has author Zen Cho as a nominee – the first time a Malaysian author is so recognised.
The Hugos are changing, I think. Or SF as a whole is changing. The surprise is not that popular American writers are nominated for a Hugo – but that diversity is increasingly represented on the ballots.
And frankly, for all my love of 1960s American SF, this seems to me to be the more exciting time to be involved with the genre.
Cause it’s Wednesday!
New Chinese kung fu steampunk movie Kung Fu Zero.
Chinese author Han Song will be interviewed by WSB editor Lavie Tidhar tonight in London, at 7pm.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction recently completed its entry on Han Song, as part of its ongoing project to expand international entries. It also has an entry on Apex Book of World SF 2 contributor, Chen Qiufan.
She traveled in Tibet and one day arrived at Doji lamasery. It was a small temple of Tibetan Buddhism now in a bleak, half-ruined state. What Caught her eye was a string of bronze wheels hung around the wall of the temple. They were called the Wheels of Samsara.
There was a total of one hundred and eight wheels, moving in the wind; they symbolized the eternal cycle of life and death; of everything. She quickly noticed that one of them was a strange colour of dark green, singling itself out from the others, which were yellow.
It was the thirty-sixth wheel when counted clockwise.
She touched the wheels one by one, and made a vow to Sakyamuni, the Great Buddha. Midway through a sudden gale began to blow and a heavy mist fell. She was scared and she ran back to the temple.
She stayed in the lamasery that night. – continue reading.
From the BSFA:
On Wednesday 10th Octber 2012, Han Song (Chinese Science Fiction author) will be interviewed by Lavie Tidhar (Israeli SF writer), with Antoaneta Becker translating.
Although little of his work has been translated into English* Han Song is one of the most prolific of Chinese SF writers, and has won the prestigious Galaxy prize six times.
*One recent exception is the short story ‘The Wheel of Samsara’, published in 2009 in The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar.
This meeting is presented in collaboration with the British Council.
ALL WELCOME – FREE ENTRY (Non-members welcome)
The interview will start at 7 pm. We have the room from 6pm (and if early, fans are in the ground floor bar from 5ish).
There will be a raffle (£1 for five tickets), with a selection of sf novels as prizes.
Several of the short stories nominated for this year’s SF&F translation Award are now available for free online.
From the award website:
We are pleased to report that a number of the short fiction finalists for our awards are being made available online. Currently you can find the following stories:
“The Fish of Lijiang” by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld #59, August 2011)
“Paradiso” by Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud, translated from the French by Edward Gauvin (Liquid Imagination #9, Summer 2011)
“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated from the Dutch by Laura Vroomen (PS Publishing)
“The Short Arm of History” by Kenneth Krabat, translated from the Danish by Niels Dalgaard (Sky City: New Science Fiction Stories by Danish Authors, Carl-Eddy Skovgaard ed., Science Fiction Cirklen)
“The Green Jacket” by Gudrun Östergaard, translated from the Danish by the author and Lea Thume (Sky City: New Science Fiction Stories by Danish Authors, Carl-Eddy Skovgaard ed., Science Fiction Cirklen)
Out thanks to the various publishers who have made these stories available. We are in discussions with Comma Press and PIASA Books regarding the other two stories and hope to have good news soon.
Blog Sense of Wonder interviews Verbena C.W., “editor-in-chief of Beijing Guomi Digital Technology, a company that is translating into English and publishing works by Liu Cixin and other Chinese authors. We talk at length about fiction in China and the company plans for the future.”
Odo: Beijing Guomi Digital Technology is a young publisher of Chinese fiction translated into English. How did it all begin?Verbena C.W.: Our company was set up in 2010. Yes, we are only two years old, so you could definitely say that we are very young indeed. Our team is mostly made up of authors and editors with a keen interest in both Eastern and Western cultures, dedicated to facilitating cross-cultural communication and inspired by their work between cultures.
In China, about 10 years ago, indie writers had already begun to serialize their novels on forums and literary websites. This lead many Chinese readers to very early on form the habit of reading on their PC. Now reports show that the e-book market in China has already expanded to a total 4 billion RMB. Though Amazon only launched the Kindle Store in 2007, somewhat later than the boom in China, we have already seen a rapid growth in the number of indie authors self-publishing book specifically produced for the Kindle. We saw this development as a great opportunity for intercultural communication and as a chance for us to bring translations of Chinese novels to a Western audience so we joined KDP.
Our team is scattered throughout the world; the States, Australia, Romania, Japan to name just a few countries. We work together online to bring the best results to our audience. Most of us have not even had the chance to meet face-to-face.
Odo: So far, you have published five novellas by Liu Cixin. Are you planning on publishing more of his work? Maybe his novels?V.C.W.: Yes, in fact we are currently talking to the author and his Chinese publisher about the publication of his novels in English. Among his works, the hard science-fiction trilogy Three-Body is the bestselling and most highly acclaimed for mature readers. In China, this series won over many who had never before read any science-fiction. If you are interested, here you can find a brief introduction to the author and his works. We are also considering translating and posting a couple of interviews of his from both mainland China and Hong Kong. – continue reading.
Damien Walter writes in the Guardian on Is science fiction literature’s first international language? He profiles the World SF Blog, gives The Apex Book of World SF 2 (only a few days left to get the special advance edition!) a plug, discusses Liu Cixin, and asks, “Who are the other international SF authors we should all be reading today?”
The World SF blog edited by Israeli born author Lavie Tidhar has been cataloguing the emergence of international SF since 2009, and the increasing cross-pollination between SF communities in Europe, South America, Asia, China, India and elsewhere. It’s an absolute must read for anyone still hardwired in to the Americanised, anglophone conception of SF. Much of the focus of translation efforts in the international SF community so far has been short fiction gathered in anthologies such as the Apex Book of World SF and Phillipine Speculative Fiction, but an increasing number of full-length novels are finding translation.
The work of Liu Cixin, eight-time winner of the Galaxy award and arguably the most popular SF author in China, is now available in English translation. Liu Cixin’s writing will remind SF fans of the genre’s golden age, with its positive focus on scientific development, combined with a consistently constructive vision of China’s future role as a global superpower. It’s characteristic of an SF genre which has been embraced by Chinese culture because it is seen as representing the values of technological innovation and creativity so highly prized in a country developing more quickly than any other in the world today. – read the full article.
Ken Liu writes to let us know of the publication of issue 2 of Pathlight Magazine, “a new English-language literary magazine produced by Paper Republic and People’s Literature Magazine (《人民文学》杂志社). It is currently in trial publication period—the first issue came out on November 20, and the second issue has been published in advance of the 2012 London Book Fair, where China is the Market Focus.” The issue is currently available for a free download.
Ken has translated a story from Chinese SF author Liu Cixin in the second issue, “Taking Care of God”. Ken writes:
Liu Cixin is among China’s most prominent science fiction authors, and People’s Literature is something like a Chinese version of Ploughshares. It’s very rare for a literary magazine like People’s Literature to go genre — but with Pathlight, edited by a Western staff, the idea is to introduce Chinese authors who’re a bit more outside the well-trodden path to English readers.
I’m really honored to have been given a chance to translate this work. Liu is a literary hero of mine and influenced me more than a little.
The issue also includes a story from prominent Tibetan-Chinese author Alai, who is well-known to SF readers as the one-time editor of the world’s biggest SF magazine, the Chinese SF World.
Clarkesworld Magazine this months features A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight by Xia Jia, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu:
Awakening of Insects, the Third Solar Term:
Ghost Street is long but narrow, like an indigo ribbon. You can cross it in eleven steps, but to walk it from end to end takes a full hour.
At the western end is Lanruo Temple, now fallen into ruin. Inside the temple is a large garden full of fruit trees and vegetable patches, as well as a bamboo grove and a lotus pond. The pond has fish, shrimp, dojo loaches, and yellow snails. So supplied, I have food to eat all year.
It’s evening, and I’m sitting at the door to the main hall, reading a copy of Huainanzi, the Han Dynasty essay collection, when along comes Yan Chixia, the great hero, vanquisher of demons and destroyer of evil spirits. He’s carrying a basket on the crook of his elbow, the legs of his pants rolled all the way up, revealing calves caked with black mud. I can’t help but laugh at the sight.
My teacher, the Monk, hears me and walks out of the dark corner of the main hall, gears grinding, and hits me on the head with his ferule.
I hold my head in pain, staring at the Monk in anger. But his iron face is expressionless, just like the statues of buddhas in the main hall. I throw down the book and run outside, while the Monk pursues me, his joints clanking and creaking the whole time. They are so rusted that he moves as slow as a snail.
I stop in front of Yan, and I see that his basket contains several new bamboo shoots, freshly dug from the ground.
“I want to eat meat,” I say, tilting my face up to look at him. “Can you shoot some buntings with your slingshot for me?”
“Buntings are best eaten in the fall, when they’re fat,” says Yan. “Now is the time for them to breed chicks. If you shoot them, there won’t be buntings to eat next year.”
“Just one, pleaaaaase?” I grab onto his sleeve and act cute. But he shakes his head resolutely, handing me the basket. He takes off his conical sedge hat and wipes the sweat off his face.
I laugh again as I look at him. His face is as smooth as an egg, with just a few wisps of curled black hair like weeds that have been missed by the gardener. Legend has it that his hair and beard used to be very thick, but I’m always pulling a few strands out now and then as a game. After so many years, these are all the hairs he has left.
“You must have died of hunger in a previous life,” Yan says, cradling the back of my head in his large palm. “The whole garden is full of food for you. No one is here to fight you for it.”
I make a face at him and take the basket of food. – continue reading!
About the author:
As an undergraduate, Ms. Xia majored in Atmospheric Sciences at Peking University. She then entered the Film Studies Program at the Communication University of China, where she completed her Master’s thesis: “The Representation of Women in Science Fiction Films.” Currently, she’s pursuing a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature and World Culture at Peking University. She has been publishing science fiction and fantasy since 2004 in a variety of venues, including Science Fiction World and Jiuzhou Fantasy. Several of her stories have won the Milky Way, China’s most prestigious science fiction award. Besides writing and translating science fiction stories, she also writes film scripts. (In accordance with Chinese custom, Ms Xia’s surname is listed first on this story.)