Tireless WSNB contributor, blogger, interviewer, reviewer and much more, Charles Tan has just won the inaugural Last Drink Bird Head Award, given by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer, in the International Activism category: In recognition of those who work to bring writers from other literary traditions and countries to the attention of readers in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia….
Anna Caro writes in to say:
The place of speculative fiction in New Zealand is full of contraductions. On the one hand, it has a history of being marginalised, and writers face the dual challenges of local markets which tend towards publishing literary fiction, and international markets which can (though there are notable exceptions) be reluctant to publish work with New Zealand content or setting. But despite that there is a long history of notable speculative fiction authors, particularly when it comes to children’s writing, a captive audience (which is sadly mostly limited to fiction from overseas) and a rich landscape and history which has acted as an inspiration to many writers because, as one blogging week participant put it, “frankly, New Zealand is pretty weird”.
In the absence of a nationwide organisation for speculative fiction writers, writer Ripley Patton began grouping together a committee, or “core” as we became known, with the intention of building one. SpecFicNZ is scheduled for formal launch in 2010, though we already have a strong network and newsletter (to go on the mailing list or contribute items, you can email give_a_rip AT yahoo.co.uk). Quite early in our discussions it came up that we needed to not just gauge what was out there, but get people talking, networking, reading. And that was how we came to initiate New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week.
The concept was simple: one week in September when we would invite readers, writers, publishers and editors to blog about any aspect of New Zealand Speculative fiction. The links would be collected on a central page so everyone could read and comment.
The week exceeded expectations, with 52 posts by 24 different authors. Bloggers shared thoughts on local influence on writing, announced publications and posted examples of their own work. They delved into history for examples of New Zealand speculative fiction from the nineteenth century and predicted what the future may hold. Immigrants and expats (and even someone who had never visited the country) brought unique perspectives. Events were announced and reported on. Writers and publishers were interviewed, frustrations aired and plans made. Many shared their first experiences of reading or writing speculative fiction, others examined the influence of the landscape in writing.
If you have an interest in finding out a little about speculative fiction in New Zealand, then the New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week post is an excellent place to start – and keep your eyes open for the launch of SpecFicNZ next year.
The Black Mirror & Other Stories is a 2008 anthology of German and Austrian science fiction short stories, edited by Franz Rottensteiner and translated by Mike Mitchell. It is published by the Wesleyan Press. Adam Roberts reviews it this week over at Strange Horizons, beginning his review with:
Being raised Anglophone in a world that tends to use English as its lingua franca (lingua commercia, lingua pedagogica, and of course not forgetting lingua imperia Americanae) can result in complacency. It’ll easily slip a person’s mind that there’s nothing natural or inevitable about this state of affairs. Worse, books that contrive to get themselves written in languages other than English can acquire the air of poor relations—competitors at a sort of cultural paralympics whilst English-language titles thrash it out at the main Olympics event elsewhere.
As you can probably tell from that opening paragraph, with its apologetic tone and its mannered lapsings into that other, now-superceded lingua franca, Latin, I’m edging towards a mea culpa. That I don’t speak German, a state of affairs about which I used to feel blithe indifference, is increasingly, as I grow older, a matter of great shame to me. I ought to be able speak German. I ought to be able to do so in a general sense, as a twenty-first century European; but I ought to be able to do so in a more specialized sense, as somebody interested in the history of science fiction. Because German writers have played a crucial role in the development of that genre. – Continue reading.
Editors Eric Choi and Derwin Mak have announced the table of contents for the forthcoming anthology The Dragon and the Stars.
The Dragon and the Stars, edited by Eric Choi and Derwin Mak, the first anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories by ethnic Chinese outside China, will be published by DAW Books next year. It’s an international anthology with stories from writers in Canada, the United States, Philippines, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Here are the stories in order of their appearance in the book:
Introduction by Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestseller novelist.
“The Character of the Hound” by Tony Pi (Canada)
During the war between the Southern Song and the Jin Dynasties, a soldier allows a spirit to possess his body so he can solve a murder.
“The Fortunes of Mrs. Yu” by Charles Tan (Philippines)
A Filipino Chinese woman is horrified that each of her fortune cookies has a blank strip of paper inside it.
“Goin Down to Anglotown” by William F. Wu (U.S.A.)
In an alternate America that is dominated by Asians, three young Asian men go out for a night of intrigue in exotic “Anglotown”.
“The Polar Bear Carries the Mail” by Derwin Mak (Canada)
Chinese investors and a Chinese Canadian pilot try to start a space tourism business in northern Canada. Unfortunately, they have bad feng shui at their spaceport.
“Lips of Ash” by Emery Huang (U.S.A.)
During the time of a historical dynasty, a cosmetics artist uses dark magic to help the ambitious mistress of a nobleman.
“The Man on the Moon” by Crystal Gail Shangkuan Koo (Hong Kong)
Yue Lao (月老), the Man on the Moon, hosts a beauty pageant to find a bride.
“Across the Sea” by Emily Mah (U.S.A.)
A Tlingowa Native American woman’s aunt tells a legend about mysterious visitors who came to America hundreds of years ago.
“Mortal Clay, Stone Heart” by Eugie Foster (U.S.A.)
During the reign of the First Emperor, a clay sculptor finds love and tragedy with a soldier.
“Dancers with Red Shoes” by Melissa Yuan-Innes (Canada)
In Montréal, magical red shoes dance by themselves.
“Intelligent Truth” by Shelly Li (U.S.A.)
A young Chinese American woman discovers truths about herself and her mother’s intelligent robotic servant.
“Bargains” by Gabriela Lee (Singapore)
A young woman meets a strange shopkeeper in Chinatown. The shopkeeper sells success as a writer – but with a terrible price.
“Threes” by E.L. Chen (Canada)
A Canadian man thinks his dead wife has become a Chinese dragon in Lake Ontario.
“The Son of Heaven” by Eric Choi (Canada)
The Chinese rocket scientist Tsien Hsue-shen (钱学森) is persecuted during the Red Scare in America in the 1950s.
“Shadow City” by Susan Ee (U.S.A.)
In a fantasy universe, a gatekeeper must stop people from leaving an evil place called Shadow City.
“The Water Weapon” by Brenda W. Clough (U.S.A.)
The British police are suspicious of a talking Chinese dragon and a Chinese princess who appear at the Great Exposition of 1851 in London.
“The Right to Eat Decent Food” by Urania Fung (U.S.A.)
Two American English teachers in China will do anything to get decent food during the SARS epidemic.
“Papa and Mama” by Wen Y Phua (Singapore)
A Chinese daughter struggles to remain dutiful to her late parents, who are inconveniently reincarnated as a fish and a bird.
“Beidou” by Ken Liu (U.S.A.)
In the Ming war against Japan, an ingenious Chinese army officer invents new weapons to defeat the Japanese.
Afterword by Derwin Mak & Eric Choi
Our Monday’s original content this week is the first part of Guy Hasson’s new column for us, SF From the Rim. In this first installment Guy talks about the making of his first feature film, the Hebrew science fiction movie Heart of Stone.
SF FROM THE RIM
Making ‘Heart of Stone’: An Israeli SF Film (Part I)
By Guy Hasson
My name is Guy Hasson. I’m an author, a playwright and a director, and a filmmaker. Last year, I wrote, directed, shot, and produced an independent, feature-length, low-budget SF film in Hebrew called ‘Heart of Stone’. The film premiered in Israel’s ICon 2008 SF Festival.
The film is exotic and different from any film you’ve ever seen. It is not exotic because it falls under the genre of Israeli SF (a film genre that does not exist) or because it has experimental shots (it doesn’t) or because it experiments with basic story structure (it doesn’t). The positive side of having no money ($27,000 budget) and no hope of being shown regularly in the country in which I shot it (no audience for the genre) was that I had complete freedom. I had to decide: How far should I go with my complete freedom? The temptation was too great: All the way!
I chose to make something extreme in structure, extreme in content, and extreme in its emotional intensity. Reaching an audience as wide as possible was not on my radar. Rather, my sight was set on the SF fans looking for something completely new and different, an experience that is getting rarer and rarer in SF these days.
This is the story of how we made ‘Heart of Stone’ for $27,000.
Making ‘Heart of Stone’
Writing the Film
In writing the film, I had to consider the fact that I would not be able to find anyone to finance it. And so I wrote it for five actors and three locations, with no special effects. The male lead appears in all scenes and in 99.9% of the shots. The female lead appears in 80% of the scenes. The next supporting actress appears in 20% of the film. The other two supporting actresses appear for 5-7 minutes each. The film would have to be based on story and great acting.
Financing the Film
In financing the film, there was no chance of getting money from any film fund. Not only is the genre not a popular one, but first-time directors over thirty are frowned upon in cinema. I was 35. I was fortunate enough to get money from two very nice people: one who simply wanted to help original Israeli SF along and another who saw the financial potential of a movie offering something completely new in the international market, especially when taking into account that the investment and, therefore, the financial risk, is a small one.
Small side note: In order to save money, I decided to shoot the film myself, even though I have had absolutely no experience or knowledge in the field. Yes, it sounds crazy and scary and impossible. Fortunately, it panned out, and a lot of money was saved in the process. Needless to say, that decision reduced the chances of getting money from film funds to nil.
If you let virtuosic actors act in normal roles, the result is magnificent. If you take virtuosic actors and let them act in roles that are structured around their strong suits, the results are unbelievable. In my years in the theater and as a scriptwriter, I’ve come to know quite a few amazing talents. I wrote four of the five parts to specific actors and their strong suits, with their approval. For the part of the female lead, I had to hold auditions.
In this case, it helped being an SF author. I posted a few messages in the SF forums on the internet, saying I’m shooting an SF film, and that I’m looking for two apartments to shoot in (2 of the 3 locations are in apartments, the third is outside, on a road on the way to the airport). I immediately got more offers than I could use. The two apartments we used were generously given to us by devoted fans, no questions asked.
Shooting the Film
Limited money meant limited time to shoot the film. We had one month to rehearse (with all actors also working elsewhere) and ten half-days in which to shoot a 100 min. film. This is how we did it.
One: The rehearsal process meant that the actors came ready and knew exactly what to do, how to do it, and what was needed.
Two: There were absolutely no long arguments/discussions between the cinematographer and the director, since both of them were the same person. That saved a lot of time.
Three: A scene in a movie is usually shot from many directions, in many different takes, and at the end the editor has to sort it out and make a story out of it. I didn’t do that. I shot the film for editing. This means that if a scene is, say, 5 min. long, then I would shoot the first ten seconds from one angle and one angle only, I would shoot the next 30 seconds from another angle, and so on, according to the way I thought the film should be edited when it was done. This saved days and days of shooting, but was another huge gamble. Shooting like this meant that if, once the shooting ended, we found out that we couldn’t cut from point A to point B, the film would not work, because there were no alternatives. Fortunately, I only made three horrible mistakes, which Avi Levy, the editor, fixed with great ingenuity.
The film is written for five actors, but six characters. The sixth character is portrayed through music alone, as it is a character that resides inside the lead character’s head. The music in the film is almost entirely never used to create mood, tension, or help the viewers feel the story. It is there to portray the sixth character. The instructions in the script were specific and quite insane (we’ll get to examples when we’ll talk about the exotic content of the film). Without music done right, the film would not work. To score the film I chose Nir Yaniv, who is an SF author and a musician. This was another case of choosing someone talented to do something that burns within him: in this case, science fiction. To hear some of the music Nir wrote for the film, you can check out the ‘Heart of Stone’ website.
The Exotic Content of ‘Heart of Stone’
Here ends the logistical part of how we made an exotic film for very little money. We have yet to talk about the exotic elements in ‘Heart of Stone’ or even about the fantastic element which makes it SF. ‘Heart of Stone’ is a film about a character who feels emotions that are unknown and not at all human. In part II I’m going to talk about the film’s exotic content and the tools needed to write and score a film about emotions that do not exist and that the audience does not feel.
Guy Hasson: www.guyhasson.com
Heart of Stone website, with the subtitled trailer: www.israelisf.com
Charles was quite taken with this story, by Francezca C. Kwe over at the Philippine Graphic: The Fires of the Sun in a Crystalline Sky (after Greg Brillantes).
The Star newspaper of Malaysia reports that “Puteri Umno wants the Government to ban the production of “horror, mystical and superstitious” movies, claiming such films can weaken the faith of Muslims in the country. The movement also wants the authorities to empower the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to take action against such productions.”
UMNO’s Wikipedia entry describes the United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO, as “a right-wing party and Malaysia’s largest political party; a founding member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been Malaysia’s ruling political party since independence. It is known for being a major proponent of Malay nationalism, Islamism and capitalism, which holds that the Malay are the “definitive” people of Malaysia and, thus, deserve special privileges as their birthright than any other race in Malaysia.”
The Malaysian Film Producers Association hit back, saying in the Malay Mail: “It’s easy to put the blame on movies for social ills, but movies aren’t the root cause of social ills.”
An introduction to comics in Poland, looking at stand-alones, series and magazines, as well as artists.
From the introduction: Komatsu Sakyô (pen name of Komatsu Minoru) was born in Osaka, Japan on January 28, 1931. With Tsutsui Yasutaka and Hoshi Shin’ichi, Komatsu is one of the “Three Greats” who formed the first generation of Japanese sf as it developed after the war, particularly during the later 1950s. Today he is one of Japanese sf’s most important authors.
When the publishing house Hayakawa Shobô started SF Magazine in 1959, they held a contest, the Hayakawa Science Fiction Competition. I sent in the story “Pacem in Terris,” and that was the beginning. The sponsor who provided the prize money was the Tôhô movie studio, which produced Gojira [1954, Godzilla, 1956]. The condition was that Tôhô would retain the movie rights to the winning story. That first year of the contest, I received an Honorable Mention and 5000 yen. The second year I shared the prize with Hanmura Ryô, who later won the Naoki Prize. We each got 30,000 yen from Tôhô, and I felt so obligated [laughs] that in 1973 when we were discussing a film version of Japan Sinks, I gave them the movie rights with almost no conditions. I think they paid 1.5 million yen. – Read the rest of the interview.
The Apex Book of World SF is coming out in two weeks (and is still available for pre-order from Apex Books), and one of the first reviews has just come in. Over at 42Scifi-Fantasy.com, reviewer Randy Lazarus is particularly taken with Dean Francis Alfar‘s The “Kite of Stars” and with Aleksandar Žiljak‘s “An Evening in the Coffeehouse with Lydia on My Mind”, concluding:
The great thing about Tidhar’s collection is that it is full of such masterpieces. You do have to get used to having your mind warped as if by some powerful psychedelic. You’ll definitely feel that way after Zoran Zivkovic and his Godot-like explorations. Or after Guy Hasson’s thought experiment about the nature of mind and thought. But once you get used to the idea, you can settle in and enjoy the ride.
UPDATE: They also have an interview with editor Lavie Tidhar.