- Terry Harpold, University of Florida, USA (Chair)
- Abhijit Gupta, Jadavpur University, India
- Dale Knickerbocker, East Carolina University, USA
- Leith Morton, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
- Helen Pilinovski, CSU-San Bernardino, USA
- Lisa Raphals, UC-Riverside, USA
Over at SF Signal, I interview Carmelo Rafala of Immersion Press. His latest anthology, The Immersion Book of SF, includes international contributors like Jason Erik Lundberg, Aliette de Bodard, Gord Sellar, and Lavie Tidhar.
Over at Amazon’s blog, Omnivoracious, Matthew Cheney interviews Nnedi Okorafor. Here’s an excerpt:
Amazon.com: Sure, that makes a lot of sense. Now, to completely change topics, I’d like to talk about a particular section of the book. The Red People live in the eye of a perpetual storm — it’s an extraordinary image, and it conveys a lot about both the attraction and peril of a group sealing themselves off from the world. How did the concept of the Red People occur to you?
Okorafor: Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that once in Nigeria — no twice, at two different times — I saw a woman walking down the road who was African looking but her skin was just…red. I don’t know if these two women had rubbed palm oil on their skin or something but their brown skin had this very strong tint of red. Both women were really beautiful. Over the years, I’ve thought about these two random women a lot. I’ve asked relatives and Nigerian friends if they’ve ever seen such women, the only person who had was my sister Ifeoma (who was there when we saw the first red woman). When something fascinates me it almost always makes it into my stories.
As for the culture of the Red People, that just came as I was writing. That’s one of those writer things where the story blows in from some other place and you just write it down. Even the giant sandstorm they live within, I don’t know where that came from (though I do have a fascination with violent winds- tornadoes, hurricanes, sandstorms, etc) but once it was there, the metaphor made so much sense to me.
Nevertheless, I believe that much of the Red People’s culture came from some of my own views. I believe our society has too many labels that are rigid and cause problems for families. I feel like we focus more on fitting labels than cultivating and nurturing love. And I also believe that those who are different, those who are “other” often have to hide, “contain” and separate themselves in order to survive.
In Mary Anne Mohanraj’s latest blog entry, she mentions that she’s looking for South Asian SF authors for an academic article she and Anil Menon are working on. If you have any suggestions, comment there.
Anil Menon and I are working on a short academic article about South Asian SF authors. To that end, any names you could throw our way would be very helpful!
The article will cover both local and diaspora writers, and is writing in English, local languages — any language, really. So for example, if there’s a Pakistani-Swiss diaspora author writing science fiction in Swiss-German, we’d love to know about her.
Aliette De Bodard currently has an essay up on Asimov’s entitled Thought Experiments: The View from the Other Side: Science Fiction and Non-Western/Non-Anglophone Countries. Here’s an excerpt:
Given all of this, it is not surprising that science fiction (in the way we usually mean it—I will come back to this later), a genre steeped in progress and what it would all mean for the future, is so deeply Western in its beginnings. Works of genre in this time period include H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (a tale of an Englishman going forward into the future) and Jules Verne’s novels (meant both as thrilling adventures and didactic books, where it is common to find an entire chapter of scientific infodumping).
Of all the countries that might have challenged the Western domination, the biggest ones—China and Russia—were mired in various political and economic difficulties that prevented them from ascending as world powers. There is, however, one notable exception to the Western domination of science.
Japan reached a crisis point in the second half of the nineteenth century. Beset by foreigners and in danger of being swallowed politically, the country found itself a new leader in the person of the Meiji Emperor, and a new government that believed that the key to the Japanese future lay in the understanding of Western science and methods. To that end, the Iwakura Mission toured Europe and the US for two years, studying the Western system. In the wake of this, commissions were set up to decide which parts of the Western modernization were in keeping with the Japanese spirit, and which needed to be modified.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Japan has a history of science fiction almost as old as that of the West. The scientific romances of Wells and Verne find their counterparts in those of Shun¯o Oshikawa and other writers of the era.
Gord Sellar, currently residing in Korea, has been interviewed in two venues. The first is in the Seoul SF & Fantasy Library, and you can find the English translation (in PDF) here. The interview was conducted by translator Hong Insu.
The other interview is by SF critic Ko Jangwon and published in his blog. The interview is available in both Korean and English.
Gord Sellar shares his opinion on Boyran, a novel by World’s Youngest Fantasy Writer Wonje Song.
“Boyran” by Wonje Song was published in 1995 by the Joong-ang Daily News. The bit in the middle — “a novel by World’s Youngest Fantasy Writer” is factually inaccurate, of course: he tied with Jim Theis, author of The Eye of Argon, which Nick mentioned as soon as we started reading through the text.
Well, if you know anything about that latter novel, you know that it’s famously baaaaaaaaaad, famously awful indeed — David Langford puts it thus (as quoted inthe Wikipedia page on the text): “”a malaprop genius, a McGonagall of prose with an eerie gift for choosing the wrong word and then misapplying it”– and that it has been circulated mercilessly among SF fans who use it as part of a party game. Thies was also 16 when he wrote The Eye of Argon, and that was a full twenty-five years before Song’s book was published.
In my novel, Who Fears Death, there is a scene where some girls are…cut. In this future world, the mythos behind the practice has been forgotten but a girl is still expected to have the cliterectomy done. If it is not done, then the girl is not considered marriageable. Still, no girl is forced. It is her choice to have it done. ;-). Clean medical tools are used and the girls receive proper medical care afterwards. In other words, in this African future, girls do not die from this practice as they do today. The scene strips the practice down to exactly what it is.
Back in the early stages of this novel, I workshopped this scene in my novel writing class during my PhD program. My class was all white, from what I recall. After reading it, two women became particularly upset with me. During the critque, I sat there quiet as they accused me of defending female genital cutting. I guess they wanted me to demonize the culture and shout “Barbaric! Barbaric people! Look at what they are doing to their girls and women!” Over the years, the circumcision scene in Who Fears Death has not changed much. So now here I am being accused of the opposite, publically disrespecting traditional African culture.
Over at the Haikasoru Blog, Nick Mamatas has a short post on Jay Rubin’s (known for translating Haruki Murakami’s fiction) approach at translation:
In one of the appendices, he talks about the challenge of translating Japanese, and offers up two sample translations of a paragraph in the Murakami short story “The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema.” He notes that while one version is awkward and the other smooth, both are linguistically equidistant from the original Japanese. The awkward version just has an “illusion of literalness” simply because it isn’t as good.
Then Rubin offers up a real literal translation of the same paragraph. English loan words are in italics. I’m keying this in from the UK edition, thus the alternative spellings of the words “color” and “meter.”
High school’s corridor say-if, combination salad think-up. Lettuce and tomato and cucumber and green pepper and asparagus, ring-cut bulb onion, and pink-colour’s Thousand Island dressing. No argument high school corridor’s hit-end in salad specialty shop exists meaning is-not. High school corridor’s hit-end in, door existing, door’s outside in, too-much flash-do-not 25 metre pool exists only is.
When I think of my high school’s corridor, I think of combination salads: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, asparagus, onion rings, and pink Thousand Islands dressing. Not that there was a salad shop at the end of the corridor. No, there was just a door, and beyond the door a drab 25-metre pool.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency interviews science fiction writer Housuke Nojiri. Here’s an excerpt:
I had written some stories around girl heroines previously, but not about high school girls becoming astronauts. There is this stereotypical image of astronauts, established in the time of the Apollo missions, where they are believed to be very outstanding and heroic people, with the highest intelligence and the best physical ability. So people around me often said that there was no way girl-next-door-type high school teenagers could become astronauts. But, after studying the possibility very carefully, I was convinced that high school students are capable of going to space. The heroines of Rocket Girls go through a very intensive astronaut training program on a southern island, and succeed in space flight, even landing on the Moon. I believe that, if she is isolated from the rest of the world and forced to concentrate on training because there is nothing else to do, a high school girl can learn how to operate a spacecraft. With good instructors, it would also be possible for her to understand all the mechanics of spacecraft.
In fact, Akita University is holding the Rocket Girls Training Program, where high school girls can learn how to build a satellite and a rocket. In the beginning of the program, they just sat and listened to the instructors talk. But two months later, their faces began to change; you could tell that they were trying to figure things out for themselves. These students, who used to always ask, “what should I do here?”, soon started suggesting ideas and making progress, asking, “I did this here. Is that correct?” In the end, unfortunately, after its successful launch, the satellite couldn’t separate from its two-meter rocket.
They had so much pressure to make the one-time-only rocket launch successful. But building something with colleagues through trial and error is very similar to the real world of space development. Having such an experience at that age must have a great influence on their future. In fact, some of the girls have already decided to study science and technology at university. For space education, I think it’s very important to give the younger generation exposure to the world of space development.