Salon.com has a feature on Russian SF novel Day of the Oprichnik, and Soviet SF in general:
During its 70-year lifetime, the Soviet Union was the perfect Other for Westerners: a colossal enigma, alternately dystopian and utopian, onto which we could project all our fears, hopes and dreams; a funhouse mirror in which our own culture was reflected in amusingly warped fashion; an outré parallel continuum from which bizarre messages trickled out at irregular intervals, bearing cryptic hints of off-kilter wonders, quotidian strangeness and kludgy tech. The Iron Curtain was no mere metaphor, but rather an imposing information barrier like the force field around Coventry, Robert Heinlein’s land of dissidents, rogue ideologues, criminals and nonconformists.
In this ancient era, science fiction readers and writers had some vague notion that the speculative literature of the Soviet Union represented a bracingly alternate family of narratives, a non-Anglo, non-Euro, non-North American, non-Latin American tradition of proleptic storytelling that sprang from an alien lineage of fabulism.
But solid examples of actual SF from the Communist Bloc were sparse on the ground. A few pioneering anthologies cropped up. Isaac Asimov, himself of Russian birth, introduced “Soviet Science Fiction” and “More Soviet Science Fiction,” both appearing in 1962; “Path Into the Unknown,” “Last Door to Aiya” and “The Ultimate Threshold” followed over the next eight years. Meanwhile, a few individual authors, such asStanislaw Lem and the Strugatsky brothers, were plucked by Western translators like beet chunks from the Soviet borscht.
Just when it seemed as if Soviet SF might be gaining a faltering foothold in the consciousness of Western readers, the political empire collapsed, taking the Soviet cultural superstructure with it. Since 1992, interest in — and access to — translated SF from Russia and other ex-Bloc countries seems to have fallen nearly to pre-1962 levels. Only the novels of Victor Pelevin (“The Life of Insects”) and Sergey Lukyanenko (“Night Watch”) appear to have made even a dent in American perceptions. Now, with the publication of two new translations of the remarkable work of Russian satirist Vladimir Sorokin — jaunty, despairing, cynical, hopeful, traditional and postmodern by turns — an even more explosive impact seems likely.
In his native country, Sorokin — born 1955 — is a figure of controversy and admiration, even occasionally spawning public protests against his bold and irreverent fiction, which was of course mostly suppressed under Communist rule. Reading his newest work, “Day of the Oprichnik,”part of a concerted publishing effort to introduce him to English-speaking readers, one encounters a Swiftian writer steeped in globally shared images out of science fiction, but whose sensibility is deeply rooted in Russian culture. – continue reading.
CNN reports on India’s first Comic Con:
India’s first comic convention wouldn’t have been born if Jatin Verma and his team of graphic geeks hadn’t forgotten to get travel visas.
“After we collected the money for the San Diego Comic Con, we realized we had no visas. So we decided to bring the comic con to us,” says Verma, CEO TwentyOnwards Media.
The idea turned into Comic Con India, a convention at urban fairground Dilli Haat in New Delhi with its usual fare of rural artisans and craftspeople.
Verma says it was a perfect location because they wanted that kind of “walk-in public.”
They were looking for comic virgins to rediscover Indian comics with a vernacular focus.
In all, some 15,000 fans, geeks, nerds and a whole lot of costumed freaks turned up. – continue reading.
Our friends from Blaft Publications also attended!
Val Grimm, Editors’ note: As part of our coverage of this year’s Second Annual Interactive Fiction Mini-Convention, we are publishing two articles from Interactive Fiction Theory Reader, a newly released collection of essays including work by Nick Montfort, Andrew Plotkin, Emily Short, and many more. This is the second article, the first being Francesco Cordella’s History of Italian IF. We are publishing it in two parts (read the first part here) due to the constraints of this WordPress installation.
The “French Touch”: Interactive Fiction in France in the 80s)
The production of adventure games in French in the 80s was very diverse, as well as numerous: hundreds of games were released, with different themes, different interfaces, different tones, and the genre was extremely popular at the time. Enumerating all the games published during the period would be tedious, and to be fair quite useless; instead, we are going to attempt a review of the genre throughout the 80s in a transversal way, looking at some characteristics of adventure games rather than the games individually. This methodology will allow us to see better the evolution of the genre, as well as its specifics. Continue reading
Val Grimm, Editors’ note: As part of our coverage of this year’s Second Annual Interactive Fiction Mini-Convention, we are publishing two articles from Interactive Fiction Theory Reader, a newly released collection of essays including work by Nick Montfort, Andrew Plotkin, Emily Short, and many more. This is the second article, the first being Francesco Cordella’s History of Italian IF. We are publishing it in two parts (read the second part here) due to the constraints of this WordPress installation.
From the beginning to the present day, it seems that the language of interactive fiction is for the most part English. The first interactive fiction, Adventure, developed by Will Crowther, was written in English, modeled after a cave in Kentucky, and spread via the ARPANET, which was a strictly American network. Later, Infocom wrote games that are considered the canon of interactive fiction, again in English. In the early 90s, TADS and Inform were developed by English speakers, and the majority of the games that were subsequently developed with those two authoring systems were in English. As a matter of fact, at the date of the writing of this article, there are 3732 games in the IFDB, of which 388 are not written in English: 90% of all interactive fiction is written in English. The majority of authors, reviewers, and IF critics are thus English speakers, and interactive fiction is mainly an English-speaking genre.
But interactive fiction in other languages exists, though in smaller numbers. Continue reading
Strange Horizons have recently published new story, 起狮，行礼 (Rising Lion—The Lion Bows), by Malaysian writer Zen Cho:
The hotel was not like any hotel Jia Qi had seen before. There was no drive swooping around a fountain featuring little peeing babies, no glass doors opening onto a golden lobby lit by chandeliers, no men in white gloves to open the doors for you.
Perhaps English hotels were different. This one was a blocky old building made of weathered grey stone and covered with ivy. It looked like it should come equipped with knights and pointy-hatted ladies. The manager who came out to greet them looked incongruously modern in comparison—he wore a suit and a bright red tie, but no gloves. His name was Nick.
“Thanks for coming,” he said to Tiong Han. Tiong Han was technically the president of the troupe. “The guests are really excited about the performance, really excited. So am I. I’ve never seen a lion dance performance before. It’ll add a touch of culture to the night. Whoop! Need help with that?”
He was already moving forward to help Simon unload the lion head from the taxi, but Coco stepped in front of him before he could touch it.
Coco had been with the troupe for six years. She had never been their official president because she preferred not to deal with technicalities; it gave her more time to actually lead the troupe.
“Are Mr. and Mrs. Yu around?” she said.
It was Mr. Yu who had emailed them to ask if they would perform at a Christmas party that was being held at his hotel. It was a new hotel and this was the first big event they were hosting, so he was willing to pay them a generous fee. They had agreed that the troupe would perform before and after dinner. There were also going to be fireworks, and a disco.
Sensibly, Mr. Yu and Mrs. Yu had stayed indoors, but they were very hospitable when the cold dishevelled troupe poured into the lobby.
“We’ve got Chinese food, Chinese decorations, lanterns, fireworks,” said Nick. “It’s all been done up to theme. The company does a lot of business out in China, so they were very keen when we suggested a China night. When we heard about you we thought, well, that’s ideal! We’re so pleased you could make it all the way out here.”
“Very pleased,” said Mr. Yu in English. In Cantonese, he said: “The ghost is in the upstairs cupboard.”
“Thank you, we’re looking forward to it,” said Coco to Nick. To Mr. Yu: “What kind of ghost is it?” – continue reading.
We’ve been running a short story a week for the past five months(!), including three originals in the past three weeks. We’re running a little short on shorts, as it were, so we’re going to take a month off and catch up on general world sf news. We have some more stories in the pipeline (including from Bulgaria and Brazil) but more are always welcome. To submit, send the story in .DOC or .RTF file to email@example.com, giving your name, previous publication details (if any), your country etc. Note that we accept stories from all over – we’ve published US, UK, Canadian, Irish and Australian writers alongside writers from India, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Poland and Belgium (to name a few).
We’ve got a couple more Author Weeks in the works, and some new original articles in the pipeline. We hope to do another publisher spotlight soon too. We always welcome submissions of original material, essays, articles and editorials – send to the e-mail address above.
And now back to regular service!
Haikasoru Week is over, but as an addendum, why not check out beatrice.com, who have just run an interview with two of Haikasoru’s translators, Jim Hubbert and Cathy Hirano:
To give just one example, the word miya, which is used in both books, means “palace” according to the Japanese-English dictionary. That seems simple enough—but what image does the word palace conjure up in an English reader’s mind? It is much more likely to be the huge ornate stone palaces seen in Europe or Walt Disney’s version of Aladdin’s palace than the Japanese image of multiple single storied wooden buildings surrounded by walled gardens. As the translator, I have to consider how important this concept is to the story. Is it something English readers can just gloss over and still get maximum enjoyment out of the story or do I need to use a different word or even the Japanese word, or perhaps add description in suitable places?
Another frequent dilemma in the Magatama tales arises from the styles of speech that exist in Japanese. These different styles denote the speaker’s gender, position in society, place of origin, and relationship to the other party (parent/child, commoner/nobility, peer/peer, etc.). The Magatama tales include speech styles from peasants right up to the gods—each style so distinct that there is often no need in Japanese to mention who is speaking. This degree of distinction just doesn’t exist in English so once again I have to consider other means of conveying the same information. – read the interview!
In “Clean” by John Kessel, Elizabeth and Daniel decide, against their daughter Jinny’s insistence, that Daniel should experience mechanical memory erasure in one fell swoop to stave off the degeneration of Alzheimer’s. The process strips away Daniel’s affective memories of his wife and daughter, but leaves his intellect intact. Kessel uses plain and uninflected prose that only hits a poetic surge when describing the memories of which Daniel is stripped as he forgets them. This is a cyclical story of the old becoming young again and the child eventually parenting the parent, but not that profound beyond “we are our memories” and not that affecting except when describing Daniel actually losing his memories. Continue reading
According to the editor’s note, The March issue of ideomancer is comprised of three stories full of “slanted spring sunlight; stories light enough to float; stories about beginnings”. On the surface, I would agree, but what I really think the link they all share is that they are chock full of bittersweet flights of fancy. The three stories all transform ideas that initially seem imaginative but frothy and completely impractical (even verging on ridiculous) into something weighty that’s both beautiful and haunting.
And we have winners!
I’d like to thank everyone who entered the competition this week, and everyone who’s visited the blog to check out our Haikasoru Week. I’m very pleased with the turnout, and hope we can feature another publisher highlight soon. In the meantime, the next Author Week is just around the corner!
As before, I used a random number generator to pick up the winners.
And the winners – of current Philip K. Dick Award nominee Harmony, by Project Itoh, generously donated by Haikasoru – are!
Jason Mathaisson, Joey, Pavel Itzkov and Rob Haines.
An e-mail has been sent to the winners.