The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Translating Genre from Japan (Haikasoru Week addendum)

Haikasoru Week is over, but as an addendum, why not check out, 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!


March 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Translating Genre from Japan (Haikasoru Week addendum)

Asimov’s Science Fiction, Vol. 35, #3, March 2011


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

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off on Asimov’s Science Fiction, Vol. 35, #3, March 2011

Ideomancer, Vol. 10 Issue 1

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.

Continue reading

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off on Ideomancer, Vol. 10 Issue 1


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