German author Frank Habuold is a winner of the Kurd-Laßwitz Award. He is the author, with Gill Ainsworth, of the collection Seasons of Insanity, published by Apex Books.
Frank Haubold interviewed by Charles Tan
Hi Frank! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you first become acquainted with science fiction and fantasy?
Oh, that was many years ago. I think it was in the early 70s, when I experienced first books by Ray Bradbury, Robert Sheckley and Stanislaw Lem in the library of my hometown. These books were rareties, which could not be bought in bookstores of former Eastern Germany. I’ve always fought with me in order to give them back. Fantasy as a genre did not exist at that time.
It was – I think – in 2006, when I sent one of my stories to several English-language magazines. Unfortunately I only got rejections, but the mail from Gill was very friendly and interested. So we stayed in contact. Gill revised the translation of another story, which later reached the shortlist of the Aeon Award, and I translated two of her stories for German anthologies. Sometime later, we had the idea for a joint collection in English.
That was a little difficult because the prerequisites were not optimal. Gill does not speak German and my English is rather poor. It is sufficient to translate English texts into German, but the reverse is much more difficult. So I translated my stories sentence by sentence in a kind of pidgin English, and then Gill brought the fragments into a readable form. It took many weeks and months, and of course there were sometimes misunderstandings. Against this background, 130 pages are a lot.
Of course I have selected only stories, that I particularly like. Therefore, the feeling when reading and Pretranslation was not so bad. If a story is a few years old, there are of course always little things one would write a little different today. Much more interesting and sometimes disturbing is the diversity of languages. A phrase that sounds good in German, can sound terrible in English and vice versa. Therefore, only a native speaker is able to assess and correct these subtleties. I am very grateful that Gill has taken this burden.
How did you come up with the concept of seasons for the book?
Gill had this idea. We had a few stories that are tied to specific data, such as Christmas or Halloween. And we had others where the weather plays a role and is typical for certain seasons. Therefore it was making sense to bring the stories to a chronology of the seasons. This works, of course, not perfect in every story, but it does bring some structure into the book. That’s why I like the idea.
How did Apex end up publishing Seasons of Insanity?
That was not an easy way. Fortunately, my role was confined to inquire every few weeks, wether the project is going on or not. Obviously, the U.S. market is difficult, and the few genre-publishers are inundated with manuscripts. That makes such projects not easier. But it worked in the end, still, and I am very grateful, that Apex Publications has published our book.
What’s the genre field in Germany like?
In Germany, the SF and horror scene is much smaller and more clearly. Everyone who deals intensively with the genre, knows the relevant publishers and publications. However, only few genre authors are able to earn their bread and red wine with writing. I’m not one of them, and that’s not because I drink too expensive wine …
On the other hand, there are a number of dedicated small publishers who are active in the scene, and also a loyal core audience, however only few young readers.
Who are some of the authors that interest you?
There are many authors, whose works have impressed me. Ray Bradbury, of course, James G. Ballard, Clifford Simak, Stanislav Lem or the Strugatsky brothers. Unfortunately most of them have already died. I like Dan Simmon’s “Hyperion” und the SF-novels of Sergei Lukyanenko. Some of the older novels by Stephen King are also fascinating.
Anything else you want to promote?
This is difficult because there are no English versions of my more recent novels and short stories. Currently I am writing the second part of a space opera called “Twilight of the Gods”, which keeps me busy for almost a year. That’s a pretty crazy story from a distant future in which also the poet Rilke and Jim Morrison will have an appearance. Science fiction purists will not like it. 😉