Speculative Fiction in Translation: 15 Works to Watch Out For in 2016

You might think that speculative fiction in translation is hard to come by in the U.S., and on the surface, that seems true. But if you dig a little deeper (Google, Edelweiss, etc.), you’ll find a number of fantastic-sounding books to keep your SFF-heavy TBR pile stacked way too high. But don’t worry about doing all that work—I’ve done it for you!

Allow me, then, to present an annotated list of the speculative fiction in translation out between now and December. You’ve got your Caribbean zombies, your Iraqi Frankensteins, your literary polar bears, and much more. Enjoy, and tell us what books you’re looking forward to!

 

GateSorrowsThe Gate of Sorrows by Miyuki Miyabe
Translated by Jim Hubbert (Haikasoru, August 16)

A series of murders, a gargoyle that moves, and an abandoned building at the center of it all: Miyabe’s sequel to The Book of Heroes promises to both chill and terrify.

 

SixthWatchSixth Watch (Night Watch series) by Sergi Lukyanenko
Translated by Andrew Bromfield (Harper Paperbacks, August 30)

In this last book of Lukyanenko’s urban-fantasy Night Watch series, the end of the world looms in five days’ time. To prevent it, the former rival races of magicians, shape-shifters, vampires, and healers must band together to fight a more menacing threat.

 

DeathsEndDeath’s End by Cixin Liu
Translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books, September 20)

The final book in Liu’s trilogy, Death’s End is a sweeping, complex exploration of humanity’s potential future in which the Earth’s position has been broadcast to the universe. Not only does this last installment take the series to a whole new level philosophically; it raises even more important questions about humanity’s ultimate survival, the potential realities of the Dark Forest that is our universe, and the limits of technology.

 

GraveyardApartmentThe Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike
Translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm (Thomas Dunne Books, October 11)

First published in Japan in 1986, The Graveyard Apartment tells the story of a young family that moves into a seemingly perfect apartment, only to realize that something sinister and terrifying is lurking in the building’s basement.

 

WickedWeedsWicked Weeds: A Zombie Novel by Pedro Cabiya
Translated by Jessica Ernst Powell (Mandel Vilar Press, October 25)

You know what’s been missing in your life? A work of Caribbean noir and science fiction! in Wicked Weeks, a smart and successful zombie desperately searches for the formula that would reverse his “zombie-hood” and turn him into a “real person.”

 

IsraIsleIsra Isle by Nava Semel
Translated by Jessica Cohen (Mandel Vilar Press, October 25)

Reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Semel’s novel imagines a world in which Jews have a refuge on Grand Island, bought in 1825 by a Jewish diplomat. When one of his descendants goes missing in an attempt to reclaim this island, a Native American investigator follows in his tracks.

 

Iraq100Iraq + 100: Short Stories from a Century After the Invasion
Edited by Hassan Blasim (Carcanet Press, October 27)

This collection of stories by contemporary Iraqi writers asks us to imagine the many ways in which the war-scarred country might heal and emerge from the chaos unleashed in 2003. Both a critical lens on current events and a space for speculative storytelling, Iraq + 100 promises to be a fascinating read.

 

InvisiblePlanetsInvisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation
Edited and translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books, November 1)

You need this on your nightstand, people. Here we have the first collection of contemporary Chinese short speculative fiction out from a major US publisher, and it includes pieces from writers like Cixin Liu (the Three-Body trilogy), Chen Qiufan, Ma Boyong, and more. Edited and translated by the talented Ken Liu, it’s sure to become a landmark in Chinese sf in translation.

 

ChemicalWeddingThe Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz: A Romance in Eight Days by Johann Valentin Andreae
In a new version by John Crowley (Small Beer Press, November 8)

The Chemical Wedding was first published four hundred years ago, and might just be the earliest science fiction novel. It’s the story of a doubting old man who is invited to a wedding in a castle, a celebration that includes the death and reincarnation of the king and queen. Read by many as an alchemical allegory, Crowley and others believe that we must also understand it as a speculative work.

 

MemoirsPolarBearMemoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada
Translated by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, November 8)

Three generations of talented writers and performers…who are also polar bears. This is the story of how a grandmother, mother, and son work and write in East Germany, telling their stories from their unique points of view.

 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 3: Endurance by Yoshiki Tanaka
Translated by Daniel Huddleston (Haikasoru, November 15)

The third and final installment in Tanaka’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes trilogy, Endurance follows Admiral Reinhard as he endeavors to retake Iserlohn and rule the galaxy. But the ultimate battle between the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance has only just begun.

 

Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist by Lola Robles
Translated by Lawrence Schimel (Aqueduct Press, 2016)

Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist follows Terran scholar Rachel Monteverde’s journeys on Aanuk, a paradisiacal planet famous for its beaches and the generosity and joy of life of its nomadic inhabitants. The Aanukians are not the only people on the planet, however: Rachel is eager to meet the Fidhia, a cave-dwelling people who share a congenital condition that makes them blind. Rachel’s relentless determination to communicate with them despite the Aanukien’s dismissal and the Fidhia’s secretiveness will yield more than she ever hoped for.

 

FrankensteinBaghdadFrankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
Translated by Jonathan Wright (Penguin Books, 2016)

Winner of the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Frankenstein in Baghdad tells the story of a peddlar in war-torn Iraq who collects body parts from victims of explosions and stitches them together into a creature he calls “Whatsitsname.” This creature then roams the city to exact revenge for those victims. Set in 2005, Saadawi’s novel is a powerful take on the violence following the American occupation of Iraq.

 

Zero Machine (Acheron Books)

The first anthology of Italian speculative fiction in English, Zero Machine promises to be an exciting addition to short SF for English readers.

 

SpanishWomenWonderSpanish Women of Wonder

Begun as a Kickstarter project to fund the translation of Alucinadas, Spanish Women of Wonder will introduce English-language readers to some of the best speculative fiction written by women in contemporary Spain.

 

Rachel S. Cordasco earned a Ph.D in Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2010, and taught courses in American and British literature, and Composition. She has also worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. A Book Riot and SF Signal contributor, Rachel recently launched a site devoted to speculative fiction in translation. You can follow her @Rcordas and on facebook at Bookishly Witty and Speculative Fiction in Translation.

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