Jan 28 2009 6:53pm

Mamatas In Translation

In light of yesterday’s other news, I was excited to see this announcement from Nick Mamatas later in the day. It looks like anime/manga giant Viz Media is going to publish Japanese science fiction in translation. The new imprint, Haikasoru, will be run by Mamatas. They plan on releasing 12 novels a year. The first novel up is The Lord of the Sands of Time (shown left). Pursuant to my interests, I notice that one of the titles coming this year is a short-fiction collection (quoted from the official announcement):

ZOO by Otsuichi – Price: $13.99 U.S./CAN $16.00
ZOO presents eleven stories of dark fantasy and science fiction by one of Japan’s hottest authors. “The White Hut In The Forest” is the story of a man with a hole in his head and a charming home made from some strange materials. “Song of the Sunny Spot” is a rendition of the classic story of the Earth’s last man…and his charming companion. And in the book’s eponymous tale, a man sees his dead girlfriend’s corpse decompose, one gristly Polaroid snapshot at a time. ZOO sold over 740,000 copies in Japan and was also turned into a successful Japanese film. Available in September 2009.

This is the type of thing that excites me: getting the chance to read the fiction that other countries read. I wish there were more opportunities for publishing things like this, and I’m not alone. There are a lot of countries that don’t speak English as their primary language that are publishing original science fiction, so what’s it like? What is the fiction in Science Fiction World like? How does it compare to English-language science fiction?

I know that the fiction created in different cultures might have difficulty translating, i.e., something might be culturally obvious to a Chinese audience that an American audience wouldn’t pick up. But I think the potential is too great to truly worry about that.  Of course, in these times it would be tough to find a place to publish genre literature in translation. Viz Media does have a built-in audience of Japanophiles who should pick up on the books, and I know that I’m interested.

Jeff Soules
1. DeepThought
I know that the fiction created in different cultures might have difficulty translating, i.e., something might be culturally obvious to a Chinese audience that an American audience wouldn’t pick up.

That's true -- but really it's the job of the translator to understand those cultural differences as well and convey them correctly to the audience. Translators sometimes go through heroic efforts with this—like translating a passage from classical Chinese into Latin in the English-language text—and sometimes they severely overdo it by rewriting everything in terms of what they think is a parallel situation, which can make things very weird.

But I believe that nothing is really untranslatable, it just might require the reader to read in a more active and less transparent way.

Here's hoping we do see a lot more translated genre fiction in the near future!
Joe Sherry
2. jsherry
Also excited! Hope this works out. Sounds like they've selected some top sellers AND books that have won major awards.
Larry N.
3. Larry
Once this is available here, I'd love to review it for my blog, whether that means acquiring a review copy or buying a copy. I'm very fascinated by non-English lit, SFF in particular these days, and this sounds just the sort of thing I would love to read/talk about.
Charles Tan
4. charlesatan
Yup, I'm excited about it too! Good luck with Mamatas and Viz!
5. AndrDrew
ah! Amazing news.
I am especially intersted in the short fiction collection there, but suspect I will want to buy all of it.
Eric Gregory
6. egregory
Enormously excited. I'm glad the right people recognized the opportunity and seized it. I'll certainly do my part to support the venture.

I think a regular summary of the contents of Science Fiction World would be an amazing feature for an American magazine. Those stories represent the most-read sci-fi in the world, and I'd love to know a little more about them.
J.R. Raith
7. jrronimo
Agreed -- I am interested in the fiction from other countries as well. I consider myself blessed that the "Vampire Hunter D" books have been translated and released by Dark Horse. The translator did a pretty good job.

I agree with the first comment -- understanding the cultural differences goes a long way to making a translated novel a good read.
John Klima
8. john_klima
Agreed that a talented translator would render any concerns moot.

And today I see that:

is online. Well, it's essentially a parked page, but you can go sign up to be informed when it goes completely live!

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