Tor.com content by

Rachel Cordasco

Horror in Translation: 8 Chilling Reads From Around the World

Readers can find plenty of horror fiction on bookstore shelves here in America, but what about horror fiction around the world? What kinds of stories do, for example, Japanese horror/speculative fiction writers gravitate toward when trying to terrify their readers? What differentiates Austrian horror fiction and Mexican horror fiction? Are there any interesting worldwide trends in the genre over the past decade?

I don’t have the answers to all these questions, unfortunately, but I can start the discussion by highlighting some recent international horror novels that are available in English in the list below. And lest those of us less familiar with the genre think of horror in two-dimensional terms, we should consider the following statement from the Horror Writers Association: “Horror has once again become primarily about emotion. It is once again writing that delves deep inside and forces us to confront who we are, to examine what we are afraid of, and to wonder what lies ahead down the road of life.” So what terrifies us across languages and borders? Let’s find out.

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Let’s Stop Overlooking SFF in Translation

You’ve seen the list of the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, and it’s a good selection, this year. What excited me the most about it? The fact that for the third year in a row, a work of speculative fiction in translation (SFT) has made it into the finals round—this year it’s the vast, complex, brilliant end to the Three-Body trilogy, Death’s End by Cixin Liu, masterfully translated by Ken Liu and published by Tor.

But…nothing else in translation made it onto the list. Now, you may say “yeah, but how many novels and stories translated into English did we even get in 2016, and how many of that presumably small number are any good?”

My answer: as someone who closely follows SFT, I can safely say that the numbers are impressive and the quality is top-notch. Last year (as far as I can tell), twenty-nine novels, eight collections of stories, six excerpts from novels, and thirty-three short stories were translated and published in English for the first time. They came from Cuba and China, Russia and Argentina, Iraq and Israel, and everywhere in between. Some have been short- or long-listed for major awards; many received glowing reviews in online and print publications.

Some of my favorite works of SFT from 2016 were stories about gentleman zombies, physics-defying spaceships, giant space amoeba, and an unexpected and thoughtful take on time travel. I encourage you to read the books and stories on this list, and then continue to look for SF in translation—you’ll even find that many of the shorter works are available for free online. These stories are beautiful and terrifying, brilliant and diverse in style and content, and they deserve greater recognition; so, let’s give it to them…

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Six SFF Series in Translation

Sprawling, absorbing, and intricately-plotted sagas: you know you love ’em. And with stories about monster hunters and galactic empires and Nordic princesses from Poland, Japan, Sweden, and many other places, you’ll find yourself forgetting about mere mundane reality. So get started with these six bestselling speculative series in translation and read until your eyeballs jump out of your face and run away screaming!

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Roundtable on Speculative Fiction in Translation: Past, Present, Future

International speculative fiction in English translation is gaining ground in the U.S., thanks to the efforts of talented and far-sighted translators, editors, and publishers. I recently had the opportunity to ask some of these very people about their thoughts on the current state of sf in translation and how we can promote it and generally spread the word to readers who love brilliant sf and wish to read diversely. Read on for thoughts, news, and advice from publishers and magazine editors hailing from the U.S., U.K., France, and Spain.

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Speculative Fiction in Translation: 9 Works to Watch Out for in 2017

While 2016 might have been a terrible year in many ways, it was a great year for speculative fiction in translation, and 2017 is on track to be even better! With books (so far) from Italy, France, China, Poland, Japan, Mexico, and Haiti, we’re in for a wonderfully diverse ride, filled with zombies and ball-lightning, elves and post-nuclear communes, and much more. And did I mention that we get a new novel by Cixin Liu ?!?!?!

Here are the 9 works of SF in translation that I know about at the moment, but I’ll continue to update the list on sfintranslation.com. Let us know if you have anything to add to the list!

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The Lyricism and Pathos of Chinese SF: Invisible Planets, Edited and Translated by Ken Liu

Chen Qiufan, Xia Jia, Ma Boyong, Hao Jingfang, Tang Fei, Cheng Jingbo, Liu Cixin: you’ll recognize these names if you’ve been reading Clarkesworld and Tor.com, following the Hugo Awards, and generally reading some of the best speculative fiction written in the past several years. Most of all, though, we have acclaimed writer, translator, and editor Ken Liu to thank for enabling us English-language readers to catch a glimpse of this exciting generation of Chinese SF writers.

In Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF in Translation, Liu has brought together stunning stories and award-winning authors, each of which has a unique take on what we generally call “speculative fiction.”

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Remembrance of Earth’s Past and Humanity’s Future: Reflections on the Three-Body Trilogy

Note: Some spoilers for the series.

I know, that’s a pretty ambitious title for this lil’ old essay, but Cixin Liu insists that we think seriously about such questions as humanity’s future in the universe and contact with intelligent alien species. In The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End, he weaves a complicated web of physics, philosophy, and history that take us from China’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-20th century through to the end of the solar system and beyond. Add to that the grandeur of Liu’s prose, translated so deftly into English by Ken Liu and Joel Martinsen, and it becomes clear just what a masterpiece Remembrance of Earth’s Past really is.

Like Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a work of nostalgia tinged with regret. The latter is positioned as a look back at what, in reality, is one possibility for humanity’s future. Liu does this kind of thing throughout the series: he moves us readers back and forth in time and space (and dimensions), almost like he’s limbering up our brains as if they were brittle rubber bands.

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Ten Spec Fic Anthologies in Translation From Around the World!

If you’ve gotten your hands on the latest anthology from Jeff and Ann VanderMeerThe Big Book of Science Fiction (Vintage, July 12)you’ve seen just how many wonderful stories they’ve included from around the world. So if you’re itching to read more speculative fiction in translation, check out these ten anthologies featuring fiction from Austria and India to Mexico and Japan! You’ll see just how wonderfully diverse this world can be…

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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!

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Translating the Alien: Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem

In his “Author’s Postscript” to the English version of The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu argues that “[s]cience fiction is a literature that belongs to all humankind. It portrays events of interest to all humanity, and thus science fiction should be the literary genre most accessible to readers of different nations.” Liu is right for so many reasons: science fiction allows us to imagine what’s possible and what might lie beyond our own tiny corner of the galaxy. The genre often includes references to new species, new languages, and new ideas, and challenges us to think about what it means for someone or something to seem “alien.”

“Alien”—that’s a loaded term. It refers to both extraterrestrials and members of our own species. Of course, in its most general sense, “alien” refers to that which is different, strange, and seemingly unknowable. We say “illegal aliens” when we talk about people moving across borders without official permission. We label a concept “alien” when confronted with beliefs and traditions vastly different from our own.

And yet, we are all human beings, and we share the same planet. So how can the term “alien” refer to those who are both like us and radically unlike us? Liu explores this question in depth in TBP, asking us to think more carefully about what it would mean for human civilization to come into contact with an extraterrestrial species. Do we really want it to happen? And how do we know that these aliens would be friendly? Why should they be?

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