Intriguing SFF Works Awaiting English Translations

I am monolingual, which limits me to reading works in English. One of the joys of this modern, interconnected world in which we’re living is that any speculative fiction work written in another language could (in theory) be translated into English. One of my frustrations is that, generally speaking, they haven’t been. Here are five works about which I know enough to know that I’d read them if only they were translated.

 

Issui Ogawa is the author of such works as The Next Continent (a thrilling hard SF tale of lunar development) and The Lord of the Sands of Time (a dense novel about a time war  ). The Next Continent was enough to convince me to follow publisher Haikasoru…until their recent hiatus. Alas, they didn’t translate any further Ogawa books, a deplorable situation I blame on all the other readers who didn’t buy Ogawa’s books.

Ogawa’s Signposts to the Stars is described as a ten-volume series set in the 29th century (as far as I can tell from enigmatic comments online about novels in a language I cannot read). Given how enjoyable Ogawa’s two Haikasoru books were, I’d love to see how he handles a lengthy series. Alas!—thus far the books have not materialized in English.

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Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) by Yusuke Kishi is set long after the emergence of psychic powers transformed society. For the ensemble team of protagonists, the chaos of the past is long forgotten. As far as they know, they live in a happy community, heirs to social conventions that will surely lead to a safe and contented life. Their world is (of course) far more perilous than they suspect.

Shin Sekai Yori’s manga and anime have licensed English translations, but as far as I know, the only prose translation is a fan translation. The work appears to be an intriguing exploration of classic SF themes, and I wish I had a full translation of the novel in hand.

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Lee Yeongdo is a Korean author I know from a single translated  novella, Over the Horizon. The novella details the adventures of a forme r military fencing master reduced by a combination of bold innovation and poor judgment to a humble existence as a junior functionary in a backwater town. He’s a man unburdened by deep-seated moral principles who is presented with the chance to steal a fortune. The translation wasn’t all that good, but it left me curious what the author was like at longer lengths. I have no idea, because Over the Horizon seems to be the only Yeongdo work available in English.

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Nahoko Uehashi’s Moribito secondary universe fantasy novels recount the adventures of a talented warrior, Balsa, whose prowess with the spear is matched only by her disinclination to get involved in deadly court politics… It’s too bad, then, that she cannot avoid being drawn into deadly court politics. The first novel in the series, Guardian of the Spirit (Seirei no Moribito), in which Balsa is forced to guard a young prince on whose well-being the safety of the kingdom may rest, was enough to convince me to race out and purchase all of her translated works. While the author has an impressive backlist in Japanese, thus far only two of the Moribito books (Guardian of the Spirit and Guardian of the Darkness) have been translated, as well as the first book in the Beast Player series (The Beast Player). The second book (The Beast Warrior) is due out later this year. But Uehashi’s written at least eighteen fantasy works that are still untranslated!

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I know Noriko Ogiwara’s Jade Trilogy (Sorairo Magatama, Hakuchou Iden, and Usubeni Tennyo) from the two volumes that made it into English: Sorairo Magatama became Dragon Sword and Wind Child, while Hakuchou Iden is available as Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince. Again, the secondary universe fantasies were enough to inspire me to race out and buy all of the Ogiwara books I could find. Sadly, the only books available for purchase were the books I had already read.

It’s fortunate that each book stands on its own, because the third volume has never been translated. Neither have any of the novels in her Red Data Girl series. Opportunity beckons!

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No doubt you are aware of a myriad of brilliant works available only in languages other than English. Feel free to frustrate me by mentioning them in comments!

In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is currently a finalist for the 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award and is surprisingly flammable.

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