quinta-feira, 25 de março de 2010

The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories

Godzilla and the other wonderful, bizarre super-heroes and monsters, represent the limited image that many people have of Japanese science fiction — but in Japan these creatures are intended for children.

Japan's highly imaginative SF and fantasy literature come from an ancient tradition of legends and myths.

Yet they are not well known in America, because so little has been translated and published in English.

This collection presents Japan's brightest, weirdest, and best speculative fiction, gathered and polished over a number of years by a number of talented translators.

Consider the difficulties of translating science fiction from Japanese to English. The complex nuances of language and culture are often very subtle, and Japanese uses three interchangeable alphabets! How many people are fluent in both languages, familiar with the SF genre, and able to capture the "soul" of a story?

Of course the Japanese translators have similar complaints about English, as they struggle with our slang-laden prose. That's why Japanese and English-speaking translators sometimes work together in teams to create a "group-mind" with the author.

I came to know these translators very well, during the two years I lived in a suburb of neon-lit Tokyo.

I first visited Japan as a tourist in 1972. Judith Merril, the trail-blazing author and anthologist, was already working with the translators group on many of the stories that appear in this book. I recall intense discussions of the hidden meanings of words like love. The work proceeded slowly, word by word, and by the time Judy Merril left Japan, many outstanding stories had been translated.

But more stories were needed to fill an anthology. I returned to live in Japan in 1979. The translators group, known as Honyaku Benkyokai, greeted me warmly. "We are crazy alcoholics and workaholics!" crowed the brilliant SF author, Tetsu Yano, who is one of the patriarchs of the group, and whose haunting novella The Legend of the Paper Spaceship (superbly translated by Gene Van Troyer) appears in this book. Yano-san spoke the truth. The group worked and par tied at a fast-forward Tokyo pace, with a keen sense of fun and creative energy. The translators weekends became the highlights of my life in Japan.

Every month we would meet at a Tokyo train station on Saturday afternoon, and travel together to some scenic place for autumn leaf viewing on the slopes of Mt. Fuji, or iris viewing in the springtime, or perhaps to a hot-spring resort or a publishers seaside villa. We would stay in charming Japanese inns, feast on banquets of local specialities—and talk and drink, laugh and talk far into the night. In the mornings over our artfully arranged Japanese breakfast trays, we would have serious discussions of hangovers.

The weekend would-end with Sunday sightseeing, more talk and laughter, and the long train ride home.

But we worked hard. Translations of English-language SF are popular in Japan, and the translators must meet strict deadlines. My husband, Dr. Stephen Davis, and I would try to explain complicated English phrases like, "Keep the X in Xmas . . ."I would buttonhole and cajole the group into helping me translate some of the Japanese stories that appear in this anthology. After one especially difficult session, someone in the group exclaimed, "You and Judy Merril are a pair of demon-mothers!" The work was wonderfully exciting. It was a global-village meeting of cultures. My husband and I quickly became part of this (Japanese group-mind, and developed a keen appreciation |of their wry and dry wit (and their fine dry sake).

By the time I left Japan, in 1980, there were enough ichiban (first-rate) translated stories to fill an anthology but we had no publisher. "Science fiction readers aren't interested in Japan," claimed the American editors (who clearly had their pre-cog antennae turned off). The anthology project languished, though new stories were translated, and many were published and acclaimed individually.

Then gradually Americans realized that the Japanese are already living in a version of the future with its overcrowding, micro-electronic gadgets, polluted environment, and efficient group-minds. The problems and solutions of the future are happening in Japan right now. Japanese science fiction gives us an insight into that future often a shocking, yet witty and satiric insight.

Interest in Japanese culture grew as rapidly as the value of the yen in the late 1980s. It was time to correct the trade imbalance in science fiction. The noted anthologist, Martin Greenberg, and John Apostolou, who is keenly interested in Japanese literature, were finally able to arrange publication with Dembner Books.
I am proud to be part of both the translation group-mind and the editorial group-mind.
Grania Davis, Consulting Editor San Rafael, California




"The Flood"

"Cardboard Box"



"Hey, Come on Out!"

"The Road to the Sea"

"The Empty Field"

"The Savage Mouth"

"Take Your Choice"



"Standing Woman"

"The Legend of the Paper Spaceship"

The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories [ Download ]