Work continues over at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, with yours truly writing entries about Yuichi Sasamoto, creator of Bodacious Space Pirates, and Kazumasa Hirai, creator of Harmagedon. The wordcount of my combined Japan and China entries in the SFE is now actually bigger than Anime: A History, and it’s all available for free.
Over at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the need to revise the entry for the blockbuster flop Virus led me to also write a new entry on its producer, the flamboyant, ever-entertaining Haruki Kadokawa. That’s him in the picture, dressed as a samurai on a Tokyo overpass, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, with a book title that’s the same in Japanese as Mein Kampf. Because if you’re that rich, you would, wouldn’t you?
Work continues apace on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, with my most recent contributions including a place-holder entry on Ken Liu. I say place-holder because I am sure he will be winning a bunch more awards before long. I’ve also written entries on Ryu Murakami and Hiromu Arakawa, but I’m probably proudest of the one I’ve done on Tora Kizu. I like “The Wedding Shrouded in Grey” so much that I’m actually translating it at the moment with Motoko Tamamuro, although I have no idea who would be interested in buying a Japanese steampunk story from 1927.
With the news out that Tom Cruise has optioned the Japanese SF novel Yukikaze for Hollywood, now’s as good a time as any for me to point interested readers at my article about its original author in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
Science fiction is not as easy to find in China as one might think. I never saw a massive “SCI-FI” section in Chinese bookshops, although there were often entire bays dedicated to internet novels and how-to-draw manga books; SF is more often than not still lumped in with children’s fiction. It’s a long story.
I pestered numerous newsstand vendors in four or five Chinese cities for the latest issue of Kehuan Shijie (“SF World”, pictured), but only struck gold outside the gates of the Beijing University of Astronautics and Aeronautics, where the passing traffic might be reasonably expected to be interested in all that Buck Rogers stuff. Otherwise, science fiction in China, with a readership in the tens of thousands, is still something of a minority interest in the People’s Republic.
Which makes it all the more ironic that I should get back to my office and find in my in-tray two publications that massively increase the footprint of Chinese science fiction abroad. A double-issue of Renditions, published by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is packed with translations of Chinese SF, including stories by Liu Cixin, Han Song, La La, Zhao Haihong, Chi Hui and Xia Jia. There’s also some intriguing proto-sf such as a piece from 1912 by Xu Zhuodai, as well as an incredible exercise in academic recursion: a translation into English of Lu Xun’s translation into Chinese of a Japanese translation of a story by Anna Louise Strong, showing to what degree Chinese whispers might be reasonably said to have set in.
Fei Dao, another author in Renditions, also shows up in the latest issue of Science Fiction Studies under his real name of Jia Liyuan, with a different hat on as a doctoral candidate in Chinese literature. The new SFS is a China special issue, and includes articles about utopias in Chinese fiction, Chinese SF movies, alien contact and the role played by translation in the spread of the medium, as well as non-fiction essays by Liu Cixin, Han Song and Wu Yan. In my role as a contributing editor to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I was asked to be a peer reviewer on several of the papers in this issue, and I was very impressed with the level of achievement. It’s certainly very salutary, albeit rather odd, to see the amount of work on Chinese SF in English increasingly so exponentially, almost overnight.
In October, after many months of work, the “China” entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction was updated for the third edition. This reflects the fact that almost all the cross-references within the entry are now live, pointing readers in turn at my newly written entries about authors such as Chi Shuchang, Gu Junzheng, Wang Jinkang and Ye Yonglie. It all amounts to a book-length work inside the Encyclopedia, dedicated to an entire culture of often-overlooked authors, not only in the People’s Republic, but also on Taiwan, in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the Chinese diaspora.
It’s been fascinating reading through a century of Chinese stories and biographies, and I’ve uncovered some really interesting creators and works. Moving on now to the “Japan” entries, which I also have to knock into shape. You can see how far I’ve come, and how far there is to go, by looking at the Seiun Awards entry.
The new, free, online edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has just won the Hugo Award for Best Related Book. I take some small part of the glory, having written some 100,000 words of it. Which sounds impressive until you realise that the whole thing is already at 3.7 million words, and still growing.
This new edition incorporates substantially more information on China and Japan. to the extent of an entire book-within-a-book on such subjects as mecha and the Seiun Awards, and authors such as Liu Cixin and Wei Yahua. Best of all, it includes the magical Incoming button, which not only tells you all the entries that link *to* the entry you were looking at, but also formats a reference for a researcher’s bibliography.