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Archive for March, 2012

BATTLE ROYALE vs THE HUNGER GAMES

It’s been a fun time over here at Haikasoru HQ as Battle Royale: The Novel has been getting a ton of ink from the mainstream news, thanks to the hype for The Hunger Games film. That’s been a common conversation in the online nerdosphere for a while, but the last week saw articles in the Wall Street Journal, on National Public Radio, and many other venues. Of course, the film is now finally available legally in the US on DVD and Blu-Ray, and is getting reviewed in major newspapers as well. The film naturally leads back to the novel. If you’ve been to Target or Hudson Booksellers (in many airports and transport hubs), you’ve likely seen Battle Royale on the shelves in great numbers recently, often next to signs suggesting it for fans of The Hunger Games.

Don’t feel bad for else—we’re doing very well. I can think of no better promotion for Battle Royale than the success of The Hunger Games. (Well, except for an American remake of the film, but such a remake could also just end up being awful…)

On the question of the link between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins says she was unfamiliar with the former when writing the latter. Of course there is absolutely no reason to doubt her, but Collins was working in television around the time of the initial Battle Royale controversies—the media trade followed that story pretty closely. It’s certainly easy enough to have heard of something, then forget about it, only to have it emerge in one’s mind a few years later as a “new” idea. But again, there’s no evidence of even that. (How could there be?)

There are plenty of similarities between books: teens given weapons and forced into a death match, a pair working together to undermine the game with the help of an older mentor who had previously won the game, and even bits and pieces like using signal fires and bird calls. The Hunger Games also includes a “reality show” premise, but that premise can be found in the US-version of the Battle Royale manga as well. (Then there are claims that the ancient Greek story of the minotaur and the tribute sacrifice of children is a common root for both stories—hard to believe given that the central theme is the children being compelled to kill one another, rather than being sacrificed to some outside force.)

Then there is a fact that the mere use of a premise doesn’t always or necessarily rise to the level of plagiarism. One is reminded of the controversy around author Yann Martel’s famed Life of Pi; Martel had allegedly read about the unusual premise of a man on a raft with a big cat in a review of an earlier book and created his own novel from it. Then there’s Osamu Tezuka’s manga Metropolis, which rather than being based on the Fritz Lang film of the same name was actually inspired by seeing a single still from the film. Older books such as The Long Walk, Logan’s Run and others are clear antecedents of both titles. So even if Collins had heard of Battle Royale and had later forgotten, she’s not necessarily plagiarizing.

And naturally there are differences: The Hunger Games is in the first person, Battle Royale uses roving third-person point of view. The former has many more science fiction elements than the latter. Female versus male leads, triumphalism versus an open ending. We can go on. For fans of Battle Royale who feel a little put off by the success of The Hunger Games I can only suggest taking the opportunity to share your enthusiasm for Battle Royale with your friends and others who may not have seen the book yet, rather than getting angry at the success of the other book. We’re doing just fine! Reading is not a death match!

The Navidad Incident is here!

The Navidad Incident hits bookstores today. Is it lunchtime yet? Go out and buy a copy! We also have Kindle and NOOK editions available today. SONY and Apple will be along in a bit.

Not convinced? Check out short excerpt in Words Without Borders or, if you’re in the mood for more, check out our Scribd page for a longer excerpt with proper page layout, a map, and other neat stuff!

One year later

One year ago, on March 11th, a massive earthquake struck the Pacific coast of Japan. It was the most powerful quake ever to hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful ever recorded. Naturally, here at Haikasoru all work stopped as we tried to catch up on the news. We used our Twitter feed to contact our writers and friends in Japan, and luckily everyone was unharmed.

The news from Japan just got worse, as a great tsunami hit, which in turn caused a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. It will take decades to decontaminate the area and decommission the plant. The whole thing seemed like a catastrophe straight out of science fiction—comparisons to the classic novel Japan Sinks abounded.

The SF community dealt with the disaster in its own way. Science fiction writer and friend of Haikasoru Charles Stross wrote an essay about the possible underreported effects of the disaster. William Gibson and other writers contributed to 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, a fundraising e-anthology. Transgressive/horror novelist Ryu Murakami wrote this wonderful essay for The New York Times, saying in part, “But for all we’ve lost, hope is in fact one thing we Japanese have regained. The great earthquake and tsunami have robbed us of many lives and resources. But we who were so intoxicated with our own prosperity have once again planted the seed of hope.” At Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon, a special video tribute to Japanese fans displaced or otherwise effected by the quake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster was played during the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Here at VIZ, we launched the Art For Hope ebook as a fundraiser for Architects for Humanity—their anniversary update is well-worth reading. We also struggled with the cover for MM9, which we were producing at the time. We quickly decided to go with a fantastical-seeming cover with a monster in the background:

The original Japanese cover looked just a little bit too much like real footage from the disaster:

…so we felt it better to use a more whimsical, obviously imaginary cover.

A year later, things are still rough in the impacted areas, and the long-term effects are unknown. Bruce Sterling, in his story for our forthcoming anthology The Future Is Japanese describes the area as a nuclear wasteland, and as a place of new beginnings. There are no people, but wildlife has returned, including monkeys. “Monkeys are so funny. Monkeys are much kinder to each other than people are,” one of his characters says.

But we found the words of Star Trek actor George Takei more inspiring. He writes: In their resolve to rebuild, the Japanese have set a high bar for the world. In the wake of the tragedy, there was no looting, no violence, and a strong sense of order and selflessness. Elderly Japanese volunteered to help with the gritty task of nuclear clean-up, offering up their shorter expected life spans for the greater good. It is moving to me to see such human spirit, after so much was lost for so many.

THE NAVIDAD INCIDENT winners!

It’s Friday, and that means it is time to announce our winners of our The Navidad Incident giveaway contest!

First up is SemperMeh for the point that a lot of the distinction between fantasy and magical realism is in the mind of the reader. Also he wrote in Spanish, and the word navidad is right in the title.

Moving on, there’s JM, who just sounded very clever, and who made a more sophisticated version of the argument that fantasy takes place in some other, often past, world.

We certainly don’t want to be seen as only selecting the responses that seemed to agree with our own comments, so Shelley wins a free copy as well for her spirited defense of considering magical realism a form of fantasy, and for her point about urban fantasy.

Our fourth winner is marco who looked very closely at two different modes of magical realism. If nothing else, he’ll certainly get a kick out of The Navidad Incident so we just had to send him a copy!

Those are your winners. Check back here soon for more controversy, and prizes!


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