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HARMONY [Archive]

SELF-REFERENCE ENGINE is a Philip K. Dick Award nominee!

Well well well, the Philip K. Dick Award nominees, which is for the best science fiction published originally in paperback (just as Dick’s own works were), have been announced. And lookie-lookie, my milk and cookie:

A Calculated Life, by Anne Charnock
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Self-Reference ENGINE, by Toh EnJoe, translated by Terry Gallagher
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
Life on the Preservation, by Jack Skillingstead
Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ian Whates
Countdown City, by Ben H. Winters

I’m sure Toh EnJoe is especially happy, as his friend Project Itoh was nominated for, and received the Special Citation, for the PKD Award for the novel Harmony a few years ago. Congratulations, and we’ll see you all in Seattle!

The 2012 Haikasoru Holiday Shopping Guide

It’s nearly year’s end, and so we thought we might write about our 2012 titles, and how they’ll make great presents for your loved ones. Or, you know, for yourself. We won’t tell.

Do you or any of your friends or relatives love Godzilla? Ultraman? H. P. Lovecraft? Mythology? The TV show The Office? The zany pseudosciences of UFOs, Bigfoot and other cryptids, and such like that? Get them a copy of MM9 by Hiroshi Yamamoto. This book combines office hijinks with ancient monsters and some quick scientific thinking. It was also a TV show in Japan:

Also, check out the show’s closing credits:

It’s a very fun book, and a breeze to read despite the scientific speculations.

For fans of Haruki Murakami, Jorge Luis Borges, or magical realism in general, check out The Navidad Incident by Natsuki Ikezawa. The fantasy element here is light, but strange—there’s a ghost and a mysteriously busy runaway bus. This book is a sort of genre-in-the-mainstream title about the politics of the developing world in the postcolonial era. And hardcover books make for wonderful gifts. Finally, the title! Navidad, get it?

Any hardcore SF fan who wants to keep up with the new writers in the field needs a copy of our anthology The Future Is Japanese. Ken Liu’s short story “Mono No Aware” has already been selected for reprinting in an annual best-of anthology, and this book also features stories by Catherynne M. Valente, Ekateria Sedia, and top Japanese writers including Project Itoh and Issui Ogawa. The anthology got a starred review in Publishers Weekly and is acclaimed generally. If you or yours are interested in the field of SF at all, this book is for you.

Got any gamers in your family or social circle? Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots by Project Itoh is what they need. More than just a novelization by some hack, Itoh was both a hardcore fan of the Metal Gear series and one of Japan’s leading science fiction novelists. This novel is a tribute to the game.

Speaking of one of Japan’s leading science fiction novelists, Project Itoh’s Genocidal Organ is my personal favorite of the year. It’s military SF, it’s about the power of memes—not cat pictures from the Internet, but ideas and how the flit from brain to brain—and it’s a wickedly dark comedy. For fans of Itoh’s Harmony, this book details the “Maelstrom” that leads to the Utopian society of that novel. Speaking of, check out the Hungarian book trailer for Harmony:

Any friend or family member interested in the work of contemporary military SF writers like David Drake or John Scalzi, or the satirical flourishes of Kurt Vonnegut, should check out Genocidal Organ and Harmony.

Belka, Why Don’t You Bark? by Hideo Furukawa is for dog-lovers, history buffs, space buffs, and lovers of fine literature. What other book combines the secret lives of dogs with the drama of the Space Race and the world-changing events of the Cold War? No other novel, of course! Have you seen the author’s passionate readings? We’ve made two videos:


These really sum up the book in a way a blog post cannot.

Finally, out today, is Virus by Sakyo Komatsu. Komatsu is a true grandmaster of Japanese SF—he’s the author of the famed Japan Sinks, and this classic from the 1960s is a SF disaster thriller of the sort that Michael Crichton used to write. It’s a hardcover, so naturally an excellent present—if you or anyone for whom you are buying a gift loves the genreish/mainstreamish thrillers of Crichton of Stephen King or Tom Clancy (Virus includes a lot of scientific and military information) this is the book to buy this month.

So get shopping!

Three Years

Haikasoru celebrated our two-year anniversary last month, but there’s another anniversary to celebrate…and it’s today! There years ago, on August 4th 2008, I reported for work here at VIZ for the first time. I had no idea what to expect; indeed, I didn’t even know that the imprint I’d been hired to edit had a name yet. Masumi Washington, my supervisor, revealed it—”Haikasoru!”—to me only after lunch.

I’d moved to California from Boston just three days before, and was little prepared. The only piece of furniture I had was a small two-seat couch I had ordered. My dog and I slept on that for a week until my bed arrived. I also had no pants, as I’d had to pack very quickly and had just shoved everything in my dresser into shipping boxes, rather than in my luggage for the flight over. I had no local bank, and with the expense of moving and shipping, just enough money to get to work and back. (Friends fed me for the first two weeks.) I’d also never had a full-time office job before—I was a full-time freelance writer and editor with some small reputation in science fiction, and I had experience in translation, albeit from the Korean and German. Occasionally though, things break out in favor of the “weird” candidate. It actually helped that I wasn’t steeped in anime and manga; the higher-ups wanted someone primarily interested in SF as opposed to Japanese popular culture specifically. So what if I couldn’t use a multi-line phone! (As it turns out, nobody ever calls me anyway.)

The greatest challenge was that in late July 2008, just as I was making my plan to take this job, the global economy shuddered and nearly collapsed utterly. I remember being in the airport, waiting for my ride to my new apartment which I’d rented sight unseen, and watching CNN. I wondered if I’d be stranded in California without a job or means to head back East if the banking crisis took down the already weak publishing sector. I still joke that, as far as I know, I’m the only person in publishing who actually got a job rather than lost one that summer.

Launching a new imprint is difficult in the best of times. Launching one into the teeth of a global economic crisis, and without any popular writers already known to Anglophone audiences, was an immense challenge. It continues to be one, of course. Kindle and other ebook formats have changed all the rules, and in the last eight months over 600 bookstores in the US have just melted into air. We also had to shake the early impression that Haikasoru was another “light novel” imprint—we publish some light novels, but also more mainstream SF—and we had to win the Anglophone SF audience over to a different mode of genre. It’s easy enough to get a lifelong fan to read a single example of Japanese science fiction. Our true task was to convince SF fans that reading that one title wasn’t sufficient for them to say, “Ah, so now I know what Japanese SF is like. I never need look at any such books again.” And we had to do this while competing for shelf space, differentiating our books from manga, creating an ebook strategy, and making sure that we represented Japanese culture and our Japanese authors appropriately. That meant resisting pressure to “whitewash” the covers of our books by keeping Japanese faces off of them, among other things.

And it’s been working. Some of our books have captured a dual SF and Japanese pop culture audience. We’ve had award nominations, like the Shirley Jackson award nomination for ZOO, and victories, like the Special Citation for the Philip K. Dick award for Harmony. I’ve been nominated for the Hugo award for Best Editor, Long Form. I’ll find out how badly I’ve lost the vote in just two weeks! SF readers are taking to our titles, especially the hard SF that’s heavily influenced by classic science fiction. Our readers from anime and manga fandom are endlessly supportive; we couldn’t do it without you guys!

Just how far have we pushed into the mainstream in just three years? Today, MTV Geek News is running an exclusive excerpt of our latest title, Good Luck, Yukikaze! From zero to MTV in three years? I’ll take it!

It’s been a great three years. I hope we’ll have many more together! If you like our books, tell your friends. If you’re eager for a little more leisure reading, check out our books. We’ll continue to experiment and explore every permutation of Japanese SF we can find, and we have a great new slate of titles for 2012 that we can’t wait to show you. Keep in touch, and happy reading. Remember, the future is Japanese!

PK Dick Award Report

We had a lot of fun at Norwescon 34 this week. As representatives of the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Harmony, we appeared on panels, were treated to a banquet along with lifetime members of the convention, and participated in the ceremony, which was very nice. There were brownies!

I have to say that for a while I was fairly confident that Harmony would not win, but I thought we had a fair shot at the Special Citation prize. After dinner, however, which Masumi and I spent at the same table with awards administrator Gordon Van Gelder (publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) we were sure that we had lost. Mr. Van Gelder has an excellent poker face—no winking, no smiling, no subtle hints…nothing!

At the ceremony, there was a display of all the covers of the nominated titles. Here’s the one for Harmony, along with the actual physical citation it won:

Then the authors or their representatives all read from the work. We split duties—Masumi read a passage in Japanese, and I in English.

Then came the announcement of the winners:

Project Itoh’s father, Shin’icihi Itoh, had sent us some remarks, which we were thrilled to share. Here’s the acceptance speech in English, as translated by our co-worker Andy Nakatani. (In the video above, you can hear Masumi reading it in Japanese.)

I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to you all for honoring my son’s work with such a prestigious award. Although his was a short life, and he was a published author for only just over a year of it, I believe it was the encouragement and support he received from so many countless number of people that allowed him to continue to write as he battled against his illness.

When I first read Harmony, it was hard for me to come face to face with the difficulties my son had in trying to find peace with himself. He was fully aware of how short his life would be, and he desperately fought off the uncertainty that is death. I skimmed through his words until I came to the end, where he wrote in the Acknowledgments, “With thanks to my parents, and uncle and aunt, who were there for me in my time of need.” After which, I put the book down. Through his struggle against death, I believe he came to sense something amiss in this uncertain modern society of ours, and he wanted to convey some kind of hope to people. If he received this award on such a basis, I think Satoshi would be very happy. Thank you so much.

We’d also like to congratulate the winner of the PK Dick Award, Mark Hodder, who won for his Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack.

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