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It’s the A SMALL CHARRED FACE giveaway contest!

Next month we’re releasing A Small Charred Face, an amazing vampire novel by Kazuki Sakuraba. The early reviews are great and it’s coming out next month, just in time for long autumn nights meant for reading something creepy. So of course it is time for one of our giveaway contests!

As usual, the giveaway will work like this: leave a small essayistic (or poetic!) comment on this post, this time describing your favorite vampire story in any medium, and telling us why. We’ll select our four favorites on Friday August 25th, around noon Pacific time, and we’ll ship copies of the book to the winners. We ship anywhere, and read Japanese, Spanish, and Greek as well as English! So tell us what you think!

Backlist Buying Guide!

I wasn’t going to do a holiday buying guide for our 2009 titles as they might be a bit more difficult to find on bookstore shelves, but because YOU demanded it (well, because a couple of people demanded it), here we are!


All You Need Is Kill
Who I Thought Would Like It: Fans of action-packed SF.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Fans of action-packed SF…eventually. The common publishing wisdom in the United States is that 50,000-word novels don’t sell. Personally I think they do sell just fine, but are most often sold by being embedded in another 50,000-word novel that just happens to be about the same characters opening and closing doors, raising their eyebrows, discussing their hobbies (often hobbies shared by the author), sipping beverages, and having and then recounting ominous dreams. This book really picked up when the movie news hit. Of course, movie news doesn’t last forever, but it was in April of this year when a critical mass of readers finally found the book and then word-of-mouth took over. Even after the bump of the movie announcement, and a subsequent spike following the announcement that Doug Liman would be helming the picture, sales have remained strong. So, good!


The Lord of the Sands of Time
Who I Thought Would Like It: The manga crowd.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Old-school SF fans. The folks who came of age reading the SF of the 1950s really dug this one. Perhaps it’s because many paperback novels from that era, and really, into the 1970s, were fairly short, but this audience didn’t mind another 50,000-word novel. Some actually explicitly declared missing exciting and plot-filled novels that could be read in a single sitting. They didn’t find Messenger O goofy, liked the time-travel and Many Worlds conceits, and found the whole thing rather rollicking!


ZOO
Who I Thought Would Like It: I was afraid nobody would like it!
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Horror fans, thankfully. Two things need to be understood: a) generally speaking, horror doesn’t sell in the United States anymore unless “disguised” as thriller, or paranormal romance, or some other genre; and b) short story collections don’t sell in the US either. So putting out a horror short story collection was very risky—one can imagine the intersecting area of two small audiences as our total potential audience. Well, as it turns out, that intersection was big enough to buy some copies and hungry enough to snap up Otsuichi rather greedily. And ZOO was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. His follow-up, Summer, Fireworks, And My Corpse was also nominated for a prize—the Black Quill award. So if you want to see a third horror short story collection, you know what you need to do, right?


Usurper of the Sun
Who I Thought Would Like It: Hard SF fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Correct! I was pleased to see Nojiri’s first contact novel reviewed in Locus, given a shout-out on National Geographic planetary science blog, and other places beloved of the nerd hardcore. Hard SF is always a little tricky—in recent years in the US it has become dominated by a sort of libertarian politics that one isn’t going to find in Japanese fiction—but it all worked out.

We did reissues of Battle Royale and Brave Story and those continued to sell extremely well to their young audiences. And then there was…


The Book of Heroes
Who I Thought Would Like It: Brave Story fans and creepy weirdos who like nineteenth century decadent fiction.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Many but not all Brave Story fans. Many of Brave Story’s young readers were impressed with that book’s heft. It’s a real achievement for a kid to read an 820-page book. The Book of Heroes isn’t quite the epic Miyuki Miyabe’s other novel with us was, though those who discovered Miyabe through Brave Story and picked up her follow-up quite liked it and many of her new fans are still discovering it—it’s a good backlist seller. My little daydream of Robert W. Chambers fans discovering book—the “King in Yellow” was originally his idea—didn’t quite come true either, but we can’t have all our books for young girls read by middle-aged men, can we?

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Haikasoru holiday shopping guide!

Well, the holidays are here and it’s time for a little shopping. Books are a great present—they’re relatively inexpensive, they’re personal insofar as your choice reflects your knowledge of the friend or relative you are buying for, and they last for years. Hell, some books last for centuries.

What’s interesting as an editor is seeing the kind of people who end up liking this or that book. When we first present a book to the sales staff—who in turn present the book to the buyers for chains and independent bookstores and whatnot, who in turn sell the books to you one at a time—we have to come up with a few descriptors of the audience for our titles. We can’t just say “People who like to read” or anything like that. Actually, the best kind of book, saleswise, is one for people who don’t like to read, as there are many more folks like that than there are dedicated readers. A bestseller is, almost by definition, a book purchased by those who don’t normally purchase books.

Anyway, sometimes my guesses as to an audience have been right, and sometimes I’ve been surprised. So here are some holiday tips for you, based on who actually ended up liking our books. Please note that I don’t mean to imply that the groups I thought would like our books and the groups who actually did are mutually exclusive, I’m just talking about tendencies based on reviews, personal conversations, the mailbag here at Haikasoru headquarters, and online chatter. I’m also very happy with who finally embraced the books; I love seeing wide audiences for the titles and champions for them outside of the usual circles. So here is our 2010 list—read on to find out which would make the best gifts for your loved ones!


Yukikaze
Who I Thought Would Like It: Military SF fans, anime fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Got it in one! If you put a plane on the cover, they will come.


The Stories of Ibis

Who I Thought Would Like It: People interested in complex literary fiction—readers of Borges and David Foster Wallace.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Fans of golden age science fiction. They really appreciated Yamamoto’s storytelling dexterity, his ability to write SF in any mode, and his immense knowledge of both Western and Asian SF. They didn’t even mind the linked-stories structure, as such “fix-up novels” were once fairly common in science fiction.


Loups-Garous

Who I Thought Would Like it: Teen girls.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Twentysomething men, especially if they’re a little, you know, “weird.” Kyogoku’s novel was pretty ambitious in its structure and pacing. A number of people mentioned its similarities to visionary novels as opposed to genre novels. My fave was from a amazon.com reader review: “Loups-Garous is much closer to Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf than Universal Studio’s Werewolf.”


Slum Online

Who I Thought Would Like it: Young men.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Men approaching middle age. I guess we’ve had a generation or two of people who grew up on video games, and it’s the dudes in their thirties who really took to this story of a wayward college kid and a virtual martial arts tournament.


The Next Continent

Who I Thought Would Like it: Fans of hard SF.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: I got this one right! The challenge is just in getting fans of hard SF to pick up this book in the first place, but once they have I’ve received nothing but raves. So if anyone on your shopping list loves science and technology and astronomy and engineering, this is the one!


Harmony

Who I Thought Would Like it: SF fans who like the work of Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and others of that ilk.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Young women. Not that young women don’t like Ballard or PKD! But I was pleasantly surprised at the number of young women who enjoyed this book—of course, it centers, in a way, on the friendships between women, their role in society, and the politics of who owns one’s body, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Shame on me! (Ballard and Dick fans did like this one a lot as well.)


Rocket Girls

Who I Thought Would Like it: Teen girls and anime fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Middle-aged men. Not for gross reasons! Again, this book really tapped into the scientific and adventurous spirit of classic science fiction, and honestly there isn’t a lot of that on the shelves these days. At the World Fantasy Convention, I met an older fellow who had already bought two copies of the book to give away to young people, and who used the anime of the novel series as a teaching aid in the science classes he runs. Very exciting!


Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse

Who I Thought Would Like it: Horror fans.
Who Actually Liked it the Most: Mystery/thriller fans. I’m still surprised! Of course, there is plenty of mystery in Otsuichi’s work, but the supernatural antics and the literary tricks he uses often annoy mystery readers when presented in English-language original novels. These readers want to match wits with the sleuths and the writer to guess the ending before it is revealed. I guess Otsuichi’s powerful voice, which does “sound” more like a mystery voice than a horror voice in some ways, was sufficiently compelling for them to really get a kick out of this one.

Of course, we have two NEW books as well—the hard SF The Ouroboros Wave and the fantasy Dragon Sword and Wind Child, but it’s too soon to tell who’ll really take to these books. Why not buy them for yourself or your friends and once again prove me wrong!

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Cool your body, chill your soul

One of the most interesting cultural differences between US and Japan to me is horror’s different relationship to the seasons. Here in the US, of course, horror is autumnal, partially thanks to Halloween and partially thanks to autumn in general being seen as a season of spectacle and decay. The leaves burst into awesome color and then vanish, leaving behind skeletal branches. And then the days grow short, the nights long, and we’re all out trying to scare one another. And the publishers provide—in September and October most every bookstore will have front-of-store displays of Stephen King and vampire novels, collections of “true” regional ghost stories collected by the local kook, etc.

In Japan, things are different. Perhaps it’s because many of Japan’s sacred forests, such as Atsuta Jingu, are primarily evergreen, but in Japan horror is a summer thing. The nights are hot and sultry, and the days blaze with both heat and humidity—it regularly hits 85% humidity in Tokyo mornings. Horror provides chills, goosebumps even, and thus sweet relief from the weather. Horror is the Japanese equivalent of “beach reading.”

I was thrilled today to see at BN.com (you know, Barnes & Noble), scary book reviewer Paul Goat Allen (he both reviews scary books, and looks pretty scary!) offer a summertime review of ZOO, our Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection of horror tales by Otusichi. Allen writes:

Tired of reading mac and cheese stories? Got a yen for some international literary cuisine? Check out this decidedly Twilight Zone-esque short story collection, replete with jaw-dropping plot twists and bombshell endings… You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into the wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, Otsuichi’s ZOO!

The body of the review is well worth reading as well, though there might be a spoiler or two when Allen discusses his favorite stories in the book, so beware. Check out ZOO; it’ll take the edge off the summer heat. As for me, I’m neck-deep in edits for Black Fairy Tale, one of the two Otsuichi novels we’re releasing collected under the name of Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse (more info soon!) so I am already cool as a cucumber. Brrr.

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