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Intern Michelle Reviews…the StoryBundle

 

If you follow us on social media, you know that we are currently running a Story Bundle for some of our most popular and acclaimed ebooks—you can buy five or all ten ebooks for your own price. Thanks to Intern Michelle, we were able to get the package together right away, and she wanted to share her thoughts on the books with you! Buy the bundle, and tell us what you think!

 

The Final Bundle Countdown

By: Michelle Yee

 

With eight days left of Haikasoru’s first storybundle, there’s still time to get many of Haikasoru’s favorites, including Project Itoh’s Genocidal Organ and Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Slum Online. Of course, the bonus books are equally impressive, especially Legend of the Galactic Heroes Vol. 1: Dawn.

 

With that in mind, let’s begin our short journey through the amazing books that make up Haikasoru’s first sci-fi bundle!

 

The Battle Royale Slam Book

 

I recently finished Battle Royale before reading this slam book so I do understand how all the essays relate to the story. Other than that, I don’t think it’s necessary to read Battle Royale before reading this book. While many of the writers constantly reference back to it, what really makes these stories interesting is how they all manage to bring in their own personal experiences. From John Skipp’s childhood recollection of dying kids to Jason Ridler’s discussion of professional wrestling, these contributors that come from all parts of the world are able to share how this crazy riveting story about children killing each other, has managed to change their lives.

 

The Future is Japanese

 

Since the title of the anthology of stories is called The Future is Japanese, you would expect these stories to have that futuristic techno tone, but to my pleasant surprise, I found myself imagining that these events could happen tomorrow or even by the end of today. Hugo Award-winning short story “Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu is a delight not just because there’s pictures of kanji scattered throughout the story, but also because of how heart-wrenchingly real it is.

 

Genocidal Organ

 

Dark, graphic and bloody from the first sentence, Project Itoh’s first novel takes you in for a ride through the dark references to Alice in Wonderland to the world of the afterlife. The story is as grim as the war on terror that creeps through the lives of the main character, but it still manages to pull you in due to the ingenious use of a multitude of genres from espionage to mystery to horror.

 

The Lord of the Sands of Time

 

What starts off as a historical novel about a young queen and her faithful servant quickly spirals into the story of the mysterious Messenger O who travels across time on a mission to unite different eras to defeat the future rampant alien invasion. Similar to his time jumps, the chapters themselves jump from different periods of his life, inviting the reader to piece together the enigmatic Messenger O and the people he meets along the way.

 

Slum Online

 

A novel for the modern age, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, author of hit novel All You Need Is Kill, creates the picture of young adolescence in Etsuro Sakagami, an awkward college freshman in real life and a formidable fighter in the combat MMO Versus Town. With the rise of social media platforms, online gaming and popular apps like Pokemon Go, it’s easy to get lost in the world of virtual reality. At any stage in life, we’re always searching for a sense of direction and reason for living and so we follow Etsuro on his journey to find his own life all the while finding ours.

 

 

Paying a little bit more for the bonus books is completely worth it, especially since you get another series of books that are equally amazing as the original bundle. Trust me when I say that it wasn’t a drag at all to get the bonus books; they were well worth the trouble.

 

Harmony

 

When I first looked at the Table of Contents, I thought I accidentally pulled up a chatroom before I realized that I was reading Harmony. Set years after the original events in Genocidal Organ, Project Itoh immediately draws you into the story of the perfect utopian future of Japan and the three girls that try to commit suicide to defy it. Scratch that—make that one girl that dies and the two girls that try to understand their lives afterwards. A thought-provoking commentary on society, this Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation winner makes us look at utopias in its entirety, all the while raising questions that make us question ourselves.

Gene Mapper

 

How far would you go to save your rice crop? Gene mapper Hayashida would go across Asia with a hired gun-hacker to do so. Taiyo Fujii’s world may be a future where reality is arranged through biology itself, but the idea of genetically modified food isn’t new. In fact, what makes this book so involving is the fact that reality can go in this direction. Gene Mapper pushes us to think about humanity’s consistent use of technology and what that does to society.

 

Hanzai Japan

 

Haikasoru’s most recent anthology, this collection brings together crime and mystery stories with the usual flair of science fiction and fantasy. Exploring different aspects of the fantastical, technology and psychology of both the detective and the criminal, Hanzai Japan makes for an entertaining series of short stories that can bring even the most uncaring reader to life. My personal favorite would have to be Carrie Vaughn’s “The Girl Who Loved Shonen Knife,” a story about a girl who will do anything to win her high school band contest and manages to solve a mystery along the way.

 

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 1: Dawn

 

In humanity’s distant future, the monarchic Galactic Empire and democratic Free Planets Alliance fight in a continuous war, led by their respective military heroes: ambitious Reinhard von Lohengramm and strategic Yang Wen-li. Fans had petitioned the Legend of the Galactic Heroes series to be translated for a long time and I can see why. Engaging and action-packed with hints of Western space dramas, I find myself not being able to choose a side. Maybe in the next few novels, I’ll finally be able to make my decision. If you liked this book, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 2: Ambition just came out in bookstores, so check that out!

 

Phantasm Japan

 

As editor Nick Mamatas says in the introduction, “Phantasm Japan seeks to use the fantastic not to mystify, but to demystify,” and this anthology does just that. By incorporating the fantastical with science fiction, it blends together with the stories of ancient Japan and the mystical yokai that come along with it. However, my personal favorite story has to be Tim Pratt’s “Those Who Hunt Monsters.” Lighthearted and powerful, it is a modern exploration of racism and the face it hides behind, magical beings included.

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Haikasoru Goes Hollywood…Again!

The news can now be revealed!

VIZ PRODUCTIONS DEVELOPING FEATURE FILM BASED ON AUTHOR SAYURI UEDA’S SHORT STORY THE STREET OF FRUITING BODIES

BATMAN Screenwriter Sam Hamm To Develop Script About An Infestation Of Deadly Hallucinogenic Spores

San Francisco, CA, Date February 12 2015 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, has announced that its Los Angeles-based film development division, VIZ Productions, is developing the haunting short story, “The Street of Fruiting Bodies,” by famed Japanese author Sayuri Ueda into a feature film, and has retained Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm to write the adaptation.

“The Street of Fruiting Bodies” depicts the sudden spread of a mysterious and lethal species of hallucinogenic mushroom. The infestation is deadly, but it also offers visions of deceased loved ones to the infected, hinting at the reality of an afterlife, or at least a new kind of existence that is beyond human comprehension. Ueda’s story appeared in the anthology, PHANTASM JAPAN, which collects works by several bestselling authors from both the United States and Japan and was published in English in 2014 by VIZ Media’s Haikasoru literary imprint.

Phantasm Japan cover

Jason Hoffs, Head of Production at VIZ Productions, says the story is well suited for feature film adaptation. “Sayuri Ueda turns the ‘killer virus’ concept on its head with an agent that strikes at our emotions rather than our bodies. We hope to marry the pace of a riveting popcorn movie with a compelling meditation on life-after-death, love and memory, and God.”

Screenwriter Sam Hamm is best known for his script for the 1989 Tim Burton film, Batman, and also adapted short fiction for Showtime’s Masters of Horror series. He says of the new project, “Ueda creates a world in which the most profound human emotions – love, grief, longing, and hope – can lead to one’s salvation or one’s undoing, and the true horror is that it may be impossible to tell the difference. ‘The Street of Fruiting Bodies’ is not only disturbing, it is moving.”

VIZ Productions coordinates the licensing of Japanese entertainment media (manga, books and film) to North American-based film studios. The company’s most recent project was 2014’s sci-fi action feature, Edge of Tomorrow, which was co-produced by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures and starred Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton. The film was based on the novel, ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and available in English from VIZ Media’s Haikasoru imprint. VIZ Productions is also currently developing a feature film adaptation of the hit manga property DEATH NOTE.

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The 2014 Haikasoru Gift Guide

What better present is there than a book? Not only does it show that you think the gift recipient is intelligent, you get to show off your own taste and sophistication as well. That’s what they call a win-win situation. We have a wide assortment of books, and appeal to several different audiences, so here is our recommendation list for this holiday season.

What should you buy for:

A junior high or high school student

High school students need Battle Royale Remastered, our new translation of the cult classic, and the non-fiction companion title The Battle Royale Slam Book. Imagine the year-end term papers anyone so outfitted could write. Sometimes these poor things are told to read a book over winter break, and write a reaction paper, with sources! (The Slam Book is good for that.)

“Okay teacher, I will. I will.”

Someone who doesn’t actually like to read

All You Need Is Kill: The Graphic Novel. It has pictures. It’s a Western-style comic book. It makes a good gift bundle along with Edge of Tomorrow and the manga, and perhaps even the film DVD. It’s a transmedia experience with a very low word-count.

My ahead-of-the-curve friend who already reads everything, hears about all the new writers first, and is impossible to shop for

They need a copy of Phantasm Japan, which has stories by some of the best new writers, and is anchored by a stunning illustrated novella by Dempow Torishima. It’s…well, it’s hard to describe. No matter who your avant friend is, he or she will be surprised.

Young people who love science

Did you know that all our books are still in print? That means Rocket Girls and Rocket Girls: The Last Planet are still available! Ready for a wacky adventure with solid science grounding? These are the books for you. Highly recommended for anyone who loved Andy Weir’s novel The Martian.

My uncle who won’t stop talking about conspiracy theories and the end of the world at our family parties and just ends up upsetting everyone

Shut him up with a copy of Virus. It’s a thriller, like a Japanese Michael Chrichton novel, by Japanese science fiction grandmaster Sakyo Komatsu. This book has everything…submarines, nuclear weapons, fast cars, two billion corpses, biochemical warfare, real science, international cooperation at the South Pole, and hunger-mad politicians! And it’s long enough that Uncle Herbie will probably fall asleep with it tented up on his stomach somewhat early in the evening. Snoring is better than going on about the gold standard and chemtrails all night, isn’t it?

Old-school types who still tell ghost stories on Christmas Eve

People do that? Yes, or they used to. Still somewhat common in The United Kingdom. For some creepy yet all-ages fun, you need our ghost story collection by Miyuki Miyabe Apparitions.

My creepy cousin who just sits at the dinner table with everyone else and doesn’t eat or make a sound

Definitely Asura Girl. Say no more.

Happy shopping, and happy holidays!

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Phantasm Japan Q/A with Joseph Tomaras

Phantasm Japan runs the gamut of the genre of fantasy, from retellings of classic tales to pop culture subversions to terrifying visions of a future so extreme that humanity is unrecognizable (and much slimier). One of the most interesting stories, structurally, is “Thirty-Eight Observations on the Nature of the Self” from new writer Joseph Tomaras. He’s published several stories online, but Phantasm Japan is his dead tree-debut. He talks, a lot, with editor Nick Mamatas here:

How did you first come across the Japanese concepts you used in your story?

It was in some listicle about “untranslatable words”. It may even have been in Cracked, of all places. Being a former philosophy major, I am drawn to metaphysical concepts, like a magpie to shiny objects. I deposit them in my brain, and pick them out occasionally to gawk at them. Occasionally, they resonate with something that I have observed in social reality. My encounter with tatemae and honne was particularly timely, as I’ll explain when I get to your question about Maine. To map that resonance between concept and reality you need an instrument that is more sensitive than, say, an essay, which is better at mapping correspondences than resonances, showing how the concept describes reality. Resonances are more about situations where the concept provides us with a way of understanding reality that transforms the reality by intensifying already latent phenomena. The instrument for mapping the resonance is fiction, the writing of a story.

Most newer writers tend to stick to tried and true structural formulae and traditional themes. You went for an innovative list-structure “Thirty-Eight Observations on the Nature of the Self” and dove right into a theme that most genre fiction magazines warn people against submitting. What the heck, Joseph?

I am only a new writer with reference to short fiction as a form. My job in the grants office of a small college requires great volumes of writing, not just of grant proposals or portions thereof, but policy documents, institutional correspondence, etc., and that has been the case with all my jobs for the last fourteen years. Bureaucratic spoor is the prose that we all speak without knowing it. Against that background noise, people whose job it is to write persuasively–not just grant writers, but marketers, advertising copywriters, and the like—are the unacknowledged poets of our age, evoking intimations of the sublime through descriptions of measurable objectives and project outputs.

Nor is my experience with persuasive writing limited to the “day job;” for a comparable span of time, anonymously or pseudonymously, I have written geomtery dash game online reams of prose published through various blogs, internal bulletins, small-circulation magazines, and episodically photocopied leaflets, on the margins of the already marginal radical left. Since the type of radicalism to which I had formerly wed myself, Trotskyism, is a kind of alternate history in the field of political action, the transition to speculative modes of fiction was almost a given.

I never set out to make a career for myself in the writing of fiction. I enjoy the work I do, for which I am paid much better than most working writers, and I suspect at times that my off-hours would be better spent campaigning for candidates of the Maine Green Independent Party than trying to submit my work for publication. It’s just that in the last three years, I have written more than twenty stories. I re-read them periodically to try and convince myself that they suck. Too often, I fail at that, and find myself still enjoying the piece and wishing that more people could read it. So I am trying, for now, not to let all that work go to waste, acting as a kind of Yenta the Matchmaker for my brood. I may never write another story, or I may live another fifty years and write a few hundred more. I write what I want, or what I feel compelled to write, and if it gets published, wonderful!

As for the theme: Many, though not all, of my stories draw upon past traumas, though usually they undergo more than a bit of sublimation and transfiguration along the way. I certainly understand why a magazine editor, weary of lazy depictions of traumatizing events, might impose a blanket ban on such themes. (I prefer it when such taboos are clearly stated in the guidelines, rather than left for the reader to infer.) But the net effect of such bans is to silence much of human experience.

You moved to Maine a few years ago and it is the setting for a couple of your stories. Was it difficult to place a Japanese cultural concept within such an archetypically American setting?

I made it easy on myself by setting it in Maine. For one thing, it seems like I have an easier time selling my stories set in Maine than those in other settings. I have multiple guesses as to why that might be the case, each of which is probably at least partly true. It is, as the Althusserians say, overdetermined.

But there are also some similarities between Japan and Maine. They have in common a relatively high degree of xenophobia. The statistics on both are well-known. Japan has the smallest immigrant population of any wealthy nation, proportionally, and is second only to the U.S. in the proportion of its citizens who speak no second language well. Maine, in turn, is the whitest state in the U.S., and has the smallest proportion of immigrants of any state. There is, further, the Maine concept of “from away.” It is a status that is easy to assume and near impossible to shed. The husband of a former dean of mine once told me that, though his family had lived in Maine since colonial times and he had lived here nearly all his life, he would always be “from away” since he had had the misfortune of being born in Massachusetts. Even my infant son, born in a freak April snowstorm, will always be under suspicion of being “from away,” what with his foreign-sounding surname and New Yorker parents. (The story of my origins is more complicated than it is interesting, but for all practical purposes, I am a New Yorker.)

I encountered the conceptual dyad at the core of the story, honne/tatemae, just as we were getting ready to move into our house, in a small town that is not named “North Glamis” (for there is no such town). I was anxious as to whether we would get along well with our neighbors, in a place where getting along well with one’s neighbors was both possible and necessary in ways it had never been in the City. There was more cause for such anxiety than simply being “from away”. For example, the town in which I live is, by some measures, the wealthiest in the state, and yet I am a communist. The place practically defines heteronormativity, yet I identify as queer (even though my life is, to all appearances, as heteronormative as any). To the extent that I try and get my writing published, I put this stuff out there. The anxiety was, in part, an anxiety about being found out and the impact that could have on my family.

It would be impossible to write a story about the honne (the true self) set in New York City. New Yorkers don’t give a fuck about anyone’s true self. If it ever shows, they’ll just assume it’s another constructed front (tatemae), put on for some sort of performative advantage. Mainers, though they would rather not be exposed to the true self, if it shows, they’ll talk.

The first version of the story was terrible, too many correspondences and not enough resonances, too much like an essay. I knew I would have to radically rewrite it for it to ever be worth publishing. Around the time I started rewriting it for Phantasm Japan, my parents were going through an ugly and overdue divorce, in the course of which things came to light about my father that showed him to be an even greater asshole than I had hitherto believed him to be. There is nothing in the story that is crudely camouflaged autobiography or family tell-all, but the situation enabled me to be more creative in thinking about the manifold ways in which relations between fathers and sons, or between spouses, or between a person and his community, can fall apart when someone loses track of their own desires.

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