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Anniversary Giveaway Winners!

Thanks for all the wonderful responses—I loved the in-depth discussions of some of ours books. If you’re not a Haikasoru completist already, I hope you check out some of the contest entries and use the comments as recommendations for further readings. And now, the winners:

Brockton e. for his thoughts on Mardock Scramble. Apparently, we’ve turned him into a gambling addict! Sorry, Brockton.

Alex, for his love of the world-building in Loups-Garous. That book is one of my favorites as well, and I always felt it a bit under-appreciated. So I’m glad he liked it!

Kate C., who is a fan of Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse. Listen to what she says; I’d love to publish more j-horror.

Carrie L. who wants the nation of Navidad to be real. The Navidad Incident is a great book—hardcover magical realism! Impress your friends!

And finally Seth E. for his extensive comments on the process of novelization and Ico: The Castle in the Mist.

Thanks for all your great comments; it was a wonderful well to celebrate our anniversary! Winners, we’ll contact you this afternoon.

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Summer, Fireworks, And a Sale!

We have a lot to celebrate around here at Haikasoru—this is our second anniversary! We love bringing you the best science fiction and fantasy from Japan, and are pleased with the response we’re getting from manga fans, readers of SF, literary award juries, and even Hollywood. We’ve decided to do a little celebration. Good Luck, Yukikaze comes out tomorrow, and to make sure all our readers are up to speed on the saga of humanity’s war against the JAM, we’ve put the ebook of the original Yukikaze on sale!

For the rest of the month, the Kindle and iBook and SONY editions will be a mere $3.99!

Anniversaries are a time to look forward, and back, and summer is a time for reading—whether it’s on the beach or before school starts and work crowds out leisuretime, we’ve got some titles you should consider.

In Japan, summertime, not autumn, is the traditional season for spooky stories. That’s part of why Otsuichi named his first published story Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse. It’s the goosebumps that’ll keep you chill on a hot summer night, don’t you know.

Hugo-nominated fan writer and critic recently wrote of the book, I generally don’t care for horror, on account of horror protagonists generally being imbeciles who deserve their fate, and I only read this because I vowed to read all of Haikasoru’s line. I was very surprised to discover that in fact I liked this one quite a lot….I am quite pleased to have discovered Otsuichi’s fiction, which I never would have thought of seeking out under normal circumstances, and I will acquire any other books by him that I encounter.

Of course, here in the United States, summer is a time not for horror, but for weddings! (Well, maybe that is a special kind of horror of its own…) Extravagant weddings are a big deal in Japan as they are here in the US, but Issui Ogawa tops them all with The Next Continent, the story of one woman’s vision of building a wedding chapel on the moon. Hard SF in the West isn’t known for its emotional resonances, but Ogawa’s book isn’t just for engineers, it’s for engineers…and for lovers! Check it out.

Summertime also means that school’s out and summer jobs are necessary. Why not check out Rocket Girls and Rocket Girls: The Last Planet (both are available as ebooks now as well). If I were one of those marketing people, I’d say that “Yukari and Matsuri find that their summer jobs as astronauts are out of this world!” but I’m not so I’ll only say, “Yukari and Matsuri find that their summer jobs as astronauts are in low-Earth orbit!”

Summer is also a time for tackling those big projects. It doesn’t come much bigger than this epic of post-cyberpunk noir and wacky anime hijinks (yes, both!) in our three-books-in-one-volume monster Mardock Scramble.

Every teen prostitute turned murderous cyborg needs a little yellow mouse for a best friend. Ibookstore users can also download the bonus novelette, “Useful Monsters” for free!

That will keep you busy for a bit. Be sure to check us out regularly for news and fun contests!

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Report from Japan: Meeting Otsuichi!

Our friend and translator Nate Collins was in Japan last month, and wrote this little essay for us…no, for you! about meeting Otsuichi in the flesh. Translators often feel a special responsibility for the authors whose work they bring into a new language, so Nate, the translator of Summer, Fireworks, And My Corpse, was very thrilled at the opportunity to meet our own “strange one.” Let’s check out what he has to say!

Last last month, during a trip to Japan and with the gracious help of Nick and Masumi, I was able to meet Otsuichi-san.

I was to meet him in the headquarters of his publisher, Shueisha, in Jimbou, Tokyo. The walk from the train station to my meeting took me through several glorious blocks of back-street used book stores — the area reminded me most of London’s Charing Cross Road, although what sets Jimbou apart from London, or anywhere else that I’m aware of, is that not only is it the used and new bookstore center of Japan, it’s the home to many major Japanese publishing houses — including the two associated with VIZ Media, Shogakukan and Shueisha.

The result is an entire neighborhood that lives and breathes the printed word from conception to consumption. I had boarded the train excited to meet Otsuichi-san, but as I hurried past the rows of bookstores and their sidewalk displays, this now wasn’t just a meeting — it was a pilgrimage.

The streets of Jimbou, or one of them at least.

I made my way into the spacious and modern lobby of the Shueisha building, registered at the desk, sat on the long, comfortable couch, and fought the urge to grab the latest issue of Shonen Jump from the magazine rack. I was here on business. I was wearing a sportcoat. Must remain professional. A small gallery of rare Naruto goods and artwork sat in an open room adjacent to the foyer, mocking me.

After what might have been a few hours, but was probably just a few minutes, I was met by Hakui-san, Otsuichi-san’s editor. She looked not much older than me (I’m 28), wore dark-rimmed glasses and a subdued flower-print blouse. She greeted me warmly, and we exchanged bows and handshakes, and she ushered me to a meeting room on the mezzanine.

The room was large, with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows giving full view of the Tokyo skyline, and a long wooden conference table that could comfortably seat forty, although today there were only three of us. Otsuichi-san was already waiting. He was slender, but not small. He wore jeans and a long-sleeved gray and black striped shirt, and stood unassumingly with his hands clasped behind his back. We sat, and Hakui-san ordered us coffees and clicked on her tape recorder, insisting that this was, above all else, an informal meeting.

Shueisha HQ, home of many “informal meetings.”

We started to talk, with Hakui-san guiding the conversation, and we talked for nearly two hours. My speaking abilities are nowhere near my reading comprehension, and both Otsuichi-san and his editor were patient and attentive. Otsuichi-san himself was genuine, modest, and mild-mannered. For much of the meeting, he was taciturn — his personality seemed to be more that of an observer than a participator — but he was friendly, and seemed truly interested in what I had to say. It was hard to believe some of the darker scenes in SUMMER/BLACK FAIRY TALE came from such a good-natured person.

Hakui-san asked me about my process of translation, and I did my best to instill confidence in my work. She then asked me what I liked best about SUMMER and BLACK FAIRY TALE, and I said, to an increasingly self-conscious Otsuichi-san, that I enjoyed his use of narrative point-of-view — in particular, the use of certain characters’ viewpoints and the false assumptions they make to lead the reader to the same wrong conclusions, but all without being dishonest to the reader, and never tricking the reader. Even the more fantastical elements are grounded in logic and are internally consistent. Keeping the misdirection intact without losing its integrity was one of my biggest challenges.

I also said that I admired his ability, in just a few short sentences, to vividly paint the image of a scene in the reader’s head, and how much of a boon that was to me as a translator. Providing the literal translation of every word results in stilted prose devoid of its original feeling and intent, so it is most important for me to be able to see what the writer was envisioning as he wrote each scene. Sometimes it can be difficult to do so, but with Otsuichi-san’s prose, it was easy.

I felt the three of us hit it off right away. I got the impression, although it might be impertinent to say, that I found a kindred spirit in Otsuichi-san. We have a lot in common — he’s from a small rural town in Fukuoka Prefecture, located in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four major islands, and I’m from a town of 25,000 in Iowa. He told me that the town in SUMMER, FIREWORKS, AND MY CORPSE, was heavily based upon the village where he grew up.

We both seem to have the same inexplicable embarrassment about our published work. Otsuichi-san admitted that not only does he never read his own published books, he feels ashamed to see them on the shelves in a bookstore. I told him I was the same way, and although I’m always glad to see my translations out in the wild, so to speak, I’ll never pick them up and flip through the pages. It’s irrational, since both he and I will read the finished product several times during the editing process, and I know that I’m extremely proud of the work I submit, but as soon as our work becomes published and exists in reality, we can’t read it. His attitude toward his own success seems a mixture of both heartfelt gratitude and utter bewilderment at its existence.

Nate and Otsuichi, trying not to look too embarrassed.

Also, we both enjoy video games — Japanese role-playing games in particular — and he perked up when I mentioned growing up on Super Nintendo games like Final Fantasy 4 and 6 and Chrono Trigger. We both lamented the current state of the Japanese game market, and how it’s been surpassed by the West. In his free time, Otsuichi-san likes to watch video game “jikkyou douga” (“live recordings” — game playthroughs with the player’s real-time comments and reactions recorded onto the audio track, known as “Let’s Play” videos in the states), and he recommended me an obscure Japanese role playing game that has seen a recent surge in popularity through Japan’s “NicoNico” streaming video site. (A PlayStation game that, sadly, has never been translated into English: “Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke” [literally “Cross Over My Corpse and Go”]. And yes, it’s really good!)

After what felt like no time at all, it was time for Otsuichi-san to go. We took photos and exchanged books — I gave him a copy of one of my father’s novels (Stolen Away) translated into Japanese, and he gave me a copy of one of his most recent books. Now fully in fanboy mode, I got him to sign a few books for me — including my copy of SUMMER, which will sit on my bookshelf, where it will be treasured by me, if never read.

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Summer, Fireworks, and Fabulous Prizes!

We’re pleased to hear that Otsuichi’s Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse has been nominated for the Black Quill Award in the category of “dark genre fiction collection.” (Collections are books of multiple stories by a single author. If it’s multiple authors, those books are generally called anthologies.)

The award is sponsored by Dark Scribe Magazine which publishes essays and reviews about horror fiction. So I guess some horror fans did like Otsuichi’s latest. Incidentally, the winners of the Black Quill are decided by the voting public, so if you read and enjoyed the book perhaps you might want to support it with a click.

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