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YUKIKAZE [Archive]

More ebook news

Just a quick update: next Tuesday, 11/9, we’ll be rolling out ebook editions of Yukikaze (with improved text!), Usurper of the Sun, and The Lord of the Sands of Time. They’ll be available as Apple iBooks (for the iPad et al), and for Amazon’s Kindle as well.

Last week when I was at the World Fantasy Convention I met several people who told me that they were going “ebook only”—one even turned down the free books in the WFC goody bags because they existed in physical space. Any hardcore eheads out there? Make yourself known!

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Neat Yukikaze review

Over at Strange Horizons Andy Sawyer struggles a bit with Yukikaze before deciding that Yukikaze may be a popular action-adventure story, but there is a profound and sophisticated ambiguity here, an insight which is hardly new but which does raise Yukikaze from being a simple novel about, essentially, a “magic weapon” to a human tragedy.

It is a tricky book, Yukikaze, especially for a Western audience. In the West, military science fiction is most often presented in the adventure mode, with a prominent secondary concern being tactics, the use of hard science, and occasionally a look at contemporary geopolitics. Yukikaze, perhaps because Japan has abandoned its triumphalist military culture, is a bit more existential than a lot of (but by no means all) Western military SF. Our other military title, All You Need Is KILL has a similar theme about futility and loss, even though it’s essentially a comical novel for younger readers. Of course, part of making a book that people will want to buy is coming up with that proper mix of adventure and philosophizing; too much of the former and you end up with the sort of dross people won’t read because they’d rather watch it on TV, too much of the latter and you alienate the audience for popular fiction.

As I am currently knee-deep in edits for Good Luck, Yukikaze, I’ll say that Sawyer’s suspicions about the themes of the series are spot on. More will be revealed soon!

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ZOO nominated for Shirley Jackson award!

We’ve been sitting on this all week, but now we can finally announce that Otsuichi’s ZOO has been nominated for Best Short Story Collection for this year’s Shirley Jackson award.

Buy me!

Shirley Jackson needs no introduction, but the awards might. The Jacksons celebrate “the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic,” but like the author for which they are named, the awards go far beyond “genre” norms. Jackson’s most famous short story, “The Lottery” was published first in The New Yorker to a tsunami of complaints about how horrid the tale was…and to more than a few letters from would-be lookie-loos requesting the location of the town where the annual lottery takes place—the story was so compelling that to many it seemed real.

(By the way, the answer is West Bennington, Vermont. See you there this summer!)

Otsuichi isn’t even the first Japanese writer to be so lauded. Last year literary author Yoko Ogawa won the category for her The Diving Pool, a collection of novellas, some of which had previously appeared in The New Yorker as well. (Check out Pregnancy Diary for some literary chills.) Will Ogawa serve as a bellwether for Otsuichi? I’d like to think so. As a short story lover, the decline of the form in the US is a sad state of affairs, but short subjects are booming in Japan, perhaps because most major publishers have both literary and commercial fiction magazines in which they cultivate new talent. (The commuter culture helps too, I suspect. A story is often one train trip’s length.) Can Superior Japanese Storytelling Technology in Translation defeat the rest of the world again?

I don’t know if our resident “strange one” will ever make the pages of The New Yorker or any other slick American magazine, but he’s been doing pretty well. In addition to the Jackson nod, two ZOO tales—”The White House in the Cold Forest” and In a Park at Twilight, a Long Time Ago received Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s annual best-of anthology, Best Horror of the Year, volume 2. Sweet!

In Japan, horror is summertime reading. Forget pumpkins and brown and orange leaves crunching under one’s feet, the dark stuff is associated with the blazing sun. Horror gives you chills after all, and that’ll serve to cool a reader down on a sultry Asian night. The Shirley Jackson award winners will be announced at Readercon in July, so maybe it’ll be a lucky time of year. And a win would be a great kick off for our next Otsuichi title, which…

ell, which you’ll see in stores just in time for the summer to end and Halloween season to begin.

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Yukikaze, More Than “Plane Porn”

About a year and a half ago, when we were passing around a list of potential new titles for Haikasoru, not one but two of the long-time editors here were thrilled to see Yukikaze among the contenders. Personally, I’d never heard of the series, but when Leyla Aker said, “I’ll work on this book for free!” I thought, Hmm, less work for myself, eh? and happily threw my support behind the title. And that was only half-mercenary; enthusiasm is a necessary ingredient for putting out books, and when enthusiasm manifests itself in a business meeting (where that emotion usually comes just to die), one has to take advantage of it. Now Yukikaze is here, and every day I get questions about the possibility of doing the sequels (short answer: make sure all your friends buy the first one and you’ll be much more likely to see the sequels) and I asked Leyla to write a little something on the series. Without further ado…

Yukikaze: That Damn Good

Mr. Mamatas has graciously invited me to guest blog here on Haikasoru.com about a new book that I (being the complete sucker for scifi/military/social commentary/satire/suspense tales that I am) most happily did the editorial grunt-work for.

That novel is Yukikaze. And in truth, to call it “new” is a bit misleading. It’s new to the English-language audience, certainly, but the translation that Haikasoru published is actually that of the 20th anniversary edition of the book, which included some minor emendations by the author, Chohei Kambayashi.

So who is Kambayashi that he merits 20th anniversary editions of his books? The short answer is: the Philip K. Dick of Japan. But that sounds like the punchline of a bad joke, and, more importantly, is dismissive of and condescending to an entire body of another country’s literature. (Nothing against St. Phil. And yes, dear reader, speculative fiction is literature, although that’s for a thousand grad students to argue, not me.)

The long answer is that Kambayashi is one of the most esteemed and prolific speculative fiction writers in Japan. His corpus displays a breathtaking range of format (short stories, novellas, novels) and content (running the gamut from the dead serious to the antically comedic, hard science fiction to straight-up adventure), and even a cursory review of his work explains why he’s been the recipient of armloads of awards. In short, the man is a damn good writer.

And what is Yukikaze that it merits a 20th anniversary edition? The short answer is: a damn good book. The long answer is that it’s one of the seminal works of the “Third Generation” of Japanese science fiction, and one that has spawned an array of spin-offs, from video games to toys to dramatizations to manga to anime.

This last, the anime, is how almost everyone outside of Japan first became aware of Yukikaze. Bandai released it in the U.S. in 2006, and then again on Blu-Ray in 2008. The consensus among anime fans is that it’s a beautiful work, full of what I and one of my colleagues affectionately refer to as “plane porn,” but a somewhat baffling one. The bafflement is due to the fact that the anime’s producers compressed the content of two very dense books—Yukikaze and its sequel, Good Luck, Yukikaze—into roughly three hours of animation. And so one of my hopes for the publication of this book is that it will help fill in the gaps in the story. (By the by, the translator of the book, Neil Nadelman, also did the translation for the anime, in both instances heroically slogging through a wilderness of military and scientific terminology.)

I came to Yukikaze through another vector, the manga, which is in turn quite different from both the book and the anime. It was created by one of the biggest names in Japanese alternative comics (yeah, world famous in Poland, I know, but trust me), a woman by the name of Yumi Tada. I had been a longtime fan of Tada’s work, which for the most part consists of what’s usually described as “urban realism,” hard-bitten yet romantic tales of small-time hoodlums, two-bit hookers, rockers, drifters, and other societal marginals. So when I picked up her version of Yukikaze, my first reaction was: Huh? But I quickly became interested (okay, a little obsessed) with it. (OCD can be a beneficial editorial trait. Betcha didn’t know that.)

Apparently Tada sensei became obsessed with Yukikaze as well, because she went on to do the character designs for the anime and became a story consultant for it as well. Her influence is what accounts for what another one of my colleagues refers to as the, ahem, “bromance” between Lt. Fukai and Maj. Booker in the anime, which is absent from the Kambayashi’s work. And if Rei comes across as a slap-worthy emo boy in the anime, you can lay that blame on her creative doorstep too. But better yet, take a look at the manga if you have the chance since it adds some interesting backstory to how Rei wound up on Faery.

When you read Yukikaze you might notice that it’s not structured as holistically as many of us would expect when reading a novel. This is largely the result of the fact that the content originally appeared in serial form in a science fiction magazine, but it’s also due to a difference in emphasis between Western novels and Japanese novels. As a gross (really gross) generalization, Western novels tend to focus more on plot and story—the actual mechanics of what happens and how—whereas Japanese novels tend to focus more on character and causality—the reasons for why things happen and why the people who make them happen do so. In line with that, Kambayashi’s concern in Yukikaze is not to “narrate” and explain the war with the JAM so much as to explore how Rei understands his place within that conflict and his heroic struggle to try and formulate answers to the same hard questions that have always confronted humans: Who am I? What am I doing here? What is it that I’m supposed to be doing here? Is it possible to truly understand another sentient being?

It’s Kambayashi’s deft treatment of these questions that has secured Yukikaze’s place in the ranks of classic speculative fiction. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

P.S. I’m gonna take the opportunity here to answer a question that came up in a couple of reviews: Yes, the correct transcription of the names is “Booker” and “Lydia,” not “Bukhar” and “Rydia.” Ah, the joys of translating katakana

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