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ZOO [Archive]

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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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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Haikasoru at the World Fantasy Convention

This past weekend I attended the 2009 World Fantasy Convention. As they say in the junior high school paper after the student play, “Everybody had a good time.” But more than that was had! For example, Haikasoru had a presence on the “Fantasy in Translation” panel. Check out this photographic evidence:


From L to R: Your handsome Haikasoru editor, Rani Graff, Cheryl Morgan, Ann Vandermeer, Zoran Živković. Photo by Kevin Standlee, with permission.

Zoran Živković discussed his attempt to find an audience larger than he could have ever had in his native Serbian by investing heavily in private translations of his work into English. Ann Vandermeer, fiction editor of the venerable Weird Tales spoke of her experiences in bringing out the first “international” issue in the magazine’s eighty-five year history. We also talked about the number of books translated into English each year, the expense and difficulty of doing so and the importance of making sure that translators get their due. I was happy to report to the audience that Haikasoru titles always have the translator’s byline right on the front cover.

Cheryl Morgan moderated the panel and had a special announcement: the launch of The Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards, for works of speculative fiction translated into English from other languages. It should be a pretty good award, as such things go—the University of California, Riverside’s Eaton Collection is associated with the initiative and will likely be hosting the first ceremony in 2011. Also, cash prizes!

Many other countries, such as Germany and Finland, have their own awards for SF/F and many of these awards also include awards for translated fiction, often but not always from English—in Finland a book translated from a regional Kenyan language recently won—but in the Anglophone world such a prize category is lacking. Of course, there are awards for works in translation; Haikasoru’s own Brave Story won the Batchelder Award for children’s literature in translation. (Have I mentioned that the paperback is coming out in a mere two weeks?) But the SFFTA’s are the first sf/fantasy-specific award. Check out the press release if you’d like to play the home game version of the panel.

There was more to WFC than panels and prizes though. There were parties and goody bags featuring copies of ZOO and The Lord of the Sands of Time, which were eagerly gobbled up by attendees, readings, and whirls of words and art. And very little sleep.

Haikasoru hopes to be hitting more conventions this year and next, so do keep an eye out at your local SF hootenanny.

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This week, the World Fantasy Convention!

We’re very excited that this week the World Fantasy Convention will be coming to the Bay Area, specifically San Jose’s lovely Fairmont Hotel. Guests of honor include Haikasoru pal Jeff Vandermeer, who so recently interviewed us on the Omnivoracious blog, and the theme of the convention is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe has a special place in our hearts as he was a writer who became more famous in translation than he did in is native language. In life, Poe had flashes of popular success, such as with “The Raven”, and he sold many of his stories to the top periodicals of day. Just how good Poe was, however, became clear in Europe first thanks in part to translations of his work by Charles Baudelaire. Then the master’s reputation drifted back across the Atlantic to the United States.

WFC is recognizing the importance of translation with a panel we’ll be participating in this Friday afternoon at 2PM:

Fantasy in Translation
While English continues to dominate the world’s market for fantastic fiction, much fine work is also produced in other languages. Indeed, many classic works have been produced in other languages. Writers such as Verne, Lem, Borges and Calvino, as well as newcomers such as Sapkowski and Živković, have delighted us with their work. But these writers are only the tip of an iceberg. Very little of this material is ever translated, and consequently the English-speaking world is presumably missing out on a lot of good reading. So what exactly are we missing out on, and how can we get more of it?
Cheryl Myfanwy Morgan (moderator), Rani Graff, Nick Mamatas, Ann VanderMeer, Zoran Živković

I hear there will be a special announcement made at the panel so if you are at the con, please do attend. Haikasorunaut atttendees should also check out their WFC goody bags—selected bags will include free copies of either ZOO or The Lord of the Sands of Time.

See you all there!

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