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Elfriede stirred on the sofa. The evergreen oak door opened, and the master of the von Reuentahl residence cast his tall shadow across the floor. With his mismatched eyes, the man who’d taken Elfriede’s virginity admired her cream-colored hair and fresh limbs.

“I’m touched. It seems you haven’t run away after all.”

“It’s not as if I’ve done anything wrong. Why would I need to run away?”

“You’re a criminal who tried to kill the secretary-general of the Imperial Navy’s Supreme Command Headquarters. I could have you executed on the spot. The fact that I haven’t put you in chains should tell you what a forgiving man I can be.”

“I’m not a habitual criminal like all of you.”

One couldn’t wound the pride of a veteran hero with such cynicism and get away with it. The young admiral with the heterochromatic eyes let out a short, derisive laugh. He closed the door behind him and made his slow approach. His ferocity and grace were in perfect harmony. Ignoring his intention, the woman’s eyes were drawn to him. When she came to her senses, her right wrist was firmly in his grasp.

“Such a beautiful hand,” he said, his breath reeking of alcohol. “I’ve been told my mother’s hands were also beautiful, as if carved from the finest ivory. She never once used those hands for anyone but herself. The first time she picked up her own son, she tried to stab him in the eye with a knife. That was the last time she ever touched me.”

Caught in von Reuentahl’s attractive gaze of gold and silver, Elfriede held her breath for a moment.

“Such a pity! Even your own mother knew her son would one day commit treason. She threw her feelings aside and took matters into her own hands. If only I had an ounce of her bravery. That such a splendid mother could give birth to such an unworthy son!”

“With a little adjustment, we could use that as your epitaph.”

Von Reuentahl released Elfriede’s white hand and brushed back the dark-brown hair hanging over his forehead. The sensation of his hand remained as a hot ring on the woman’s wrist. Von Reuentahl leaned his tall frame against a wall tapestry, deep in thought.

“I just don’t get it. Is it so terrible losing the privileges you had until your father’s generation? It’s not like your father or grandfather worked to earn those privileges. All they did was run around like children.”

Elfriede swallowed her response.

“Where’s the justice in that lifestyle? Noblemen are institutionalized thieves. Haven’t you ever noticed that? If taking something by force is evil, then how is taking something by one’s inherited authority any different?”

Von Reuentahl stood upright from the wall, his expression deflated.

“I thought you were better than that. What a turnoff. Get out, right now, and find yourself a man more ‘worthy’ of you. Some dimwit who clings to a bygone era in which his comfortable little life would’ve been guaranteed by authority and law. But before that, I have one thing to say.”

The heterochromatic admiral banged the wall with his fist, enunciating every word.

“There’s nothing uglier or lowlier in this world than gaining political authority regardless of ability or talent. Even an act of usurpation is infinitely better. In that case, at least one makes a real effort to gain that authority, because he knows it wasn’t his to begin with.”

Elfriede remained on the sofa, a seated tempest.

“I get it,” she spat out, her voice filled with heat lightning. “You’re just a regular rebel to the bone, aren’t you?! If you think you have so much ability and talent, then why not have a go at it yourself? Sooner or later, your conceit will compel you to go against your present lord.”

Elfriede ran out of breath and sank into silence. Von Reuentahl changed his expression. With renewed interest, he gazed at this woman who’d tried to kill him. A few seconds of silence passed before he spoke.

“The emperor is nine years younger than I am, and yet he holds the entire universe in his own hands. I may harbor animosity toward the Goldenbaum royal family and the noble elite, but I lack the backbone to overthrow the dynasty itself. There’s no way I could ever be a match for him.”

As he turned his back on the woman struggling to find her retort, von Reuentahl left the salon in stride. Elfriede watched as his broad-shouldered silhouette receded, but she suddenly turned away, having caught herself waiting for this abominable man to look back over his shoulder. Her gaze was fixed on an unremarkable oil painting and stayed that way for ten seconds. When she finally looked back, the master of the house was gone. Elfriede had no idea whether von Reuentahl had indeed looked back at her.

Excerpt for SISYPHEAN

Gentle ripples rolled across the classroom window, transforming the view into something like a reflection on a watery surface. Countless homes, clinging like shellbugs to petraderm walls outside, appeared to sway back and forth. Sound waves created the illusion as they beat against the translucent peritoneum stretched across the window frame. Nor was it only the classroom window; an inaudible roar echoing up from the depths was sending vibrations through every window worthy of the name in that funnel-shaped city.

“…the complex endoskeletal structure exists apart from the exoshelleton, and at first glance appears to be entirely without purpose. In fact, I can’t see any use for it myself, and yet…”

Suspended in front of a sallow skinboard that accounted for the entire front wall of the classroom, Professor Shitadami lectured on without a pause, his head one-third the size of his entire body.

He pulled and manipulated the gutlines that hung down from the sliptrack overhead and began sliding from the left side of the skinboard to the right, moving along a spinal column that extended from one side of the ceiling to the other. From either side of his overhanging chin there protruded a hard antenna that quickly and nimbly trailed scratches across the skinboard.

Long welts swelled up along the scratches, presently embossing the skinboard with a skeletal diagram of a momonjia creature particularly in form and mysterious in its ways, even among the countless body plans and innumerable behavioral traits of its fellow petauristas. But for Hanishibe, sitting two rows from the back, everything in the tall, vertical space of the classroom was a blur, pushed from his mind by the vibrations of the silk-white city streets.

Why do I feel so uneasy? Hanishibe mouthed, not quite giving voice to the words. Descents from heaven happened all the time. His sweaty fingers crawled along the spine of his rib-bound textbook, and he took comfort in the familiar peaks and valleys of its vertebrae.

“…if you know this part? Yes, Mr. Karikomo?”

“The round bones are used as wheels or cogs. But even so, Professor, I have to think that from our standpoint, momonji are put together just a little too conveniently.”

“That’s an important point, but it’s also a question that takes us into the realm of metaphysics. If you wish to pursue it, I’d suggest you transfer to the department of theology. Now, next is Mr.…”—Professor Shitadami turned toward the students and gazed across the classroom—”Hanishibe. What is this called, and what function do you think it serves?”

Hanishibe hadn’t heard a thing the professor had said, but when twenty-three classmates turned around to look at him all at once, he realized that he had been called upon. A dazzling beam of sunlight was being reflected into his eyes off the hairless, hard, and finely cracked cranium of Yatsuo, who was sitting with perfect posture in a seat in front of him and off to the side.

There were four rows and six columns of seats, and about half of the faces occupying them were far removed from the human baseform. In the case of Monozane the Truncated Dodecahedron, who was bubbling away contentedly in an aquarium on a front-row desk, Hanishibe couldn’t even tell what part corresponded to a face.

Grandpa’s really amazing, Hanishibe thought, impressed anew by the outstanding work his grandfather did. Although humans came in all shapes and sizes, he could see right away that they were people and took measures to resurrect them.

Hanishibe was fearful that even if he did manage to become a taxonomist, he might misjudge someone and make a mistake he could never atone for. He had long had a feeling that it wouldn’t be terribly unusual if people were found among the raw materials used in the mesenchyme-wrapped bones of the chair he was sitting in or among the ingredients of the broth that today’s rhinoceros meat had been served in at lunchtime. His fear of making such errors was supposed to be why he was studying in this taxonomy department to begin with, but for some time now, Hanishibe had been afflicted by a sense of unease that he couldn’t put clearly into words and had become unable to focus on his studies.

Professor Shitadami made a coughing sound.

“Hanishibe, didn’t you hear?”

Zwee, Zu, Zwee

“He said, ‘What’s it called and what does it do?’”


“Psst! The prof’s calling you!”

Spurred on by his classmates’ whispers, he looked up at the scowling face of Professor Shitadami, suspended in midair before the skinboard. The ridges that the blood sedges formed in his forehead were pulsating furiously, as was the swollen tumor in his left cheek.

The professor’s right antenna was indicating the outline of an unassuming ossiform folded several times over, buried in the backshell ossiform beneath the momonji’s skin. It wasn’t yet listed in this year’s textbook.

Hanishibe stood up from his seat.

“It’s a wingtype ossiform,” he said. “During their descent from heaven, they deploy from the backshell ossiform and push the skin outward, forcing it to spread out and tighten, and can exhibit movements similar to those of a bird flapping its wings. It can’t fly, of course. Its original purpose, like that of the variable exoshelletons and the other unnecessary interior bones, are unknown, since the researchers are—”

Since he was just parroting what he’d heard from his grandfather, he could keep explaining for as long as anyone would listen, but the professor, with a wave of a shriveled hand that resembled some sortof dried snack, cut him off.

“Precisely. Strange though it may be, they exhibit behavior like that of a flapping wing. All we have to rely on is the Book of the Heritage of the Hereafter, but it’s believed that the phylogenetic repetition that takes place up until a human fetus takes shape—changes in form such as the appearance of gills and tails—may contain the key to unraveling this mystery.”

With perfect timing, then, a melancholy tone sounded out in the hallway. Hanishibe caught a glimpse of the “bell monitor” as he passed by the open door leading out into the hallway. With a forward-backward motion, he expanded and contracted his rust-colored, box-shaped thorax like an accordion, emitting the tone that marked the end of class.

“Well, that’s all for today. To those of you on cleaning duty: don’t forget to put ointment on the skinboard, and pay special attention to the spots that are festering. Next week, we’ll be dissecting a real momonji, so wear something you won’t mind getting dirty.”

Someone smarted off at that, asking what those who don’t wear clothes should do.

“Come prepared to molt,” the professor replied. As his students wryly grinned, Professor Shitadami shook his head from side to side, retracting his antennae. He then slid his school rulebook into his backsac, pulled on a hanging line, and descended silently to the hardbone floor, facing downward. He crawled out of the classroom on all fours like a baby.


Legend of the Galactic Heroes translator Tyran Grillo speaks!

Please enjoy this special blog post from Legend of the Galactic Heroes v 4: Stratagem translator Tyran Grillo, and don’t forget to pre-order LOGH v5: Mobilization, coming soon!


On September 9, I had the fortune of giving a book talk and reading at Kinokuniya’s Manhattan store on my translation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Volume 4: Stratagem. Being a relative newcomer to LOGH, I felt gratified to be in a room of ardent fans, and to see their heads nodding in agreement as I gave my thoughts on Yoshiki Tanaka’s masterwork. During the conversations that followed, I saw just how genuinely engaged such fans could be. One revealed to me her love of Tanaka’s side stories, especially the diary of Yang Wen-li’s ward Julian from his time on Iserlohn Fortress. Another grew up with the series in Japan, and was so inspired by its political insight that he went on to pursue a career in international diplomacy. Such anecdotes confirmed what I’d already sensed throughout the translation process: that Tanaka’s tale of universal conquest was indeed striking a universal chord in its readers. Above all, speaking with those who understand LOGH in distinctly personal ways further validated its relevance to today’s tense political climate. Despite being cast centuries into the future, Tanaka’s fictional world feels almost too close for comfort, and therefore begs to be internalized, mentally savored, and shared in turn.

I append a slightly edited version of my talk below for those interested.

Tyran Grillo

Autumn 2017


Author Yoshiki Tanaka, born in 1952, characterizes himself as a quiet child who read voraciously, surrounded by the iconic landscapes of his hometown of Kumamoto, Japan. Only now, he erects psychological landscapes of comparable intricacy using literary building blocks. Although one can’t claim to understand fictionists from their writing, at the very least Tanaka betrays a consuming passion for history that backgrounds every word he inks to page (literally, as Tanaka still writes his novels in longhand). He has realized his approach in three distinct streams. First, in a smattering of standalone novels, he examines actual events, personages, and mythologies of premodern China. Second, in his ongoing fantasy series The Heroic Legend of Arslan, he transplants ancient Persian history into a kingdom of his own design.

Yet his masterpiece is the Ginga eiyū densetsu, or Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Originally published between 1982 and 1987, this series of ten novels was adapted into both a manga and an anime of the same name, and an animated reboot is currently being produced in Japan—even as plans for US distribution of the original series are underway in response to a growing English-speaking fan base.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes meshes Tanaka’s love of the past with a hypothetical future in which two warring interstellar factions—the dictatorial Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance—alternately toe the line between peaceful coexistence and gruesome entanglement. As of Volume 4, the Galactic Empire is under the leadership of prime minister Reinhard von Lohengramm, who has grown from humble beginnings to become a power-seeker of the highest order. On the Free Planets Alliance side stands Yang Wen-li, a young military commander who never deigned himself as such.

Together, Reinhard and Yang constitute the binary star of these novels. As poster children of their respective politics, they are equally committed to seeing their inner ideals manifested in outer space. Reinhard is a tyrant to his core, reigning over not only countless soldiers and subjects but also a storm of conflicting emotions. He vows to bring peace to humankind, and will do anything, no matter how underhanded, to bring that lofty goal to fruition. Yang, for his part, lives his life on the defensive, thwarting Reinhard at every turn with affable intelligence and an uncanny nonchalance in the heat of battle.

Where Reinhard’s Galactic Empire takes apparent inspiration from Germany’s rise to fatal power in the 20th century, Yang’s Free Planets Alliance is a hodgepodge democracy. These modes of political subsistence are at constant odds throughout the story, and it’s all the civilians vacillating between them can do to commit to either. As our omniscient narrator puts it: “Choosing between a corrupt democracy or a virtuous dictatorship was one of the most difficult dilemmas faced by human society.” If Yang’s democracy is corrupt, it is not by fault of his own, but of the egomaniacal politicians fraternizing in his shadow. And if Reinhard’s impending monarchy is virtuous, it is only through his faith in justice, and not in how he ensures its survival.

Some fans have been wont to point out fascist tendencies in the series, not least of all given overemphasis of Reinhard’s Aryan features and Yang’s apparently East Asian extraction, but our narrator sides with democracy, if complicatedly. To that end, Tanaka prefaces Volume 4 with quotes from two fictional historians. The first reads:

“Mutations of history and consequences of victory are determined in an instant. Most of us live idly on as echoes of such instants, as they retreat into the past. Those cognizant of them are few, and those who willfully set them in motion fewer still. Unfortunately, the latter always win the day, bolstered by armies of malice.”

The sidelong glance with which rabble-rousers are viewed here indicates a simultaneous fascination with, and critique of, the will to power that drives this novel’s militarism. As commanders of vast armies, Reinhard and Yang both have more blood on their hands than they could ever wash off in a lifetime, and their mutually beneficial need for action over pacifism is addressed in the novel’s second epigraph:

“Knowing the future, directly experiencing the present, and indirectly experience the past: each offers its respective thrill of happiness, fear, and anger. Those who live in the past are destined to be slaves of regret.”

Here, allegiance to the past is condemned as a nostalgic idealism destined to be replaced by our heroes. The relationship between these two nominal extremes is therefore one of dependency over polarization. We understand that Yang Wen-li, as a flag-bearer of emancipation, is fraught with conflict at having to expend so many human lives to achieve it. This aligns him with Reinhard von Lohengramm more than he might care to admit. Reinhard, for his part, is certain that his visions are in the best interests of humanity, that the corpses littering his path to conquest and absolute sovereignty are unavoidable collateral, and that any hiccups along the way only serve to valorize his interventions.

As one diplomat in the novel puts it: “Dictatorship can be a good thing. Dictators are unwavering in their beliefs and sense of duty, express their own sense of righteousness to maximal effect, and possess the strength to regard their adversaries not solely as their own foes, but as enemies of justice.” At the end of the day, Reinhard respects Yang’s intelligence, tactical acumen, and unwavering commitment to a cause that, despite going against Reinhard’s own, fuels a worthy adversary.

If history is Tanaka’s genesis, it is also the blood flowing through his characters’ emotional organs. Reinhard wants nothing less than to be a tool of history, nothing more than to be a crafter of it, and Yang the reverse. But the intergalactic deck has dealt them fateful hands, and each is left holding his cards, looking for a tell that might lend ultimate advantage over the other.

As the curtain opens onto Volume 4, a child emperor sits on the Galactic Imperial throne to carry the torch of a centuries-long dynasty begun by Rudolf von Goldenbaum, a.k.a. Rudolf the Great. The Goldenbaum succession is a scourge in the worldview of Reinhard, who is now struggling to figure out how he might circumvent this promise of continued Dynastic rule. When Reinhard learns of a plot to abduct the child emperor being hatched from within the independent dominion known as Phezzan, in classic “Problem-Reaction-Solution” fashion he turns a blind eye to its completion, thus affording him a pretext for all-out war and, he hopes, self-nomination as emperor.

Tanaka gives readers a deep understanding of Reinhard’s hatred for the Goldenbaum Dynasty by including choice examples of its tyranny throughout the series. Yet what Reinhard may lack in the senseless violence of his predecessors, he makes up for in the network of men perpetrating violence on his behalf.

On that note, it’s worth addressing a criticism often lobbed at Legend of the Galactic Heroes—namely, its relative lack of female characters. As a quick perusal of the dramatis personae list included at the front of every volume will attest, men far outnumber women in the series. That said, a closer reading proves the latter to be the glue of the former’s collusion. There is Yang’s trusted aide, Frederica Greenhill, whose presence and insight draw a baseline of sanity under the Free Planets Alliance commander’s militaristic dealings. There is Reinhard’s sister, Annerose, sold by their father as a sexual slave to Emperor Friedrich IV—yet another contributing factor to Reinhard’s contempt for, and desire to overthrow, the dynasty set in motion by Rudolf the Great. Even more noteworthy is Reinhard’s chief secretary, Hildegard von Mariendorf, known affectionately as Hilda. Hilda’s initiative and good counsel do, in fact, set Volume 4 into motion and, as will be made explicitly clear in Volume 5, she is much more than a sounding board for Reinhard’s intended action. She is the indispensable fuel bringing his grander flame to light. And while gender differences seem to have changed little in the many centuries leading up to the events taking place herein, one can hardly expect them to have done so when history is still being written, performed, and edited by descendants of the same men leaving their own trail of droppings in the forest of our present century. And why, these books implicitly ask, would any woman desire to accede to such levels of power, if only to repeat the mistakes of the men whose tainted authority they would be usurping? The master’s tools, as the late Audre Lorde would’ve reminded us, will never dismantle the master’s house.

One must also consider that, until this point in the series, Earth has been something of a non-variable, meaning that societies are bound to replicate the mistakes that led to Earth’s downfall in the first place. Despite being the birthplace of civilization, the only ones eking out a meager existence below Earth’s barren surface—ever since a global thermonuclear war and interplanetary exodus left it for dead—are followers of a cult known as the Church of Terra, who’ve anointed our abandoned world as the seat of universal theocracy.

In addition, Tanaka goes to great lengths to show us that his male protagonists’ egos are full of holes. To that end, this volume hangs a gallery’s worth of psychoanalytical portraits. Reinhard struggles to bring peace to the known universe, as also to his grief, which clings to the death of his dear friend Siegfried Kircheis, with whom he will never share spoils of conquest. Meanwhile, Yang dreams of being an armchair scholar, despite knowing he is destined to slaughter his way into the future. Furthermore, there is his young ward Julian Mintz, who came to be in Yang’s service under a military law that placed war orphans in the care of other veterans. Julian’s own grappling with identity and masculinity leads to some of the book’s most heartrending sequences.

Rendering even one dialogue of Legend of the Galactic Heroes into fluent English is therefore not always an easy task. But while it was intimidating for me to jump into a series so late in the game, the first three volumes having been lovingly translated by Daniel Huddleston, and not least of all for juggling an extensive lexicon of military terms, character names, and backstories, once I sat with these characters and let them speak to me, I began to hear their voices as individuals. The result is by no means perfect, but is something I’m proud to have been a part of nevertheless.

What I have made a matter of difference in my renditions, however, is bringing across the author’s realism. Tanaka treats these events as a matter of record. Consequently, in my translation style I tried to strike the unembellished tone of a history textbook, all while maintaining, I hope, Tanaka’s flashes of poetry and philosophical virtuosity. Maintaining this integrity believably was my biggest challenge, and it is my sincere hope that aficionados of the series will appreciate this pared-down, yet dynamic, approach.

More than anything, I want readers to feel Tanaka’s way of reimagining the past by substituting it with a speculative future of his own as not simply a means to his narrative ends, but as a way of commenting on the present sandwiched between those two chronological extremes. It is, in other words, impossible to read Tanaka without seeing how far humanity has reached—and fallen vying—for power. Toward those who naïvely salivate over the crunch of forbidden fruit between their teeth, Tanaka shows empathy without mercy, and in this volume, perhaps more than in any preceding it, provides a poignant reminder that sometimes fiction, by whatever relevance we are willing and able to read into it, hits closest to a reality from which we might otherwise wish to escape.

steroids for sale


On March 1, Steinmetz discovered the Yang fleet much sooner than he’d expected. This was, unbeknownst to Steinmetz, because Yang had wanted to be noticed. But the location of his discovery was problematic. Midway between the Raighar and Tripura star systems, it was far removed from any known shipping routes. The reason for this was obvious from the data captured on Phezzan.

“We’ve confirmed the existence of a black hole. Its Schwarzschild radius is about nine kilometers, but its mass is sixty quadrillion tons to the ten billionth power, and the danger-zone radius is estimated to be, at most, 3,200 light-seconds, or 960,000,000 kilometers.”

“Then I’m assuming we shouldn’t get any closer than one billion kilometers?”

According to the operator, Yang’s fleet was precisely toeing that one billion–kilometer line. Moreover, it had assumed a convex formation with the black hole at its rear.

“What could they be planning?”

As Steinmetz inclined his head slightly to one side, chief of staff Vice Admiral Neisebach dispelled his commander’s doubts.

“Putting the danger zone at their rear limits our trajectories of attack. There’s no way we can go around them. That must be their aim.” More…

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