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Trim: 5 1/4 x 8 ISBN: 978-1-4215-3642-2
Yukari Morita is a high school girl on a quest to find her missing father. While searching for him in the Solomon Islands, she receives the offer of a lifetimeshe'll get the help she needs to find her father, and all she need do in return is become the world's youngest, lightest astronaut. Yukari and her sister Matsuri, both petite, are the perfect crew for the Solomon Space Association's launches, or will be once they complete their rigorous and sometimes dangerous training.
Born in Mie, Japan, in 1961. After working in instrumentation control, CAD programming, and video game design, he published his first work, The Blind Spot of Veis, based on the video game Creguian, in 1992. He gained popularity with his subsequent works, the Creguian series and the Rocket Girls series. In 2002, he published Usurper of the Sun, ushering in a new era of space science fiction in Japan. After first appearing as a series of short stories, Usurper won the Seiun Award for best Japanese science fiction novel of 2002. His other works include Pendulum of Pinieru and Fuwa-Fuwa no Izumi.
Two years earlier, before coming to the islands, Haruyuki had been a test pilot in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. He was stationed in Hamamatsu where he flew experimental Control-Configured Vehicles, or CCVs. All that changed when his commanding officer called him in and asked if he wanted to be an astronaut.
The Solomon Space Association was a new program continuing the work of the former National Space Development Agency of Japan and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, and they were about to begin manned-flight operations. The SSA was a local endeavor, operating solely within Solomon Islands territory, or so went the official line. In reality, it was financed with Japanese cash and staffed almost exclusively by Japanese nationals.
Since members of the Japan Self-Defense Force are not generally allowed to serve overseas, Haruyuki had to be temporarily discharged from the service before he could work for the SSA. There would be risks, he knew, but they were risks he was willing to take for a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
“If this launch fails, I’m going back to Hamamatsu.”
“If they’ll still have you.”
“It’s time,” interrupted the flight director without looking up from his screen. He flicked on his mike. “T-minus ten minutes. All personnel clear the launch pad!”
A Week of Links!
It’s been quite, eh? Over at the Haikasoru Week and lots of fun was to be had.
And on Thursday, we had a short essay on Japanese science fiction by me.
Oh, and speaking of me, and speaking of the end of the week, the World SF Blog also encouraged Beatrice.com’s Ron Hogan to publish my interview with Cathy Hirano and Jim Hubbert. Ms. Hirano translated Dragon Sword and Wind Child and the forthcoming Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince for us, and Mr. Hubbert has been quite busy: he translated The Lord of the Sands of Time, The Next Continent, and The Ouroboros Wave for us. Gotta catch ‘em all!
Hard SF, now WITH girl cooties!
Here at Haikasoru HQ it looks like Valentine’s Day will never end, as love is in the air and this week we’re featured on Romantic Times Book Reviews. Not only is there a little interview with yours truly, there are two great reviews:
got four stars Nojiri himself appears to be nearly as forceful a proponent of space flight as the SSA; he has tried to play fair with the limits imposed by real world science without ever losing sight of his comedic goals.
Then The Next Continent
got a stunning four-and-a-half stars: The Next Continent, translated by Jim Hubbert, is a welcome holiday from the relentlessly pessimistic and bitter tone of North America SF. What could be a tedious exercise in engineering porn is humanized focus by its principle characters: Junior Engineer Aomine, who finds himself drafted into a central role in this grand undertaking, and Tae, the determined young woman whose vision frames and defines the Sixth Continent Project.
These reviews are especially gratifying coming from a venue primarily interested in the romance genre. For a long time, a retrograde fear of what author Debra Doyle calls girl cooties has infected the world of science fiction, and hard SF—science fiction that uses and privileges real science—was the worst of all: “Hard sf” is their science fiction of choice, because it has the fewest girl cooties of any of the sf subgenres. No subjectivity, no mushy bits, none of that messy relationship stuff getting in the way of the classic sf values of hardness and rigor (and no, I don’t think the elevation of those particular values is coincidental.), Doyle writes.
Romance, of course, is wall-to-wall girl cooties. Perhaps not surprisingly, the feeling was often mutual—hard SF was seen as the precinct of uber-nerds and nobody interested in human relationships would want to ever want to read any. Sometimes this fear of girl cooties even enters into the world of real speculative science, as biologist Athena Andreadis points out with her essay (with a not-safe-for-work drawing) on 2009’s Singularity Summit. (The Singularity being a concept beloved of hard SF fans and, increasingly, policymakers and scientists.)
But in Japan, at least as far as SF literature is concerned, girl cooties and hard SF mix just fine. Why, one might say that the units of “girlishness” in books like The Next Continent and Rocket Girls aren’t an infection at all, but actually an organic part of the human condition. Science is for everyone, after all, as it increases our understanding of the universe in which we live, and as it can potentially be used to improve all our lives. Indeed, if we want science to improve our lives rather than destroy them, we’d all better have an interest in the field and its implications for policy, health, and the environment. That’s why hard SF needs to be written for a wide variety of readers, not just for the nerdcore hardcore of those men who are afraid of “girl cooties.” Publishing hard SF titles that can be reviewed and championed by Romantic Times is one reason why I love my job.