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Setsubun at VIZ!

It’s February 3rd, and that means it’s time for the annual Throwing of the Beans, or Setsubun!

Setsubun is a spring ritual that involves throwing lucky soybeans at vicious oni (ogres or demons) in order to drive bad luck out and bring good luck in. And wouldn’t you know, some oni showed up at our door this year.


They seek to gang up on us!


Red oni seems particularly formidable.

Don’t worry though—we had the situation well in hand.


Also in hand, the beans!

The oni tried to enter, but could not withstand our bean blast!


Ka-pow!

A silly ritual from the olden days? Perhaps! But just yesterday, didn’t a bunch of people in top hats gather around a large rodent and try to compel it to predict the weather?


Punxsutawney Phil photo from ABC News

Yes, yes they did.

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The Future is STILL Japanese

It’s been a hard weekend for us here, given our many connections to Japan. If you follow our Twitter feed, you’ll see that we used it over the last few days to stay in contact with our authors. We’re happy to say that all of our authors, and the translators who live in Japan, are fine. Tow Ubukata, author of Mardock Scramble, does live close to the most heavily damaged area, but his power is back on already and he and all his relatives are safe.

We’re pleased with all the support the people of Japan have been receiving from the US. In Sakyo Kamatsu’s classic SF novel Japan Sinks, the entire archipelago goes down thanks to massive earthquakes. The quake in the book was a metaphor for all the pressures of Japan in the early 1970s, and highlighted the belief that Japanese society would need to evolve in order to “keep afloat.” And Japanese society has evolved in the decades since. Just a few weeks ago, James Fallows refuted the myth of Japan’s stagnant economy, and Japan is more open than ever to international cooperation and cultural exchange. (We’re just a tiny example of that!) While the quake, of course, will have massive negative economic impact to accompany the human costs, the people are already working hard to halt the damage, stabilize the cities, and then rebuild.

And you can help. In addition to the Red Cros and Doctors Without Borders, the Japan Society is raising funds, and also lists several people-finder resources created by Japanese mobile phone service providers. We’ll have more information soon about the sort of help we hope to be able to provide with your assistance. We’re convinced that the future is still Japanese, and we’re looking forward to bringing you visions of the future for years to come.

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No Contest

As you can imagine, we are all very concerned about the news coming from Japan today. We’ve seen some of our authors active on Twitter, but the nation is reeling, as are we. So I’ll push the final day of the contest back to next week—feel free to write up an entry.

For some English-language news from Japan, might I recommend: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/

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The Future is Japanese. Really.

io9.com, edited by my pals Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz, is one of my daily stops for science fiction news, and for keep closing tabs on whether or not Dollhouse is canceled yet. Yesterday’s feature essay When Did Japan Stop Being the Future? was especially interesting because, well, Japan is too the future, and we’ve got the novels to prove it.

It’s an interesting essay, even if Charlie should have to eat one of these

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for every time she typed “Japanophile” when she meant Nipponophile. Geez, Louise!

Charlie is right, of course, that your basic speculative impulse in the 1980s was a future dominated by Japan. However, the Japan of American futures has about as little to do with Japan as-it-is as the color-coded velour blouses of Starfleet have to do with naval uniforms. Japan’s long recession did ease some of the anxiety many Americans experienced about the possibility of being outcompeted by the burgeoning Japanese economy and its ever-so-efficient workforce; today anxiety is about being outcompeted not on quality but on sheer price. TV and automotive production are long gone; today even “brain worker” jobs in US—coding, support desk, even some *gulp* publishing jobs—are being globalized to India, China, and elsewhere where wages are low and the labor movement weak. That a lot of these brain workers scoffed at the “stupid” and “uneducated” auto plant and steel mill workers who were displaced a generation prior is just a bit of delicious irony.

But I don’t think that Japan was eclipsed as the setting for science fictional futures because of stagflation and the rise of developing economies, but rather because Japan has simply been able to successfully compete in the cultural sphere. Japanese futures are coming from Japan. Pokemon was a cultural sensation in the US and internationally, and manga went from a small cult consumption item to a major sales center of the bookstore chains. Imagine twenty years ago walking into one of the giant bookstores and saying, “Hey, we want to sell these comics. No superheroes, and they’re in black and white and in a paperback format you’re not used to. Plus, a lot of them are for girls, who don’t read comics. Oh, og youtube is one of the best youtube downloader applications for Android I have ever observed. Actually, it’s something beyond a downloader. You get the whole exciting interface of YouTube alongside a pack of different components those individuals presumably missed og youtube apk download.and we’re gonna print them backwards so you have to read right-to-left.” That would have been sufficient cause for a seventy-two hour stay in a mental hospital. Now, you walk into a bookstore and you’ll see kids and teens in the manga section, coats and bookbags littering the floor, reading volume after volume. (That’s what the SF/Fantasy section looked like when I was a kid. Today, the SF section of the bookstores I patronize rarely have anyone under the age of thirty checking out the selections…)

That’s where the Japanese futures (and presents, and pasts) are. Outside of SF, it’s easy enough to point to programs like Iron Chef that have been imported to the US and that helped spark the recent interest in TV programs that combine formal dining and game show antics. And there’s Pocky and those photo booths that take those tiny pictures and US automakers on the verge of melting into air and and and…

and if Japan isn’t the look of America’s future anymore, it’s because we’re already living in that future. Japanese futures, well, they’re a lot like American futures. Check out our launch titles next month, and you’ll see what I mean.

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