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Haikasoru at Worldcon

Well, we’re back from LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention. We had a party on Thursday night, presented a number of panels featuring Toh EnJoe and other Japanese colleagues, and most importantly, we won our first Hugo Award! “Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu, from our anthology The Future Is Japanese, won for Best Short Story!

Naturally, we are thrilled. We spent a lot of time updating our Twitter feed (are you following @haikasoru?), and I’ve Storyfied most of the best tweets–with lots of pics–here. So check it out!

Q/A With Ken Liu (and the return of Intern Kathleen)

We are all very excited that prolific author Ken Liu received a prestigious Hugo Award nomination for his short story “Mono No Aware” in The Future Is Japanese. We decided to ask him a few questions about the story and life as an award-nominated author!

Q. Congrats: what was the genesis of the story “Mono No Aware”?
A. This story began as an experiment. Claims are often made about the universalism of certain narrative conventions: the hero must be active; there must be conflict; the individual must strive and overcome obstacles and define the self against the larger society. I get annoyed with these kinds of “rules” because they are not universal at all. Storytelling conventions in non-Western traditions often are very different.

In particular, I was intrigued by works like Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō that try to pursue an aesthetic primarily oriented towards creating in the reader an empathy towards the inevitable passing of all things: a sentiment known as mono no aware in Japanese.

So I wanted to write a story in which that was the dominant ideal, and to redefine heroism along those lines.

Q. You’re a prolific writer of short stories. What attracts you to the form?
A. The main reason is one of time. With two young children, it’s hard for me to sustain the prolonged period of focus and attention necessary to produce a novel. But short stories allow me to work through an idea quickly and see immediate results, which encourages me to write more.

Q. Speaking of your rate of production, were you surprised that this story, out of all you published in 2012, was nominated for the Hugo? Why do you think it appeals to Worldcon members and supporting members specifically?
A. I am indeed surprised. However, I’m generally not very good at predicting how well my stories will resonate with readers, so I’m not surprised by my surprise, if that makes sense. Right now, I’m just grateful that enough voters liked this story to nominate it, which is a great honor.

Q. What research did you do on Japan and Japanese cultural mores for the story?
A. Well, I did the usual: lots of reading, lots of watching, and lots of talking to people who know something about Japan. My wife majored in Japanese and lived and worked for years in Japan, so she was an invaluable source as well.

However, and this is a point I want to emphasize, I do not presume in any way, shape, or form, to have “gotten” the Japanese concepts right. No matter how much research is done, an outsider’s perspective will never have the same quality as an insider’s. Reading about a culture is not the same as growing up in a culture.

To be sure that I’m respectful to the material, I employed a narrative trick: the story is told from the perspective of a Japanese child whose experience of his homeland ended at the age of eight. His knowledge of Japan is thus a combination of hazy memories, what outsiders have told him about home, and his own fierce desire to protect the memories of the people he loved. It is necessarily an idealized, filtered, distorted, incomplete image. He is constructing a Japan in his mind.

The choice thus provides the reader with an explanation for the gaps and errors in his construction. And the story, in a sense, is really an immigration story. Every immigrant constructs an image of home that may not be very close to the original.


Q. Nostalgia is a recurring motif in your work. What drives you to integrate nostalgia into science fiction settings?

A. Some of the science fiction I’ve read evinces a deliberate contempt for the past, as if history doesn’t matter, as if we have to only decide to look forward and the task is done. But our lots are inextricably linked to the fates of those who came before us, and their choices determined the choices available to us. I wanted to bring some empathy with the past into the science fiction I write, to acknowledge the importance of memory and continuity with the past.


Q. If you win the Hugo this year, what will you do with the tin rocket trophy?

A. Probably put it on a very high shelf so that my daughters don’t hurt themselves by playing with it—that tip is sharp.

Q. When are you going to publish a novel anyway?
A. Working on it… working on it…

The hope is to be done with my first novel later this summer. Wish me luck!

Good luck, Ken!

Also, as mentioned the other day, the ebook editions of The Future is Japanese is on sale for a mere $3.99 for the month of April. And that’s not all! As it turns out, ebooks are made out of electrons, and can be kept in slim little boxes. I mean, look at poor Intern Kathleen struggling under the weight of the mighty paperback:



So…many…stories…all excellent…must…read

And now here she is with her ebook reader!


Heavy reading is totally lightweight with this ebook reader!

So remember, not only does The Future is Japanese contain Ken’s award nominated story as well as work by Toj EnJoe, Bruce Sterling, Catherynne Valente, and Hideyuki Kikuchi, for the month of April the ebook version will be as light on your pocketbook as it is on your back!

“Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu gets a Hugo nomination!

We are thrilled to report this morning that “Mono No Aware” by Ken Liu, the lead story in our anthology The Future Is Japanese has been nominated for the most prestigious award in science fiction, The Hugo Award.

The Hugo Award is voted on by the fans, specifically the fans who are members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention—and of course virtually everyone in SF publishing also attends the convention and nominates and votes each year. So it’s really an honor, and it is our second Hugo nomination. Two years ago editor Nick Mamatas was nominated for Best Editor, Long Form.

It’s also very nice to see that our book has gained some attention—these days thanks to ease of reading online, stories that are available for free on the Web often have an advantage, if only because they’re easier for the fans to read and consider and pass around. Anthology stories often do less well come award season, so clearly very positive word of mouth carried the day with “Mono No Aware.”


We also feature the Upside-Down Japanese Girl Seal of Approval

Naturally, there’s also the issue that Ken himself is a very prolific writer of short stories, so people do seek his work out, and people like voting for him. So that it was our Ken Liu story and not the other dozen or so he published this year that was so honored is a special thrill.

To celebrate, we have lowered the price of the ebook edition to $3.99 for the rest of the month. Whether you like Kindle or Apple, SONY or NOOK, go check out The Future Is Japanese, cheap!

Aaand, if you’re so moved by your reading, remember that you can vote for Ken’s story, and stories by Bruce Sterling, Rachel Swirsky, David Moles, and Catherynne M. Valente, or the anthology itself (the Hugos lack an Anthology category) for the almost-as-prestigious LOCUS Awards until April 15th. So get to reading! We like prizes!

THE FUTURE IS JAPANESE cleans up on the Locus Recommended Reading List!

The latest issue of Locus Magazine is out and it includes their annual recommended reading list. And we’re all over it!

The Future Is Japanese is listed in the category of Original Anthologies, and five of our stories also appear on the list:

Novelette (basically stories between 7500 and 15,000 words or thereabouts):
‘‘Goddess of Mercy’’, Bruce Sterling (The Future Is Japanese)
‘‘The Sea of Trees’’, Rachel Swirsky (The Future Is Japanese)

Short Story (under 7500 words):
‘‘Mono No Aware’’, Ken Liu (The Future Is Japanese)
‘‘Chitai Heiki Koronbin’’, David Moles (The Future Is Japanese)
‘‘One Breath, One Stroke’’, Catherynne M. Valente (The Future Is Japanese)

In the current issue of Locus itself, there is some great discussion of the book by various critics. In addition to praising the stories on the list, Karen Burnham had this to say: I particularly enjoyed the stories by Ken Liu and Rachel Swirsky (both of whom continue to produce fantastic stories in a wide variety of venues), but the one that surprised me the most was ‘‘Autogenic Dreaming: Interview with the Columns of Clouds’’ by TOBI Hirotaka. I had no idea where that story was going, and in the end it was very thoughtful. Several other reviewers also mentioned our book in their recaps!

The recommended reading list will soon become a survey, and if you liked our book and the stories therein we hope you’ll vote for us! We’ll update you when it’s time, and do follow us on Twitter and Facebook if you like!


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