Haikasoru

 

Space Opera. Dark Fantasy. Hard Science.
What is Haikasoru?
Our Books

LOGH [Archive]

Excerpt, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, v7: Tempest

On January 12, leading the entire fleet that was under his command, Lutz departed from Iserlohn Fortress. The fleet was composed of more than 15,000 vessels, and the embarkation of this stately swarm of light flecks was picked up by the Yang Fleet right away—though since this was being done for show, that was only natural.

“Admiral Lutz has left Iserlohn.”

On January 13, that report from Bagdash was greeted with cheers and whistles among the crew of the Yang Fleet. Another of “Yang Wen-li’s miracles” was on the verge of coming to pass, and it was how well theyfought that would determine whether or not it came true. Voices rose up calling for an advance celebration, and in no time bottles of whiskey were passing from hand to hand, each soldier drinking in turn.

In the midst of such a cheerful, fearless crew, not even calm, imperturbable Merkatz—whom some even called “the Yang Fleet’s only gentleman”—could maintain the dignified aloofness of his imperial days. Although he just touched his lips to the drink for appearances’ sake, when he awkwardly raised aloft a small flask of whiskey, the applause and the cheers grew even louder, and that was when he opened his mouth with something important to say.

“We have Lutz acting in accordance with our plan, but Lutz must also think that he has us acting according to his plan. He is an outstanding tactician, and the fleet he commands is ten times the size of ours. Unless we can gain control of the fortress before he turns around and overwhelms us, our chance for victory will be lost forever. The battle to capture the fortress will commence immediately. Vice Admiral von Schönkopf, I’d like to ask you to command the front line.”

“You can rest assured, Admiral. Just leave it to me.”

Von Schönkopf saluted, showing not a hint of apprehension. In that year of SE 800, he would turn thirty-six, a graceful gentleman in his prime. Watching him, Julian was remembering Yang’s explanation of the plan to capture the fortress.

“…Lutz is a fine admiral. He understands just how important Iserlohn is, so even if the kaiser orders him to mobilize, it’s possible that he’ll stay put and beg him to reconsider. And even if he departs Iserlohn per the kaiser’s command, there’s no telling when he might catch on to our plan and turn back. That’s why we’re letting him know up front what our plan is. If he sits there and doesn’t mobilize, there’s nothing we can do, but depending on how we leak the intel, we can probably make him think that he’s catching us in a trap. And to catch us in that trap, it will be necessary for him to be a certain distance away from the fortress. The farther away he moves, the easier it gets for our plan to succeed. You may think I’m relying too much on cheap tricks, but cheap tricks are what we need… so that Lutz can see through them…”

Lutz fell splendidly into Yang’s trap. At that time, the orthodox tactician—who under normal circumstances would have led a large force and an impregnable fortress to crush Yang’s group head-on without resorting to stopgap tricks—was 800,000 kilometers from port, watch­ing on the screen of his flagship as the Yang fleet bore down on the fortress.

“They’ve fallen for it, those wandering bandits.”

Kornelias Lutz was hardly what might he called a frivolous man, but just this once, he couldn’t contain the joy that was bubbling up inside him. At long last, Yang Wen-li, that living treasure trove of trickery and ingenious plans, was about to become ensnared in his own trap, and the knee of the Imperial Navy would soon weigh heavily against his neck.

His joy, however, was not to be long-lived. Though he waited and waited, the white column of Thor’s Hammer—the fortress’s main cannon, capable at any moment of erasing those impertinent enemies from the sky at point-blank range—never roared forth. The commanding officer’s eyes were locked on the screen, while behind him, his staff officers were exchanging uneasy and suspicious glances.

“Why isn’t Thor’s Hammer firing?” Lutz shouted. A nervous, agitated sweat dampened the brow of the Imperial Navy’s intrepid admiral. His carefully timed, intricately constructed plan was beginning to collapse like a wall of sand.

###

 

On the other side of an 800,000-kilometer void, the tension inside Iser­lohn Fortress had rapidly grown into worry, followed by panic. Operators flooded the comm channels with a mixture of screams and curses, and their fingers raced vainly across their keyboards as though they were amateur pianists.

“It isn’t working!”

“No response!”

“Control is not possible!”

Their cries resounded against one another. Numerous transmissions had been broadcast from the rapidly closing Yang Fleet. One of them that Iserlohn’s computers picked up was a string of words no operator could have considered a normal transmission—“For health and beauty, have a cup of tea after every meal”—and in that instant, all defensive systems immediately went down.

Vice Admiral Wöhler, entrusted by Lutz with the vital mission of defending the fortress, could feel something akin to a toothache shooting through his mental circuitry. The sense of victory he had felt up until a moment ago had been purged from his body, replaced by the oppressive weight of a nightmare presaging doom.

“Break off computer control and switch over to manual! Fire Thor’s Hammer at all costs!” The orders caught in his throat, and wouldn’t eas­ily leave his mouth.

Despair transformed into sound, and leapt from the operator’s mouth.

“It’s no good, Commander! It’s impossible!”

Understanding and terror invaded Vice Admiral Wöhler’s right and left lungs, and finding it increasingly hard to breathe, he sat there frozen in the command seat.

That keyword for disabling the fortress defenses had been the seed of Yang Wen-li’s magic trick—one he had planted one year ago, when he had fled from the fortress. Even so, what an absurd pass phrase! For his part, Yang felt he had worked very hard to come up with an utterance that carried no risk of being used in Iserlohn’s official transmissions dur­ing the next few years—although not even he could have put up a strong argument for it in terms of stylishness and taste.

Clearly, there had to be another phrase to unlock the systems, but as a practical problem, discovering it was an impossibility.

When the Imperial Navy had recovered Iserlohn, a large number of ultra-low-frequency bombs had been discovered. It had been believed that the fleeing Free Planets’ forces had tried and failed to detonate the fortress. However, when he thought about it now, that had actually been an exceedingly clever feint, designed to divert the Imperial Navy’s eyes from the real trap.

“The enemy is about to storm the port!”

“Close the gates! Don’t let them inside!”

Although the order was given, the reply was not hard to guess. When he heard the operator’s cry that the gates couldn’t he closed, Wöhler stood up from the command seat, and gave the order to prepare for hand-to-hand combat. The air inside the fortress vibrated with the sound of alarms.

Excerpt for LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES V6: FLIGHT

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.

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

And now, the LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES giveaway contest winners!

We have chosen the winners to the Legend of Galactic Heroes giveaway contest! And they are:

First up is Blu: we had to give a book to one of the people who named LOGH as their favorite series, after all!

Then we have GreyDuck, who named C.J. Cherryh Foreigner series, one of our faves.  (PS: if you like “competence porn”, please also check out our near-future SF thriller Orbital Cloud!)

Metal Abaj goes international with his entry on the eurocomic Valérian et Laureline. We’ve spent so much time explaining that the forthcoming movie isn’t a “rip-off” of The Fifth Element, so we’re pleased to award a fellow fan!

And last but not least, Andres Rodriguez goes classic with the Asimov’s Robot series! Vital stuff.

 

Check back here soon for our next giveaway. (Hint: vampires!) getanabolics

masterbolin


Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

HOME | ABOUT VIZ MEDIA | TERMS | PRIVACY POLICY

© 2009 VIZ Media, LLC