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Excerpt from SAIENSU FIKUSHON 2016

From “A Fair War”
by Taiyo Fujii

 

A killbug was a drone used to indiscriminately kill in the name of ETIS’s fight for an independent nation in the Xinjiang territory. Their small frames were fitted with AK-47 stocks and receivers made in small-scale Tibetan factories, and short, unrifled barrels capable of ring 7.62 mm rounds. Like the PLA’s Bingfeng MUCAVs, the drones were killing machines equipped with internal AI capable of seeking and destroying targets by their own will.

The cheap gunpowder available to the killbugs wouldn’t provide enough velocity for the bullets to penetrate reinforced concrete. If my memory was correct, the drone only carried twenty rounds. Even if it decided to expend it all in one blind volley, as long as we kept our heads below the windowsill, we would be all right.

Diving for the window had been the right course of action.

I signaled with my hands to let Wen, Jinzhu, and Aypasha know that we had a killbug outside. But when I looked across the office, I saw something that left me stunned with disbelief.

Across the of office, Bateer stood, his mouth hanging open. He, and the rest of the staff, were staring in bewilderment at us four crouching beneath the windows. I began to shout, “Wodao!— “Get down!”—but realized that they would be unfamiliar with military speak.

Plainly, I said, “Bateer, everyone, duck your heads! It’s coming to the window. A killbug is out there.”

A few slowly lowered their heads, but Bateer simply looked out the window with a confused expression. No, duck first, I thought to him, then look.

As I was about to speak up, a breeze came into the room. I heard two sounds: a door opening, and a voice speaking in thick Japanese.

“Good morning!”

It was Kuma, the head of the company. He picked a hell of a time to show up at work.

His stocky frame draped with a relaxed beige suit, the boss grabbed the brim of his white hat and was making a show of doffing it as his gaze landed on my signaling hand.

Now in gruff, Shanghai-accented Chinese, he said, “Outside the window?” He squinted in that direction. “That’s a PLA Bingfeng—No, wait. An ETIS killbug, then? Wouldn’t have thought to see one coming here.”

From his breast pocket, Kuma withdrew a pink tube roughly the size of a cigar and pointed it at the window.

“You four best move away from the window, just in case. I’m gonna fry that thing.”

I didn’t understand what he was doing, but he said it so forcefully that we obeyed without a word, moving away from the window and ducking down even lower.

His thick thumb, with hair coming all the way down to the second knuckle, pressed against part of the tube.

The sound of the thing, like a peanut shell bursting open, sent my hair standing on end.

“Ow, ow, ow!” Kuma said with a grimace as he tossed the pink cylinder to the ground.

The tube rolled to a stop near my feet, where it sent out wisps of smoke and the acrid smell of burning plastic.

“You’re not supposed to use it without gloves,” Kuma explained, walking to the window next to me. He put his hands on the sill.

I picked up the smoldering pink tube. It carried a label marked Ying-xiang (Bug Fumigant) followed by usage instructions that extolled its effectiveness against killbugs.

I couldn’t tell if it had broken naturally through use or if it had broken when Kuma dropped it. On one end, a triple-A battery peeked out from the loosened cap. As I was inspecting the device, Kuma spoke.

“It’s an EMP. Look for yourself.” He gestured out the window with his chin.

I stood and followed his sightline out the window, where the killbug was gradually dropping altitude in search of a place to land.

“Its sensors are all dead,” my boss explained. “CPU’s probably fried, too.”

“This thing, it’s called a ying-xiang?” I asked. I pulled two triple-A batteries from the husk. “I never would have thought something with this little power could make an EMP strong enough to fry a killbug.”

Kuma’s eyes widened. “Well, look at you, soldier. I didn’t know you talked. All I ever hear you say is shi.”

“What? I mean, maybe three months ago, sure, but I’ve adjusted.”

“I suppose so. No offense,” Kuma said with a chuckle. His eyes followed the killbug. “Those little drones are made with cheap components. Each killbug costs about eighty dollars to make—that’s what, five hundred yuan? But even their blind fire will kill people in a crowd. They can shoot through windows, and if they crash, the ammonia in their fuel cells sprays out everywhere and makes quite a stink. As far as cost-performance ratio goes, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Before I could respond, someone else spoke up from behind me.

“That was . . . a killbug? It was after us?”

I turned and saw it was Bateer. His face looked ashen and blood-drained, and his eyes were wide.

“Yeah,” I said. “But we’re safe now.”
I don’t know if he just didn’t hear me, but the roids247.xyz next thing he did was duck in a panic. Losing balance, he stumbled over his chair and toppled to the ground on the other side. Likewise, the other staff finally got around to crouching.

Kuma let out a good belly laugh.

 

 

 

 

It’s time for the GOOD LUCK, YUKIKAZE giveaway contest!

I walked in to the office this morning to find these waiting for me:

So it’s time to give some away! We’ve been playing essay contest for a while, so I am sure you all know the drill. Just leave some sort of interesting response to the following topic in the comments and then on Friday at noon, Pacific time, I’ll declare four winners. Here’s the topic:

The military has been a major theme in science fiction almost from its inception as a genre. What fuels the fascination with future war, and where does military SF succeed and fail in dealing with the theme. Is too much mil SF just “milporn”, or should the hippies just stop complaining for once?

Let me hear what you think, and you might just win a free copy of Good Luck, Yukikaze!

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Yukikaze, More Than “Plane Porn”

About a year and a half ago, when we were passing around a list of potential new titles for Haikasoru, not one but two of the long-time editors here were thrilled to see Yukikaze among the contenders. Personally, I’d never heard of the series, but when Leyla Aker said, “I’ll work on this book for free!” I thought, Hmm, less work for myself, eh? and happily threw my support behind the title. And that was only half-mercenary; enthusiasm is a necessary ingredient for putting out books, and when enthusiasm manifests itself in a business meeting (where that emotion usually comes just to die), one has to take advantage of it. Now Yukikaze is here, and every day I get questions about the possibility of doing the sequels (short answer: make sure all your friends buy the first one and you’ll be much more likely to see the sequels) and I asked Leyla to write a little something on the series. Without further ado…

Yukikaze: That Damn Good

Mr. Mamatas has graciously invited me to guest blog here on Haikasoru.com about a new book that I (being the complete sucker for scifi/military/social commentary/satire/suspense tales that I am) most happily did the editorial grunt-work for.

That novel is Yukikaze. And in truth, to call it “new” is a bit misleading. It’s new to the English-language audience, certainly, but the translation that Haikasoru published is actually that of the 20th anniversary edition of the book, which included some minor emendations by the author, Chohei Kambayashi.

So who is Kambayashi that he merits 20th anniversary editions of his books? The short answer is: the Philip K. Dick of Japan. But that sounds like the punchline of a bad joke, and, more importantly, is dismissive of and condescending to an entire body of another country’s literature. (Nothing against St. Phil. And yes, dear reader, speculative fiction is literature, although that’s for a thousand grad students to argue, not me.)

The long answer is that Kambayashi is one of the most esteemed and prolific speculative fiction writers in Japan. His corpus displays a breathtaking range of format (short stories, novellas, novels) and content (running the gamut from the dead serious to the antically comedic, hard science fiction to straight-up adventure), and even a cursory review of his work explains why he’s been the recipient of armloads of awards. In short, the man is a damn good writer.

And what is Yukikaze that it merits a 20th anniversary edition? The short answer is: a damn good book. The long answer is that it’s one of the seminal works of the “Third Generation” of Japanese science fiction, and one that has spawned an array of spin-offs, from video games to toys to dramatizations to manga to anime.

This last, the anime, is how almost everyone outside of Japan first became aware of Yukikaze. Bandai released it in the U.S. in 2006, and then again on Blu-Ray in 2008. The consensus among anime fans is that it’s a beautiful work, full of what I and one of my colleagues affectionately refer to as “plane porn,” but a somewhat baffling one. The bafflement is due to the fact that the anime’s producers compressed the content of two very dense books—Yukikaze and its sequel, Good Luck, Yukikaze—into roughly three hours of animation. And so one of my hopes for the publication of this book is that it will help fill in the gaps in the story. (By the by, the translator of the book, Neil Nadelman, also did the translation for the anime, in both instances heroically slogging through a wilderness of military and scientific terminology.)

I came to Yukikaze through another vector, the manga, which is in turn quite different from both the book and the anime. It was created by one of the biggest names in Japanese alternative comics (yeah, world famous in Poland, I know, but trust me), a woman by the name of Yumi Tada. I had been a longtime fan of Tada’s work, which for the most part consists of what’s usually described as “urban realism,” hard-bitten yet romantic tales of small-time hoodlums, two-bit hookers, rockers, drifters, and other societal marginals. So when I picked up her version of Yukikaze, my first reaction was: Huh? But I quickly became interested (okay, a little obsessed) with it. (OCD can be a beneficial editorial trait. Betcha didn’t know that.)

Apparently Tada sensei became obsessed with Yukikaze as well, because she went on to do the character designs for the anime and became a story consultant for it as well. Her influence is what accounts for what another one of my colleagues refers to as the, ahem, “bromance” between Lt. Fukai and Maj. Booker in the anime, which is absent from the Kambayashi’s work. And if Rei comes across as a slap-worthy emo boy in the anime, you can lay that blame on her creative doorstep too. But better yet, take a look at the manga if you have the chance since it adds some interesting backstory to how Rei wound up on Faery.

When you read Yukikaze you might notice that it’s not structured as holistically as many of us would expect when reading a novel. This is largely the result of the fact that the content originally appeared in serial form in a science fiction magazine, but it’s also due to a difference in emphasis between Western novels and Japanese novels. As a gross (really gross) generalization, Western novels tend to focus more on plot and story—the actual mechanics of what happens and how—whereas Japanese novels tend to focus more on character and causality—the reasons for why things happen and why the people who make them happen do so. In line with that, Kambayashi’s concern in Yukikaze is not to “narrate” and explain the war with the JAM so much as to explore how Rei understands his place within that conflict and his heroic struggle to try and formulate answers to the same hard questions that have always confronted humans: Who am I? What am I doing here? What is it that I’m supposed to be doing here? Is it possible to truly understand another sentient being?

It’s Kambayashi’s deft treatment of these questions that has secured Yukikaze’s place in the ranks of classic speculative fiction. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

P.S. I’m gonna take the opportunity here to answer a question that came up in a couple of reviews: Yes, the correct transcription of the names is “Booker” and “Lydia,” not “Bukhar” and “Rydia.” Ah, the joys of translating katakana

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David Drake likes Yukikaze! Excitement abounds!

We just got in a great blurb from the legendary writer of military SF, David Drake. Check it out:

Yukikaze may be the perfect bridge between anime and the sort of military SF which I write. The novel is a clean, detached look at war and warriors: fast-moving, poetic, and precise even when describing passion. A remarkable book, unique in my experience.

Dave Drake, author of Hammer’s Slammers

I hope we can fit the whole endorsement on the cover. It’s awesome! Yukikaze will be published in January, so now you all have something to buy with the bookstore gift certificates you’ll get for whatever winter holiday you celebrate.

It’s almost like we planned it that way…

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