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Otsuichi [Archive]

Two new books! OH MY!

Well, it’s the 21st of September, and you know what that means! Two new Haikasoru titles are on bookstore shelves and in stock at your favorite online retailer, today. Check ’em out:


Star Trek: The Motion Picture-era Mr. Sulu has his copies. Do you have yours?

Just in time for school—Rocket Girls! The latest from Housuke Nojiri, author of Usurper of the Sun, features hard science and teen girls. The series of books is also an anime. See?

I’ve heard the anime described as “The Right Stuff meets Sailor Moon” but I’d call the novel Gossip Girls if the titular girls had brains in their heads and real jobs. Surely, much better heroes for teen girls!

And then we have Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse by our resident “strange one” Otsuichi, just in time for Halloween. (We love timing things properly around here.) This book contains Otsuichi’s debut novella, and an entire other novel in Black Fairy Tale. We were thrilled when ZOO was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection, and we’re hoping that we might get some more nominations this year—we have a novel, a novella, and a novelette in the same book, and together that makes Summer a collection. Dare we sweep the categories? Pick up a copy and see if we have a chance!

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The Shirley Jackson Awards or, I Got A Rock

The winners of the 2009 Shirley Jackson Awards have been announced, and sadly for us, nominee ZOO by Otsuichi didn’t win in its category of Best Collection. Congrats to the winners Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson (Harper Perennial) and Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical by Robert Shearman (Big Finish Productions). I suppose a three-way tie out of a field of five finalists would have been too much to ask for.

Luckily, the Jacksons offer a little lagniappe for all the nominees, so soon we’ll be shipping Otsuichi his very own “The Lottery”—style throwing stone:

And now, just for kicks, here’s the brief speech that would have been read out at today’s ceremony, had Otsuichi won:

Hello, everybody. My name is Otsuichi, and I write novels in Japan. I
feel very honored to be receiving this award. Thank you so much for this
acknowledgment of my work. I’m going to tell my wife and parents about
this right away. I know they’ll all be happy for me. When I write, I
never have confidence in my stories. I write in fear of my anxiety, and
every time I think, “I’m going to quit being a writer after I finish
this novel.” However, receiving recognition like this gives me courage.
I feel I can continue writing a bit longer, and I’ll be so happy if more
people read my work as a result of this award. Thank you so much.

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Cool your body, chill your soul

One of the most interesting cultural differences between US and Japan to me is horror’s different relationship to the seasons. Here in the US, of course, horror is autumnal, partially thanks to Halloween and partially thanks to autumn in general being seen as a season of spectacle and decay. The leaves burst into awesome color and then vanish, leaving behind skeletal branches. And then the days grow short, the nights long, and we’re all out trying to scare one another. And the publishers provide—in September and October most every bookstore will have front-of-store displays of Stephen King and vampire novels, collections of “true” regional ghost stories collected by the local kook, etc.

In Japan, things are different. Perhaps it’s because many of Japan’s sacred forests, such as Atsuta Jingu, are primarily evergreen, but in Japan horror is a summer thing. The nights are hot and sultry, and the days blaze with both heat and humidity—it regularly hits 85% humidity in Tokyo mornings. Horror provides chills, goosebumps even, and thus sweet relief from the weather. Horror is the Japanese equivalent of “beach reading.”

I was thrilled today to see at BN.com (you know, Barnes & Noble), scary book reviewer Paul Goat Allen (he both reviews scary books, and looks pretty scary!) offer a summertime review of ZOO, our Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection of horror tales by Otusichi. Allen writes:

Tired of reading mac and cheese stories? Got a yen for some international literary cuisine? Check out this decidedly Twilight Zone-esque short story collection, replete with jaw-dropping plot twists and bombshell endings… You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into the wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, Otsuichi’s ZOO!

The body of the review is well worth reading as well, though there might be a spoiler or two when Allen discusses his favorite stories in the book, so beware. Check out ZOO; it’ll take the edge off the summer heat. As for me, I’m neck-deep in edits for Black Fairy Tale, one of the two Otsuichi novels we’re releasing collected under the name of Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse (more info soon!) so I am already cool as a cucumber. Brrr.

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ZOO nominated for Shirley Jackson award!

We’ve been sitting on this all week, but now we can finally announce that Otsuichi’s ZOO has been nominated for Best Short Story Collection for this year’s Shirley Jackson award.


Buy me!

Shirley Jackson needs no introduction, but the awards might. The Jacksons celebrate “the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic,” but like the author for which they are named, the awards go far beyond “genre” norms. Jackson’s most famous short story, “The Lottery” was published first in The New Yorker to a tsunami of complaints about how horrid the tale was…and to more than a few letters from would-be lookie-loos requesting the location of the town where the annual lottery takes place—the story was so compelling that to many it seemed real.

(By the way, the answer is West Bennington, Vermont. See you there this summer!)

Otsuichi isn’t even the first Japanese writer to be so lauded. Last year literary author Yoko Ogawa won the category for her The Diving Pool, a collection of novellas, some of which had previously appeared in The New Yorker as well. (Check out Pregnancy Diary for some literary chills.) Will Ogawa serve as a bellwether for Otsuichi? I’d like to think so. As a short story lover, the decline of the form in the US is a sad state of affairs, but short subjects are booming in Japan, perhaps because most major publishers have both literary and commercial fiction magazines in which they cultivate new talent. (The commuter culture helps too, I suspect. A story is often one train trip’s length.) Can Superior Japanese Storytelling Technology in Translation defeat the rest of the world again?

I don’t know if our resident “strange one” will ever make the pages of The New Yorker or any other slick American magazine, but he’s been doing pretty well. In addition to the Jackson nod, two ZOO tales—”The White House in the Cold Forest” and In a Park at Twilight, a Long Time Ago received Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s annual best-of anthology, Best Horror of the Year, volume 2. Sweet!

In Japan, horror is summertime reading. Forget pumpkins and brown and orange leaves crunching under one’s feet, the dark stuff is associated with the blazing sun. Horror gives you chills after all, and that’ll serve to cool a reader down on a sultry Asian night. The Shirley Jackson award winners will be announced at Readercon in July, so maybe it’ll be a lucky time of year. And a win would be a great kick off for our next Otsuichi title, which…

ell, which you’ll see in stores just in time for the summer to end and Halloween season to begin.

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