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One year later

One year ago, on March 11th, a massive earthquake struck the Pacific coast of Japan. It was the most powerful quake ever to hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful ever recorded. Naturally, here at Haikasoru all work stopped as we tried to catch up on the news. We used our Twitter feed to contact our writers and friends in Japan, and luckily everyone was unharmed.

The news from Japan just got worse, as a great tsunami hit, which in turn caused a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. It will take decades to decontaminate the area and decommission the plant. The whole thing seemed like a catastrophe straight out of science fiction—comparisons to the classic novel Japan Sinks abounded.

The SF community dealt with the disaster in its own way. Science fiction writer and friend of Haikasoru Charles Stross wrote an essay about the possible underreported effects of the disaster. William Gibson and other writers contributed to 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, a fundraising e-anthology. Transgressive/horror novelist Ryu Murakami wrote this wonderful essay for The New York Times, saying in part, “But for all we’ve lost, hope is in fact one thing we Japanese have regained. The great earthquake and tsunami have robbed us of many lives and resources. But we who were so intoxicated with our own prosperity have once again planted the seed of hope.” At Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon, a special video tribute to Japanese fans displaced or otherwise effected by the quake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster was played during the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Here at VIZ, we launched the Art For Hope ebook as a fundraiser for Architects for Humanity—their anniversary update is well-worth reading. We also struggled with the cover for MM9, which we were producing at the time. We quickly decided to go with a fantastical-seeming cover with a monster in the background:

The original Japanese cover looked just a little bit too much like real footage from the disaster:

…so we felt it better to use a more whimsical, obviously imaginary cover.

A year later, things are still rough in the impacted areas, and the long-term effects are unknown. Bruce Sterling, in his story for our forthcoming anthology The Future Is Japanese describes the area as a nuclear wasteland, and as a place of new beginnings. There are no people, but wildlife has returned, including monkeys. “Monkeys are so funny. Monkeys are much kinder to each other than people are,” one of his characters says.

But we found the words of Star Trek actor George Takei more inspiring. He writes: In their resolve to rebuild, the Japanese have set a high bar for the world. In the wake of the tragedy, there was no looting, no violence, and a strong sense of order and selflessness. Elderly Japanese volunteered to help with the gritty task of nuclear clean-up, offering up their shorter expected life spans for the greater good. It is moving to me to see such human spirit, after so much was lost for so many.

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I will be participating in this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, Renovation. Worldcon is the most important of SF cons—as opposed to full media conventions—and the most prestigious. I’ve attended in the past, but never as a Hugo Award nominee. As some of you may remember, I’m up for Best Editor, Long Form, for my work here at Haikasoru! You’ll be able to watch the ceremony live via Internet, or follow along via a text stream at 8PM Pacific, Saturday August 20th. Exciting stuff!

Also, I’ll be on several panels, some of which involve Japanese science fiction. Here’s the full list.

Thu 14:00 (A05) 1 hr
Remembrances of Joanna Russ
Joanna Russ was one of the field’s first feminist writers and a leading literary critic. While many are familiar with her fiction and her critical work, her influence went far beyond that. Our panel remembers Joanna Russ, and assesses her personal impact on them and on others in the field.

Fri 17:00 (D03) 1 hr
Post-Modern Fantasy, Epic and Otherwise
There’s been considerable discussion of Fantasy, Fantastika, and Post-Modernism. What is this about, and why is it interesting for those who read, review, or critique present day fantasy?

Sat 11:00 (D03) 1 hr
Fantasy and Horror in the New Century
What to look for and where to find the darker side of literature.

Sat 14:00 (A09) 1 hr
Speculative Japan
Science fiction is a well-established literary field in Japan, with an energetic fandom that hosted the 2007 Worldcon. Yet, Japanese SF is not much read in North America. How has Japanese SF developed over the past forty years? How does it address both traditional Japanese literature and Western ideas, as well as current cultural and literary developments?

Sat 16:00 (A03) 1 hr
Cross-Cultural Influences in SF
How are cross-cultural influences manifested in Science Fiction? We look at the impact of both modern and ancient cultures on on SF. How, say, has American SF been affected by Japan? What are the trans-Atlantic influences in play? We expect a wide-ranging discussion.

Sun 11:00 (A03) 1 hr
Revolutions in SF, Fantasy, and the Real World
Revolutions vary from the disparate traditional tropes of the French and American revolutions to non-violent revolution (Gandhi’s India), The entrenched power may be colonial, class-based, or simply authoritarian. How well does SF & F represent the ideals and ambiguities of revolution, the need to rebuild, and the cultural stresses that result.

There’s also another panel of interest to Haikasoru fans, which I will not be participating in, but which I will certainly attend as an eager audience member:

Fri 17:00 (A04) 1 hr
Seiun Awards: An Introduction to Japanese Science Fiction
This panel will give you an update on what’s going on in the various fields of Japanese science fiction: novels, films, and fanacs. What is more, the panelists will carry out the Seiun Awards Ceremony in order to celebrate the winners of the 2009 and 2010 Seiun Awards, the Japanese equivalent of Hugo established in 1970.

Famous American Seiun winner John Scalzi will be on this panel, so be sure to pepper him with obscure trivia questions about the Seiun!

We hope to see some of you there!

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