SRP: $13.99 USA / $16.00 CAN / £9.99
Trim: ISBN: 1-4215-2587-9
A man receives a photo of his girlfriend every day in the mail...so that he can keep track of her decomposition. A deathtrap that takes a week to kill its victims. Haunted parks and airplanes held in the sky by the power of belief. These are just a few of the stories by Otsuichi, Japan's master of dark fantasy.
Born 1978 in Fukuoka, Otsuichi won the Sixth Jump Short Fiction/Nonfiction Prize when he was seventeen with his debut story "Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse." Now recognized as one of the most talented young fantasy/horror writers in Japan, his other English-language works include the short story collection Calling You and the Honkaku Mystery Prize-winning novel Goth.
In a Park at Twilight, a Long Time Ago
When I was in elementary school there was a park in my neighborhood. Because it was surrounded by tall buildings, you could visit the park at twilight and the sounds of cars and the hubbub of people would completely disappear. It was the kind of park that offered a small pocket of quiet in the big city.
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.
ZOO nominated for Shirley Jackson award!
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.
Powerfully Morbid & Occasionally Gruesome
Nicky “Knuckles” Mamatas picked up the September issue of Neo last week and spotted a review of ZOO. How fortuitous. For those of you who don’t know, Neo is a magazine that services the otaku crowd in the UK. Each issue features a mix of information about manga, anime, eiga, and all sorts of groovy stuff from Japan.
Anyhoo… the anonymous reviewer says a lot of good things about our book. This comment, in particular, I liked very much: “Each of Otsuichi’s tales is powerfully morbid and occasionally gruesome. Many also feel strangely like fairytales as they explore weird situations in timeless settings.”
I agree. ZOO is fairytale-like. And the stories are indeed morbid and gruesome. But I wish more reviewers would start picking up on the book’s humor. You may hate yourself at the end of day, but there are moments in “Find the Blood!” and “In a Falling Airplane” that will put a wicked grin on your face.
Praise for ZOO
Horror author and all-around good guy Brian Keene writes:
“Otsuichi’s ZOO made quite a splash in Japan, and if there is any justice in the world, it will have the same impact here thanks to this Haikasoru edition. ZOO is an exceptionally entertaining collection of speculative fiction stories. Otsuichi crosses genres and boundaries with an almost Bradbury-like style, breathing new life into familiar sci-fi and horror tropes. Haunting, emotional and thoroughly engrossing. I loved it!”