An Introduction To Haikasoru Science Fiction Novels
Starting in the March issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS, readers will start to notice reviews of Japanese science fiction and fantasy novels in the magazine. They're all from Haikasoru, a relatively new publishing imprint which specializes in these translated books.
With the boom in both anime and manga in the United States, parent company VIZ Media thought it would be a great time to branch out—and science fiction and fantasy is a natural extension of their market (they publish several manga magazines and collections, as well as DVD sets). They translate books from a variety of Japanese publishers in a wide variety of genres.
Senior Reviewer Natalie A. Luhrs got in touch with Tradebooks Editor Nick Mamatas and asked him a few questions about Haikasoru and got some recommendations. At the end of the interview are links to two web-exclusive reviews of Haikasoru titles—Rocket Girls by Housuke Nojiri and The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa.
Natalie A. Luhrs: What sorts of readers have been picking up Haikasoru books--any surprises there?
Nick Mamatas: A good mix of anime/manga fans and traditional science fiction fans. There's not very much "optimistic" or "positive" future SF these days—The Next Continent and Rocket Girls are examples of this moribund subgenre, so a lot of old school science fiction readers who are tired of endless dystopias (and bad science!) have flocked to these books. When a nominee for the Hugo award for Fan Writer said of The Next Continent, "...this is one of the better Let's Go to Space novels in the last few decades," we knew we were on the right track.
[Editorial Note: The Hugo nominee in question is James Davis Nicoll, who penned the RT *Web Exclusive Reviews* below, as well as the review of Rocket Girls: The Last Planet, which appears in the March issue.]
Natalie A. Luhrs: What sort of challenges are there in translating these books for English speakers?
Nick Mamatas: There are many, of course. One is that translation is a time-consuming process; I often don't exactly know how a book will end till the last pages of a translation come in. Figurative language is also tricky; how might we translate tsundere for example: it's a common "type" of character, a young woman who moves swiftly back and forth from irritable to romantic. We don't have a single English word for it. At the same time, plenty of anime/manga fans actually know the word, so perhaps we shouldn't translate it! But then what of our traditional SF readers... so that is a common sort of question I face.
Natalie A. Luhrs: What other titles would you recommend for RT's readers?
Nick Mamatas: For people who like a good chill when they read, I'd recommend Otsuichi's Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse which is dark fantasy along the lines of Shirley Jackson—Otsuichi has even been nominated for the Shirley Jackson award here in the US!
Readers who like science fiction and the art of storytelling should check out The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto—it's about a female robot in the future who tells one of the last few men on Earth seven stories about the rise of artificial intelligence and the relationships—romantic, caregiver/comforted, friendships—between human and machine.
For those who like a bit of thriller or mystery, I'd recommend Loups-Garous by Natsuhiko Kyogoku; three young girls in the near-future where every interaction is monitored and all food is synthetic have to track down a serial killer.
You can also check out the RT review of Rocket Girls: The Last Planet in the March Issue and read the *Web Exclusive Reviews* for Rocket Girls by Housuke Nojiri and The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa below.