Remember last month when I talked about wanting to see more science fiction and fantasy translated into English from other languages? And I mentioned a secret project being hinted at by Clarkesworld's Neil Clarke? It's not a secret, anymore!
The Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project went live on Kickstarter earlier this month and is now fully funded! That means every issue of Clarkesworld will have a story that was first published in China translated into English. And, if the stretch goals are met, some issues may have two or three translations from other countries as well.
I'm very excited about this project for many reasons. The first being that we'll get to see more SF from outside of the Anglophone world. Plus, we'll see science fiction from China, where SF is huge and there's a wealth of great stories that we're just not seeing in America. And I hope this will spur other magazine and anthology editors to come up with their own translation projects.
And if you would like a taste of things to come...
image credit: Elizabeth Leggett
Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu) | Clarkesworld Magazine
Zhuazhou is a custom in the Jiangnan region. When a baby has reached one year of age, the child is bathed and dressed in fresh clothes. Then the child is presented with various objects: bow, arrow, paper, and brush for boys; knife, ruler, needle, and thread for girls—plus foods, jewels, clothes, and toys. Whatever the child chooses to play with is viewed as an indication of the child's character and abilities.
Lao Zhang looked up at the words and felt a complex set of emotions. My son, the rest of your beautiful life is about to start. His wife, also overcome by emotion, moved closer and the two leaned against each other, holding hands.
Unfortunately, although the Zhangs had begun the baby's education before he had even been born, the boy still couldn't read. He waved his hand excitedly through the air, and pages of explanatory text flipped by. The end of the explanation was also the start of the formal zhuazhou ceremony, and everyone in the banquet hall quieted down.
This is one of those SF stories that has an overarcing theme but not a single plot to tie everything together, yet works because of how deftly the author explores each of the different scenes. I love Jia's vision of the future because it's clear how it's influenced by the past without being mired in it. This is a subtle distinction that white, Western writers often do not get. This would be why I'm excited about translations.
If you subscribe to the podcast I highly recommend Kate Baker's reading of this story.
A man was far ahead of her on the road. Walking and breathing. So far, so good.
That he was a man, Nayima was certain. His silhouette against the horizon of the rising roadway showed his masculine height and the shadow of an unkempt beard. He pulled his belongings behind him in an overnight suitcase like a business traveler. Maybe she trusted him on sight because of the unmistakable shape of a guitar case slung across his back. She'd always had a thing for musicians.
"Hey!" she screamed, startling herself with her bald desperation.
His attention gave her pause. She hadn't seen anyone walking in so long that she'd forgotten the plan that had kept her alive the past nine months: Hide. Observe. Assess.
But fuck it.
I'm not as big a fan of apocalypse stories as everyone else seems to be, but I am a fan of Tananarive Due and I'll give anything she writes a try. This story sucked me right in, despite the bleak end of the worldiness of it. All the usual elements are there—superflu, a few struggling survivors, a landscape dotted with empty, leftover structures—but it's the main character's naked want that keeps the story from falling into cliche. Well worth reading.
If you're a bigger fan of apocalypses than I am, you'll probably like the anthology this is from: The End is Now edited by John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey. Speaking of anthologies...
Neil Clarke is on a roll with editing projects. Out this month for the wider world is the Kickstarter-backed anthology Upgraded! A cyborg anthology edited by a (self-proclaimed) cyborg.
If you're a fan of Clarkesworld you're going to enjoy the stories herein and you'll likely recognize most of the names in the table of contents. I'm not completely through this one yet, but thus far I'm really impressed with Musée de l'Âme Seule by E. Lily Yu and Synecdoche Oracles by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. And again, if you're interested in reading some translated work, there's a story by Xia Jia in here as well. Definitely check those out.
The Stone Children By Shannon Norland | Luna Station Quarterly
Helen waited for the water to stop, for the other woman to leave, but the water did not stop. On and on it gushed, until Helen was irritated by the sound.
She left the stall, avoiding her own reflection in the bank of mirrors. The faucet, sensor-operated, continued to pour despite no one standing before it. Helen walked over, uncertain what she might do to fix the problem. She noticed there was an object in the sink: a large, white stone.
Helen lifted it out and the water immediately shut off. The stone was smooth and opalescent, and exquisitely carved like a tiny baby girl. Her back curved into Helen's palm as she stared up with textured irises and a slightly open mouth. She looked to Helen for an explanation as to why she'd been left in a sink, but Helen had no answer to give her.
I don't know what I like better about this story, the utter disdain Norland has for a certain type of female office drone that can't help but be The Worst in any situation, the disdain she has for stupid men who waste everyone's time with their tired midlife whatevers, or the way she writes about motherhood without being twee or tiresome. I also love the imagery of the stone children especially as I've been doing a lot of beadwork lately and getting back in touch with the power beautifully carved and shaped stones can have on a person.
Are you as excited by more translations as I am? Any SF/F authors writing in languages other than English that you'd be really happy to see in American magazines? I'd be interested to hear about it in the comments.