Meanwhile, Elsewhere in East Asia...
Story evaluation and discussions are still under way for the second volume of our Speculative Japan series of science fiction in translation, but a number of things happened coincidentally and simultaneously to vastly accelerate our plans for a similar series of Chinese science fiction in English. It's still hard to tell, but it now looks quite possible that the first Chinese collection could come out before the second volume of Japanese stories!
At World Science Fiction Convention 2007 in Yokohama last year I met with a number of people from the Chinese SF world, especially a few very nice editors from the leading Chinese SF magazine, SF World (and possibly the leading SF magazine in the world by subscription count).
They were quite interested in how we've been publishing Japanese works in English, and we spoke briefly. There were a lot of things going on, and it was not the place for prolonged discussions. Simply too many people that we absolutely had to meet, right then and there, and (as always happens at a conference) too many things scheduled for the same time. All I could do was give them some sample books to leaf through, and agree to get back in touch with each other.
Early this year, David Brin (the GOH at WorldCon 2007) contacted me with an e-mail he had received from a fan group in China, with two stories they had translated themselves into English. He asked if I could help, as they were seeking a publisher... I read the stories eagerly, and while the English needed editing, the stories were easily of a quality to match American or British authors, yet both retained a few elements that were clearly not Western. Chinese flavoring, if you will.
Turns out that the people in the fan group and the people at SF World know each other. When SF World discovered that they had been beaten to the punch in submitting selections, they immediately put together a stack of about half a dozen top-notch stories for me to look at. Unfortunately, they are all in Chinese... and my knowledge of Chinese is pretty close to nil. Oops.
What do to? I immediately posted want ads in a few places where Chinese-to-English translations hang out, seeking people who would be willing to give me story outlines and evaluations. A few very talented people showed up, and work in under way. Serendipitously, Japan's own Hayakawa SF Magazine published a special issue on Chinese SF! Two of the stories I had received from SF World for evaluation were there, translated into Japanese, which I can read just fine. Even better, the translator for one of the stories is someone I know quite well! All sorts of pieces are coming together.
Best of all, I have now read four stories translated from the Chinese and highly recommended... One of them, in my ever-so-humble opinion, is exquisite and the others very good. I'm waiting to see more information on the remaining stories so I can see just what they're about, and how they work in English, but right now everything looks very rosy. When I compare these to the selection of Chinese shorts in Science Fiction from China by Dingbo Wu and Patrick Murphy, an old and still solitairy book, they are much more about the "sense of wonder" and exploring new ideas, and are structurally much more modern. The stories in the Wu-Murphy book reflect a more tightly-controlled China, and while they are fascinating for how they reveal what China was a few decades ago, China has changed... and needless to say, her authors have changed as well.
The Japanese collection is also proceeding smoothly, albeit perhaps a bit slowly. We are gradually building up a stack of stories that are worth translating into English, but haven't done too much culling yet. Stories obviously unsuitable for reasons of length, obviousness, or simply lack of interest are being dropped, but we still have enough for several volumes already. There is so much more material to read, however, that it's difficult to say "Enough." I'm always thinking that there's another story even better waiting in the next book I pick up... And sometimes I'm right!