Misses and Mysteries

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More snow, but at least this time there's enough of it to make the trees and well-insulated roofs white. The dogs were happy to see it wasn't raining when they went for a walk, but seem a bit confused as to why all this wet stuff keeps dripping into their eyes. Cold feet, too!

It is dropping to freezing during the day, which means it might be ice burn tomorrow... that's OK, because I take the subway, but I hope it clears up by Thursday, when I'm off to the New Year's party (新年会) for the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc (日本推理作家協会). They meet regularly, but they're in Tokyo and I'm down here, and so I generally get to about one meeting a year...

This year should be fun, though, for a bunch of reasons: I've got two crime-related books to show off, The Edogawa Rampo Reader (and Rampo's grandson will certainly be at the meeting), and The Red Star of Cadiz (and Ōsaka Gō, a former president of the group, will certainly be there too).
I will be meeting a lot of the authors we've already published in our Hidden Gods series, and a lot of the authors that we are translating now for the Kaiki anthology.

Perhaps most important, I will be able to meet with a few very important people about the Japanese mystery anthology we've been working on for over a year... There is still a lot of work to be done before we can start looking for translators, but we're already getting eager "Me! Call me!" emails from translators who want a piece of it.

The plan is to publish a comprehensive overview of Japanese mystery (crime, detective, etc) fiction from late Meiji through the present, with extensive commentary and of course lots of stories. It will be between five and nine volumes, which is a heck of lot of pages. On the other hand, it has to cover a lot of ground, and there are a heck of a lot of authors in there to think about. We are very fortunate to be getting a lot of interest from the Japanese mystery community on this, and it looks like we'll be getting solid assistance when the ball finally gets rolling.
Hopefully I'll be able to make some preliminary announcements on this next month; we'll just have to wait and see.

Another development, while it has nothing to do with the Mystery Writers of Japan, is the first of a planned continuing series of articles on Japanese SF, written regularly by Yutaka Ebihara. The first one is a report on the Nihon SF Taishō (日本SF大賞), held in December. Comments welcome!

And finally, I'd like to mention a review of Asamatsu Ken's Queen of K'n-Yan, in the Web-based Strange Horizons. I urge you to read the review, but wanted to talk about one of the questions the reviewer, Kari Sperring, raises.

"Anri holds a doctorate, but does not insist on her new colleagues addressing her as 'Doctor' suggesting instead that they use just her surname instead. Her colleagues wish to be more polite, however, and add on an honorific (presumably san) which Taji has chosen to translate as 'Miss.' In English, this becomes faintly insulting, as it apparently denies Anri's academic achievements."

Kathleen Taji and I discussed this point, and Taji-san went on to raise it as a discussion at JATlist, a forum for professional translators working between Japanese and English. It is not at all clear, although everyone has his or own opinion about the best way to handle it.

The general consensus seems to be that while using a few 'san' markers here and there for atmoisphere, the average English-language reader, with no particular familiarity with Japanese, would find them a bit distracting on every page. In fact, Anri would almost cerrtainly be addressed as 'Morishita-san' or just 'Sensei' or 'Hakase' by other people working at the company, and almost certainly not as 'Anri.'
So, how to put it in English? The situation in a similar American research institution would probably have everyone calling each other by their first name, and 'Anri' would be reasonable. If a bit of formality were needed, she might be 'Dr. Morishita.' In Japan she certainly could demand that people recognize her doctorate, but also in Japan if she is being spoken to by someone above her on the corporate ladder (almost certainly), or someone older (possibly, depending on the person), calling her 'Morishita-san' or even 'Morishita-kun' or just 'Kimi' (hey you!) is very likely. An elderly officer, for example, might well call her 'Morishita-kun' without thinking about it twice.

Given all that, and considering that the character specifically asked other people not to call her 'Doctor,' my personal feeling is that 'Miss' is appropriate... I cheerfuly admit that a woman in a similar situation in the West might demand recognition of her doctorate, but this story isn't set in the West.

As always, if you feel differently by all means please speak up!


It's a new year and about time for me to mention again that if you are interested in writing a guest article, or becoming part of Kurodahan Press, please contact me at any time. The most important resource is, as in almost anything, good people!

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