Kurodahan in 2010: What’s Next?


Thank you for dropping by again!

Let me wish you all a wonderful 2010, the Year of the Tiger. I have high hopes for this year in spite of the prolonged economic slump, and I thought it might be a good idea to start the year off with a few comments about what we've been doing, and where I'm trying to go next.

So what did we do last year?

First and probably foremost, we managed to get our book on Himiko and the Chinese histories out the door safely, which is an enormous achievement. The Himiko saga began back in 2003 when the author approached us with the initial idea and a massive stack of paper. It was (and remains!) a great idea, but getting his research into a book was something we'd never done before. Among other things, the manuscript was written in Italian and had to be translated into English. Photos had to be identified and rights obtained, names and references of all sorts had to be checked, maps and other illustrations had to be made, and ancient Chinese glyphs created.

A number of very talented people assisted us, contributing far more time and energy than we had any right to expect: Davide Mana did the initial translation into English, turning a massive pile of Italian manuscript into a even more massive Word file packed full of notes and questions in multiple colors. Mark Hall helped eliminate a lot of the multicolored problems and get the work started off right. Back-and-forth with people at museums in Japan and China, librarians in a number of nations, and several publishers resulted in photographs and permissions, but it took over a year to nail them all down.

Once we had the photographs, we had to process them so that they could be printed in the book and still be readable. Fortunately, we were dealing with photographs of calligraphy or carved characters, not artwork, so our Mac maven Yukutake Rika was able to process the imagery for clarity.

Meanwhile, Anthony J. Bryant gave up sleeping for about six months to run the manuscript through an intensive editing and re-writing process, while simultaneously helping get the Chinese glyphs right (which included actually making about a dozen that simply don't exist any more!). By the time the book was ready we were at version 42 of the manuscript...

Then we turned to actual layout, which was handled masterfully by Sawako Nakayasu, who managed to turn it all into a real book in spite of our constant revisions and heckling... and in spite of the fact that she was hatching her own baby at the same time. In fact, her daughter was born at almost the same time as Himiko rolled off the press!

To be honest, if I had know what we were getting into at the time I never would have agreed to do it, but now that it's done and in my hands, it feels awfully good.
Thank you to everyone who helped make it all possible!

No, Himiko wasn't the only thing we did last year.

We also got the first volume of our Kaiki: Uncanny Tales from Japan trilogy. This was an important step for us because it was the first anthology we put together by ourselves. Once the initial idea gelled I contacted Kida Jun’ichirō, recognized as one of the leading authorities in the field. We'd already published one of his own stories in our Hidden Gods anthology, so when I ran into him at a meeting of the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc. I broached the subject. He agreed it was a great idea, but said he just couldn't handle it because of other engagements, and suggested Higashi Masao instead as the ideal person for the job.

He was right. Higashi Masao was the perfect choice, and after a meeting and multiple discussions, we nailed down the prospective content for what because a 3-volume set. Once he gave us a list of stories, we had to find our who owned the rights and arrange to translate and publish them. Out of the total, I think we only failed to get permissions for two, which isn't bad. And I was able to dig up one rights holder that even the major publishers had been unable to find, which I thought was pretty darn nifty!

Translation went generally smoothly (and is continuing now on the second and third volumes), and again we had excellent luck with translators. Only one person proved unable to complete the work, requiring a quick replacement who also turned in a superlative job (thank you, Brian).

I already described the excitement of finding the cover art, so I'll skip that, but it was a pretty interesting learning experience all by itself.

And what about 2010?

All sorts of things in the works, some of which I really can't discuss yet, unfortunately, except to say that I'm practically dancing with anticipation.

Kaiki volumes 2 and 3 are well along and unless something really surprising happens will both be published this year. We're already getting some very good feedback from volume 1, and hopefully that will continue to build. It is a bit of a different twist that the usual uncanny tales found in Western literature, and I really hope people give it a try, because I'm confident they'll enjoy it.

We have two books up for consideration for the Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature run by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University, Hanatsumi Nikki and The Edogawa Rampo Reader. They are both outstanding books and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see either win, although expecting prizes for both is a bit much, I suppose...

Work is progressing on schedule for Fujisaki Shingo's Crystal Silence, with the translation in the editing phase now. Even in its unfinished form it is a heck of a page-turner in English, too!

Speculative Japan Volume Two is also right on schedule, and the translations are solid. Sure, I read all those stories in Japanese when I decided what to put in the book, but reading them in English is an entirely different thrill. It's still the same story, of course, but, well, it's also a new way to experience it. While the first volume of Speculative Japan consisted mostly of reprints from scholarly journals or small-press collections, this is almost entirely brand-new material and should make quite a splash when it comes out.
I'm also working on the table of contents for Speculative Japan Volume Three, with some really hot stories in the stack already. I hope to further expand the scope of the book and cover a wider range of speculative fiction, not just SF&F, and have a few pieces that will stir up a bit of excitement when they make it to English. Even in best-case, though, I don't think SJ3 will make it into print before early 2011.

The Kurodahan Press Japanese web pages are being put into decent shape finally, thanks to the invaluable assistance of Fujita Erina. There is still a lot more to do on the Japanese side, but with her help it is getting done at a positively breakneck (for us) pace!

The Second Kurodahan Press Translation Prize was won by Dink Tanaka for an outstanding translation of Takagi Nobuko's short story, to be published this year in Speculative Japan Volume 2. Congratulations, and thank you for a wonderful read!

And, on a personal note, my translation of Asamatsu Ken's short story, "Spherical Trigonometry," will be published later this year in Cthulhu's Reign, edited by Darrell Schweitzer and published by DAW Books. I've read the other stories in the anthology, and I'm honored to be a member of that company, if only as translator!

What about stuff that isn't up on the website yet?

Lots of exciting stuff happening under the surface, and some of it I just can't talk about yet because it's still not signed. We will be publishing the first works in Japanese by (literally) world-famous Serbian author Zoran Živković, and NEWS FLASH a number of his works in English as well as Japanese! Top-notch Japanese translator Yamada Junko, who has handled such luminaries as Robert A. Heinlein and Stephen King, will be handling translation of his work into Japanese. More information on that as it develops, but it should all happen this year.

We have permission to do a collection of works by award-winning Japanese author Yoshiyuki Junnosuke(吉行淳之介), who made quite a splash years ago when John Bester's translation of The Dark Room was published to bring his sensual and riveting work to the English mainstream. Work on this is being handled by expert translator Andrew Clare, who has done a number of pieces for us, and novels for other publishers.

We are in discussion, and apparently on the verge of actually signing the contract for, a two-volume epic by a very famous Japanese author set at the time of the Meiji Restoration... incredible characters and action (mostly factual!), with a story line that is almost entirely drawn from the history books but still has enough energy to spin off a huge number of books, TV dramas, films and (more recently) manga and anime.

I wonder how many people would be interested in an English-language version of Tanaka Yoshiki's Legend of the Galactic Hero series? All I can say is that we're talking about it, but when I sacrificed a chicken over the New Year (yeah, I know it's supposed to be a goat, but roast chicken will fit in our oven...) all the signs and portents were good! That is one series I've wanted to do for, wow, decades! I don't know when all the i's will be dotted and t's crossed, but I'm already holding my breath on this one.

And of course there are a lot of other things bubbling slowly out of sight, but everyone says that. As bits and pieces bubble to the surface, though, I'll be announcing them here, so please drop back one in a while to see what we're into next.
Thanks for all your support throughout the year, and I hope you'll help us make 2010 another great year for Kurodahan, and J-Lit in English!


Kurodahan Press

Kurodahan Press
2305-9 Yunomae Machi
Kuma-gun, Kumamoto
868-0600 JAPAN