Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

Tag: sf in translation

Soup Ads and SF

I did not know until today that German publisher Heyne once had a policy of inserting two-page adverts for Maggi soup (and presumably other products) into the text of their books, and that when Terry Pratchett found out about it he dropped them as his German publisher. It also apparently happened to Iain M. Banks—and to Duane Duane, who discovered similar soup ads in the German translations of her Star Trek Romulan novels. (This seems rather more pervasive than my my German ex-girlfriend’s soup obsession, which I found kind of endearing at the time. Then again, she was an sf reader: maybe the ads burned something deep into her psyche.)

Amatka

Karin Tidbeck first came to my attention in 2012, with the publication of Jagannath (Cheeky Frawg), a slim collection of quietly disturbing stories. Tidbeck, a Swedish sf writer, manages the difficult task of writing in both English and Swedish, writing in one language and translating to the other as required. Her first novel, Amatka, was also published in 2012, but because it was written in Swedish and published in Sweden it escaped my attention. But earlier this summer an English translation by the author was published by Vintage Books, and it’s no less quiet and no less disturbing.

Invisible Planets

invisible-planets

In addition to writing some of the most critically acclaimed stories of the past few years (and I hear his novels are pretty good, too), Ken Liu has also been translating Chinese science fiction into English. His most visible work has been the translation of the first and third volumes of Liu Cixin’s Three-Body trilogy, but he’s also been translating short stories—more than forty of them so far, according to his bibliography—that have been appearing in the online and print magazines. One of those translations, Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing,” won the Hugo Award for best novelette this year.

Thirteen of Ken’s1 translations, including Hao’s “Folding Beijing” and two stories by Liu Cixin, have now been gathered in Invisible Planets, out this week from Tor (in the U.S.) and Head of Zeus (in the U.K.). It’s a first-rate anthology for a couple of reasons. For one, Ken himself is an elegant writer, and his translations are no less elegant. For another, the process to arrive at these thirteen stories—Ken translating his favourite Chinese-language stories, then picking his favourites of those translations—makes for a selection process akin to a year’s-best or best-of anthology. In other words, we’re getting the cream of the cream of the crop.

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