ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Sat Oct 17, 2020 9:18 am

On Goodreads, while discussing The Lazarus Project, aPriL does feral sometimes wrote:(...) Why oh why do most Eastern European writers write of characters who are so morose without any insight, and why do they write only books which hint sideways at deep angsty moral uncertainties without much clarity or conclusions? Hemon, the author, has a real history similar to his character Brik. The book must be somewhat autobiographical. The novel is incredibly stuffed with subtle well-done symbolism and double meanings. But like in most Eastern European literary novels I've read, it seems to me anyway, the characters have no idea of what is wrong with them, but they are vaguely motivated to solve their inner unresolved pangs through the chasing of shadows which, inexplicably to them but not to readers, draw them like moths to a light. Nothing ever resolves by the end of the book. At least the internal miseries still exist, and no enlightenment occurs for the main character. He (almost always a man) is as mystified by his sense of failure and unresolved angst by the end of whatever story the author has concocted up. These novels often are lauded and acclaimed by Western Europe and the Eastern Establishment elites of the United States. Awards are dully awarded.

(...) I am frustrated at these supremely literary and deep triple-layered symbolic books which leave protagonists and readers on deserted bleak islands of no rescue, no answers, no spiritual redemptions or self-discovery by the protagonists. Cultures of overwhelming public social rigidity and conformity, and a knowledge of forbidden past history, which I think is or was common to Eastern Europe and Japan, and maybe all aristocratic upper elites and graduates of uppercrust University literary programs, seems to produce writers who write these subtle symbolic novels of quiet internal desperation which never resolve for the main protagonist. Most of the other characters in these novels do not appear to be haunted at all by the end of the story, and only by the end of the story, but instead they pursue lives of surface and concrete interests which the main protagonist can never fathom. These same types of novels also occur in literary England, and to a lesser degree, of elite Eastern coast literary types of America.

The writing of these kind of elite high-end literary novels mystify me as endlessly as the hapless, emotionally inept and depressed characters the books highlight are mystified by the people and events in their fictional lives. Why are they written, why do they all follow this clear obvious definable pattern, and why do they consistently win awards from the literary Establishment? They are a clue to the language of the 'self' of literary elites in the major Art centers of elite literary publishers and Art circles. I keep trying to grok this elite literary Artist Mindset and the elite literary Establishment which loves these oblique and bleak quiet novels of unresolved and unspoken desperation of a main character.


Кал wrote:Excellent questions, April. I keep asking myself the same about any contemporary literary fiction, not just the one from Eastern Europe. Have you tried e.g. Paul Auster's New York Trilogy? I was so exasperated and depressed after discussing it for three months at my high school that I ultimately did a tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of its main themes and prisms.

I remember you had a similar issue with some of the stories in our ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction. Did you try the positive, light-hearted ones I recommended to you? Also, a recent example of a very transformative, upbeat Bulgarian novel available in English is The Celestial Way. Of course, it's not literary fiction. :P

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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Wed Oct 21, 2020 11:00 am

Кал wrote:Just nominated the almanac as the first monthly read in the Goodreads group "Speculative Fiction in Translation"

... and it won over everybody's heart! :D

On Goodreads, Kalin (the Canadian one) wrote:Based on the preferences in this discussion, we'll automatically include the Almanac of Bulgarian Spec Fic as one of the reads.
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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Wed Dec 02, 2020 10:56 pm

December is here; and so is the almanac's discussion topic on Goodreads' Speculative Fiction in Translation. Can you guys find it on your own? ;)

(I'll quote here the most substantial comments.)
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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Fri Dec 04, 2020 11:13 am

On Goodreads, Kaa wrote:I really enjoyed the selection of artwork at the beginning of the sci-fi section, especially that it was many pieces by a single artist, which I think is fairly unique even among the relatively few illustrated anthologies I've seen. I found the first two stories very charming, although I don't have a lot to say about either. I thought they were good choices to start the book.


Ed Erwin wrote:Love in the Time of Con Crud
Certainly topical! Woldcon in Helsinki spreading a virus. I don't much like stories with time travel paradoxes, so this isn't really my thing.

How I Saved the World, Or, The Best Job
Nice old-fashioned feeling story. A reminder that in the beginnings of space travel, it isn't going to be very comfortable or fun. I wasn't aware of the scientific principle explored here, and not sure I completely understand it now, but I trust the physicists.


Ed Erwin wrote:Origins and visions says: "We believe that SF is the tool best suited to reflect the ever-changing humane aspect: to winnow the transient from the eternal in Homo Sapiens."

I agree, with one caveat: SF is good for exploring humans, including situations when humans are not humane. Not sure whether that is a non-native-speaker mistake, or whether it is aspirational: hoping humans become more humane.

It then mentions Svetoslav Minkov. I instantly wanted to read The Lady With the X-Ray Eyes, but alas it is available only for more than $400. The only other thing by him I can find in English is a short children's book, selling now for $140. (I did find a cheap set of his stories translated to French, but I don't think I'll read that right now.)

All that to say, I wish one of his stories were included in this collection. He may already be well-known (to some) but he's not currently available in English.


Кал wrote:Ed wrote: "Not sure whether that is a non-native-speaker mistake, or whether it is aspirational: hoping humans become more humane."

"Humane" is meant to be aspirational, especially in the context of the paragraph:
The almanac is a territory of humaneness, for the same reason that we have named our foundation The Human Library. We believe that SF is the tool best suited to reflect the ever-changing humane aspect: to winnow the transient from the eternal in Homo Sapiens. Therefore, we publish speculative fiction of all kinds and by all peoples, as long as it is looking for humaneness.

(But I admit the similarity to "human" made it a tough decision when I was translating it; even then I wondered how many readers would think it's a typo. The Bulgarian words choveshki and chovechen differ by a few more letters, so the intentional use is obvious.)

Speaking of humaneness, Svetoslav Minkov is a bit too satirical (or downright sarcastic) for our usual preferences for the almanac. We mention him because of his influence on the more literary branches of Bulgarian spec fic.

(And, wow, those second-hand prices ... even someone who handles the fantastic on a daily basis is hard pressed to believe them. ;)
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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Sat Dec 05, 2020 10:57 am

On Goodreads, Ed Erwin wrote:"Beating the Air" is listed as having two translators. Why? Did one do the main prose text and the other do the poetry? Or was it more of a joint effort? Translating poetry is a much more challenging thing than translating prose.

I recently read a French Spec Fic graphic novel, Luisa: Now and Then, which lists both a translator and an adapter. I've never seen that before. From what I've been able to find online, one person did a translation, then another person "adapted" the words to sound more natural in English. (The adapter's name is on the cover, but not the original translator.)


Кал wrote:Haha, wait till you reach "The Assassination" or some of the novel excerpts. ;)

At the Fantasia Translation Academy, we do a lot of joint/collective translation. In most cases, a single translator does the first pass; everyone else is what you'd probably call a "copyeditor," but if they've put in a substantial amount of work, we give them full credit as co-translators. There's also a lot of back-and-forth, so ultimately it is hard to tell who is responsible for which part. What matters is that everyone involved is happy with the outcome. :)

(In the case of "The Assassination," there were actually three initial translators doing a third of the text each, because we were on a tight schedule. There were loads of revision later, to make the whole sound coherent, and I won't repeat that process if I can help it.)
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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Tue Dec 08, 2020 7:41 pm

On Goodreads, Kalin (the Canadian one) wrote:I liked Kalin's suggestion in not-an-intro to read the stories in chronological order. And I'm considering going that route, but the PDF doesn't have a built in table of contents, which makes it somewhat of a chore to navigate big page jumps in an ebook of this size. Is there any chance a hyperlinked TOC could be added? To make things simpler I might go with Kaa's approach and read from beginning to end.

Also, since the almanac isn't in print yet, would you be interested in any copyediting suggestions, or are you past that point in the process? I caught a typo in the first story I picked up ("The Empty Room") but I won't keep track of anything like this if it's not helpful.


Кал wrote:Kalin wrote: "Is there any chance a hyperlinked TOC could be added?"

Our preprint designer doesn't know how to do that, and this December promises to be busier than I thought, so I won't find time for translating tutorials to him (he doesn't speak English). Can you manually jump to the respective page listed in the TOC? (Also, I apologize to everyone reading the PDF on an e-reader or smartphone. Once we find a publisher, we'll create a proper EPUB, with hyperlinks and everything.)

Kalin wrote: "would you be interested in any copyediting suggestions?"

Yes, always. Thank you! :)

(You can even put them in this thread. That may save somebody else the same effort. Of course, you can also email them if you prefer; please use the address where you got the almanac.)

As far as I remember, the only stories that are supposed to have some broken English (because that's how a non-native character talks/writes) are "Love in the Time of Con Crud" and "How I Saved the World."
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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Sat Dec 12, 2020 12:18 pm

Нещо за Вик:

On Goodreads, Ed Erwin wrote:Excerpts from The Celestial Way by Drake Vato. This is essentially cyberpunk, but with a dragon. Cyberpunk isn't a favorite type of story for me, but the writing in this is good, and I did enjoy the idea of a dragon playing a video game.


Кал wrote:Ed, while the memory's still fresh: which elements made you think it's cyberpunk? The definition of cyberpunk is quite vague, as it is, but you genuinely surprised me.


Ed wrote:The memory isn't really fresh since I waited a while before commenting on it. The mentions of "null space" and "singularity" made me think it might be taking place inside a computer simulation, but probably that is wrong. And the hero using a "katana" also set me to thinking of the various Japan-flavored cyberpunk.

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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Mon May 17, 2021 12:09 pm

Rachel Cordasco's review on Speculative Fiction in Translation

(...) There really is nothing like reading an anthology filled with unfamiliar authors, only to eventually realize that some of those authors are now on your All-Time Favorites list. I intend to read everything I can by Zdravka Evtimova and Valentin Ivanov, for example.

(...) The “science fiction” category offers readers a dizzying array of settings, styles, and characters: time-traveling Worldcon attendees, an American tasked with painting an asteroid black, a weather inspector, the poet Virgil, and many others. Stories that stood out include Elena Pavlova’s “Love in the Time of Con Crud” (2017; tr. by the author and Kalin Nenov 2019), Svetoslav Nikolov’s “Virgil and the Water” (1990, tr. by Radoslav Genchev, Lora Petrova, Kalin M. Nenov, and Vladimir Poleganov 1990), and Aleksandar Karapanchev’s “The Empty Room” (1978, tr. by ? 2004). In Pavlova’s story, one woman must travel back through time in order to stop an epidemic that has broken out at the Worldcon in Helsinki and leads to two devastating wars. Also involving time travel, Nikolov’s “Virgil and the Water” is a fascinating take on the life of the poet Virgil, who turns out to be a bio-robot from another galactic civilization sent to Earth to study the aqueducts and their contribution to the fall of Rome (lead poisoning). Karapanchev’s apocalyptic “The Empty Room” imagines a planet whose environment has been nearly destroyed and its citizens experience Nature via holodeck-like systems in their apartments. The increase in demand for these Nature experiences, though, puts more pressure on the system than it is able to handle.

Of the “fantasy and magical realism” selections, I was especially impressed by the stories about dragons–i.e. the excerpt from Nikolay Tellalov’s To Wake a Dragon (1998, tr. by Kalin M. Nenov, ed. Petar Ruevski, Ilka Chechova, Tsvetomira Dimitrova, and Daniel Bensen) and Genoveva Detelinova’s “The Dragon and the Orange Juice” (tr. by Kalin Nenov 2017). Dragons play an important role in Bulgarian folklore, with the dragon/zmei at times described as a serpent-like creature with four legs and bat wings and at others as a half-man, half-snake; it is often a benevolent guardian. In the excerpt from To Wake a Dragon, we read about a young man who is enjoying a vacation with his friends, but when he accidentally falls into a gorge, he discovers and then winds up freeing a dragon-girl from her stone prison. “The Dragon and the Orange Juice” is a humorous, fast-paced story about a wizard who can only save his father from a dragon by moving through time. Other stories in this category imagine a school for gifted and magical children, a girl born of a fairy and a devil, a town where the wind blows away all of its inhabitants’ words and thoughts, and more.

The “avant-garde speculative fiction” section includes Evtimova’s surrealistic “Impossibly Blue” (tr. by the author 2011) and “Wrong” (tr. by? 2009), and Yancho Cholakov’s “Asked the Soldier, ‘Who Called Me?'” (tr. by Kalin Nenov 2013). Both “Impossibly Blue” and “Wrong” seamlessly blend magical realism with a hint of the sinister: in the former, a woman believes that she hears a world being typed by a man on the “other side” of a blank piece of paper; while in the latter, a depressed and irritable woman meets the man whose manuscript she must translate (though she despises it) and finds out that his car only moves forward if either the driver or passenger is happy. Cholakov’s “Asked the Soldier” is a heady mix of futuristic weapons and Mesoamerican sacrifice in a warped alternate world.

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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Sun Aug 29, 2021 12:09 pm

Ed Erwin's review on Goodreads:

This book compiles a selection of English-language stories produced by a group of Bulgarian SF enthusiasts over many years. The group has worked to encourage development and distribution of SF in Bulgaria by importing books, translating works into Bulgarian, publishing books and magazines, visiting and hosting SF fan meetings, supporting writers and artists, and translating works into English. Most of the works in this collection have appeared already in English in various magazines, but are collected here for the first time.

Works are grouped into 4 somewhat arbitrary groups: Science Fiction, Fantasy & Magical Realism, Avant-garde Speculative Fiction, and Futurum. As usual with collections, my liking of individual entries varied. Most of my personal favorites are in the Fantasy section. This is also the section that feels the most Bulgarian, whatever that means, because those stories often deal with local legendary creatures and/or historical figures.

I'm not going to list my favorites. But I will say I found The Coin by Lights amidst Shadows particularly interesting for two reasons. First, it is written by a collective rather than a single author. I have no idea how they managed that. Second, it includes tropes from both SF and Fantasy. For example, elves and jet packs, magicians and cell phones. Only an excerpt was included here. I intend to get and read the whole thing.

This sat on my "currently reading" shelf for a long time. That is partly because it is long, and partly because I read multi-author collections slowly, and partly because the pre-publication version is in PDF. Don't take my slowness as a put-down of this collection.

I read this with the group "Speculative Fiction in Translation".


Кал wrote:If you want to read The Coin, I strongly recommend the newer edition, which we released last year. It's better edited. Drop us a line at poslednorog@gmail, and I'll send it to you.
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Re: ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction

Postby Кал » Sun Oct 10, 2021 2:34 pm

On Goodreads, Кал wrote:
Kalin (the Canadian one) wrote:Kalin, as an aspiring translator myself I'm really curious about the translation process behind this almanac. As a project based in Bulgaria, it seems to include a lot of (mostly?) Bulgarian writers and artists.

They're all Bulgarian, yes.

Kalin wrote:So how did you find a translator group with the skills to translate from Bulgarian INTO English? Is it the native language of many of the translators?

All of our translators have been born in Bulgaria and have mostly lived there, so strictly speaking, Bulgarian is our only native language. However, some of us have spent considerable periods in English-speaking countries; and, more importantly, many of us have spent huge amounts of time reading literature in the original--or writing directly in English. :) For translating fiction, this actually seems to matter more than living in a target-language country. (Unless said fiction contains contemporary slang ... oh my.)

Kalin wrote:How did you tackle revision?

I'll use "The Assassination" to illustrate our collective approach to translating. First, a caveat: I do NOT recommend going that way if you can do it the normal way--using a single translator and one or more editors. With "The Assassination," however, we were on a tight deadline, so we split the novelette into three parts and assigned each to a different translator. Afterwards, two (if I remember correctly) editors went over every single word, one after the other, until they were both happy. (The initial translators, maybe not so much. ;) But when you're racing against a deadline, lots of best practices fall by the wayside. Had we but world enough and time, we'd run each change through the translators too.)

This "collective effort" resulted in one of our very first professional sales--and I think the published version had only minor differences from the one we'd submitted. Later, however, another magazine editor rejected the selfsame published version on the grounds that it needed "significant proofreading." Go figure.

(It's basically the same version you've read in the almanac. None of you has sent me any major corrections for it, so I suppose we simply caught that particular editor on a bad day.)

Nowadays, we almost never do collective translations, because, first, we don't have so many translators anymore (most of them moved to more stable and lucrative pastures); and second, we're no longer young enough to be that crazy. Truth is, a collective translation takes more effort, with all the back-and-forth that goes into polishing the final version. One thing that we're still crazy enough to do, though, is having as many editors as possible (ideally, at least two) look at the text. In that respect, my heartfelt thanks go to Simon McLeish, who's been proofreading our translations since last year.
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