International (non-English) speculative fiction

Here be unicorns. И музика и филми, вдъхновени от човешките ни книги. И всичко, дето ви е на сърце, ама не може да се побере в ^такива^ тесни теми...

International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:59 pm

My review of Giants at the End of the World:

This "showcase of Finnish Weird"--like most Weird--wasn't my cup of tea. Still, I appreciated the idea, the quality of the translations, and the addendum listing Finnish speculative fiction available in other languages. We need more initiatives of this kind.

Here're my impressions as I read:

~ I laughed out loud when I reached the core (?) of the idea in Johanna Sinisalo's "Voiceless Voices," an epistolary story about a new art form based on the faithful reproduction and creative interpretation of calligraphy.

That's why it is my duty to tell you bluntly that the ideas you expressed in your last letter were horribly banal. Why in the world should it interest us what a calligrapher's text says? Writing, my dear Margareetta, is words on paper; the meaning lies hidden in the marks themselves--the stroke, the appearance, the experience of seeing it interpreted in a new form--and that is how we must understand it.
If we were to start focusing on the content of the text, wherever would it lead?


A similar impish impulse born from the eternal argument about content vs. form made me once write an "Algorithm for automatic revision of poetry" (in Bulgarian). The algorithm proper is only 2 pages; the other 20 describe the setup of the required linguistic databases. So far, no-one has proven it incorrect (or, for that matter, correct).

~ Emmi Itäranta's "The Bearer of the Bone Harp" transcends its Poesque inspiration (it explicitly mentions The Murders in the Red Morgue) by asking metaquestions about the role of the chronicler/writer and by setting up a subtly bittersweet mood which reminded me most of Sakurai Hikaru's writing, especially Shikkoku no Sharnoth: What a Beautiful Tomorrow.

~ Reading Anni Nuppponen's "The River God," I come across an important realization: I don't enjoy texts that summarize their dialog. E.g. "For a lark, Milka asks the wind what he wants. (...) The wind speaks of a hill and winning." This enforces distance between me and the characters. Even though such an effect may be deliberate, it usually jars on my sense of empathy, my desire to understand and feel those characters as deeply as possible.
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Giants at the end of the world (Finnish Weird)

Postby брръм » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:17 am

След като това беше, вероятно втория продукт, след една бордова игра, на име Time Stories, със силно запомнящо се художествено оформление на опаковката/корицата си, а не ме впечатли така силно със съдържанието си, исках да запиша впечатленията си от Finnish weird, докато са още пресни.

Какво е Finnish weird? Сборник с финландски фантастични разкази, и тук-таме някой и друг откъс от роман, взет назаем от Кал (сборника, не романа :mrgreen: ). Тъй като нямам навика да пиша рецензии, се извинявам ако не съм много интересен, или ако има спойлери надолу - вероятно ще има.

Пиша само за разказите, които са ме впечатлили по някакъв начин, по реда в който се явяват в книгата.

- Undine - Този ме впечатли главно с персонажите си, които бяха интересни главно с това, че много ми се искаше да разбера повече за тях, и нямах тази възможност. Кои са тези хора, които така копнеят за морето? Защо? Защо трябваше такива строги ограничения да поставят на копнежа си? Какво би им се случило, ако се отдадат на копнежа си? Защо това да е толкова страшно? Разказът постави, а не даде отговор на тези въпроси, чувствам се полу-приятно-раздразнен, като читател

- Voiceless voices (honorary mention) - колекция писма от главния герой, към героиня която нямаше думата (не бе показана нейната гледна точка) с определена тема между тях. Не беше нещо особено, но постепенната еволюция на монолога бе интересна по своему. Малко като Смирненската "Приказка за стълбата"

- Bearer of the bone harp - това е един разказ загатнал за свят на митологични, както добри, така и зли същества, за който бих искал да прочета още, за мен най-добрия в сборника

- The skinner - също горе-долу интересен разказ за гилдия хора, които записват истории по телата си с магия.

- The Challenges of waste disposal - впечатлението ми бе, че заглавието на този разказ се отнасяше за самия него, само не знам какво е било challenging да не включват тази гадна тъпня в сборника :roll:

- Summerland: Chapter one - spies and dead men, and some other good shit, oh my. За разлика от останалите, този разказ е откъс от роман, излизащ юли 2018-а.

- Giants at the end of the world - на края на света има пустиня и море(?), караваните минават през пустинята, Гигантите се къпят в морето преди зимен сън(?). Интересен разказ за конфликта между старото и новото, традициите и прогреса.

Написвайки тези коментари, изглежда ми е харесал повече, отколкото мислех първоначално. Само че всички тези разкази ми бяха като извадени от нещо по-голямо, и вероятно основната идея на този сборник е всъщност в няколкото страница библиография на финландски разкази, издадени на други езици.

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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Fri May 11, 2018 1:43 pm

My review of Dreams From Beyond: Anthology of Czech Speculative Fiction:

~ The translation of Vilma Kadlečková's Mycelium starts delightfully:

But then there are others. People like Lucas Hildebrandt, who understand what is expected of them, but somehow always fail to get it right. They call the Sphere of Pure Being the Fear of Sure Peeing, and instead of ascending toward God, they insist on stumbling in the opposite direction.


The premise of the story also sounds superb. If the novels ever get translated into a language I know, I'd love to read them.

~ According to Julie Nováková's essay "Small Markets, Big Wonders," the Czechs put us Bulgarians to shame in terms of both print runs and new titles:

Today, works of fiction are usually being published in fifteen hundred to two thousand copies, though the number varies largely depending on the author, genre, and publishing house. How many sold copies make a bestseller? There is no official statement; some say three thousand already, but most publishers agree on ten thousand. In SF, many put the line at five thousand copies.
There are typically seventeen thousand published titles in a year (about ninety percent of them are new titles, about ten percent reprints). A little under seven thousand of them are fiction, and almost seven hundred constitutes speculative fiction, from which slightly more than fifty percent is fantasy, almost thirty percent science fiction and less than twenty percent horror (not broken into more specific categories like YA, genre romance etc.).


As a comparison, we're 7 million people (they're ten and a half), our new titles per year are about 7,000, and the average print run is 500 (2016 data). These maps make me feel even worse.

(But I think we have a more solid presence on Goodreads, at least judging from the statistics of Czech SF here.)

Here's more to envy emulate:

According to the NOP World Culture Score Index, Czech people spend on average seven and a half hours a week reading, which made for the sixth position, the first being taken by India with more than ten and a half hours of reading per week.


And that's the part where I get totally speechless:

Pevnost and XB-1 were resurrected by fans that believed the magazines brought something good and irreplaceable to readers and could ultimately prosper given wiser financial decisions and PR. To this day, they are both stable and popular.
Their sale numbers could tell us more about the number of SF readers; unfortunately, neither of the magazines discloses them. The estimate is somewhere between five and eight thousand sold copies each month (...)


Compare:

Interzone, the most famous British SF magazine with a long-standing tradition, was estimated to sell around two thousand copies.


So ... maybe we should dump English and learn to write in Czech. What do you say, Hrstnko?
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Mon May 21, 2018 2:18 pm

My review of The Apex Book of World SF:

Varied and vivid. (And sometimes challenging my notions of what constitutes SF.)

Among the impressions below, my favorite stories are boldfaced.

~ S.P. Somtow's "The Bird Catcher" surprised me with its rudeness. Not in a bad way, no; I just didn't expect that from a writer whom I've seen described as lyrical. It turns out Somtow is broader than that. And he's definitely evocative.

The rudeness can be refreshing too. ;)

However, I found no speculative element in the story, powerful as it was. I wouldn't have included it in this anthology.

~ While I didn't like most of the stories in Jetse de Vries's project Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction, I'm already enjoying his story "Transcendence Express" here. How wouldn't I, with a beginning like this?

A building so run-down our own country’s squatters would find it uninhabitable. Windows are an illusion, walls that are more crack than brick, benches that should be reported to Amnesty’s human rights watch and a roof that doubles as a communal shower in the wet season.


It's also naughty, in the nice way:

Of course, I’m full of questions, but she diverts my attention with a touch of innuendo that makes Viagra look like a spark in a forest fire. How did she get all that lingerie and those…well…toys in such a small travel bag? As my rabbit breeding instinct overwhelms my monkey curiosity, the last vestiges of my rationality hope for some explanation later on. More—um—stringent matters require hard attention first.
...
Every night my wonderment grows until Liona’s devious delaying tactics can no longer contain it. Eventually, halfway through a bout of sloppy lovemaking (my heart isn’t in it, my mind isn’t in it; actually, only one part of me is), she indulges me.


But it can be very serious too:

“(...) I’m still not fully convinced that you and your fellow AIs will be benign. Because eventually you will be multitudes smarter than us, and you may find some higher principle that will make us obsolete.”
(...)
—If truly objective moral principles exist, then—by definition—they must be beneficial for all—


~ Dean Francis Alfar's "The Kite of Stars" and Nir Yaniv's "Cinderers" are like the two faces of Janus. They're extremely memorable--one for its beauty, the other for its ugliness--and they leave you as disturbed as only an encounter with a god can.

~
I believe, Comrade, that you are conflating ideology with bourgeois hair-splitting. When it comes down to it, how is this novel you sent along with your letter, this novel about an interstellar war between monster cockroaches and alienated capitalist soldiers, supposed to be a valid form of social commentary? I do not care if the main character is a Filipino infantryman. I assume he is a capitalist, too. Furthermore, since he is far too busy killing cockroaches in godforsaken planets on a spaceship (which is definitely not a respectable proletarian occupation), his insights into the future of Marxist revolution in the Philippines must be suspect, at best. And this Robert Heinlein fellow you mention, I assume, is another imperialist Westerner? I thought so. Comrade, I must admit to being troubled by your choice of reading fare these days. And do not think you can fob me off with claims that your favourite novel at the moment is written by a socialist author. I do not trust socialists. The only socialists I know are white-collar fascist trolls who watch too many Sylvester Stallone movies. Sell-outs, the lot of them. Do not get me started on the kapre; they are all closet theists. An inevitable by-product of all that repulsive tobacco, I should say.
With regard to your question about how I perceive myself as an “Other,” let me make it clear that I am as fantastic to myself as rice. I do not waste time sitting around brooding about my mythic status and why the notion that I have lived for five hundred years ought to send me into a paroxysm of metaphysical angst for the benefit of self-indulgent, overprivileged, cultural hegemonists who fancy themselves writers. So there are times in the month when half of me flies off to—as you put it so charmingly—eat babies. Well, I ask you, so what? For your information, I only eat babies whose parents are far too entrenched in the oppressive capitalist superstructure to expect them to be redeemed as good dialectical materialists.


From "Excerpt from a Letter by a Social-Realist Aswang" by Kristin Mandigma.

~ Alexsandar Žiljak's "An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, with Lydia on My Mind" shows us the future of homemade porn:

Step three is automatic. To the chosen ones—one, two at best—I send a present. A swarm of flies to their home addresses. The flies are the peak of military intelligence technology: a floating camera plus nanocomputer plus video memory, and they are virtually unnoticeable. Don’t ask me where I got them and what they cost me. What you don’t know can’t kill you.
Once inserted, most frequently through the air conditioning, the swarm reproduces by itself. Part of it forms a hive, hacking the network outlet of one of the victim’s nanocomputers. The rest deploys itself in the apartment. If the technical conditions don’t screw me up, which happens occasionally, that’s all the foreplay there is.
When everything is finally green, filmings follow. In simple terms, the moment one fly senses a motion, it informs the others. The swarm is programmed to cover the action from all the imaginable angles, and I usually let it buzz 24/7. Girls often look very inviting on the screen just doing aerobics. Showers and bathtubs are nice spots, too. Some dolls really like to relax when they think nobody’s watching them.


Given my really relaxed home habits, I should be really scared.

Why am I not, though? :)

(Despite its sordid contents and cosmology--well, there's cyberpunk for you--the story seems to be the best-written/translated in the anthology.)

~ Anil Menon's "Into the Night" is another very well-written story. And quite sad.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:05 am

My review of Spirits Abroad:

Spectacular. Funny and touching and original (now I know Malay mythology almost as much as I know Bulgarian one ... haha, right ;)) and ... see for yourselves below.

I've just found a new favorite author. :) :) :)

~ I'm at the first story (aptly named "The First Witch of Damansara") and I'm already in love with Zen Cho's turns of phrase:

Wei Yi was being especially teenaged that week. She went around with lightning frizzing her hair and stormclouds rumbling about her ears. Her clothes stood away from her body, stiff with electricity. The cats hissed and the dogs whined when she passed.


~ "First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia" gives us a much needed insight into the nature of religion and superstitions:

"But orang bunian aren't real!" he said.
"Can tell you are a city boy," said Farid. "If you live near the jungle, you will realize that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two."
"Of course, it's all heathenish superstition," said the other Islamic Scholar.
"Khairul is right," said Farid. "It is all heathenish superstition. People who truly understand religion will not believe in this kind of thing."
"But you seem to believe orang bunian exist," said Ming Jun.
"Ah, it is very hard to have a true understanding of religion," said Farid reflectively.


~ "A House of Aunts" has--let me be dramatic for a moment--everything.

It has realistic romance:

However lurid her fantasies got, her imagination never stretched beyond conversation. You could not imagine kissing a boy when you were never more than a room's width away from an aunt. Ah Lee's favorite time to dream was in that precious space of quiet between getting in bed and falling asleep. She could construct a pretty good Parisian café as she lay underneath her Donald Duck blanket. But cafés were one thing: kisses were another. No kiss could survive Ji Ee's snores from the mattress across the room.


And terror at the triteness:

But before he could begin beating himself up for messing up the best thing that had ever happened to him, he'd remember that face she'd turned to him. And that made him not know how to feel again. That face had not been human. Kindness wasn't a thing that lived in the same world as that face.
He'd been having nightmares ever since he saw it. The teeth, he'd think in the dream, struggling in the grip of terror, the teeth.
That was the scariest thing. The one mad, inexplicable thing in the whole mad, inexplicable situation that got to him.
How come there wasn't anything wrong with her teeth?
They had been perfectly human teeth. Even, rounded at the edges, slightly yellow.


And social satire:

"You guys can't eat anything else?" he said. "Like, animal intestines?"
"No."
"Do you eat good people as well, or only bad people, or—?"
"We don't eat women," said Ah Lee. "And we don't eat people we know. That's all. I don't pick and choose, depending if I like your face or I don't like your face so much."
"Not women?" said Ridzual. "I didn't realize vampires did affirmative action."
"It's already suffering enough to be a woman," Ah Lee recited. "Don't need people to eat you some more."


A most well-rounded story.

(And--if I must be seriously serious--perhaps the author's most heartfelt, as she suggests in the notes. That would account for the impact, aye.)

~ What's the first thing you do with a ghost from the nineteenth century? "起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion — The Lion Bows)" tells us: you help'em catch up with their geography.

George had not heard of Malaysia. They drew him a map by committee:
"Is Laos between Myanmar and Vietnam? It is, right?" said Tiong Han.
"I don't think Hong Kong is so high up," said Coco, leaning over his shoulder. "And your proportions are all wrong! Singapore's not bigger than Hong Kong!"
"In ego it is," said Tiong Han, who was from Johor.


~ More quotable quotes from "The Mystery of the Suet Swain":

Sham was not well-equipped for this kind of situation. The division of labour in their friendship meant that Belinda did the cooking and feelings, and Sham did the cynicism and proofreading.


Belinda seemed to think that using tactful words for unfortunate things could make unpleasantness go away. The tactic had not worked with the eleven boys unrequitedly in love with her, but she kept trying — as did they.


They were meant to be going to a play on Friday. Belinda's New Year resolution had been to make an effort to keep up with the local drama scene. ("What if the next John Cleese is here, right now, and we miss him?" said Belinda. "We missed the last John Cleese and we're doing OK," said Sham.)


(But once again, there's a very serious message under the fun and games. I think I may be falling a bit for the author. Of course *sigh* unrequitedly.)

~ "Prudence and the Dragon" has more of this light but deft touch of the human (and not only) heart:

"What's this?" said Prudence.
"It's the notes of the lecture you asked me to take," said Zheng Yi.
"I can't read this," said Prudence. She could not even look at the symbols for long without feeling uncomfortable. The symbols seemed to writhe on the page.
"It's written in Draconic Runes," said Zheng Yi. "Much more interesting than any human language. Each ideogram is itself a poem on the qualities of each drug your teacher discussed, echoing the structure of each sentence, which discusses the same subject but reveals new layers of meaning and context underpinning your teacher's every utterance, and every sentence joins together into a giant ideogram, an uber-ideogram if you will, the significance of which is, 'I love Pru—'"
"Can't you write in English?" said Prudence.


"But tell me honestly, OK? Do you like him? As in, like him-like him?"
"No," said Prudence. "I don't even like him with one like."
"I heard that," said Zheng Yi from the kitchen.
"Then are you just going to let him hang around?"
"How to make him go away? When I try to call police I only get the Worshipful Company of Glaziers receptionist," said Prudence. "But never mind. I sleep with baseball bat one side, kitchen knife on the other side. And you know I do taekwando."
"I also heard that," said Zheng Yi.
"Good!" said Prudence.


Prudence had never seen Angela's face so mean. She managed to get out, "What?"
"You know I like him!" shouted Angela. "You pretend like you're so blur but actually you just pretend because it makes things easier for you! If you're blur then easy lah, you don't have to see anything you don't want to see, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. People will accommodate you because you are so naive konon. You think it's cute, is it? Maybe you think you've fooled everybody. Maybe you've even fooled yourself. But you don't think you've fooled me."
She stood up. In the way of Angela, she did not even have any crumbs on her lap to brush off. She looked Prudence up and down and for the first time Prudence was acutely conscious of the bits of bread and mayo stains on her jeans, of the width of her thighs, of the depressing lankness of her hair. Her hoodie did not look good on her; her face was too big. The whole world could see this.
"Just remember this," said Angela. "I don't need anybody's leftovers. And I especially don't need yours."
She stormed off.
Prudence put her hand on her chest. To her surprise, it was still whole.


... what's not to envy about it?

~ From "The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life," another hit combo of folklore, personal exploration and social satire:

"You — you can talk?" stammered Angela, until she realised that it was her own voice that had spoken.
"Yah, it's me," said the boar. "Pig Mun." It snorted with pleasure.
"You're a wild boar now?" said Angela. "How come you're a wild boar? I thought you're suppose to be me!"
Angela had never seen a boar shrug before, but the image was not as jarring as she would've thought. All those anthropomorphized Disney animals she'd watched in childhood had obviously left their mark.
"I don't like planes," said Pig Mun.
"I got over that already," said Angela.
"No, we didn't," said Pig Mun. "You still don't like planes. You just put up with it. Since I can do magic, I might as well use another route what, right?"
"You keep following me for what?" said Angela. "Can't you go back to where you belong?"
"That's nice," said Pig Mun. "You sound like BNP like that. I have a valid three-month visa, OK. You should know what. You applied for it."


~ I wonder sometimes: who is the most mischievous spirit inside these pages? Perhaps ... this one?

The forest spirit is Legolas and the earth spirit is Gimli. (...) I've always loved the story of Legolas and Gimli, which is a story of racists who learn better and make friends.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Thu Jul 26, 2018 12:43 pm

My review of The Apex Book of World SF 2:

I liked the previous anthology better as a whole. Still, here're the passages and stories that caught my attention:

~ Here's a question from Daliso Chaponda's "Trees of Bone" that I've often pondered myself:

“Why do people like beer anyway?”
“You get used to it.”
“Why would you do something so unpleasant over and over again until you got used to it?”


~ What will you become if you can see the future, but can't do anything to change it? Csilla Kleinheincz's "A Single Year" gives us a glimpse:

I watched my father, his face covered in grey stubble, his eyes that, even in my childhood, seemed tired—tired and as resigned as the planets that circle on the same route forever and know everything that can be known.


Although the story would work better if certain parts receive more elaboration (especially the ending), I liked the characterization and really liked the final transformation. I've struggled with the idea of predestination versus free will for a long time, so I loved to see the MC's future melt and overflow.

~ Andrew Drilon's "The Secret Origin of Spin-Man," about comics superheroes and the people who make them, struck me with its authenticity. I could tell the author has lived through the story--or at least its most important parts.

~ What can we never forgive our parents? Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro's "Borrowed Time" has this to say:

I can forgive you missing a lot of things in your absence: the operating rooms, puberty rudely taking over my body, the angst of my first unrequited love, the listless and frustrating experience of my first non-orgasm. But your absence from my successes was more painful.


The story, short as it is, leaves a long unforgiving aftertaste. For some time now, I've been pushing in the opposite direction: finding out what forgiveness means and how to get there. But the rancor here gripped me by the throat.

~ For Lauren Beukes's "Branded," I think I'll need a dedicated language instructor. That's why:

We were at Stones, playing pool, drinking, goofing around, maybe hoping to score a little sugar, when Kendra arrived, all moffied up and gloaming like, an Aito/329. “Ahoy, Special K, where you been, girl, so juiced to kill?” Tendeka asked while he racked up the balls, all click-clack in their white plastic triangle. Old-school, this pool bar was. But Kendra didn’t answer. Girl just grinned, reached into her back pocket for her phone, hung skate-rat-style off a silver chain connected to her belt, and infra’d five rand to the table to get tata machance on the next game.


Any volunteers to shed some light on the underlined lingo?

But the premise of this story ... the premise is so hilariously ridiculous it washes down any load of lingo.

Barkeep! Another one!

~ I usually don't nag about the demarcation between the fantastic and the non-fantastic, but here, I see no reason for the inclusion of "Hungry Man." Absolutely none.

~ Tade Thompson's "Shadow" demonstrates the potency *ahem* of imagery:

At dawn, I settled at my wife’s side, freshly showered and with no intention of doing the day’s hunting. Her hand drifted between my legs, but grave digging is tiring work and there was no oak tree for her to climb, just a willow.


~ The grotesque phantasmagoria of Sergey Gerasimov's "The Glory of the World" makes for the most memorable story so far:

They spoke of this and that, then the conversation turned to food and stopped at this comprehensive point. The buffoon got tired of selling the lewd doves and, being hungry, sucked at his saliva ejector. The nonentities kept doing nothing. Their gazes moved up and down Denise’s legs, polishing them to a mirrored lustre. The words stirred in Saviour’s mouth, losing taste like a wad of chewing gum.
“They say you can live on spirit,” said the boss in the voice of a business executive opening a staff conference. “I hope that’s true.”
Saviour was about to say something non-commercial but changed his mind and answered artlessly. “Sometimes. But I eat, as a rule. Something low-Calorie. Austere repast, you know.”
“Cook yourself?”
“Yes.”
“By a fiat of will?”
“No. Prefer a microwave.”
The boss raised his brow as if surprised at such an extravagance. “Now, you listen to me, bud,” he said. “I want, here and now, by a fiat of will. Make me something really delicious and special to eat.”
“I can cook cobra’s flesh for you. Is it okay?”
“Go on, man, go on.”
Saviour took a porno magazine decorating the table and flipped through. One of the women fitted perfectly: snake-eyed and resembling a piece of meat. He decided to make the dish from this picture. Tore it out, crumpled, and placed on the plate. Intertwined his fingers over it.
The boss went out of the room, not wanting to wait for at least fifteen minutes. The buffoon was licking the paints off the pictures and shoving them into the proper tubes; the dog watched him with a melancholic rapacity in its heart. Denise played with a gold watch chain and moved her wonderful eyelashes rhythmically, so long and dense that they could shovel humus.
“What else can you do?” she asked and made the moment flinch.
“Everything,” Saviour said.
“The most difficult, I mean.”
“With a single word I can make a man happy.”
“It’s easy,” Denise said, “I can do it, too. Hey, guard, I order you to be happy.”
The guard woke up and burst out laughing, junked up with official delight. He was prompt to carry out the orders to sob, to fall in love, to go mad and senile, to get prodigious acne and, at last, to go to sleep again. The nonentities echoed, though not at all concerned. Saviour was talking, keeping his mind intent. He developed some arguments for Denise. She was listening to him with unflagging indifference. He was so carried away that he didn’t even notice the sudden appearance of a black car smelling of expensive lubricant.
The guys in the car started shooting, and a bullet ploughed through Saviour’s spinal column. He stooped a little more, trying to remain concentrated, but the smell of the smouldering varnish distracted him. The bullet, which had popped out of his chest, was spinning on the table before his eyes, a puffing lead corpuscle scorching the polish. Denise fired back with an enviable sang-froid and picked off two of the attackers: one of them died in the driver’s seat; the other got a bullet in his lung. This one fell out of the car and immersed into the green shag of the carpet. The carpet liana crawled up to him planning to suck out all his fluids except the toxins. Two nonentities were killed immediately; the third tried to flee away but died of fright on the way. The moment wheezed and wriggled on the floor. Time kept going, but away from the penal acts. Time was accustomed to such scenes, it knew what to do.


Kudos to the translator too.
Скрит текст: покажи
(Although "immersed into" should be "got immersed in," I think.)


~ Gail Hareven's "The Slows" contains an excellent example of defamiliarization:

“Is it your baby?” I asked, making a point of using their term, as I gestured at the human larva on my desk.
“It’s mine.” Luckily, the larva was asleep. Fifteen years of work had more or less inured me but, at that hour of the morning and in my condition, I knew that my stomach wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of a squirming pinkish creature.


(Though some of my friends--not all of them men either--will find the protag's reaction quite familiar. ;))

~ Samit Basu's "Electric Sonalika" is a tale both brutal and beautiful. Its future reminded me of both John C. Wright's Golden Age trilogy and Mike Resnick's Birthright universe.

~ Oh, I remember this passage from Andrzej Sapkowski's "The Malady" from back when I read the Bulgarian translation:

Branwen lowered her head onto her horse’s neck and cried, choked with sobs. I didn’t say a word, didn’t make any gestures. I didn’t do anything. I never know what to do when a woman cries. One minstrel I met in Caer Aranhrod in Wales claimed that the best way to deal with it is to burst out crying oneself. I don’t know if he had been serious or joking.


It's extremely useful advice to men. Give it a try. :P

But this kind of irony is less lighthearted:

I bet my head that in Ireland, Christianity will be a passing fashion. We Irish, we do not buy this hard, inflexible, Roman fanaticism. We are too sober-headed for that, too simple-hearted. Our Ireland is the fore-post of the West, it’s the Last Shore. Beyond, not far off, are the Old Lands: Hy Brasil, Ys, Mainistir Leitreach, Beag-Arainn. It is them, not the Cross, not the Latin liturgy, that rule people’s minds. It was so ages ago and it’s so today. Besides, we Irish, are a tolerant people. Everybody believes what he wants. I heard that around the world different factions of Christians are already at each other’s throats. In Ireland, it’s impossible. I can imagine everything but not that Ulster, say, might be a scene of religious scuffles.


And in case you've never read Sapkowski, this is him at his most typical deconstruction of high fantasy (or highfalutin history):

How could I understand? I was not conceived amidst misfortune, or born into tragedy. Flann and my mother conceived me on the hay and I’m sure they had plenty of good, healthy joy doing it. Giving me a name, they didn’t put any secret meanings into it. They gave me a name that it would be easy to call me by. “Morholt! Supper!” “Morholt! You little brat!” “Fetch some water, Morholt!” La tristesse? Balls, not la tristesse.
Can one daydream with a name like this? Play a harp? Devote all one’s thoughts to the beloved? Sacrifice to her all the matters of everyday life and pace the room unable to sleep? Balls. With a name like mine one can drink beer and wine and then puke under the table. Smash people’s noses. Crack heads with a sword or an axe or, alternatively, have it done to oneself. Love? Someone with the name Morholt pulls off a skirt, pokes his fill and falls asleep. Or, if he happens to feel a wee stirring in his soul, he will say: “Eh, ye’re a fine piece of arse, Maire O’Connell, I could gobble you whole, yer teats first.” Dig through it for three days and three nights, you won’t find in it a grain of la tristesse.


And a very educational comment in response to my request:

On Goodreads, Hostyle wrote:Hi Kalin,

This piqued my curiosity so I did some digging. They appear to be south african / afrikaans phrases, which - after tracking down the story online (it's free in many places and there's an interview with the author on Strange Horizons) - turns out to be 100% correct: the author is from South Africa.

"to score a little sugar" is to get a kiss or perhaps a little more - I guess they hoping to hook up with someone.

To be "moffied up" is to be appear gay (I'm not sure that this fits, and it seems that moffied is also used in UK english slang but i have not been able to track down an exact meaning). "gloaming" is twilight/dusk related. so perhaps goth makeup? I would postulate that "made up" (with make up) and "glowing" (dark vs light) could be presumed here.

"an Aito/329" - i have no idea :)

"Tata Ma Chance, Tata Ma Millions" is an advertising slogan for the South African lottery. Tata means goodbye i believe, so this usage is saying goodbye to chance, and making your own opportunity. I think they are literally removing chance from the outcome of being able to play a game of pool by putting down money so they are next in the queue.

Thank you for the interesting puzzle. I have bookmarked the story to read in the near future.

One update: "tata ma chance" actually translates more correctly to "take a chance"
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:37 am

My review of The Apex Book of World SF 3:

A worthy entry in the series, but I enjoyed the previous two more.

Impressions:

~ Are there any Eastern European stories in these anthologies? I should check when I read all four of them.

~ Benjanun Sriduangkaew's "Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods" contains an excellent example of cultural misunderstanding and its potential for wreaking havoc:

Other indiscretions happened. We hadn’t yet perfected hematocyte synthesis, and a number of outsiders had come to Pojama for education, paying for tuition with their blood. One such student — to whom I’d taught a class in haptics — told the expedition what she did, as amicably as she discussed her studies.


Guess how this gets interpreted by the (human) expedition.

In terms of worldbuilding and density of neologisms, the story reminds me of "Loving Loney Lone," a collaboration between Vladimir Poleganov and myself. Also because under all the layers of complexity, it is a simple tale. However, the now casual, now glorifying approach to violence here contrasts the pain that any sort of violence--even involuntary--causes the characters (or at least Lone) in our own story. Admittedly, the culture here is thoroughly alien to humans, so it has the right to behave as non-humanly as it sees fit; still, I can't properly connect to such narratives. I don't really care about the love between the two main characters after I've seen them become death to an entire species. I don't care about presenting an entire species as monsters, either. Such lack of self-reflection alienates me.

All the more pity, because there's much beauty in Sriduangkaew's writing.

~ Oi, this kind of nonsense brings a grin to my mornings:

“Hmm. Do you know what separates humans from robots, apart from our manner of creation? Emotion. Free will is nothing; AI has been given free will since before I was born. But for a robot to actually understand and feel human emotions, I don’t know if I should be happy or afraid.”


So if there're no emotions, what exactly drives that free will?

(Most stories dealing with AI seem woefully lacking in NI. Take Ex Machina, the abomination. :/ )

~ Athena Andreadis's "Planetfall" is beautiful and bombastic, made of legends and archetypes:

We will stride in the sky, or die trying. We have no need of small lives.


Here's the part I'll remember the longest:

“That may be,” replied Rodhánis evenly, “but since I killed him at your behest, I can now make a claim on you, hearth Kálan. A favor as large as the one you received from me.”
Eridhén went white. “You wouldn’t…” he started.
“Am I within my rights?” asked Rodhánis quietly and winds swept the room.
Teráni Sóran–Kerís raised her head. “Yes,” she said clearly and steadily, her hazel eyes boring into Eridhén.
“You were eager to give me one of your sons, Eridhén,” said Rodhánis. “Which one will you give me now?” He started trembling. “You will not choose? Then I will take them both.”
He fell to his knees before her. “Have mercy, Storm!”
“Mercy?” she repeated, smiling bleakly. “Did you have mercy when you issued the challenge? He was worth more than both your sons.”
“Take me,” he pleaded abjectly, “take me, spare them! I beg you, spare my younger at least, this will kill their mother…!”
“I will take them both,” resumed Rodhánis, “into my hearth, into my bed, teach them not to thirst for power. And perhaps one night I will stop calling them by the name of the one whose face constantly rises before me.” Her voice filled the room. “We want to regain the sky, tanegíri. Will we take this senseless killing with us to the stars? These customs that condemn our men to loneliness, because there are not enough women? We cannot leave so many of them without caresses, angry and bereft. Don’t you wish to stop fearing for your brothers? For your sons? Use your power, unite behind me!” She paused, then resumed, her voice wavering. “If our men ask for the brand, let it be only for love.”


~ Amal El-Mohtar's "To Follow the Waves" is beauty--love--incarnate. I won't say any more lest I sully the dream.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Sun Sep 02, 2018 8:55 am

My review of The Apex Book of World SF 4:

This anthology must be the most varied of all four. Still, I enjoyed it less than Volumes 1 and 2. My last note below will give you a hint why.

~ Chinelo Onwualo's "The Gift of Touch" is a sweet story, somewhat reminiscent of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Listen:

“I just don’t see what the big deal is,” Marley said.
“It’s your eternal soul,” growled Ronk.
“I know,” she said quickly. “I just don’t see why it matters. I mean, if I were an ant or a dog or a chimpanzee, nobody would care what my soul was up to. But just because I’m a person, suddenly my soul is important? I don’t get it.”
(...)
Bruno had tried to ignore the increasingly heated conversation between Marley and Ronk, but in spite of himself, he found he was listening with growing interest. Besides, this was the most he’d heard Ronk say in one sitting in all the time he had known him.
“But we are better than animals or insects,” Ronk snapped. “We are made in the image of the Creator himself.”
“See, that’s the thing, how do you know that? How do you know what the Creator looks like? No one’s seen him. It’s like we looked around and thought, ‘Hey no one else looks like us, we must be special.’ But what if we’re not?”
“We are special. We have reason and compassion,” Ronk said in a low voice. His voice seemed calm, but Bruno noticed the engineer was gripping his knife tightly, as if to keep his fist from shaking. “It does not matter that no one has seen the Creator’s face. We have seen the works of his hands. You have never seen the wind, yet you feel its power. Do you doubt its existence?”
“Oh, come on, I’m not arguing about whether the Creator exists. I can’t prove that and neither can you. What I’m saying is you can’t know anything about what the Creator is thinking or what he wants just by looking at the universe. Just like you can’t look at my fork and guess what I had for lunch.”
“We do not need to guess. The Creator has told us what he wants of us through the words of his Prophet.” Ronk’s voice broke slightly at the mention of the Prophet. “Those who heed his words, follow in the path of truth.”
“Oh! And that’s another thing, how do you know the Prophesies are right? I mean, we’re talking about a book collected from a bunch of other books, like, five thousand years ago. It’s been translated and retranslated so many times that I’m pretty sure stuff’s been lost. How do you know that what you’re reading is even what was written in the first place? And why choose this book over any other ancient book? All you have is your belief. I’m sorry, man, that’s just not enough for me.”
Suddenly, Ronk stood up, knocking his chair over and juddering the table. He stared at Marley for a moment, his face unreadable. Then, without another word, he stalked off.
(...)
“He hates me,” said Marley.
“He doesn’t hate you,” said Bruno.
“Yes, he does. I insulted his religion.” She fingered the strap of the large gun she carried on her back. Bruno had asked her to keep it on her at all times.
“It’s a big religion; it can take a little criticism.”


But isn't it just the beginning of a longer piece?

~ Re: my question in the previous anthology, there're at least three Eastern European stories here, from Bulgaria and Greece and the Czech Republic. There was also a Greek story in Volume 3.

~ Thomas Olde Heuvelt's novelette "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" is boisterous, naughty and gentle in turns. See it carry us on that sea, into that sun ....

~ Isabel Yap's "A Cup of Salt Tears" is a delicate tale, tender and relentless in equal measure, ultimately leaving me feeling lonelier.

Which I think is my main issue with this anthology. While it contains plenty of highly original, truly strange stories (there's one which is basically all stream of consciousness), very few of them connect to me on an emotional level. Masterful styles and structures cannot move me per se. I need a heart, not just a brain.

Also, Yap's Japanese folklore is a fitting transition to my next anthology.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Fri Sep 14, 2018 3:48 pm

My review of The Future is Japanese:

Varied and different and deeply satisfying. See:

~ Ken Liu's "Mono no Aware" sets a gentle, sorrowful, uplifting start. It also showcases an important cultural difference:

“All the stones look the same,” Bobby says, “and they don’t move. They’re boring.”
“What game do you like?” I ask.
(...) “Chess, I guess. I like the queen. She’s powerful and different from everyone else. She’s a hero.”
“Chess is a game of skirmishes,” I say. “The perspective of Go is bigger. It encompasses entire battles.”
“There are no heroes in Go,” Bobby says stubbornly.
I don’t know how to answer him.

(...)

“Maybe there are heroes in Go,” Bobby’s voice says.
Mindy called me a hero. But I was simply a man in the right place at the right time. Dr. Hamilton is also a hero because he designed the Hopeful. Mindy is also a hero because she kept me awake. My mother is also a hero because she was willing to give me up so that I could survive. My father is also a hero because he showed me the right thing to do.
We are defined by the places we hold in the web of others’ lives.


~ Do I catch a sniff or Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic in David Moles's "Chitai Heiki Koronbīn"?

~ This excerpt from Project Itoh's novella "The Indifference Engine" captures, I believe, a fundamental aspect of Asian thought:

“What you have to understand is that no one had any conception of a history between us before the war actually started. Not us Xema, not the Hoa. Until the war began, no one cared less what sort of history their tribe may or may not have been shouldering. It’s only when we constructed a concept of history that the Xema started to hate the Hoa. And vice versa. History is just a backdrop to pin your wars on, nothing more, nothing less. Wars don’t start because of history, but you do need history to start a war. You need a pretext to fight, to find a way, however tenuous, to differentiate yourselves from the other side. And not just history either. The same goes for countries. Even tribal distinctions such as Xema and Hoa, all artificial constructs. You can even take this to its logical conclusion—even distinctions between ‘you’ and ‘I’ exist only to make war possible. Think about it. In order to kill each other, the ‘each’ needs to be distinct from the ‘other.’ Wars don’t start because ‘you’ and ‘I’ hate each other, oh no, that’s the wrong way round. Better to say the very concept of ‘I’ exists purely in order to fuel war.”


The novella itself was too chaotic for my taste, even if I had been able to swallow the idea of forever-scarred characters. An intentional parallel to wars?

~ Rachel Swirski's "The Sea of Trees" contains an infinitely sad and saddening instance of not-quite-love-making:

Two AM. The ghost hour.
The whistling of wind wakes me. The sound comes alone, unaccompanied by breeze.
Then she’s there. My Sayomi. My onryo.
Dead lips on mine. Cold fingers stroking my thighs. Prehensile tendrils of hair circling my waist, teasing my nipples, trailing my spine.
Creep-shudder, gullet to gut. Body does not like being touched by the dead.
But my Sayomi. Body likes being touched by my Sayomi.
Timeless at twenty-one. Smooth-cheeked, willow-bodied, bloodlessly pale. Eyes shining with tears a decade old.
A long skirt flows to her ankles, Western-style but cut from white-flowered silk. Low-cut lace shows the apple-tops of her breasts. Lipstick stains her mouth; she opens to moan; blood-color smears her teeth.
She dressed up to die, my Sayomi.
Ashen tongue in my mouth like a cold lump of meat. Hair busy undoing the zip of my jeans, her obi-style waistband. Night air breathes cold on flesh usually hidden.
She pushes me to the ground, roots sharp in my back. Sayomi on top of me. Her hair parting my lips. Her fingers inside me.
I moan.
She always makes me moan.
The creeping horror of her hair. The unchanging beauty of her face.
My body tightens. That moment, near arriving. Her unfinished business with me nearly resolved.
It takes a great deal of will to shove her away before it comes.
She screams. Her hair ties itself in angry knots. I squirm out from underneath. Her fingernails claw the dirt where I’ve been.
Someday, I won’t get away.
Someday I won’t want to.
...
Legs scissoring. Pelvises matched. Lips to lips. Pleasure fluttering. Hovering. Rising. I should go with her. I should let her make me come. I should come; I should go; at least then I’d be somewhere.


~ Toh EnJoe's "Endoastronomy" captures the rare sense of shifting paradigms, or plainly speaking, seeing the world as new again. It's a hard story, requiring us to constantly think and check its claims against our own knowledge (What is this elevator paradox anyway?) and come up with hypotheses about what may have caused the discrepancies. (What must have happened to the Solar System so that the MC says, "The moon we see is always full. That too is common sense"?) At the same time, it fills me with the joy of discovery usually reserved for visual novels and their wacky logic (post-logic?). There's even more: that fleeting, fleeing glimpse of emotion at the end, which opens up a wholly new dimension for interpreting--experiencing--the story.

Special kudos to Terry Gallagher, the translator, for making a tangibly complex original digestible.

~ Issui Ogawa's "Golden Bread" presents an interesting conflict of cultures based on the difference in their digestive genes.

Of course, it's a parable. ;)

~ Catherynne M. Valente's "One Breath, One Stroke" is a lovely act of phantasmagoria and whimsy, crammed full of folklore. The kind of fantasy that liberates the mind, much like koans.

Just listen to the Giant Hornet poem:

Everything is venom, even sweetness. Everything is sweet, even venom. Death is illiterate and a hayseed bum. No excuse to leave the nest unguarded. What are you, some silly jade lion?


~ Ekaterina Sedia's "Whale Meat" is an odd, umm, fish. It's too short for proper character development, barely has any plot--and yet its sense of loss permeates/per-meat-es, like the song of that last whale.

~ This conversation sums up the spirit of Bruce Sterling's "Goddess of Mercy":

“I can sing,” Miss Sato volunteered.
“That would be a kindness, since we blind men are so appreciative of music. What songs do you sing?”
“I sing protest songs,” said Miss Sato. “Peace songs, resistance songs, nuclear disarmament songs, and civil rights songs. Also, many personal singer-songwriter songs about how difficult it is to be a contemporary Japanese woman.”
Zeta One cocked his head. “Don’t you know any happy songs?”
“You mean children’s songs? Yes, I still remember a few.”


(The novella itself is directionless, leaving me wondering, what was the point of these 60 pages? Another meta-commentary on the nature of conflict?)

~ Consider the strangeness of TOBI Hirotaka's "Autogenic Dreaming":

“I’d like you to take a look at this.” I take a book from my bag, an old, heavy book. Moby-Dick. The tome is large and thick. The surface of the massive leather cover is a jumble of bulges and furrows: tree roots, knots, an old man’s veins. The pages are swollen, bursting from the covers.
“Waterlogged?” asks Jundo.
“You’ll take a look?”
I put the book in the meal tray and slide it into the cell. As Jundo opens the book, the pages separate with a sickening, gelatinous sound. His face contorts with disgust.
“What is this, the work of some author who thinks he’s an artist?” He holds the book out to me. The letters multiply, spill out of their lines, overlap, devour each other, get bigger, turn pages black, metastasize to the cover, penetrate it, fuse into knots.
“No. It’s an ordinary book. No gimmicks. One day it changed. In the end, it became what you see. No outside agent did that. The letters did it themselves.
“Mostly it starts unnoticed. Letters in a line multiply. Closer examination shows the letters overlapping and replicating. Spaces open up in words, splitting them into terms with unknown meanings. The process accelerates. Soon the letters spill into the gaps between lines. They can’t be contained. The letters begin to overlap. Words join and swallow each other up or divide into new words.”
The phenomenon manifests in a variety of forms. Sentences on a page might intertwine into a helix. Chapters shrink or explode. Letters expand or flake off the page. New pages form, letters invade the new space and breed there. Further detail would be pointless. That corpse of a book sprawled in Jundo’s cell—that tumor-devoured carcass—testifies to this bizarre destruction more eloquently than anything. But the carcass is not the final stage.


And that's just the beginning. There're references to Google (aptly renamed Gödel) and GEB and who knows how many others that my fever-addled brain has missed. The ending, though ... it can't be missed. No fever can fuzz its impact.

The Japanese contributors to this anthology--with the possible exception of Catherynne M. Valente--easily dominate the originality scoreboard.

Now should I go and finish reading Wonderful Everyday?
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby брръм » Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:13 pm

Тъкмо дочетох днес 'Песента на Ханджията' - ще оставя отзив за нея в темата й - и почнах да чета Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex - The Lost Memory. Една от първите книги, които си бях купил в магазинчето на Славейков, издадена през 2006-а, тя е от Ghost in the Shell вселената. В тази вселена, за който не е запознат/а, хората и машините са се сраснали доста повече от в нашето общество, доста по-физически. На практика всеки, поне в Япония, където се развива действието, има cyberbrain, - компютърен терминал имплантиран в мозъка - и неговото хакване е едно от най-сериозните престъпления. (от там идва и името - ghost-a е душата, ума, съзнанието, докато shell-a е кибер-имплантите, като изкуствени ръце, очи и тн.). Първоначално света, в който са писани тези творения, е бил манга през 80-те и 90-те, в които авторът Shirow Masamune явно си е представял, че ще сме доста по-напред в интеграцията на Човек и Машина след някакви си 50ина години (действието, поне в тази книга, се развива във вече не така далечната 2030-а.)

И тук, след това дълго, и вероятно скучно, ако вече сте запознати с GitS, въведение, най-сетне стигам до мисълта си, а именно тази книга, макар и да е само една странична история в кратка част от GitS хронологията, бързо се е превърнала в чудноват тип анахронизъм. Книгата започва с това, че един младеж е взел заложници, въоръжен с C4 около себе си, и револвер - 13тия инцидент от такъв тип в последните две години, при който тип инцидент е установено, че трябва да има хакерска намеса в мозъка на тези младежи, за да стават терористи без видима причина. След като нашите герои ог елитния отдел 9 за борба с тероризма го обезвреждат, на следващия ден книгата показва какво се случва от гледна точка на неговия съученик, живеещ в една стая в общежитие с него(младежа терорист). Цитирам:

"Kazei flopped down on the bed and began searchng the news channels, shutting his eyes to help himself concentrate. He didn't have the skills to connect to the Net while processing visual stimuli from the outside world.
Niihama.Cyberbrain District.Gun.Incident He sent keywords from his language field to the Net search zone in his cyberbrain.
Instantly more than three hundred thousand hits came up. Kazei added conditional terms to narrow the search. Teenager. Age sixteen. Now there were arou d fifty thousand. When he included the name of his school, the Niihama Forces Cadet Technical school, there were still more than one thousand hits.
It occurred to Kazei that this search process was not unlike the feeling of trying to desperately remember something. He recalled that someone had once told him that the quickest way to master the use of your cyberbrain was to think of it as an extension of yourself. He strugled to control the still-unfamiliar device, frustrated by his own ineptitude.
It was at times like this that he felt like he would never adapt to a world in which cyberbrains were the norm."

Представяте ли си тази сцена как би протекла в нашия свят? :D И това, приемайки че гугъл не е станал универсално-намиращия алгоритъм, който познаваме. Първо, че всякакви по-религиозни хора ще дигнат рев до бога против тази технология, второ че повечето потребители, и аз в т.ч. си търсят удобството и искат бързо и ефикасно да намират това което им трябва. Трето, но не и по важност, че макар за някои неща, като протези на крайници, или начина по който Хокинг общуваше със света, технологията наистина да е напреднала, е далеч от това да интегрира Мозъка с Мрежата, отделно че много хора биха били против, защото би им се струвало опасно, несигурно, страшно, ненормално и тн.

За мен поне, доста интересен поглед за това, за колко малко време, колко драстично могат да се различават очакванията за бъдещето, с реалността на това бъдеще. :)

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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Fri Oct 19, 2018 5:33 pm

My review of Phantasm Japan: Fantasies Light and Dark, From and About Japan:

Diverse, surprising (which shouldn't be surprising in itself ;)) and highly recommended--I'd say more than The Future is Japanese.

In my reading notes below, I've boldfaced the stories that took my breath away.

~ Gary A. Braunbeck's "Shikata Ga Nai: The Bag Lady’s Tale" made me think of The Man from Earth ... but in a more phantasmagorical format. The mythical element was downright scary: just think about all those children and their piles of pebbles ....

~ Yusaku Kitano's "Scissors or Claws, and Holes," the first Japanese entry in the anthology, cranks up the level of weirdness to eleven. It's gross, transgressive, body-horrory, but also fascinating with its sheer alienness. Would you ever be able to do the V sign for another photo? Without shivering, too?

The Japaneses are not us. ;)

~ Lauren Naturale's "Her Last Appearance" is a complex story, and not one you read to be lulled to sleep ... how many pieces of the puzzle have I missed? Still, there's beauty in it simple enough for a sleep-deprived brain not to miss:

You, Namiko, in your men’s trousers, in the slouchy hat that hides your small pointed chin and ghost-nose, are in love with money. But so is everyone else who loves the city in the mornings. The woman who walks the city at night is searching for trouble, but the woman who walks at daybreak has a fortune to make.


It went on, one of those friendships that seems almost real until the first time you kiss, drunk, in a noodle shop in Chinatown after your second viewing of The Resurrected Corpse, and think, What am I getting myself into? Nothing wrong with lying to a girl, but it’s better to avoid kissing the kind of girl who only likes you because you’re a liar, else you end up growing nails for a week just to scratch her properly, which is messy and not your idea of a good time. “I like my sex a little less kabuki,” you tell her, and she avoids you for a month.


“Where are you actually from?” Shizuko asks. You say, “The land of the dead. Isn’t it obvious?”
(...)
Here’s a story: You were in love for a very long time with a woman who loved you back. A little while after she died, you started seeing ghosts. But you’ve never seen her ghost, so you wander through your days half alive and half dead, searching through a world of shadows, and you are always sleepwalking.
See? We’ve all been there.


We have, haven't we? Aren't we going there even now?

~ Nadia Bulkin's "Girl, I Love You" is raw, brutal and beautiful--one of those stories where the real is much more horrific than the fantastic:

“You’re not taking your future seriously, Michi,” Miss Tomoe said after class. She was unmarried, childless, tending to her parents, forever trapped in high school. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. “It’s so important that you don’t slip up now.”
(...)
“I don’t know,” I said. “Why do you pop antidepressants between classes?”
Miss Tomoe’s platelike facade shattered, and she burst into tears right there at the desk, surrounded by all her little beakers. Not long after that, she was fired for forcing a failing student to drink hydrochloric acid. She’d poured herself a beaker too, saying “Here’s to failure!” The student spat his out; Miss Tomoe finished hers.


~ Quentin S. Crisp's "The Last Packet of Tea" is the first unabashedly literary piece in the anthology:

There was something that immediately gave a faint glow in his tactile consciousness—a glow of the kind that suggests “second skin” or “second nature.” It was his thermal underwear. Obvious enough to be bathetic—yet true. “Long johns” was the term he preferred. It had that almost folkloric resonance, that sense of a jocular familiarity with death, also to be found in expressions like “Davy Jones’s locker.” His long johns were undoubtedly literature—they had all the qualifications. They brought him warmth in the cold. They were a private concern. They bore with his lack of cleanliness in philosophical equanimity, following the shape of his legs in a way that was friendly, unobtrusive, and showed the flexibility necessary for complete realism. And though they were gray and their cut was not dashing, in their everydayness there was a kind of eremitism, in their eremitism a kind of openness, in their openness a kind of beauty, in their beauty a kind of romance.


It resonates with any paladin publisher's wet dreams and/or pet harangues (tee-hee):

I believe that, from the wreckage of our current age, we have the chance to build a new citadel of literature and a new literary culture to bring it to life—a literary culture as it always should have been, in which both quality and novelty are valued, where writers are paid, and where books are not produced and distributed according to the demands of the least literate, but under the guidance of the most.


And it gives food for thought:

“Have you started on a story?” Fletch asked after examining the letter and the guidelines.
“No.”
“I think you should. Don’t you want to?”
“Yes, I do. The problem is that I’m too old. I don’t mean for writing. But for fiction I am.”
“How can you be too old?”
“I think fiction is about suspense and possibility. That is, it is especially meaningful to those in the middle of life, but at least needs a future too large to be contained within the mental field of vision. One writes fiction in order to have a dialogue with life, in the hope that this dialogue will deepen future possibilities. Simply put, one writes fiction with the intention of living it, or at least the values and aesthetics it embodies.
“I no longer have a future to dream about or to dream with. The horizon is narrowing as it converges on the exit from existence.”


Hmm ... does it really get like that? Anyone cares to comment?

The ending was particularly ethereal, almost elusive. Definitely worth rereading.

~ The Japanese keep surprising me. This time it's Project Itoh, with "From the Nothing, with Love":

I am a book. A text, unfolding continuously.

Still, this text that you—I have no way of knowing who you are—have found, and are reading and deriving meaning from, is not me. This text I am writing is separate from me as I unfold continuously, though it is part of me. I suppose that to you this is just a story, but if you think of me as a text writing a text, it would not be altogether wrong to regard me as a frame story. Yes, like the minstrel recounting the Canterbury Tales.
Until very recently I thought I existed only as my own story. I might be a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, but I was still me. But this was nothing more than blind faith, childish and naive.
Strictly speaking, I am not myself. This simple fact was brought to my attention only recently.


It's funny how a text of this type makes fun of postmodernist-slash-deconstructionist architecture.

Then it digs deep into contemporary brain science (you thought it was a fantasy? ;)), summing up some of the astounding findings I've already seen in David Eagleman's Incognito:

“Well, suppose I slap your face. You feel pain, but the sensation isn’t instantaneous. It takes about half a second—it depends on the part of the body, of course—for a pain stimulus to transit the nerves and reach the brain. But it seems as if you feel pain at the precise instant your cheek is slapped. You ‘feel’ that the slap and the pain occur simultaneously. But that’s only because your brain is editing the timeline, so you perceive the slap only after your brain registers the pain. The brain synchronizes the awareness of one moment to another awareness of a different moment. That means the ‘present’ we perceive is not the present at all. The brain processes vision, taste, touch, pain all at different speeds. Just like a computer, the brain requires finite amounts of time to create a unified awareness out of the sensations impinging on us from moment to moment. It takes these disjointed inputs and creates the illusion of ‘now,’ the illusion of the present moment. This function is an aspect of what we call consciousness.”
“Then consciousness is simply a dream? What we experience is just the movements of a body being manipulated like a puppet?”
“No, of course not. Consciousness can make judgments and control behavior. But quite a bit of what we do requires no consciousness at all. Human beings aren’t aware of everything they do. A finger striking a keyboard. Each footstep along a road. These are just examples, but a lot of research is going into studying complex activities that aren’t completely mediated by conscious awareness, like playing a musical instrument.”


And all the time it waxes philosophical, in ways large and small, but always bringing such refreshing clarity:

“My husband passed away years ago, but still, I suppose we were together too long. It’s as if I’ve taken on the pattern of his life and his habits. Not in everything, but in some things very much.”
The woman gazed at me serenely. Love, we used to call it. It starts as love, that much is certain. It changes with years; we lose the sexual passion and the mad craving to fill up the emptiness. Love becomes an algorithm for living in synchrony with another person. The final destination, love’s ultimate consummation, is the assimilation of another person’s life into one’s own. The life of one’s beloved become a template to transcribe into oneself.
“In a sense, your husband is still alive, then. Alive in you.”
She nodded and smiled. There was nothing hidden in that smile, no trace of loneliness. An ordinary smile, and therefore extraordinarily beautiful.
“His body has gone ahead, but he still lives in me. Karmic retribution, isn’t it? That’s why I come here, to complain. The first Sunday of every month, after the service is over, I come and tell him, ‘Since you’ve seen fit to leave me on my own, one would think you’d give me a little more freedom.’ ”


~ To compensate for the mostly cerebral approach of "From the Nothing...", Tim Pratt's "Those Who Hunt Monster Hunters" stirred my emotions on such a visceral level that I'll leave the excerpts speak for themselves:

Most of all she’d been desperate for a night away from the endless psychodrama of her housemate and his girlfriend—it was hard to decide if their loud arguing or their louder reconciliation sex annoyed her more, but it didn’t much matter because she got to hear both a few times a week.


“I love Asian girls,” the monster hunter tells me on our date. “They’re so much better than white girls. Way less bitchy, you know? They understand how men want to be treated.”
There are differences among the races—depending on how you define race, anyway. (Ancestry? Culture? Phenotype? Genetic makeup? Social identity? Geographic location?) People of Sub-Saharan African descent are more likely to have sickle cell anemia than those of other ancestries. Mediterranean-descended individuals suffer disproportionately from thalassemia. If you live in the American Southwest, you’ve got a better chance at contracting Bubonic plague than you would otherwise. Ashkenazi Jews have to worry about Tay-Sachs more than most. French-Canadians have a higher-than-usual tendency to fall under the curse of le loup garou. Moldavians succumb to vampirism more often than other Eastern Europeans. The degeneration into cannibalistic, monstrous Wendigo typically only happens among the Algonquin peoples on the Atlantic Coast and in the Great Lakes region.
But there’s not a “race,” by any definition I know, that is inherently more meek or eager to please men than any other.


Things men other than the monster hunter have said to me in messages on dating sites, or on actual dates; a selection:
“You’re so pretty. Like a lotus flower.”
“What’s your favorite martial art?”
“I think it’s cool that you like to date American men.”
“Since I started dating Oriental girls I never want to go back to regular ones.”
“You have to admit, Pearl Harbor was kind of a dick move.”
“I started the anime club in my high school, so I’ve always been a big supporter of your culture.”
“What do you want to drink? The Kamikazes are really good here. Oh. Oh god. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean—I didn’t mean anything—”
“Uh, do you mind if I drive? I mean, no offense or anything, but …”
“I spent a year in China, so I really feel a connection with you.”
(I suppose I should be happy no one’s ever asked me if my vagina is sideways. We’ve come such a long way.)


There’s a definition of weed I like a lot: “A weed is a plant out of place.” Maybe a monster is just a creature out of place.
It would be much easier for a monster to find a place if people weren’t such assholes.
...
Some people have a genetic predisposition to depression, or color-blindness, or perfect pitch, or tetrachromatic vision, or they’re super tasters. Some people have heads that can detach at night and roam the world.
That doesn’t make any of them monsters. Only actions make you a monster. A woman whose head can fly, who uses her power to glide among the clouds and watch the city lights below, who’s never hurt a human and hasn’t even bothered a cow or a sheep or a squirrel in years … a woman like that is less of a monster than a man in a fedora with samurai swords who stalks that woman.


~ Miyuki Miyabe's "Chiyoko" is the sort of sweet, simple tale I seldom come across these days. Although its message is heavy-handed, the childlike optimism is refreshing. Especially while I'm translating a children's story. ;)
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:16 pm

My review of Castles in Spain: 25 Years of Spanish Fantasy and Science Fiction:

An anthology that begins poorly and ends worse, but has some astounding stories in the middle.

I've bolded my favorites.

~ Both the first and the second story start superbly, challenging and exhilarating me with their non-human perspectives, one completely surreal, the other firmly grounded in our familiar reality. But at the end, they just fizzle out. :(

(I'm growing more and more averse to the trope of murdering characters as a way of building the climax. Death seems to be the most hackneyed plot device.)

~ Juan Miguel Aguilera's "The Forest of Ice" is a rumination on the ways we grow apart when we're growing apart from one another, dressed in the regalia of hard SF. It struck close to home ... aye. It hurt.

~ A super sweet scene from Domingo Santos's "My Wife, My Daughter":

Then, around midnight, when he was already asleep, someone pounded on the door to his house. Sergio was alone that night; his mother and grandparents had gone to Valencia to deal with some legal paperwork regarding a family inheritance. He opened the door, half asleep, and found before him a disheveled Claudia, her clothing in tatters, broken down in tears, who threw herself into his arms as soon as she saw him. He tried to calm her, to find out what had happened. Little by little, seated on the sofa, the story was unraveled. Patxi had shown himself to be very different from how he seemed. He had drunk a lot at the party, flirted with all the girls, boasted of his great skills as a student, as a basketball player, and as a lover. Then, as they were leaving the party, tottering somewhat from the alcohol, he had thrown himself on her, there among the bushes, and had begun to violently tear at her clothes, had tried to rape her while babbling that the alcohol and the music had excited him, that he needed a woman, any woman, that he needed her. And Claudia, who in other circumstances would have happily given herself to him with her eyes closed, suddenly felt a horror and a repugnance so irrepressible that without thinking she gave him a swift knee to the groin with all her strength and ran from there, while he, bent double with pain, shouted at her back, calling her all sorts of names such as she had never heard before. And she had run without stopping, until she was out of breath, to Sergio’s house, because she couldn’t think of anywhere else to go; and she had knocked at his door and..., and....
Sergio pulled her toward him, and soothingly caressed her hair while he whispered sweet, consoling words. She moaned and hiccupped with her face buried against his chest, soaking his pajama shirt with her tears, and the scent wafting off her hair was intoxicating, and the smell of her body was a pure delight, and the motion of her breasts against his skin made all his muscles tremble. It wasn’t long before he realized he had a huge erection. She also felt it and looked at him between her tears, and her lips sketched a slight smile that seemed to tremble like an autumn leaf about to fall from a tree.
That night they made love for the first time, there on the sofa, calmly and sweetly, gentle and relaxed, like two siblings who were telling one another a very, very intimate secret. Then they slept in one another’s arms, there on the sofa, and her body no longer shook with weeping.
The next morning, as the light barely shone through the window’s lace curtains, they made love again, taking even more time, searching, exploring, enjoying the discovery of their bodies after knowing one another’s souls so well. When they finished, she held his face in her hands and looked into the depths of his eyes.
‘I love you,’ she said, simply.


This leads to a story about personal obsession, which is an odd fish. I can see why some reviewers are outraged by the Lolita-like aspect; but I think they're missing the point
Скрит текст: покажи
since Sergio outgrows his not-quite-fatherly love for Claudia once he realizes that a clone is not and cannot be his late wife; and more importantly, that a clone is not property but a proper human being
. My wonder is about the end of the story. Just how obsessed, and how emotionally stumped, is Sergio really?
Скрит текст: покажи
Can you spend your entire life trying to relive the same period of happiness, over and over again? Can you believe that you can't find happiness anywhere else, in any other kinds of relations?
If I thought someone like that could exist for real, I'd be majorly disturbed.

Скрит текст: покажи
Then again, what I'm doing with the Human Library may be seen as trying to relive my two years at the United World College of the Adriatic, over and over again ... so who knows? Who will cast the first stone?


~ Rodolfo Martínez's "God's Messenger" is an amusing (if not really self-contained) story, containing such endearing details about the nature of AI:

‘The information you brought me this afternoon is the last piece I needed. God is here in the Whirld. (...) Not in person, of course. But he has planted a routine into the datasphere.’
‘You mean the network.’ This was one of the most irritating features of my personality. I knew perfectly well what Memo meant, but I’ve been designed to behave like a human and I can’t help occasionally letting slip stupid comments.


~ I love the protagonist's voice in Rafael Marín's "A Marble in the Palm":

She thought it was a pretty stupid game, like the Sancti Petri mini-golf course but without clubs, but he was having a wonderful time playing there on his knees on the hard sand with the pigeon pooh, so without more ado, because he looked just as lonely as she was, Lucía introduced herself and said, and what’s that you’re playing and can you teach me it. The boy looked her over in the male chauvinist way of seven-year-old boys, who think they are something when they’re only creeps, and finally put his hands in his kilometre-deep pockets and said he was called Pablo and alright, okay, and he taught her how to flick the marbles (...)


(Kudos also to Charlie Sangster, the translator.)

~ Félix J. Palma's "The Albatross Ship" is one of those extra rare gems whose ending makes me laugh in disbelief. It's an exquisite story about the power of (mis)communication and thinking twice about how we show that we care for someone. (The issue of trust that I am yet again revisiting with my mother right now.)

The writing captivated me, too. (Thank you, Linda Smolik, for the translation.) Now I want to try Palma's other stories that are available in English.

~ A note to fellow anthologists: The last piece in an anthology is the one that creates the aftertaste, shapes (according to Thinking, Fast and Slow) half of our overall impression.

"Victim and Executioner" was disgusting, in more than one sense.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:14 am

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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Fri Jun 21, 2019 4:06 pm

My review of Future Science Fiction Digest #3:

Despite the three overarching themes in this issue (the Moon, AI, and to a lesser extent, time travel), it felt wonderfully diverse. It does help when you bring together writers from across the world. ;)

A few more specific impressions, with my personal favorites bolded:

~ Karen Osborne's "Cratered" is beautifully written but more Matrix-y than The Matrix. Are we humans really so bad at distinguishing between what's real and what probably isn't? Of all the authors who have tackled this subject, I trusted David Zindell's approach in The Wild most.

~ I loved the voices and choices of Dixie and Moonie in Wolf Moon's "Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler." I'm aware it's one of those somewhat contrived conflicts where people act stupid because they don't care to/can't communicate smartly--and still the resolution felt smart indeed and liberating.

~ A choice glimpse of Harlan Ellison from Joshua Sky's interview with D.C. Fontana:

Harlan and I sat next to each other during a Writers Guild showing of the first Star Trek movie. The film ends, the music is playing, Harlan stands up and says, "Star Trek - The Motionless Picture!"


Also, I was shocked to read about the peanuts paid for scripts for Star Trek: The Next Generation--all the more so, given how much I love many of those scripts. :-O

~ Laura Resnick's "Astrobody for Sale of Rent" manages to cram a lot of punch into its dozen pages. Consider this article in The New York Timely where the incumbent NASA administrator shares his take on ... things:

Another manned mission?” Wessex shot back on social media. “There has never been a manned mission to the moon! Someone who doesn’t understand that had no business running NASA.”
Mr. Wessex has publicly stated his belief on numerous occasions that this country’s six manned moon landings, which took place in 1969 through 1972, were hoaxes.
“My NASA administration will be the first to land men on the moon!” Mr. Wessex declared, at a press conference he held shortly after his Senate confirmation.
When asked to comment on this, the president said, “Maybe he’s right. A lot of smart people are saying it. The fake media planted a fake story about a fake landing using fake astronauts.”
It should be noted that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and all the other astronauts who’ve walked on the moon are real.
“Maybe the moon is fake, too,” the president added.
The moon is not fake.


The whole story is worth reading aloud, maybe even mock-staging with friends. Go try it yourselves. ;)

~ Oleg Divov's "Americans on the Moon" at first appeared to be more somber than the previous entry ... but eventually it made me grin just as widely. Perhaps the two superpowers did have more in common that they would like to admit.

Also, I might have taken Earl's bet. ;)

~ An insider's note on "Love in the Time of Con Crud": When Rumi types, "But, wow, has someone else fell in love during the Worldcon?", it's not a proofreading error. She's still learning the ropes of English. ;)

~ Lü Momo's "Waking in the Cold and the Dark" is ingenious but cold ... so cold. :( Its twists and turns reminded me a little of Death Note.

~ Vajra Chandrasekera's "Apologia" makes for a fitting finale: poetic and tongue-in-cheek. Listen:

That's why the committee had selected him from among all the applicants, why he beat out the journalists and the novelists and the essayists and one extremely optimistic sculptor—the poet was good at memory and apology. He had a knack for that perspective of deep history, for the juxtaposition of the Moment to the totality, the vast and tumultuous sweep.
It helped that he was a fast writer, too. His composition was as quick as his feet, where his heart was heavy; the furious poet, all that feeling turned inward and then outward again, a reflection of the deep-set collective guilt of his people, of our people, the committee had sighed in rapturous assessment. This guilty poet, this raging poet, he could retroactively make the apologies that we had never made the first time around. It was, or would be, never too late for the big sorry.
And so the accusing poet, the apologizing poet, the adamant poet went down into the muck of the past to redeem it.


But also:

A tremendous fandom had accreted around him while he was journeying in time: he would return to instant celebrity status, to critical acclaim, to awards both juried and popular. His fortitude and courage, his great achievement, even the poems themselves as artistic works, it would all be celebrated. There would be profiles, interviews, biopics. The fandom already obsessed over every moment of eye contact he made with any native, of any gender or age, no matter how inappropriate the circumstances, in case it meant that they were fucking in the poet's off-screen downtime. The fandom shipped the poet not only with his own ancestors but with the ancestors of the othered. The fandom respected no boundaries. I could have told them that the poet was practically celibate compared to their wild imaginings; his downtime was occupied mostly with writing poems, trying to sleep, and avoiding indigestion. But who would have believed me?


And then:

Our endless collective guilt was insatiable, but fortunately there were many ChoMos, a great many, because the poet's people—who were the committee's people, and my people, too—had so many sins in our past. The poet's itinerary would methodically cover every pogrom, every riot, every race murder, every hate crime, every genocide, though of course the committee also put an asterisk next to genocide because you just had to, didn't you? Seeing as how if those had really been quote unquote genocides there would be nobody left now, would there, except the committee's people—the poet's people, which is to say my people—and that was clearly not the case, since minorities still definitely existed in the world in our present day, though not on the committee, and not very well represented in the pool of applicants for the poet's position or mine. I mean, I think there were some but the committee was very particular about not lowering their standards, so unfortunately that didn't quite work out. You know how it is. The poet knows how it is. I know how it is.
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:16 pm

My review of Escape from Baghdad!:

What. Did I. Just. Read.

Try and figure it out from my notes. Then come back and tell me. Please?

~ The following exchange offers a good glimpse of the book (and a running gag):

“SFU intelligence indicates that the JAM are desperate to get their hands on Hamid. They think he carries valuable information,” Fowler tapped his nose. “(...) Valuable information, Hoffman. This man Hamid was with all the high ups of the old regime. This could be it, Hoffman. This could be our golden goose.”
“The big fish, sir.”
“Hoffman, what do you think this Hamid knows?”
“Er, weapons of mass destruction?”
“Precisely, Hoffman,” Fowler scowled. “Col. Bradley believes they exist, the president believes they exist, and God himself believes they exist.”
“Semper fidelis!”
“Hoffman, get a squad together and get your ass out there,” Fowler said. “You find us these two and some WMDs, and I’ll personally make sure there’s a Nobel Peace Prize in it for you.”


~ If you still harbor any doubts about the tone, check the glossary:

TAREQ AZIZ: Saddam-era former deputy prime minister of Iraq, now serving prison term. One of the chief deputies of Saddam. Interestingly, he is a Christian. His employer apparently believed in equal opportunity.

US DECK OF CARDS: Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, the Americans brought out a deck of cards each featuring a high value target. Those narrowly missing the deck were deeply offended.


~ But none of the above can prepare you for the tender moments:

Dagr meanwhile was standing, entranced, by the door, tracing the lines on the blue, remembering, long ago, another blue door, with handprints smudged three feet from the floor, where his daughter used to push, breathless, wobbling into their apartment, as he chased her, growling hideously, sometimes a bear, sometimes a giant dog. The door was always open because they knew all the other tenants, were like a family, really, the old couple below, adopted grandparents who would babysit at a moment’s notice, every day even, and the landlord on the ground floor, a kind-faced engineer drifting into unwilling bachelorhood, who used to make small brass toys by hand, hiding them all over the building so that her holidays were an ongoing, elaborate treasure hunt.


Or, for that matter, the cruel moments. This novel has been compared to Catch 22, but I believe it's more intimate, more emotional, when it wants to be.

~ And then we're back to wacky:

“No, sir,” Tommy said. “He’s hurting bad, sir. No joke. Last night I woke up to take a piss. Found him chewing on my leg, sir.”
“Gnawing on your leg?” Hoffman puffed on his cigar, incredulous. “Is that some kind of gay slang? Are you gay, Tommy?”
“No way, Hoff,” Tommy said. “I like women. You remember that titty bar we went to, and I pulled down that stripper in the black nun’s outfit?”
“Ahem,” Hoffman said. “That was not a titty bar, Tommy. Not by a long shot. How do I know? No titty bars in all of Baghdad. Fact. And that was no nun’s habit either. That was a hijab. And finally, Tommy, that was not a stripper. Not by a long shot, no.”


~ More quintessence:

“Come inside, my friends,” Behruse ushered them into a surprisingly elegant living room. “Tea? Hoffman, your friend looks a little bit ill.”
“No thanks,” Hoffman said. “He’s the reason why I’m here. Well, partially.”
“So?”
“He’s having trouble sleeping,” Hoffman said. “Nightmares, the shakes, sleepwalking, strange visions…”
“Bombed-in-the-street-syndrome?” Behruse asked.
“Yeah,” Hoffman said. “His whole squad got paid.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“You can counsel him, Behruse,” Hoffman said. “You know exactly what it feels like. How many people you lost over here?”
“Pfft,” Behruse said. “Thirteen direct bloodline. Twenty-five slanted bloodline. IEDs, hand grenades, land mines, falling buildings, tank shells, mortar shells, air strikes, crossfire, sniper fire, friendly fire, electric fire; and my uncle—he died when Saddam’s statue fell on him. First casualty of the civil war. Fact.”
“That’s a lotta people Behruse,” Ancelloti said. “Could be, we did some of that shit to you.”
“So what?” Behruse said. “It’s a war. We kill you. You kill us. Who cares? The important thing is to have a sense of humor about it. When we were bombing the Kurds, do you think they were crying like babies?”


~ If anyone--Druze or not--missed the "sense of humor" part above, here it comes again, in show-don't-tell form:

“Heard of something called the Druze watch?”
“What?” Behruse flicked his eyes around.
“Just learned about the Druze. Easy name to remember. It’s so close to booze. They’re like a super secret bunch of heretics. Kinda like Mormons, I think. Arab Mormons. Except they’re like a thousand years old, and they don’t let anyone join their secret society. They probably know a lot of secret shit, like where the weapons of mass destruction are hiding.”
“What?” Behruse asked.
“I googled them. All true.”


~ Even if we aren't spared the infodumps, the infodumps aren't spared the tongue-in-cheek:

“It is certainly one of the dividing lines of Islam,” Avicenna said. “Among our philosophers, the esoteric core is almost universally accepted. The Sunni orthodoxy maintain that the inner meaning is truly fathomable only by the divine will. It is out of reach of mankind, in other words, and we must be content with following the literal will of God.”
“Makes sense to me,” Hoffman said. “Most people don’t bother with all this shit. Just give us clear easy rules to follow.”
“Other sects have different approaches, the gist of it being certain men can access the deeper meanings found in the religion, either through intellectual power or inspiration or through direct divine revelation,” Avicenna said. “I’m not boring you, am I?”
Hoffman, whose eyes had indeed begun to glaze over, now attempted to prop himself upright. “No, no, it’s all fascinating,” he protested. “The fact book doesn’t have any of this shit in it.”


~ And if anyone--I mean anyone--has missed the gist:

“I’m feeling ill now,” Hoffman moaned. “This isn’t fair. What kind of person poisons an innocent stranger?”
“Really?” Sabeen said. “What kind of person makes up ridiculous lies about a random country, invades it, destroys all its civil institutions, brands all its citizens as terrorists, causes a civil war, and then pretends everything is alright?”


~ Hehehe ... this book somehow reminds me of Shibumi:

“Computers. We need really big computers!” (...)
“Yes, yes, like the one that played chess with Kasparov,” Kinza gave a shout of laughter that startled everyone. “You’ve got some kind of fetish for that thing.”
“Well, it’s a lot of computing power to waste on something useless like chess,” Dagr said, exasperated. “I mean here we’ve got hundreds of itinerant mathematicians begging for processing space, and the imperialistic white devils are just mocking us by using mainframes to beat third-rate chess players.”
“Third rate?”
“Well, he didn’t beat the computer, did he?”
“He’s the best player who ever lived,” Kinza said. “According to FIDE.”
“Incorrect. He’s the best professional player who ever lived,” Dagr said. “Chess is just a bunch of permutations of a single scenario. It only looks like a game. In reality, it’s just a math puzzle. It’s even easier than a completely random puzzle because the same few situations keep repeating themselves. Logically, any first-rate mathematician would be unbeatable in chess. Of course, they’d never play it in the first place because they’d have better things to do.”


~ The more Avicenna talks, the less wise he seems.
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It's a general problem of long-lived characters; they work best only when shrouded in taciturnity.


On the contrary, Kinza is turning into an archetype:

“He’s a berserker, see?” Dagr said. “With Kinza, life is the enemy, really. He wants the world to be still, and when it doesn’t comply, he’s willing to force it. (...)”


~ In case anyone missed the "black comedy" sign at the front:

He found himself in someone’s living room, half the wall and window ripped away by gunfire. There was a television that flickered with static. He sat down in an old chintz armchair and tried to catch his breath.
Several minutes later, Kinza staggered in through the same hole, face slick with blood.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked.
“Resting,” Dagr said. “You?”
“Cleaning up a bit,” Kinza said. He gestured slightly with his knife. “Mukhabarat guys. Never liked them. Couple of beards too.”
“Salemi’s or random people?”
“Does it really matter at this point?”


~ The last chapter is ... indescribable. Probably unimaginable, too.

It's an example of what books can do that movies can't.

И препоръка към Янчо Чолаков:

В Goodreads Кал wrote:Натъкнах се на това непосредствено след новата ти повест – и през цялото време се кикотех (през зъби) на паралелите. Единствената разлика е, че в „Прояснение“ войната се води в болниците ни, а тук – в Багдад.


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(За Янчовото „Прояснение“ ще сглобя отзив утре-вдругиден.)
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Re: Книги, автори, размисли творчески и човешки

Postby Кал » Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:16 pm

My reviewlet of The Apex Book of World SF 5:

Skimmed the horror or disturbing pieces. The ones I liked were Vina Jie-Min Prasad's "A Series of Steaks"; Darcie Little Badger's "Nkásht íí"; Giovanni De Feo's "Ugo"; and especially T.L. Huchu's "Ghostalker". Here's a choice morsel of it:

I’m not really supposed to use my powers for my own benefit. To be fair, most of the time I’m more Peter Parker than Tony Stark, still, I Bruce Banner out sometimes. My dad went all Sauron and left us, so I live with my mum and little sis in Chiwaridzo Township.


The tasty, saucy language was topped by a moving finale, and All Was Great. For a time. ;)
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby frog » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:36 pm

http://sofia.czechcentres.cz/program/tr ... ka-v-sofii

"Спящият град" - роман на Мартин Вопенка.

Няма да се впускам в размишления колко са важни за мен чехите с класата и светоусещането си като културна деятелност. Може да са с високо самочувствие и някои хора да предпочитат "селяните" словаци като по-земни и сърдечни, но мен чехите ме устройват идеално.

Петнайсетгодишният Крищоф, двете му по-малки сестри Кристина и Ема и любимецът на всички, шестгодишният палавник Самуел, живеят спокойно и щастливо в комфортен дом, защитени и обгърнати с любов от родителите си. Очакват ги вълшебно лято и ваканция. Вместо това обаче са сполетени от внезапна, неизмерима беда, както и цялата планета Земя. Един ден всички, които някога са имали деца, не се събуждат в новото утро, а остават потънали в дълбок летаргичен сън. Никой не знае дали и кога ще се събудят. На планетата са останали да живеят само деца, младежи и бездетни възрастни. С големи трудности доброволни организации успяват да осигурят подслон и грижа за бебетата и по-малките деца, в огромен проблем се превръщат токът, водата, храната, транспортът, интернет…  На малките герои се налага съвсем скоро да опознаят тъмната страна на човешката природа. Четирите деца се срещат със злото в най-различните му проявления, някои от които дори не разбират докрай. Попадат в невероятни приключения, преодоляват сурови изпитания, водят битка за оцеляване и проявяват качества, които изобщо не са подозирали у себе си – съобразителност, отговорност, решителност, храброст, доблест.

Романът е сравняван от критиците с прочутата фантастика на Джон Уиндъм „Денят на трифидите“...

Ако някога апокалиптично спре токът, чехите щели да бъдат едни от малкото, които щели да се справят без проблеми. Преди десетилетия имали доста активни скаутски организации, а според мен и сега се занимават с оцеляване сред природата.

Къде са децата в цялата схема - където съм и аз.
Казах на автора, че като малка, веднъж съм си представила, че нямам родители. Не че нещо лошо им се е случило, а че просто нямам. (Ходя си с къщичката ми, не баш като охлювче, и си имам всичко необходимо, и си е с мен. Това ми хрумна на една разходка във Варна, където ходехме често тримата с мама и тате.) И сега... през повечето време съм сама. При което авторът заключи, че не бива да чета книгата. Не знам защо.

(Отварям скоба, че е почти просташко, като разкажа това на някого, да ми клишира "Внимавай какво си пожелаваш". Аз не си го пожелавах, аз си го представях. It was a game. Има разлика между това да си пожелаваш и да си пророк.)

Иначе каза, че децата я възприемат като приключение, а не като хорър/трилър. И много други неща каза, но сега не ми се пише всичко.

И аз съм като тези деца в книгата - оправям се сама някак си, с помощ/запаси отвън. Имах родители някога, но това беше допреди 13-14 години. Първо мама отиде в Германия през 2005. После баща ми - есента на 2006. Когато тръгваше и ми пошушна, че повече няма да се връща, знаех какво ми казва и се разплаках, а неговата позната, с която се беше видял тогава, си помисли, че плача, щото ми е мъчно за него.

И аз като децата от книгата си стоя вкъщи на сигурно място. Ама не чистя и подреждам колкото тях. Все пак те са цели четирима. А като изляза навън, се налага да се пазя от някои хора. Предимно мъже.
И с мен се отнасят зле, както с децата от романа, въпреки че не съм го очаквала (както и те). Но има и хора, които се отнасят много добре с мен. Някои са ми като майки и бащи. Доста са. А моите са някъде там и си спят немския сън. Бях на 20 г. и може би така и не можах да го преживея, макар че никога не съм искала да ходя с тях.
Когато съм с тях или други близки роднини, усещам, че имам родители и семейство и съм почти както преди. Когато не съм с тях, отново съм сама.
Разликата с романа е, че сестричката ми също не е при мен. Сигурно затова си търся и наричам братя и сестри. Повече братя. Сестрите почнаха да ми ги наричат.
Понякога се налага да си наричам и деца, щото вече одъртях. А някои деца са на по 50-60 г....
И обожавам някой да ми чете, само дето почти никой не се навива или ми чете тъпни, когато не ми се слуша. Мо ме приспиваше и знаеше, че трябва да ме приспи. Особено когато бяхме на чуждо място и ме беше страх.
Не ми пееше, за съжаление. Но беше достатъчно да ме гушка или да е непосредствено до мене, за да съм спокойна. Веднъж дори ми измисли една нескопосана приказка.

Така и не ми свикна на нетърпението, когато искам да му кажа нещо.

И т.н.
Та не вдявам мъжете какво толкова очакват от мен. Аз искам да играя на Scrabble и на Dixit. На Емил почти винаги му беше досадно. Трябваше да полагам специални усилия и организации, за да мога да играя.

Чехите пътуват. Нямат комплекс, че литературата им не може да излезе извън Чехия, понеже е излязла. Киното дори няма да го споменавам.
Last edited by Кал on Wed May 27, 2020 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Бесовете ви чувам“ ~ Jane Eyre Grisel. I refuse to be there for you when you need me.

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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Sun May 17, 2020 9:18 am

My review of Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation:

A wonderfully diverse (and wonderfully translated) anthology. Highly recommended.

My impressions of the individual stories (I've bolded my absolute favorites):

~ Han Song's "Salinger and the Koreans" was the first story here that made me chuckle:
No one knows what the Observer intended, but as a result of his interference, the armed forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conquered the United States of America. The North Korean scientists did not rely on their primitive nuclear weapons; instead, they used the newly invented Quantum Reambiguator, which changed the topology of space-time and allowed anything to happen.
As a result, the invincible Korean People’s Army not only unified the Korean Peninsula, but also conquered the rest of the world. To be honest, the KPA really was an impressive army: disciplined, orderly, never looting as much as a single needle or thread from the conquered civilian populations. If there were no barracks in the conquered cities, the soldiers slept in the streets and left the residents secure in their houses. They were solely interested in liberating the entire human race, freeing both their bodies and minds. The world had been without hope of salvation, just as Salinger described in his book: capitalism was rotten through and through. Oh, how the people suffered from spiritual crises, and economic catastrophe followed economic catastrophe! Each day was worse than the day before, and the next day worse yet. The living envied the dead. Maybe this was why the great author had retired to his cabin in the woods—he was the only one who understood how bad things were.
The Koreans saw Salinger as a precursor to the full liberation of humanity. It was because of his book that the Koreans had vowed to liberate the entire human race in the first place. These gentle, unsophisticated, earthy people from Asia loved Salinger from the depths of their hearts. Under the direction of the Supreme Commander in Chief, Salinger’s book had been translated into Korean many years ago and been read by generation after generation of North Korean students. The translator had even written the following in the preface: Our youths grow up in a Socialist motherland in which they’re constantly bathed in the loving care of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League, and the Young Pioneer Corps. As a result, they’re endowed with the lofty ideals of Communism and blessed with colorful and vibrant spiritual lives. Therefore, by reading a book like The Catcher in the Rye, they can contrast their own environment with the ugly conditions persisting under capitalism, thereby broadening their horizons and gaining more wisdom….

Chuckle darkly, but still.
No one mentioned the name of Salinger anymore in public, and he was quickly forgotten. Even his fans had dismissed him from their minds. Salinger thought this wasn’t such a bad outcome, as he could now live as a true hermit. Gratitude to the KPA! When he had nothing else to do, he observed the Koreans who kept him under surveillance. They are so young and handsome, he thought, each like a member of a herd of reindeer from the distant East. And their thoughts are in fact unique, like building blocks through which they could understand the world objectively and thoroughly. Despite being rulers of the world, their behavior reminded Salinger of his Holden. That’s right, just like Holden. Salinger experienced a pleasurable dizziness, as though drunk with fine wine.
But the happiness didn’t last. Mass economic reconstruction began with the goal to transform America into a gigantic paradise, an attempt to realize the complete revitalization of the country. Under the leadership of the KPA Real Estate Corps, everything proceeded according to a unified and comprehensive plan. Naturally, New Hampshire had its own role to play in this beautiful future.
One morning, Salinger was woken from sleep by deafening noises. Dazed, he gazed outside the window and saw a row of gleaming Baekdu bulldozers, which had been modified from Chonma-ho battle tanks, bearing down on his cabin. Angrily, Salinger rushed out the door—something he rarely did—and argued with the workers who had come to break down his house, arguing that it was his inviolate private property. Of course, such reasoning was useless and revealed a secret hidden in Salinger’s subconscious, a secret that perhaps he had not even known himself: the human race’s universal greed for wealth. It was truly tragic.

The gentle jabs remind me a little of our own Васил Цонев at his more acerbic.
Since he was homeless, he began to wander around America. His previous life as a recluse meant that few photographs of him had been published, and no one recognized him in the streets or gave him generous gifts. So, please remember this: if you are ever famous or enjoy success, don’t keep too low a profile.


~ Baoshu's "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" contains a remarkably gentle and authentic depiction of young love. Culminating in:
That night, we slept in the same tent. We talked about the national and international situation and the movement’s prospects, but we couldn’t agree on anything and started to argue. Eventually, we stopped talking about these matters and simply held each other.
We reminisced about our childhood together, and then I could no longer hold back. I kissed her, first her face, then her lips. That was the first time we really kissed. Her lips were soft and chapped, which broke my heart. I kissed her deeply and would not let go….
In the dark, it happened naturally. With so many young people in the square, our lovemaking was an open secret. Normally I despised such behavior, and felt that couples who engaged in it tarnished the sacred nature of our protest. But now that it was happening to me, I couldn’t resist, and felt our actions were a natural part of the movement itself. Maybe some nameless anxiety about the future also made us want to seize this last moment of total freedom. Every motion, every gesture was infused with awkwardness and embarrassment. We were clumsy and raw, but passion, the irresistible power of youthful passion, eventually brought that fumbling, ridiculous process to a conclusion of sweet intimacy that surpassed understanding.


On the whole, this a striking, sweeping novella about a reversal of world history (and many other reversals), as bittersweet as out very real history. Here's one of its lighter moments (and in-jokes):
However, I could also see signs that America was on the decline. At the time of my visit, a new blockbuster had just been released: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I remembered seeing Episodes I through III when I was little and had always wanted to find out what would happen next. To reexperience the wonder of my childhood memories, I bought an expensive ticket. But Episode IV turned out to be far less spectacular than the previous three, and the special effects were so bad that you could almost see the strings on the spaceships. I was really disappointed. Apparently the Cold War had drained America’s resources into the arms race, and the economy wasn’t doing so well.


~ The ending of Hao Jingfang's "The New Year Train" struck me as a bolt of epiphany:
Скрит текст: покажи
Reporter: Why did those passengers want to stay on the train? It doesn’t make sense to me. Don’t people who visit family for Chinese New Year want to get there as quickly as possible?
Li: I can’t answer that. You’ll have to ask the passengers themselves. But think about this: if the starting point and the destination are already set, and if no matter how many days it takes to get there, you’ll arrive on time, then wouldn’t you want to prolong the trip as much as possible to enjoy it?
Reporter: I guess so. It’s like free time.
Li: It’s simple when you put it like that, right? What doesn’t make sense to me is this: lots of times, when the starting point and the destination are fixed—say, birth and death—why do most people rush toward the end?

A most brilliant case of creating a sense of wonder through changing the scale of the theme.

~ Fei Tao's "The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales" is so delightful I'll let it speak for itself:
“When I was a young ruler, I thought solemn honesty was the pinnacle of virtue. I rewarded those who worked hard and tried to reform those who deviated from the straight path. My subjects were thus preserved from petty sins, and their hearts untroubled. However, it would be wrong to declare my kingdom back then as a heaven on earth. As I matured, I began to understand the frivolous and irresponsible better, and grew more lenient with the ridiculous and disrespectful. The people’s lives grew more relaxed and joyful, but moral corruption followed. As an unbiased observer, tell me, between the solemn and the absurd, which is more worthy of encouragement? Between the hero and the clown, who is more lovable?”
“Your Majesty, my view is that Fate has always loved to give birth to twins. Each person you named is their own twin.”

And this--this is why I can swallow nearly any kind of fiction but have such a hard time with non-fiction (or Serious Stuff):
“(...) Then let me ask you: do you believe you can carry out your duty? If you return home, will you truly qualify as the unprecedented, peerless, one-and-only, unparalleled, unsurpassed, irreplaceable, unreproducible, history-defying, future-mocking master of bullshit?”
As the robot promised, it invoked 256 different verification routines and carried out 97,466,000,000,000,000 calculations. After exhausting nearly every ounce of energy, it answered, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
The old man nodded slowly. “We’re obviously in the middle of a very serious and solemn situation right here, so I won’t ask you to prove yourself with a few demonstration tales. Maybe you could tell me about your understanding of the art of bullshit, and I’ll then be able to assess whether your confidence is warranted.”
Having devoted almost its entire life to this career, the robot launched into its answer without delay. “I believe tall tales please both the teller and the listener. This is partly because the sharp glare of the truth can injure mortal senses and strike fear into the hearts of the common people. It’s thus necessary to disguise the truth in the form of ridiculous stories so that they may then seep into fragile and suspicious nerves. Even if these dull minds cannot extract the beneficial truth hidden therein, at least the blunted instrument would not injure them too much….”
The old man’s frown, which had relaxed just a fraction, tightened again. He was not entirely satisfied.
The robot continued, “However, after many years of worldly experience, I think tall tales give pleasure simply from the imagination’s leap into the infinite. It’s no different from humanity’s desire to fly. The pleasure alone is reason enough; no other explanation is needed.”


~ The mix of eras in Zhang Ran's "The Snow of Jinyang" is hilarious:
The whole gang trooped back inside, latched the door, pressed the battered window panels back into their frames as best as they could, and gingerly took their seats. Minister Ma Feng pulled General Guo Wanchao toward a chair, but Guo shook him off and stood right in the middle of the room. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to sit; rather, the archaic armor he’d worn for its formidable appearance had nearly scraped his family jewels raw on the bumpy journey.
Old Ma Feng put on his cap, scratched at his grizzled beard, and introduced Guo Wanchao. “I’m sure everyone has seen the general at court before. We’ll need his help to accomplish our goals, so I secretly invited him here—”
A tall, rangy scholar in yellow robes interrupted. “Why does he wear those black spectacles? Does he hold us in such contempt that he covers his eyes to spare himself the sight?”
“Aha, I was waiting for someone to ask.” Guo Wanchao took off the black lenses nonchalantly. “It’s the latest curiosity from the East City Institute. They call it ‘Ray-Ban.’ They allow the wearer to see normally, and yet be spared the glare of the sun. A marvelous invention!”
“It hardly seems right for a man interested in enlightenment to reduce the reach of light,” grumbled the yellow-robed scholar.
“But who says banning rays is all I’m capable of?” Guo Wanchao proudly drew a teak-handled, brass-headed object from his sleeve. “This device, another invention from the East City Institute, can emit dazzling light that pierces darkness for a hundred paces. The staff from the institute didn’t give it a name, so I call it ‘Light-Saber.’ The banisher of rays and the sword of light! Brilliant, eh? It was a match made in heaven, haha….”


Also, a certain theory claims that the Great Wall of China was built to protect the ancient Chinese from the ancient Bulgars. And here, finally, some definitive proof!
Below the city walls was a field of char, smoke, and wailing. Above, the Han defenders poked and pointed into the distance, counting their kills. For every kill, they drew a black circle on their hand, and used the circles to collect their reward money from the East City Institute. By Prince Lu’s calculations, two million Song soldiers had died these months below the city. Everyone else, looking at the Song camps that still covered the horizon end to end, came to an unspoken consensus not to bring up the problem with statistics derived from self-reporting.

And:
A crowd was gathered in front of the gate: imperial messengers, merchants, government officials in search of glory by association, commoners seeking aid in redressing wrongs done to them, craftsmen bringing their own inventions in the hopes of an audience, idlers trying to return the novelties they purchased after they grew bored, laborers looking for work, prostitutes looking for clients. The guard recorded them one by one in his ledger, gently refusing, reporting, and chasing off with a stick as appropriate. If he saw anyone he was uncertain about, he went ahead and took the bribe, then told them to try their luck again in a few days. He was quite orderly and methodical in this work.

... What d'you mean, "how's that a proof"? It proves--beyond a shadow of a doubt--that we, Chinese and Bulgarians, are the same!!!

(Okay, or at least our ancestors were.)

Overall, this is my favorite story so far. But for its crappy back-to-normal ending, it would have shot straight into my all-time hall of glory. ;)

~ Ma Boyong's "The First Emperor's Games" offers another hilarious premise:
The emperor deserved a break. After conquering the other six states, the Qin Empire had successfully carried out multiple complicated reforms: getting everyone to write in the same script, regrading all roads to be the same width, standardizing units of measurement, and promulgating an all-encompassing encoding for all computer text that subsumed the incompatible encodings used by the former warring states. With this Uni-Code in place, citizens of the Qin Empire could confidently launch any program without worrying about conversion plug-ins or screens filled with random glyphs. Moreover, he had constructed a Great Firewall up north, which shielded the empire from all barbarian attacks as well as pop-up ads.
These tasks had taken up decades of the emperor’s youth. With the world at peace, he needed to take a long, relaxing vacation and play some games, just like any ordinary citizen.
The news that the emperor was in search of quality games soon spread throughout the land and became the talk of every teahouse and tavern. Most greeted the news with joy because a good gamer made a good administrator. It was said that Zhang Yi, the great Qin strategist who had furthered the emperor’s ambition by sowing discord and suspicion among the other six states, thereby dissolving their anti-Qin “vertical alliance,” had adapted his line-breaking strategy from Candy Crush—swipe, match, gone! Back when Zhang had been a student, he had devoted all his free time to playing games instead of studying. Yet, look how far he had risen! Obviously, playing games taught important management skills.
However, a few nobles expressed reservations. They thought of games as addictive, cheap entertainment suitable only for plebeians. A great leader like the emperor should stay as far away from them as possible. Their suggestion for curing the emperor of this “electronic opium addiction” was electroshock therapy. The emperor soon declared the nobles guilty of attempted treason and sentenced them to capital punishment.

From then on, it's a romp. How would Civilization and its requirement that you should keep your subjects (reasonably) happy fare against someone who insists that subjects exist to entertain him? What about The Sims and the need to pay visits to your neighbors if you want to stay popular?

Go on. Find out. ;)

Then somebody please give this poor Qin Shihuang Planescape: Torment. What can change the nature of an emperor?

~ Chen Quifan's "Coming of the Light" is both hilarious and incisive in its insights of modernity:
That was when my phone rang.
It was Lao Xu. I glanced apologetically at my wife, who gave me her usual unhappy look when my work intruded on our time together—this was certainly not the first time. I answered the call, and that was how I ended up here, sitting in this room.
The last thing my wife said to me was, “Tell your mother to quit pestering me about a grandchild. Her son is such a pushover he might as well be a baby.”


Mr. Wan is our god, the CEO of an Internet company. Out of any ten random people who accost strangers in the streets of Zhongguancun—“China’s Silicon Valley”—one would be engaged in “network marketing,” two would be trying to hook you on pyramid schemes, three would be trying to talk to you about Jesus, and the rest would all be founders or C-whatever-Os of some startup.
But if you got these individuals to engage in one-on-one conversion bouts—time limited to three minutes—I’m sure the last group would achieve complete victory. They’re not interested in selling you a mere product, but an idea that would change the world. They’re not there to speak for some deity; they’re gods already.
Mr. Wan is just such a god.


What keeps this story from becoming a favorite is its abrupt, sad ending.

~ The essayistic vignettes in Chen Quifan's "A History of Future Illnesses" reminded my of David Eagleman's Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlife, only broader in scope and more ingenious. Some of them were scarily plausible too.

~ Regina Kanyu Wang's "A Brief Introduction to Chinese Science Fiction and Fandom" contains some astonishing information--at least astonishing to a member of a nation whose population is two hundred times smaller than the Chinese (as of our last census, there're about seven million people in Bulgaria) and whose history goes back (at most) half as much as that of China (if we discount the fact that for seven centuries, Bulgaria used to be subsumed by external empires--Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire).

To wit:
The first Chinese SF fan group appeared in Shanghai in 1980.

The first Bulgarian SF fan group appeared in Sofia in 1962.

Unfortunately none of [these early SF fandoms] exist today.

The oldest continuously surviving SF club in Bulgaria is Ivan Yefremov SF & Futurology Club in Sofia, which was founded in 1974. (If you're curious about its history, look for the forthcoming ФантАstika: Almanac of Bulgarian Speculative Fiction.)

China’s first fanzine was Nebula («星云»), edited by Yao Haijun from 1989 to 2007. During these years, forty issues were published. (...) Nebula played an extremely important role in the development of modern Chinese fandom, and even in the history of Chinese science fiction at large. It was the bridge between editors, writers, researchers, and readers. The peak circulation was more than 1,200 copies per issue.

Our oldest surviving fanzine is Tera Fantastika, established in 1999. Its peak circulation (which was also its first issue ;) ) was 500 copies. Its publication schedule is irregular, yielding a total of 19 issues until last year (2019).

New Realms of Fantasy and Science Fiction («新幻界») [an ezine] published thirty-two issues from 2009 to 2013, which seems like a miracle, since all the issues are of very high quality and could be downloaded online for free.

Our most longstanding ezine is Shadowdance, established in 2000. When it stopped using the issues format in 2012, it was at number 69. From then on, it has published articles--both short-form and long-form--plus the occasional short story at the rate of ten to twenty per month.

There is a bus theory describing Chinese SF fans. The fans’ love toward science fiction is just like taking a bus. When they are young, they get on the bus and start to read science fiction. When they grow older (and reach their destination), they stop to read it and get off the bus. It is true that the majority of the readers of Science Fiction World are middle school, high school, and university students. In comparison, adult fans read more foreign SF works, either in English or in Chinese translation.

In Bulgaria, it's precisely the opposite. The vast majority of fans who read Bulgarian SF (or are even aware such a beast exists) are adults. Younger readers are overwhelmingly exposed to translated SF.

There are dozens of projects in development, and we can certainly expect to see more Chinese science fiction movies in the coming years.

Ah, movies. :)

It's interesting, though: China has a relatively scarce SF literature, but its SF cinema is going strong--and getting stronger. Can this have something to do with the predominance of visual thinking over verbal thinking in the East? That's an old question that has been tickling my mind for more than half a decade now.
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Mon May 25, 2020 7:51 pm

И малко хулиганлък към горния отзив:

On Goodreads, Dolores wrote:Because of your excellent review I will be reading this book. I love strange connections so, *Salinger and the Koreans* is one I'm looking forward too as well as the one about the Chinese wall being built to keep the Bulgarians out. The short story form is one of my favorites. I read all of your reviews but I don't often comment because I'm a lazy writer.


Кал wrote:Haha ... the thing about the Great Wall of China and the old Bulgars was an in-joke; I suppose only Bulgarians will get what I'm poking fun at. ;)

But that doesn't lessen the value of the anthology in the least. Go ahead! :)
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Tue Jun 02, 2020 1:52 pm

My reviewlet of Djinn City:

Escape from Baghdad! this ain't. I'm jumping ship to The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday.

But not before leaving you with this tidbit:
“But how, you might ask, did the djinn evolve such a useful and unlikely ability? Which dread organ allows this ‘magic’? Which terrible forge was this… er, forged in?”
“I might ask,” Indelbed said, suppressing a groan. There were times of extreme boredom when he was half tempted to let loose the distortion field and have the swarm eat him, if only to enjoy a bit of peace.
“It is obvious that the djinn physically exist in two different planes of existence,” Givaras said. “The djinn are, in fact, made up of two different kinds of matter: the physical matter of this world and the dark matter of some other. The dark universe, I surmise, is one of more energy and less physical matter. Thus my body, and even your own, has some organs that are made of dark energy! Now isn’t that exciting?”
“Er, is it?” Indelbed let his creativity roam. “Do you think I have a dark penis? I mean another one?”
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:22 pm

My review of The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday:

Now we're talking. Hilarious, fast-paced, taking almost as many unexpected turns as Escape from Baghdad! Highly recommended.

My favorite moments:

~ This story starts with one p.o.'d djinn. But then ... who wouldn't be?
Four days later, he was still hobbling down the mountain, and getting progressively crabbier. His body was emaciated to the point of ridiculousness, and his distortion field wasn’t much better, a shriveled-up thing that could barely float him off the ground. He had killed a mountain goat and used its skin to make shoes, so now he smelled of rotten goat, which was further humiliation to a djinn of his address. Worse, the bits of the shroud he was using as a sarong were rotting off with each step, so that now half his mighty genitalia were flopping around in an ungainly way. He was, of course, endowed with the stature and girth befitting a king, but the cold mountain air and the god knows how many years of hibernation was bound to take a toll, wasn’t it? How was he supposed to ravage unsuspecting Humes in this kind of state? He was irritated enough to flatten mountains. Which he had done in the past, of course. Anyone remember the great peaks of Lemuria? Exactly. Those were the fucking days.


~ The lord meets his first proper underling:
“What do you want?” an annoyed, girlish voice piped down.
Melek Ahmar looked up and saw a giant banyan tree holding up the sky, with a little platform on it, from which dangled a pair of muddy bare feet, attached to a small black-haired teenager smoking a lumpy hand-rolled cigarette on the verge of falling apart.
“Lady,” Gurung said. He bowed deeply, and put a small offering of wild-grown tobacco at the root of the tree.
“My name is KPopRetroGirl,” she said. “You know, ’cos I like that retro K-pop shit.” She laughed at their puzzled faces and hummed a tune. “Just call me ReGi, okay?”
“I have no idea what that means,” Melek Ahmar said. “I am Melek Ahmar, Mars, the Red King, the Lord of Tuesday, the Wrecker of Mohenjo Daro, the Most August, the Most Beauteous . . .”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” ReGi said.
“You’ve heard of me, of course.”
“Not really. You’re the old guy that woke up. You upset the mountain goats.”
Old guy?” Melek Ahmar wasn’t enjoying this at all. He hated djinn kids, they were the worst. Back in the old days they used to hunt down those snotty little bastards and stuff them in jars.


~ The things men do for women:
“Well, woo her properly, for karma’s sake!” The brigadier lit up an illicit pipe and indicated that this was going to turn into a reminisce of days gone by. “Do you think your Aunty Brigadier just fell into my lap, a woman like that?”
“She must have been a rare catch,” Hamilcar said.
“Twenty suitors, each one richer than the next!” the brigadier said. “She was like Helen of Troy. Every morning the street under her balcony would be strewn with flowers. I wrote thirty-two poems to her, each one a masterpiece. When I got shot, dead on the cot in the middle of nowhere, she finally replied. One word: ‘Yes.’ A lady of brevity! Alas, if only that were true now. No, but that’s what it took to convince her.”
“You got shot?” Hamilcar asked.
“Training accident,” the brigadier said hurriedly. “Gun went off by mistake. (...)”


~ The following becomes a lot more terrifying when you squint and try to see what may have inspired it:
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“Doje’s game was the selling of people. Climate refugees, force-fitted with PMDs and sold off to the highest bidder, necessary to produce microclimates for towns and cities without enough people,” Hamilcar said. “Almost twenty thousand people trafficked in two months alone (...)”

Perhaps the excerpt doesn't provide enough context, so: In this future, people's nanotechnology lets everyone produce a healthy microclimate, to counter the wrecked global climate. So everyone can be seen as ... what?


~ The final boon that Melek Ahmar asks ... OMG! The guy's a true king, pure and simple. The King of Anarchy!!! :D
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Mon Jun 22, 2020 2:50 pm

My review of AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers:

Diverse and often breathtakingly well-written. So much so it makes me wonder if I should consider African SF part of non-English SF at all (and thus put it on my World SF shelf). None of the stories here included a translator credit.

Most memorable moments:

~ Ashley Jacobs's "New Mzansi" features numerous feats of description:

viewtopic.php?p=30540#p30540

I'm not sure I understood the good doctor's speech at the end, though.
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When he said,
“Let me ask you this, do you really think the Mula, as you scum call it, really only works for one year? A cure of mine that only works for one year? Ha! Saving your friend’s life here will change nothing; I don’t even think it would change one of you kids for the better.”

did he mean Lion's health problems had little to do with the Mula? Wasn't the whole story about the effects of not getting one's annual "dose" (haha) of the anti-HIV drug (uhuh)? Any help--considerately marked by a spoiler tag--would be appreciated.


~ Nick Wood's "Azania" contains this fascinating technique for dealing with pain:
The pain shreds my ear.
I close my eyes and isolate it. There is only one arrow. It is nine out of ten and ice cold, bright blue-white. I send my spirit to stroke it, warm it, but it cuts at my hands. I blow my warm breath onto it, steaming it red in my mind. My breath runs out. Blue it burns again.
I ask for help from grandfather, holding his rough-hewn sculpture, warm Shona stone, but all I hear is silence—the silence that leaks from vast and cold interstellar distances. We are alone here. Only the wind speaks, but in what a strange and empty tongue.
I stand and move before the pain burns too brightly, eyes open, anchoring my swaying body and shaking ankles with step-by-step focused visual cues, to help stabilise my proprioceptors.
There, door button, now press… root tendril designs, pick one, follow along the hall to She’s heart; ow, get up, get up, focus, follow and lean on that root, don’t lose sight, don’t think ahead, not of She; get up, damn it, again, same root, that’s it, ow, that’s it, up again, the root’s thickening, approaching CR, door button, press, collapse…
The floor is cold beneath my back.
I look upwards, feeling sick as my ear burns more and more. What on Earth is happening? No, not Earth; is that indeed the point?
Don’t fight it; it’s just one Buddhist arrow. No thoughts and emotions to make a second arrow, a second and deeper wound. Examine it; inspect it. This arrow is seven out of ten—steel grey, but pulsing blue. It’s only pain. It will shift; it will change. Everything does.
Eventually.


And this fascinating proof that modernity may change the expressions of our faith but can't (always) change our need for faith:
I take grandfather’s sculpture out of my baggy jacket pocket, stoop with bended knees and braced back, placing it carefully on the ground. It’s not a spirit or a person, not a totem or God—Grandfather Mapfumo prided himself on being a modern man—his grandfather before him driving regime change in Zimbabwe with Chimurenga music. Instead, it’s a Zanoosi, Zimbabwe’s first Eco-car, running on degraded organic waste, not someone else’s food, like maize. The car he helped design, which powers the Southern African Federation lion economy.


And this fascinating ending, which--trust me--I have not spoiled at all:
At the end of the line, Petrus breaks into a slow tai chi stepping motion, moving from a left bow stance. But his left arm is still anchored around Ezi. Down the line, we echo and ripple his motions, the line dipping and rising with the flow of movement.

(Because it makes sense only within its context.)

~ Tade Thompson's "Notes from Gethsemane" is nearly as intense and laconic as "Azania," although a little rushed toward the end. All in all, I was quite surprised to find two stories in a row that don't shy from testing their readers' SF erudition, our flexibility (or indeed neuroplasticity) when confronted with strange new environments.

~ I've already written about Chinelo Onwualo's "The Gift of Touch" in my review of The Apex Book of World SF 4. I still like it as much as then. :)

~ Interestingly, I've already read some of the stories here--at least two more--in the various Apex Books. Am I reaching the end of the line?

I wish. ;)

~ Sally Ann-Murray's "Terms & Conditions Apply" is superbly written:
Karl and I walk silently, single file, up the narrow flight into the D rogen premises. I wish. I wish he would say sorry. I wish he would take my hand like a real girlfriend. I wish he could love me. I wish he wasn’t Karl.
Wishing so hard (whack) I forget to duck near the top of the stairs, the overhang just before the waiting room.
“Always the same with you, hey. No pain no gain,” Karl laughs as I rub my forehead.
Can’t count how many times I’ve hit myself on that low blow beam. It’s like the certified idiot who designed this complex shrank into a dwarf near the end of the job or something. Bad as pack shrinkage, and that threadbare Chinese glam the Supers chuck out once a year from the back of the monster truck. The way we Regulars hop, skip, and jump, running like crazy rabbits even though most of the kit turns out to be way too small, even at a stretch, whether it’s one size fits all or supersized. XXL my foot. I’m skinny, been skinny since birth, and still it fits me too tight, that stuff, like suddenly I’m Mama Melons. That shit must’ve shrunk in the Supers’ whitewash, the way they aim to keep us weak as children.


“Then,” the Doctor summed up, “We will see what we will see!”
“In this phase of the experiment,” he said—Doolittle, Spock, Zhivago, Who, or Whatever. “We have a better idea of the prognosis (...)”

But it's so, so despairing. High literature at its lowest. :(

~ Mandisi Nkomo's "Heresy" is that rare type of dark satire that I actually enjoy. Maybe because it's completely over-the-top; or glaringly tongue-in-cheek. Something like Happy in TV shows or Escape from Baghdad! in literature.
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby frog » Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:13 pm

Относно този благотворителен списък viewtopic.php?p=30936#p30936
дадох на баба първата и последните три книги - тя поне през последната година обича за пътувания. Чапек засега ще го чета аз, макар че книжното тяло е грозновато и имам друго издание, но май не е лично мое, за съжаление.

За господин "Автомобил" (да живее излишното превеждане на имената...) и загадките на "града на Коперник" – Фромборк, си я оставих при мен засега, че дори я зачетох и МНОГО скоро ми стана интересна! Детективска история за 3-4 древни полски монети, намерени след хитлеристки грабежи на произведения на изкуството. Има и описание на монетите и ги гледам в интернет. Обичам монети! И не ме дразни как е написана, хубаво е. Малко странни решения има за превода/изказа на някои думи, но са бял кахър.
Книгата е от 1980 г., с твърди корици и ламинат, дето май е по-издръжлив от тоя на DS :twisted:
Чак почвам да се чудя да я давам ли наистина в Полския институт, м. му стара алчност... Една друга полска книга - детска, дето съм я намислила за комплекта за натам, не знам дали ще успея да я дочета. Хубава е, но стилът на автора и историите ме натоварват. Тя е от 1988 г. и ламинатът на твърдата корица е перфектен, като изключим, че е позахабена все пак. И е с бяла хартия...

Дневниците на Колумб се оказа, че ги имам в Добрич :?. А ако и Болеслав Прус пише добре, май ще зачета "Фараон" или "Еманципантки" - което изровя по-скоро. Може туй да ми е вратичката към историческите романи, които от години ги пренебрегвам – още от българската част на филологията. От конспекта имам и "Случаят Джем" на Вера М. за Джем бей и заради името ми е любопитно. Хм, преиздадена е от Жанет, може би е добра книгата.
О БО ЖА ВАМ СТА РИ КНИ ГИ
Бесовете ви чувам“ ~ Jane Eyre Grisel. I refuse to be there for you when you need me.

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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby frog » Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:52 am

Щях да питам при сравнително съвременни романи какъв е смисълът преди изчитането на главата да чета подзаглавието преразказ с елементи на обобщение?
Преди векове е било традиция, но предпочитам в книгата ми за монетите да изчитам обобщението след самата глава, за да не знам предварително какво се случва.

"Книга апокрифи" на Карел Чапек малко ме напряга, нищо че е малка. Като едносотранчиво упражнение по стил е - как са осъдили Прометей, разговаряйки като социалистически задръстеняци; как Терсит злослови напосоки в лагера на ахейците като долна черна станция, пак тип соц. А е от 1932 г. в оригинал.
Как двойка пещерняци мърморят срещу "модата" и драсканиците из пещерите. Как се сипят обвинения в Древна Елада, без да се вниква и да се издирват доводи за и против, изслушвайки и двете страни. Има още цели 25 историйки! Не знам как ще ги преживея.

Григор Ленков много хвали превода на Светомир Иванчев от 1968 г. (вкл. "лексикални ядра и синтактични обрати" + запазени стилистични пластове и регистри).
Бесовете ви чувам“ ~ Jane Eyre Grisel. I refuse to be there for you when you need me.

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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby frog » Thu Aug 20, 2020 4:15 pm

Четене на "Чифтоядите" на Павел Шрут и други чешки книги (не всички четат приятно). Настоявам на това заглавие. Буквата "ц" преводачът сигурно я е сложил от лична проклетия и езиков инат. За -ядец е писал Радичков и предпочитам тази форма да си остане там – в миналото.
https://soundcloud.com/user-959730883?f ... Q0bqx5ULXU
Разсеях се, докато слушах записа, после повторно се отнесох... Относно единичните чорапи:
Синьо и зелено - за луди нагласено.

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Не знам дали съм обсъждала колко са ми неестествени... неестествено образувани неологизми. Трябваха ми години да свикна с името на любимата ми закусвалня "Вкусотилница". Лъто ми бъркаше в мозъка. Това, че има дума "работилница", не значи, че и други думи могат да се правят от нея... Всъщност продуктивната наставка си е само -ница и се ползва в доста конкретно обосновани случаи, но... изпита по чешка лексикология не съм го полагала.

хлебар-ница
млекар-ница
месар-ница
колбасар-ница
сладкар-ница
баничар-ница
книжар-ница
цветар-ница
билкар-ница
грънчар-ница
ковач-ница
тъкач-ница
шивач-ница
книговез-ница
обущар-ница
бръснар-ница

бакър-джи-й-ница
тютюн-джи-й-ница
шкембе-джи-й-ница
сладолед-а-джи-й-ница
шекер-джи-й-ница
зарзават-чи-й-ница
бюрек-чи-й-ница - същия проблем като с вкусотилницата имах и с думата "бюрекчиЛница", която преди години на презентация в СУ използва един етнолог. There's no such word.

дърводел-ница
бакал-ница освен бакалия
мел-ница

дъскорез-ница
лечеб-ница
пив-ница
гостил-ница - да не би да е заради тази дума?! А, много мразя и превъзнесеното определение "прекрасница" за човек :x Категория чисто словоблудство.

Представете си думата "курабийница" да беше "курабилница" :roll:... По "аналога" вкусотия-курабия. It's just not the same. Образувани са по различен начин. Второто е заемка, първото е приозводно, или там както се нарича, тип прилагателно + съединителна гласна + (т)ия = чудесия, страхотия, бесотия, кривотия; тъпотия; немотия, бедНотия; тъмНотия. Всъщност не знам вкусотия от вкус ли е, или от вкусен. Речникът на БАН да си гледа работата, дето смята, че било вкусНотия. Но поне демонстрита, че думата идва от прилагателно.

"Работилница" и "гостилница" са отглаголни, hello! Или поне от други съществителни за вършители, но нямат нищо общо с прилагателни, както е в случая с, кхм, морфологията и етимологията на вкусотилницата.

Та тъй - всичките наопаки, а той, преводачът - на терсене - "чифтоядЕЦ" :(
Да не говорим, че не отговаря точно на оригиналното название, което означава, че тия същества ядат само по един чорап от чифт (а безсъвестните престъпни елементи омитат цял и окото им не мигва). Със същия успех можеше да е "чорапояд" – поне посочва, че ядат чорапи, а не чифтове. Когато имахме упражнение по чешки и на даскалицата ѝ беше хрумнало да превеждаме началото, специално съм мислила нова дума - примерно "чифтодел". Звучи малко дървено, но има потенциала за добра дума, май дори ми харесва ;)
Бесовете ви чувам“ ~ Jane Eyre Grisel. I refuse to be there for you when you need me.

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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Sat Sep 12, 2020 3:07 pm

My review of Sofia and the Utopia Machine:

The structure of this YA novel was unusually experimental, alternating a contemporary story with fairy tales and mythopoetry. I'm not sure I've seen anything like it; in fact, it reminded me a bit of my own "fragmentary" writing in the Tales of Heroes and Villains cycle.

My especial favorites:

~ I was awed by the intensity and cadence of "The Island and the Sea," the essay by Sofia's father:
(...) Rights and liberties are not simply icing on the cake of human life, but carry with them the full weight of duties and responsibilities. The right to act gives us a reason to care. If nothing we do will ever change the course of events, then we might as well fold our arms and let someone else do the rowing. And if you see a rock coming up in the distance and have your mouth sewn shut, then it is in your best interest to jump ship and hope to be marooned on some other shore.

Now, to what extent is the myth that we are perpetually on the brink of extinction true? To the extent that Singapore only coheres because of its success. If all there is to Singapore is economic success, then our leaders should be very, very worried indeed. The ruling party is not a party without legitimacy—the trouble is that it has ceased to derive its legitimacy from representation, but has slowly shifted its legitimacy onto the slippery sand of prosperity—(economic) progress, the dimmest star in the flag. Is economic success so chimerical? Can it really be there one day and gone the next? Yes, and yes! Singapore’s economy is very much a derivative of the world economy—it has little agency of its own (we are told this time and again by people paid vast amounts of money to control the “uncontrollable”, by their own admission). But since when has a nation—a real, solid nation and not a tax haven—ever based its identity, its very soul, on economic success alone? (...)

It also made me wonder how much of the ideas in the essay are based on real life, and still pertinent.

~ The imagery and language in Chapter 8 were breathtaking.

~ Here's to futures where science and spirituality come closer:
“(...) So now, more than a hundred years later, we have finally found a way to fuse religion and science, or at least, the human religious impulse and science.”

“Well, not all religion, surely,” interjected Father Lang. “The church has been squabbling within itself for two millennia now about science,” he sighed.

“Well, interestingly, it also goes the other way. A lot of religious squabbles can now be made redundant by science, in my opinion, if only you priestly people took a break from squabbling with Science. I don’t mean that God is merely psychological over-attribution at work, or anything so crude. I mean, for example, the long feud between Catholics and Protestants about purgatory. What if ‘purgatory’ is simply not a place, but outside time? So, if you assume a higher-than-four-dimensions God, which I assume is reasonable, then it wouldn’t matter if you prayed for your relative while she was alive or dead, because the supplication takes place outside time, yes? Or to put it in another way, surely God’s ears are outside time? Because to God every day is a thousand years, and so forth.

“And take the furore over transubstantiation, the classic excuse for wars and genocide. Now that we understand digestion, assimilation and furthermore, the shivonic theory of matter, is it any wonder that when you eat the same piece of bread as someone else, we have both a material and spiritual connection arising from the act? And, if continuous since the original Good Friday, doesn’t it make perfect sense that Christians are quite literally considered the body of Jesus of Nazareth (it having similar shivers to the ones Christ imbibed that night—or at least, a continuous chain of shivers)?”


~ Certain fairy-tale passages are particularly poetic:
One of the great Fragrancers of this age was said to have crushed and captured the scent of a single frond of fresh fern, bottling it like a butterfly in a molecule; another, the scent of the earth when it is struck by lightning. These and many rare smells were captured, from the depths of rare flowers to the scents that emanated from the land. But none came close to the Fragrance that filled the air, that was both green and gold, light as air and solemn as musk, redolent of youth as well as drunk with age—it seemed to speak in another language of a time before the first people, deeper than the darkness itself.
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:38 pm

Rachel Cordasco: SFT and the Awards

Here's the part that particularly resonates with my own impressions:
So if the majority of Hugo voters come from English-speaking countries and a large proportion of those who nominate on the Hugo Awards live in the USA, what we apparently have here is an award that calls itself a “World Award” that is voted on mainly by American readers. And American readers mostly read Anglophone (mostly American, British, Australian, and Canadian) SFF.

Hmmm.

I looked through the past winners of the Hugos going back to the beginning (1953) and found no translated works (as far as I could tell- let me know if I missed some) until 2015–the year that Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (tr. Ken Liu, Tor Books) won for “Best Novel” and Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” (tr. Lia Belt, Lightspeed) won for “Best Novelette.” Since then, Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” (tr. Ken Liu, Uncanny Magazine) has won for “Best Novelette” in 2016 and Liu’s Death’s End has been a finalist in the “Best Novel” category in 2017. Nothing since then.

Meanwhile, 2017 was one of the best years for SFT ever (so far). Sixty novels, 13 collections, 4 anthologies, and 71 short-form works were published in English by such places as New Directions, Open Letter, Indiana UP, NYRB, Dalkey Archive, Yale UP, Orbit, Haikasoru, Knopf, Wakefield Press, Deep Vellum, Clarkesworld Magazine, Samovar Magazine, World Literature Today, Weird Fiction Review, The Dark, and many more.

Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

(...) This takes me to the World Fantasy Award, a prize that has the word “World” in its very title. I wrote a little post back in 2017 about the seeming contradiction between calling yourself a world award and reflecting very little of said world. I found 2 SFT novel winners, 1 collection winner, 1 novella winner, and 4 Lifetime Achievement winners (Borges in 1979, Calvino in 1982, Angélica Gorodischer in 2011, and Sapkowski in 2016), as well as a few finalists, between 1979 and 2016. As they say in Russia, bozhe moy.
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby frog » Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:19 pm

Снощи заради Еврокона след него се чудех какво да чета и захванах Андерсенови 5 приказки на полски - едно тънко книжле. Първата е за Снежната кралица. Прочетох 2-3 страници на глас, преди тотално да се просна да спя.
Не беше много лесно, но така са построени изреченията, че човек, ако знае как да чете буквите и специфичните буквени комбинации, може да се справи сравнително гладко, като изключим някои поредици от шушкави-съскави-не знам си какви още съгласни, дето... ум ми не зайде, но ме заболяха устата и гърлото. Също така смятам, че почти всичко се разбира не само защото аз го разбирам и знам историята.
Да не говорим и как се произнася dotarw (достигнал; накрая сложих английската буква, за да не търся полското "пресечено" твърдо л). Или zabwyswy... (заискриха) :shock: сwишАwеш :( (2 л. чу).

Един забавен момент, когато Кай се уплашва, след като кралицата го отвлича - приискало му се да каже молитвата "Отче наш", но си спомнил само таблицата за умножение!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Бесовете ви чувам“ ~ Jane Eyre Grisel. I refuse to be there for you when you need me.

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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Mon Oct 12, 2020 1:10 pm

My reviewlet of Un universo en el que no nos extinguimos | A Timeline in Which We Don't Go Extinct:

The concept is fascinating on at least two counts: First, we do need more bilingual (or even polylingual) editions if we are to build more bridges between the cultures of the world. Second, the use of interactive fiction techniques in the online version of the anthology adds a whiff of fresh air to the experience. Over the past decade, I've realized that more and more readers will require at least a modicum of interactivity in their reading.

I'm not finishing it only because the very short format of the fiction pieces doesn't work for me. Flash fiction needs to pack a LOT of flash in order to leave me with a lasting impression.

Some translations need more polishing too.

But all in all it is a very worthy effort. I'm looking forward to the next installments.
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Re: International (non-English) speculative fiction

Postby Кал » Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:08 pm

My review of The Ship Whisperer:

Although the science in this stories sounds excellent, I couldn't connect to most of the characters. Perhaps the author explains why best in the intro to "The Ship Whisperer":
Icarus Caille is, in a way, the embodiment of my favorite type of protagonist: socially awkward, more comfortable with non-human company, and dedicated to peace to the extent of… well, you’ll see. On the other hand, it’s also fun to write more socially savvy characters such as the protagonist of “All The Smells in The World”, Klaus Voort in “Reset in Peace” or Anton Jasmine Gaillard in “We Shadows”. Yet even they are set apart from most of society—be it by their profession, the need for secrecy, newly acquired quirks or nature that would seem almost alien to most other humans.

Perhaps it’s the strange and anomalous where I fare best (and it’s up to you to decide whether it’s a weakness or a strength); perhaps I just like pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human.


(I should note I, too, like exploring what it means to be human--and become more; in fact, we founded the entire Human Library on that urge. It just seems that Julie and I explore in very different directions.)

I liked:

"Etude for an Extraordinary Mind"

"Dreaming up the Future"

"We Shadows"

"The Ship Whisperer"

And the intro to "Martian Fever," which makes us think about how far and how broadly we can think:
Late September 2016, the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. That’s where the following story ultimately originated. I was lucky to be one of a small group of European students selected by ESA for a scholarship to attend the congress. That year’s IAC is most remembered for Elon Musk’s pledge to bring humans to Mars in the 2020s and settle the Red Planet permanently.

However, one of the problems that had been completely omitted from the talk was planetary protection. Basically, once humans step on Mars, planetary protection—in this case avoiding contamination of other celestial bodies by Earth microbes—is screwed. Humans are walking canisters of microorganisms, a fact that can hardly be changed—we need them to survive. Unless we want to imagine cultivating microbe-free astronauts (sickly and hardly fit for a demanding interplanetary journey), we will contaminate Mars once we land a human crew there. Whatever precautions we take, however many airlocks—you can never achieve a 100% sterilization.

However: Does it matter? Earth and Mars have been constantly exchanging material through natural means (meteorites shot from their respective surfaces by impacts). Besides, we’ve crashed so many poorly sterilized probes on the surface of Mars that some contaminants must have gotten there already. If they could survive is another question, one that many labs working with analog Martian conditions are trying to answer.

You may also be asking why does it matter. Even if some especially well-suited Earth microorganisms could survive in some areas of Mars, why shouldn’t they? Even the simplest answer is twofold: First, they could potentially endanger any extant life (by outcompeting or accidentally “poisoning” it in some way rather than acting like a parasite that’s magically adapted to a type of life it’s never met before), and second, even if they did not survive under Martian conditions, their presence could lead to false positives in life detection by scientific missions—something that could gravely complicate our scientific understanding of Mars and let us spend millions of euros or dollars in vain.

For a more detailed popular science summary of the problem, I’ll direct you to my Clarkesworld article “Bugs from Outer Space & Invasive Earth: Planetary Protection”.
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