Gardner Dozois’s annual Years Best Science Fiction has now been released: it contains my Hugo and Locus finalist and Nebula Award winner “The Waiting Stars”, as well as stories by the likes of Nancy Kress, Alastair Reynolds, Lavie Tidhar, Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald and Ken Liu… I always find those collections worth reading, especially since I no longer keep up with short fiction markets quite as much, and Dozois’s summation of the state of the field always makes for fascinating reading.
I’m not going to do an ultra long post, because if you’re a reader of this blog you already know how I feel about the imbalance between Anglophone authors, who get massively translated into other languages, and non-Anglophone authors, who have a much harder time making it into English print…
However, Benjamin Rosenbaum rightfully reminded me that I could do my part to redress this imbalance , and I would like to make the same offer he does (except in different languages). Cribbing from his blog post:
Do you like my stuff? Have you read (or written) a short story in your own (or another) language which you think is a) totally awesome and b) very much of my sensibility? Does it have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting translated into English, and you don’t quite have the chops to get it right yourself? Is it under 7000 words, and previously published in a paying, prestigious, or otherwise gate-kept market in the source market (i.e., not slush)?
How about we collaborate?
If the source language is French, you can pretty much turn it over to me. If it’s Spanish, I can probably read it, but I’m going to need a bunch of help with understanding nuance. (if it’s Vietnamese, I’ll recognise some words but that’s about it ) I’m willing to tackle other languages, too; but really, for anything other than French and possibly Spanish, you’ll need to prepare a basic, literal, raw translation into English. It doesn’t have to sing, it can be full of question marks and notes; or it can be almost done — really, your version — and all you need is a hand with English nuance and euphony.
I have to like the story, which means you might send me it and I might say “sorry, I can’t get into this one.”
You handle the rights on your end — contacting the author and making sure they’re cool with the idea. I’ll try and sell the translation in an English market. The original author gets half and we split the other half — or whatever else seems reasonable. Or if you already know a publisher, that’s cool too. (I would waive my cut only for a noncommercial project) Or we blog it, go indie, whatever you like.
Edited to Add: One interesting thing about trying to fight an injustice in a complex oppressive society is that complex oppressive societies are good at pitting groups against one another, so that by allying yourself with one you always have to be careful not to squash another (hello intersectionality!)
Another group that the 3% thing sucks for are professional translators into English, and it’s been pointed out in the comments that it’s not the right symbolic gesture to imply that translation should be done for free. So Ben revised his offer to remove that; I’m doing the same.
I’m not a professional translator; even in French, I’m no more than a dilettante translator, and in any other language, I’m not even that! I’m willing to translate on spec, for a portion of the profits of any eventual sale, because I see this as an opportunity to collaborate rather than a service for which I’m charging a fee. But in solidarity with professional translators, I will expect us to divide up any profits in a way that makes sense given the labor done (my general assumption would be that my cut would be 25% of sales of the translation, maybe 33% for French/Spanish).
I’m not an editor, and this is not a market: I cannot promise a sale. This is an offer of collaboration.
I’m committing to do one of these, in the next 12 months. And I’ll probably continue after that.
A FAIR WARNING HOWEVER: I’m completely underwater for the coming year, so while I’m quite willing to translate for you, I can’t guarantee a fair turn of speed–you’ll have to put up with a bit of… slow answers from me, I’m afraid (novel plus snakelet plus work plus other commitments add up to a busy busy bee on this end).
Helping translate one story a year is obviously a tiny, symbolic gesture. But I expect it to be fun, and possibly to be useful. Maybe it can help someone break into the Anglophone market.
I’d like to see more authors do this. I’d like to see us in the English speaking world make translation a regular part of our literary practice, the way it is for authors most other places. It’s interesting, it’s invigorating, and it’s only right. You don’t have to be a specialized translator. You could just do one a year. Why not?
Other authors writing in English (especially but not limited to those who speak other languages): are you interested in this issue too? Want to join me? Comment below!
If you are an author or potential collaborator from the non-Anglophone world:
- Find a story you think we should translate.
- The story must be under 7000 words and previously published in a significant market.
- You should specifically think that it is a fit for me because of what I write, rather than just “hey I heard there’s a guy who will translate stuff on spec”.
- If you didn’t write it yourself, secure the rights: contact the author, see if they agree to us translating it on spec, on whatever terms.
- Contact me in comments here, on facebook/twitter/email etc., and tell me:
- about the story in brief
- where it was previously published
- why you think I’m specifically the right person to help translate it
- why you’re the right person to help (if you wrote the story, that’s why)
- what rights deal you’ve decided on
- how to contact you.
- If the story is in French or Spanish, you can just send it to me as is (if it’s in Spanish I will need quite a bit of help from you for nuance, and I might possibly get back to you and ask for a rough translation). Otherwise I will need a rough literal translation into English for starters, and we will be working together closely.
If you’re Anglophone and would like to join in:
Say what languages you can read in, and what lengths, terms, etc., you’d be willing to handle, and how to contact you.
Enjoy the richness of the world beyond the narrow confines of English.
Gentlepersons, start your literary engines.
Any signal boosting much appreciated, thanks in advance!
ETA: corrected the payment terms as I don’t want to suggest translation is invisible work that’s hardly worth the money Translators do a vital (and often unrecognised and under-appreciated) job; while I’m quite happy to donate some of my time here, I don’t want people to get the idea no payment is a standard thing (see Edward Gauvin’s comments below, at my original blog post).
Wow, it’s that time of year again (seriously, where did 2013 go?). I didn’t publish a whole lot in 2013: my favourite piece is “The Waiting Stars”, which originally appeared in Athena Andreadis’s and Kay Holt’s The Other Half of the Sky (published in April 2013). It was picked for Gardner Dozois in his Year’s Best, recommended by Ken Liu and Ada Hoffman (and singled out for praise by Rich Horton in his Locus review). It’s my Xuya space opera story, which has killer drones, signal processing and a lot of mindships
You can find it online here, and also in EPUB, MOBI (Kindle) and PDF format (if you need DOC or RTF, drop me a line via the contact form, and I’ll be quite happy to provide a copy. I just am not a big fan of putting Word formats online–too easy to modify them by mistake…). It’s eligible for the Hugos and Nebulas (in the novelette category), and for the BSFA Awards as well.
Now for the less selfish part of this post: the stuff I really liked from last year (a fair warning that a lot of the people involved are acquaintances or friends–that said, I wouldn’t recommend their stories if I didn’t genuinely like them and think them award worthy).
-“Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Clarkesworld December 2013. A woman comes back from the dead to deal with her former spouse. Awesome world building, crunchy thoughts on history and the manipulation of public and private record, and tantalising hints of a larger gender fluid society. I’m jealous.
-”Of Alternate Adventures and Memory” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Clarkesworld December 2013. The son of a former metal woman returns to the city of her birth, and must decide what to do with his inheritance. I was surprised this was a short story, because reading it I thought this was much longer: there’s so much packed into–thoughts on difference, on memory, on what is worth preserving. And as always, gorgeous prose.
-“The Knight of Chains, The Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee. OK, so it’s always hard to pick a favourite Yoon Ha Lee story, but this was the one that most blew me away this year. I had the privilege of writing the introduction to the short story collection Conservation of Shadows, and regret that this wasn’t included in it. In a tower that holds all the games in the world, a woman who was once admiral in an unwinnable war comes to defy the Guardian for the ultimate game… Gorgeous prose, sharp observations and great ideas.
EDIT: -”Balik Kampung” by Zen Cho (in Solaris’s The End of the Road, available from Zen if you request it) is a beautiful tale of ghosts in modern-day Malaysia, New Year’s Eve and returning home.
-“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu, Lightspeed Magazine, August 2013. Pretty sure Ken will be on the ballot without my signal boosting, but I really liked this story of an Ancient Chinese litigation master, his relation with the legendary Monkey King, and the suppression and preservation of historical record.
-Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2013. You know that feeling you get when you read a fantasy book? That crunchy feeling that it’s a real place that happens to look nothing like our world? Truslow nails it from the get go. That it’s a story about gender and gender fluidity–and festivals, and gods–only makes it more appealing.
EDIT: -”Yseul’s Lexicon” by Yoon Ha Lee (published in her collection Conservation of Shadows): magic, language and the cost of erasure. Awesome.
-“Burning Girls” by Veronica Schanoes. Found out about this one too late for the Nebulas, so it’s fortunate it got on the final ballot without me. A great tale of immigration, family and dangerous pacts with demons, all steeped in vivid period detail.
-The Bone Flower Throne, by T.L. Morganfield, Panverse Publishing. T.L. Morganfield brilliantly brings to life Ancient Mexico in Toltec times, in a brilliant retelling of the myth of Quetzalcoatl that focuses on his sister. This reads like Mists of Avalon in Ancient Mexico: I love the focus on women and on what they have to do to survive, and the characters are very strongly drawn (TW for incest though–hardly avoidable as it’s in the original myth…).
Best Editor (Short Form)
-Jon Oliver, for his work as editor of the Solaris anthologies. For once that Worldcon is in the UK, I think it’d be awesome if more UK editors were recognised. Solaris puts out great books, and Jon is very good at putting together cutting-edge and diverse anthologies like The End of the Road.
Benjanun Sriduangkaew. She’s burst all over the SFF scene this year, with stories in BCS, Clarkesworld and various anthologies, and I really think she deserves a Campbell nomination. Her universes are intricate looks at gender fluidity and gender roles; her prose makes me ultra jealous; and I’m so looking forward to the day when she releases a longer work (I understand there’s a space opera novella in the works, so maybe I don’t have to wait quite so long!). Stories of hers worth reading: I already mentioned “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade”, but if fantasy is more your thing, her “The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate” was absolutely awesome. And her “The Bees Her Heart, the Hives Her Belly” (not available online at the moment, you’ll have to buy Clorkwork Phoenix 4) was a reviewer favourite this year.
-The awesome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and her sister interview Benjanun Sriduankaew:
I think of short stories as presenting a question, even if it’s something as simple as ‘how will the characters get what they want?’ It’s my hope that readers will be engaged by that question even if the story isn’t presenting a direct answer – so that’s what I hope they take away: a question. But I also hope to excite a sense of wonder and a sympathetic interest, when possible.
Read more here (and fully concur with the reminder that Benjanun’s eligible for a well-deserved Campbell Award for Best New Writer next year at Loncon3!)
Ok, so I’m biased because I wrote the preface for this, but you can now buy the e-edition of Djibril al-Ayad and Fabio Fernandes’s We See a Different Frontier here on amazon.
(I admit I’m not a big fan of the cover, but that’s my personal opinion, and the fiction collected in the antho itself is well worth a closer look)
The anthology collects SFF from the point of view of people outside the usual SFF hegemony, with countries such as Brazil, Singapore, the Philippines, etc.; and writers such as Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Joyce Chng and Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Stories focus on imperialism, the difficulties of navigating a postcolonial history and of being the silenced voices on the world scene–it’s a very chewy, fertile terrain in which to plant fiction, and by and large this is a stunning anthology. The stories I loved most were Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “What Really Happened in Ficandula”, an angry tale of retribution and revenge that stretches across generations, Dinesh Rao’s “Bridge of Words”, an elegiac story about diaspora and losing one’s language, and Benjanun Sriduankaew’s splendid “Vector”, about the rewriting of history and the fight of the oppressed to impose their own voices over those of their oppressors.
Do give it a try. It’s a great read, and it’s stuff that needs to be tackled in SFF.
-Fundraiser for Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, this promises to feature people forgotten from “official” histories. Writers will include Ken Liu, Amal El-Mohtar, Nnedi Okorafor, Nisi Shawl… and me. Please donate to make it possible! 
-Zen Cho on Malaysian SFF in English. Lots of fascinating-looking writers in there.
 Incidentally, I find it amusing that the theme of “forgotten history” or “rewritten history” drives this anthology, as much as it drove my latest Clarkesworld story.
Just thought I’d repost this here if you have anything you can spare: Singaporean SFF writer Joyce Chng (J. Damask) is going through a bit of a sticky pass at the moment due to repeated hospitalisation of the family cat on top of other health issues. If you have a moment and want to buy books and/or swag, please head here.
Any signal boosts much, much appreciated.
Just a quick reminder that the Nebula nomination period ends Feb 15th: if you haven’t gotten your nominations in, now is the time!
My awards eligibility/recommendations post is here. I would add to those short stories already listed:
- Zen Cho’s “First Witch of Damansara”, a really funny and poignant story of culture clashes, wedding dresses and vampire grandmothers (published in E. Sedia’s anthology Bloody Fabulous, contact Zen directly for a copy; it’s well worth a read)
- Rose Lemberg’s “Seven Losses of Na Re”, about persecution, the loss of languages and relatives–which just made me cry
Still hunting around for good novellas, if anyone has any–my ballot is very empty on that front…
The Locus Recommended Reading List for 2012 is out: many, many familiar names on that list (very happy to see Lavie Tidhar, Vandana Singh, and anthologies like AfroSF, Robots: The Recent AI, The Future is Japanese and Breaking the Bow on the list of recommended materials). I’m also on it for my two Clarkesworld stories “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” and “Immersion”, and for my novella On a Red Station, Drifting (which is mentioned by both Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois).
The February issue of Locus also contains Rich Horton’s review of that selfsame novella:
I recently saw two very strong novellas that might be easy to miss. Aliette de Bodard’s On a Red Station, Drifting, is another in her Xuya alternate history, in which the Chinese and Mexica (i.e. Axtecs) have become great space-based powers. Several recent stories have been set in a colonized galaxy and on space stations, some controlled by the Dai Viet. This one is set on a remote station, Prosper, controlled by an obscure branch of a powerful family, and run by a Mind, who is also one of the family’s ancestors. To this station comes Linh, a cousin, fleeing an uprising against the Emperor. Linh has spoken out against the Emperor for his failure to confront the rebels, and so is potentially a traitor, and is also racked with guilt for leaving her previous post under threat. Quyen is the leader of Prosper, but is not confident in her abilities, and also worried that the station’s Mind seems to be decaying. All this seems to portend disaster, amid small betrayals and slights between everyone involved. The authentically (to my eyes) non-Western background powerfully shapes an original and ambitious tale.
Which is pretty, er, nice with a side of awesome? Speaking of which, if you don’t feel like ordering the hardback of the novella, can I point out that you can get an exclusive ebook copy by donating $100 or more to the World SF Travel Fund?
Either way, we’re 60% funded and could use some help meeting our goals, in order to send awesome writers Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Csilla Kleinheincz to World Fantasy 2013. Go check us out; and spread the word!
Still in the spirit of signal-boosting…
The World SF Travel Fund (whose Board I’m a member of) is seeking funds to send BSFA Award Nominee Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Hungarian-Vietnamese writer Csilla Kleinheincz to World Fantasy 2013 in Brighton. I’m going to keep this brief, but if you read this blog you’re surely aware of how much imbalance there is in the field between Western Anglophone writers and the rest of the world. The World SF Travel Fund aims to bridge some of that gap by enabling more non-Anglo writers to come to major Anglo cons. The first recipient was Charles Tan from the Philippines, who travelled to the US for World Fantasy Con, and in 2012 the Fund helped Swedish authors Nene Ormes and Karin Tidbeck travel to Toronto for the same convention. If you’d like to contribute to this effort, please go donate here.
(if you could signal-boost this as well, this would be much appreciated)