A readers’ pick of favorites, so much new and diverse (5/5)
The first collection of Japanese speculative fiction—before speculative fiction was a nomenclature—was back in 1989: Martin H. Greenberg and John L. Apostolou’s The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (which was entirely translated by Grania Davis and Judith Merril). Eight years had to pass before it was republished in 1997 without any new material added. The world would have to wait another decade for another collection to materialize in order to sate the appetites of readers who like speculative Japanese fiction.
In 2007, Kurodahan Press released Speculative Japan (edited by Gene van Troyer and Grania Davis), which includes five stories from the former collection. Kurodahan’s collection had ten new stories and opened a door of fascination to the microcosm of speculative literature in
. Out of
the total fifteen stories, I loved eight of them so much I gave them five
stars; each had a story, an impact, and a depth that left the mind tingling. Japan
Teasingly, Kurodahan took four years to release the second book in the now running series: Speculative Fiction 2 (2011). With this collection, all thirteen stories had never before been published and all but one author had never before been included in either of the prior publications (Shinji Kajio is in both of Kurodahan’s collections). That means there are twelve new authors! And as a bonus, each story is translated by a different translator, too. This gives the collection a broad range of content via the authors and style via the translators.
With Speculative Fiction 2, though I haven’t been as generous with the 5-star ratings as with the first collection, you really can’t fault the collection for having (in my opinion) only two under-4-star stories. My three favorites are (1) Issui Ogawa’s “Old Vohl’s Planet” for its combination of hard science with alien identity and a human message; (2) Shinji Kajio’s “Emanon: A Reminiscence” for its speculative shattering of the emotional barrier of what could be to what should have been; and (3) Yasumi Kobayashi’s “The Man Who Watched the Sea” for its combination of the other two stories: hard science, love, and endurance.
If you’re an eager reader of similar stories, then you’ll be satisfied to know that Speculative
3 was published in 2012…
with more on the way, as Edward Lipsett, one of the founding members of
Kurodahan Press, has told me. I actually emailed him last year requesting
translated Japanese fiction in exchange for honest reviews. Bless his heart, he
sent me a boxful of booty which I am now only beginning to finish amid all of
my other reading. If you’d like to review a copy of any of Kurodahan’s
publications, just shoot him a message; I’m sure he’ll be receptive and
Aside: All of these stories were individually reviewed and analyzed at other blog Tongues of Speculation and there on SF Potpourri they are collected. That's why this post is about 5,400 words long.