The OF Blog: International spec fic news of interest

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

International spec fic news of interest

There are two items that I wanted to make readers aware of today.  The first I suspect many who follow Locus and other SF/F sites will know; the second very few Anglophones will have heard about, but which may potentially see a major expansion of Lusophone SF/F.

I held off blogging about The Weird winning the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology on Sunday because I wanted to wait to see what the editors, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, would have to say about The Weird's much-deserved win.  Jeff makes a very good point early in his post when he says:

But there were things I had wanted to say, including that we’re incredibly humbled and grateful to receive this honor. And that one aspect of The Weird that we find incredibly important is the inclusion of many stories from around the world, not just the English-speaking world. In this sense, the selection of The Weird — along with such wins as Eric Lane for Dedalus translations and Lavie Tidhar for best novel — speaks eloquently, if insufficiently, to the “world” nature of fantastical fiction.** 

 **I say insufficiently because of course there is so much more out there — a richness, a wealth, of weird fiction, of fantasy, around the world, and because a World Fantasy Award must live up to its name and to do so may have to abandon old, time-honored symbols, too. I have some thoughts on this that must wait until a later post. 

 The Weird, for me, is a groundbreaking anthology not just because it contains a century's worth of excellent weird fictions of all stripes, but because of the time and care the VanderMeers put into making sure that voices from all across the world, not just the Anglophone countries, were included.  There were several outstanding translations that were commissioned for the anthology, in particular Gio Clairval's translations of Dino Buzzati's "The Colomber" (Italian), Julio Cortázar's "Axolotl" (Spanish), and Michel Bernanos' "The Other Side of the Mountain" (French). (I do have a translation that appears within, but I defer to her translations as well as others by Brendan and Anna Connell, Martha Tennet, among others).

Translation is vital for transnational communications and the lauding of Eric Lane for his Dedalus translation (Dedalus, along with Dalkey Archive do yeoman's work in bringing quality fictions, including speculative fictions, into English translation) is a step in the right direction in terms of recognizing the importance translators have in bridging cultural divides.  Thus it was very good to learn that works with an international bent or written by a non-Anglo-American (Tidhar's Osama) were recognized at this year's World Fantasy Awards.

But there's a troubling undercurrent to this, however.  Excellent as these award wins are in showcasing non-Anglo-American works of fiction, the reality is that in most non-English speaking countries (the East Asian countries being a partial exception, along with some European markets), native SF/F has to fight for shelf space against the massive number of translated-from-English SF/F fictions that fill most book shelves.  Those familiar with this blog know that in the past I have promoted authors published in Brazil, Portugal, and Spain when I have stumbled across (or have been offered review copies) Spanish- or Portuguese-language works of speculative fiction.    It is my belief that some of these "emerging markets" are producing some fictions that rival or even surpass those produced by Anglo-American writers:  the Brazilian steampunk community (along with some from Portugal who have appeared in bi-national anthologies) has produced some steampunk fictions that are edgier and which make stronger social statements than many of their Anglo-American counterparts.

Recently, I was offered two books by the Brazilian publisher Terracota.  The first, a collection by the pseudonymous writer Bronteps Baruq, O grito do sol sobre a cabeça (The Cry of the Sun Overhead is perhaps one way of translating the title) plan on reviewing later this month after I finish reviewing the 2012 National Book Award finalists.  It is an intriguing collection that combines elements of SF and weird fiction; I plan on re-reading it in the next week or so before writing the review.  The second book, Petê Rissatti's Réquiem:  sonhos proibidos (or Requiem:  Prohibited Dreams if the title is translated into English), which I haven't yet had time to read, seems to be a sort of psychological totalitarian dystopia based on my understanding of the blurb.  I will also be reviewing this in the future.

But the bigger news that I heard earlier today concerns the Portuguese SF/F publisher Saída de Emergência.  I have for nearly three years been impressed with some of the writers that they have published.  I have reviewed some of David Soares' fictions here and in a guest post for Locus Online, plus I plan on writing a review in the next week or two of the Luis Filipe Silva-edited Os Anos de Ouro da Pulp Fiction Portuguesa:  Os Melhores Contos do Sec. XX, which was one of the more involved literary forgeries/pulp fiction homages that I have read.  Saída de Emergência produces quality work, so I was elated to learn that they are now partnering with the Brazil branch of Tinta-da-China so that their catalog of both original and translated fictions will be published in Brazil beginning in  2013.  This is very big for both Brazilian and Portuguese writers (as well as the two publishers) because this allows for more works to be available in both countries, potentially opening up a much wider Lusophone-reading audience to works being produced by writers from the two countries.  For North American readers such as myself, it also opens up the possibility of easier imports via some of the Brazilian online retailers (Livaria Cultura being one such site I use for purchasing Brazilian fiction).  It is to be hoped that this move will make more readers, Lusophone, Anglophone, or other, aware of what is being produced.

Hopefully, developments such as this will have two effects:  1) The encouragement of non-Anglophone writers, particularly in a large country such as Brazil, to continue writing in Portuguese, and 2) that increased sales would encourage more Anglo-American publishers to take chances on translating speculative fictions into English, thus enriching other national readerships.  Very curious to see what the future will bring, but news such as this makes me slightly more optimistic.

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