In the first of a series of blog posts by reviewers, editors and others working in the field of translated speculative fiction, Samovar advisory board member Rachel Cordasco tells us more about her work and her site SF in Translation.
Learning about speculative fiction in translation, for me, was like working at an excavation site: once I started digging, I couldn’t stop. The more I discovered, the more I wanted to discover.
Despite many years of reading and studying literature, I knew almost nothing about international speculative fiction. I had, however, been reading a lot of novels in translation (both "classic" and contemporary works) and was especially interested in the relationship among writers, translators, and readers. After all, my favorite writer, Thomas Mann, has only been available to me because of his talented translators.
I’ve always been especially fond of speculative fiction (especially sci-fi), and when I started writing for John DeNardo’s SF Signal a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu for review purposes. From there, I wondered what other works of sf in translation I could lay my hands on (and if there was much out there at all). Pretty soon, John was sending me more sf in translation and helping me connect with the relevant publishers, authors, and translators.
I started doing some research online, and found an entire world of SFT that I hadn’t imagined. Authors, editors, translators, publishers, and critics had been producing and promoting these books for years. Critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan, in particular, has been a major force in this realm, producing (with Karen Burnham) a podcast series called "Small Blue Planet" in 2013 that focused on world sf (mostly translations), and creating the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards (2009-2014) (the site is a veritable treasure trove). Writer and editor Lavie Tidhar started the World SF blog (2009-2013) to promote the Apex Book of World SF series and offer readers fascinating interviews and articles about SFT. Clarkesworld Magazine started regularly publishing works of Chinese sf with the help of the very talented writer and translator Ken Liu, while Strange Horizons devoted an entire recent issue to Spanish SFT. Some quick searches online opened up this entire world to me, and I wanted to know more.
Imagine, then, my excitement when I realized that I had an opportunity to start the first (as far as I know!) site in English completely devoted to discovering and promoting (and even publishing) SFT. In my research, I found several blogs/sites that focus on SFT from specific geographical areas, as well as SFT magazines that have unfortunately come and gone over the previous few decades (including International Speculative Fiction, edited by Roberto Mendes). I started sfintranslation.com to document and promote SFT, both old and new, and I’ve had a ton of support from editors, authors, translators, and publishers around the world.
You can guess how excited I was when Sarah Dodd contacted me about the launch of Samovar, a new magazine devoted to SFT. With a magazine like this, more and more readers in America and around the world will be able to learn about this rich and exciting world. Some of the best novels and stories I’ve ever read in my life have been works of speculative fiction translated into English, and I treasure the worlds that they’ve opened to me.
I maintain sfintranslation.com out of the sheer joy of it, in between chasing three crazy kids and trying to keep my household in some sort of working order. Every day, I read the books that I’ve purchased or that publishers have sent me while my youngest takes her nap, and I write my reviews and posts at night (like I’m doing now). I hope to continue adding to this site and am always open to guest essays and reviews, as well as original works of flash SFT. Expect a lot of coverage of Samovar on the SFT site, because if we want publications like this to prosper, we need to show our support. I’m excited to be involved!