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Thursday, March 11, 2010

An Overview of International Science Fiction/Fantasy in 2009

Compiled by Jeff VanderMeer



Although my year's best selections included some international fiction, I thought it would be of use to compile a few "core samples" of work mostly in other languages that my contacts found of particular interest in 2009. Except for the books from places like Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines, these titles are not yet available in English. It's worth noting, too, that the term "International Fiction" or "World SF" requires further specificity of detail, in the sense that some countries have a stronger tradition of supporting non-realistic fiction than others. In addition, some countries have a stronger tradition of supporting their own authors than others. (For example, the Russian books noted represent just a fraction of Russian authors published there.)

I would also note that this is of necessity a haphazard sample — some of my queries went unanswered and some people did not have time to compile lists. Still, an incomplete overview is better than no overview at all. My thanks to all the respondents and to Cheryl Morgan and Lavie Tidhar for their help with intel. —Jeff


Australia, recommended by writer Deborah Biancotti and editor Alisa Krasnostein

Slice of Life, Paul Haines, pub. The Mayne Press
— The cover says it all: a man digging into his own side with a knife. If you've never read Haines before, then brace yourself. This book features 17 stories "from the decaying mind" (to quote the blurb) of one of the country's creepiest writers. All proceeds go to Haines' cancer fund.




Slights, Kaaron Warren, pub. Angry Robot
— Kaaron Warren's debut novel from Angry Robot is getting rave reviews all over the place, so you may have heard about it already. But in case you haven't: Stephanie goes to hell and finds it full of people she's slighted. But that's not the worst of it. In other good news, Warren has two MORE (stand-alone) books already in the Angry Robot schedule.




Make Believe: A Terry Dowling Reader, edited by Russell Farr & published by Ticonderoga Publications
— Twelve essential stories by one of Australia's most respected prose stylists. Dowling is a WFA nominee and International Horror Guild Award winner. We predict this book will be a must-have for fans and a perfect intro for new readers.




X9, Coeur de Lion
— Coeur de lion brings us the 'novellanthology' - an anthology comprising 6 novella-length short stories from some of the current leading Australian writers. Paul Haines' "Wives" is not to missed.





Brazil, recommended by translator/writer Fabio Fernandes


Xochiquetzal by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (Editora Draco)
— Considered the foremost name in Alternate History in Brazil, Lodi-Ribeiro had published so far three short story collections and had stories published in Brazil and Portugal. This is his first novel, in which he depicts a 16th Century where Portugal, not Spain, leads the discovery of the Americas (christened Cabralias in that timeline, in honor of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the Portuguese navigator who discovered Brazil). The story of the novel is a chronicle of adventure written by the Aztec princess Xochiquetzal, wife of Vasco da Gama — in that timeline, the Aztecs were incorporated to the Portuguese Empire, not massacrated. The story "Xochiquetzal e a Esquadra da Vingança", which opens the volume as a prologue, was translated to English and was a finalist of Sidewise Awards 2000.




Steampunk—Histórias de Um Passado Extraordinário, edited by Gianpaolo Celli (Tarja Editorial)
— This is the first Brazilian Steampunk anthology, with nine stories ranging from weird to Alternate Fiction (both Brazilian and foreign) also presenting characters from Jules Verne and Conan Doyle. There is also a story of mine in there, a version of a story previously published in English earlier in 2009. Steampunk is growing fast as a subculture in Brazil, and this anthology has been meriting a lot of attention in several reviews among steamers' blogs and sites.




Padrões de Contato, by Jorge Luiz Calife (Editora Devir)
— Calife is the man that started it all. In the early 80s, when Arthur C. Clarke published 2010, Calife's name was in his acknowledgments. That happened because Calife sent Clarke a short story called "2002" and told him to do whatever he wanted with it. Clarke didn´t use the story, but it came to him as an inspiration to write the long-awaited sequel to 2001—A Space Odyssey. Calife became famous in Brazil overnight; a science and tech journalist, he soon published his first novel, "Padrões de Contato" (1985) , a fix-up of four novellas set up in a the far future, where humankind lived in a Clarkean-inspired utopia. This novel was followed by other two in the same setting, "Horizonte de Eventos" (1986) and "Linha Terminal" (1991). In 2009, the classic trilogy was finally republished in an omnibus volume.


China, recommended by writer and professor Wu Yan, Beijing Normal University

Cross by Wang Jinkang (Chongqing Publishing Co. Ltd.)
— Sept. 12, a bio-crisis which stems from extremists spreading a dangerous virus in the United States. The only difference is, a Chinese female scientist is involved. How will the international relationship change and human beings survive? Wang Jinkang is a award winner of many Galaxy Awards and very famous in the Chinese SF field in the past 20 years.


Czech Republic, recommended by editor Martin Sust

Asfalt (Asphalt) by Štĕpán Kopřiva (Crew)
— Possibly the Czech SF/F book of the year, the author has told a bloody action-packed but also absurdist tale about the last job of a mercenary commando and his subsequent journey to Hell. It's very funny and really enjoyable.

Beton, kosti a sny (Concrete, Bones and Dreams) by Pavel Renčín
— This short story collection by one of the most interesting Czech authors of last few years showcases Renčín's natural talent for city myths and poetic language.




Kočičí noci (Feline Nights) by Blanka Jirušková
— A poetic visit to the atmospheric port of Darín, published in three books. A very promising debut by a new author.

Lota (Lota) by Petra Neomillnerová
— One of the Czech Republic's most prolific authors publishes one of her best creations: a short story collection revolving around the female witch Lota. Neomillnerova is a master at portraying intimate relations in a cynical and believable manner.




Vítr v piniích (The Wind in the Umbrella Pines) by Františka Vrbenská & Jakub D. Kočí
— Eastern fantasy in a secondary world setting, this novel takes place at the end of a great war between two empires. Several travelers take a dangerous journey for the good of the reconciliation of the two lands.

Strážcové Varadínu (Guardians of the Varadín) by Juraj Červenák
— This novel by a Slovak author is the start of the new series, a historical fantasy from the time of the attempted Turkish invasion of Europe.


Finland, recommended by editor/writer Jukka Halme

Tornit (Towers) by Jyrki Vainonen (Tammi)
— Finnish magical realism at its very best. After dismembering his dead (witch) mother, Henrik is taken by the great flood and carried into fantastical islands. Surrealistic fantasy about sex plants, dead witches and princesses with eyes on their backs. Vainonen dives ever deeper into the fantastical and weird, while coming up with trumps.

Karsta (Soot) by J. Pekka Mäkelä (LIKE)
— The fourth novel by the man who translates Philip K. Dick into Finnish, is a another quiet masterpiece of bystander-sf. Humanity has lost the interstellar war and aftermath means cleaning up the places. Mäkelä solidifies his place as an important sociopolitical-sf writer.

Valeikkuna (False Window) by Leena Krohn (Teos)
— In this future, the world is not plagued by overpopulation, but infertility. Many people live in virtual reality and take minute-long space travels. The barrier between dream and reality, possible and fantastical is blurred once more by the masterful language by Krohn.





France, recommended by writer Gio Clairval

Le Déchronologue by Stéphane Beauverger (La Volte)
— On seventeenth-century Caribbean seas, Captain Henri Villon and his crew struggle to defend their freedom in a world torn apart by merciless temporal fluctuations. Their weapon is called "The Dechronologue", a ship with cannons that shoot time. The latest novel by Stéphane Beauverger, an established Fantasy author, is carried by an epic feel.

Chien du Heaume by Justine Niogret (Mnemos)
— Chien (Dog) is a woman, ugly, short and brawny. No one swirls an ax as she does. Such ability comes in handy when you are a mercenary in high Middle Age and its never-ending winters. Chien is after her real name, identity and past. It's a short novel featuring characters of extraordinary presence. The best surprise among the new francophone Fantasy authors of 2009.




Outrage et Rébellion by Catherine Dufour (Denoel, Lune d'Encre)
— Marquis, a teenager guest of a Shanghais institution, challenges authority by creating a punk rock band whose popular success threatens the foundations of an entire society. After her acclaimed collection published by Bélial, Catherine Dufour signs the SF transfiguration of Please Kill Me (The Uncensored Oral History of Punk) by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.


Germany, recommended by writer Jakob Schmidt

Vilm—der Regenplanet and Vilm—die Eingeborenen by Karsten Kruschel (Wurdack Verlag) is an episodic sf novel in two parts, chronicling the adventures of involuntary settlers on an inhospitable world. Thematically, it focuses on how environment and people change each other and, over the generations, combine into something new. Exploring this classic concept through vivid characters, Kruschels' novel is reminiscent of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, and it was actually written around the same time, at the beginning of the 90s. However, it was first published in 2009 by the dedicated small press sf publisher Wurdack.

Gebissen by Boris Koch (Heyne) was published in the wake of the Twilight vampire hype, but is very much its own animal. Koch's vampires are neither romantic nor mysterious — they are more akin to dangerous bullies, and their brutality and bloodthirst is just an amplified form of the violence ordinary people inflict on each other. Set in contemporary Berlin, Gebissen perfectly captures the scary side of the city — and it's also a highly readable page turner.

Sie Schläft by Dietmar Dath (kuk/edition phantasia) is, as most of Dath's books, hard to categorize. It's a mainstream novel with elements of surreal fantasy and has a few essayistic segments. Thematically, it deals with the absurdities of life as part of the "lumpenproletariat intelligentsia" and with the effort to generate meaning through love and art. If that sounds grandiose, it shouldn't. Sie Schläft is actually a pretty straightforward story, a touching and convincing anti-romance, narrated from the perspective of one very real quixotic fool and peopled by equally real and strange characters. It is easily Dath's most accessible book.


Israel, recommended by publisher/editor Rani Graff

Waiting in the Wings by Asaf Asheri (Zmora Bitan Publishing)
— A remarkable Fantasy and Horror novel by one of Israel's most promising young writers. Based on biblical mythology, this stunning page turner takes place in modern day Israel where a secret police unit headed by a charismatic young woman employs paranormal methods based on Jewish mysticism and Kabala is trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of young women all over Tel Aviv. The solution will take the characters into a dark and sinister upperworld where angelic and biblical characters are involved in a battle that will rattle the very fabric of existence as we know it. After reading this book you will never be able to read the bible in the same way.

To Be by Yoav Avni (Zmora Bitan Publishing)
— Set in a very near future Tel Aviv, this original funny and mesmerizing book is centered around Chong Levi, a young man who's the descendent of a Chinese worker and an Israeli handyman, who find himself in a crazy affair involving Mossad agents, Hi Tech gadgets, the Israeli Prime Minister and a mysterious object that might or might not change reality, while all he really wants is just to run his own trendy coffee shop in the heart of Tel Aviv. And there's a girl. The one who doesn't believe in Mathematics. Yoav Avni managed to achieve real emotion out of the loony SF and Fantasy elements that assemble the story, which makes it — in my mind — one of the best novels published in Israel during 2009.

With Both Feet on the Clouds: Fantasy in Hebrew Literature Edited by Danielle Gurevitch & Hagar Yanai (Graff Publishing)
— The new Hebrew literature, the one that has been written in Israel during the last 60+ years, produced some marvelous literary works. However, almost none of those contained fantastical elements, let alone true SF or Fantasy works. Only in the last decade, with the introduction of a new generation of young writers and editors Israel is witnessing a small renaissance of SF & F works. This collection of essays, written by twenty writers, editors, critics and academics, examines that very issue: How come that in a country that is based on a SF novel ("Altnoylend", by Herzl) there has been so few literary genre works of fiction. How come it that the Jewish culture which is so rich with fantastical and paranormal elements, was totally ignored by the writers of the new founded state? This collection of essays is also the first genre non-fiction related book ever to be published in Israel.

The Book of Creation by Sarah Blau (Zmora Bitan Publishing)
— The old legend of the Golem takes a whole new turn in this gloomy tale of a young Jewish orthodox woman who can't find a husband, a truly horrible thing in the super puritan society of the ultra orthodox community she belongs to. In her despair she creates the man of her dreams out of mud and clay. But dreams may turn into nightmares once they invade reality. Blau, who comes from an orthodox family herself, portrays an alien world of desperation and despair that exists only a few miles out of Tel Aviv, one of the most liberal cities in the world. It's not an easy read, but a well worth one.

Hydromania by Assaf Gavron (Zmora Bitan Publishing)
— Toward the end of the 21st Century Israel is a very different country than the one we know today: The ongoing struggle with the Palestinians has taken its toll and now, after the fall of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and rest of the country into Palestinian hands, the only Israeli remaining cities are Caesarea and Tiberias. With a global water shortage, Chinese mega conglomerates controlling the world's water supply, and cloud wars breaking every once in a while in the region, one young woman finds that she may have the key to the region's water shortage. But before she does she's got to find her missing husband who may have been kidnapped in the underwater city of Caesarea while leaving her pregnant, helpless and with hardly any water, the new currency in a thirsty world. "Hydromania" is a fast paced political futuristic SF thriller written by one of Israel's promising next generation's writer. In my mind one of the best SF books I've read in 2009.


Italy, recommended by editor/publisher Armando Corridore


E un giorno a Siena l'Orco acchiappò la Mammifera (And one day in Siena the Orc grabbed the She-Mammal) by Ugo Malaguti (Elara )
— In a future very far from now the Walking-dreams are the last inhabitants of earth. They are artificially produced humans shaped to work in special secluded Towns where popular fables and stories are put to life to entertain normal humans. But Humans left earth may centuries ago and the walking-dreams have to find another reason to live. A posthuman Orc, a genetically enhanced pleasure girl named Snow-white and a Cardinal travel across a bizarre End-of-the -World Italy to reach Siena in order to find the She-Mammal, the last human on earth accordingly to an old Robot legend. She, maybe, knows all answers. After more than 30 years devoted only to editing Ugo Malaguti returns as a writer with a novel in which the many topoi of SF are masterly used to draw an ironic and bitter portrait of our times. The novel is included in the anthology "The mystery of the 8th floor" containing other interesting stories of modern Italian sf authors.


Japan, recommended by translator, publisher, and editor Yoshio Kobayashi

U Yuu Shi Tan (Whither This Tale Were) by Enjoh Toe (pronounced as en-joe toe)
— A hypertext novelette. Mr. Enjoh, a darling child of SF and Literature critics here, makes this brief novelette like a very interesting wikipedia entry. The protagonist is suffering from existential anxiety and becomes dissolved into a hole that falling ashes fill. A typical Kafkaesque absurdist story, yet it has a lot of multi-layered annotations, which are mostly whimsical musings of the author. It probably fits well into the tradition of writings like Pillow Book, Hojoki, and Tsurezuregusa. A very interesting and aesthetically beautiful story, which should have been published as an e-Book.

Bokuboku Sensei 3: Kocho No Nakushimono (Master PuPu: Lost Thing of Butterflies) by Hideyuki Niki
— The third book in a Chinese Historical Fantasy series featuring a Xian Taoist immortal sage, Master BokuBoku (PuPu) and a young apprentice Oben (Wang Bian). Oben is in love with his master who takes a form of a cute young girl, yet is a very powerful magus (Xian) and takes Oben on a whimsical journey. This time they are hunted by a group of assassins, Kocho (Butterflies) and have a fantastic adventure. As you might guess from Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Fuyumi Ono (or maybe even from the Dragonball), we have a very long tradition of fantastic literature that is set in (historical) China. The tone is very humorous and happy, a kind of coming of age story, yet features the magical Taoist mysticism. The second sequel to his Japan Fantasy Award winning novel, Bokubokusensei, and the series will continue.

Seitetsu Tenshi (Iron Angels) by Kazuki Sakuraba
— Again a remote sequel to the author's award winning novel Akakuchibaki No Densetsu (The Legend of Akakuchiba), but this time it's a YA-flavored magic realism fiction. Our protagonist is a very young girl, who inherits the supernatural ability to control every iron-made thing from her old iron mill family, and with that ability she forms an all-girl motorcycle gang to conquer the entire western Honshu Chugoku region all-girl gangs. Although written like a light novel (our manga-influenced popular YA genre), it's a very powerful magic realism novel.


(Kobayashi further notes: "As you might well guess, 2009 was a very bad year for book publishing in Japan. Although SF had a much-devoted audience, there were fewer titles and fewer good novels in the traditional SF genre, while YA "light novels" prospered. So my best list doesn't include a proper SF this year. Yet, in the slipstream fantastic literature, I saw many interesting trends... luckily each title represents particular trend.")


Netherlands, recommended by reviewer Floris Kleine, as facilitated by writer/editor Jetse de Vries

De Scrypturist by Paul Evanby (Mynx)
— A highly imaginative and relevant fantasy novel with excellent worldbuilding and strong characters. Debut novelist Evanby, who carries respectable short story credits already, brings his well-paced, multi-faceted, and riveting story to a breathless finale even as he unobtrusively slips in social commentary on issues as diverse as drug abuse, immigration law and cyberspace. In this case, the standard publishing practice of labeling any fantasy novel as volume I of a trilogy is reason for joy and cheer.

Een masker met een tong (A Mask with a Tongue) by Marcel Orie (Verschijnsel)
— A collection of ten linked stories revolving around the enigmatic figure of Cagliostro — alchemist, puppeteer, adventurer — ranging from Victorian London via Alice's Wonderland and pre-WWII Japan to Europe in 2026. Inspired by, among other things, Commedia dell'arte, westerns, manga, masked vigilantes and historical rumour, this ouroboric almost-but-not-quite-a novel proves Orie's talent as a teller of wildly imaginative tales that are as gripping as they are insightful.


New Zealand, recommended by writer Grant Stone

Voyagers, edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones (Interactive Publications)
— Science fiction poetry from some of New Zealand's finest. There's a very wide definition of science fiction used here, which results in a diverse collection including Fleur Adcock and Owen Marshall. An excellent and rewarding collection.





Philippines, recommended by blogger/writer Charles Tan

Philippine Speculative Fiction IV, edited by Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar (Kestrel IMC)
— An annual anthology that features short stories from the Philippines, the latest volume is the most daring to date and features a mixture of both old and new voices such as Andrew Drilon, Apol Lejano-Massebieau, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and Eliza Victoria.





Poland, recommended by translator/writer Jan Żerański

Fantasy:

Trzeci swiat (The Third World) by Maciej Guzek (Agencja Wydawnicza Runa, paperback, 288pp) is a debut novel from a highly talented novelist, written in a form of a documentary, inspired by the works of Ryszard Kapuscinski, the great Polish essayist. The novel is set in a fantasy world, seen through the eyes of a Polish journalist trying to find out why Poles, after years of conquering the unknown land of The Legends (Poles are delivering magic to our dimension and gain power as well as wealth), are closing the whole experiment. To an intriguing form and narrative style, Guzek adds fascinating astrophysical and ethical mysteries. I think if Ryszard Kapuscinski had become a fantasy writer, he would have created something similar.

Letni deszcz. Sztylet (Summer rain: Dagger) by Anna Brzezinska (Agencja Wydawnicza Runa, paperback, 608 pp) is a long-awaited final volume of the tetralogy "Saga o zboju Twardokesku"/ "Twardokesek the Ruffian's Saga" from the Queen of Polish Fantasy. In four novels we see The Realms of the Interior Sea getting drowned in blood, war and plots, as one, mysterious warrior-woman named Szarka, not necessarily on purpose, becomes dri deonem which means — as people from The Realms say — being a lover and a protégé of the goddess Fea Flisyon. For the first time in history a woman takes over a position preserved for males only and then she commits an even greater blasphemy: she leaves the goddess alone and, having rescued the old ruffian Twardokesek, sets off with him on a journey which might change the world. But even if the first layer of the storyline sounds familiar and the world itself is quasi-medieval, the novels are truly original and full of ideas, with very realistic characters and beautiful language; if Sapkowski is the King of Fantasy, Brzezinska definitely is the Queen of the genre, tearing classical fantasy into scraps.

Opowiesci z Meekhanskiego Pogranicza: Polnoc-Poludnie (Tales from the Meekhan Borderland: North and South) by Robert M. Wegner (Powergraph, paperback, 576 pp) is another fantasy debut. Axe and rock are the treasures of the North, while heat and daggers are the treasures of the South. No matter where you live, whether you are a highlander or a desert warrior, honor and pride are sometimes the last that remain. The book is a wonderful short story collection written in a George R.R. Martin style, with magic hidden in the background, focused on characters and not necessarily a world-building, and I will be very surprised if it doesn't win any awards for 2009. The second collection set in the same world, entitled "Tales from the Meekhan Borderland: East and West", will be published by Powergraph in 2010, and the Czech edition (Laser Books) is forthcoming.

Horror:


Swiety Wroclaw (Holy Wroclaw) by Lukasz Orbitowski (Wydawnictwo Literackie, paperback, 300pp) is a short horror ballad about a district in the modern city of Wroclaw. One day, citizens discovers that inside the walls of their homes, under the layers of plaster, other walls appeared, black as obsidian and warm as hell itself, so they take out axes and hammers, start hitting the walls and can't stop doing that as if in a quasi-religious ecstasy... Nothing is more important than the block of darkness. What Mieville, Gaiman and Rowling did to London, changing the city into a place of wonders, after Marek Krajewski's noir crime stories Lukasz Orbitowski, one of the most talented Polish horror writer does to Breslau, telling us a story of madness, love and horror.

Cztery pory mroku (Four seasons of darkness) by Pawel Palinski (Fabryka Slow, paperback, 416 pp) is another debut short story collection. Palinski wrote his debut short story for the most prestigious speculative fiction magazine, "Nowa Fantastyka", and now provides us with more short stories and novelettes, inspired by American literature. Don't be mistaken, though, the author had not only read his mentor, Stephen King, but also classical modern American fiction: Updike, DeLillo or Roth. I would keep an eye of him, if I were a publisher.

Wroniec by Jacek Dukaj (Wydawnictwo Literackie, hardcover, 248pp) is a short horror novel about the trauma of the Martial Law in Poland during the communism in 1981. Dukaj, mostly recognized as a hard science fiction author, returns after two years of silence with a grim fairy tale for young adults, set in the times of Solidarity, with a storyline inspired by Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland". It's December 1981 and Solidarity is being crushed by the secret police of the communist regime, when a strange creature captures our protagonist's father. Little Adam is seven now and doesn't understand what's happening, why there's a military leader speaking on TV instead of the usual kids program, but he knows he has to rescue his father and get him back home. So Adam enters the night, the sad, gray, dark world full of psychedelic visions and fears. This outstanding work, with great illustrations and songs written by the author himself, has already been nominated to some mainstream awards and praised as a breakthrough in Polish speculative fiction.


Portugal, recommended by translator/editor Luis Rodrigues

Enciclopédia da Estória Universal, Afonso Cruz (Quetzal)

— This (all-too-short) collection of pithy vignettes, ironic aphorisms and quotes from "books that rarely exist" by writer, illustrator and musician Afonso Cruz is one of the best Portuguese-language books to have been released in 2009, a twisting maze of golems, giants, heretics, kabbalists, humble nabobs and the nature of opposites, determinism and DNA. While not exactly an original concept, Afonso Cruz braves this labyrinth without flinching in the shadow of his main influences, Jorge Luis Borges and Milorad Pavic, and I was happy to follow the trail of breadcrumbs he leaves behind.


Russia, recommended by translator Nikolai Karayev


Malaya Glusha by Maria Galina (EKSMO)
— Two interrelated magic realism novelettes set in Soviet era. The title novelette starts as a rural quest: a man and a woman go to the village Malaya Glusha (a place name like Little Backwoods) wishing to bring back the beloved dead. No border separates the reality and the mythological spacetime, the Styx is ubiquitous, and the road changes travellers irretrievably, may it be the troubled trail to Malaya Glusha or the life itself.





Tsifrovoy (The Digital) by Marina Dyachenko and Sergey Dyachenko (EKSMO)
— A technofantasy by two Ukrainian authors about a teenage Faust tempted by a cyber age Mephisto. While plunging in the online RPG, Arsen gets into some real trouble, is saved by an enigmatic man and only later realizes that his savior is a kind of an evil god, maybe even an alien (very Phildickian one, though much more friendly than Palmer Eldritch). This novel is a dark, tragic metaphor of becoming less human in the deceitful and illusive play-or-be-played world.





S nami bot (The bot with us) by Yevgeny Lukin (AST)
— An outstanding collection of one of the leading Russian SF writers is full of satire and irony. In the title novelette (which won several awards), a loser becomes voluntarily possessed by the analyzing device that generates simple verbal reactions. He immediately succeeds, as the society we live in (argues Lukin) is based mostly on the thoughtless speeches and mindless activities.





t by Victor Pelevin (EKSMO)
— A new novel of a famous fiction writer revolves around the adventures of Count T. who is recognizable as Leo Tolstoy in a strange, absurd setting. Before long Count becomes aware that he is merely a character in the commercial novel that is being composed by five bad writers. As always, Pelevin lets his character walk the path to enlightenment — and shows the strong contempt for the market-oriented art industry.





South Africa, recommended by writer Nick Wood

Remembering Green by Lesley Beake (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
— A well written YA SF/F novel set in 2250 at the tip of an Africa ravaged by climate change involving a technological elite looking to harvest the last remaining resources of the continent, including a young captured girl for her ancestral knowledge. Beake's books are historically rich in African imagery and date back over twenty years with many garnered awards.

Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
— A strong debut SF novel segueing between characters under pressure in a near-future dystopian Cape Town, unravelling towards a moving climax. Beukes is definitely a writer to watch and is following up with a much anticipated but unrelated SF novel entitled 'Zoo City' in 2010.

The Book of the Dead by Kgebetli Moele (Kwela Books)
— A gripping tale tracing a man born in poverty but making a life for himself only to contract HIV; the virus itself finds a voice in the unfolding narrative. Moele follows up powerfully to his debut novel 'Room 207', which won the Herman Charles Bosman prize.


Jeff VanderMeer's reviews have recently appeared in The New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Miami Herald, and more. Forthcoming books include the story collection The Third Bear, The Steampunk Bible, the web comic "The Situation" (with Eric Orchard), and a hundred-year overview of short weird fiction co-edited with his wife, Ann VanderMeer, and The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals (written with Ann).


Labels:

20 Comments:

Blogger Jandrews said...

Aww, fooey, no Spanish?

But an awesome list nonetheless.

March 12, 2010 7:25 AM  
Blogger Eric Rosenfield said...

The thing that bothers me about lists like this is that a lot of these books have never been translated into English. Which means I can't read them!

March 12, 2010 7:26 AM  
OpenID ausgabez said...

Actually Marina Dyachenko and Sergey Dyachenko are not from Russia.

These wonderful writers are from Ukraine.

March 12, 2010 10:46 AM  
OpenID chinese_angels said...

To ausgabez

Of course, but this book (as well as almost all of Marina and Sergey's great books) was published in Russian and in Russia. So it must be Russian SF as well as Ukranian one :)

(Nick Karayev)

March 12, 2010 11:34 AM  
Blogger asaf said...

This post has been removed by the author.

March 12, 2010 11:52 AM  
Blogger JeffV said...

This post has been removed by the author.

March 12, 2010 2:09 PM  
Blogger JeffV said...

Oh--and I did have a query out to two Spanish editors, but nothing came of it. Will have more time next year to get more info.

JV

March 12, 2010 2:10 PM  
Blogger JeffV said...

And we'll make a note of Ukrainian nationality above. Thanks for the clarification.

March 12, 2010 2:14 PM  
Blogger Mohan Sanjeevan said...

I am an Indian science fiction writer writing in my language Tamil and English.I have my science fictions published in English too in www.kalkion.com an online science fiction magazine run by Editor of Indian origin.I am a regional editor there.
Kindly take a look at it to know about the current indian science fictions
I am there as Mohan Sanjeevan

K.Mohan(Mohan Sanjeevan)

March 14, 2010 3:54 AM  
Blogger Mohan Sanjeevan said...

I am an Indian science fiction writer. I find no entry for india here. I write in Tamil which is my native and English. My science fictions have appeared in www.kalkion.com an online science fiction magazine from India. I am a regional editor there. I am there as Mohan Sanjeevan.
Take a look at the above site to get the latest indian science fictions

March 14, 2010 4:07 AM  
Blogger Arvind Mishra said...

Some work and references on Indian Science fiction appears here also
Science Fiction in India

March 14, 2010 5:03 AM  
Blogger JeffV said...

Thanks for the website information. As noted, this is a work in progress and all recommendations are welcome. The core sampling will expand each year.

Cheers,

JeffV

March 14, 2010 7:29 AM  
OpenID vivanov said...

Bulgarian SF&F in 2009

It may be interesting to add to the scope Bulgaria, a small country in comparison with the ones listed above, with a population of about seven and a half million. I was surprised to hear that about forty books published in 2009 fall into the speculative fiction category. The typical print runs for national writers are 500-1000 copies, the famous foreign SF&F names sell a few times more. The limited market effectively precludes making living from writing alone, so even the most successful mainstream writers have a day job.

The Sturgeon's law tells us that we cannot expect more than a few good books among the 2009 crop, and I haven't read all forty or so titles, but here are a few that drew my attention.


- "ФантАstika 2008" (Fantastika 2008), annual almanac, appeared in 2009, publisher Foundation Human Library. The title is an intentional mix of Cyrillic and Latin letters, forming the Bulgarian generic term for speculative fiction. This volume contains an extended profile of the Bulgarian SF writer Grigor Gatchev, and stories by L.P. Nikolov, A. Karapanchev, M. Petkov, V. Todorov and translations by S. Lukjanenko, N. Gaiman, Vl. Rybakov, and T. Sturgeon. The almanac contains a lot of reviews and articles on history and theory of SF&F. The Bulgarian part of the book is available online under Creative Commons License at: http://fs.choveshkata.net/index.php/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%90stika_2008
The translated part is not, due to copyright limitations.

- "Упражнения по безсмъртно писане" (Exercises in Immortal Writing), a collection by Yancho Cholakov. It contains reprints and new writings. The main piece is a short novel "Историята на Самотният редник" (The History of the Lonely Private) is a retelling of the Troy battle, in a world of sapient arthropods. It is a dark but engaging story. The author is known for his literary experiments, and has the reputation of the best stylist among the Bulgarian SF&F writers. He has a degree in Literature from the Sofia University, which also makes a difference.

- "Слънце недосегаемо" (Sun Intangible) by Nikolay Tellalov, this is the fourth book by an unique hard SF - Fantasy cross over series, the first Bulgarian speculative fiction epics. The volumes alternate genres between Fantasy, Space opera, and Alternate history. The main premise of the series is that dragons exist, much as they were described in the Bulgarian mythology, and they impact the reality in some rather unexpected ways, i.e. enabling a more harmonious society and an advanced space travel. The novels are set apart from the majority of the Bulgarian (and World) SF&F by the positive outlook to the future.


This short summary is incomplete, surely there are other books worthy of mentioning but I will restrain myself to the ones I have read.


Valentin D. Ivanov

March 14, 2010 10:45 AM  
OpenID anilmenon said...

Great compile, Jeff. Thanks. The Polish titles look particularly intriguing.

For the 2009 Indian category, I'd recommend Vandana Singh's collection The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet and other stories (Zubaan Books/Penguin Books, India). The tales are beautifully told and imbued with a remarkable sense of place. Among other things, they deal with characters at the crossroads of things. I'd also recommend Ashok Banker's ambitious Gods of War (Penguin Books, India). Ashok-bhai never cringes and neither does this novel.

Anil Menon
http://anilmenon.com

March 14, 2010 2:51 PM  
Blogger JeffV said...

Thanks for both of those adds. Every add ensures that a country isn't missed next time!

JeffV

March 14, 2010 5:44 PM  
Blogger Pechy said...

This post has been removed by the author.

March 14, 2010 10:26 PM  
Blogger Eddie said...

The Essential Romanian SF&F - 2009

Purely subjective list. The Romanian market is small, with 500-1000 prints being the norm. 2009 was a moderately good year, with fourteen books released.

1. Silviu Genescu - Rock me Adolf Adolf Adolf
The second short story collection of one of the best Romanian SF writers. Highlights: Local Hero (an A.I. manipulates the media by faking a terrorist attack), The Sad Prince (time travel and decadent russian nobility in Paris), Da Noiz (short novel, a conspiracy/science thriller)

2. Doru Stoica - Intre bariere (Between the train barriers)
A strong first book collecting rural / slum cyberpunk stories written in the past 15 years. Highligts: Interneci (two country bumpkins hear about the Internet and replicate it with makeshift tools, for awesome results), Intre bariere (love is heaven for the tired commuters of a battered suburb train)

3. Sebastian Corn - Adrenergic!
Second edition of a short cyberpunk novel (first edition was printed in a magazine, not in book format) - reality is bioengineered, virtuality replicates real spaces using microorganisms called turboskells. The connection between reality and virtuality is made by hardware zombies, people immersed in vats. This was written five years before Matrix first appeared, so any similarity is coincidental :)

4. Millennium 2 - Sase ani de Fictiuni (Six years of Fictions)
Anthology of the best short stories published in the short-lived Fictiuni magazine. Highlights: Dogs can't love, by Radu Pavel Gheo (love can make one turn wild... literally), The Ice Emperor, by Ana Maria Negrila (post-apocaliptic superhuman adventure), Come outside, by Florin Pitea (leading the living dead to the ultimate conclusion)

5. Liviu Radu - O dupaamiaza cu bere si zane (An afternoon with beer and pixies)
Urban fantasy novel, third volume of a series, by the most prolific of all Romanian genre authors. Three friends drink and chat, while giants, vampires, fairies and various other fantastic creatures come and go as they please. Humorous yet chaotic.

March 15, 2010 1:57 PM  
Blogger Mohan Sanjeevan said...

I think it is pertinent to come back here. Apart from charecterisation and language style the real science and a new science theory should be taken note of.
In my storie i have writen about a new disease particle other than virus, an interchangeable house whose room sizes could be altered enlarging the room in use and reducing the room not in use, experience machine, alien's space station etc., in my science fictiions though they are not novels they are very good short science fictions.I was also not having a proper platform to put my science fictions till www.kalkion.com came along.I dont have access to big publishing houses being inland in india.Probably i may break this jink soon
Mohan Sanjeevan

March 16, 2010 2:36 AM  
Blogger Swapnil said...

Kalkion Group is the most useful resource for this project. The online magazine publishes in two languages -- English and Hindi. The online magazine has published some of the prominent Hindi SF writers. The English version publishes writers from around the Globe. You can pick good stories from Kalkion Hindi. We can assist in translation if needed.

Swapnil Bhartiya
Editor
Kalkion.com
Hindi.Kalkion.com
Katonda.com
Muktware.com

March 16, 2010 2:58 AM  
Blogger Vincenzo Oliva said...

Last year, in Italy, has been published one of the 2-3 most finest and powerful novels of italian science fiction: "Il quinto principio", by Vittorio Catani.

Vincenzo Oliva

March 16, 2010 12:33 PM  

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