2012 Seiun Award Winners
The Seiun Awards (星雲賞), Japan’s rough equivalent to the Hugo, were just announced for 2012. Here are the results and some explanation. A complete list in Japanese of all nominees is here, since I will only cover the winners in this post. Note that the foreign SF is determined by publishing date in Japan, which is why the novel nominees include J.G. Ballard and Dhalgren. Anyway, I’ll get the foreign stuff out of the way first and get to the fun bits. I’ll also try to give some sort of description and/or explanation of the Japanese winners, though I haven’t read either of them and am pulling my information off of Japanese Amazon and random websites.
Best Foreign Novel: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Best Foreign Short Story: The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang
Best Japanese Novel: Heaven and Hell (天獄と地国) by Kobayashi Yasumi (小林泰三)
Best Japanese Short Story: The Singing Submarine and Peer-Peer Douga (歌う潜水艦とピアピア動画) by Nojiri Housuke (野尻抱介)
Heaven and Hell is about a world where gravity is flipped upside down, so everything falls away from the ground and into the sky. Kobayashi is a writer who straddles horror and SF, with this book falling more into Hard SF. It is a follow-up to ΑΩ, which also appears to have won a prize or two. I haven’t read anything by Kobayashi and nothing seems to be in translation, though he is fairly prolific.
According to the author’s website, The Singing Submarine and Peer-Peer Douga is the third in Nojiri’s Peer-Peer Douga series, which use Japan’s NikoNiko Douga site (rather like Youtube) as an inspiration. This one in particular was written for an SF Magazine special issue about Hatsune Miku, a virtual idol about whom more will follow. Explains Nojiri, the Peer-Peer Douga stories are built around a virtual idol that he has based around Hatsune Miku, so he was happy to write this particular series. Nojiri notes that the first story in the series also won a Seiun Award, but that the second story was panned. He seems rather surprised that the newest addition proved so popular.
As for Ms. Hatsune, let us just say that anyone who has read William Gibson’s Aidoru is about to have a wild case of deja vu. As I write this, Mrs. Pep is staring aghast at her own computer screen, watching clips of live concerts given by a hologram of Hatsune Miku, who is entirely computer generated save for her vocoder voice. Setting aside questions of what virtual idols mean for the future of pop music and the taste of the Japanese nerd public, “the logical extreme” and “deplorable,” in that order, I will just post this link to Crunchyroll. This particular song went #1 on iTunes the day after its release, after being used for a blockbuster commercial for Google Chrome. To sum up: the Seiun Award winning short story for 2012 is based on a real-life singer who is entirely digital and is pimping Google products on TV. The future, it appears, is already upon us.