Where to Find Japanese SF
When a review of The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories went up at The Little Red Reviewer, it kicked off a conversation about where to find Japanese SF in English. The above book is comparatively old and, while it is a good introduction, doesn’t have anything from the last 30+ years. Readers searching out more contemporary stories will have no trouble with anime and manga, but actual books can be a bit more elusive unless one knows where to look for them. Since writing about Japan is a big focus of this blog, it seems worthwhile to compile a guide to the ins and outs of J-SF (inasmuch as I am aware of them).
I will probably add to this over time, but for now I want to cobble together a list of publishers, blogs, authors, anthologies, etc. that are providing translations. I will stick with novels for now, since the anime/manga world is already handling its own PR just fine. I will also put some recommendations at the end for Where to Start. Feedback and suggestions are welcome, so if anyone out there knows something I don’t, please share!
This is the best place to start for J-SF. Haikasoru is backed by the manga behemoth Viz Media, which probably explains why they have the capital to translate and publish so many books. At time of writing, Haikasoru has published more than thirty books, of which I have read and reviewed eleven. There is probably something here for everyone, though, as always, your mileage may vary.
The SFF on offer here is fairly limited, though Vertical has an extensive catalog of novels, non-fiction, and manga. It is notable for publishing the first five volumes of The Guin Saga, which appears to be Japan’s answer to the Wheel of Time series. (I base this mostly on the fact that they never end. Guin is up to something near one hundred short volumes.)
Another supplier of general prose, Kurodahan is best known in our community for their Speculative Japan anthologies. They also have three novels available, none of which I have read, from respected names in J-SF.
Bento is a new publisher that has a promising set of coming attractions. Math Girls is available now, which apparently mixes light romance and math. I am most looking forward to Ogawa Issui’s Many, Many Sheep, a ten-volume SF saga from an author I have enjoyed in other publications.
Some of the bigger names can be found on mainstream imprints, though these are harder to come by unless one is purposely searching for a particular book. Komatsu Sakyo (Japan Sinks, Virus) and Tsutsui Yasutaka (Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, The Girl who Leaped Through Time) are the most common, with other authors periodically showing up on academic or other small presses. A recent Japan Times article highlights a few independent presses that specialize in Japan-related books. The SFF publishers are already mentioned here, but others may be of interest.
This is a category where recommendations would be particularly welcome. I can’t keep up with the sites I follow now, much less seek out new ones, so I am certain to be missing many quality references, and probably even some very obvious ones.
Not to be completely dorky about this, but I haven’t found anywhere else that consistently churns out J-SF related content like I do. The link above will bring up everything in the “Japanese” category, over 40 articles at time of writing. More are coming down the pipe, so stay tuned.
Lavie Tidhar no longer updates World SF, but has kept the archives online. Obviously the is not only about Japan, but there are plenty of articles available, including one by Two Dudes! This is a good place to start when looking for non-Anglo SFF.
I consider Kamo, the proprietor, to be a good friend with impeccable taste. Not everything here is strictly J-SF, but much of the content is related to Japan, SFF, or some combination of the two. Mainstream lit also makes an appearance or two, but Kamo seems to prefer the weirder end of it.
This one tends towards mainstream lit, but SFF is periodically on the menu. I have picked up a recommendation or two from here and some of the bad reviews left me snorting beverages out my nose.
This is less of a blog than an online story collection. My review is probably worth checking first, especially because I correctly link to places not otherwise easy to find on the outdated page. This is an easy way to read a few stories, though it would be nice if someone dropped in for updates once in a decade.
The Future is Japanese (Haikasoru)
Speculative Japan 1 – 3 (Kurodahan)
The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (Dembner Books??)
Haikasoru is the easiest place to start for J-SF. Not knowing an individual’s taste in books, I would just say to check out their listing and grab whatever sounds most interesting. For those wanting more firm direction, I recommend All You Need is Kill, Yukikaze, or Harmony. All three are fairly accessible, with the former in the news right now because of an upcoming Tom Cruise adaptation. Haikasoru also publishes a few of the “classics,” though I have yet to read Virus and think that 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights is a bit dense. Elsewhere, Komatsu’s Japan Sinks isn’t hard to find, nor are several by Tsutsui. His The Girl Who Leaped Through Time is available in English and has a few movie/anime adaptations out there. Finally, there are a certain number of Mobile Suit Gundam novelizations floating around, for those who prefer their giant fighting robots in prose form.
This list is subject to addition, so all feedback and opinions are welcome.