The SF In Translation Universe #13
Welcome back to the SF in Translation Universe! Fall in Wisconsin is my favorite time of year: it’s chilly but not cold, pumpkins are everywhere, and I get to wear my favorite sweaters again. What better time, then, to curl up and read some of these figuratively chilling works of SFT about reeducation facilities, curses, and bizarre new species? And though I’ve only found five works of SFT that come out between October and December this year, these books are worth savoring, preferably while drinking hot chocolate as a cat purrs on your lap.
Speaking of reeducation facilities: Czech author Petra Hůlová’s novel The Movement (tr. Alex Zucker) imagines what could happen if basic human attraction was eliminated and replaced by a more cerebral appreciation not dependent upon physical characteristics. Those men who resist this change and continue to be attracted to women’s bodies, rather than their brains, are sent to an Institute to learn the “correct” way of finding a mate. Here, Hůlová asks readers to consider just what it would take for an ideology to suppress one of our basic human instincts.
With Life Sciences (tr Laura Vergnaud), French author Joy Sorman takes on the limitations of modern medical science. When Ninon, descended from generations of women afflicted with strange and inexplicable diseases, begins experiencing one of her own, the doctors and scientists whom she consults are unable to help her. Even the most sophisticated tests can’t provide any answers. A meditation on the often inscrutable nature of our own bodies, Life Sciences invites us to think more broadly about our embodied experiences.
Un-su Kim’s The Cabinet (tr. Sean Lin Halbert) explores this theme of human embodiment via characters who also experience strange symptoms, though these people may be the harbingers of an entire new species. Each of them has a file housed in Cabinet 13, overseen by the harried and overworked Mr. Kong. This theme of species transition and the future of the human race makes me think of Dempow Torishima’s wildly unique work of body horror, Sisyphean. Humorous and weird, The Cabinet highlights the unexpected that lies at the heart of each person’s seemingly mundane life.
Like The Cabinet, Djuna’s collection Everything Good Dies Here (tr. Adrian Theiret) adds to the ever-growing corpus of Korean speculative fiction in English translation. Djuna’s work has appeared in English before: her “Squaredance” and “Trans-Pacific Express” were featured in Acta Koreana in 2015, while “The Second Nanny” appeared in Clarkesworld four years after that. Everything Good includes the six stories that make up her “Linker Universe,” in which a mutating virus alters its host’s genetic structure and merges it with its environment. Zombies, vampires, and more combine in this book to produce a dizzying yet enticing reading experience.
Finally, we have Sinopticon (ed. and tr. Xueting Christine Ni), an anthology of thirteen never-before translated stories showcasing the richness and variety of turn-of-the-century Chinese science fiction. With fiction by Jiang Bo, Regina Kanyu Wang, Anna Wu, and others, readers will be inspired to check out previous similar anthologies (Invisible Planets, Broken Stars, and The Reincarnated Giant) for more by these creative and innovative writers.
Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear what you’re reading now and what you’re looking forward to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time in the SFT Universe!