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Posts tagged science fiction


Harry Martinson 1963. First UK edition.

People continue to not read space poetry

This edition of Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space by Nobel-Prize winner Harry Martinson was “adapted from the Swedish by Hugh MacDiarmid and Elspeth Harley Schubert.” Knopf published the same translation in 1963 and then Avon reprinted it as a paperback in 1976. MacDiarmid is the giant Scottish modernist poet and Schubert translated many books from Sweden, and I bet their version is idiosyncratic and wild.

Theodore Sturgeon said: "Martinson’s crowning achievement is the communication at last of galactic immensity, something heretofore reserved to intuition or the highly exclusive speech of abstract mathematics. The poet does this not once, but time and time again, relentlessly and in many ways."

In 1991, the Swedish publisher Vekerum brought out a new English translation by Stephen Klass and Leif Sjoberg. It was reprinted in the US by the now-defunct Story Line Press. All of these editions are out-of-print and pretty hard to find.

Story Line’s description: “The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War — right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man’s technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off course, taking these would-be Mars colonists on an irreversible journey into deep space. Aniara is a book of prophecy, a panoramic view of humanity’s possible fate. It has been translated into seven languages and adapted into a popular avant-garde opera. This volume is the first complete English language version and received the prestigious American Scandinavian Foundation Award.”

The Vietnamese, at least, may now be reading space poetry.

Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are probably the most famous Soviet-era science-fiction writers, but only recently have any of their numerous books come back into print in the US: Chicago Review Press published a new translation of Roadside Picnic (the basis for Tarkovsky’s Stalker) in 2012 and Melville House just published Definitely Maybe (translated by Antonina Bouis). CRP will also publish Hard to Be a God in June.

These scans come from the 50 Watts hoard except for the top 1979 Penguin (art by Adrian Chesterman) courtesy of David/qualityapemanRichard M. Powers illustrated the bottom Roadside Picnic and the four other covers in that style.

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No one reads space poetry, not even space poetry by Nobel Prize winners.

(Update: The in-print anthology Where Rockets Burn Through includes a preface by WNOR hero Alasdair Gray.)

No one reads the Aged-Angler of Desolate Lake.

Dingbo Wu, from his introduction to Science Fiction from China:

…modern Chinese science fiction really began in 1904 with the serialization of Yueqiu zhimindi xiaoshuo (Tales of Moon Colonization) in Portrait Fiction. It is a novel of approximately 130,000 words written in Chinese by Huangjiang Diaosuo (Aged-Angler of Desolate Lake). The author’s real name remains unknown. The story describes the settlement of a group of earthlings on the moon. 

From SFE:

"Yueqiu zhi Mindi Xiaoshuo" ["A Tale of Moon Colonists"]…written by the pseudonymous and never-identified Huangjiang Diaosuo, might be described as a picaresque Edisonade in which exiles from modern China tour the world in a hot-air balloon, trying new Inventions, encountering strange races and customs, and eventually reaching the Moon. However, its title is cunningly ambiguous, eventually revealed as a fear that the superior lunar civilization is sure to conquer the Earth, and that, inevitably, some superior race elsewhere is sure to conquer them in turn. 

From wikipedia:

China’s earliest original science fiction was Yueqiu Zhimindi Xiaoshuo (月球殖民地小說 “Lunar Colony”), published in 1904 under the pen name Huang Jiang Diao Sou (荒江釣叟 “Secluded River’s Old Fisherman”). The story concerns Long Menghua, who flees China with his wife after killing a government official who was harassing his wife’s family. The ship they escape on is accidentally sunk and Long’s wife disappears. However, Long is rescued by Otoro Tama, the Japanese inventor of a dirigible who helps him travel to Southeast Asia searching for his wife. They join with a group of anti-Qing martial artists to rescue her from bandits. Deciding that the nations of the world are too corrupt, they all travel to the moon and establish a new colony.

Photo: Julius Grimm, 1888 via BDIF. Also see “Mr. Absurdity" on 50 Watts.

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