the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Takashi Ishikawa’ Category

the best Japanese science fictionThe Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories, edited by John L. Apostolou and Martin H. Greenberg

published in 1989

where I got it: purchased used

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Although this anthology was published in 1989, translation of included works began in the 70s when anthologists Judith Merrill, Grania Davis and Martin Greenburg, and editor and fan of Japanese literature John L Apostolou spent what would end up being nearly a decade of intense work with Japanese authors and translators of science fiction.

 

The planet is much smaller now, but try to put yourself into the mindset of an American in the 1980s.  What came to their mind when they thought “Japanese Science Fiction”? Godzilla? Astroboy? Remember, manga and anime were barely available if at all, and very few Japanese speculative fiction novels had been translated at the time.   I count myself very lucky to be reading speculative fiction in a day and age when magazines and anthologies and e-zines are printing works from all over the world, where fans clamor for translated works, where I can walk into Barnes and Noble and buy Manga that was published last month in Japan.  E-mail and Skype and Twitter make communicating across the planet as easy as shouting across the room, but that interest had to come from somewhere. I like to believe that some of it came from this anthology.  If you can find a copy of this collection (there are plenty of used copies available on Amazon), I highly recommend it.

 

I don’t care if this sounds cliche, but I love that science fiction means different things to different people.  Everything is contextual and cultural, and what you grew up with is going to shape your SFnal dreams.  I grew up in a suburban land of plenty.  Many of the authors in this anthology lived through Hiroshima. Quite the difference in experience there.  For the most part, these are not stories of first contact with aliens, they are not stories or space exploration or adventure, there is no futuristic technobabble and little gadgetry to speak of. They are intimate and low stakes, often ominous, everything from laugh out loud funny to horrifically hard to read, more fantastical than SF. But still, all of them are worth the read. Check out Two Dudes in an Attic’s review as well.

 

Here are a few words on my favorites:

 

Cardboard Box by Ryo Hanmura (1974) – These self aware cardboard boxes are seeking to fulfill their destinies – to be completely filled up. Because of course, what else would be the purpose of a box? Filled with fruit, and enroute to a grocery store, the boxes on the truck discuss what might happen to them after their fruit is removed. Will they be reused? Will they be thrown into the incinerator? broken down and stomped on and put in the trash? Their yearning to be completely filled up is hilariously sexual, and one box does in fact, become completely filled by taking an unexpected and possibly deadly path. Good luck getting through this story without laughing your head off and not blushing next time you put stuff in a box.

 

The Road To The Sea, by Takashi Ishikawa (1981) – A little boy runs away from home, insistent on seeing the sea. He’s seen pictures of it in books, how far away could it possibly be?  People he meets on his way try to convince him to go back home, but the child is determined to see the sea. This story put me a bit in mind of Cecil Castellucci’s We Have Always Lived on Mars.

 

The Savage Mouth, by Sakyo Komatsu (1979) – At first, I thought the protagonist was planning to, or threatening to commit suicide. And then we get a look at the room in which he will undertake his procedure, which includes an automated operating table, a stack of prosthetics, and a restaurant quality kitchen, complete with seasonings and cast iron frying pans.  This is one helluva gag reflex triggering horror story, with extra pressure coming because you can’t believe anyone would actually *do* this to themselves.  First, he amputates his leg, and attaches a prosthetic.  Think about that fully equiped kitchen, and I’ll bet you can guess what happens next.  One of his many justifications is that he’s not using the planet’s diminishing resources, he not eating an animal, he’s not harming other animals to feed himself.  Like some people get addicted to piercings or getting tattoos, our protagonist gets addicted, in a way, to his slow self immolation.  But he is sustaining himself with calories, and planning the next steps in the most scientific way possible. So, is it suicide or science? No one has ever done what he’s doing, no one has ever survived it. he could be the first person to taste his own eyeball, his own lung tissue, his own brain tissue!  By the time the cops find the lab, there isn’t anything left of him to put to questioning, and the cops assume some kind of sick murderer tortured his victim.  Like I said, gag reflex triggering horror story.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.