Tag Archives: Berit Ellingsen

INTERVIEW: Berit Ellingsen, Uko Bendi Udo and Crystal Koo on THE APEX BOOK OF WORLD SF 3

This is part of a series of Q&As with the authors of The Apex Book of World SF 3 edited by Lavie Tidhar.

The stories in The Apex Book of World SF 3 run the gamut from science fiction, to fantasy, to horror. Some are translations (from German, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Swedish), and some were written in English. The authors come from Asia and Europe, Africa and Latin America. Their stories are all wondrous and wonderful, and showcase the vitality and diversity that can be found in the field. They are a conversation, by voices that should be heard.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a Korean-Norwegian writer residing in Norway and writing in English as my second language, but the one I prefer to work in. I write short stories and novels, set in our world and the imaginary. So far, one of my novels have been published, The Empty City (Une Ville Vide, PublieMonde 2013), and one collection of short stories, Beneath the Liquid Skin (firthFORTH Books 2012). My short stories have been published in literary magazines such as Unstuck, Birkensnake, The Weird Fiction Review, and SmokeLong Quarterly, and more.
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MIND MELD: Non-Anglo Presence in the Hugo Awards – Is it Possible?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This year’s Hugo award ceremony was a very interesting one, regarding gender and ethnicity. Most of the winners were women (congratulations to E. Lily Yu for the Campbell, and Maurine Starkey, Ursula Vernon, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, Catherynne M. Valente, Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, Betsy Wollheim, Sheila Williams, Charlie Jane Anders, Kij Johnson and Jo Walton) and the Short Story winner, Ken Liu, is of Asian extraction, so maybe we can safely say the fandom has finally reached a point where writers are finally being voted for the sheer quality of their work instead of their sex or their color? Even if it’s too early to tell, things are seemingly going in the right direction regarding this matter – but there are still many things to assess. One of them is the virtually invisible presence of non-Anglo writers in the Hugo Awards (also in other Awards, but hey, this is Hugo week, so let’s talk Hugo as a symbol of all the other awards in Anglosphere).

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: Do you think the Hugo Awards nominations are underrepresented by non-Anglo writers? Do you think it’s something to care about? If you care, what do you think could be done to change the current state of affairs?

Here’s what they said…

Berit Ellingsen
Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Unstuck, Coffinmouth, Rocket Science, elimae,SmokeLong Quarterly, Metazen and other literary journals and anthologies. Two of her stories received an honorable mention by Ellen Datlow for Best Horror of the Year Volume 4. Berit’s novel, The Empty City (http://emptycitynovel.com), is a story about silence. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books at the end of 2012.

I looked through the list of Hugo nominations for the last 10 years and the only nominations of work from outside of the Anglophone countries (the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were the movies Spirited Away (nominated in 2003) and Pan’s Labyrinth (nominated in 2007).

Is that because translated work is not commercially viable, lacks popular appeal or literary quality? Some of the biggest commercial successes in recent years outside of SF/F have been translated work, such as Stieg Larsson’s or Jo Nesbø’s crime fiction, and Per Petterson’s literary fiction. Not to mention the imaginative work of Haruki Murakami, who is currently favorite for the Nobel Prize in literature. Hence, that conclusion does not seem to be correct.

Perhaps the lack of nominated translated work reflects the lack of translated work published in English SF/F in general. I find this problematic because that leaves literally a whole world of fiction with long traditions in the imaginary and fantastic, such as the Scandinavian, Japanese, Mongolian, Eastern European, African, to mention a few, largely inaccessible to English-speaking readers. I say this as a writer whose biggest influences have been translated work, from Scandinavia, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Korea and Japan, as well as the Anglophone world. Without translations, there would have been little access to those works. (I write in English myself, my stories are not translations from Norwegian.)

Also, in what ways will reading or knowing works only from your own culture and language skew your perception of the rest of the world?

As has been discussed in other Mind Melds, translations and the flow of culture follows the general lines of political and financial dominance, from the English-speaking nations to the non-English, and from the industrialized countries to the developing countries, and much less frequently in the opposite direction.

It’s therefore very refreshing to see that some editors, such as Jeff VanderMeer and Nick Mamatas, are presenting translated fiction from outside of the English-speaking nations. Maybe that’s what’s needed for translated work to catch on in SF/F; more translated work published, a higher degree of exposure, more visibility, more magazines being open for submissions of translated work, so that translations become something familiar instead of something strange.

I find this important, because reading or watching a story from outside of one’s own country and becoming acquainted with the fears and hopes of other cultures and other people, might be one of the easiest and most direct ways in today’s conflicted world that we can truly get to know one another beyond the grating of economic and political differences and sensationalist news.

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