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The year without an English Hugo?

Eric Frank Russell's 1955 Hugo award for AllamagoosaI have some surprising news – at least it was for me. This year the World Science Fiction Society’s 65th annual convention, Worldcon, is being held in Japan. This convention is also known as Nippon2007 and is held the first week of September. I think having the convention in Japan is a great idea – I understand this is the first Worlcon to be held in Asia and I think a World organization certainly should hold its conventions outside in the world.

The surprise is – the Hugo balloting cycle is tied to these conventions. As a result I think we’re going to see some very interesting outcomes.

To those who don’t understand the process, it works like this. If you paid for LACon IV last year or paid for Nippon2007 this year, you can nominate for the Hugos. But only if you pay for Nippon2007 can you actually vote on those nominations. Now you don’t have to pay to be an attendee, there are supporting memberships that let you vote (and get any publications they produce) without having to go.

To me, and to John Scalzi (and a tip of the hat to him for the initial information), this is very interesting. With the event in Japan, will we see only Japanese-language titles being nominated? And assuming some English works make the short list – will they win? I have no doubt that our friends in Japan read science fiction written in English, so I don’t mean to imply they don’t have a big picture view, but aren’t they naturally going to lean towards Japanese works? One only has to look at the guests of honor at Nippon2007 to see that there are authors most us here know nothing about. In addition to David Brin (author) and Michael Whelan (artist) are Yoshitaka Amano (artist), Takumi Shibano (fan guest of honor), and Sakyo Komatsu (author). I thought I lived on a relatively flat earth, but I’ve never heard of those three Japanese gentlemen before (my ignorance knows no bounds to be sure.) I suspect we’ll see the same when it comes to nomination and balloting time too.

All told, I’m surprised but also encouraged by this. Maybe I’ll make an attempt to read some of the Japanese nominations (assuming they have been translated into English) or winners when they are announced. And maybe the winners will get more attention than they might have otherwise and raise all of our collective view of Japanese science fiction.

12 Comments on The year without an English Hugo?

  1. Amano may not be famous to SF readers but he is VERY famous to rpg videogamers as the artist for many of the seminal Square Enix ‘Final Fantasy’ titles. He also collaborated with Neil Gaiman on an illustrated story – ‘The Dream Hunters’.

  2. Oh yeah, I know Amano-san’s work now that I saw his Wikipedia entry, however I didn’t know him by name. To be honest, I can’t think of a single video game artists whose name I know, despite being an avid gamer. I know the developers and the designers, but artists…not so much.

  3. hi, I read SF Signal on daily basis and I’m very, very, very thankful for every SF related news you throw our way.

    coming from an itsy-bitsy country (Croatia), I’m actually very glad to see that there are some non-English speaking authors getting a chance of winning a Hugo award. and I think it’s a good thing to get a little perspective of what’s going on “outside” in the world. I had a chance to read some SF authors from China, Brazil, Japan, and of course, from my own country, and I must say, it’s very refreshing to see those points of view. and call me arrogant, but I find some non-English speaking authors far better than the English-speaking ones. I think this is actually a very good thing.

    thank you again for SF signal, best wishes,


  4. Thanks, Irena! 🙂

    RE: “Maybe I’ll make an attempt to read some of the Japanese nominations (assuming they have been translated into English)…”

    My own limited experience with translated sf was years ago when I read several of the Perry Rhodan books, translated from German by Wendayne Ackerman, American series editor (and uber-sf fan) Forrest J. Ackerman‘s wife. Now, Perry Rhodan is far from literature to begin with but, enjoyable as the books were, I can’t help but feel that something got lost in translation. I’m all for reading translated works – that’s a good thing – but the prose you read is that of the translator, not the original author. Have you ever seen what Google translator puts out? That said, the ideas, plot, characters, etc. are the creation of the original author so there is still much to enjoy.

  5. The interesting thing about Japan is the huge number of translation efforts that go on both ways – to bring English works to Japanese (the fan guest is a pioneer in the field apparently, and is being honored for years of work here) and to bring Japanese works to the English-only crowd. I’m personally hoping this is the kind of effort that we’ll see with Hugo winners, but who knows?

    You’re right in that if the translation is bad I might be in for a bumpy ride.

  6. PR is not the only work to lose something in translation. I often wonder about Lem’s Solaris. The only edition we have seen in the US is a translation from an abridged French version, not a translation from the full original Polish version!

    For a while we were seeing some works from Russia and other countries, but that seems to have slowed to a near stop. The only steady stream seems to be from the UK. Heck, even Canada is underrepresented! South America? Africa? India? China?


  7. “I can’t help but feel that something got lost in translation”

    LOL 60% or 70% of what I read is in translation and I can’t argue with that. but if the translator is a good one, you don’t even know you’re reading a translation. it’s a fine art – translating, and very hard work.

    “The only steady stream seems to be from the UK. Heck, even Canada is underrepresented! South America? Africa? India? China?”

    there was an attempt of an international SF magazine in Germany, which would be in English. unfortunately, for the lack of interest, there was only one issue .. it’s a pitty.

  8. FYI: A recent bookslut post talks about reading book translations.

  9. The year without an English Hugo? Apparently not!

  10. And here’s Scalzi’s comments on that…

  11. The best comment in there echos my thinking – that we won’t see the impact of this until next year. This year the nominators are largely 2006’s attendees and thus English rules the roost again. Next year we might see a different outcome.

    Sadly, the more I see about the Hugo process the less interested I am in it. Getting nominated is a popularity contest – not all together a problem but it’s important to know. But then those voting do so without having read the works. Ouch. I thought the Oscars had a flawed system, but this…

    Strangely, my track record with Hugo award winners has been good (unlike John’s.) I’ve usually enjoyed the winners I read, and once went on a campaign to read as many past winners as I could to great success.

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