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  1. Charles
    Charles December 17, 2008 at 9:14 am . Reply

    You make a good point that there is no translation of Korean genre fiction. The why is simple: genre fiction will never will the Nobel prize. I know that may sound cynical, but translation here is in large part driven by government funding and thus by government agendas, and I doubt they would support genre fiction. Also, anyone not translating with government funds is probably an academic, and we can’t very well go around translating genre fiction when there’s all this other “legitimate” fiction that needs to be translated, can we?

  2. V
    V December 17, 2008 at 12:28 pm . Reply

    Such a project would be fabulous; for some reason the ones I know about have failed….only found out about this apparently short-lived experiment because there was an ad for it in the English-language edition of Kosmoskynä (http://kosmoskyna.net/English.htm) from 2006 when the Worldcon was in Glasgow….http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/misc/internova.htm

    Hmm. See, exactly for this sort of reason I want to get Hekuman huipulla (http://tieteiskirjoittajat.utu.fi/hekumanhuipulla/) translated and published in English….although I’m more of an intermediary than anything else…

  3. shawn scarber
    shawn scarber December 17, 2008 at 9:42 pm . Reply

    I’m always thrilled to read science fiction from places where you wouldn’t expect it. I wonder though how much of it is imitation. In the preface to McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, Michael Chabon talks about genre writers (specifically science fiction/fantasy writers) typically being of two separate types of story teller. I don’t buy that it’s just that simple, but I have seen that there are writers who focus on writing about their community and those who write about far away lands and adventures. I’d like to read a speculative fiction writer whose focus is on their country, but I imagine that might be hard to come by–even I write to escape my community. I’m so exposed to US centered media and literature, just reading something–anything–our of Vietnam translated into English would probably seem like speculative fiction to me.

    Short version: Sounds cool. Roll with it!

  4. shawn scarber
    shawn scarber December 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm . Reply

    “I don’t buy that it’s just that simple”

    Looking back over the preface, neither does he. He’s actually referencing Walter Benjamin’s, “The Storyteller,” and using the two distinct types of story tellers; the “tiller of soil” and the “trading seaman.” I haven’t read the essay, but think I need to now.

  5. V
    V December 18, 2008 at 1:03 am . Reply

    See, one argument for academic respectability in the old fashioned sense for translating sf as much as something literary is (And a certain degree of untranslatability. I have a hard time imagining Western audiences would grasp much of Bok Geo-Il’s In Search of an Epitaph without a fairly involved foreword about what he’s doing with his alternate history.)
    …as a entree for talking about world history, as a primary source text.

    “Not So Quiet”, a pulp novel from the 20s I think it was has since been published academically by womens studies folks as a portrait of gender mapping and relations at the time of the Great War, although I didn’t get that angle when I read it at age 13 and enjoyed it just as much.

    One can argue for the educational value of trying to explain the untranslatable and the educational value of exposure to cultures other than one’s own.

    At least in the West, I know in Korea all that is pretty fraught even though foreign sf is pouring by the bucketload….and this makes me remember a conversation with Pasi about how sf started after the war with translations of Verne and Asimov and so on….

  6. Charles
    Charles December 18, 2008 at 9:45 pm . Reply

    Yeah, the new direction of Korean literature is most certainly not to the liking of the old guard — but I think it is definitely time to move beyond the war and division. An entire generation of writers was shackled by these issues; you literally could not write anything else at the time. First it was novels about the war and its aftermath, then it was “social” novels, but they were still “meaningful.” Now writers dare to write about meaningless things! Don’t get me wrong–what was written in previous generations needed to get written, but it’s time to move on.

    Sometimes I wonder if the displeasure of the old guard comes from general disapproval or a secret jealousy.

    Hmm. Anyway, maybe one of these days I’ll translate a Korean SF short story for fun. That would require a bit of research into the field, though, because I know nothing about Korean SF. Actually, maybe you could recommend something? Even though I may not get to translating it for a while, I can still read stuff for pleasure over the winter break to help maintain my sanity.

    (By the way, in my first post up there: “will never will the Nobel Prize” should have been “will never win the Nobel Prize.” I’m pretty sure you figure this out, but it niggles.)

    (You know what annoys me about the comment handler? It automatically reduces two dashes to a single dash. Ah, but putting spaces around a double dash seems to work. Hmm.)

  7. Charles
    Charles December 20, 2008 at 12:28 pm . Reply

    Well, given what I have on my plate at the moment, I doubt I’ll be getting to this any time soon, but when the time comes I’ll know who to go to.

  8. Junsok Yang
    Junsok Yang December 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm . Reply

    It’s been more than twenty years since I’ve tried to look seriously at Korean SF. (High school). At that time, native Korean SF was practically non-existent. From what you report, things seem to have gotten a lot better. However, once you go back before the current generation (before say, the mid-90s), there may be very little material to go on.
    From what you seem to imply, the Korean SF has gone beyond “rediscovering the wheel” (retreading the grounds Anglophone SF had covered in 1940s-60s), which is all to the good; perhaps within the next decade or so, Korean SF writers can contribute some genuinely unique perspectives to global SF.

    As for the interview with the school, they are interested in your research because all universities in Korea are evaluated annually by the Ministry of Education, as well as various other organizations including newspapers; and if you are hired as formal faculty, your research (or lack of it) must be counted in the evaluation as well. I’m not sure if creative writing or translations are counted in that evaluation process. (For my field, economics, the only things they count are jourjal articles and specialized, technical books or textbooks – which partially explains the absurd number of Korean economics introductory textbooks in the Korean marketplace). Like the Korean students, the Korean universities are hyper-sensitive about the ranking they get from these evaluations.

    It also doesn’t help that most Korean intellectuals who work in humanities (including literature) thinks SF is silly.

  9. Junsok Yang
    Junsok Yang December 21, 2008 at 9:09 pm . Reply

    Alas, I have about five hundred exams to grade (about 140 of it is math – I didn’t finish grading the midterms yet…)

    Definitely coffee or beer in January sometime. :)

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