PiFan Book Fair: SF/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller novels and Magazines… in Korean!

This entry is part 6 of 72 in the series SF in South Korea

Well, I was told I could pick up my tickets at the ticket booth today, but of course, I couldn’t. Somehow, though, I ended up at City Hall and noticed a huge display of books and magazines near the ticket booth. It turned out to be the biggest collection of Korean SF, thriller, suspense, and horror novels I’ve ever seen.

I had already picked up some of the books, but I still managed to grab the following titles (in translation) for Lime:

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (in hardback)
  • Odd John by Olaf Stapledon (a beautiful edition, by the way)
  • Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

(UPDATE: When I went back to get a bunch more issues of Fantastique, I also got her:

  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (the real book, not a novelization of the film)
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne

… all of which are books I have yet to read myself, but am planning to get to in the next couple of years. I’ll try time it so we can read — or at least finish — a few of them at the same time, so I can hear her reaction while the book is fresh in my mind.)
It probably says a lot how gratified I was that she immediately took an interested in I, Robot — moreso when I noted it’s the short stories, not a novelization of the (uhm…) film. And it probably says even more about me how, when she asked which other book would be interesting, if not the Asimov, I could recommend Banks’ Consider Phlebas, and a collection of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness and several of his more famous Cthulhu-cycle stories. But finally, she opted to read the (also excellent) Michael Blumlein collection The Brains of Rats. Being that he’s an M.D., his first few paragraphs in the story-as-medical journal article, “Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report” hooked her.

(Little does she know the patient is a criminal on death row who is about to be taken apart without any anaesthetic, each different part of his body becoming the source material for mile-long sheets of regenerated tissue for experimental, medical, industrial, and agricultural use!

(Maybe she’ll be back to Asimov by tomorrow…)

I also picked up three issues of the (newish — it’s been running since May 2007) Korean SF magazine Fantastique (here’s the magazine’s website), which I’ve added to my blogroll), which an expat online named Dale very thoughtfully mentioned to me in a conversation when he contacted me (via Facebook) after reading my work in Asimov’s. I got all the issues with stories by듀나 (Djuna) in them, mostly because once I mentioned I was familiar with that author, one of the salesgirls went and got every magazine containing Djuna’s stories. However, flipping through them, I noticed there’s about three original works by Korean authors, along with some translations. I’m thinking of picking up some more back issues, and maybe subscribing. (I picked up back issues — those available) If there’s any way I can get myself to start studying and reading Korean again, it’ll be by convincing myself to try read one or two of those short stories a month, and some of the short stories and the manhwa (manga) in these mags are manageable enough in length for me to consider it possible, if slightly insane.

듀나 — “용의 이”

And I got a novel-and-stories collection by 듀나 (Djuna) titled “용의 이”  (Dragon’s Tooth, I’m guessing that is, though the cover has spacemen and stuff on it — it’s the illustration for one of the stories, is why.) The short stories I’m more hopeful about than the novel from which the book title is taken. (Hundreds of pages in Korean text plain scare me; tens or dozens just make me feel ridiculously small, and fuel my desire to fight my way through it bit by bit.) The short stories have amusing titles like “Where’s Your Daddy?” and “The King of China” (the ilustration for which suggests it is a ghost story). Of course, they’re probably all in the issues of Fantastique I have already, but that’s okay: it was a twelve thousand won (I just say twelve bucks) hardback with lovely illustrations, and some academic-looking essays and commentary on Djuna’s work, and a short afterword in the back. All in all, a great deal.

Anyway, if anyone’s going to PiFan and has a hankering or desire to pick up some SF, fantasy (I saw Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, among others), or thriller novels in Korean translation, or originals by Korean authors, stop by Bucheon City Hall. They’ll give you a nice bag and a fan and a drink, too, while they have ’em. Don’t forget to chat with the friendly floor staff, if you’re so inclined: I met a young guy (an aspiring novelist in the thriller genre) who quite happily chatted with me (mostly in Korean) about the state of novice and midlist genre publishing in Korea, which, by the way, is very internet heavy. The impression I got was: get some short stuff into webzines, then get the novel manuscript ready, and then approach publishers with a novel manuscript. Not so different from how we do it, except we still have print magazines — their big print mag is still new. (I’ll post more about Fantastique once I’ve looked through a few issues a little more closely.) Maybe I’ll have more to say about that if we talk again: we’ll see… he’s supposed to be emailing me so we can have a look at one another’s published writing.

On another note, for those interested, I just received all the DVDs I ordered, which means I’ve got everything I’ll be needing to pull images or video clips from except the film Yesterday, which I’ll be getting next week. That’s right, I now own copies of:

  • Killing Machine (a Korean indie film which has some crazy original title like, “Teenaged Prostitute Who Died in Hongik University is in Hong Ik University” or something nuts like that)
  • The Resurrection of the Little Match Girl
  • Wonderful Days (the animation)
  • Save the Green Planet


  • Yonggary (which, yes, I know it will suck, but only cost me three bucks thrown in with the rest).

That is, in addition to Natural City and The Host and 2009: Lost Memories, which I already had on hand. (I have other stuff that some might want to include in the category, which which are more horror or fantasy than SF, and are thus excluded.)
It’s kind of sad that none of those were (legally) available within Korea. It’s nice, though, that being the case, that they were obtainable outside the country, though, and now that I have them (almost) all on hand, I will finally be (re-starting) my series of posts on Korean SF. I’d better, since I have to turn in my paper for Fukuoka by the end of August!

By the way, I also got a copy of Somtow Sucharitkul‘s Ayodhya, an operatic treatment of the Ramakian (ie. the Thai version of the Ramayana) which some of you may remember as that opera that the Thai government censored in 2006, ostensibly for superstitious reasons. (You may not know that the composer is also a famous SF/fantasy/horror author.) And the guy knows how to write music like nobody’s business. He’s also made the Bangkok Opera a world attraction.

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6 thoughts on “PiFan Book Fair: SF/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller novels and Magazines… in Korean!

  1. KILLING MACHINE’s full Korean title references Daehangno, not Hongdae. Very goofy film… but not goofy enough to be very interesting. I do believe that director has a new film about to be released.

    Good luck with all that “science fiction.” Most of it is pretty goofy.

  2. Ah, thanks Mark. I knew it was one university area, just couldn’t remember which one. I’ll keep an eye out for that director’s new film… hopefully it will be decent SF.

    Most of the SF films I’ll be looking at are pretty goofy, but then again my paper pretty is trying to throw some light on why that is… working from the assumption that SF as a genre (written and cinematic alike) has not (yet?) successfully gone native in Korea.

    Though trying to look into the whole literary SF genre in terms of original Korean authors is pretty tough. FANTASTIQUE gives me a better starting point, and I have a few other leads to try, but it looks to me like written SF existed here for a long time, then kind of crashed and burned, and is only now, maybe, starting to reemerge. It may well be flowering again, but it’s tiny flowers by the side of the road where other foreign entertainment genres — including horror and fantasy — seem to be whizzing by.

    Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just collaborate with a Korean translator and write THE Korean SF movie to end all Korean SF films. I have this short story set a generation or two after the worst peaceful post-reunification scenario imaginable, about life extension, a Korean doctor and her ethnic Indian husband, and of course, big minjok. Supposed to be coming out in Interzone, sometime, somehow.

  3. Back around 2001, I met the young woman who leads the Roger Zelazny fan club in Korea. She (and others) made their own translations of his works for each other to read. So there definitely is a knowledgeable fan base here… but there are not a lot of people like that.

    Oh, regarding the KILLING MACHINE director, Nam Ki-woong, here is what Darcy Paquet’s website says:

    NEVER BELONGS TO ME. (‘Samgeori Museutang Sonyeonui Choihu) Director Nam Ki-woong, whose previous works include the critically acclaimed Show Me and Teenage Hooker Becomes Killing Machine , returns with another movie that may appeal to a similar audience. Labeled as an erotic drama/fantasy, the promotional stills seem to make it look more like a bloodbath than anything remotely erotic. The movie casts two unknowns in the leads, Kang Hyeon-jung as Geon-tae and Ye Su-an taking two important parts. Other members of the cast include Kim Byeong-jun (Dance With The Wind), Lee Sang-hun (Windstruck, Mutt Boy), Hong Seok-yeon (Tell Me Something) and Jo Han-hee (Flying Boys, Double Agent). This Digi-Gaon picture screened at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, and is currently waiting for a release.

  4. Wow, fansubs and scanlations are one thing, but translating novels and short stories for your friends, that’s dedication. I’ve not doubt there’s a fanbase, I just think proportionally it’s relatively smaller here. Translation seems to have been picking up in the last few years, though, and of good stuff, and at least there’s a print magazine in existence!

    But given how SF seems sometimes to be crowded out by our increasingly SFnal reality, I wonder how much wider the fandom can grow. But I have absolutely no doubt that many of the (relatively few) fans who do exist are very hip, and have gone to great lengths to know the genre. It’s just that they’re so few that makes me argue it has either withered on the vine, or not yet gone native. (Though, as I say, it may be flowering anew, in written form anyway.)

    The film desctiption sounds… well, actually, probably up my alley, in fact. We’ll see.

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