- My Thoughts on SF in Korea (How and Why They’ve Changed)
- It’s Not Just the Lateness of Industrialization: How and Why Korean SF Doesn’t Quite Work
- Why SF Has Failed to Put Down Roots in Korea, Part I: To Start With, Questions…
- K-Raelians plus The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World by Thomas M. Disch, and The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson
- To All SF Geeks in Korea With [Patient or Interested] Korean Other Halves
- PiFan Book Fair: SF/Fantasy/Horror/Thriller novels and Magazines… in Korean!
- The KOFA 괴수 대백과
- Star Wars ROK Rock
- 2008 SF&F Festival (Seoul)?
- Reading The Host in Context, Part 1
- Reading The Host in Context, Part 2: How I Read The Host
- Seoul 2008 SF&F Festival Report
- Trope Salad and Penis Guns and Indie SF Films… No, Really.
- Matt on Symmetry in The Host
- Done, Fun, Thinking Some
- More SF Goodness, Including a Bunch of Korean SF in Translation…
- How Candlegirl and V Took on 2MB
- From Mt. Sobaek
- SOAO Workshop 2009 Pictures Up
- The SOAO Workshop @ Sobaeksan
- My Research Plan Application (Argh!) and a New Korean SF Organization (Yay!)
- Worth Reading, March ’09
- No Surprise
- Korea Society Talk on Robo Taekwon V
- “SF in South Korea Today” — Article Live
- Guest Blog on Global SF & Translation @ Apex
- Party Last Night
- Star Wars: 스타워즈 프로젝트 컴필레이션 (2008)
- Outsider Writing
- Wackiest Korean Book I Ever Bought
- Geek Out
- Boyran, a novel by “World’s Youngest Fantasy Writer Wonje Song”
- 박민규의 지구 영웅 전설과 카스테라
- If Only I Were Part Robot…
- Dancing Stormtroopers in Seoul?
- [Literary] SF: A Social Phenomenon (Plus Some Detours)
- Addendum to [Literary] SF: A Social Phenomenon (Plus Some Detours)
- Addendum #2 to [Literary] SF: A Social Phenomenon (Plus Some Detours)
- Coming Soon: Gwacheon International SF Film Festival!
- More About Korean SF, and Some Dougal Dixon Links
- Forthcoming Papers on Korean SF, “Good Night,” and a Summary of “Another Undiscovered Country”
- Vampires, Confucianism, Christianity’s Latent Monarchism, and the Translation of Sociohorror
- 천군 (Heaven’s Soldiers) revisited: Hanmura Ryō’s Sengoku Jieitai (戦国自衛隊), 독재자 (Dictator), and more Korean SF News
- 7광구 (Sector 7) — Setting Korean SF Back Decades
- Some Notes For Korean Film Companies Considering an SF Film Project
- Coming Soon: “Invasion of Alien Bikini”
- Gunpla Advertisement Analysis, and 우뢰매!
- Invasion of Alien Bikini, or, I Feel Sick
- Cantico del Seoul
- New Korean SF Movie(s)! 인류멸망보고서 / Doomsday Book
- 미래경 (Futuroscope) #3 Has Arrived
- Seoul SF&F Library — Relocated!
- Upcoming Korean SF Film: AM 11:00
- Korean “Disaster” Films: 연가시 / Deranged
- Seoul Cthulhu Festival of Film: 28 Feb 2012
- 사이코메트리 [Psychometry] — The Gifted Hands (2013)
- Seoul Comics World Convention #114 (December 2012)
- Korea in English-Language SF
- Articles on Korean SF in _list Magazine
- Asia’s First Steampunk Art Exhibition
- A.M. 11:00 (11 A.M.)
- Korean SF Festival 2014
- An Evolutionary Myth by Bo-Young Kim
- Old Movie Promo Posters in Korea
- Readymade Bodhisattva, “The Flowering,” Los Angeles/Riverside, and More
- “The Peppers of GreenScallion,” and More
- Korean SF 2020: A Rushed Update
- Boyoung Kim’s “An Evolutionary Myth”: Reviews and Comments, and Audio Version
Anyone who’s reading this series from the beginning will note that this post was written much later than the second post in the series. My thoughts on SF in Korea have changed somewhat, and I think it’s important to frame that.
A few months ago, when I began looking into SF here, all I really had access to was a couple of websites, and the shelves of every bookstore I walked past. You see, everytime I saw a bookstore, I would hurry into it and look around for the SF section. Not the SF section in English, but the Korean SF bookshelf.
This was frustrating for a few reasons. One of them is that some chains don’t differentiate between Korean SF and mainstream Korean lit. Some shops differentiate between foreign SF (which is classed as SF) but put SF books by Korean authors into the “Korean fiction” section. Others put all the SF — Korean and otherwise — together.
My attempts to find things out from students were similarly frustrating. Whereas, in North America, one would usually find a few people in any class who were, if not SF fans, at least marginally knowledgeable about it: able, for example, to name three famous SF authors, able to make the Vulcan sign of greeting with an “Oh my God, this is so cheeseball!” grin on their faces. Maybe it’s because boys are more into SF than girls — a large majority of my studens are female — or maybe I was asking the wrong people, but I found nobody. Whole classes had never seen a single episode of Star Trek, and classroom discussions of movies like The Fifth Element and Blade Runner always had to go through the whole, “Even if this isn’t ‘realistic’ we can talk about it and it’s worth talking about,” discussion.
(Which is not to say everyone was stuck at that point, just that a few students manifestly wanted always to point out how childish and silly it is to talk about imaginary things. Others often argued for the worth of imaginary things, and pointed out — after I noted it early on in the semester — how SF often pinpoints areas of anxiety or self-contradiction in a society that are not up for public discussion in a more “respectable” arena.)
Add to that comments I’d heard from other Westerners here, such as — but not just — Michael’s comments on the unpopularity of Star Trek here, and you can see why I had the sense that SF simply had made few to no major inroads here.
As I write this, my impression is a little different. If you’re interested in that, my (upcoming) post on the 2nd Annual Seoul SF&F Festival (held August 15-16th 2008) is likely to be of interest — especially for my observations of the development of fan culture here, and way that modern media have created interesting differences from the development of fan culture in other societies, which occurred when different media dominated. I will note that though this is the 2nd annual major event, there are supposedly monthly get-togethers for SF fans, and also that a perhaps bigger “Con” was held sometime around the turn of the century, before the group that organized it split up into smaller groups and formed various clubs.
In terms of written SF, I am now of the opinion that there’s been a kind of groundswell of literary SF — especially translations from English-language and Japanese work — for years now. (And this industry has existed longer than I ever suspected — almost a century, apparently — though its history is something I need to look into further.) In more recent years, a couple of webzines (the ones I know about are JoySF — which is also Korea’s biggest SF fansite, with apparently something like 20,000 members — and Crossroads) have been supporting the publication of Korean authors and translators of SF, especially shorter SF, and in some cases seemingly paved the way for these people to secure book publication deals. [The most famous example, I think, is a movie critic and SF author who uses the penname 듀나 (Djuna).] And in May 2007, a speculative fiction magazine titled Fantastique was launched, with a strong focus not just on original Korean fiction and translations of foreign SF, but also features on other aspects of fan culture. (I’m grateful to Dale Lefevre, who contacted me after reading one of my stories, for bringing Fantastique to my attention in time for me to know what I was looing at when I saw an almost-complete set of issues at the PIFan booksale.)
I am not sure whether it’s a shortage of Korean SF authors, or greater interest in foreign work, but the SF-in-Korean market seems dominated by translations of Western work. That said, anthologies have been released every few years containing Korean work, and the trend seems to be picking up across genre lines, as well: recently, major Korean horror and fantasy anthologies were also released.
What I wrote during my initial, frustrated investigations was that Korean SF had “failed to put down roots in Korea,” and in fact, I’m not completely disavowing it: Korean society is a society in which SF is not a major genre, and it has yet to spring to life as a native literature, as a cornerstone for understanding the world even to people who have never read an SF novel.
But there is something about this phrase, about the word “failed,” that seems negative, dismissive of what has been achieved, so I think I would perhaps like to amend those words to read, “Is still in the process of putting down roots in Korea.” Indeed I would change those words, but I feel it would be dishonest. This series is, as much as it is anything, a record of my discoveries but also the process of those discoveries. If you’d like to see why I thought what I thought, and why I changed by mind, the rest of the series should interest you, so now that you’re at the bottom of this post, go ahead and click on “read next” and you can work your way through my observations as I made them. But when you do so, remember: these were (and remain) piecemeal impressions, subject to change, clarification, falsification. I’m still learning a lot, but it’s fascinating to see a fan culture being developed right now. Fascinating, exciting, and fun.