- 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
UPDATE (9 Feb 2010): Yeah, I know he’s not really the world’s youngest fantasy writer. The book was marketed this way, though, and I wanted to include that in the title of the post. It’s exactly the kind of hyperbole one sees in Korea all the time, absolutely not fact-checked or anything. Anyway…
ORIGINAL POST: On Friday last, my friend Nick and dropped by that jazz festival I mentioned. I’ll post more about that soon — I have some pics I want to add to the post, but it’s already written up.
On the way back to the subway station, I pointed out a bookshop where I’d waited for him to arrive — and where I’d managed to find a collection of writings by Deng Xiaoping, again something to post about later — the defense of Mao is quite stunningly familiar for anyone who’s talked about Park Chung-Hee with the average older Korean — but anyway, as we passed by the shop, a paperback in the W1000 stand caught my eye.
It was, of course, the book by the same title as this post:
“Boyran” by Wonje Song was published in 1995 by the Joong-ang Daily News. The bit in the middle — “a novel by World’s Youngest Fantasy Writer” is factually inaccurate, of course: he tied with Jim Theis, author of The Eye of Argon, which Nick mentioned as soon as we started reading through the text.
Well, if you know anything about that latter novel, you know that it’s famously baaaaaaaaaad, famously awful indeed — David Langford puts it thus (as quoted in the Wikipedia page on the text): “”a malaprop genius, a McGonagall of prose with an eerie gift for choosing the wrong word and then misapplying it”– and that it has been circulated mercilessly among SF fans who use it as part of a party game. Thies was also 16 when he wrote The Eye of Argon, and that was a full twenty-five years before Song’s book was published. (More on Thies’ book here.)
And while risk pissing off a guy who apparently now is a lawyer, I have to say: Boyran is Korea’s answer to The Eye of Argon. For example, the beginning of Chapter 2:
The ‘City Beneath’ had been totally dark for many thousands of years, for it was nothing more than a shelter, but as time had gone by humans had learned to adjust to the darkness, and with their intelligence they expanded their city until it was large enough for the entire human race to live in. Stores opened, money was used and notable magicians had created an artificial eternal light which let the city smile with joy. Of course the lights were dimmed when it was bedtime.
Actually, to be honest, it’s not quite as bad as The Eye of Argon, but it is just off enough that Nick and I were howling as we read bits of it aloud in the subway. (I’m sure a few people were puzzled why these two white guys were laughing at this book — until two guys started trying to start a fight with one another right next to us, and we went quiet and edged away.)
I’ll be honest: I have an urge to track down as many copies as I can and give/send them to SF-writer/fandom friends. (Especially Nick, who really wanted a copy. The only ones I see online are at eBay (where it only looks cheap till you see the shipping cost!) and at some shop in France (where the cost is a killer).
And when I say it’s bad, let me be fair: it’s probably as good as, or maybe better than, anything I was writing at age 16. Teenagers are very rarely brilliant writers, and while he had grown up outside of Korea, Song was still a multilingual kid and so it’s even more impressive he could write a book by himself. (If indeed it was by himself: I don’t see an editor credited, but the line about the magical light in the city being dimmed when it was bedtime suggests a clarification added after receiving critical feedback from a parent or teacher — “But how can they sleep if there’s a magical light filling the city?”)
Alone or not, writing a book is not a negligible achievement, even if I think this article at the Guardian hits the nail on the head: teen authors should be encouraged, but they shouldn’t always be published. It’s interesting that this book did get published, and not just that — there was even a Korean translation published by the Joongang Ilbo. I wonder if the (adult?) translator (Jeon Hyesung is the name credited here) took liberties to improve on the original?
In any case, I’m not going to mock publicly — though I will be laughing aloud as I read it, I’m sure — but I just thought I’d mention that something like this actually exists. It’s even weirder (though not particularly surprising) that an establishment like the Joong-ang Ilbo — one of the major daily newspapers in Korea — actually published it. There’s a strange perfect storm of connections behind that, I’m sure.
By the way, I found someone whom I suspect is the author of Boyran on Facebook, and sent him a message, but I haven’t heard back. The reason I think it’s the right guy is because he’s a lawyer in Seoul, and in the author’s bio, he mentions a desire to become a lawyer. There’s a slight resemblance, too. I wonder how he feels about it now. I know I’d likely look back on it with laughter, but Jim Thies resented the mockery of his own juvenilia.
Also: I seem to remember a Canadian SF novel back in the 1980s that had been published by someone — I can’t remember whom, or the title — but it had a brownish cover, with maybe a dragon or monster coming out of a doorway? And I remember the author was a teenager. But that’s all I have. Anyone remember that? I know I signed it out of the library about three times, but never read it.