High-quality SF in other languages?

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JasonArcher
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High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby JasonArcher » Sat Jan 23, 2021 7:03 am

In a previous thread, I asked which language(s) I should learn for reading STEM research papers. The answers from the community were enlightening. I learned that the choice of a specific language should be influenced by the specific field of study.

On a lighter note, what about science fiction? Are there any languages other than English that boast a wide variety of SF literature?

Thank you.
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby improbablediscussion » Sat Jan 23, 2021 8:28 am

There's a lot of really good Russian sci-fi out there, especially from the Soviet period. The Strugatsky brothers are probably the most famous.
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby Cavesa » Sat Jan 23, 2021 9:40 am

Yes, of course. Some of the best choices are: French, Russian, Polish, Czech.
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby Cavesa » Sat Jan 23, 2021 1:32 pm

To give you some names, so taht you can start your research somewhere:

French: Jules Verne (never stops being excellent, and is public domain), Maurice Dantec (ok, this one is excellent, but really hard!), Pierre Boulle (you surely know his most famous work, probably just didn't think it was written by a French), Pierre Bordage (very famous, but the only one on this little list I still haven't read at all), Alain Damasio, Jeanne-A Debats, Laurent Genefort (awesome. If you want a classical space-opera, or something totally original within the genre. I loved especially Les Opéras de l'espace, excellent narration, very original characters), Fabien Clavel (I've read most of his books, he is awesome! a lot of of urban fantasy and scifi mixing)

Spanish (just a few things I know of, but it is not in general a too good choice for scifi lovers. the quantity is low, but the quality is definitely findable too): Félix J. Palma (excellent, not too easy, imaginative, works with the tradition of the genre. El mapa del tiempo is great and a little dense, which is not a bad thing), José Antonio Cotrina ( I loved El fin de los sueños), Víctor Conde (haven't read anything yet, but he won Minotauro)

Russian (I know only in translation): the Strugacki brothers (the classics of the genre indeed, their books are awesome and still have a lot to tell us, I've read most of their works and loved it), Sergei Lukyanenko (don't judge him harshly, if you saw the movie version of the Nightwatch. The movie is horrible, from what I've heard. The books are awesome, but more like urban fantasy. He's written a ton of real scifi, from rather classical space operas to very unusual stuff. Portals between various worlds, that's one of his things. I've read majority of his works, the only one I disliked was some pure fantasy). And there are many more, I just notice them in stores, I am not an expert. If I ever learn Russian, it will be for this though.

Polish (again, I know only the translations): Stanislam Lem (a classic of the genre, don't miss out on him, an excellent read), Zajdel (their main scifi award is named after him, I haven't read anything yet), Jarosław Grzędowicz (absolutely awesome!!!, writes sometimes with his wife Kossakowska, who is an accomplished fantasy writer herself. The lord of the ice garden, not sure whether that's the translated title in English, is absolutely marvellous, well built and surprising)

Czech: Karel Čapek (too bad he didn't get the Nobel Prize, he was nominated but it is said Hitler would have been too displeased, so he didn't win. His RUR is the origin of the word "robot". But the rest of his works is awesome too and many of them are pure and awesome scifi, great for today's reader, and some of them ground breaking in their time. Some are theatre works, some are novels. Oh, and the War with the Newts is the one making such an impact in the WW2 world). Miroslav Žamboch (various kinds of scifi, an excellent author, one of the main names on the contemporary book shelves), Jiří Kulhánek (the father of the contemporary wave of Czech scifi and fantasy), František Kotleta (well, you may not find him to be a literary jewel, but he is a great narrator and a very fun read for people looking for lots of blood!), Roman Bureš (has published one trilogy so far, which is excellent and definitely would do well in the international comparison), Jan Kotouč (does a lot of alternative Czech history, I have yet to read him), Petr Heteša (scifi crime novels, space operas and much more), Vendula Brunhoferová (excellent space opera)
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby leosmith » Sun Jan 24, 2021 12:53 am

Very useful post Cavesa!
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby verdastelo » Sun Jan 24, 2021 7:58 am

JasonArcher wrote:On a lighter note, what about science fiction? Are there any languages other than English that boast a wide variety of SF literature?


Japanese. I love Yasutaka Tsutsui's Salmonella Men on Planet Porno. It's a collection of sometimes absurd, sometimes humorous, but all beautifully written, short stories. Kobo Abe has his own charm as well. Other Japanese writers can be found through a perusal of 2020年 第51回星雲賞 winners. 星雲賞 is a prestigious literary award in Japan, and not the only one. DePauw University's journal Science Fiction Studies has a special issue on Japanese Science Fiction.

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Chinese. In Chinese, Liu Cixin has become a celebrity in the past few years. His Three-Body Problem trilogy is already a classic in hard SF. I absolutely loved the trilogy. If you like reading the books of Arthur C. Clarke, you will love Liu Cixin. The short story Mikroskopa Fino gives a taste of his writing. There is an interview of Liu Cixin from on Usbek & Rica. You can find him and others on the website of the 科幻世界 magazine.

An overview of science fiction in Chinese is available on in the journal Renditions of the Research Center for Translation in Hong Kong. Other great resources are this issue (again from DePauw) on Chinese Science Fiction and Le « roman scientifique » en Chine : prémices d’une science-fiction instrumentalisée. In case you are interested in the current trends, then check out Развитие совеременной китайской фантастической литературы в XXI веке.

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Korean As for South Korea, I have read only short fiction in translation on Clarkesworld and liked it. My favorite (out of half-a-dozen) Korean SF short story is 김보영's An Evolutionary Myth. A preview in original is available on the bookstore BookCube, 김보영의 진화신화. Click 미리보기 to preview.

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Other (free and legal) Korean short stories in translation are The Peppers of Green Scallion, The Flowering, The Flowers in My Face, and The Second Nanny.

In case you are interested in how science fiction can develop in isolation, Benoît Berthelier's Enjeux idéologiques et littéraires de la science-fiction en Corée du Nord depuis 1945 can be a great starting point to acquaint yourself with North Korean science fiction.

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Other Places to Find More Authors

  1. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
  2. Энциклопедия фантастики. It is for someone who "ищет авторов научно-фантастических публикаций, писателей-фантастов, а также литературных критиков этого же жанра" (is looking authors of SF publications, fantasy writers, and even critics in this genre.)
  3. ReS Futurae: revue d'études sur la science-fiction
  4. Science Fiction Studies
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby devilyoudont » Sun Jan 24, 2021 5:41 pm

In Japanese, I previously read 宇宙人のしゅくだい(The alien's homework). Is a collection of SciFi short stories at the the elementary school level. It's pretty decent.

For anime, 銀河英雄伝説(Legend of the Galactic Heroes) has a good reputation, and is based on a series of books.
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby rdearman » Sun Jan 24, 2021 7:13 pm

There is Remembrance of Earth's Past (Chinese: 地球往事) trilogy
  • The Three-Body Problem in Chinese : 三体
  • The Dark Forest : 黑暗森林
  • Death's End : 死神永生
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby AroAro » Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:03 am

Cavesa wrote:
Polish (again, I know only the translations): Stanislam Lem (a classic of the genre, don't miss out on him, an excellent read), Zajdel (their main scifi award is named after him, I haven't read anything yet), Jarosław Grzędowicz (absolutely awesome!!!, writes sometimes with his wife Kossakowska, who is an accomplished fantasy writer herself. The lord of the ice garden, not sure whether that's the translated title in English, is absolutely marvellous, well built and surprising)


Very good recommendations, I would also add Jacek Dukaj ("Lód") to the list.

Dutch: I wanted to mention here Michel Faber ("Under the skin", "The Book of Strange New Things") but I realized he writes in English despite being Dutch, so no luck!
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Re: High-quality SF in other languages?

Postby IronMike » Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:40 am

I've started several Strugacky brothers' books and just haven't gotten into them.

However, I can definitely agree that Lukyanenko's The Night Watch is excellent both in English trans and in Russian. (The movie was alright, I thought, Cavesa.) I haven't tried any of his follow-ons.

Another series I liked, with very good Russian, is the Metro 2033 series. The Russian one is awesome. The English translation, not so much. I've got a couple of the series and they're all good (in Russian).
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