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Translations and the Hugo Awards

I don’t want to get into the Sad Puppies controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards (mostly because, well, fuck “sad puppies” and their stupid name), but I do want to point out that sci-fi in translation did really well at last night’s award ceremony. In fact, two of the top prizes that were awarded (if you’ve read anything about the “sad puppies” nonsense, you know that voters chose to give “No Award” in a ton of categories) were given out to works in translation.

In fact, The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu, won for “Best Novel,” arguably the most valued prize. And “The Day the World Turned Upside Down,” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated from the Dutch by Lia Belt, won for “Best Novelette.”

According to a Facebook post by Ken Liu, only three translations have ever won a Hugo Award, making this year’s results a pretty huge coup.

I haven’t read either of these—although I’m on the waiting list at the NYPL for the audiobook of The Three Body Problem—I think it’s great that translations are receiving this level of recognition for awards that aren’t translation specific.

Moreover, this ties into P.T. Smith’s recent BTBA post about science fiction in translation.

There does seem to be a tide of change coming though. When a conversation with a translation fan rambles on long enough, more often than not, affection for science fiction comes up. Foreign, seemingly highbrow, authors are more welcoming of genre, and less determined to blend it, or make it literary, justify it as many English-language writers do. With these things, and crime fiction’s success, it’s satisfying to see translated science fiction getting healthier. University of Nebraska Press’s Bison Frontier of the Imagination series has been publishing translations years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Melville House has published both modern authors like Jean-Christophe Valtat and classic ones like the Strugatsky brothers. Lui Cixin’s Three Body Problem had mainstream success in the SF world. Andri Snær Magnason’s Vonnegutian LoveStar is brilliantly fun satire of contemporary life, tossed a few years in the future. [. . .]

As with the rest of translated works, as much as there is, I want more translated SF. I want to read the freshest, weirdest SF that other countries are putting out. I want to read the classics that are only just making it into English. I want to see how writers from other countries are affected by English-language writers, to see old ideas in new interpretations. There are books coming out this year I’ve yet to discover, so if you work for a press publishing SF in translation this year, or a fan of any, let me know. I don’t want to miss any of it, and I may find myself writing a second SF post. If you’re a SF fan, talk to fans of translation; if you’re a translation fan, talk to SF fans. Let’s get those worlds, with all their overlap, working to get more of these books into the world.

Maybe this year’s Hugo results will help out with that . . .



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