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The Rosetta Archive: Notable Speculative Short Fiction in Translation

The Short: I was very excited to see an anthology of recent, translated speculative fiction. I am very interested in these different voices and perspectives in good speculative fiction. I enjoyed reading “The Rosetta Archive: Notable Speculative Short Fiction in Translation“, Alex Shvartsman and Tarryn Thomas editors, 2022 UFO Publishing. My overall rating was 3.69/5, or “Very good”. Recommended.

The Full Story: I love short speculative fiction, especially short science fiction. While I love the authors and sources that I have experience in and have enjoyed before, I also like new fiction by new authors with different voices and perspectives. International and translated speculative fiction hits that on the head for me.

I suspect we’re in a great era for translated and international speculative fiction. I don’t love all of it, but I do love the different voices and perspectives. We’re seeing so much that it’s become hard to keep up with, which I think is a good thing.

We are seeing quite a few speculative fiction anthologies that are specific to a language, culture, country or geographic region. This is great, but for variety I like anthologies like this one and Lavie Tidhar’s “The Best of World SF: Volume 1” (2021, Ad Astra / Head of Zeus), which are broader.

I was very interested and excited when I heard about this anthology.

Although I read most forms of speculative fiction in English, I tend to prefer science fiction. This volume definitely included the major areas of speculative fiction in my view, with science fiction, fantasy and horror. I don’t fault the editors for their choices, and the title and other information available made it very clear that this would include all three. While I enjoyed the variety and selection of stories, I might have rated the anthology higher if it had been all science fiction. I don’t see this as a negative, but it’s something to be aware of.

I appreciated the Foreword, which presented a somewhat complex and interesting story about how the anthology came to be, and how the contents were selected. There is definitely a relationship to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Rosetta Awards, founded by the Chinese Future Affairs Administration (FFA). The FFA is focused on producing original science fiction content, translating international fiction, and translating the works of Chinese authors into other languages.

The author and translator information with each story was helpful and interesting. My average, overall rating of all the stories is 3.69/5, or “Very good”. I enjoyed the stories and was pleased that I had not read any of them previously.

“Debtless” appeared here
“Long Iapetan Night” appeared here

The only authors here that I have read before are Chen Qiufan (novella “Debtless” is a past favorite), Michèle Laframboise, Taiyo Fuji, K. A. Teryna, and Julie Nováková (I had read her “The Long Iapetan Night”). The other authors were all new to me, which I liked.

My favorite stories here include:

  1. Biography Of Algae”, a short story by Martha Riva Palacio Obón, translated from the Spanish by Will Morningstar, first published in Strange Horizons, 30 November 2020.
  2. The Curtain Falls, The Show Must End”, short fiction by Julie Nováková, translated from the Czech by the author, first published in Samovar, 27 July 2020.
  3. Whale Snows Down”, a short story by Kim Bo-Young, translated from the Korean by Sophie Bowman, first published in Future Science Fiction Digest, December 2020.

It’s positive that two of my three favorite stories here are by authors new to me.

I have used information from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and from this book for first publication information. I am not worrying about this, but it is possible that some of these stories had original appearances in their original language that are not noted here.

Detailed Reviews/Comments: SPOILERS AHEAD!

  1. Roesin”, a novelette by Wu Guan, translated from the Chinese by Judith Huang, Future Science Fiction Digest, December 2020. A very good story of robots and humans, and art, told in epistolary form. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
  2. “Whale Snows Down” by Kim Bo-Young, translated from the Korean by Sophie Bowman, Future Science Fiction Digest, December 2020. A great and harrowing story of life in the deeps and the end of life on the surface. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
  3. “The Green Hills Of Dimitry Totzkiy”, a short story by Eldar Safin, translated from the Russian by Alex Shvartsman, Samovar, 27 April 2020. An enjoyable fantasy of the creation of a universe and what it takes from there. Rated 3.5/5, or “Good”.
  4. “Raising Mermaids”, a short story by Dai Da, translated from the Chinese by S. Qiouyi Lu, Future Science Fiction Digest, December 2020. An interesting story of a nonhuman acquiring a mermaid, and things do not work out in any way. Rated 3.6/5, or “Very good”.
  5. “Mater Tenebrarum”, short fiction by Pilar Pedraza, translated from the Spanish by James D. Jenkins, “Arcano trece: Cuentos crules” (Madrid: Valdemar, 2000). A gothic story of horror with a bit of wry humor. Rated 3.5/5, or “Good”.
  6. “Vik From Planet Earth”, a short story by Yevgeny Lukin, translated from the Russian by Mike Olivson, Future Science Fiction Digest, March 2020. An amusing short short story of tourists on a planet where sentient tourists are not allowed to kill any of the local wildlife in self defense, but are allowed to bring non-sentient pets for defense. Vik from Earth has a different pet. Rated 3.6/5, or “Very good”.
  7. “Biography Of Algae”, short fiction by Martha Riva Palacio Obón, translated from the Spanish by Will Morningstar, Strange Horizons, 30 November 2020. This story’s point of view is rather interesting. It’s not clear that the “now” narration has any connection to life in Europa. This is probably an epistolary story variation. Regardless of the fact that very little happens, I love it. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.
  8. “The Post-Conscious Age” by Su Min, translated from the Chinese by Nathan Faries, Future Science Fiction Digest, September 2020. A good story of a therapist’s encounter with and transportation to post-consciousness. Rated 3.5/5, or “Good”.
  9. “Just Like Migratory Birds”, a short story by Taiyo Fujii, translated from the Japanese by Emily Balistrieri, Future Science Fiction Digest, December 2020. A good story of a researcher into migratory animals and the prospect of moving to another solar system for research and probably never seeing someone she loves again. Rated 3.6/5, or “Very good”.
  10. “The Witch Dances”, a short story by Thiago Ambrósio Lage, translated from the Portuguese by Iana Araújo, Eita! Sep 5, 2021. A charming short short story of a Witch, a Priest, a Scientist, the fae and imps cooperating to immunize a village against a deadly disease. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
  11. “Formerly Slow” by Wei Ma, translated from the Chinese by Andy Dudak, Future Science Fiction Digest December 2020. A great story of a family in Shenli, where biomedical technology allows those with the right biology to go dormant, waking one day of the week. The population is split into 7 cohorts, one for each day, with substantial benefits. A child is discovered to be unable to go dormant, although her biology should work for it. Time goes on, and her father decides to take her out of the city so she can have a normal childhood. Her mother stays, as she likes dormancy. This reminds me bit of the idea from the Karl Schroeder “Lockstep” novel. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
  12. “Menopause”, short fiction by Flore Hazoumé, translated from the French by James D. Jenkins, “Cauchemars” (Abidjan: Edilis, 1994). A very good story of a world where menopause is very different, and perhaps women transition to men. This was published as a horror story, and I can see that. Rated 3.7/5 or “Very good”.
  13. “The Mole King” by Marie Hermanson, translated from the Swedish by Charlie Haldén, first published in Hermanson’s 1986 collection “There Is A Hole in Reality”. A very good story of a King who becomes a Mole King and the Princess who loves him. This felt a bit like a fable or a fairy tale. If I’d finished reading “The Big Book of Modern Fantasy” by the VanderMeers, I would have read this before. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
  14. “The Ancestral Temple In A Box”, a short story by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Emily Jin, Clarkesworld January 2020. A great story of a man who has battled with his father over using modern technology in the family business of carving, with an unexpected outcome after his father dies. Rated 3.8/5, or “Great”.
  15. “No One Ever Leaves Port Henri”, a novelette by K.A. Teryna, translated from the Russian by Alex Shvartsman, Galaxy’s Edge, September 2020. A very good horror story, perhaps post WW1, of a Caribbean king and his ongoing scheme for immortality. Rated 3.7, or “Very good”.
  16. “Cousin Entropy” by Michèle Laframboise, translated from the French by N. R. M. Roshak, Future Science Fiction Digest, June 20201. A very good story of posthumans, deep time, the end of the universe (or at least of any energy above absolute zero), and Cousins Enthalpy and Entropy. Rated 3.7/5, or “Very good”.
  17. “The Curtain Falls, The Show Must End” by Julie Nováková, translated from the Czech by the author, Samovar, 27 July 2020. A great story of a German theatre in Prague, the Neue Deutsch Theatre, as World War 2 approaches. Austria had been annexed, and life is scary and very tense as the theater’s staff work to put on a new play. Ghosts come into play, with strong currents for and against the new play and the survival of the theater. Prague is one of my favorite cities, and I love this story based upon a real theatre. Rated 3.9/5, or “Great”.

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