Singularity Sky by Charles Stross, or New Space Opera in Japan

January 5th, 2007

The term `New Space Opera’ becomes known among Japanese SF fans from late 2005 or early 2006, because Hayapawa, the most famous SF publisher in Japan, translates many NSO. Singularity Sky is one of these translated NSOs.

However, the reactions from Japanese SF fans are controversial.

One reason is that many Japanese SF fans received the Singularity Sky as a serious story and hope that it provides a speculation about the Technological Singularity. IMO, Singularity Sky is a slapstick at its heart. Through this comic story line, it provides serious speculations to us. Unfortunately, this bizarre style is not well understood among Japanese fans. One reason will be that Hayapawa publishing introduced NSOs as something great.
The second reason is that Singularity Sky, and other many NSO, do not describe the Singularity itself directly (except for Accelerando, which is not translated yet).

For my impression, I enjoyed it as a slapstick. I must also agree with many Japanese fans, if they say that its speculation is inferior to some classical SF works such as Stanislaw Lem (Solaris, Glos Pana, and so on). However, in comparison with such works, almost all SF will be inferior. Not so fair comparison.
Anyways, the Iron Sunrise was translated into Japanese in Dec last year, which may mean that the reaction to Singularity Sky was not so bad.

SF Seminar staff meeting @ Shinjuku

December 29th, 2006

We held a meeting to discuss the programs of the next SF Seminar.

Some programs are fixed so far, I’d like to show their abstracts.

One is interview with Ryousuke Takahashi, an anime director of Nihon Sunrise. His representing works are robot anime such as Votoms, Dougram, Galient, and Layzner. His great works are full of SF, use smart SF-like settings, and influence many SF fans in Japan (or the world?).
Another is about a magazine, called `Kisou Tengai’ (written as 奇想天外, its meaning is strange, bizarre, unbelievable, fantastic, out-of-the-world, or so on). Kisou Tengai is old magazine starting in 1974, but ended the same year. The second Kisou Tengai restarted 1976 and ended at 1981. Kisou Tengai is something strange, and alternative magazine about SF for us. For the next SF Seminar, we’ll invite Tadaho Sone, the chief editor of Kisou Tengai, and he’ll talk about the magazine.

Also, we have other plans for programs. Don’t miss it.

“Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve, translated by Rei Anno

December 29th, 2006

Many my friends of SF recommend reading this book. It’s great entertainment, although it is published as juvenile novel.

After a kind of armageddon, destructions at the earth’s crust and chaotic climates are common in the world, and the cities should not be fixed at a point. The cities have caterpiller and move by themselves.

1000 years passed. Cities `eat’ each other, grow, and die. People seek tools and technologies before armageddon, called oldtech, to reconstruct the civilization.

This setting is so nice to me. BTW, I think `eating each other’ as a kind of metaphor, but cities can eat other cities by their own jaw and fangs. IMHO, this style is SF.

The story is just an ordinary juvenile, but Reeve write it well. The hero is a trainee in (moving) London, and meets a girl assassin who wants to kill his master, and then falls from London by his master. Who is the assassin, and why? What happens in London?

This book also includes a nice description arousing imaginations about huge cities moving with crawler, free traders transiting between cities by airships, fixed cities hiding castles on Himarayan higher peeks.

My friends, and I, feels like Studio Ghibli anime. Visual reminder is similar, and so entertains us.

“Mortal Engines” is the first part of a sequel. In Japan, the remains are not translated yet, I’m waiting them.

“Ai’s Stories” by Hiroshi Yamamoto

December 27th, 2006

(One of) the year’s best SF in Japan.

This book consists of two stories. One is dystopia, in which humans are dominated by robots. Population goes down all over the world, the remaining humans attack the robots’ facilities and rob foods.

The storyteller is a human boy. He are abducted by a female robot, named Ai. He fears about the brainwashing by robot, but Ai’s hope is “just a talk”, fictions. She tells various stories to him…

That stories are originally written by the author, Hiroshi Yamamoto, and published in many magazines. So, there are no relationship among them. Ai’s stories to the storyteller are just a fiction in the world.

In addition to that each stories are nice, the whole novel has some misteries. What is the truth of the history? Why robots dominate humans? Or, Is it true? Why Ai tells various stories?

The greatest story in this book is “the day Shion came”, a story about caring android. Shion is the android’s name. Shion can think, reason, and behave autonomously, and care old people at a nursely home. The story describes robots, and the surrounding people’s reactions. Especially, the change of surrounding humans are written nicely. Robot is not alternative of nurse. Human accidentaly treat Shion as a human, which is a mistake. But Shion is not just a tool of nurse. The relationship between humankind and robots is very sensitive, and Yamamoto can write it.

BTW, I’d like to comment the book title. Original title is “Ai no monogatari” (アイの物語) . The word `monogatari’ means story. `no’ is one of preposition of Japanese, mostly can be translated into `of’. In this title, the stories are told by the robot. Therefore, the title means “stories by Ai”.

However, one of the stories are about the robot Ai herself. That is just “Ai’s story”.

Moreover, Ai, written as 愛, means “love” in Japan. In this case, the word `no’ denotes the theme of the story. In fact, the theme of this book is love from autonomous robots (artificial intelligence) to humankind. This book is stories about love.

And also, Ai will denotes AI=Artificial Intelligence. This book includes stories about robots, AIs.

The book title has many many meanings. Translation drops these meanings.

“Ragged Girl” by Hirotaka Tobi

November 26th, 2006

So great collection!

This book is a collection of the sequel named `Costa del Numero’. Costa del Numero is the name of virtual playground in this world, in which artificial autonomous agents serve guests. Costa del Numero has many `wards’ which are virtual worlds (playgrounds) and have their own rules and themes. In fact, Costa del Numero is a collection of virtual playgrounds.

“The Grand Vacance”, published in 2002 and the first novel of this sequel, is set in a ward called Summer. Human guests do not visit the Summer Ward for 1000 years (in the time of this ward), which is called `Grand Down’. This does not means that Costa del Numero is out of service, because the artificial agents can act. “The Grand Vacance”
shows many misteries for this settings; for example, why the power is still supplied in despite of lack of guests? And it describes a war between artificial agents of the wards and agents from other virtual worlds.

In “Ragged girl”, Tobi describes the stories for `human part’ of Costa del Numero. The startup and concepts of Costa and the truth of Grand Down is also shown in this book.

“Air des Bijoux”, the first story of this book, is a very short stories originally appeared in Hayakawa SF Magazine for campaign of “Grand Vacance”. It is about an ordinary day of Summer Ward after the Grand Down and shows the background settings of this world.

“Unweaving the Humanbeing” is masterpiece of Japanese, or world, SF history. The story about the people building Costa del Numero. It confuses the boundary between real world and virtual, and also readers’ ones. “Ragged Girl” (original Japanese title of this story and this book) may denote Kei Agata, the main developer of Costa del
Numero, but… “Unweaving the humanbeing”, the engrish title, is name of a software and means editing virtual avatar, and more. Great.

“Close It” is the direct continuation of “Unweaving the Humanbeing”. One of the developer of Costa are killed by himself using many and many virtual deaths of avatars. This story have taste of mistery and horror a little, and the truth will lead the disaster of Costa del Numero.

“Laterna Magika” is newly-written story for this collection. This story have two scene. One is in a ward called Znamka, and the other is in the real world. Znamka is a ward for `Whales’. Whale is a virtual agent which can go into other wards and provides specific service. Whales are born in Znamka, and grown and maintained by agents of
Znamka. A guest meets a wizard, and knows truth of Costa. On the other hand, a journalist interviews a cyber terrorist about Costa. She advocate the `human rights’ of autonomous agents and points out the violation of human rights in Costa. She let freeze some wards by terror, such ward cannot be visited by guests but must work to live the agents. At last, whole Costa is freezed by her attack… If the story contained only one part of them, it would be great. I think that the background settings are too disclosed, and am afraid that the next novel lacks attractions because of this disclosure. However, Tobi said that only one third of settings are disclosed, which comfort
us. But, what is the rest?

“Lord of Spinners” is the last of this book. This is about the early days of the enemy of “Grand Vacance”, in `Omni Tree Ward’. In Omni Tree Ward, all is came from the trees. Agents are born, live, and die in a tree. Some agents, called kin of spinners, can control the spinners, which are maintenance routines or sub-autonomous tools in
Costa, and can control the rules of the ward like magic. This work is about the battle between kin of spinners and bandits, very entertaining. When I read this in Hayakawa SF Magazine, I was very surprised because I did not know that Costa del Numero allows such ward and magic-like hacks.

It contains various style of stories, so I cannot view them from a point of view. The only thing I can write is the stories are great and should be translated into Engish for non-Japanese fans, although it will be hard work because Tobi’s writing is strongly depending on Japanese.

To worldcon

August 22nd, 2006

I’ll go to LAcon IV, the 64th world science fiction convention.

Next year, the worldcon will be held in Japan.  Altough I’m not staff of Nippon 2007, I (and staff of SF semnar) have some plans for programs.  Some of them will be `bi-lingual’ programs, in which the speaker talks in Japanese but the talks are translated into English, and vice versa. To achieve such programs, however, helps of many (especially non-Japanese) fans are required.   In this LAcon, I’d like to meet many fans and talk.
Anyway, LAcon is only the second worldcon for me, so I want to enjoy it!  That is the first priority.

First Post (ja)

August 21st, 2006

というわけで日本語版の first post エントリを書いてみる。

ええっと自己紹介から。私は一SFファンで、「SFセミナー」というコンベンションの事務局長をやっています。このブログとはべつに、 で日記(ブログ)を書いています。あちらはもう7年くらいになるでしょうか。引越しがあって、古い日記は辿れなくなっていますが。 で書いていた日記は、主に自分の興味のおもむくままに書いています。一方こちらのブログは、目的としては「SFセミナーの告知とか、進捗の説明とか」ということになっています。ただ、それだけでは間が持たないので、本の感想とかで間を埋めることになると思います。もっとも、本の感想は日本語では に書いておき、こちらに訳載するというかたちを取ることになると思います。



First Post

August 21st, 2006

OK, This is the first post of this blog. This entry is about myself and the policy for this blog.

I am a Japanese SF fan and the executive officer of a Japanese local SF convension, called SF seminar. And then, I am also a blogger — I am writing another blog at . It started about 7 years ago, although the oldest entry can not be seen now. It is written in Japanese, so some people cannot read it.
The blog of is my primary blog and I write entries for my interest — programming , SF, and others. On the other hand, this SF seminar blog is for the information of SF Seminar. I’ll write, for example, progress report of the next SF seminar.

However, such info will bring few entries. Then, I’d like to write other topics such as my review (or impression) of SF books, comics (manga), TV shows (anime), and so on (mainly translated from
I’ll also write some entries in Japanese for Japanese readers. Don’t mind if you cannot read them because I’ll write the `English version’ of such entries.