Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Globe interview

The article in Tuesday's Globe and Mail about my Galaxy Award win is based in part on this email interview I did with the Globe's James Adams yesterday:
Have any of your novels been translated into Cantonese or Mandarin for the mainland China market? Or have your books just been brought in as English-language imports into Hong Kong, China etc. by Tor? If they've been translated, have these been legit translations? That is, as you know, China is decidedly lax on copyright and are famous for bootlegging all sorts of cultural product.

Currently available in Chinese for the mainland market are my novels Golden Fleece, Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, Foreigner, Starplex, and Calculating God, all translated into Chinese in editions licensed to the publisher Science Fiction World in Chengdu by me, via my New York agent Ralph Vicinanza. They pay advances against royalties, and have paid royalties beyond the initial advances; my intellectual property rights have absolutely been respected; everything has been 100% above-board.

I know there's a piracy problem with China, but my books are available there in fully legal licensed editions for which I'm being well paid. And Science Fiction World has treated my wife and me like royalty while we've been in China.

And let me add that of all the languages in which my books are published -- Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Spanish -- the Chinese editions are easily the most beautiful, with the nicest covers, best graphic design, and most appealing interior layout.

Do you know if science-fiction has been a popular idiom in China for a long time? Or is it a more recent phenomenon?

Science fiction has really only taken off in the last 30 years in China, since the mid-1970s, and the popularity is still increasing. The domestic science fiction here is very much in the stage SF was in the 1950s in the United States: lots of spaceships, robots, and aliens. They are ripe here to have the counterpart of the "New Wave," which revolutionized English-language SF in the 1960s, by bringing more attention to inner space rather than outer space. And, in my small way, I'm helping with that: I do a how-to-write column for China's Science Fiction World magazine, which has been very popular, and, I'm told, has been very influential in honing the talents of the domestic SF writers here over the last couple of years.

Do you think there is a particular Chinese response to science-fiction literature? That is, is there something uniquely or semi-uniquely Chinese in their appreciation of science-fiction? Do they prefer one kind of story or narrative or theme over another?

Chinese readers prefer hard science fiction (with real science, rigorously extrapolated), and are partial to optimistic views of the future. The Chinese government is encouraging science fiction as a way of inspiring young people to pursue careers in science and technology. That said, science fiction is also being embraced by the Chinese people specifically because, with its tools of disguise and metaphor -- setting stories in the future or with alien civilizations -- the genre allows discussion of issues that might not otherwise be openly broached.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


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