By Lori Hetherington
Speculative fiction is a very broad genre that encompasses any narrative writing that has supernatural, fantasy or futuristic elements. Obviously works of science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal and horror fit into this category, as do stories of dystopia, utopia, alternate history, magic realism, and superheroes. Thus, aside from the best known titles that come immediately to mind (a list of which could easily fill this entire page) also ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’, and ‘The House of the Spirits’ are examples of speculative fiction.
Recently, I met (virtually) Rachel Cordasco, a committed fan of speculative fiction. Her blog Speculative Fiction in Translation is a beacon for this fascinating genre from various parts of the world. I discovered that Rachel wrote the presentation of a folio entitled Speculative Fiction in Translation By Women for Anomaly (formerly Drunken Boat), an international electronic magazine of literature and art. She also translated one of the stories from Italian. With permission from Rachel and Anomalous Press, I would like to repropose her presentation of the special edition folio here.
The richness and diversity of speculative fiction in translation (SFT) is evident, if you know where to look. Published by literary magazines, science fiction magazines, mainstream presses, and others, SFT often flies under the radar, despite the fact that it is an important part of the speculative fiction universe. And while much speculative fiction is written in English or translated from English into other languages, an ever-increasing number of stories and novels that fall under the speculative fiction umbrella are being brought into the English language. Thanks to translators seeking to bring fascinating stories to readers, publishers willing to take risks, and readers who champion these works, SFT has been growing in popularity over the last few years. And for good reason. From the multi-volume space-opera Legend of the Galactic Heroes from Japan, to anthologies of Tamil pulp fiction, to new translations of Jules Verne, SFT draws in readers interested in stories from new perspectives and non-English languages that challenge their understanding of “reality.”
And yet, like the publishing world as a whole, the world of SFT is often dominated by male authors. It is my hope, then, that this special folio will highlight some of the best female authors writing speculative fiction in languages other than English. The variety of stories and styles here is breathtaking: an apocalyptic event traps several friends in an underground bunker for years; an image formed in frost assumes human form; an alien musical instrument threatens to destroy the Earth; a woman slays a dragon in order to become a goddess. These are just some of the stories you’ll read here, and they’ll leave you wanting more from these talented, creative artists that hail from Italy, China, France, and beyond.
So I’d like to say thank you to the translators who brought these stories into English and sent them to me for publication in this folio; thank you to the authors for sharing these stories; thank you to Drunken Boat/Anomaly for publishing this special folio; and thank you to Rachel Hildebrandt for making this folio possible in the first place.
Rachel Cordasco, August 2017
Following Rachel’s presentation, nine short stories of speculative fiction appear with a new voice. As a translator, I can affirm that one of the most fascinating aspects of the act of translating is precisely that: to bring new life to a story, to see it breathe in a new language and take off on its journey toward new readers. And when an initiative combines skilled translations of an amazingly broad and stimulating genre with stories written by women, everyone—readers, authors, and translators—come out as winners.