December 20, 2021

Our website has moved

The founder of 26to50, Takashi Ogawa, passed away in June 2019. The 26to50 website has been relaunched at to share some of his many translations and other writing in memoriam. He worked tirelessly to bring overseas science fiction and fantasy and fresh trends in the literary scene to Japanese readers, as well as always dedicating himself to cross-cultural conversations. We sincerely hope his works, thoughts, and passions will reach you.

December 25, 2014

New book review is up now. Japan has new weird of our own, heralded by Akira Higashiyama. See

December 17, 2014

Dying job of the Translators

The book publishing in Japan is declining fast and especially that of the translated fiction is in terrible state now. What we usually do takes a day for 5 pages, which means it takes ten full weeks working on a 350 page long novel plus two weeks for proofreading and a week for corrected proof reading. Three full months’ work and still most of us get just two or three titles a year. If the assigned works are no too demanding we can do a title in two months, but nobody now gets six titles a year. There is not enough market in book publishing alone to support us.

OK, then comes severe economy. Most of us are paid royalty, thanks to our long history of learning things from foreign cultures, which used to be 8 % and on the basis of printing numbers. But these days, it varies from 3 to 8 %, if royalty at all, and average is 6. Mass market bunko paperbacks usually priced at $8 for translated fiction, and the initial printing number is also diminished to 10,000 copies. Well, the original authors would get average advance of $3,000 to 5,000 against 7% royalty these days which looks terrible comparing with the past $8,000 against 7 to 9 % but it’d be the author’s secondary income. The problem is the sales figure, and it looks terrible, too. Most of the paperback originals would sell about 3,000 copies and be gone from the bookstore shelves in a month. Yes, there’re stronger ones that would sell 6,000 to 8,000 and stay at the shelves, but only very lucky ones would go back in print again. So the publishers are demanding bigger titles, with less demanding contents for broader audience. Well, there come smaller indie publishers for hardback edition. Small publishers would publish hardcovers priced at $29.50 with 1,500 copies. Most of them sell only 300 copies or so, but they try very hard to keep them on the shelves. The economy looks the same in any other countries, including USA.

Here comes our job. 6% royalty of $8 edition with 10,000 copies would earn us about $5,000 which is a full three months’ job. Most of our apartment rent in Tokyo is $1,000 a month. We could still spend $2,000 for three months’ food and bills. But if only we have the titles to work on every month. If we get three titles a year, we can spend $3,000 to live for a year. $8 a day, including tax and utilities. Can we manage it? NO! OK, we still can go to the Indies. There are few Indies who are willing to pay royalty but the model should be that way if we should keep our future income. The hardback edition would guarantee about $2,700 for, again, three full months’ work. Which won’t pay the rent! How can I recommend that kind of job to the talented ambitious young people who love foreign fiction?

Well, I actually teach at a school for translators with fewer students every year. There used to bright young students there, but now they only attract middle-aged housewives who are willing to do the demanding works as one of their hobbies. It doesn’t look as a job even to the lay people.

My ex-students would complain that they can’t go on like this. I know. But severe economy aside, it’s a great and rewarding job. Through translation, we could enrich the readers, supplying them with alternate landscapes, alternate views, diverse way of looking at things, while we still could declare that we do it for love, not just for money. And it is. Translating process is something like a dance with the authors. If we’re not in love, we could step on each other’s foot and eventually start kicking each other. But if in love, we could dance perfectly, attracting audience, and find more love. Reward? If we could be allowed to work on the titles we really love, it could stay in those few readers’ mind, if only not in the shelves, and that experience would eventually be revealed and expressed, making the works go back in print. And then we could say we’re changing the people’s lives, changing the world and making it rich. And we do it for love.

Love for trade? Yes, why not? It looks like well-practiced one in human history. And it includes the magic word, love. We don’t get fooled with numbers and capitalist economy. We’re building a new way of life based on love. So the authors in the world, please give us the works we really can love!

November 21, 2014

Why I Used to Love Slipstream Fiction

Do you remember there once was a secret boom of slipstream fiction? The term was coined by Bruce Sterling in 1989 to explain there were hidden treasures in literary fiction that could appeal to science fiction fans almost in the same way our genre hooked them. But the real treasures rushed out at the turn of the millennium when newcomers to our genre, Kelly Link, Jay Lake, Christopher Rowe, Benjamin Rosenberg, Christopher Barzak, and Jeff VanderMeer, started to explore their imaginations outside of our genre boundary. At the same time, coincidently or not, a lot of new literary newcomers also started to write with a lot more fantastic elements, borrowing ideas from science fiction and fantasy, and broke the genre barriers. Kevin Brockmeier, Amy Bender, George Saunders, Charles Yu, Adam Johnson, Arthur Bradford and many more tried to break out of the literary convention, enjoying the fresh weirdness which has been the tradition of our genre. It was a great time. Many tried chapbook zines, webzines, hypertext fiction, and original anthologies. Interstitial art movement and Literature's icons like Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, even Bradford Morrow encouraged them. It reminded me of the sixties, when the new wave and absurdist movement tried to go out of the conventions and ventured into new style of fiction. Its "Try Something New" spirit revived then again, seeking a new frontier of fiction. "Tear down the walls, Motherfuckers" we used to say, and the new writers actually tore down the walls and barriers of the literary genres.
But then what happened? There came the mashup novels. Imaginative freedom and whimsy look very alike and often come together. So when lazy writers learned they could do anything, they just played with their favorite characters and plots, mashing up different genres. In the spirit of entertainment, making fun, retrofit, exploiting our past literary resources. It's in the same contemporary capitalist greediness they do that. They don't explore the past to find something new, or forgotten treasures, they just have fun. Most of the steampunk novels are like that, too. No, that isn't wrong per se, fun and whimsiness, those elements belong to the pleasures of reading, too. But they did absorb the new movement of slipstream. Suddenly those new writers found that there were good market for the cross-genre fiction, and started to write mashup, or steampunk novels. Even some wandered off to game novelization. Lost was the spirit of "Try Something New" or weirdness, inherent trope of our genre. On the other side, those literary fiction's newcomers learned our genre and started to write the genre novels, post apocalypse, epic fantasy, or YA. Or they simply went back to the mainstream literature, being disappointed that there wasn't a market for their type of fiction.
Again it reminds me of the fact that there's no "us" anymore. Only a small community of the kin spirit can't support those writers. Nobody is looking for future, or newness, and we have to be content with what we already have. Even our genre readers have lost the appetites for new things, and go to pulp, military, comic, space opera, and more and more into traditional fantasy. I do miss those days of the new slipstream or "New Weird" days. Sigh.

Decline of Our Future

The decline of science fiction, or fiction in general, or even that of music, films, our culture in general, is eminent and depressing. The reason is apparent to me. We don't believe in future anymore. Without future, we only have to maintain (sustain?), making do with what we already have. We don't need any imagination. The future has already come and we've started to consume it. As Bill Gibson once suggested, without the imagination and innovation in the street, all technology brings no real joy, just commodities to consume. They're just convenient tools. We have cell phones, e-book readers, tablets, and all those networks to bring the whole world to ourselves, which we just consume, its information, entertainments, wisdoms, and demagogues. We can choose whatever there is and we're still not satisfied, yet we think that's all there is to avail. We're now losing our imagination. The reason again is apparent. We don't have "us" any more.
Our generation tends to talk a lot about the sixties, when there were futures. Science fiction was a pop and cool literature, and technology was slick and weird at the same time. The world was full of visionaries, even drugs were a means to take us to far out trips, not media of mere entertainments. Where have all those future gone? we tend to wonder. But gone were not the futures. They've come now. We've just lost "us." We're now divided, entrenched in our little cozy beliefs and causes, and only communicate with those who dwell in the same virtual reality. Red and Blue don't share the same reality, South and North, East and West, either. When adults read YA, it's because they need some different kind of entertainment. It isn't for the purpose to understand their youths, or to share their visions. By enjoying YA, adults steal the joy of such fiction from them, averting its trend and course to their liking. See how the characters of Twilight turn into sex maniacs in Fifty Shades of Grey. They don't share its romance with their kids. They just devour. And see how poorly they imagine their own adult sex lives. It's not imagination or visions they share. They just hold onto what they already have. We don't communicate, because we don't believe in any possibility that we can share something together except what we already do. Because we don't believe in "us."
In the sixties we could believe in us. Even in the communist countries, there were their own youth revolts. Even kids in the undeveloped countries enthused at the Beatles. We could relate to each other, we imagined, and we tried to share our visions and imaginations. We could venture into farthest alien worlds, because we knew we could always ask "Beam us home, Scotty" to return home, return to "us." We believed in our Spaceship Earth. We don't have that anymore, although there still remains only one earth for us. We don't want to share our future with aliens now, outsiders to our tiny separate groups of interests, because we don't share their values. We do occasionally care for them, I agree. But it's not sharing. It's not love. It brings no joy.
If you need a future, where you can liberate your imagination and vision and venture into a wonderful quest, you need some fellowship. People you can share your future with. When it comes to the future of our planet, or human race, we need to identify with it. In the sixties, the answer was love. But what do or can we have now? I still need the future, I still need love. Do you?

September 22, 2012

World SF Special

We'll be runnig a Word SF Special, featuring Questionnaire and articles on the subject. It's not about SF scene around the world. With Anglo-American SF being declining from its world dominance, many SF people around the world now begin to write not just to their own domestic audience, but also to the world. We'd like to share their views with all SF/F people, to build the genuine global SF/F community.

August 23, 2012

Buddy's Birthday

It could have been 73rd birthday for Lewis Nordan today. Now I realize that he was anothre rabbit like me according to our Chinese-Japanese calendar cycle. I've just started his memorial at our site, and that's a little consolation for me, at least. Well, happy birthday, my fellow rabbit, Buddy. Please enjoy your stay at your ownmemorial, here.