Trains and SF

One of my first dealings with science fiction writing was to translate a Seiun Prize award winning short story by a Japanese author named Giggle Akiguchi about a train that traveled onward forever without purpose and the consequences this situation presents for its travelers. The translation never went anywhere (I was still nothing more than a fledgling translator at the time and a worse writer, who in all probability produced an uneditable mess), but the original story appeared in Volume 6 of SF Japan Magazine, and today on the train, for a brief moment, I thought I saw someone reading a Japanese sci-fi magazine. I was put under that impression by the page layout and the old-school line drawing of an android to the side of the writing, but I was mistaken – it was just a literary magazine.
It got me thinking: in the twelve years I’ve lived in Japan, I’ve never once seen someone reading a Sci-Fi book or magazine. They have the Seiun Awards, so someone out there, on a train like mine, must be reading one. Where is everyone hiding? Is someone stealing secret glances at the latest Ted Chiang novel, hiding it behind the iPad they pretend to be absorbed in fiddling with? Or is someone lost in China Mieville’s world, but too embarrassed to show it, choosing instead to cover it up with an issue of the monthly Shonen Jump manga collection? Wherever this secret society of Japanese Sci-Fi fans is, I hope to run into one of them someday. Maybe together, we can finally stop the train.

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