Check out Episode 24 of the Read Literature podcast.
In this episode, we’re talking about Japanese science fiction.
The history of the genre. SF in Japan. Breakthrough feminist sci-fi writer Izumi Suzuki.
Plus loads of SF stories, including Suzuki’s “Night Picnic”.
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- Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki
- Includes the story “Night Picnic” (translated by Sam Bett)
More Writing by Izumi Suzuki:
- Hit Parade of Tears by Izumi Suzuki
- Read Suzuki’s “The Walker” for free (translated by Daniel Joseph)
SF! An RJL Booklist of Japanese Science Fiction in Translation
This episode also mentions:
- Arabian Nights (translated by Malcolm C. Lyons)
- The Ark Sakura (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)
- Beautiful Star by Yukio Mishima (translated by Stephen Dodd)
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Nevill Coghill)
- The Epic of Gilgamesh (translated by Andrew George)
- Fast Forward Japan: Stories by the Founding Father of Japanese Science Fiction by Juza Unno (translated by J. D. Wisgo)
- The Emissary by Yoko Tawada (translated by Margaret Mitsutani)
- Also published as The Last Children of Tokyo
- The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd)
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- *From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne (translated by Lowell Beir)
- The Girl Who Leapt through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui (translated by David Karashima)
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Hybrid Child (translated by Jodie Beck)
- Inter Ice Age 4 (translated by Dale Saunders)
- Japan Sinks: A Novel about Earthquakes (translated by Michael Gallagher)
- *Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (translated by William Butcher)
- Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (translated by Allison Markin Powell and Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda)
- *Kindred by Octavia Butler
- *Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder)
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Paprika (translated by Andrew Driver)
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
- The Ramayana (translated by R. K. Narayan)
- Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (translated by Ray Rubin)
- Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (translated by Andrew Driver)
- Secret Rendezvous (translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)
- The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (translated by Ken Liu)
- *A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
- *The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
- *The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
- *Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (translated by William Butcher)
- The Undersea Warship: A Fantastic Tale of Island Adventure by Shunro Oshikawa (translated by Shelley Marshall)
- *The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
- Virus: The Day of Resurrection (translated by Daniel Huddleston)
*These stories are only mentioned in the extended version of the episode available to Patreon subscribers.
Find Out More
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction online. “A comprehensive, scholarly, and critical guide to science fiction in all its forms.”
TV Tropes on “Japan Takes Over the World”.
The official English website of Shinichi Hoshi. Hoshi is one of Japan’s most influential SF writers.
Gajinpot’s “Discovery: 5 Japanese Science Fiction Authors” (2018).
Book Riot’s list of “Speculative Fiction in Translation: Japan” (2017).
Book Scrolling’s list of “The Best Japanese Science Fiction & Fantasy Books” (2018). The list is cross-referenced with other online lists of Japanese science fiction, linked at the bottom of the page.
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association’s list of “Top Ten Japan All Time Best SF Novels” (2011).
Red Circle on “Japan’s Early Science Fiction” (2017).
Sci-fi translator and critic Omori Nozomi on why Sakyo Komatsu’s work became more popular during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020).
Read an excerpt from Taiyo Fujii’s novel Orbital Cloud via The Verge.
My review of Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom at Asian Review of Books (2021).
Tokyo Weekender’s “Izumi Suzuki: A Legendary Sci-Fi Writer Rediscovered” (2023).
ArtReview’s “How Izumi Suzuki Broke Science Fiction’s Boys’ Club” (2021). (This is one of my favorite articles.)
LitHub’s “A Writer from the Future: Who Was Sci Fi Iconoclast Izumi Suzuki” (2021).
Japanese Literature at Facebook
Japanese Literature at Goodreads
Other RJL Episodes of Interest:
- Episode 5: Setsuwa and Medieval Japanese Buddhism. A loose definition of Japanese SF could include many setsuwa—anecdotal stories often tied to medieval Buddhism.
- Episode 7: Kaidan—Japan’s Ghost Stories. A loose definition of Japanese SF could also include kaidan.
- Episode 10: Taisho Magazines and Akutagawa’s Vision of Hell. Some critics include Akutagawa as an early SF writer.
- Episode 15: Translating Japanese Women. Some writing by Sayaka Murata (discussed in episode 15) qualifies as SF. There are also thematic overlaps between her work and the work of Izumi Suzuki.
- Episode 19: Japanese Magical Realism. Most magical realist writing falls under the category of “speculative fiction”.
- Episode 20: The Akutagawa Prize and Kobo Abe. Kobo Abe is a father of Japanese SF. This episode also mentions the Akutagawa Prize several times.
Abe Kobo. “Two Essays on Science Fiction.” Translated by Christopher Bolton and Thomas Schnellbächer in Science Fiction Studies, 2002.
Bolton, Christopher. “Editorial Introduction: The Borders of Japanese Science Fiction” in Science Fiction Studies, 2002.
–. “Introduction to ‘Two Essays on Science Fiction’ by Abe Kobo” in Science Fiction Studies, 2002.
Bolton, Christopher, et al. “Introduction” in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime. Edited by Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicery-Ronay, Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi. U of MI, 2007.
Cheng, John. “Asians and Asian Americans in Early Science Fiction” at The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Research, 2019. (free)
Fincher, Alison. “‘Terminal Boredom’ by Izumi Suzuki” at Asian Review of Books, 2021. (free)
Gunn, James. “Science Fiction around the World” in World Literature Today, 2010.
Keene, Donald. “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1956.
Harada, Kazue. Japanese Women’s Science Fiction: Posthuman Bodies and the Representation of Gender. PhD Dissertation, 2015. (free)
Harrison, Genie. “Izumi Suzuki: A Legendary Sci-Fi Writer Rediscovered” in Tokyo Weekender, 2023. (free)
Joseph, Daniel. “How Izumi Suzuki Broke Science Fiction’s Boys’ Club” at ArtReview, 2021. (free)
Nagasawa Tadashi. “The Reception of American Science Fiction in Japan” at Oxford Encyclopedias, Literature, 2016. (free)
Nathan, Richard. “Ahead of Time: Japan’s Early Science Fiction” at RedCircleAuthors.com, 2017. (free)
Oziewicz, Marek. “Speculative Fiction” at The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Research, 2017. (free)
Ridker, Andrew. “A Writer from the the Future: Who Was Sci Fi Iconoclast Izumi Suzuki?” at LitHub, 2021. (free)
Suvin, Darko. “Preliminary Note to ‘Japanese SF, Its Originality and Orientation’ by Koichi Yamano (1969).” Translated by Kazuko Behrens. Edited by Darko Suvin and Takayuki Tatsumi in Science Fiction Studies, 1994.
Takayuki Tatsumi. “Generations and Controversies: An Overview of Japanese Science Fiction, 1957-1997” in Science Fiction Studies, 2000.
Yamano Koichi. “Japanese SF, Its Originality and Orientation (1969).” Translated by Kazuko Behrens. Edited by Darko Suvin and Takayuki Tatsumi in Science Fiction Studies, 1994.