Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dinner with Russians in D.C.


Monday, Marianne and I drove down to D. C. to have dinner with the Washington fans and our Russian friends Larisa Mihailova and Alexei Bezougly. The photo above is of Larisa (right) and Russian-born writer Eva Gerasimenko. Larisa is, among other things, the editor of the Moscow sf magazine Supernova.

What a warm-hearted and pleasant to be with crowd the WSFA people are, though! I've been particularly fond of them since I was a new writer and they treated me as if I were potentially Somebody. After we ate, John Pomeranz got up and said a few graceful words and presented the guests with copies of the current Dozois Year's Best volume -- which is a great gift on two fronts. First, because it's probably hard to find in Russia and correspondingly more expensive. Second, because on the flight back home both Larisa and Alexei had something engaging to read.

This is grace in everyday life. I had to admire it.



David Stone said...

I've always wondered something- with so much SF being produced in languages other than English, why does it seem like we don't often see SF translated from other languages? Is it just not particularly lucrative for publishers?

Michael Swanwick said...

You have it in one, David.

For simplicity's sake, let's confine this conversation to novels. I asked an editor this exact same question. He said that a novel by an unknown writer -- and a best-selling writer who has never been published in America is effectively a new writer -- can be bought for five thousand dollars. A decent translation will cost twenty thousand dollars.

So introducing a foreign language writer to the American market will cost as much as publishing five new American writers. All of whom deserve a shot at the brass ring.

A tough situation, but an honest one. The solution? I'll devote many future blogs to it.

David Stone said...

Hmm, well, that is perfectly reasonable. But what about SF magazines then? They could maybe have a special issue here and there, or some extra space, and in this way publish some translated stories now and then. I haven't been keeping up with magazines lately so I might be wrong in assuming they still don't have a lot of translated stuff.

Perhaps I am getting ahead of you here. :)

Michael Swanwick said...

The magazines don't have much translated work at all nowadays. And those times when they did, it was almost always an act of piety and passion on the part of an editor.

Not long ago, James and Kathy Morrow put together a collection of European stories, after getting a grant from SFWA to pay for translations. It was published as The SFWA European Hall of Fame (not their choice of titles but the marketing department's) and it is well worth your looking into.