Jams of the Week (August 29th)

I like to listen to tunes while I work.

Not all the time. But often enough that I consider music an important element of my creative process.

Non-English music tends to be less distracting. You’ll find a lot of it here.

These guys just released a new album. Psychedelic video.

A Muse concert gave me tinnitus. That was over ten years ago.

Muse is still around. So is the ringing in my ear.

This is te’. Not to be confused with toe.

The Year the Hugo Awards Graced China

The ballots for the Hugo Awards are in. The 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel was awarded to Cixin Liu for his novel, The Three-Body Problem.

This year’s Hugo Awards were controversial. Although the controversy didn’t involve Liu — not in the slightest — it does threaten to overshadow his victory.

Cixin Liu is the first Chinese writer to win this award. As near as I can tell he’s the first non-Western writer to claim it.

That’s a big deal. It signals that the literary landscape is shifting. It shows that China is starting to flex not only its industrial muscle, but its creative muscle as well.

Maybe I feel particularly passionate about this issue because I live in Taiwan, just a few hours swim from China. But I think there’s more to it than that.

I think ten or fifteen years from now the puppies will be long forgotten. Ten years from now when we see Cixin Liu on the list of Hugo winners, we won’t see his name as an anomaly, but rather as the beginning of a larger trend — a trend of internationalization in not only the field of literature, but in all creative fields.

This trend means more voices. More ideas. More variety. And more amazing stories.

Congratulations to Cixin Liu for his big victory.

Maybe now I’ll finally muster up the motivation to start reading his novel ;-)Three-Body Problem

Now in Paperback: The Northland Chronicles 1 and 2



A Stranger North and Spear Hunter are now available in paperback.

If you’ve been eager to immerse yourself in The Northland Chronicles but aren’t a fan of reading on a screen, these are exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

tnc2interiorThese paperbacks look and feel great, both inside and out. Their large, legible type makes them a reader’s dream. Even if you’ve already read TNC1 and 2 on your Kindle, iPad, or phone, these new versions will look great on your bookshelf.

tnc1rtAnd in case you missed it, A Stranger North also includes my short story Ramses’ Thunder. You’ll surely be delighted to discover what Ramses has been up to while you were away.

Both books are available from Amazon. Check them out today!

P.S. The Northland Chronicles 3: Desolation’s Wake will hit bookstores soon. My mailing list already heard the news and saw the book’s scintillating cover. Did you?

Taiwanese Craft Beer

My latest Youtube video. This time about craft beer in Taiwan.

(Fear not. I’ll post an update about writing soon. Very soon.)

Typhoon Time!

I arrived back in Taiwan this week, just in time to catch Typhoon Soudelor.

I figured I’d share the experience with you.

Back in the U.S.

After over two years in Taiwan I’m finally back in the United States. I’ll be here for all of June and July, catching up with family and friends. Hopefully I’ll manage to sneak in a little writing as well.

The Northland Chronicles 3: Desolation’s Wake is currently with proofreaders. As always, mailing list members will see the cover art and learn the release date first. I welcome you to sign up here.

An early fall release seems likely.

John Osborne draws near.

The Problem of Reading in Translation

Finally I finished War and Peace.

I thought Tolstoy’s epic might take me a few weeks to read. Maybe a month at worst. In the end my struggle endured for many moons.

Though I read the book regularly, I found it difficult to gain momentum. I would sneak in 5 pages here or push through 10 pages there. At no point was I compelled to stay up all night and discover what happens next. I even found myself diving into other novels because Tolstoy couldn’t command my interest.

With many other books I wouldn’t find this unusual, but Tolstoy’s epic is in a class of its own. It’s heralded as one of the greatest novels ever. It should hold its weight even after all these years.

Needless to say I was disappointed.

Lost in Translation

War and Peace is a Russian novel with snippets of French. Because I don’t speak the language of Putin (nyet!), I read one of the many English translations. And therein lies a complication.

Was Tolstoy’s writing the source of my disappointment, or was I merely reading a flat translation?

Without reading another translation (or brushing up on my Russian), I can’t answer this question.

Literary translation is tricky. Not only must the translator communicate the story, he or she must also capture the author’s style and render it into another language. This task only becomes more difficult as the gap between the original and target languages widens. A simple verb in one language may not have a direct parallel in another. An everyday object in one culture will be foreign to readers on another continent.

Translators have to navigate all these issues. And they have to do so while ensuring that the prose still flows.

The Many Voices of War

There are at least 10 different English translations of War and Peace. I researched these various editions and chose the most widespread one, translated by Aylmer and Louise Maude in 1923. It’s generally regarded as the best of the pre-World War II translations.

Having now finished the book, I wonder if I selected the right one.

Should I have read a more vivid modern translation, such as Anthony Briggs’ 2005 edition? There is also the Ann Dunnigan translation, which critics claim best maintains the nuances of Tolstoy’s language. Pevear & Volokhonsky’s recent translation also looks appealing.

Would I have found one of these editions more enjoyable? Without rereading the 1200+ pages of Tolstoy’s classic in a different translator’s voice I have no way of finding out. I can only peruse forum threads on the subject and imagine what might have been.