The SFT Panel at Wiscon 41

Wiscon– the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention- just wrapped up its 41st meeting here in Madison, Wisconsin, and it was as exciting and diverse as ever. With panels, workshops, presentations, parties, and more, Wiscon showcased the talent and keen inquiry of the writers, students, translators, artists, and many others who packed its halls.

I was privileged to moderate this year’s Speculative Fiction in Translation panel, which included editor and English-to-Spanish translator Arrate Hidalgo; and author, editor, and Spanish-to-English translator Sue Burke. Many lovely people packed themselves into our conference room to hear us discuss the current state of sf in translation in the U.S. and around the world, and we had a blast (and several M&Ms each!). (You can read my run-down of last year’s panel here).

(Below I’ve included a list of the titles/authors/translators/presses mentioned during the panel, plus a copy of the handout listing all of the SFT out this year- so far).

So what did we talk about? The first topic was choosing what to translate: can you be picky when translating is your profession and you need to bring in money? who is willing to publish translations in the U.S. (given the expense)? Sue pointed out that it takes her three months of full-time work to translate a novel, and both Sue and Arrate talked about how editors in English-speaking countries are so swamped by English-language manuscripts that it’s difficult to get translations bumped to the top of the pile. Further, they talked about how the publication of a translation involves splitting the profits between a writer and a translator, and often payment for a story, for instance, is less than 10 cents per word.

Arrate pointed out that translated fiction seems to be emerging as its own genre lately, and that the English-speaking world seems more open to translations than in the past.

In terms of the craft/art of translation, Arrate mentioned that Amazon asks translators to use “neutral Spanish,” which doesn’t actually exist, given the diversity of the Spanish language across the globe. Both Sue and Arrate then talked about their own experiences translating stories/novels while thinking about how different audiences might read and understand their translations (given the author’s use of slang or a mix of languages). Collaboration with authors is also important, and, thanks to the internet, it’s now easier.

To my question about which works of sf Spanish-language readers are asking for, Arrate and Sue pointed to Twilight and the Harry Potter series, in particular. Arrate mentioned her interest in bringing Nalo Hopkinson to the attention of Spanish-language readers.

Some encouraging signs: Spain has seen more of an effort to bring women writers of sf into the spotlight (thanks in particular go to Spanish author Lola Robles), and sites like Kickstarter have helped bring such collections as Spanish Women of Wonder to English-language readers. Also, the panelists pointed out that they’ve noticed more translations across languages other than English- in other words, English is not used as an intermediary language as often.

During the question/answer session, several audience members brought up the issue of how libraries and library programs can promote sf in translation. Another audience member asked about copyright issues: Sue and Arrate explained that you should ask who owns the rights of a particular work before you start translating (it’s either the author or the publisher). We wrapped up with a brief discussion of some favorite untranslateable words.

At the end, Sue generously gave several audience members free copies of Prodigies and Twilight of the Normidons.

I look forward to another such panel next year, and I hope you can come!


Prodigies by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Sue Burke (Small Beer Press, 2015).

Twilight of the Normidons (Tears of Gea Book 1) by Sergio Llanes, translated by Sue Burke (Ediciones Dokusou, 2016).

Monteverde by Lola Robles, translated by Lawrence Schimel (Aqueduct Press, 2016).

Amadis of Gaul by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, translated by Sue Burke (online).


Aqueduct Press

Tilted Axis Press (Deborah Smith)

“Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” by Mercurio D. Rivera (first published in Black Static 18).

“The Infestation” by Felicidad Martinez, translated by Sue Burke, in Spanish Women of Wonder (Palabaristas, 2016).

“Tech” by Sofia Rhei, translated by Sue Burke, in Spanish Women of Wonder (Palabaristas, 2016).

Ken Liu


Novels Out This Year (in pub date order)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell (Riverhead Books, 1/10)- Argentina

Bodies of Summer by Martín Felipe Castagnet, translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle (Dalkey Archive Press, 1/27)- Argentina

2084 by Boualem Sansal,translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions, 1/31)- Algeria

SRDN: From Bronze and Darkness by Andrea Atzori, translated from the Italian by Nigel Ross (Acheron Books, 2/3)- Italy

The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria, translated from the Italian by Ramon Glazov (Liveright, 2/7)- Italy

Only She Sees by Manel Loureiro, translated from the Spanish by Andres Alfaro (Amazon Crossing, 2/7)- Spain

Radiant Terminus by Antoine Volodine, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Open Letter, 2/7)- France

Blumenberg by Sibylle Lewitscharoff, translated from the German by Wieland Hoban (Seagull Books, 2/15)- Germany

Moon Scars by Ángel Luis Sucasas, translated from the Spanish by James Womack (Nevsky Books, 3/1)- Spain

Frontier by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Karen Gernant (Open Letter, 3/14)- China

Lady of the Lake (part of the Witcher series) by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated from the Polish by David French (Orbit Books, 3/14)- Poland

Orbital Cloud by Taiyo Fujii, translated from the Japanese by Timothy Silver (Haikasoru, 3/21)- Japan

Locus Solus by Raymond Roussel, translated from the French by Rupert Copeland Cunningham (New Directions, 3/28)- France

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan, translated from the Russian by Yuri Machkasov (Amazon Crossing, 4/25)- Armenia

Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre, translated from the French by Kaiama L. Glover (Akashic Books, 5/2)- Haiti

Hexagrammaton– by Hanuš Seiner, translated from the Czech by Julie Novakova (Tor Books, 5/10)- Czech Republic

The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresan, translated by Will Vanderhyden (Open Letter, 5/16)- Argentina

The King in the Golden Mask by Marcel Schwob, translated by Kit Schluter (Wakefield Press, 5/23)- France

Our Dead World by Liliana Colanzi, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Sequeira (Dalkey Archive Press, 5/26)- Bolivia

The Irish Sea by Carlos Maleno, translated from the Spanish by Eric Kurtzke (Dalkey Archive Press, 5/26)- Spain

The Sacred Era by Yoshio Aramaki, translated from the Japanese by Baryon Tensor Posadas (University of Minnesota Press, 6/13)- Japan

Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino, translated from the Japanese by Charles De Wolf (Akashic Books, 6/13)- Japan

Aberrant by Marek Šindelka, translated from the Czech by Nathan Fields (Twisted Spoon Press, 6/15)- Czech Republic

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vol 4: Stratagem by Yoshiki Tanaka, translated from the Japanese by Tyran Grillo (Haikasoru, 6/20)- Japan

Heavens on Earth by Carmen Boullosa, translated from the Spanish by Shelby Vincent (Deep Vellum, 6/20)- Mexico

On the Trail of the Grail by Svetislav Basara, translated from the Serbian by Randall A. Major (Dalkey Archive Press, 6/23)- Serbia

Robur the Conqueror by Jules Verne, translated by Alex Kirstukas (Wesleyan University Press, 7/11)- France

An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel-Bloom, translated from the Hebrew by Todd Hasak-Lowy (Dalkey Archive Press, 7/21)- Israel

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, translated from the Chinese by Joel Martinsen (Tor Books, 8/22)- China

The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden (Amazon Crossing, 9/12)- Mexico

Fourth Approach to the UFO by Tamara Romero, translated from the Spanish by TBD (Nevsky Books, TBD)- Spain

Faces From the Past by Rodolfo Martinez, translated by the author (Sportula, TBD)- Spain

Bullseye! by Yasutaka Tsutsui, translated from the Japanese by Andrew Driver (Kurodahan Press, TBD)

The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, Vol.3, ed. TBD, translated from the Tamil (Blaft Publications, TBD)- India, Sri Lanka

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