THE FUTURE IS JAPANESE
© 2012 VIZ Media
See Copyright Acknowledgments for individual story copyrights.
Cover art by Yuko Shimizu
Design by Fawn Lau
No portion of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the copyright holders.
VIZ Media, LLC
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San Francisco, CA 94133
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The future is Japanese : stories from and about the land of the rising sun / edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington.
1. Japan—Fiction. 2. Science fiction, American. 3. Science fiction, Japanese. 4. Fantasy fiction, American. 5. Fantasy fiction, Japanese. I. Mamatas, Nick. II. Washington, Masumi.
The rights of the authors of the works in this publication to be so identified have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Haikasoru eBook edition
When I started looking through the stories from Western writers on my desk, I took my pencil and marked the Japanese names and terms that appeared a little off to my Japanese eye. “That’s not a Japanese name…” I’d note, or “The spelling of the term should be…” But soon, as I got into each story, I threw my pencil aside.
They’re all right just how they are. We know
doesn’t sound like an ordinary Japanese name, but that didn’t hurt
The Man in the High Castle
Later, a translation for one of the Japanese stories landed on my desk, and I started reading. Soon, I got a strange feeling…
Wait. This story can be understood much more clearly in English than in Japanese. What happened?
It was as though the story had been waiting to be in English a really long time.
I enjoyed the privilege of being the first reader for all the fantastic works created in the spirit of cross-cultural understanding. This is the moment when we’ve truly met one another on the same page. Then, what’s on the next page? More stories! I hope we can continue to explore this joy of reading together.
Thank you very much to all the contributors and translators who participated in this anthology. And special thanks to our copy editor, Rebecca Downer, who has worked tirelessly on every Haikasoru title.
A few years ago, when I accepted a job editing Haikasoru, an imprint of Japanese science fiction, fantasy, and horror, I had little idea of what to expect. There had been some anthologies of Japanese SF in translation, but they tended to concentrate on the historical. Like many people, I’d guessed that Japanese SF was heavy on the cyberpunk, with yakuza heroes and flickering neon everywhere, characters motivated by
with the occasional “socially relevant” story about Japan getting its economic revenge on the US for the Second World War and subsequent occupation. I was wrong. Happily, gloriously wrong.
Japanese science fiction is just like Western science fiction, in that it is hard and soft, dark and whimsical, rigorous and fantastical. Indeed, there are few fans of Western SF as enthusiastic as Japanese SF writers. The Japanese know much about science fiction as it is practiced in the West; Westerners still know too little about Japan. Video games, manga, and anime have filled the knowledge gap, but not completely. My own inaccurate vision of Japanese SF actually came from American science fictional visions of Japan—the neon and the economic rivalry were Western preoccupations. Then there’s the problem of Western writers appropriating Japanese cultural concepts and stereotypes of Japanese behaviors and using them as the building blocks for alien species. Reading about Japan in the West is often like looking at a funhouse mirror through a kaleidoscope.
The Future Is Japanese
is an attempt to bridge the gap between Western and Japanese SF and fantasy. Many of our Japanese con- tributors wrote pieces specifically for this project—their work is appearing in translation here before being published in their native language. And the Western writers, many of whom have some personal connection to Japan, pulled out all the aesthetic stops. Yes, there are virtual worlds and
and even a squadron of giant
, and the stories are as authentic as they are fantastical. SF writers have always explored strange new worlds—with
The Future Is Japanese
, we explore our own.
San Francisco, California
The world is shaped like the kanji for
, only written so poorly, like my handwriting, that all the parts are out of proportion.
My father would be greatly ashamed at the childish way I still form my characters. Indeed, I can barely write many of them anymore. My formal schooling back in Japan had ceased when I was only eight.
Yet for present purposes, this badly drawn character will do.
The canopy up there is the solar sail. Even that distorted kanji can only give you a hint of its vast size. A hundred times thinner than rice paper, the spinning disc fans out a thousand kilometers into space like a giant kite intent on catching every passing photon. It literally blocks out the sky.
Beneath it dangles a long cable of carbon nanotubes a hundred kilometers long: strong, light, and flexible. At the end of the cable hangs the heart of the
, the habitat module, a five-hundred-meter-tall cylinder into which all the 1,021 inhabitants of the world are packed.
The light from the sun pushes against the sail, propelling us on an ever-widening, ever-accelerating, spiraling orbit away from it. The acceleration pins all of us against the decks, gives everything weight.
Our trajectory takes us toward a star called 61 Virginis. You can’t see it now because it is behind the canopy of the solar sail. The
will get there in about three hundred years, more or less. With luck, my great-great-great—I calculated how many “greats” I need once, but I don’t remember now—grandchildren will see it.
There are no windows in the habitat module, no casual view of the stars streaming past. Most people don’t care, having grown bored of seeing the stars long ago. But I like looking through the cameras mounted on the bottom of the ship so that I can gaze at this view of the receding, reddish glow of our sun, our past.
“Hiroto,” Dad said as he shook me awake. “Pack up your things. It’s time.”
My small suitcase was ready. I just had to put my Go set into it. Dad gave this to me when I was five, and the times we played were my favorite hours of the day.
The sun had not yet risen when Mom and Dad and I made our way outside. All the neighbors were standing outside their houses with their bags as well, and we greeted each other politely under the summer stars. As usual, I looked for the Hammer. It was easy. Ever since I could remember, the asteroid had been the brightest thing in the sky except for the moon, and every year it grew brighter.
A truck with loudspeakers mounted on top drove slowly down the middle of the street.
“Attention, citizens of Kurume! Please make your way in an orderly fashion to the bus stop. There will be plenty of buses to take you to the train station, where you can board the train for Kagoshima. Do not drive. You must leave the roads open for the evacuation buses and official vehicles!”
Every family walked slowly down the sidewalk.
“Mrs. Maeda,” Dad said to our neighbor. “Why don’t I carry your luggage for you?”
“I’m very grateful,” the old woman said.
After ten minutes of walking, Mrs. Maeda stopped and leaned against a lamppost.
“It’s just a little longer, Granny,” I said. She nodded but was too out of breath to speak. I tried to cheer her. “Are you looking forward to seeing your grandson in Kagoshima? I miss Michi too. You will be able to sit with him and rest on the spaceships. They say there will be enough seats for everyone.”
Mom smiled at me approvingly.
“How fortunate we are to be here,” Dad said. He gestured at the orderly rows of people moving toward the bus stop, at the young men in clean shirts and shoes looking solemn, the middle-aged women helping their elderly parents, the clean, empty streets, and the quietness—despite the crowd, no one spoke above a whisper. The very air seemed to shimmer with the dense connections between all the people—families, neighbors, friends, colleagues—as invisible and strong as threads of silk.
I had seen on TV what was happening in other places around the world: looters screaming, dancing through the streets, soldiers and policemen shooting into the air and sometimes into crowds, burning buildings, teetering piles of dead bodies, generals shouting before frenzied crowds, vowing vengeance for ancient grievances even as the world was ending.
“Hiroto, I want you to remember this,” Dad said. He looked around, overcome by emotion. “It is in the face of disasters that we show our strength as a people. Understand that we are not defined by our individual loneliness, but by the web of relationships in which we’re enmeshed. A person must rise above his selfish needs so that all of us can live in harmony. The individual is small and powerless, but bound tightly together, as a whole, the Japanese nation is invincible.”
“Mr. Shimizu,” eight-year-old Bobby says, “I don’t like this game.”
The school is located in the very center of the cylindrical habitat module, where it can have the benefit of the most shielding from radiation. In front of the classroom hangs a large American flag to which the children say their pledge every morning. To the sides of the American flag are two rows of smaller flags belonging to other nations with survivors on the
. At the very end of the left side is a child’s rendition of the Hinomaru, the corners of the white paper now curled and the once bright red rising sun faded to the orange of sunset. I drew it the day I came aboard the
I pull up a chair next to the table where Bobby and his friend, Eric, are sitting. “Why don’t you like it?”
Between the two boys is a nineteen-by-nineteen grid of straight lines. A handful of black and white stones have been placed on the intersections.
Once every two weeks, I have the day off from my regular duties monitoring the status of the solar sail and come here to teach the children a little bit about Japan. I feel silly doing it sometimes. How can I be their teacher when I have only a boy’s hazy memories of Japan?
But there is no other choice. All the non-American technicians like me feel it is our duty to participate in the cultural-enrichment program at the school and pass on what we can.
“All the stones look the same,” Bobby says, “and they don’t move. They’re boring.”
“What game do you like?” I ask.
!” Eric says. “Now
is a good game. You get to save the world.”
“I mean a game you do not play on the computer.”
Bobby shrugs. “Chess, I guess. I like the queen. She’s powerful and different from everyone else. She’s a hero.”
“Chess is a game of skirmishes,” I say. “The perspective of Go is bigger. It encompasses entire battles.”
“There are no heroes in Go,” Bobby says stubbornly.
I don’t know how to answer him.
There was no place to stay in Kagoshima, so everyone slept outside, along the road to the spaceport. On the horizon we could see the great silver escape ships gleaming in the sun.
Dad had explained to me that fragments that had broken off of the Hammer were headed for Mars and the moon, so the ships would have to take us further, into deep space, to be safe.
“I would like a window seat,” I said, imagining the stars streaming by.
“You should yield the window seat to those younger than you,” Dad said. “Remember, we must all make sacrifices to live together.”
We piled our suitcases into walls and draped sheets over them to form shelters from the wind and the sun. Every day inspectors from the government came by to distribute supplies and to make sure everything was all right.
“Be patient!” the government inspectors said. “We know things are moving slowly, but we’re doing everything we can. There will be seats for everyone.”
We were patient. Some of the mothers organized lessons for the children during the day, and the fathers set up a priority system so that families with aged parents and babies could board first when the ships were finally ready.
After four days of waiting, the reassurances from the government inspectors did not sound quite as reassuring. Rumors spread through the crowd.
“It’s the ships. Something’s wrong with them.”
“The builders lied to the government and said they were ready when they weren’t, and now the Prime Minister is too embarrassed to admit the truth.”
“I hear that there’s only one ship, and only a few hundred of the most important people will have seats. The other ships are only hollow shells, for show.”
“They’re hoping that the Americans will change their mind and build more ships for allies like us.”