Category Archives: SF NOVELS

KEN LIU – The Paper Menagerie

listened to this twice. very dense. ken is a prolific writer and translator (and many other things). His translation of the The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo Award, the first translated and first Chinese novel in the award’s history to have won. Here Ken talks about this short story collection The Paper Menagerie, translation, cultural codes and more.

GANTZ – 奥 浩哉 Hiroya Oku (2)

The second scene is from volume  36. It’s another existentialist moment where some Gantz players/warriors encounter ‘the Truth’ a statuesque, super intelligent being. They are encouraged to ask questions.

The scene is remarkable for the design of two the Truth figures. The inside of the figure is constantly shapeshifting; heads of creatures and alien races emerge and morph into in/famous humans (Ghandi, Betthoven, Hitler; but also Bill Gates if I’m correct and scientist Stephen Hawking). Is it to make the cryptic statements more accessible for humans to understand?

again, Japanese reading direction.







GANTZ – 奥 浩哉 Hiroya Oku (1)

Gantz by Hiroya Oku was published between 2000-2013 and comprises 37 volumes, each containing over 200 pages. It’s a massive, basically insane science fiction drama. Acts of over the top cruelty are matched by exceptional acts of courage. Emotions and actions are amplified, intensified. The scene below is taken from volume 30 (plus a couple of pages from volume 29), fairly near the end of the manga. It shows a group of humans arriving at the alien mothership.

They don’t know what to expect or what destiny awaits them on board. The armed character in black clothing is Kei Kurono, a protagonist, who is looking for his girlfriend Tae.

fyi the pages below are in Japanese reading direction, top to bottom and right to left.



Gantz v29 c319 - 18[Whatever]Gantz v29 c319 - 19[Whatever]Gantz v29 c319 - 20-21[Whatever]Gantz v29 c319 - 22[Whatever]Gantz v29 c319 - 23[Whatever]Gantz v29 c319 - 24-25[Whatever]

Gantz v30 c320 - 003Gantz v30 c320 - 004-005Gantz v30 c320 - 006-007Gantz v30 c320 - 008-009Gantz v30 c320 - 010Gantz v30 c320 - 011Gantz v30 c320 - 012Gantz v30 c320 - 013Gantz v30 c320 - 014Gantz v30 c320 - 015Gantz v30 c320 - 016Gantz v30 c320 - 017Gantz v30 c320 - 018Gantz v30 c320 - 019Gantz v30 c320 - 020Gantz v30 c320 - 021Gantz v30 c320 - 022Gantz v30 c320 - 023Gantz v30 c320 - 024Gantz v30 c320 - 025Gantz v30 c320 - 026Gantz v30 c320 - 027Gantz v30 c321 - 029Gantz v30 c321 - 030-031Gantz v30 c321 - 032-033Gantz v30 c321 - 034Gantz v30 c321 - 035Gantz v30 c321 - 036Gantz v30 c321 - 037Gantz v30 c321 - 038Gantz v30 c321 - 039Gantz v30 c321 - 040Gantz v30 c321 - 041Gantz v30 c321 - 042Gantz v30 c321 - 043Gantz v30 c321 - 044Gantz v30 c321 - 045Gantz v30 c321 - 046Gantz v30 c321 - 047Gantz v30 c321 - 048Gantz v30 c321 - 049Gantz v30 c321 - 050Gantz v30 c321 - 051Gantz v30 c321 - 052Gantz v30 c321 - 053Gantz v30 c322 - 055Gantz v30 c322 - 056Gantz v30 c322 - 057Gantz v30 c322 - 058Gantz v30 c322 - 059Gantz v30 c322 - 060Gantz v30 c322 - 061Gantz v30 c322 - 062-063Gantz v30 c322 - 064Gantz v30 c322 - 065Gantz v30 c322 - 066-067Gantz v30 c322 - 068Gantz v30 c322 - 069Gantz v30 c322 - 070Gantz v30 c322 - 071Gantz v30 c322 - 072Gantz v30 c322 - 073Gantz v30 c322 - 074-075Gantz v30 c322 - 076Gantz v30 c322 - 077Gantz v30 c322 - 078Gantz v30 c322 - 079Gantz v30 c323 - 081Gantz v30 c323 - 082-083Gantz v30 c323 - 084Gantz v30 c323 - 085Gantz v30 c323 - 086-087Gantz v30 c323 - 088Gantz v30 c323 - 089Gantz v30 c323 - 090Gantz v30 c323 - 091Gantz v30 c323 - 092Gantz v30 c323 - 093Gantz v30 c323 - 094Gantz v30 c323 - 095Gantz v30 c323 - 096Gantz v30 c323 - 097Gantz v30 c323 - 098Gantz v30 c323 - 099Gantz v30 c324 - 101Gantz v30 c324 - 102Gantz v30 c324 - 103Gantz v30 c324 - 104-105Gantz v30 c324 - 106Gantz v30 c324 - 107Gantz v30 c324 - 108Gantz v30 c324 - 109Gantz v30 c324 - 110Gantz v30 c324 - 111Gantz v30 c324 - 112Gantz v30 c324 - 113Gantz v30 c324 - 114-115Gantz v30 c324 - 116Gantz v30 c324 - 117Gantz v30 c324 - 118Gantz v30 c324 - 119Gantz v30 c325 - 121Gantz v30 c325 - 122-123Gantz v30 c325 - 124Gantz v30 c325 - 125Gantz v30 c325 - 126Gantz v30 c325 - 127Gantz v30 c325 - 128Gantz v30 c325 - 129Gantz v30 c325 - 130-131Gantz v30 c325 - 132-133Gantz v30 c325 - 134Gantz v30 c325 - 135Gantz v30 c325 - 136Gantz v30 c325 - 137Gantz v30 c325 - 138-139Gantz v30 c325 - 140Gantz v30 c325 - 141Gantz v30 c325 - 142Gantz v30 c325 - 143Gantz v30 c325 - 144Gantz v30 c325 - 145Gantz v30 c325 - 146Gantz v30 c325 - 147Gantz v30 c325 - 148Gantz v30 c325 - 149Gantz v30 c325 - 150-151Gantz v30 c325 - 152Gantz v30 c325 - 153Gantz v30 c325 - 154-155Gantz v30 c326 - 157Gantz v30 c326 - 158-159Gantz v30 c326 - 160Gantz v30 c326 - 161Gantz v30 c326 - 162-163Gantz v30 c326 - 164-165Gantz v30 c326 - 166-167Gantz v30 c326 - 168Gantz v30 c326 - 169

JG BALLARD – Notes from Nowhere

(my blue markings)


Michael Moorcock, 1966: Reader interest in J. G. Ballard’s recent work has been high. We invited Mr. Ballard to produce these notes explaining some of his current ideas. They take the form of a dialogue with himself — the answers explaining the unstated questions.

Notes From Nowhere
Comments On Work In Progress

By J. G. Ballard
New Worlds, October, 1966

1. Science fiction, above all a prospective form of fiction, concerned with the immediate present in terms of the future rather than the past, requires narrative techniques that reflect its subject matter. To date almost all its writers, including myself, fall to the ground because they fail to realise that the principal narrative technique of retrospective fiction, the sequential and consequential narrative, based as it is on an already established set of events and relationships, is wholly unsuited to create the images of a future that has as yet made no concessions to us. In The Drowned World, The Drought and The Crystal World I tried to construct linear systems that made no use of the sequential elements of time — basically, a handful of ontological “myths”. However, in spite of my efforts, the landscapes of these novels more and more began to quantify themselves. Images and events became isolated, defining their own boundaries. Crocodiles enthroned themselves in the armour of their own tissues.

2. In The Terminal Beach the elements of sequential narrative had been almost completely eliminated. it occurred to me that one could carry this to its logical conclusion, and a recent group of stories — You and Me and the Continuum, The Assassination Weapon, You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe and The Atrocity Exhibition — show some of the results. Apart from anything else, this new narrative technique seems to show a tremendous gain in the density of ideas and images. In fact, I regard each of them as a complete novel.

3. Who else is trying? Here and there, one or two. More power to their elbows. But for all the talk, most of the established writers seem stuck in a rut.

4. Few of them bad much of a chance, anyway: not enough wild genes…

5. Of those I have read, Platt’s Lone Zone (in particular, the first three or four paragraphs, briiliant writing) and Colvin’s The Pleasure Garden … and The Ruins are wholly original attempts, successful I feel, to enlarge the scope and subject matter of science fiction.

6. Defend Dali.

7. In fact, the revival of interest in surrealism –after the recent flurry over Dada, there is now a full-scale retrospective of Duchamp at the Tate Gallery — bodes well for science fiction, turning its writers away frorn so-called realism to a more open and imaginative manner. One hopes that its real aims will be followed. One trouble with Dali is that no one has ever really looked at his paintings. “Goddess leaning on her elbow,” for example, or “Young Virgin auto-sodomised by her own chastity,” seem to me to be among the most important paintings of the 20th century.

8. The social novel is dead. Like all retrospective fiction, it is obsessed with the past, with the roots’ of behaviour and background, with sins of omission and commission long-past, with all the distant antecedents of the present. Most people, thank God, have declared a moratorium on the past, and are more concerned with the present and future, with all the possibilities of their lives. To begin with: the possibilities of musculature and posture, the time and space of our immediate physical environments.

9. Fiction is a branch of neurology.

10. Planes intersect: on one level, the world of public events, Cape Kennedy and Viet Nam mimetised on billboards. On another level, the immediate personal environment, the volumes of space enclosed by my opposed hands, the geometry of my own postures, the time-values contained in this room, the motion-space of highways, staircases, the angles between these walls. On a third level, the inner world of the psyche. Where these planes intersect, images are born. With these co-ordinates, some kind of valid reality begins to clarify itself.

11. Quantify.

12. Some of these ideas can be seen in my four recent “novels”. The linear elements have been eliminated, the reality of the narrative is relativistic. Therefore place on the events only the perspective of a given instant, a given set of images and relationships.

13. Dali: “After Freud’s explorations within the psyche it is now the outer world of reality which will have to be quantified and eroticised.” Query: at what point does the plane of intersection of two cones become sexually more stimulating than Elizabeth Taylor’s cleavage?

14. Neurology is a branch of fiction: the scenarios of nerve and blood-vessel are the written mythologies of brain and body. Does the angle between two walls have a happy ending?

15. Query: does the plane of intersection of the body of this woman in my room with the cleavage of Elizabeth Taylor generate a valid image of the glazed eyes of Chiang Kai Shek, an invasion plan of the offshore islands?

16. Of course these four published “novels”, and those that I am working on now, contain a number of other ideas. However, one can distinguish between the manifest content, ie., the attempt to produce a new “mythology” out of the intersecting identities of J. F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, smashed automobiles and dead apartments, and the latent content, the shift in geometric formula from one chapter to the next. Each section is a symbol in some kind of spinal mathematics. In fact I believe that one may be able one day to represent a novel or short story, with all its images and relationships, simply as a three-dimensional geometric model. In The Atrocity Exhibition one of the characters remarks of a set of Enneper’s models “. . . operating formulae, for a doomsday weapon.” Cubism, for example, had a greater destructive power than all the explosives discharged during World War I — and killed no one.

17. The analytic function of this new fiction should not be overlooked. Most fiction is synthetic in method — as Freud remarked, rightly I feel, a sure sign of immaturity.

18. Au revoir, jewelled alligators and white hotels, hallucinatory forests, farewell.

19. For the moment it’s difficult to tell where this thing will go. One problem that worries me is that a short story, or even, ultimately, a novel, may become nothing more than a three-dimensional geometric model. Nevertheless, it seems to me that so much of what is going on, on both sides of the retina, makes nonsense unless viewed in these terms. A huge portion of our lives is ignored, merely because it plays no direct part in conscious experience.

20. No one in science fiction has ever written about outer space. You and Me and the Continuum: “What is space?” the lecturer concluded, “what does it mean to our sense of time and the images we carry of our finite lives … ?” At present I am working on a story about a disaster in space which, however badly, makes a first attempt to describe what space means. So far, science fiction’s idea of outer space has resembled a fish’s image of life on land as a goldfish bowl.

21. The surrealist painter, Matta: “Why must we await, and fear, a disaster in space in order to understand our own times?”

22. In my own story a disaster in space is translated into the terms of our own inner and outer environments. It may be that certain interesting ideas will emerge.

23. So far, science fiction has demonstrated conclusively that it has no idea of what space means, and is completely unequipped to describe what will no doubt be the greatest transformation of the life of this planet — the exploration of outer space.

24. Meanwhile: the prospect of a journey to Spain, a return to the drained basin of the Rio Seco. At the mouth a delta of shingle forms an ocean bar, pools of warm water filled with sea-urchins. Then the great deck of the drained river running inland, crossed by the white span of a modern motor bridge. Beyond this, secret basins of cracked mud the size of ballrooms, models of a state of mind, a curvilinear labyrinth. The limitless neural geometry of the landscape. The apartment houses on the beach are the operating formulae for our passage through consciousness. To the north a shoulder of Pre-Cambrian rock rises from the sea after its crossing from Africa. The juke-boxes play in the bars of Benidorm. The molten sea swallows the shadow of the Guardia Civil helicopter.

TED CHIANG – Stories of Your Life and Others (2002)

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (published in 2002 by Small Beer Press) is a collection of eight short stories (around 30-40 pages each).

Four of these (Understanding, Story of Your Life, The Evolution of Human Science, Liking What You See: A Documentary) are excellent in my view and touch on many complex issues regarding how we perceive life, other human beings and technological devices/discoveries.

Note: Story of Your Life will be made into a movie starring Amy Adams, with Denis Villeneuve directing. The basic synopsis:
Story of Your Life will star Adams as an expert linguist who is recruited by the military to determine whether a group of aliens crash-landing on Earth come in peace or are a threat. As she learns to communicate with the aliens, she begins experiencing vivid flashbacks that become the key to unlocking the greater mystery about the true purpose of their visit.

Read below what Chiang thinks of Hollywood’s somewhat simplistic treatment of Science Fiction material. It is of interest how the adaption will portray the aliens and their potential motives for visiting earth.

From a conversation between Ted Chiang and Betsy Huang where he talks about his personal view of SF:

TC: (…) One of the things I talked about was how my sense of science fiction differs from the popular conception of it. I think most people’s ideas of science fiction are formed by Hollywood movies, so they think most science fiction is a special effects-driven story revolving around a battle between good and evil, or something along those lines. While I like a story of good versus evil as much as the next guy, I don’t think of that as a science fiction story. You can tell a good-versus-evil story in any time period and in any setting. Setting it in the future and adding robots to it doesn’t make it a science fiction story.

I think science fiction is fundamentally a post-industrial revolution form of storytelling. Some literary critics have noted that the good-versus-evil story follows a pattern where the world starts out as a good place, evil intrudes, the heroes fight and eventually defeat evil, and the world goes back to being a good place. Those critics have said that this is fundamentally a conservative storyline because it’s about maintaining the status quo. This is a common story pattern in crime fiction, too—there’s some disruption to the order, but eventually order is restored.

Science fiction offers a different kind of story, a story where the world starts out as recognizable and familiar but is disrupted or changed by some new discovery or technology.(my italics) At the end of the story, the world is changed permanently. The original condition is never restored. And so in this sense, this story pattern is progressive because its underlying message is not that you should maintain the status quo, but that change is inevitable. The consequences of this new discovery or technology—whether they’re positive or negative—are here to stay and we’ll have to deal with them.

This is a quintessentially science fiction storyline and it makes sense only in the wake of the industrial revolution. To a pre-industrial society, this kind of story would be incomprehensible, because no one had ever seen the world change in their lifetime. After the industrial revolution, we understand this story because we’ve all seen the world change. That’s what I think is at the heart of science fiction and what I usually tell people who aren’t familiar with it, whose ideas are mostly informed by Hollywood.

There’s also a subset of this progressive story pattern that I’m particularly interested in, and that’s the “conceptual breakthrough” story, where the characters discover something about the nature of the universe which radically expands their understanding of the world. This is a classic science fiction storyline. In Asimov’s “Nightfall,” for example, the characters undergo a conceptual breakthrough. They discover that their world is merely one planet in a universe that is vastly larger than what they had imagined before. Or James Blish’s “Surface Tension,” in which the characters are microscopic organisms living in a pond. They build a craft to leave the pond, which means overcoming the powerful surface tension of the water’s surface. When they do, they discover that the world is vastly larger than they had conceived.

That is a story pattern I like a lot, because one of the cool things about science fiction is that it lets you dramatize the process of scientific discovery, that moment of suddenly understanding something about the universe. That is what scientists find appealing about science, and I enjoy seeing the same thing in science fiction.