2020’s A Primer to Han Song , illustrations by Michelle Prebich, is a collection edited by Eric J. Guignard. The short collection is the fifth in the Exploring Dark Short Fiction series. In addition to the stories written by Han Song, there is a commentary by Michael Arnzen, Ph.D.
I had not heard of this series before, because (as revealed in the introduction) the series editor and I prefer different genres (it would be interesting to see what Guignard makes of Otsiuchi). If this is a fair example, each volume is quite short. Regrettably, the commentary by academic Michael Arnzen, Ph.D., is less than enthralling: he has a particular angle on how to interpret stories as allegory that perhaps is not as universal as he appears to assume. One wonders if perhaps he was interrogating the narrative from the wrong perspective? [Editor’s note: Interrogating the narrative? Oh James, you have been infected!]
As to the stories themselves, one always has to approach translated works with an awareness of the translator standing between the original story and the English reader. For the most part the characters are flat, just sufficient for their purpose in the story. The stories have strong overtones of horror; if there’s a moral, it’s “always consider whether or not one wants to know the answers before asking questions.” In fact, it is best to assume one is better off not knowing what is really going on. The best story in the bunch (IMHO) is “My Country Does Not Dream,” which offers an exciting new way to greatly expand productivity, in a manner Project Itoh(to mention another Haikasoru author) might have found amusing.
Introduction by Eric J. Guignard
A glowing introduction to Han Song. As it happens, SF is not Guignard’s jam: horror and dark fantasy is. Providentially, Han Song’s SF is pretty dark.
Han Song: A Biography
A short biography of journalist/SF author Han Song.
Earth Is Flat
Although everyone believes that Columbus proved the Earth was round, the truth is more complex.
It’s interesting that the myth that Europeans thought the world was flat made it to China.
(Apparently “when did China become aware the Earth is round?” is a fairly contentious question.)
A shiny new subway takes its passengers on an exciting journey of discovery and transformation.
The Wheel of Samsara
Faced with mysterious emanations from an ancient prayer wheel, an arrogant physicist decides to cut directly to intrusive methods. Hilarity ensues (very briefly).
This is rather Nine Billion Names of God-ish.
Two Small Birds
Having laboured for millennia to free his beloved starship, the narrator’s quest takes him in an unexpected direction.
Fear of Seeing
The birth of a ten-eyed child elicits disquiet and eventual reconciliation from its parents, but a less accepting response from a government convinced that the best method of dealing with the inexplicable is to eliminate it.
My Country Does Not Dream
Perplexed by bank balance shortfalls and with his marriage shaken by inexplicable purchases, an all too inquisitive man learns more about how China’s economy works than is good for his peace of mind.
Why Han Song Matters
Another tribute to Song as a grand figure in Chinese SF.
In Conversation with Han Song
A short interview with Song.
Sending Chinese Science Fiction Overseas: A New Dialogue — an Essay by Han Song
Chinese SF as a window into China and as a possible harbinger of what is to come.
A Bibliography of Chinese And English Fiction for Han Song
What it says on the tin.
What it says on the tin.
Also included: biographies of Eric J. Guignard, Michael Arnzen, Ph.D., Michelle Prebich and Nathaniel Isaacson, Ph.D.