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January 11, 2007

OMW in Chinese

omwchinese.jpg

From a correspondent in China:

Just noticed last night that the Chinese translation of Old Man's War is out... Turns out that it's the main selection in the January installment of the Science Fiction World Translations edition. You share the issue with Invisible Universe by Gregory Christiano and short stories by Chouhei Kanbayashi and Masaki Yamada.
This means that the title is in a non-obvious position on the cover. 垂暮之战 is in large characters roughly over the robot's left shoulder (the title is more poetic than the original: 垂暮 literally means "dusk" but is a common metaphor for old age), and to its right, in smaller characters, it says "Hugo Nominee" and "American Military Science Fiction for the New Century". Your name, 约翰·斯卡尔齐, follows the robot's arm downward.

Interesting. I was personally under the impression OMW would be published as a stand-alone book (and it may yet be; I need to double-check my contract), but this doesn't displease me, either. Science Fiction World, which is publishing OMW, is immensely popular in China; their primary magazine has a circulation I've seen listed as anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000; contrast that with the big three SF magazine markets here in the US, whose combined paid circulation (going by 2005 numbers) doesn't quite hit 60,000. Even proportionally speaking, that's a bigger market, made even larger by the fact that apparently 3 or 4 people read each copy of SFW. I'm not sure what the circulation of SFW's "Translations" magazine is, but I'm willing to bet it's going to get OMW read by quite a few folks, and that's all to the good.

As a side note, I'm reading the comments about the book in the Science Fiction World online forums, via the Babelfish translator. It's very amusing; I suspect Babelfish translates just enough for me to completely misunderstand what everyone is saying.

Posted by john at January 11, 2007 09:17 AM

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Comments

Sam | January 11, 2007 09:25 AM

I'm actually loving the cover art...but why a machine? I mean I read OMW a while back ago, but I don't remember any cyborgs? Still kick ass art, and the bird just tops it off, even though I have no idea what the bird means.

John Scalzi | January 11, 2007 09:28 AM

I doubt the work is meant to represent my novel in particular; there is also a novella and several short stories in the magazine as well.

JD | January 11, 2007 10:17 AM

Congratulations on entering the land of 1.6 Billion consumers. So your whole book plus a novella and some short stories are in a magazine? That is going to be a big ass magazine. Wish we had such animals here.

ship | January 11, 2007 10:18 AM

don't trust babelfish with translating languages as alien to each other as chinese and english are. when you translate the romance languages, which at least have something in common, it returns this bizarre avante-garde poetry that hardly resembles the original thoughts expressed. makes for interesting reading though! jon, i received TAD for christmas this year, i will hopefully start reading it next week. eagerly waiting to start it.

Todd Stull | January 11, 2007 10:30 AM

That is some wicked ass cover art. I would go buy another copy of OMW if you had some art like that on it. It would be cool if you could distribute your books with multiple covers, sort of like how magazines have collectors covers.

Steve Buchheit | January 11, 2007 11:05 AM

Cool, so that means in like a year I can get cheap bootlegged copies of OMW to pass out to friends for only a buck a piece. But only if they read chinese kanji.

cisko | January 11, 2007 11:15 AM

So it sounds like the translated title could be re-translated as "Dusk War" or maybe "Twilight War"... which is pretty cool even in English.

Nick Stump | January 11, 2007 12:07 PM

The cover looks great with the Chinese characters. I understand why so many of our young, my daughter included, have Chinese characters tattooed all over themselves. They are so beautiful. Juxtaposed with the robot--the very old over the futuristic. What a look. Makes me think of the series Firefly, where all the cursing was in Mandarin.

John, I can only imagine how great it must feel to have your books translated into different languages. I've had record reviews in several languages, and once the name of my band on the front of the German language Rolling Stone, but when you have a book translated into Chinese, that's my definiton of the big time. This one and the Russian are my favorites, though I'm waiting for the Sanskrit version.

Chang, who gets nothing! | January 11, 2007 12:20 PM

I like the cover. You could use it as your new background. Teh blue on white kills my eye brainz!

Gordon | January 11, 2007 01:15 PM

I'm with Chang; that shit is hot (the colors on it remind me of the cover of The Scar, if anyone else here reads China Mieville). It would make a good background, though I'm not sure how you'd set that up, exactly. I'm not a fan of the "one big background image" deal.

alkali | January 11, 2007 01:43 PM

The problem with reading the Chinese translation of Old Man's War is that an hour later you're hungry for the sequel.

Tim Keating | January 11, 2007 02:03 PM

"Science Fiction World, which is publishing OMW, is immensely popular in China; their primary magazine has a circulation I've seen listed as anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000"

Yeah but it only costs $0.03 an issue :-)

Horia Nicola Ursu | January 11, 2007 02:13 PM

Wow, to be read by more than a million Chinese! That's the most important thing. You're beating Crichton and Grisham, with the total number of readers your book has :)

Anne KG Murphy | January 11, 2007 03:01 PM

I'm in there with, um, practically everybody. that cover's awesome. Do you know who the artist is?

John Scalzi | January 11, 2007 03:02 PM

I haven't the slightest idea, actually.

Martyn Taylor | January 11, 2007 04:32 PM

What do you expect, from a Babelfish (a device that mistranslates everything seems to quintessentially Adamsish - and I know his Babelfish wasn't so ironic)

James Nicoll | January 11, 2007 10:09 PM

"their primary magazine has a circulation I've seen listed as anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000; contrast that with the big three SF magazine markets here in the US, whose combined paid circulation (going by 2005 numbers) doesn't quite hit 60,000."

Can you point me to sources on these numbers?

_Combined_ paid circulation? Do they still meet the requirements to be considered professional magazines?

zhwj | January 11, 2007 11:55 PM

The cover art is credited to Yu Lu (于路), a graphic novelist and illustrator. I'm not very familiar with his SF material; his books a few years back were heavily inspired by anime styles.

It's actually fairly standard practice to run long fiction in magazines alongside novellas and short stories. The four or five major literary magazines run full-length novels each month (much of it by well-known authors, no less), and many of these are published in stand-alone books afterward, should the situation warrant. All of the translation journals do it, too. It's good for exposure, certainly - even though any numbers should be taken with a grain of salt since there is no industry-wide auditing system in place, I'd guess the circulation on average is still an order of magnitude beyond what could be expected for a first-run book, because of both availability (a newsstand carrying it won't be hard to find) and price (10 yuan = $1.25 for the magazine vs. 36 yuan = $4.50 for the newly-released American Gods for example).

James Nicoll | January 12, 2007 11:17 AM

A little digging says that Analog might have 33k subscribers, in which case the ratio of readers between the Chinese magazine and Analog could be as high as 60:1.

Note that if readership was proportional to population, the ratio would be closer to 4:1.

John Scalzi | January 12, 2007 11:24 AM

James, the numbers I saw were on Warren Ellis' site, here, and which were apparently taken from Gardner Dozois' 2005 wrap-up. Anecdotally, these figures are in line with what I remember reading in Locus when they recapped 2005 circulation numbers.

For those who don't want to go over and look the circulation and stands sales breakdown looks like this:

Asimov’s:

Subs: 18050
Stands: 3397

Analog:

Subs: 25933
Stands: 4614

F&SF:

Subs: 14918
Stands: 3822

I'd of course be delighted if Analog's subscription numbers were closer to 33k than 25k (and correspondingly the circ numbers were higher all around).

Be that as it may, no mater how you slice it the subscription numbers of the US magazines pale in comparison to the Chinese numbers -- especially if you consider (as someone on your own site noted) that many of those subscriptions overlap -- i.e., people often subscribe to more than one of the "big three".

James Nicoll | January 12, 2007 01:05 PM

_Thank_ you (I've been looking for those figures for a while).

This would make the worse case ratio for Analog 80:1 in favour of the Chinese magazine's readership.

I suppose to be fair, I should point out what the numbers for On Spec (a Canada SF magazine) are but I don't know and beside, OS gets an arts grant and couldn't be said to be purely commercial.

Mark | January 13, 2007 01:37 AM

That cover would make a fantastic print/poster.

zhwj | January 18, 2007 10:54 AM

From the SF forum here, I've found that the Chinese text is bowdlerized - there is no last line of Chapter 5, and the first segment of Chapter 6 is absent, too - it starts with "What are you thinking?" Other bits - like where he checks out his package - are missing, too.

John Scalzi | January 18, 2007 10:58 AM

They took out the sex? Interesting. I would imagine some of the profanity got chopped as well, then.

FZWS | January 28, 2007 01:34 AM

hello,i am a chinese reader,i have read your omw.

i think some of you may misunderstand the cover,
Science Fiction World Translations is a magazine
usually with a long novel and some short.so its cover usually doesn't draw for the novel,just a sf cover,don't for any story.in fact,i don't know the meaning of the cover,it may describe a future situation?the robots has all died ,and only left a robot bird?

maybe your OMW will be published as a stand-alone book with The Ghost Brigades,like those first on this magazine then publish before,but i'm not sure,may not.you can ask the chinese editor.

and the zhwj is famous in chinese sf.i hope i speak my mind cleanly.ok,i'm happy to talk with you,bye. (it's time for lunch ……)

FZWS | January 28, 2007 01:35 AM

hello,i am a chinese reader,i have read your omw.

i think some of you may misunderstand the cover,
Science Fiction World Translations is a magazine
usually with a long novel and some short.so its cover usually doesn't draw for the novel,just a sf cover,don't for any story.in fact,i don't know the meaning of the cover,it may describe a future situation?the robots has all died ,and only left a robot bird?

maybe your OMW will be published as a stand-alone book with The Ghost Brigades,like those first on this magazine then publish before,but i'm not sure,may not.you can ask the chinese editor.

and the zhwj is famous in chinese sf.i hope i speak my mind cleanly.ok,i'm happy to talk with you,bye. (it's time for lunch ……)

FZWS | January 28, 2007 05:06 AM

o?i don't find i have made it two……delete one
by the way,it seems that they take out the sex
and the profanity,you can ask them if or not.

John Scalzi | January 28, 2007 09:55 AM

Thanks, FZWS!

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