SFWA European Hall of Fame: a chance to read sf from outside of the Anglo Bubble

The SFWA European Hall of Fame is a ground-breaking anthology from James and Kathryn Morrow -- a collection of sixteen translated sf stories written by European authors. A down-side of being an English-speaker is that there's so much English-language material around that very little gets translated into your language, leaving you in a kind of bubble of literature written by people who speak the same language you do.

This is far less true for speakers of other European languages, who enjoy the pleasure of reading translations from many, many languages (including, of course, English), and are thus able to mix, match and remix the sensibilities, ideas and styles of writers from around the world.

It shows. The stories in The SFWA European Hall of Fame are not quite like any sf I've read before. Like much of the best sf, these stories tend to be allegorical, often absurdist, existential, and just plain weird. But there's a certain... stilted character to them that I came to realize was the emergent property of all those swirling styles and ideas, cross-pollinating and recombining outside of the Anglo Bubble.

I especially enjoyed the entries from the Greek author Panagiotis Koustas, "Athose Emfovos in the Temple of Sound;" the comic Romanian entry by Cezar Ionescu, "Some Earthlings' Adventures in Outrerria;" the Twilight Zonish and characteristically Russian fatalistic "Destiny Inc" by Sergei Lukyavenko; and especially the gorgeous conceit lurking in one of the Spanish entries, Jose Antonio Cotrina's "Between the Lines."

You would be hard pressed to find another anthology whose works were more different from one another -- and from the stories you're accustomed to -- than this one. It's a mind-opening journey: not always pleasant but absolutely rewarding. Link


  1. Well, the subtitle on the cover says “from the continent”, which would exclude the British Isles. British SF is pretty well represented in the American market anyway, I think. I suppose they could have titled the book “The SFWA Languages-other-than-English Hall of Fame” but it seems a little overly pedantic.

  2. Sounds like a great book — but what a terrible title! Talk about marketing only to a tiny, in-the-know audience…

  3. Ironically, it stands for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

    Could also be South Florida Windsurfing Association or Southwestern Firearms.

    Imagine if they all merged. Then we could have a windsurfing, shotgun wielding, John Scalzi.

  4. As a Finn living in Portugal, I take a very small amount of offense at the map on the book cover. Did they really have to crop both of my countries – both featured in the book – off the map?
    Damn the inconvenient shape of Europe.

  5. I took a Spanish Science Fiction class a few years ago (SF in Spanish, not from Spain.) It focused mainly on stories from Cuba, Mexico and Argentina. There was some really good stuff out there – maybe someday they’ll do a Latin American version of this compilation.

  6. While it is certainly valuable to read and enjoy literature from all cultural backgrounds, I have to say as someone who has been both a translator and a student of literature in other languages for many a year now (including German, Greek, Old English and Japanese), please, PLEASE don’t assume you know anything about the author’s style, or influences, or whatnot, from a translation. Remember, a translator, even the very best translator, is a filter that inevitably skews the style of the original.
    The stilted quality that Cory refers to is very likely the translation; finding the happy medium somewhere between writing your own story with the “flavor” of the original and a word-by-word gloss of the original very often leads to a certain vague “otherness” in the text.
    That said, I do look forward to this filling of a great hole in my library–Romanian SF!

  7. Dear Cory,

    I am glad you liked my story, but I am really gladder (is there such a type?) that you liked the anthology, mostly because James & Kathy really worked hard for it. I know that first-handed.

    I only have two minor thinks to add.
    Please lose the last e in the word Athose. Its Athos.And the Rumanian author’s name is Lucian Merisca. Cezar Ionescu is the translator’s name.

    I am really thrilled by the rest of your post. It’s not easy to understand this gap between native English speakers and the rest of us. And up to now I never show that as an advantage. So your post was illuminating for me too.

    Writing SF in a “small” language, is like walking in a minefield. But this is something we should talk about in a EuroCon or a bar, with plenty of drinks and time, not in a comment here.

    Thanx again,

    Panagiotis Koustas

  8. Thanks Koustas for pointing Cory his little error.
    I’ve read some of the stories both in original and in translation. Kathy and Jim Morrow (two wonderful people I was happy to meet not so long ago at the Utopiales convention in Nantes) have done an excellent job in adapting them, managing to convey the spirit of the originals.
    @Mnemesis: Romanian F&SF will no longer be such an exotic thing soon, a couple of anthologies (one with SF, the other with fantasy stories) translated into english are in the works right now and will be published by an American small press. Expect them to hit shelves sometime in Spring-Summer 2009.

Comments are closed.