As promised, today we have the second part of the interview of Cristina Jurado with Marcheto from Cuentos para Algernon. This interview is included in the special The Gender & The Genre of El Fantascopio Blog, so you can read the Spanish translation of this interview at Cristina's wonderful blog Más Ficción Que Ciencia and at El Fantascopio. Hope you enjoy it! And don't forget reading the first part of the interview if you missed it!!!
Tell me in Spanish some English short stories, Algernon! (Part II)
CJ: Last year I met Aliette de Bodard in Paris during the summer. She stroked me as an extremely intelligent person, who not also speaks perfect English and French, but also has a very high level of Spanish. I would like to know about your own interactions with authors, who has surprised you, how do you convinced them to allow to translate their stories and any anecdote that seems relevant to you.
M: Sadly, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting personally any of the authors whose stories have appeared in the blog. All my contacts are by e-mail: in some cases, the exchange has been made through a couple of messages; in others, it has been a bit longer. As you can imagine, from all who have accepted my proposal of translation, I only can say positive things. In general, all authors have been extremely kind and collaborative, although it’s inevitable to feel gratefulness or affection for some, for different reasons. I didn’t have to convince anybody. I give them my little speech about my non-profit blog (here I insert last year’s nominations for the Ignotus Awards, so my proposal looks more appealing), and where I would like to post their stories, indicating which one I’m interested in.
If they agree, it’s perfect. If they say no, I never insist or try to convince them, because my negotiation skills are non-existent. Everybody is very clear. Many tell me that they have to consult with their agent, so generally that means a dead end.
Only in the case of a female author, whose story will appear in the blog in a few months, there was certain negotiation. She answered my initial e-mail pointing out that, the two short stories I was interested in were the more commercial ones for her agent, so she could not grant them to me. But she proposed to choose another text (she even send me another one), which finally worked.
From the beginning, Ken Liu has always been delightful (and I’m astonished with him, because despite the time difference, he answers quickly all my messages). If I remember correctly, when I contacted him, he already had won some important awards, and then the blog was just a project, without anything tangible behind it. Despite all that, he graciously agreed with no conditions. That’s why it was great for me to get a nomination to the Ignotus Awards, even if I didn’t win. Besides, if the first contacted author had refused, maybe I would have been discouraged and the blog would have never been born.
Tim Pratt has also been one of the most accessible writers, collaborating all the time. Months after I posted “Another End of the Empire” (“Otro final del imperio”), he wrote to me saying that he would be delighted if I was interested in translating another story. There is always an attractive sense of anticipation when I wait for the answer of a new writer, but the tranquility of contacting an author knowing he is going to agree, facilitating so much my work, it’s even more attractive. If we consider that Tim has an extensive and high quality short fiction collection of works, I’m sure we will have him again in the blog.
Jeffrey Ford is one of the main persons responsible for the birth of Cuentos para Algernon. When I used to read his stories in English, I thought how unfair was for Spanish readers not to be able to enjoy those little wonderful texts. Somebody had to do something about it! When I finally decided to start the blog, I was determined to be the one to do something. Ford was one of the two writers I craved the most to translate (in the other case, the other author, I could only contact the agent, who very kindly refused my proposal). I tried to be very realistic thinking that a multi-awarded writer like Ford would never accept. But I didn’t have anything to lose, so I wrote him. One of the greatest joyful moments this blog has brought me was Ford’s super-kind answer. He agreed without conditions, allowing me to translate any of the stories I proposed. He’s also one of the authors that has answered all my e-mails, even the ones that didn’t need a reply, and he is been most gracious in all of them.
Kij Johnson also surprised me. I hear in an interview that, for her, the most important thing was for people to read her works. So in her case, I thought I would receive a positive answer, but I also considered it would be a partial one. She would agree for me to translate a story, but never “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” (“26 monos, además delabismo”), honored with the World Fantasy Award. To my surprise, she allowed me to translate it, or any I wanted. It was an honor, for me and for the blog. Something similar happened with Mary Robinette Kowal, who also authorized me to translate “For Want of a Nail” (“Por falta de un clavo”), a Hugo-awarded story.
Certain authors (like Rose Lemberg, Aliette de Bodard and Zen Cho) have also helped me a lot in some aspects of the translations. That is a luxury for any translator and something that I’m very grateful for. Some authors appearing shortly in the blog have sent me stories I was interested in but couldn’t read because they were not available online.
A different case is a mysterious author, which will appear very soon in the blog, who writes under a pseudonym and whose real identity is totally unknown to the general public. They have no web site, no e-mail address, no Twitter account. But they have wonderful stories and I spent months searching for a way to contact them (I don’t even know if they’re a man or a woman). I wrote to the magazine where they usually publish. They didn’t even replied. I tried again and, again. Silence. I contacted their publishing company, which has a web page stating that they are very happy to pass on to the authors any messages from the readers. Nothing. I came to the conclusion they had probably received my proposal, but just wasn’t interested. I was going to forget about it for good, and then I spoke with Jonathan Strahan, in an e-mail about something else, because in his last anthology he had included a story by the mysterious author. Half an hour later, I already had the permission to translate and post the text. That was a nice surprise, after months of trying. In this case, I haven’t been able to exchange e-mails with the writer, everything has been done through the mediation of
Strahan, somebody I’m deeply grateful for everything he has done.
CJ: Based on what you are saying, and what other translators have told me, being a translator is like being a lonely detective. There is also some adventure involved, I think, and a continuous quest for perfection, which needs to be sometimes limited to arriving to the closest possible approximation to the original meaning and references. Which is the story most difficult for you to translate and why?
M: I totally agree with you about the job: it’s quite solitary but also thrilling. Perfection is impossible, of course, but at least now we have the Internet, an unavoidable tool, which helps us enormously in our research. Among all the stories in the blog, the more difficult to translate were “Bright Morning” (“Radiante mañana”) by Jeffrey Ford and “Seven Losses of Na Re” (“Las siete pérdidas de Na Re”) by Rose Lemberg. In the first, in addition with all the cultural references, there is a lot of humor and I didn’t want to lose it in my version. The second, it’s because the prose is almost poetry.
CJ: Cuentos para Algernon is a very simple but very courageous project. You translate genre short stories and make them available online to readers for free, after asking the authors for proper authorization. What is your assessment of the first anthology published few months ago? When will be the second ready?
M: The idea of writing a blog is mine, but the anthology is based on the feedback of some of the blog’s followers. I thought it was a great idea. I have a very chaotic e-reader, with hundreds of short stories downloaded and stored there until I have time to read them. I thought it would be very comfortable for everybody to have all stories grouped in the same document, instead of having a dozen floating around. My reasoning stopped there.
That’s why, it surprised me a lot the reception of Cuentos para Algernon: Año I. The launching day, the blog had an absolute record of visits. I believe this anthology has become the blog’s business card for many. The first review got me totally by surprise.
As I already said, the anthology simply was a gathering of published stories, just an organizing tool, but I never thought about it as a “real” book, with enough entity to encourage anybody to review it. And then, it started to appear in lists of “The Best of 2013”, so I felt a boost. And I find particularly funny to see in some web pages «Publishing Company: Cuentos para Algernon».
I have a clear idea than the anthologies will be annual. Cuentos para Algernon: Año II should appear next October, with all stories posted during the blog’s second year. If nothing happens, I hope to maintain the current rhythm of translations, which adjusts perfectly to what is expected in an anthology.
CJ: Mandatory question: what do you think about the health of the genre in our country? And, in the Spanish speaking market?
M: One of the disadvantages of Cuentos para Algernon is that it influences a lot of my readings. In the last couple of years, I’ve mainly read short fiction by Anglo Saxon authors. Because I like to read all kinds of genres, I’ve tried to mix into my reading some other titles not related to fantasy literature. As a consequence, it’s a long time since I’ve read Spanish-speaking writers, so I’m not in a position to speak about the current genre’s landscape. The little amount of genre books I’ve read left me good sensations, (El libro de los pequeños milagros by Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel, Los que duermen by Juan Gómez Bárcena, Porvenir by Iban Zaldua, Frío by Rafael Pinedo and Distorsiones by David Roas, to mention the ones I liked the most), and I enjoyed the very interesting stories in other publications such as Terra Nova and Presencia Humana, I would say the genre’s health is not bad. If I go further back in my readings, I find some of the fantasy authors I like the most, like Félix J. Palma, Hipólito G. Navarro, Cristina Fernández Cubas, José María Merino, Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel, Ignacio Padilla, Albert Sánchez Piñol o Rodrigo Fresán, to cite some. I don’t think we have to feel complexed at all. I believe there is high quality fantasy narrative, even though it’s normally published in genre imprints. One has to pay attention if one wants to catch it.
Readers are interested in what Spanish-speaking authors are writing, which is a good sign. Some days ago, the managers of the recent born Maelstrom announced they already have almost 200 subscriptions to get their stories by e-mail. That is double the amount of subscribers for Cuentos para Algernon’s e-mails alerts.
CJ: There is a lot of talking about Spanish fandom, if it enriches the genre, if it damages it… It also depends on what you think fandom is. What is your take on it? Does it have a positive or a negative impact in the genre?
M: I don’t think one can give a better definition of fandom that the one given by the administrator of Sin Solapas, so I’m not even going to try. In principle, I don’t believe fandom should influence genre positively or negatively. However, playing around too much with this concept can excessively stress the genre’s frontiers, prevents fantasy literature fans to dabble in outside genres and, in the opposite direction, can also stop outside readers to get into fantasy. That seems to me very impoverishing for both. I don’t consider myself fandom and I don’t feel this is one of my favorite algebraic formulae.
CJ: Cuentos para Algernon offers the possibility of enjoying many short stories in Spanish for free and from the convenience of your house. Those stories would be unknown to a big part of the public without a certain level of English. The Internet allows your web page to reach everywhere, following a non-profit model. It’s a kind of initiative that others are adopting, like Maelstrom or Ficción Científica. What is the future of these types of projects? What other things would you like to attempt?
M: Thanks to the Internet, many new projects will come out, unless legislators and lobbyists mess all up. I usually think Cuentos para Algernon is probably breaking some law. Surely there is some ridiculous regulation by which authors cannot hand over freely the rights to their short stories, and even if they can, I’m sure some organization like SGAE might have the right to ask me for some copyrights. If that law doesn’t exist yet, it can be invented tomorrow. Or they will have up their sleeves some rule that will force all blogs to be registered, so they can be controlled. Or they will ask for a fee or anything else of that sort which, in my case, will sweep away my desire to continue. Maybe I’m just wrong and my ideas are simply the result of reading too many dystopias. Until the day when bureaucracy prevents these types of free projects, I hope many more become real. There will be some that will not succeed, but the luckiest or more interesting will continue, and that is what matters. Thanks to the Internet, launching a small project like Cuentos para Algernon only needs an idea and enthusiasm, and that’s available to everybody. The rest, the infrastructure and the information, is there. Right now, I’m not thinking about any other project. Cuentos para Algernon keeps me busy in my free time. I’m focusing in trying to keep the level of quality, while maintaining certain periodicity. I believe this is the best way to increase the number of stories. I will maintain my original intention and not restrict the blog to fantasy works, so I would like to post short stories from outside the genre.
About Cristina Jurado:
Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012.