skip to main content

* HOME *

At a Glance

About Nippon 2007
About WorldCons
Art Show
Child Care
Contact Us
Con Suite
Dealers Room
Facilities / Maps
Filking (Music!)
Guests of Honor
Handicapped Services
    Hotel Alternatives
Hugo Awards
    Hugo Winners
    Hugo Nominees
    Rocket Archive
Main Events:
    Mmbrshp Transfer
Newsletters (At Con)
Program - Western
    Program Grid
    Program Participants
Program - Japanese
Seiun Awards
Site Map
Site Selection 2009
Speculative Japan
Tour with Fans
    Ghibli Tour
    Travel Links
World S F Society
Nippon Bid Site
Archon 31 (NASFiC)
2008 Denvention 3
2009 Anticipation


Meeting Mr. Brin

by Takeshi Abe

To tell the truth, at first I thought, "Oh.  Fantasy."

Because, you see, it's a story about a dolphin who composes haiku poetry.  Well at any rate, my supervising editor at the time skipped the story's outline and first told me only this singular feature.

photo of Takeshi Abe
Takeshi Abe
Yes, of course, Startide Rising, David Brin's second epic, had won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards (four years after Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise had done the same) as well as bagging the Locus Award (five years after Vonda Mcintyre's triple crown win with Dreamsnake), so I knew this was out-and-out serious SF.  Startide Rising appeared in 1983, and the Japanese translation was published in 1985.  Actually, it was the year between - in 1984 - that I was assigned to the editorial department of SF Magazine.  Although I was a total newbie in the publishing world, I'd already had a career of several years as a reader of science fiction, so I had some confidence in myself, and I thought at the time that I'd entered some kind of sanctuary for Japanese SF fans called the SF Magazine editorial department.  And I was completely riveted by this surprising newcomer's topical work.

So, when I went to ask for more details, I got the above mentioned description of the book.  I'm sure it wasn't because my then-boss found explanations a hassle, but that he thought it would heighten my interest when I read it , so that's probably why he gave me that kind of reply.  Certainly, that volume's keyword was "Chiseika" (the study of intelligence; the Japanese translation of Uplift) - not just meaning "to get smarter" but it's also closely tied to the hidden riddle of the story.  So, of course, giving detailed explanations of such a book is oh, such a hassle, but more than that, explanations must touch on important parts of the story.  Anyway, if you just read it, you'll understand.  So, I'm not going to explain any more either.

Now, in 1988, the year the third novel of the Uplift series, The Uplift War, received a Hugo, I participated in the World Con at New Orleans - Nolacon 2.

I'm sure there are more now, but at that time there were about 10 World Con participants from Japan, and from these few were the fervent fans who were helping out.  It's pretty much a custom to host a "Japan Party" in a room to communicate the SF situation in Japan.  Of course, I was there with the SF Magazine chief editor of the time, Mr. Kiyoshi Imaoka, to help prepare and host the party, when David Brin, who'd just won the Hugo, came in carrying that rocket-shaped trophy.

At this point in time, Mr. Brin had five translations of his work published in Japan: Startide Rising, The Practice Effect, Sundiver, The Postman, and Heart of the Comet (this last co-authored by Gregory Benford).  Just then in the Japanese SF world, William Gibson's Neuromancer and Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix had been published consecutively in 1986 and 1987, and SF Magazine had devoted two special issues to the cyberpunk movement that was bubbling over.  But with the Uplift series at the top of the list, the popularity of Brin's works were drawing a clear line.  I think it's probably true that the wild ideas and free generosity of the story's development were not just a creative posture to do something different, but rather, to stay consistent with the story.  Cyberpunk after that became an established SF sub-genre, and the shock value decreased, but Brin's works are even now maintaining that posture and are offering us even more in overwhelming volumes (please see the Uplift Storm trilogy).

I was the first to notice the arrival of this popular author, so before the others could gather around, in the interest of collecting information for SF Magazine, I quickly came up to him and said, "Congratulations!" for winning the award.  To my amazement, Mr. Brin answered me in Japanese.

He said, "Dou itashimashite." (You're welcome.)

Oh, Brin, that was a little wrong, I thought.  I was stuck - how should I correct him?  Maybe two seconds of silence passed, and the next moment, Mr. Brin shook his head then lowered it as if chewing something over.  "Domo arigato," he corrected himself without any trouble, and this all took place in a very short span of time.  Soon, Mr. Brin was surrounded by fans and other authors, and I didn't get much of a chance to exchange words with him, but within my World Con experiences, that instant left an extremely deep impression on me.  Works aside, the fact that I met in Mr. Brin a real person left me with a special feeling.

Two years after that, Mr. Brin came to Japan and Mr. Imaoka and I took him on a tour of Tokyo.  In front of the Niju Bridge, we asked a policeman if we could see inside the Imperial Palace, but it was impossible, of course.  As we explained to the disappointed Mr. Brin that even Japanese aren't really given a chance to look in, we brought him to the top floor lounge of the Akasaka Prince Hotel, from where one could look down into the palace.  Of course, these days, you'd be able to see inside simply by using Google Earth.

Oh, yeah, during that trip, I took the picture that is used on the covers of the Japanese translations of Brin's works.  It's taken in the elevator hall of the editorial department.  It's a really old picture, so when he comes next year, I'd like to take a new one.

Takeshi Abe

Born 1959.  Graduated in 1982 from the Hiroshima University Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences.  Joined the Hayakawa Publishing Corporation the same year.  Assigned to the editorial department of SF Magazine in 1984.  The chief editor of that magazine from 1991 to 1996.  Now works as the director of editorial planning for books and multi-media.