The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Nine: Foreign Language Editions

Today’s Thanksgiving Advent Calendar entry will be short, on account of me being a bit punchy from being up since four am for the purposes of traveling, but showing you all the artwork for the upcoming Spanish language edition of Fuzzy Nation reminded me that, in fact, foreign language editions of my books are things I am thankful about. One, and most practically, it’s literally free money — that is, I’m getting paid for work I’ve already done and already been paid what I’d been expecting for that labor. So when someone else comes along and says “Hey, You know that thing? That you wrote? And already got paid for? Can I give you some more money for it?” it’s hard to do anything but smile and nod happily. Why, yes, I’m always happy to have more money, especially when it requires no additional effort on my part.

Less practically, it means that in places in the world I’ve never been and in languages I don’t speak, people are reading my words — or at the very least, a reasonably translated facsimile thereof. And that’s a little bit mindblowing. It’s like having an alternate version of yourself — one that speaks Japanese, or Hebrew, or Turkish or whatever — out there in the world. By this metric, there are currently 15 alternate versions of me. The facial hair stylings required to tell them all apart has to be amazing.

And I’m thankful for these alternate versions of myself — or more accurately, of my words — who are finding their way to people who might not otherwise read my stories. I’m thankful for the publishers and translators who have made my words available in all these different languages. I’m even more thankful to these people reading different languages who decide to try the local version of my books. And as we all know, thankfulness is the true universal language!

21 Comments on “The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day Nine: Foreign Language Editions”

  1. “By this metric, there are currently 15 alternate versions of me. The facial hair stylings required to tell them all apart has to be amazing.”

    We probably need a photoshop contest for this.

  2. You say “no extra work required”. But do you ever have interesting correspondence with your translators? Or do they really work without any interaction with you?

  3. Are there others here who figure that anything between earning out and (in my case) subsequent editions is, in fact, “free money” without regard to the source…?

  4. Which leads to interesting questions about SF&F translation. Given that some words/ideas are literally made up, how does one translate? Do they just transliterate? Hmmmmm probably when the email comes in handy.

  5. Though the occasional email my not qualify as work, I do find myself wondering if when you pile ordinary cultural differences on top of SFnal ones, you ever end up somewhere strange.

  6. @Mike, makes you wonder what The Time Machine & Journey to the Center of the Earth are like in the original French.

  7. Ok John, I think you need to combine this with your travel post. You and the family need to go to every country in which you have books being sold.

  8. In SF you’ve got to keep an eye on the translators’ math skills. I have a 1973 German (Bastei Lubbe) edition of Larry Niven’s Ringworld that messes up Nessus’ description of the puppeteers’ hyperdrive ship; in the original he tells Louis it can cover a light year in five-fourths of a minute, whereas the translation gives the even more outrageous speed of four-fifths of a minute. (In the original this is followed by “Louis opened his mouth, but nothing came out. One and a quarter minutes?” – but the second part of this, the question, was omitted from the translation.)

    I agree that Deus in Machina is a perfectly wonderful alternative title for The God Engines.

  9. We probably need a photoshop contest for this.

    Hell no. Black velvet painting or nothing. Possibly some sort of elimination contest too (“In the next match, Hasidic Scalzi battles Toreador Scalzi for a place in the semi-finals, where the winner will face Dervish Scalzi”)

  10. Hmmmm… The Many Faces of Scalzi… could work as an art exhibit of velvet paintings. At the very least a photoshop gallery.

    I put forth this idea to you Internet. Make it happen!

  11. Facial hair, or hats? Three hundred quatloos on Jaunty Voyageur Scalzi, either way!

    Perhaps one day someone will combine images or solid renderings of the various alter-Scalzis into a continously-morphing montage of visages to form a repeatable cycle. (Almost any form of display – from praxinoscope to stereo projection to hologram – would suffice for viewing the result.) I think that a blended polyglot fusion of alter-authors would be freaking awesome.

  12. “By this metric, there are currently 15 alternate versions of me. The facial hair stylings required to tell them all apart has to be amazing.”

    Thus began the Scazli Wars that so blighted the 21st century, with severe consequences to this day.

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