I went to Tokyo yesterday to meet Yoshio Kobayashi, the man who translated Bruce Sterling's books into Japanese. He was extremely nice, and introduced me to the editors of Hayakawa SF magazine, who gave me a copy of the recent issue with my friend M. Rickert's story "Bread and Bombs" in it, as well as Douglas Lain's "Headline Trick" in it as well, which we published in the second issue of Rabid Transit. It was so cool to see those stories in Japanese, and the art for them was great. Mr. Kobayashi is an extremely intelligent man, and his ideas about sf and fantasy constantly floored me. I wish we had someone as astute as he is writing about the state of science fiction in more American publications. His ideas are fresh, and he sees the evolution of the genre in a way that I haven't heard anyone talk about really. As well as translating, he also teaches at a school for translators and mentioned that he's taught my friend Richard Butner's story, "The House of the Future", as well as my story, "Dead Boy Found", at school, and it was really interesting to hear the sort of reactions translators have to those stories, and how Mr. Kobayashi taught them to read them. Listening to him talk about the stories, I had a realization that Richard's and my story actually end up being closely related, though we come at things at different angles. Both stories are about an America without a future. Richard's where the idea of an America without a future is implicated in the abandoned project of a forward thinking architect, and in mine embodied in a fifteen year old narrator who is representative of a generation whose outward appearances seem quite normal and average, but inwardly feel the doors of a future closing on them, and opt for an inner death. Hadn't thought about these sorts of things for a while, and it was good to do so again. It made me think about the novel I finished last year around this time, too, as it's written from that same narrator's perspective.
Anyway, over the course of the night I met many really nice people. But I do have to get better at Japanese than I am. I wish I could have talked more intimately with some of them, but the Japanese I know doesn't really allow for that just yet. I was so frustrated by not being as good at speaking Japanese as I want to be that I took a wrong train going home, which then forced me to speak *really* good Japanese to a nice woman on the train who understood everything I was saying and had me get off the train with her at the next stop, where she showed me how to get back on the right track. Actually, I was on the right track. I had just ended up taking an express train, which doesn't go to my town's station, instead of getting on the local service train. So I just had to get off and wait for the next one to come along.
I was still frustrated by not being able to have a nice adult conversation when I got home, and my friend Tadashi called me and reminded me I've only been here three and a half months and that I'm learning really quickly and not to worry about it. Also reminded me I'm mostly interacting with junior high and elementary school kids throughout the week, and that the language I use with them I'm really comfortable with, but that it's coming from a teacher's perspective, and so the sets of language I use without thinking much about are commands and questions that I need to know as a teacher. I told him I've got to have him and the other adult Japanese people I interact with to stop speaking English to me and refuse to acknowledge English from me unless it's necessary, and maybe then I'll get better even faster.
On the train ride home, my car had the bad luck to have a drunk guy forcing himself into intimate interactions with them. Well not with everyone. Mostly with girls who were alone. And me. He was from Brazil, I think he told me, and of course he sat down in my booth and went on about lots of girls on the train and how hot they were etc. Told me his wife and baby were at home so not to tell on him, blah blah blah. He only spoke Japanese and Portuguese, but I kept trying to tell him he was mortifying the passengers, who looked terrorized, and to stop acting this way. I managed to tell him in Japanese that he was drunk and embarrassing people, but he just laughed. He kept opening the window in my booth and smoking. I felt so bad for everyone on the train. I'm used to this sort of behavior in America, and can ignore it really easily. But the Japanese people on the train looked like they might crumple up into little balls they were so upset. Finally I got off the train at my stop and was relieved to leave him behind.