Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Editing in Process...Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction
Cover art by Lius Lasahido
This was my last editing project for calendar year 2014:

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction, forthcoming in May 2015 from Tachyon Publications -- and the year 2014 couldn't have ended on a better high note.

Back in early 2010 I was hearing (virtually speaking, that is) a lot of buzz about a new hard-SF writer from Finland, Hannu Rajaniemi, and his first novel entitled The Quantum Thief, to be published in the UK by Gollancz that September.

Then, Charles Stross, in a blog post dated May 14, 2010, recommended Hannu Rajaniemi and The Quantum Thief for the Hugo Awards ballot:

He's Finnish, lives in Scotland, has a PhD in string theory, and — well, if you dropped Greg Egan's hard physics chops into a rebooted Finnish version of Al Reynolds with the writing talent of a Ted Chiang you'd begin to get a rough approximation of the scale of his talent. If that's a somewhat recondite metaphor, then alas, recondite is what you're getting: this is deep SF, and if there's any criticism I can level it's that readers may find "The Quantum Thief" hard to interpret without a prior background in the field. However, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I read it, and I think Hannu's going to revolutionize hard SF when he hits his stride. Hard to admit, but I think he's better at this stuff than I am. And "The Quantum Thief" is the best first SF novel I've read in many years.
And then, I read Rajaniemi's short story "Elegy for a Young Elk" in the Spring 2010 issue of Subterranean Press Magazine.

And by that time I was, like, Wow! -- Who is this writer?

Now, skip forward four years...(It's been four years already?) October 2014, during which time I had the opportunity to work on this collection of short stories by Hannu Rajaniemi[1].

The stories in Collected Fiction are more like "Elegy for a Young Elk" than the novel Quantum Thief. To rephrase Charles Stross, readers won't need a prior background in string/quantum theory to enjoy these stories. But you do need to be open-minded about possibilities --

From the story "Shibuya no Love":
They were eating takoyaki by the statue of Hachiko the dog when Norie told her to buy a quantum lovegety.

Riina's Japanese was not very good in spite of two years of Oriental Studies and three months in Tokyo, and the translation software on her phone did not immediately recognize the term, so she just stared at the small caramel-skinned girl blankly for a few seconds, mouth full of fried dough and octopus. "A what?" she managed finally, wiping crumbs from her lips.


"You don't have them in Finland? How do you meet boys there? Oh, I forgot, you have the sauna!....

"It's the most kawaii thing! I keep mine on all the time. Look!" Norie held up her wrist. Her phone was embedded in a Cartier platinum bracelet with a jewel-studded Hello Kitty engraving that her boyfriend Shinichi had given her for her birthday. Riina had admired it several times, but had not paid attention to the little teardrop-shaped plastic thing dangling from it until now. It was hardly bigger than the tip of her index finger, and its pink surface had the characteristic teflon sheen of a nanovat-grown product. There was a silvery heart-shaped logo on one side.
And from another favorite story of mine, "Invisible Planets":
Travelling through Cygnus 61, as it prepares to cross the gulf between the galaxies, the darkship commands its sub-minds to describe the worlds it has visited.


During the millennia of its journey, the darkship's mind has expanded, until it has become something that has to be explored and mapped. The treasures it contains can only be described in metaphors, brittle and misleading and distant, like mirages. And so, more and more, amongst all the agents in its sprawling society of mind, the darkship finds itself listening to the voice of a tiny sub-mind, so insignificant that she is barely more than a wanderer lost in a desert, coming from reaches of the ship's mind so distant that she might as well be a traveller from another country that has stumbled upon an ancient and exotic kingdom on the other side of the world, and now finds herself serving a quizzical, omnipotent emperor.
What follows, then, in "Invisible Planets" are a half-dozen of what I might call little vignettes, in which the sub-mind describes the planets and people the darkship has visited; for example: "The rulers of the Planet Oya love the dead." -- and then we get to learn about Oya and the dead.

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction contains approximately 80,000 words and includes 19 stories, sort of, plus a couple mini introductions (all to be explained shortly). Here's the table of contents:

Deus Ex Homine
The Server and the Dragon
Tyche and the Ants
The Haunting of Apollo A7LB
His Master's Voice
Elegy for a Young Elk
The Jugaad Cathedral
Fisher of Men
Invisible Planets
Ghost Dogs
The Viper Blanket
The Oldest Game
Shibuya no Love
Paris, in Love
Satan's Typist
Skywalker of Earth
Snow White Is Dead
Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories

The final two "stories" in the list each has its own mini-introduction. We learn that "Snow White Is Dead" is actually one result of a neurofiction experiment, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but in reverse: the story chooses you, based on brain activity. The last story, "Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories," is a collection of 140-character Twitter stories that Hannu Rajaniemi wrote while Twitterer-in-Residence at New Media Scotland in August 2008.

I told have to be open to the possibilities....


[1] Typically I link an author's name to the author's website or blog, but I found neither for Hannu Rajaniemi. And if I missed said link(s), my sincere apologies. I did find the author on Twitter (@hannu; last tweet was February 13), Facebook (last post was December 30, 2014, at which time he changed his profile pic), and LinkedIn. If I've missed a link, feel free to post a comment below.

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