Science Fiction Studies

#62 = Volume 21, Part 1 = March 1994

Kôichi Yamano

Japanese SF, Its Originality and Orientation (1969)

Tr. Kazuko Behrens, ed. Darko Suvin and Takayuki Tatsumi

Preliminary Note by Darko Suvin.

The following simplified account was compiled after a number of conversations with Mr. Yamano (as well as with some other people in or around the Japanese SF community), and it incorporates the biographical data he kindly supplied. However, it is centrally informed by my research into the Japanese postwar ambience and in particular the protest movements of the 1960s and early 70s, undertaken for work in comparative theatre studies. It is only proper therefore that I should assume responsibility for the opinions therein.

A few years ago I got hold through the kindness of its author, the late Dan Fukami, of a bibliography of all translations from Japanese SF into European languages. I have since traced down and read most of its items (excluding those in Estonian, Hungarian, and similar languages I cannot even approximately understand), as well as the collateral critical literature; and I hope to write about either or both at some future point. In the meantime, I can therefore boldly say that the essay by Kôichi Yamano "Japanese SF, Its Originality and Orientation" is the only piece of writing extant in European languages which sketches in a hypothesis (or, I would claim, a tenable mini-theory) making sense of its subject, Japanese SF. True, it goes only up to 1969 and it cannot be fully appreciated without knowing some of the context of the times. But it is my impression (and that of people in Japan whom I trust) that at least one phase of Japanese SF, possibly as much superior to what followed as was the case in the English-language SF ca. 1961-73, ended roughly at the time of this essay or a very few years later. Also, while I shall in the rest of this introduction briefly discuss some of its language in terms of its historical context and sociolect, for which reason I believe it proper (and the author concurs) to keep the date in the title, this genesis may explain some obscurities and otherwise enhance understanding for the present-day reader, but it does not change its—to my mind considerable—value.

The essay was written at a time when the Japanese economy had not yet achieved its big successes. Japanese politics and ideology were still at what we can today recognize as the fag-end of the postwar phase (I would put its final expiration at 1973, with the oil shock, the definitive end of the protest movement in the "Japanese Red Army" incident, etc.). At that time politics was clearly polarized between the Right and the Left, capitalism or revolution. Most students and young people like Yamano believed that the Right-wing choice meant imperialism, militarism embodied in the Japan-US so-called Security Pact (AMPO), the obtuse conservativism of the older generation of bureaucracy and big business, and the indifferent opportunism of the general public that stood by when students occupied universities in all major Japanese towns and the police battled citizens’ groups in the two anti-AMPO waves around 1960 and 1970 (the second one, spearheaded by the students organized in Zengakuren, was in full swing when this essay was written, and its author was a sympathizer). The Left-wing choice, embraced by Yamano who had dropped out of a university in Kôbe to make avant-garde movies and absurdist plays, was believed to mean socialism or communism, anti-Americanism, and avantgardism in the arts. It was predominantly a New Left movement, passionately engaged against militarism and the war in Vietnam but equally suspicious of the Soviet Union, the Japanese Communist Party, and orthodox Marxism. Marx and Freud—or at least popularized versions thereof—were indeed widely studied in Japanese student circles and groups, but (besides some Japanese New Left commentators) the most prominent name for that generation was Jean-Paul Sartre. The terminology of his uncompromisingly Teutonic early philosophy, in such works as Being and Nothingness and The Imaginary, e.g. the intricate dialectics of appropriation and alienation between subject and object, clearly provides the fundament for the arguments in Yamano’s essay.

The essay was further written against the grain of dominant trends in Japanese SF, as concerns both the writers and the readers’ taste. Japanese SF was seen by Yamano as an enclave for Americanized Japanese youth, what he calls the opportunists. As different from the USA, people I talked to believe that in Japan there were few student protesters among SF readers and viceversa. Yamano and a minority of people around him therefore held up the British New Wave (mainly Ballard) and Stanislaw Lem against the adulation of and—what is much worse—the crass imitations from US writers such as Heinlein and Asimov, or even Bradbury and Fredric Brown. His central witty conceit in this essay is the uncomfortableness for the Japanese (the reader must take into account how radically different all Japanese housing arrangements are from the West!) of living in houses prefabricated in the USA and shipped as it were wholesale across the Pacific with the occupation army. The parallel to the taste for the SF imported in huge quantities first for the US Army PXs and left behind to find its way to the fascinated Japanese readers, was unmistakable.

On the other hand, Yamano believed that SF had intrinsically or potentially some elements of avantgardism. Some radical writers and artists (e.g. Kôbô Abe) were in the 1960s rather interested in SF. He himself found wide opportunities in it for the presentation of a civilization critique whose obverse was not only a search for ideal futures but (I would say primarily) a search for the readers’ identity as people and as Japanese. A strong characteristic of the New Left movement in Japan was a reaction against "liberal" humanism uprooting all national traditions in favor of the US civilization and all social differentiation in favor of a middle-class massification. The war in Vietnam was to them not only imperialist aggression but also one of White colonialism against an Asian people that dared to demand independence.

Obviously, the Japanese "economic miracle" exploding in the 70s and 80s put a stop to Yamano’s hopes for a realignment of readers and consequently for a specific Japanese SF "New Wave" devoted to intelligent speculation about the problems of identity and choice that might concern them. True, the prosperity evidenced in the GNP of Japan was and is achieved on the back of a passive population with a still appallingly low but nonetheless (up to the last 3 years) steadily improving standard of consumption in some sectors. At present, as Yamano-san put it in a letter to me, he thinks of Japan as having a strong body but a weak mind, of becoming something similar to the USA only without military power. In that sense, the very fact of his hopes for the future not coming true, of a fundamentally unchanging social constellation, makes (alas) the essay of 1969 relevant for today and tomorrow, beyond its historical value.

The author was born in Ohsaka in 1939, studied in Kôbe but was mainly interested in movies, writing film criticism and producing some experimental films. One of them was praised by the leading movie and theatre avantgardist Shûji Terayama who encouraged the young author to write fiction. In Tôkyô Yamano moved in the theatre and literary circles, wrote short absurdist plays and short stories, as well as much criticism in newspapers and periodicals, mainly about avantgarde writers such as García Marquez and about SF, which he followed in columns published in leading dailies and weeklies. He was also an editorial consultant to a Japanese SF publisher, introducing many European writers, and he published for a time the iconoclastic NW-SF magazine and a series of NW-SF trade paperbacks. His books include the short-story collections Tori wa ima doko o tobu ka ( Where Do the Birds Fly Now? , 1971, Satsujinsha no sora ( The Murderer’s Sky, 1976 , Za Kuraimu ( The Crime, 1978 , the novel Hana to kikai to geshitaruto ( Flowers, Machine, and the Gestalt, 1981 , Revolucion (linked stories, 1983), and Thoroughbred no tanjô ( The Progress of the Thoroughbred, 1990, non-fiction; Yamano is a well-known researcher of throughbred pedigrees and devotee of horse-racing, keeping and breeding horses himself in Australia). At present he is writing SF no tanjô ( The Progress of SF . Some further data may be found in the editorial introduction to his article "English Literature and British SF," Foundation no. 30 (1984): 26-30.


Japanese Science Fiction: Its Originality and Orientation

0. Living in a Ready-built Home: Problems in Japanese SF Development. I would not say that Japanese SF has never striven for an original profile. Many of the works of classical Japanese literature which were discussed in Takashi Ishikawa’s provocative overview "Nippon SF-shi no Kokoromi" ( An Attempt to Construct an Archaeology of Japanese SF) could have contributed to the formation of Japanese SF. For example, Kôbô Abe’s novels are definitely SF-oriented, despite his prestige in mainstream literature. Nonetheless, Japanese writers made their debuts deeply influenced by traditional Western criteria of SF. Instead of creating their own worlds, they immersed themselves totally into the translated major works of Anglo-American SF. This is like moving into a prefabricated house; the SF genre has grown into our culture regardless of whether there was a place for it.

It was in the 1950s that the publishers Gengensha and Kodansha started to lay the foundation for this prefabricated house by launching several series of SF in translation. Actual construction work was done by the Hayakawa SF series and Hayakawa’s SF Magazine. But the architects were mainly US SF writers such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Fredric Brown, and Ray Bradbury.

The unfamiliar, Western style prefabricated house must have been quite uncomfortable at first. Its first tenant, Shinichi Hoshi, an original member of the oldest SF group in Japan which published the fanzine Uchujin (Cosmic Dust), set out to adapt its inconvenient equipment. Hoshi took advantage only of that corner of the prefabricated house which shaped his own form of "short-short" story. The significance of Hoshi’s early works, the "punchline short-short stories," lies in his sophisticated technique of perspective-displacement. For instance, his work "Ooi, Dete-Kooi" (Hey, Come on Out) helped the readers to gain a sense of multiple perspectives. In another story, "Jinzo-Bijin" (Man-Made Beauty), a beautiful girl is seduced by a human man who is completely unaware that she is a robot, and is ultimately killed by the innocence of her cybernetic system; the tale thus turns the seducer into the victim. The original perspective Hoshi shows in these works, which he gained through contact with the SF genre, helped to rejuvenate the general vision of civilization at the point of stagnation. Clearly, although it starts from US SF, Hoshi’s short-short story gradually foregrounds the communal orientation, hierarchical systems, and other aspects of Japanese civilization.

Such perspective-displacements, however, demand elaborate structures and skillful punchlines to be effective. As long as Hoshi’s technique of perspective-displacement succeeded in refracting some fundamental concepts of civilization, it had keen critical power. But the more elaborate and skilful his fictional structures and punchlines, the less ideologically comprehensive grew Hoshi’s world-view. Caught in this bind, he began producing fake ideas; or, he began to produce his idiosyncratic perspective-displacements for the sake of his fiction only. This became a dead end for Shinichi Hoshi.

The same things can be said of Ry Mitsuse, another original member of the Uchujin group, whose many stories started to appear in the 60s in the early issues of Hayakawa’s SF Magazine. While Hoshi focused on the "punchline short-short story" form, which was most appropriate for his own style in the prefabricated house, Mitsuse focused on the SF sense of time.

Mitsuse’s theme is "human activities within the eternity of history." He seemed to assume that the sum effect of human activities gradually affects our history. He attempted to fuse the Japanese tradition of sentimental pathos (wabi-sabi) and point-like temporal horizons with an old-fashioned humanism of Protestant derivation, into a simplistic relationship between history and mankind. Still, in Japanese SF this eclecticism was an innovation. In his "future history" Mitsuse narrated the story of long centuries of human activities and succeeded in presenting a new world as a coherent human system. At the same time we cannot deny that Mitsuse like Hoshi came to a dead end. Since his starting point was simple and monistic, his description of humanity in the science-fictional timescape soon became meaningless, losing its original insight. Mitsuse created a future world lacking its own dynamics, one constantly forced into compatibility with the author’s ideological structure.

Hoshi’s "short-short" stories and Mitsuse’s chronicle-type novels can be easily associated with Fredric Brown, Robert A. Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury. Brown’s "short short," Heinlein’s "future history," and Bradbury’s forceful application of an SF view to the subject—all these creative methods are present as a part of blueprint of the prefabricated house to be inhabited by Hoshi and Mitsuse. In a sense, Hoshi’s and Mitsuse’s approaches to SF may seem quite intelligent. Both of them only took advantage of subjects which they were in a position to re-examine in their own terms. Such a strategy made it possible to claim that their SF was not simply derivative. However, this cannot be regarded as a successful reappropriation of SF. At this point, their fiction could not be considered fruitful.

Shinichi Hoshi is now in the process of escaping from such stagnation and trying to develop a new aspect of his SF, which I shall discuss later.

1. How about an Ohsaka-style Remodelled House?: The Originality of Saky Komatsu and Yasutaka Tsutsui. "Let’s take advantage of whatever we can!"—such an Ohsaka style rationalism encouraged the Japanese writers to remodel the imported prefabricated houses.

Unlike Shinichi Hoshi or Ry Mitsuse, who wrote about sentiments and identity within their own ideologies, Sakyô Komatsu applied, in his fictional world, a "magnified" SF world-view to socio-political objects, discussing the horizons of democracy, socialism, etc. Therefore, Komatsu’s works illuminate most of the actual themes of this decade [the 1960s], interfacing with various ideas in a remarkably flexible way. The multi-dimensional world, the concept of cosmological time, or the time machine—all these conventions could become objects of Komatsu’s fictional philosophy. Komatsu’s world expands in every direction, indicating a comprehensive image of SF for the first time in Japan.

Such a rapid expansion contained seeds of danger. For Komatsu confronted a serious problem: How can this gigantic fictional world be systematized in Komatsu’s writerly subjectivity? One of his earlier novels Nippon Apacchi-Zoku ( The Japanese Apache) vividly showed the writer’s dilemma. This "Apache" tribe, a tribe of mutants, is an example of Komatsu’s method of SF magnification: in this case, his subjectivity interfaces with the ethical issue of creating revolutionary consciousness in the lower class. In tales like "Chi niwa Heiwa o" ( Peace on Earth) or "Kage ga Kasanaru Toki" ( When Shadows Overlap)—especially the former which made the author conspicuous with its postulation that World War II did not end in August 1945 but continued on through the invasion of Japan—Komatsu’s endeavor to relate the magnified world-view to the subjective structure was very successful. In these stories, Komatsu’s best, the object was compatible with the authorial subjectivity.

But this forced connection between Japanese subjectivity and Western political objects was not stable. For example, in one story Komatsu totally negated the notion of the historical necessity of war, whereas in another he asserted it. Komatsu’s works are characterized by the contradiction between the proletarian materialism of The Japanese Apache, written for the socialist reader, and the opportunism of commercialized competition in Espy, written for a bourgeois reader. Komatsu invented this method by forcing his subjectivity—unlike Shinichi Hoshi and Ryû Mitsuse—to become compatible with a Western-style objective world, which he magnified in a science-fictional manner. This new fictional world of Komatsu’s is probably the most significant development in Japanese SF. However, it may also have incurred the risk of seducing Japanese SF into unoriginal horizons, depriving it of a native potentiality.

In fact, though I am not sure whether this was caused by Komatsu’s SF, many writers following him, such as Yasutaka Tsutsui, Taku Mayumura, Kazumasa Hirai, Aritsune Toyota, Fujio Ishihara, and Shirô Kuno, all lacked an original, consistent subjectivity. To me, then, it seems that the major defect of Japanese SF, which started out in a prefabricated house, can be located here.

Yet Komatsu’s works, even while falling right into this trap, continued to undergo great changes. The changes resulted not from a return to a logical subjectivity but from an even more forceful approach to an objective reality. In one of his recent novels, Tsuguno wa Dareka? Who Is A Successor ?), Komatsu’s writerly subjectivity is hardly present at all. What matters most here is scientific discourse, e.g. evolutionary theory or information theory, inherent in the macroscopic world view of SF. To put it another way, Komatsu’s fictional world, as established in his early works, began to subordinate the logic of fiction to those theories.

My point will become clearer if we compare Komatsu with Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke’s consistent subjective theme is how the human mind conceives an objective world magnified in space. While Clarke’s obsession with his own original world sometimes appears egotistic, Komatsu’s scientistic standpoint is one of logical subjectivity, in which mankind continues to be an objective phenomenon. This is perhaps because Komatsu’s works are firmly within the horizons of progress. Within the Japanese conflict between existentialism and Marxism in the 1960s, Komatsu is trying to fashion a structuralist, scientific objectivism that negates subjectivity—as his invention of the term "anti-existentialism" attests. But Who is a Successor is clearly incomplete in its metaphysical structure. This is also true of the recent short story collection Ueta Sora (The Hungry Space), most of whose stories seem quite unsatisfactory in their lack of a convincing use of subjectivity. One of his stories, "Semarikuru Ashioto" (Approaching Footsteps), is quite typical, in that it magnified the generation gap as its object. But this is a simple extrapolation, in which there is nothing that reflects back and expands the readers’s ideology. Perhaps this is an example of the way a single misstep leads an "objective logic" to a vulgar journalistic horizon.

On the other hand, Yasutaka Tsutsui succeeded in retrofitting the prefabricated house in his own way. While Komatsu claimed the absolute objective concept as a "viewer’s existentialism," Tsutsui discovered a connection between subject and object which might be called an "existentialism of the acting agent." While Komatsu only recognized a subject as one function among all the information, Tsutsui set up a connection between objective informational scenarios and the user’s subjectivity as his starting point. A variety of objective information, from the Vietnam War to Zarathustra, provides a subject with a fictional scenario, and then the subject performs the drama of information. This drama develops into an SF world not as a mere parody but as a metatheatre, which acutely criticizes the lack of the sense of existence in our contemporary world.

But I do not intend to praise Tsutsui’s SF 100 %. His works are also problematic enough. The actor’s ability to cope with the civilization is always supported by objective information. The actor as a subject can only express his ability through the existing scenario. This fact does not represent the writer’s existential dilemma, but merely the unphilosophical subject, who can easily express his own self in the script. The topic of his short story "Zarathustra of Mars" is no more than the mass media as the object, while "Betonamu Kanko-Kosha" ( Vietnam Tourist Co.) and Umanokubi Fuunroku ( Crisis in the Umanokubi Nebula) have merely a secondary significance for the war in reality. Only insofar as it is dealing with the current condition according to the existing scenario, Tsutsui’s work supports the subject as an actor, whereas it contains no critique of essentialism born out of the very scenario, falling into emptiness, as if there were no distinction between the empty world and empty representation. His recent historical romance Junkei Tsutsui, which presents a vivid irony toward Japanese history, did not come off and showed the limit of his historical philosophy.

Sakyô Komatsu and Yasutaka Tsutsui remodeled the prefabricated house called "SF," resorting to a rather forced method. Now, true Japanese SF must reconstruct itself.

2. Goodbye America: What Should Japanese Science Fiction Aim At? Underdeveloped countries have no need to keep appreciating the developed countries forever for the civilization owed to them. Likewise, Japanese SF cannot hope to achieve originality unless it overcomes US SF even though Japanese SF was developed absorbing US SF. I do not hereby wish to plead for any nationalism: SF is basically universal. National identity as such is not at all significant in SF. Such universal characteristics of the genre, in fact, shape its important world function. But the starting point of the writer’s creation is another story. In reality, international culture consists of different historical experiences and different sensibilities enjoyed by different tribes and nationalities, where the writers’ original concepts, theories, and civilizations developed. Japanese writers possess their own literary personality, in which their subjectivity resides.

For example, in British SF there exists a rational idealism from Wells, Wyndham, and Clarke through Aldiss. Huxley is no exception. All these English writers magnify the SF world into an autonomous spatio-temporal world, dispassionately searching for humanism in it. Through such clever judgment, English SF has developed a new world which never existed in America. A Polish writer, Stanislaw Lem, who uses the same theme as these English writers, has been deeply affected by materialism in his ideological genesis. This helps to explain Lem’s superb originality. In view of the background of creation, a Russian writer, Natalia Sokolova, can be said to have an idea similar to Lem’s, as is clearly seen in her fiction "Monster 17P." German SF presents an even more original aspect. They developed SF not as a narration but as a stage to freely express pure ideology. We may illustrate this point in Max Frisch’s work.

Then, what can Japanese SF develop? This is to question Japanese civilization itself, inviting us to no easy conclusions. And yet, we consider it certain that it is not as simple as the "Oriental Myth" or the Japanesque cliches like Fujiyama, geisha, and cherry blossom. The Asian concept in Clarke’s The Deep Range could become a new ideology only when it was digested by Anglo-Saxon rationalism. The author’s interest in Asia does not refer to Asia itself but just to the imperialist ideology of the Anglo-Saxons. Thus, Japanese SF can develop its own originality only when it can cope with various forms of Japanese civilization.

Therefore, Japanese SF ought to get out of prefabricated houses, and say good-bye to US SF.

US SF certainly invented many things. In particular, it invented various tools to further expand the "magnified" world of SF. But there is no need to accept the immaturity or dead-end of US SF, which has been developed chiefly as a form of entertainment. US SF became agoraphobic, spending too much time enjoying its enormous worlds and closed themes, navel-gazing at its techniques.

Of course not all US works are dead-ends or entertainment-oriented. This is a quite conditional evaluation, applied to important SF writers like Heinlein, Asimov, Van Vogt, and Brown. I don’t think I need to say too much about the popular writers Van Vogt or Brown. Van Vogt’s work does not even have a realistic relation to the depicted culture and customs, which is the key to popular novels. Brown’s works, which do reflect manners and customs, do not exceed the romantic sensibility of youth culture. Asimov, who believes in the existence of an empire in this space age, is in a way idea-deaf.

Heinlein’s banal realism, as seen in novels like Farnham’s Freehold or Starship Troopers, can be said to reflect typical US petty-bourgeois opportunism. It focuses on the sense of how to live skilfully in the real world, without any consideration of metaphysics or civilization. Perhaps it is such a Heinleinesque idea that caused the happy-go-lucky type of infantilism peculiar to US civilization. Unlike Heinlein, Asimov is not pragmatically but quite ideologically calculating. This American born in Russia believes there are only two empires, USA and USSR, from which he develops the optimistic logic of great powers: e.g., the world enjoying prosperity after World War 3 in THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY. What is more, though he designed the "Three Laws of Robotics," he did not approach the essence of robotics or find the problems inherent in it, but he simply pushed robots into an existing frame of reference. Thus, we can sense the radical difference between Asimov and Clarke, if we compare the meaning of the former’s "Three Laws of Robotics" with the idea of admitting dolphins to human rights in The Deep Range.

The same shortcomings are apparent in Harry Harrison’s Deathworld. The mythological world of Sisyphus in this work has significance in that it can cope with the modern civilization in various points. Although it also has a strong logical structure capable of surpassing naive pacifism, its plot ignores the important problem. I must wonder whether the writer was in this story actually serious about creating a consistent novel.

Perhaps, if US SF writers had had a serious intention to cope with the complicated structure of American civilization, such works would not have been written. They are simply and optimistically enjoying the magnified world of SF, exploiting the logic of realism and great powers. For instance, Brown ultimately always thinks of sleeping with a good-looking woman; Asimov feels totally comfortable as long as he can deal in the politics of Leviathans like USA and USSR. They all seem to be content with the status quo.

But modern civilization is not that simple. We must deal with many more essential problems in the future. Which way should Japanese SF take? Should we promote xenophobia and not cope with civilization, spending our time optimistically, like US SF writers? Or should we make a maximum use of SF and try to jump out into the outer world like the English writers, or Lem, or the German Herbert Franke?

3. Let’s Go Back Further: What Can Japanese SF Develop? The Japanese civilization without doubt concentrated on economic progress after World War 2. While India and China first became independent or struggled to establish their respective national subjectivity, Japan felt no shame selling its subjectivity to the USA, victimizing Korea and Indonesia, and skillfully achieving economic progress.

A similar thing can be said of Japanese SF. We borrowed the US idea as the foundation for developing science fiction’s magnified vision with a view to founding a genre. We thus gained our present energy in SF.

However, the Japanese young generation has started to criticize the direction Japan took after World War 2. Problems like the safety of Japan which was forgotten by the economists, the subjectivity of nationalism, or a university system victimized mostly due to this "econocentrism," came under fire by younger people. Today, we can make a similar complaint about Japanese SF. Today’s Japanese SF will soon run into a dead end as long as it keeps developing in the same rut, without self-reflection.

But at this point, before we can expect the emergence of an equivalent to "Zengakuren" [National Federation of Student Self-Government Association, the organizing umbrella for the massive student protests in the 60s, DS] in Japanese SF, it must be clarified how its structure may be revolutionized. This is the problem we SF-related people must deal with. One of its directions is hinted at in Shinichi Hoshi’s most recent work.

Hoshi’s recent "short-short" stories are changing: he is throwing away the "punchline" which focused on value displacement, and starting to explore the freedom of the fictional world. The theme of "Gogo no Kyouryu" ( Dinosaur in the Afternoon) is the same as that of Hey, Come On Out. And yet, while the latter story condensed its theme in the closing sentence, the former story, from its beginning, contrasts the everyday world with the enormous world of Earth history. The theme of "Mai Kokka" ( My Nation) is "the nation as a phantom," but this is only the beginning of the story, from which the writer’s idea complexly develops into everyday life in terms of political consciousness. This new direction in which Hoshi’s SF is moving is reorganizing the liberty of SF in his subjectivity. Although Hoshi’s SF has not fulfilled its potentials because of his closed subjectivity (the new world was produced by the arbitrary connection between a subject and an outer world), such an attempt undoubtedly testifies to the originality of Japanese SF.

Shouldn’t we hope for the same thing in Ryû Mitsuse? As long as his works remain simple-minded and keep having self-flattering dreams there can be no progress; but if Mitsuse escapes from such a closure and opens up a new perspective on the subject, the new phase of Mitsuse’s SF might be discovered. Originally, Ryû Mitsuse had quite Japanese characteristics, similar to Yasunari Kawabata. We can phrase it as an objectivized personality which can find a place for itself within the community of the infinite world. This is quite within science-fictional method, and it argues for a high potential in Japanese SF. However to realize this potential, we have to stop subordinating the fictional world to subjective form and enter the confused and contradictory world of a diversity of ideologies.

I am wondering if Sakyô Komatsu’s popular fictional works are approaching stagnation just because he believes in his current standard. I would like to value the meaning of his attempt to keep seeking for objectivistic consistency, but if he keeps doing the same thing, we shouldn’t put full confidence in Komatsu’s SF.

Since Sakyô Komatsu deals with the SF world as a whole, his can be international great literature like Clarke’s or Lem’s, if aptly provided with a certain logical subjectivity. But what we can see in the present works by Komatsu is only a superficially extensive literature, since it left out subjectivity, just like Japanese civilization sacrificed everything in order to gain economic development. This is probably because Komatsu accepted the object as a whole and then lost the subjective liberty. Perhaps he should return to his starting point of " Peace On Earth"and The Japanese Apache. The small but elaborate ideologies shown in these works can be magnified, if developed structurally. If it also reflects his present vision of a macroscopic SF world, we could see the emergence of another possibility of Japanese SF.

In today’s Japan, we can optimistically enjoy economic prosperity or suffer from a quite complicated global reconfiguration. Komatsu’s optimistic acceptance of an object discloses his easy-going grasp of SF. If Komatsu would seriously analyze his own situation in Japanese reality, he should be able to discover an important theme which comes from the essence of civilization in Japanese complicated customs. It is hard to understand that—though he started by going in the right direction, as was seen in "Peace On Earth" or The Japanese Apache—he is now wandering into the optimistic objective world. What Komatsu really can develop towards is clearly shown in his early works.

If you read Stanislaw Lem’s stories, you are bound to feel like crying. We can vividly feel how Lem was confused and suffered in his fiction, where the allegory of historical customs in the small country of Poland, materialistic modernism in the future, and expectation of the progress of human intelligence are intertwined. If Komatsu could combine what he tried to depict in Who Is A Successor ? and the departing point in "Peace On Earth," he might become the Japanese equivalent of Lem.

Yasutaka Tsutsui, on the other hand, created a world of imagination, as was shown in his earlier novel Gensou no Mirai ( The Fantasy of the Future). This story is quite theoretically structured and we can see the true subject of Tsutsui not as an actor. But how can we connect the elaborate logic represented here, in which the mental world makes possible an existential being, with Tsutsui’s SF itself? The origin of an actor-like characteristic in Tsutsui might be located in his subjectivity as an essential part of the imagination. Thus, when his imagination escapes from subjectivity to become the object itself, the subject is an actor and a story such as "Vietnam Tourist Company" was written. In another story of his, "African Blood," we can observe something in between. Here his imagination tries to see the city as a jungle and a black boy as an information object, while the subject in this story fails to be a perfect actor and the city jungle seen through the black boy’s eyes remains a symptom of ideology.

One possibility of Tsutsui’s SF lies in such a conceptualization of ideology. This is in a way similar to Philip K. Dick’s method, or even to a certain metaphysics being magnified during the back-and-forth process between the development of the imaginary world and the mental world. Tsutsui’s unique sense was exhibited especially when he made the figure of Zarathustra popular in the mass media. Such an extraordinary sensibility is endowed with a fresh destructive power, like the student revolt. Thus, if Tsutsui’s sensibility could establish a logical structure without throwing away the subject, Japanese SF might boast the emergence of their own New Wave style, which is characterized by its fusing of modern sensibilities and an SF world.

Taku Mayumura’s serious approach to civilization theory does not repeat the folly of his earlier novel Expo ‘87, where he accepted laissez-faire economism. It can be accepted as a possibility of Japanese SF, if he digs into the essence. Kazumasa Hirai’s starting point can also play an important role. In other words, just as Mitsuse can be compared with Yasunari Kawabata, Hirai’s world can be to the ornamental egoism of Junichir Tanizaki’s. If I may state my personal opinion, Tanizaki was far more influential than Kawabata in Japanese literature. Or, at least Tanizaki’s "Small Kingdom" can be more aptly associated with SF than Kawabata’s "One Arm." Kazumasa Hirai’s works seem to possess a significant theme of the egoistic world like Tanizaki’s, which may have an impact on our vision of civilization.

I cannot discover any originality in Aritsune Toyota or Fujio Ishihara so far. Yet we should not forget another writer who may contribute much to Japanese SF. That is Koji Ishikawa. His method also depends on the imagination. He is reconstructing past experiences by rearranging temporal sequence, similar to what is seen in Maurice Blanchot’s stories. Just emergent in Ishikawa’s works, this approach helps illuminate history and civilization quite sensitively and metaphysically, so I feel a great potential in his fiction.

4. A Conclusion Without Conclusion: What is Kôbô Abe to Japanese SF? As I have so far implied in this essay, the resources Japanese SF can exploit are unlimited. This becomes clearer when Japanese SF escapes from the prefabricated house of US SF and shows its own originality. Let’s now talk about Kôbô Abe whom I have so far not discussed on purpose.

What is Kôbô Abe in the context of Japanese SF? He shares the literary background with Jun Ishikawa and Yutaka Haniya in his tendency to unwittingly promote original SF in Japanese literature. Kb Abe was influenced by German literature, as was Yutaka Haniya by Russian and Jun Ishikawa by French literature. But there is no doubt that they absorbed those influences into Japanese culture and established their own literary originality. What is more, writers like Haniya, Ishikawa, and Abe, who all represent Japanese avant-garde literature, for the first time dealt with intellectual problems of essentialism, as against mainstream literature which moved back and forth within a charting of society and individual in the wake of Soseki Natsume’s realism. Kb Abe stepped into SF with this literary situation as his background. Therefore we can find him supporting the metaphysical backbone of Japanese SF.

But there is also a huge gap between modern Japanese SF and Kôbô Abe. Let us take an example of Abe’s novel Ningen Sokkuri (Like a Human), which is not necessarily one of his greatest works. Although this story dares to masochistically criticize the lack of intelligence in society, it is not quite successful. Despite these limitations, why is it that his literary experiment in this work sounds definitely actual?

As Sakyô Komatsu once said, SF is a literary form which can belong to any field. It guarantees a quite anarchic position against civilization. Since it is anarchy, it must presuppose radical subjectivity, a kind of "existential being," which can cope with any field. For SF to become existential, it needs actuality. SF is, on the one hand, concerned with scientific truth, but, on the other hand, it also needs literary truth, which can reflect the ideological truth of human society associated with the history of science since ancient Egypt. The same thing can be said when SF tries to sketch society, human beings, and space.

Kôbô Abe’s actuality can be paraphrased as the unending approach to the subject in fiction as well as to objects such as science, society, human beings, and space. We feel actuality, whenever the writer holds such a theme, trying to approach the truth which can never be imparted.

Japanese SF seems to talk about mankind too much without questioning its various aspects. Aren’t they talking about human beings too much without doubting the existence of human beings? Aren’t they dealing with space too simply as infinite? We see an easygoing application to the subjective world of rocket, computer, spaceman, mutant, and robot which existed in the prefabricated house. Kôbô Abe began to doubt the existence of alien in Like a Humanas well as the very existence of self. Although this is a literary theme, such a persistent pursuit of the object has helped to make his SF world very actual.

Therefore, if Japanese SF is still in search of originality, it must start reappropriating such gadgets as alien, rocket, robot, mutant, and time machine one by one into the writer’s subjective structure. In order for SF to freely deal with every field, this genre must have a stronger theoretical structure capable of responding to various fields. This project cannot be done too easily or optimistically; it cannot be completed within a xenophobic context.

Arthur C. Clarke pursued the theological world in Childhood’s End and magnified the problem of human existence into space. Brian W. Aldiss investigated human beings who had lost intelligence in Hothouse, ironically excavating the problem of intelligence. Stanislaw Lem explored war from various directions in The Invincible. He described a civilization structure totally different from our own, and thoroughly reexamined the problem of mankind and civilization. Furthermore, Lem allegorically fused the ethnic relationship between the Soviet State and its neighbor Poland into the relationship between the captain of the Invincible and the hero. It is works like this that gave SF the liberty of exploring various fields; this was made possible by the writer’s essential pursuit of literary subjectivity.

Japanese SF must contain within it the theoretical structure of the realistic world and the possible world. To achieve this literary goal, Japanese SF, even though derivative from Anglo-American, ought to present actuality informed by the writer’s own consistent subjectivity in the context of Japanese civilization. It is through this aporia of subjectivity that Japanese SF could rediscover its own original direction.

SF can freely cope with every field. But let me repeat that this should not mean that it can enjoy freedom of associating with any field very casually. It is because this genre is liberating that it ought to confirm subjectivity. True, in a totally dark world there can be no truth but the oppositional one. But in the world of freedom, we must make every effort to grab the subjective theme in a variety of possibilities. SF must suffer and progress simultaneously, because of its deepest potentiality.

Today, Japanese civilization has quite complicated problems. The civilization of mankind has even bigger problems, and in its future, serious dangers coexist with great ideals. Internationalism, which was supposed to accomplish the ideal of human peace is, in fact, made possible by great powers. What is more, we are now faced with the following problems: a contradictory situation in which the nuclear weapon considered as the power to supress war is increasing the danger of war; rationalization through the information civilization is actually supressing the adventurous characteristic of mankind; a spiritualistic ideology in Arab countries and India is being invaded by European economism; the problematic relationship between mankind and racism; the problems of population increase and medical advances.

These problems cannot be easily solved either by simple-minded humanism, socialism or science. However, SF can be considered the only culture that can speculate on these matters through its multiple perspectives. Certainly, SF may content itself with the small world of an entertainment genre, but I hope it may not be that way, because its own generic imperative allots to it such an important role. This is why I do not like an optimistic attitude among SF-related people. Japanese SF perhaps should modestly review itself in view of Clarke or Lem, who challenged and suffered in order to open up their own world.

Although it may be too early to make a conclusion about Japanese SF, its introductory period seems to be over. And yet, Japanese SF still lacks its own originality as well as a consistent subjectivity with which to construct its main body.

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