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SEOUL – anthology of modern Czech science fiction published in Korean

Ten stories by eleven Czech writers of science fiction appeared in the first Korean anthology. Its publisher - Happy Reading Books – launched its first edition among the Korean science fiction fans in unique Science Fiction Library in Seoul.

Publishing house Happy Reading Books (행복한책읽기) published its third book by Czech writers this year, the anthology of modern and contemporary science fiction under the title „Behave Like a Decent Corpse“ (제대로된시체답게 행동해) after a story by the only women writer in a book, Jana Rečková, translated by Bora Chung. This volume of 500+ pages follows the previous books – an anthology of old and modern Czech writers set in Prague, and a selection of Czech literary classics of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

Ten stories and novellas by Czech writers were jointly selected for this anthology by two editors from both countries. The final selection was made by the leading Korean editor, critic and translator of science fiction, Park Sang-Joon, while the first list of stories was created by Ambassador of the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Olša, jr.  Park Sang-Joon is one of important movers of science fiction in Korea, he was behind Omelas book imprint that specialized in science fiction and produced stunningly packaged Korean translations of novels by authors like Stanislaw Lem or Olaf Stapledon; he is also actively involved in the SF scene from organizing film screening series and workshops to speaking at science fiction events; his tireless efforts have contributed to almost every SF-related event in Korea. Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, jr. used to be an active translator, critic and publisher of science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s, edited series of genre anthologies, translated many science fiction into Czech, co-edited the first Czech encyclopedia of science fiction published in 1995, and started the first professional Czech science fiction magazine Ikarie in 1990 (both with Ondřej Neff), before joining the foreign service.

The anthology covers all generations of Czech science fiction. Stories by deceased founding-fathers of modern Czech science fiction, Josef Nesvadba and Ludvík Souček, represent the 1960s and early 1970s, when Czech science fiction reemerged in the period of newly achieved intellectual freedom before this being again curbed in the years following the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Another generation of writers – represented in the book by Jaroslav Veis and Ondřej Neff - appeared only in the late 1970s and dominated the Czech science fiction scene in the following decade, when some, tightly controlled, genre literature was once more allowed by a communist censorship. Still most of the authors selected started their carrers in the second half of the 1980s when the first informal science fiction clubs were spontaneously created and the semi-official „Karel Čapek Award“ for the best science fiction story was established. František Novotný was among its laureates then, and now he is among the top Czech science fiction writers. Stanislav Švachouček took part in the frst year of Karel Capek award in 1982 and became well-known for his short stories, although it took almost two decades when the selection of his best stories was published in a book form. Of another three – Jiří Netrval, Karel Veverka and Petr Heteša – whose stories were successful then, only the last one is still actively writing. The most recent generation of writers is represented by Miroslav Žamboch, one of the most respected writers of adventure science fiction, and the only woman – Jana Rečková – who belongs to the group of both literary and critically acclaimed Czech science fiction and fantasy women writers.

These are not the first Czech science fiction published in Korean translations. One of Ondřej Neff s stories was already been published by now defunct Korean SF monthly Fantastique and a few fantastic/science fiction stories appeared also in previous Happy Reading anthology of Czech classics. Still the most well-known Czech science fiction in Korea remains R. U. R. Rossum s Universal Robots by a famous Czech playwright and a founding father of a word „robot“ Karel Čapek, which saw a Korean translation already in 1925.

Stories were translated by accomplished Korean genre translators – Kim Chang Kyu, Choi Se Jin and Shin Hae Kyung, Chung Bora and Cheong Sung Wong.

Launching of a book took place at the only specialized science fiction library (www.sflib.com) in Korea, which is located at Sadang, Seoul, on August 19, 2011. Articles about the book were published by Chosun Ilbo, Kyunghyang Shinmun and Korea Herald.