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Sweden and the translations!?..

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  • Sweden and the translations!?..

    Hi Mike!

    I was wondering if i should point out to you about the Swedish translations of the Elric saga of which there are only a few available or out of print. Everyone i've talked to about these books had gotten a somewhat askew interpretation of the story.. I read parts of the swedish translation and got the same notion they where hinting at. They seem very poorly translated and your writing-style is badly expressed in the conversion process. The Publishing Company that did the translation was 'Target Games AB', which where the makers of Roleplaying Games in sweden. This left readers with faulty impressions that these books where games. Or part of the gaming industry in some way.
    I do think they are now out-of-print. Since the company seems to have dissolved. But otherwise there are no translations of your works up here.
    And there is a 'Fantasy-Boom' here in scandinavia, and i feel it would be ashamed if you where left out in the process, as well as the many other authours like Leiber, Howard, et al. Which where also translated by the same house.

    I also found 'An Alien Heat' in the library. It seems a better translation done by a better publishing house. But i dont know if it's still in print?

    BTW!? What drove you into traveling to Sweden in the past. I read that you where walking around in Kiruna? And played music in some places?

    Ha det sأ¥ trevligt! :)

  • #2
    Yes, I spent a lot of time in Sweden when I was young and travelled past Kiruna, climbed Portafjelet and wandered into Finland, too. I was based mostly in Upsala. I had a very good old friend there, who I'm still in touch with, called Lars Helander, a TV director (who did a great pseudo-documentary on airships in which it was assumed airships had become the dominant form of air travel). I'm aware of those Target books, but unfortunately never got to see any. I don't know why my books aren't available in decent Swedish translations. Possibly my agent doesn't have a decent contact there. It used to be assumed that the Swedish market for English books was small, because so many Swedes could read English. From what you say, that has changed. I'm disappointed, I must say, that my books aren't available in decent translations, especially since they have, among others, Latvian and Russian

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    • #3
      Lars Helander.. Yeah.. The guy who works at the Culture Department (I think it translates to that ;)) on our SVT Channels.

      Yes.. Alotta swedes do know english since we are tought it at a somewhat early age.. But many don't read books in that language. Many (and i say many) read their books in swedish. I know of only one or two friends who read english versions of books (excluding myself, since i lived in singapore as a kid). Since the Tolkien boom, the fantasy sections in book stores have germinated as well as expanded in size. But with the Tolkien-craze comes an anti-tolkien-esque demand in fantasy or litterature in the opposite spectrum of the genre. George RR Martin is an authour thats coming into the limelight as such an authour (haven't read anything of his yet though). But his work seems character driven and involves more blurring of the Black and White morals of wrong and right. Which seems to more into your arena then the fairytale world of litterature.

      I'm wondering if i should ask some names in the publishing business in sweden and pass them on to you, or your agent for consideration?
      But i don't wanna go over my head here though. And i definetely wouldn't wanna push you in the process. :)


      • #4
        Also being from Sweden I found this thread highly intersting. I first got in contact with the work of MM in my early teens (in my roleplaying days). I tried to read some of the Target translations but never really got in to it. A couple of years ago I decided to have another go at it, this time in the original language, and immediately understood why I failed to be hooked the first time. Those translations really where below par. Now, however I got into it major and have during the last two years read most of the Eternal Champion suite, as well as some of your other work.

        Working in the book trade myself, though on a leave for studies at the moment, I've thought a lot about the lack of translations earlier. There are no translations of Michael Moorcock available in print in swedish at the moment. The Dancers at the end of time was published nearly twenty years ago, and the company that published it is long since gone. In the sixties some of the Cornelius-stories was published as well as a translation of Behold the man in the seventies.

        The chance of fantasy, other than the Tolkienesque bunch, being published in Sweden is however slim. The problem is that most people interested in this kind of literature reads the books in english. The work of Neil Gaiman can be used as an example of this. His first swedish publisher, B Wahlstrأ¶ms, gave up on him after publishing Stardust, Neverwhere and that collaboration with Terry Pratchett, just because of this reason. The public they where targeting had already read the books when the translation was published. There also seems to be an unwillingness to try to reach new groups of readers for these kinds of books, which I personally think would be possible for both Gaiman, and the likes of China Mieville and yourself.

        There are a couple of smaller publishing houses publishing fantasy and horror, but these mainly concentrate on old copyright free work and the work of swedish debutants. The issues are of course financial. What's lacking is I think some really visionary publisher in this field. Gues I'll have to take on that role myself if anything is to be done.



        • #5
          Well one thing thats for certain is that there is not only a lack for Moorcock's but also Leibers books aswell as some other authours.
          What is lacking is motivated genre publishing i think.

          Sweden is a hotspot for Detective Stories and Criminal Fiction. Just look at the movies and we have decades of boring and a superfluous supply of these movies. And the recent boom after LOTR put the imaginative litterature in another light than before, which i feel needs the other writers who were responsible for breathing it to life. I went a course in film-making and all it's aspects (a really good course but got buttfucked by the government). And we had discussion's about Sci-fi aswell as fantasy movies in sweden and the problems involved, and we talked about all our untapped rescources when it comes to our natural landscapes. Clearly swedish cinema sees that whole genre, including sci-fi as really risky. I remember that there where some SF movies in the 80's but they were too wimsy and just plain weird to be accepted by the general public.

          I even heard my brother screetching about Stephen Kings two final Dark Tower books not being translated aswell. When even a bigshot like King isn't getting published i get worried about the business as a whole.
          I wonder what's going on in the upper echelon of our culture industry.
          When scumbags like Jan Guillou who's romanticising his historic fiction
          for a political advantage gets the frontrow seat in romantic litterature.

          Or maybe we lack the imagination of navigating within the genre's themselves. Finding sort of an identity within this type of litterature
          and calling an aspect of it our own.


          • #6
            I think that the problem with publishing sf and fantasy in Sweden is the fact that our are language is only spoken by about nine million people. This makes the potential market for genre-literature relatively small, atleast compared to the english-speaking world. Never the less the recent reprints of LOTR in swedish has sold about half a million copies. This seems to suggest that there could be a market for more fantasy. The problem with fantasy in Sweden is that is has always been thought of as someting for kids. The new wave of Rawlings and her hangaround only serves to reaffirm this point of view within the business.

            During the seventies and eighties there was a quite ambitous publishing of sf in Sweden, but unfortunately this came to an end because a massive overproduction and sinking quality of translations and proofreading. Some of these publications are quite horrendous to read. The Target/أ„ventyrspel publications of Elric and Hawkmoon can, unfortunately, be seen as a part of this line of publishing. These books where generally sold through newstands and a part of the massmarket, and where quite often looked down upon by the established publishing houses. (On a note the connection in Sweden of Moorcocks work with the game industry probably has a lot to do with the fact that Elric-images by Michael Whelan where on the covers of the most popular RPG during the eighties, Drakar och demoner (Dragons and demons)).

            There has over the years however been some attempts at a more ambitious publishing of fantasy in the country. For example the translations of Gormenghast only recently went out of print and it isn't like the work of MM has been ignored. In one of the most comprehensive works on fantasy literature in swedish Annika Johansson points out MM as one of the most important and ambitious writers of fantasy in the darker vein, and sadly concludes that there is only a couple badly translated volumes available in swedish. Also when the leading literary magazine BLM made a special issue on fantasy last year, MMs work was on their list of fantasy must-reads.

            The hard economical facts sorrounding genre-publishing in Sweden however stands. The publishing business today is one firmly governed by financial considerations. Literature with a real ambition is very hard to market. What books are published here today isn't governed by their inherent literary qualities or originality, but by their marketability. This is of course an unfortunate development, but isn't excactly unique to the publishing business. The key however to publishing the works of MM in swedish would be to not market them as fantasy at all. Quite a lot of his (your) work stands excellently against the so called literary fiction translated in Sweden today. However much I would wish that people in this country would see the fantasy-genre for what it is, and aknowledge that it isn't just a bunch of writers trying to reset LOTR in a million medieval settings, that isn't likely to happen any time soon.

            As I said earlier, the key to publishing of serious dark fantasy/weird fiction or whatever we chose to call it, is a real ambitous publisher, who has the ability to look beyond immediate financial results. It would also help if we had some native authors writing in the genre, which we sadly don't have today. But again, why complain I might as well see to it myself.



            • #7
              Couldn't have said it better myself. :)

              So are u ready to take on that kinda weight. Because you seem quite knowledgeable about the publishing business. What does it take to start a publishing house and how does one manage one financially? For example the printing process and so on? How does one advertise the whole thing?
              It would be fun to join such an enterprise i think. :D

              Well i owned the second edition of Drakar & Demoner.
              I've always liked the Whelan's art! But i always wondered why Target Games AB would have Elric on the covers of their line of D&D products. It was somewhat misleading i think. When i try to tell people about the Elric saga i always tel them that he's the guy holding the sword on the cover.

              And alot of other games that have passed on to other hands through selling trading etc.. Mainly english RPG's. And got ahold off some info on various writers in the process. Really a good hobby for kids which i highly recommend to parents. Though i'm a bit tired of the whole "Live RPG" thing. It doesn't spark the imagination in the same way, at least for me. Though running around in the woods can be healthy. :)


              • #8
                I basically agree with you guys about the situation in Sweden and I would be happy to join an enterprise.

                I must say, though, that a managable way of getting MM's work published in Swedish would be to do it on a very small scale, that is, printing 1000 copies at the most. The question is what MM's agent would think about that... Even on this scale, though, I think that everyone involved should be aware that they're not investing in a business venture, but actually spending money for the sake of public good.

                Moorcock's books would probably get good reviews by Bibliotekstjأ¤nst, which would mean that a lot of libraries would by them.

                A way of reaching Swedish fantasy fans who don't like reading in English (ie, basically very young people) would be to get involved with book clubs (is that an actual word in English?). I don't know if you're familiar with "fantasybokklubben", but that would be an excellent marketing tool. They might be interested, especially since it seems that the large publishers don't put out much new stuff anymore, but prefer to publish #123 in The Wheel of Time series instead.

                Small publishers sometimes send out ordering lists and information on new books jointly. That might be a way.

                I am sceptical about marketing MM books as anything else than fantasy, though (unless you are talking about those of his books which in fact aren't fantasy).
                You can't spell "politically correct" without "correct".


                • #9
                  Mike, I never made it to Kiruna whilst I was there. They have a palace made made of ice there which they build every year! Maybe next if we ever get the chance...


                  • #10
                    The main issue with setting up a publishing business i financial. Apart from the costs for printing, distribution, marketing etc. there is also the issue of buying rights and paying a translator. And to put it plainly these thing aren't cheap. And, as Rymdolov points out, one shouldn't get into something like this expecting financial gain, as a matter of fact one should probably expect financial loss. The appearance of cheaper printing techniques has prompted many people to start publishing, and there has never been so many small publishing houses as now in Sweden. However very few of them even reach break even with their businesses. As you pointed out something like this has to be done for idealistic reasons. As far as me being ready to take on that role, well maybe not right now, but I've ceratainly been thinking about it for a while, but I really think it should be done in the right way.

                    As far as the probable number of copies, I think 1000 copies is probably a bit high. If one gets a good review at Bibliotekstjأ¤nst, you could probably sell 100-200 copies to the libraries of this kind of literature. If at first we consider it as fantasy the problem is, as I stated earlier, that this genre is automatically considered as something for kids, especially among many librarians. And I can wager a guess that a review in Bibbliotektjأ¤nst will go someways towards: Ambitous and thought provoking, but somewhat demanding language. Which would mean less sold copies, because fantasy is supposed to be easy and accsible for the kids. And regarding marketing Moorcock as something else, than fantasy, yes, I was talking about the non-genre and, well let's call them genrebreaching, books.

                    The problem with fantasybokklubben is that it's controlled by one of of the larger publishing houses, but who knows, might be possible.

                    And one more words on translations. Since the main issue with the earlier publication of MMs work in Sweden has been with the translation, it is very important that this and the editing holds a high standard, otherwise the works is better, I think, read in english. I mean the bad translations actually put myself off MMs great work for more than ten years, til I finally realised that they where something completetly different when read in the original language.



                    • #11
                      I agree with Andy on the translations and editing. If any MM books are ever published in Swedish, the top priority would be to get a really good translator. A good English-Swedish translator should, IMO, be really good at English, be breathtakingly good at Swedish (this often seems to be overlooked) and have a profound and above all broad knowledge of history, social science, literary theories, the genre of the work in question, etc.

                      Maybe it would be possible get things going if a number of people joined in on this? Such a course would, of course, bring up the problem of getting everyone to agree on things. i think it might be possible, though, if everyone was informed of what the aim is from the very start. Maybe a number of people would be willing to join a project aiming to:

                      1) Bring out a good swedish translation of MM's Elric books.

                      2) Nothing else.

                      (Ok, I was just trying to show what form such an agreement might take.)

                      I don't think I agree on librarians thinking that fantasy is something for kids. The fantasy section in the "adult" part of my local library is at least three times as large as the one in the kids' part. Also, most kids who got caught up in the fantasy wave in the early 1990s are well into their 20s now, so librarians should notice that not only teenagers borrow fantasy books. But maybe that only goes for my part of Sweden?

                      My problem is that I have absolutely no idea of what kind of money is involved in publishing a book. Maybe this is why I feel optimistic...
                      You can't spell "politically correct" without "correct".


                      • #12
                        I forgot something: Annika Johansson, who Andy wrote about earlier, is actually a lector (is this the right word?) at Bibliotekstjأ¤nst. She would hardly regard fantasy as something which should be accessible for kids.

                        I think that many genre-people (ie sf&f-fans) underestimate the broadmindedness of librarians of today. Librarians are not all wicked Strindberg-or-nothing-prescripitionists (that role is eminently played by your average Swedish teacher :) ).
                        You can't spell "politically correct" without "correct".


                        • #13
                          For instance! How many people around you do you know who would want the translation done for them, or other people? (hope that came out right).

                          1. So who do we agree on should do the translation?
                          2. What covers should there be? Brom? Whelan? Other?
                          3. Should the books be the collected versions?

                          Peace out!
                          /Jagreen... :twisted:


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Theocrat
                            For instance! How many people around you do you know who would want the translation done for them, or other people? (hope that came out right).
                            I have only actually spoken to one person, but he is quite enthusiastic about it. He has only read the Elric books, so those are the ones that he is enthusiastic about. (I hope this is what you asked about). :)

                            Originally posted by Theocrat
                            1. So who do we agree on should do the translation?
                            2. What covers should there be? Brom? Whelan? Other?
                            3. Should the books be the collected versions?
                            1. Annika Johansson? Ylva Spأ¥ngberg? I don't know. What do you think?
                            2. It doesn't matter much to me. If I can have a say I would prefer them not to have too many sword and sorcery clichأ©s to them. The collection "von Bek" is a good guideline, I think. Most people wouldn't agree with me on this, though, and it's not very important to me (most of all I would like a completely black cover; the more you leave to the imagination the better).
                            3.That's hard to say. I guess it would be a question of what is more practical (cheaper). Personally, I prefer a few, large volumes on my bookshelves. I really dislike the way Swedish translations are always cut up in two or three parts.
                            You can't spell "politically correct" without "correct".


                            • #15
                              Well first about the librarians. My point really was that fantasy books don't sell that well to libraries. Anyway this wouldn't be a way to finance a venture. About the quality of the translator I think the key is a good sense of language, the rest of the things is really up to the editor.

                              So on to the economics of this (to dampen your enthusiasm a bit ). To bring out a normal novel in Sweden, if it should be done the right way (which I think it should) would take something in the region of 100 000 SEK. This is a really ruff guess (but qualified), but you have to take in to account the translators fee, the rights to publish the book and marketing (apart from of course the printing and editing).

                              I'm not really shure that an appreciation society like publishing is the way to go. To start up something with bringing out all work of MM in Sweden is quite the gargantuan task anyway. I think it should be done in a smaller scale with a couple of selected works. To go with omnibuses is definitely not the way, since the translators fees and rights would be too high. It just wouldn't be possible to sell those books for a reasonable consumer price.

                              Well, just a couple of quick thoughts on the subject.