The future is bright

16 Aug 2017 / 15:07 H.

JAPANESE sci-fi novelist Taiyo Fujii first rose to prominence when his self-published Gene Mapper in 2012 became Amazon Japan's No.1 Kindle bestseller of that year.
The novel was revised and republished (both in print and digitally) by Hayakawa Publishing in 2013. It went on to be nominated for the Nihon SF Taisho Award and the Seiun Award.
Fujii's second novel, Orbital Cloud, won the 2014 Nihon SF Taisho Award and took first prize in the Best SF of 2014 in SF Magazine.
The author's recent works include Underground Market and Bigdata Connect.
Fujii,who has been the chairman of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan since 2015, will be in Kuala Lumpur as a guest speaker of The Cooler Lumpur Festival 2017, which is happening from tomorrow till Sunday at MAP@Publika.
The Cooler Lumpur Festival is all about the future. It provides a "vibrant space at which we can have those important (and sometimes difficult) conversations that help explain who we are and, most importantly, where we're going".
It invites noted opinion leaders from Asia and beyond to present an eclectic mix of talks, panel discussions, workshops, film screenings, and other fringe activities and "tell the story of our collective futures".
Prior to this year's fifth edition of the festival with the theme, 'Notes from the Future', we managed to get Fujii (right) via email to talk about his writing, and science fiction in general.
Fujii said he self-published his first novel because he knew that a publishing company would only emphasise on works that have the potential to win awards as that was the best way for new writers to receive recognition.
He was also more interested in his friends, colleagues and anyone else reading his story and what they think of it.
He said: "I think I was lucky with my self-publishing. At that time, which was late 2012, it was the best time to self-publish.
"Kobo, Kindle and iTunes (iBooks) started the self-publishing service. My original novel was seen on the few 'New' works in e-books market."
Fujii said it took him six months to write Gene Mapper.
"I wrote Gene Mapper on the iPhone 3G with novel writing app [while] commuting (by) train. I was (the) type of Japanese business warriors who work 16 hours a day."
When he was polishing up Gene Mapper for self-publishing, a friend of his was invited to a Space App Challenge held by Nasa.
He was surprised by the hundreds of amateurs who took part.
"(There) I got a new theme for my next novel," he said and the idea for his next book, Orbital Cloud, was born.
Fujii has been a fan of sci-fi stories since he was in elementary school.
"When I (found out that) almost all of the sci-fi books in the school library (have been) edited for younger readers, I started to read the versions for adults," said Fujii.
"I love Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and James P. Hogan. All of them write of a positive future.
"Hogan is not well known, but his The Two Faces of Tomorrow tells us of a future in (a) technologically-correct way.
"Now, I love to read works by my friends who are also writers. Among them is Ken Liu. All his works are great."
Right now, Fujii is working on three novels. He hopes all of them will be translated and sold in Malaysia.
His advice to budding sci-fi writers: "Imagine what you are writing [either] visually or physically.
"Sci-fi can handle everything that you imagine, but writers should make readers feel what those things are in their mind.
"I draw many pictures of what I write. Drawings make me (aware of the details). "
Fujii hopes that those who have read his Orbital Cloud or Gene Mapper gain a more optimistic view of the future like him.
This will be Fujii's first visit to Malaysia.
We asked him what he will be talking about at the festival.
The author said: "Reading and writing science fiction could be one of the best ways for thinking about future.
"I'll be telling the audience how I view the future world with optimism whereas many literary works tend to focus on a dystopian world.
"I will also be holding a workshop for those interested on how to start writing a sci-fi novel.
"Writing sci-fi gives you a deeper insight of the future rather than just reading (about it)."
For more, visit The Cooler Lumpur Festival website.

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