Benthic Baptisms

So it begins (actually continues, but let’s not let accuracy get in the way of a good cliché): the race to exploit the deep sea. A couple of choice quotes:

“deep sea mining … has the potential to explode … The hotspots are ocean floor geysers known as hydrothermal vents …

“…we know almost nothing about the microbial life or their ecology.”

So, yeah. Bring on βehemoth! Let’s get this apocalypse on the road!

And — in a nice bit of timing — one Bernd Kronsbein has just pointed me to the Amazon page for the upcoming German edition of Starfish (which evidently translates does not after all translate as Abgrund, but as another word entirely!). The cover steers away from the rifter-collage design that Bruce Jensen so effectively rendered for the Tor editions, instead giving face time to the more conventional preshmesh armour that Yves Scanlon lumbered around in for a couple of chapters:

I’m guessing they were looking for something a bit more space-suity, to maintain thematic consistency with their Blindflug cover. Anyway, I like it.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday December 21 2007at 11:12 am , filed under deep sea, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

9 Responses to “Benthic Baptisms”

  1. Question, how much contact do you have with the translator(s)? Do you try to maintain any type of style? Does style even BE carried across languages with any sort of efficacy?

  2. A lot of sea news today – the Kiwis have a robot mapping the sea floor and detecting vent systems.

    http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=34926&sectionid=1021

  3. You do realize that Abgrund means Abyss, right?! Do you think it’s alright for them to change the tile of your book like that?

  4. Nicholas said…

    Question, how much contact do you have with the translator(s)? Do you try to maintain any type of style? Does style even BE carried across languages with any sort of efficacy?

    I have as little contact with the translators as Tor can manage. They didn’t even tell me there was going to be an Italian edition of Starfish, for example; I still might not know, if the Italian editor hadn’t gotten in touch with me on his own initiative. And Tor didn’t tell me about this new German edition either. My editor happened across a sentence fragment in a European pub-rights report and was good enough to pass on the news, but official Tor protocols evidently do not include telling authors when their books have been sold overseas. I still don’t know how much money I’ll be getting for this edition, or when (I have asked).

    Starfish is a special case, though, because it was my first novel and I sold it as a newbie, without representation. Tor demanded overseas rights, which might have been one of the two or three token peeps of protest I allowed myself before caving in to whatever they wanted. But Tor doesn’t have the rights to any of my subsequent titles. I do. And I’m somewhat more experienced now, to the point that I’ve been negotiating consistently better overseas deals on my own than my former agency has been able to.

    So these days I’m a bit more in the loop. Every overseas deal I’ve negotiated gives me input into cover design, and I’ve been in e-mail contact with at least a couple of the translators. In one case, that was pretty scary — the english in said translator’s e-mail was as fractured as a Chinese fortune cookie fed through three iterations of Babelfish, which gave me serious pause. But the dude’s performed well for bigger names than I, and I’m led to understand that fluency in the target language is more important than that in the source. Plus, that particular overseas editor was perfectly willing to let me pass the translated manuscript through a third party of my own choosing if I was at all worried about quality of translation.

    The impression I’m gathering these days is that the give-us-the-ms.-and-shut-the-fuck-up attitude I’ve encountered on this side of the Atlantic is far from universal. So far, the Europeans have been a delight.


    royal color network said…

    A lot of sea news today – the Kiwis have a robot mapping the sea floor and detecting vent systems.

    Cool.


    Torbjørn said…

    You do realize that Abgrund means Abyss, right?! Do you think it’s alright for them to change the tile of your book like that?

    I did not know that! Babelfish parses it as “Precipice”, and while neither is a bad title, I do wonder what would have been wrong with “Star Fisch”. I mean, Lenie Clarke is, metaphorically, the eponymous echinoderm. The rifter society itself is kind of starfishian too, in a locomotory consensus tube-foot sense. It wasn’t just a cute title. It had levels.

    Ah well. Just as long as James Cameron doesn’t sue…

  5. Well, I don’t think Camerons movie title was translated when released in Germany, so I guess that is no problem.., no Abgrund movie as far as I can see.

    There is an Abgrund band however – http://www.abgrund.com/ – some kind of death/doom/trash metal band. According to their web site “some songs are groovy other stright to take their listeners directloy into the abyss.” (not my broken English).

  6. Just another step to a truly international governing body brought about by globalization.

    Which is going to suck for any and all true nationalists

  7. ‘Starfish’ would translate as ‘Seestern’.

    Not so fitting, I think.

  8. Ooooh. Yeah, the phonetics of that could be problematic.

    I ran “Star Fish” through babelfish and got “Star Fisch” which doesn’t seem too bad. But German friend of mine tells me that “Abgrund” can also be translated as “downhill”, which, in the context of the rest of the front-cover text, is pretty ominous:

        The author of “Blindsight”
              Peter Watts goes
                  DOWNHILL

    Yeah, that sounds more like something Tor would say…

  9. Re translations, their quality is notoriously difficult to judge. You — the author — typically don’t read the target language, and even your friend Suzie who does read German or Spanish usually is not competent to tell a great translation from a so-so one (even if the target language is her *first* language, although these folks might be able to tell you if it’s downright terrible).

    As it stands, you’ve already got the two best methods available operating here (1) the reputation/standing of other authors whose works have been translated by the same person (get the guy who translated Kurt Vonnegut, not the guy who translated the novelization of Aliens 4)*, and (2) the rather rare “I get to run it past my own third party to check the quality of the translation” clause that you’ve negotiated.

    On the issue of titles, I take it you have noticed that Blindsight has been translated, unless my German is faulty, as “Blindflight.” Not too bad, but not really the same either — certainly doesn’t relate to the medical phenomenon (which there must be a name for in German). Anyway, titles are so often changed in translation that it’s hardly worth noticing except for fun.

    Cheers

    *Incidentally, my personal ultimate translator was Ralph Manheim, who translated Gunter Grass from German into English — no mean feat in itself — *and* was the greatest translator of Louis Ferdinand Celine from 1930s fractured gutter French into English. Talk about your range.