Nick Mamatas has worn many hats in the publishing business over the years, including as editor of a Hugo and World Fantasy-nominated science fiction magazine. However, his current position with Viz Media may be the most interesting yet. Mamatas is the editor of Tradebooks, which constitutes Viz’s non-manga titles. His main area of focus is Haikasoru, a new imprint of Japanese novels and stories in translation that focuses on science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I spoke to him recently by phone about this exciting new project.
Amazon.com: How long have you been editing for Viz? And are you an acquiring editor, or the conduit between the Japanese and an English audience?
Nick Mamatas: Just over a year, and my supervisor and I decide together. We'll get, say, ten sample chapters from ten books per quarter and pick four.
Amazon.com: Does your supervisor read in Japanese? In other words, someone is reading a whole book before it's decided, or...?
Mamatas: Yes, my supervisor is a native Japanese speaker and SF fan. She read a lot of English-language SF in translation as a youth and adult, and now keeps up with the Japanese scene.
Mamatas: So she picks the ten, basically, and brings them to me and then we decide on the four
Amazon.com: Have you ever had to ask her, even with the English translation in front of you, for an explanation of something that's innately Japanese in terms of culture?
Mamatas: Not really, thanks to the power of Google, plus I generally work with the translators very closely, and get the cultural tidbits from them. A few things, as far as the idiom, I do work with my supervisor with such things as how scenes are presented in a novel, "closing" flashbacks, structural differences
Amazon.com: How much editing do you do on the translations? And how literal are the translations when they get to you?
Mamatas: We try very hard to keep the translation authentic, though I have occasionally reordered a few scenes. It's difficult to get a translator with the ear for language of a novelist, but I've found a few and am happy for it. I don't normally hire "rewriters", though I am not against doing so if necessary. Really, it's just easier for me to do a mighty line edit than to deal with the translator and rewriter.