All Somtow All the Time

Somtow Sucharitkul has been lighting up the newswires…

(1) FREE BOOKS. For a brief time you can download free two memoirs by Somtow Sucharitukul, praised by the Washington Post’s Michael Dirda in a year-end roundup:

One, Nirvana Express, is a journal of his life as a Buddhist monk in 2001; the other, Sounding Brass, is an extraordinary memoir from the 1970s, the true story of how he ghost-wrote the entire musical oeuvre of American diplomat, politician and banker J. William Middendorf, II. Read together, they paint an amazing picture of the man called by the International Herald Tribune “the most well-known expatriate Thai in the world.”

I read the two books and recommend them. Somtow’s storytelling gifts really shine through — bringing the reader inside unique musical and cultural experiences.

Both books are FREE until April 19 PST on Kindle.

They’re normally $8.99 each

Somtow says, “i’m thinking of doing a total of 5 of them – including the one about my adventures in SF LOL. It’s a lot of fun and less plotting involved.”

 (2) PATREON CALLING. Last Friday Somtow appealed to readers to support his Patreon in an account of his recent arts career alarmingly titled “A Pauper’s Grave”.

…For the last two years, we lived from hand to mouth, constantly being bailed out at the eleventh hour by friends, and with the Opera holding my salary as a “payable” now for 14 months. For the past year, I’ve been subsidizing the salaries of the staff from my own savings but by the end of 2018 there wasn’t anything left to do that with. However, there was at least the annual grant from our government, small but which we’ve received every year in December for a very long time.

As our karma would have it, after putting it off, we were told in January that virtually all funding for artistic coproductions had been cut this year. Our annual kickstarter had suddenly evaporated.

So, we are in the crisis to end all crises now. The demise of the opera has been announced many times, but there is probably a limit to how many times you can be snatched from the jaws of Moloch. At some point, you have to fall into the flames.

I find myself thinking seriously about personal survival. The “pauper’s grave” cliché is looming. If in the past I didn’t notice how much of my existence is spent subsidising the opera and its staff, it’s because in the past there weren’t any gruelling choices to make on a daily basis like “Do I pay for one more month of the opera’s Dropbox or do I buy dinner?” I recently noticed I haven’t been to a movie in a theater for over a year, or even strolled in a mall to buy a tchotchke. I’m not actually starving to death, but these days I rarely eat out unless someone else is paying.

It’s clear — has been for almost a year — that I can’t let this go on. What I have been doing in Thailand may well have been good for the country, but it’s killing me. I need to step away. Someone else should be running the foundation anyway. Artists are notoriously bad at these things. I need time to finish the works in my to-do list and even come up with more.

…I’m setting 2020 as my “retirement” date from the now-volunteer position of artistic director because I hope by then everything will be in place for the foundation to run on its own steam. I am going to resurrect what I can of my writing career — I know that there are loyal readers out there, and there are probably potentially more if I can find new ways of reaching out to them. But in my 20 year absence publishing has changed a lot.

How can my friends help me? I need to vastly expand my support among readers and friends, so becoming a member of patreon.com/spsomtow is a real help — and you’ll get to read my writings before anyone else. I have about 26 loyal supporters, but if I had 200, I could stop panicking about the basics of existence….

Fortunately, people are responding, says Somtow: “This note in which I explained the bizarre circumstances that are causing me to start writing again caused a 30% increase in my Patreon patronage in a day. Clearly there are a few people who still miss me, somewhere out there…. Anyway, this caused me to hit a threshold in number of supporters where I said I’d write a new ‘Mallworld’ story. So yes, after almost 40 years, I will do so. And I’m going to print it as a very very limited chapbook and give it only to those supporters …”

Join my Patreon soon to read the fifth Inquestor novel as it comes straight from my computer….

If you join by June 15 at the Archangel ($10/mo) level or higher, you will get a special gift — a signed limited chapbook of a brand new Mallworld Story! [Mailed in August]

To access his Patreon site click here — https://www.patreon.com/spsomtow

(3) STAR WARS. Somtow conducted another Star Wars theme concert in Thailand in March. Here’s the poster:

(4) SFF IN TRANSLATION. Lastly, Somtow is running a competition to see if anyone can translate his science fiction into Thai – “Somtow Translation Competition”.

S.P. Somtow has now published 72 books, and a number of them have outstanding Thai translations. Thaithow Sucharitkul’s translation of Jasmine Nights is justly considered a classic in its own right. Jane Vejjajiva wrote a fine translation of The Stone Buddha’s Tears. She said to Somtow, “It made me cry while I was translating it.”

But Somtow’s reputation was first made on science fiction: his John Campbell Award, his two Hugo nominations, his frequent cover stories in Isaac Asimov’s Magazine in the early 1980s. And none of his science fiction has ever been translated into Thai even though this is one of the most popular genres of fiction here.

The purpose of this competition is find someone with a very special mindset: very good at comprehending English, very good at writing in Thai, and very imaginative in the ability to find Thai language equivalents for words and concepts that are unique to Somtow’s science fiction universes: things like mallworld, tachyon bubble, overcosm, doppling kit, varigrav, pteratyger, shimmercloak … you get the idea. It requires being able to retrofit the language to fit the concept and to evoke the flavor of these words.

Somtow’s science fiction novels have been translated into German, French, Polish, Czech, Japanese, Italian and other languages. His non-science fiction stories have had some excellent Thai translations. And yet .…

So here is the competition: there are three short paragraphs from different science fiction novels by Somtow.

Okay so the above are three typical excerpts from Somtow’s science fiction stories. At a glance, they might appear more or less untranslateable. And yet, Hamlet was translated into Klingon.

Perfection is not required for this competition. What we’re looking for is someone who gets the flavor. If you win the competition, you’ll have plenty of help and ability to consult — you will not be working in a vacuum — when you come to work on translating a whole novel.

This is what you should do:

Do the best you can with the three excerpts and then send a copy to somtow@gmail.com with the subject line TRANSLATION COMPETITION (if you don’t use this subject line, your entry may get lost). The deadline for this competition will be June 1, 2019. At that time, Somtow and his advisors will open and read all the entries.

If you are among the top two contestants, you’ll be invited to a discussion about being hired to translate one of Somtow’s science fiction novels either individually or in collaboration with each other. If there is no clear winner, the date will either be extended or another competition announced.

For your efforts in competing, the author will give an autographed copy of one of his books to the contestants (assuming there are enough books to go around.) Those who get to do the actual translation will receive a fee for the translation and credit in the book.

1 thought on “All Somtow All the Time

  1. This brings back happy memories of a day around 1989 when Somtow was a guest at Mega City Comics in Virginia, and we were sitting around watching THE LAUGHING DEAD on video and cracking wise, pre-MST3K style, while the movie’s writer, director, and composer laughed alive (as opposed to the title, see). Of course, we all particularly enjoyed the SF celebrity deaths in the movie, of which Ed Bryant’s bus-driven demise seems the most memorable now.

    I haven’t kept up with his horror output, but I’ve purchased one (perhaps two) albums of his on download, and might revisit again.

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