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Publishing Trends
Vol.6 Winter 2009 (Page 12)
A Rush of Science Fiction Novels
by Shin Junebong
  One of the most remarkable changes in the Korean publishing market is that there has been an increase in the publication of science fiction novels by Korean writers.
To begin with, U, Robot, a collection of 10 short stories by 10 science fiction writers, was published by Golden Bough Publishing Co., Ltd. In the second half of the year, Tower, a full-length novel by Bae Myounghoon, recognized as a romising science fiction writer, and Tell the Dead, a collection of 10 short science fiction stories, came out one after the other. Kim Lee-hwan, a science fiction writer, won the Multi Literary Award and the accompanying prize of 100 million won with his full-length novel, The Sphere of Despair, in which a huge, mysterious black sphere appears.
The increasing publication of Korean science fiction seems to be the result of a variety of factors combined. Kim Changgyu, a science fiction writer, translator, and editor, said that, “It looks like the
various literary awards established by one newspaper after another, with hefty sums of prize money, had a big impact.” With the awards focusing more on popular appeal than literary merit, a door has opened up for science fiction. It also helps that the generation who grew up reading classic works of science fiction by writers from abroad, such as Arthur C. Clarke, are now editors at publishing companies, and that young readers familiar with Hollywood blockbusters, which often deal with science fiction, respond positively to science fiction novels.
Despite the recent growth, the scale of the science fiction market in Korea is still meager. Experts estimate the number of science fiction writers in Korea to be from about 50 to 60, with a readership between three to five thousand people. On the other hand, this could mean that the Korean market has infinite potential, since it is only in its infancy.
Tower by Bae Myoung-hoon is set against the backdrop of “Beanstalk,” a gigantic building 2,408 meters high consisting of 674 floors, and occupied by a population of 500,000. Bae satirizes the reality through this story in which a building is a citynation in itself. Though a work of science fiction, a genre traditionally overlooked in the Korean book world, the novel has gained the attention of the mainstream press and has been reviewed by newspapers and magazines.