Entry updated 2 April 2022. Tagged: Author.
Pseudonym of Shinichi Abu (1882-1928), a Japanese author of Military SF for the early Pulps, and an early fictional proponent of the likelihood of a Future War between Japan and the United States. Abu's first career was that of an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy, commissioned as a second lieutenant shortly before the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Resigning his commission in 1906 due to a leg injury, he fell in with the literary salon of the author and editor Shunrō Oshikawa, who nurtured him as a strident young voice in Japan's increasingly militaristic fiction magazines. Abu wrote as Tenpū, a name selected at random for him by Oshikawa, and under several other house names for Bōken Sekai ["World of Adventure"] and subsequently Bukyō Sekai ["World of Daring"]. He covered the Siberian Intervention of 1918 as a war correspondent for the latter magazine, returning home inspired to write his best-remembered tales of Japan's likely future military adventures. For some time in the 1920s, he was also the manager of a newspaper in Manchuria, the Saibori Shinbun ["Siberian News"].
Particularly in the wake of the publication of Homer Lea's The Valor of Ignorance (1909), Abu became an enthusiastic chronicler of possible scenarios for a war in the Pacific. "Mirai Shōsetsu: Nichibei Senso Yume Monogatari" ["Future Story: A Dream Tale of the War between Japan and America"] (April 1910 Bōken Sekai) as by Kozen Taii ["Captain Tiger Skull"] begins as a spy novel in which Captain Nitahara, a dashing Japanese naval attache, acquires incriminating documents from Miss Delmar, a Hispanic seductress who is prepared to do anything in revenge for the Spanish-American War. Nitahara returns to Japan with evidence that the US is signing secret treaties with a European power to create an alliance that will attack Japan from both sides. Suitably warned, Japan is able to respond with extreme force, routing the US Navy off the cost of Taiwan, thanks in part to Captain Nitahara's innovative aircraft designs. The story, however, is only a putative Edisonade, since Abu's strengths were undeniably in military adventure, not in scientific accuracy. "Jiji Shōsetsu: Nichibei no Kiki" ["Current Affairs Story: The Japan/America Crisis"] (May 1910 Bōken Sekai) is framed as an argument between two Japanese men, one of whom is an America-loving journalist for a New York newspaper, while the other is a man recently returned from the US. While the former sings the praises of the land of liberty, the one with more direct experience describes a land of deceitful racists, on the brink of tipping the balance of Pacific Power through the opening of the new Panama Canal.
Throughout his career, Abu flirted with reportage and journalism, for which his own Navy background often stood him in better stead than in his fiction. Writing as "Major General Kuroma", he was one of the first Japanese authors to discuss aeronautics in depth, in "Beikoku Hikōki Chindan" ["The Rare Tale of the American Aeroplane"] (December 1908 Bōken Sekai), which speculated on the likely military uses of a plane that was also a boat. In his later "Kūchū Hikō Hōdan" ["Discussions of Mid-Air Flight"] (December 1913 Bōken Sekai) he became oddly animated and even fretful about the likely damage that could be caused by an aerial bombardment of Tokyo, unless Japan was able to put reciprocal numbers of defensive aircraft in the sky. His "Kaigun Sōdan: Kaitei Senkōtei" "[Navy Discussions: The Undersea Submersible"] (August 1910 Bōken Sekai) was a detailed account not only of the operation and use of submarines, but of a recent naval accident, much celebrated in song and popular culture, in which human error during sea trials caused one of Japan's first submarines to be lost with all hands. This sits at odds with his more breathless accounts in his fiction of super-submarines, that can run further, and faster and deeper, all thanks to semi-magical Inventions, more fantasy than science fiction.
Serialized in a magazine for children, and heavily influenced by Hector Charles Bywater's The Great Pacific War: A History of the American-Japanese Campaign of 1931-1933 (1925), Taiyō wa Kateri ["The Sun Wins"] (January 1926-November 1927 Shōnen Kurabu; 1930) features the sons of several prominent military men and scientists, collaborating to allow Japan to gain the upper hand in a Chinese intervention that escalates into a global war. Tadao is a Japanese professor's nephew, skilled at code-breaking and the natural leader of a gang of young sleuths in the vein of Ranpo Edogawa's Boy Detectives Club. His German friend Fritz becomes actively involved in espionage, scuttling a freighter to block the Panama Canal and hobble the US naval response. It is Fritz's execution by the vengeful Americans that leads to an outright declaration of war by Germany. Japan frees India from British oppression, in part owing to the Nitahara-class aerial warships able to cross the Himalayas in a surprise attack, an Invention that seems to reference Abu's own previous works. Japan wins through, destroying the US fleet in the Straits of Magellan thanks to an undersea heat-Ray, despite various enemy attempts to fight back with similar innovations, including an "invisible plane".
"Japan is unsurpassed by any other country in the world in loving peace," Abu wrote in the introduction to his novel, which was not published in volume form until after his death. "However, if there is trouble somewhere on this Earth, I will not hesitate to take up my sword. Japan loves justice most of all." [JonC]
born Abu, Japan: 8 September 1882
died Tokyo, Japan: 22 June 1928
- Taiyō wa Kateri ["The Sun Wins"] (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1930) [binding unknown/]
- "Mirai Shōsetsu: Nichibei Senso Yume Monogatari" in Meiji – Taishō – Shōwa: Nichibei Kakū Senki Shūsei ["Meiji – Taishō – Shōwa: An Anthology of Fictitious Japanese-American Wars"] (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron-sha, 2003) edited by Yasuo Nagayama [hb/]
- Abu Tenpū (in Japanese)
previous versions of this entry