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Enjoe Toh

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1972-    ) Pen-name and preferred romanization of an unidentified Japanese author, a former physicist and postgraduate mathematician whose literary experiments have made him a liminal figure between Japan's sf community and the rarefied discourses of literary awards (see Postmodernism and SF). Such straddling of categories began with his debut works, of which his first published story was the surreal "Of the Baseball" (June 2007 Bungaku-kai), although he had previously submitted the more obviously science-fictional Self-Reference ENGINE (coll of linked stories 2007; trans Terry Gallagher 2013), a collection of linked stories that may (or, frustratingly according to the author's interviews, may not) contain the same characters.

Rich in the hardest of Hard SF speculations, from invented languages to higher-dimensional states of mind, many of Enjoe's works are so complex and obtuse that they resemble lipogrammatic exercises by the Oulipo movement. A twenty-first-century inheritor of Yasutaka Tsutsui's explorations of modern media, he was an early force in Flash Fiction as a contributor to Twitter Shōsetsu-shū: 140-ji no Monogatari ["The Collection of Twitter Tales: Stories in 140 Characters"] (anth 2014). In particular, he excels at reification and the deconstruction of events into the mathematical processes that describe them, a habit well illustrated in his "Silverpoint" (trans Jocelyne Allen in Japan Earthquake Charity Literature, anth 2011), a meditation on rocketry and orbital mechanics, told largely through an almost autistic focus on the pathways made by lines on a map.

Although he has been garlanded with literary prizes in his native Japan, Enjoe's awards have not come without controversy, including the public admittance by some high-profile judges that his references and writing modes have proved impenetrable. "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire" [titled thus in English even in its Japanese publication] (April 2008 S-F Magazine; trans Jocelyne Allen, July 2012 Words Without Borders) is less a story than an art-piece of a hundred soundbites from popular culture, in which common terms of reference have been replaced with the term "Galactic Empire", investing mundane moments of reportage and high-school drama with science fictional portent. His Uyūshitan ["Non-Existent Stories"] (coll 2009) exists in a substantially different book edition than in its original magazine publication, peppered in volume form with detailed annotations, seemingly in fear that the average reader is otherwise ill-equipped to comprehend it. The possibility remains that posterity will not remember Enjoe as an author at all, but as an artist or poet working with the materials of scientific notation.

His other works include two episodes of the Anime series Space Dandy (2014) and the academic essay "Postdoc kara Post-Postdoc" ["From Postdoc to Post-Postdoc"] (July 2008 Nippon Butsurigaku-kai Zasshi) for the Physical Society of Japan's in-house magazine. Having got to know Keikaku Itō at several conventions, he also volunteered to finish the late author's final work, Shisha no Teikoku ["The Empire of Corpses"] (2012), a Sequel by Other Hands to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (1818; rev 1831), in which Frankenstein's Technology is put to use reanimating the dead for use in the wars of the Victorian "Great Game". In this case, Enjoe's excesses seem to have been restrained in deference to his collaborator and the longer form required of a novel, with the textual acrobatics limited to a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes in an otherwise linear narrative. This novel won a Seiun Award. [JonC]

"Enjō Tō"

born Sapporo, Japan: 15 September 1972

works (selected)



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