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Hori Akira

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1944-    ) Japanese author known for several Fixup collections of linked stories, whose sole novel to date won a 1989 Seiun Award amid controversial circumstances. After almost a decade in Japanese Fanzines, Hori's professional debut came with "Icarus no Tsubasa" ["The Wings of Icarus"] (1971 SF Magazine), swiftly establishing him as a hard-science thinker with a special interest in Computers – an Engineering graduate from Osaka University, he was at the forefront of speculation regarding the impact of IBM's 1960s separation of services into what would become known as hardware and software.

Hori might have been expected to make a substantially greater splash on the sf scene were it not for an ugly legal dispute with some of the most influential power-brokers in the field. Hori sold the paperback collection rights to his "Taiyō-fū Kōten" (1979 SF Magazine; trans Daniel Huddleston as "Encounters on the Solar Wind" in Speculative Japan 4, anth 2018) not to Hayakawa Shobō, publishers of the original in magazine form and its first volume form, but to the rival company Tokuma Shoten. Subsequent arguments focused on whether or not Hori had a verbal contract with Hayakawa to exploit all the rights in his short-story collection, or whether their agreement was discharged upon the release of the hardback. However, later disputes arose over whether Hori had an implied obligation to Hayakawa as the shepherds of his work to print in the first place, and to the degree to which Hayakawa was mismanaging Hori's intellectual property, on the understanding that even if a verbal contract existed, standard practice in the Japanese publishing world would allow an author to arrange reprints elsewhere after a grace period of three years. Such debates dragged the case down into the minutiae of acceptance and submission: if there were a three-year clock, did it start running upon the publication of the hardback in October 1979, or two years earlier, when Hori sent the original, untitled story to his magazine editor and they commenced discussions over revisions? Yet another level of dispute arose over the conferral of the first SF Taishō (Grand Prix) award on the original story in 1981, between the two editions, thereby expanding the likely print-run and profits of the paperback. Both sides accused one another of bad faith and poor communication, in a case that attempted to define the unspoken mutual obligations of publisher and author in Japan's vertically integrated Media Landscape.

It took until 1986 for the case to be ruled in Hori's favor on appeal, ruining his relationship with Japan's largest sf publisher in the process, and causing widespread embarrassment in a country where litigation is traditionally regarded as a failure of civilized negotiation. The rupture this caused in Japanese Fandom, particularly between the Hayakawa-dominated Seiun Awards and the self-proclaimed "independent" Grand Prix, would endure for decades, and led to a significant exodus of authors from Hayakawa to Tokuma. It reached its culmination with the death of the Grand Prix's instigator, Sakyō Komatsu, in 2011, which was not acknowledged by an obituary in S-F Magazine.

With such acrimony behind the scenes, Hori unexpectedly won the publicly voted Seiun Award for the first and last time for his novel Babylonia Wave (1988). It centres on the discovery of a 1200km-wide beam of light intersecting the solar system, and the attempts of humanity to harness it as a Power Source by redirecting it towards the Earth, only tardily coming to investigate why it might be there in the first place. This novel, along with the later collection Iseki no Koe ["Voice of the Ruins"] (1996), repositions "Encounters on the Solar Wind" as part of a Future History, the Trinity series, outlining the investigations of humanity into their Forerunners in the universe, and the possibility of a long-delayed and possibly disastrous First Contact. Chikyū Wa ["Earth Ring"] (2000) collects a dozen stories that form a different Broadcast Cyborg series, positing a Singularity of data access and the wreathing of the planet in a super-computer. The first story in the sequence, "Kyōfu-shō" ["Ministry of Fear"] (1965 Paranoia), was published in a fanzine a generation earlier. As Hori himself has observed, this makes his work a complex chronological puzzle, originally written as Prediction in the days when computing was young, but refashioned and augmented, particularly in the wake of the Cyberpunk movement, to take into account new concepts and dilemmas in the field.

Hori remained a prolific essayist and short-story writer, publisher of the award-winning fanzine Soliton (1994-1998), a loquacious commentator and humorist – his short story "Kaifū" (2007 venue unknown; trans Roy Berman as "Open Up" in Speculative Japan 2, anth 2011) is a situation comedy in which an astronaut is confronted by a Doppelganger trying to use the same ship's toilet. However, it is difficult to say to what degree the piecemeal, fragmentary publication of his work has been intentional, or that longer-form novel publications eluded him at his creative peak due to his estrangement from Japan's best-known publisher of sf. [JonC]

Akira Hori

born Tatsuno, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan: 21 June 1944



  • Taiyō-fū Kōten ["Encounters on the Solar Wind"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1979) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • SF Kaidō Futaritabi ["Two Travellers on an SF Road Trip"] (Tokyo: Tokuma Shoten, 1981) with Musashi Kanbe [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Umeda Chika Odyssey ["Umeda Underground Odyssey"] (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō, 1981) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Kyōfu-shō ["Ministry of Fear"] (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1982) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Mad Science Nyūmon ["Introduction to Mad Science"] (Shinchōsha, 1986) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Hyōryū-mono X ["Drifter X"] (Tokyo: Futabasha, 1987) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Jikū Ichibiri Hyakkei ["One Hundred Joking Views of Space-Time"] (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1989) with Musashi Kanbe [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Chikyū wa Aoi Hōseki ["Earth is a Blue Jewel"] (Tokyo: Pep, 1991) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Iseki no Koe ["Voice of the Ruins"] (Tokyo: Aspect, 1996) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • Chikyū Wa ["Earth Ring"] (Tokyo: Haruki Bunko, 2000) [coll: pb/]


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