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Korean Authors


Writer Kim Bo-Young

The Strongest SF Writer




Writer Kim Bo-Young, one of the representative SF writers in Korea, has had a significant influence on newly-debuted SF writers since the 2000s with her flexible ideas and wonderful imagination. She was the first Korean writer to introduce her short story – An Evolutionary Myth - in Clarkesworld, an SF magazine in the US. Also, she has been a popular writer among international readers, as seen in the publication of her book in the US by Harper Collins, a big publishing house in the country. Writer Kim Bo-Young is known to dedicate herself fully to writing stories with the mindset that every work is her last story to be shown to the world. Following is an interview with writer Kim, who has been going across boundaries in the literary world beyond SF.


김보영 작가



It’s an honor to have you on K-Book Trends. Please briefly introduce yourself to our subscribers.


Hello, everyone. I’m Kim Bo-Young, and I’ve been mainly writing SF in Korea since 2004.


We heard you were a game developer and scenario writer before becoming a novelist. What was the motivation behind such a transition?


I used to be a game developer from late 1998 to 2004. It was ages ago. At that time, the paradigm in the gaming industry was shifting to online games. Making games before the Internet was distributed was similar to publishing books. Several members gathered to make games, sold thousands of copies, and things were very tough.
I think it would have been an impossible mission for me to publish my own novel back in the late 1990s in Korea. I used to think that I was a very poor writer back then. The job that was closest to the nature of a writer was developing games. I didn’t even start as a scenario writer – I began as a graphics designer. And the company made me a writer because there was no one to write the scenarios. But, as the scenarios became more popular, I gained confidence.
Around the time when I quit working in the gaming industry, the workload was on another level as the overall paradigm was going through a big transformation. So, I thought that it was okay not to have my book published, with no one reading it, but I shall write one piece of fiction for myself. And after quite a while of solo writing, an SF literary contest was held in the same year, and that’s how I officially debuted as a writer. Looking back, if it were not for that contest, I might have returned to the gaming industry to make ends meet. And that would have led me to live a different life – not as a writer.


Games and novels are similar in that they create a world and tell stories to their users and readers through narration. But their formats are different. So, how are the two different in terms of production?


The two are totally different creations. Novels, no matter how advanced technology is, are written in letters. Similarly, movies are made in a video format, no matter what. But games are different. When the technology changes, the game’s style changes. And that technology is a new technology, and the game made with it is also a new game. As the Internet was at its peak of advancement around the time I was in a game company, the changes were particularly super rapid.
Making games is a complex process; you have to imagine what technology there will be by the time the game is almost developed, what features the game can materialize with that technology, how much our team can catch up with the technology, how the game would look like if we consider such aspects and the best scenario that will suit the game with all these mixed up. So, the planning capacity and flexibility in the content are key. Know-how still works, but it does not always apply as it is.
When I first wrote game scenarios, I wrote the lines as if a stage actor was explaining something to an audience sitting far back from an empty stage. It was because the screen and the characters were small. So it was hard to know how things were going around only by looking at the screen. But now, things have changed.



I thought of writing a story for myself, not thinking about how many readers there might be.



You posted your short story An Evolutionary Myth on Clarksworld, an SF magazine in the US, as the first Korean writer. It is more meaningful because you were the “first Korean writer” to have the work published in the magazine. How did you feel?


To be honest, I didn’t know what Clarksworld was, and I didn’t know that I was the first one. Director Park Ji-Hyeon and writer Gord Sellar thankfully translated the story for free. We never knew that we would be able to publish it. Gord suggested we “submit the book to the biggest publisher first and repeat it until someone accepts it.” And luckily, the one that we submitted to first accepted the book. It was the starting point of all the other works’ translations. So, I am thankful to her and director Park for translating the story.


2022년 개정되어 단행본으로 출간된 『진화신화(에디토리얼)』

An Evolutionary Myth (Editorial) revised and
published in 2022



Your books, such as I’m Waiting for You (Neo Paran) and The Prophet of Corruption (Arzaklivres), were introduced in overseas markets through Harper Collins, a big publishing house in the US. How was the response from international readers?


I didn’t actually have the chance to have a detailed look at their reviews, but I heard about news articles. I heard many media outlets, including The New York Times in the US and The Times in the UK, introduced my books. National Public Radio (NPR), a public radio station in the US, chose the books as the book of the year, and GoodReads, a book-review website, picked the books as one of the most popular SF books in 2021. Also, Reddit chose the book as one of the best anthologies in 2021. I’m so thankful for everything.


Is there a book you want to recommend to international readers that has yet to be released in overseas markets?


The book The Sea of Epidemic (Alma), a Korean reinterpretation of the book The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft, has yet to be introduced to international readers. This book belongs to the Project LC.RC series, an hommage to H. P. Lovecraft, the origin of modern horror literature. As this series consists of medium-length stories by several writers, it would be great to read it along with other works.


『당신을 기다리고 있어』

『저 이승의 선지자』

『역병의 바다』

I’m Waiting for You, The Prophet of Mundanity, and The Sea of Epidemic



You have been “the strongest SF writer.” What does SF mean to you?


Let me quote Djuna, a film critic and SF writer in Korea. Djuna said that he writes SF stories because it has the least limitations. He/She is not just interested in the narrow concept of SF, but is intrigued by the genre’s characteristic that it is a giant genre inclusive of all the things people can imagine. I couldn’t agree more with his idea.
In fact, I’m writing novels based solely on my interests and thoughts. I think I’m writing many stories that are not even SF. The Prophet of Corruption is a fantasy novel, too. Being non-realistic is the only thing the two genres share, but due to my identity as an SF novelist, my readers get to accept my fantasy stories as SF. But SF is actually the best expression to talk about non-realism as a whole.



Whenever I write a story, I always think that I’m writing the last novel in my life.
I want to write novels good enough to not write more of them.



You also stand up for minorities through your novels. Was there a special reason for this?


Novels are not a medium for something. The norm of storytelling is intrinsically related to understanding and empathizing with the nature of human beings and life. I don’t think it’s about having something in mind when writing. Writer Park Wan-Seo once said, “If I could say it in one sentence, I would never have written novels.” As such, novels are complicated, and I believe that we write and read novels to discuss and agree with such complicatedness.


As you have been working in a wide variety of fields, your next move is highly anticipated. What are your future plans, and what do you want to write about next?


For now, the novels I’m writing are everything I have. But, once they’re over, they fade away, and new novels come. I used to be harsher on myself in the past. I thought there would be no more chances after completing the novel I was writing. So, I have always had the mindset that the story I’m writing is the last one that I’ll be showing the world, and that I should write stories with the finest quality. But, I was always given more opportunities after finishing a story. So, with that expectation in mind, I shall complete the story I’m writing today.




#Kim Bo-Young#Novelist#SF#An Evolutionary Myth
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