It wasn’t that difficult. I guess people don’t care that much about me. The advantage of writing under a pseudonym is that you can break free from the violent Korean hierarchies surrounding academic records, your place of birth, your age, and your gender.
The downside to working under a weird pseudonym is that people become more obsessed with it than with your work. For a while, I thought I would be stuck with this joke forever. Monty Python about Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson
Korea has recently seen an increase in authors working under pseudonyms. Last year, among the nominees in the category Webnovelas From the Korean Science Fiction Awards were CatG, ISteppedOnLego, Hongbi, Neon Sign (Nehreuk), Shipstick, Yeonsanho, 2-ga 0, Songeum, Sanhocho, and Choongek. Only the winner, Yeon Sanho, had a normal-sounding Korean name. So people no longer believe that I live in the realm of the unusual.
Today’s science fiction has its origins in the online services of the 1990s. In the 1990s, Korean science fiction was just beginning. It’s not that we didn’t have writers. Han Nakwon was known in the 1960s for his young adult science fiction and the alternate history of Bok Geo-il. Looking for the scream was also known. But there were very few cases of classic science fiction in translation, apart from a few short editions for young readers, which meant introducing these works was a priority first.
Nowadays, works by contemporary science fiction authors writing in English are published quite regularly, but back then, we tried to start with the classics. Later, contemporary writers gradually arrived, and I will never forget my first encounter with Connie Willis’s works, translated by amateurs on online services. Willis still has many loyal fans in Korea.
Are there certain types of stories that you remember that started in Korea?
There was one science fiction genre that mainstream writers took very seriously, and that was the romance comic (baldjeong manhwa). You can’t talk about the history of Korean science fiction without mentioning artists from the Manhwa like Kang Kyeong-ok, Kim Jin, or Shin Il-sook. Netflix’s drama Love Alarm by Cheon Gye-yong is the natural descendant of these works.
As we entered the 21st century, Korean science fiction began to take off, which meant it entered the mainstream of Korean readers. These days, it’s not uncommon to find a Korean science fiction work on bestseller lists. Science fiction also enjoyed increasing popularity outside of literature. We live in the land that created The Squid Game; We can’t just talk about Korean science fiction through books anymore.