Channel 4 recently did a short piece on the struggle of novelist Colin Cotterill to get his Detective Siri novels translated and sold in Laos in "Highs and Laos as crime writer struggles to publish novels" I did an interview with him some time back for Bakka Magazine.
Probably some of the key take-aways from this article that I'd note is the assertion that "the government retains tight control over publishing and the Ministry of Culture must rubber-stamp any translations that eventually make it on to the bookshelves."
Additionally, it's an interesting matter that even for a well-known author "Other hurdles include finding a translator and persuading the Christian owner of the only printing press in the country to print the books.
Even if Cotterill succeeds in getting his titles translated and published there is no guarantee that Laotian readers will fall in love with them.
This is a country with few bookshops. Fiction is not popular and few customers want to buy books of any kind in the local language."
Assuming that's accurate, what's the implication for Lao American writers or others hoping to break into the Lao market overseas? Especially in genres such as horror, steampunk, or science fiction and fantasy? I guess we'll just have to find out as we prepare the Lao American Speculative Arts Anthology due out in a few months.
This all really reinforces my continued assertion that we need many more Lao and Lao American publishers and channels for distribution, and to rebuild a core body of writers who keep the Lao language alive through bold translation and the creation of new work beyond that of educational, business or government purposes.