20 best genre fiction writers from other countries to expand your horizons

2 of 21

Queen of K’n-Yan (Cover image via Kurodahan Press)

20. Asamatsu Ken

It’s generally understood that Japanese authors have a particular hold on the horror genre that’s hard to find elsewhere, at least right now. Maybe it’s really a larger extension of Japanese folklore, like the set of supernatural tales collectively called yokai.

To be fair, though, Japanese author Asamatsu Ken clearly isn’t working solely with the ghost stories and folklore of his home country. In works like Queen of K’n-Yan, his writing draws parallels with the cosmic, ultimately unknowable horror of authors like H.P. Lovecraft.

Take Queen of K’n-Yan, published in English in 2008 as part of a Cthulhu-inspired mythos set of novels pushed by Kurodahan Press. Asamatsu, however, stands on his own as one of the best weird fiction writers working in Japan and beyond. So, while it’s eerie fun to imagine that this is all part of some vast conspiracy of cosmic horror, it’s also worth looking at his work on its own merits.

Queen of K’n-Yan starts off with a gruesome if fascinating discovery. Archaeologists uncover an incredibly well-preserved mummy of a beautiful young woman while they are excavating a large Chinese tomb. They send the mummy to a Japanese lab. There, molecular biologist Morishita Anri helps scientists to sequence the young woman’s DNA.

It all seems like a normal procedure until it suddenly isn’t. The DNA sequencing reveals that the mummy is not entirely human, and that’s just the beginning of all their problems. Morishita starts to have strange hallucinations, including one vivid dream where she believes that she is a young girl in a gruesome World War II lab run by Japanese scientists. As the novel progresses, so too do her hallucinations, until both the real and seemingly imaginary worlds are telling two stories in concert.