Dracula & Worf

Antuza Genescu's UK visit report

Antuza Genescu is an English translator and former teacher. She has translated many SF works into Romanian, including Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. On the fannish front she worked on the 1994 Eurocon translating the progress reports, programme book and other literature for its English editions. Her husband Silviu is an SF author whose books include the acclaimed D is for End. The 1995 Anglo-Romanian Science & SF exchange gave her her first, and hopefully not her last, opportunity to visit the UK, where she touched the hearts of many whom she met.

Like everywhere in the world, in London the Sun rises in the East, but the sky is almost always grey. So say the British. The Thames is grey, but surrounded by history. So say all who have visited Britain and its capital. You do not need too much time to get used to this dominant grey; when you walk through London and its exquisite places, you start singing La Vie en Rose. The advantage Cristian Lazarescu and I had was that we were not simple tourists, but representatives of Romanian fandom in the Anglo-Romanian science fact and fiction cultural exchange initiated and organised by our British counterparts -- Tony Chester, Graham Connor, Jonathan Cowie, Phil Delnon, Simon Geikie, and Elaine Sparkes. All of them are dynamic SF enthusiasts and members of the North West Kent Phoenicians SF group based around Dartford. So we had the opportunity to become familiar both with the British lifestyle in general and with the British SF fan lifestyle in particular.

If one only takes into consideration the crowds commuting to and from work in London every day, then one can easily see that the average Brit moves and thinks at the speed of at least 100 light years per hour. Whereas the average SF fan during conventions, as I saw for myself at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, spends their time exceeding this speed in-between rests. As for the authors, Tony Chester asked horror writer Ramsey Campbell to take a longer vacation because he cannot read as fast as the man can write! Then again, Graham Connor flying in from work in the Netherlands paused only briefly before moving on to Liverpool for a football match to see one of his favourite teams: unfortunately the match had just started when he arrived and all the tickets were sold.

Sashas' hotel, right in the middle of Manchester, was the Film Festival's venue between September 22nd and 24th. It was for me the most fantastic weekend and seemingly shortest (unfortunately!) of that year. In just under three days the attendees were presented with a celebration of one hundred years of fantastic cinema. A short overview, but nevertheless a representative one, as the organisers -- Harry Naddler, Tony Edwards and Gil Lane-Young -- took pains to compile. They enabled us to enjoy the classic films of the SF and horror genres, unless we preferred amiable socialising in the festival bar. To cite just a few of the most famous, films included: Metropolis, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, and Not of This Earth.

The Brits who revel in SF through films are different from those who attend the more usual UK SF conventions. The Fantastic Film buff's taste is shaped by the classical horror and fantastic categories; for them, a film like World Without End is a visual delight and more appreciated than others such as Delicatessen -- which is considered by many as representative of cinematic SF in the last decades of our century. On the other hand, British mainstream fans prefer their SF sanitised, liking Star Trek: The Next Generation, of which the episode All Good Things was awarded a Hugo for 'Best Dramatic Presentation' at the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon. The old fashioned horror of Godzillas and monsters enjoyed by Fantastic Film buffs replaces the admiration - or is it contempt - for the Borg, the Klingons, the Ferengi. Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) has the same prestige at mainstream SF conventions as the directors Roger Corman and Norman J Warren, and actresses such as Ann Robinson (the woman who met the Martians in War of the Worlds) and Barbara Shelley who were Guests of Honour at the Manchester Festival.

However the cultural exchange was not all one way. As the 1995 Festival's Fan Guests, Cristian Lazarescu and I had the opportunity to summarise to a small number of interested fans the recent history of Romanian SF and fandom before and after the December 1989 revolution; we also gave a similar report a few days earlier to the Phoenicians SF group. We supplemented both our talks with copies of Solid Arguments: Twelve - an SF anthology of twelve Romanian writers published in Timisoara in 1995, the Helion collection (Helion being the fanzine of the Romanian SF Association), also published in Timisoara. Prior to the festival, right at the beginning of the exchange, Cristian and I presented the 1994 and 1995 bilingual anthologies of SF, published in Bucharest by Nemira, to Bexley Borough's Central Library: a gift personally accepted on behalf of the Borough by its Deputy Mayor (these anthologies are now available anywhere in the UK on inter-library loan).

As I have already mentioned at the beginning, our presence in Manchester was due to the Anglo-Romanian Science Fact and Fiction Cultural Exchange, an initiative that, according to Jonathan Cowie, should not stop here; others in the UK and in Romania should get together. I am on his side and I look forward in the future to comparing my experiences with other Romanian SF fans who, in making their own contacts with those in the West, and with western fan support, take part in future European, or indeed, World SF events. Why not?

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