Unseen Mainland European SF Classics
Very few mainland European science fiction novels get translated into English
yet the mainland European SF market combined is
bigger than that of the British Isles and N. America!
So what are we missing….
This article was written as a
precursor to the Euroconference Odyssey 2010 in London
and a panel on this topic.
[Quick links to sections below: France | Germany | Hungary | Portugal | Russia | Spain]
If you happen to frequent many of the various major international SF gatherings, be they in France, Russia, or wherever, the chances are that a good proportion of SF books in the dealers hall will be by British and North American authors. Indeed if you go to that very Anglophone of conventions, the SF Worldcon, then virtually 99% of the books on sale in the dealers hall will be in English by English-speaking writers even if their nationality is Scottish, Canadian or Australian, let alone English. What you do not see in British and N. American bookshops (outside of French-speaking Canada) that often are foreign SF/F books translated from another language. Yet all mainland European countries, and nations further afield, have a substantial history of SF publishing and many have had SF and fantasy classics that have sold well over the years.
Now, of course there are many reasons why few foreign (non-Anglophone) SF books get an English edition including the cost of translation let alone the difficulty of identify books in another language worthy of translation. Yet arguably neither of these reasons fully explains why Anglophone SF dominates European bookshelves without there being a reciprocal relationship. True, the Anglophone nation market (principally Australasia, British Isles, and N. America) is well over 500 million, a commercial size, but then this is also broadly comparable to the Russian sphere of countries. Here one difference is that Russian nation and Central and Eastern European nations had up to 1990 (and the fall of the Iron Curtain) book industries that were firmly censored. By contrast, the Anglophone market throughout the 20th century had writers (only) 'censored' by the crucible of the free market. Of course not everything that is commercial is of high quality, but broadly speaking there is more than a loose correlation; after all a poorly written book is unlikely to do well in a free market.
Having said this, there was room for good Russian writers (not just government stooges) to do well under Communism. After all, it takes a writer of some skill to evade censorship with work that still has aficionado appeal. Furthermore, SF as a genre, which is frequently dismissed by mainstream arts critics, often produced works that slipped under Eastern European state's political censors' radar. Indeed British writer Arthur C. Clarke's books used to sell well in Russia for many years until someone in political office noticed that he had the habit of naming Russian spaceships after political dissenters, and Romania's Timisoara (where the revolution started) SF society was named after the British (capitalist nation) writer H. G. Wells only because he was a socialist… but that is another story. Of course Eastern European and Russian writing that subtly tweaked the communist authorities' nose might not sell in the West because its readers did not need to be told of authority teasing, and even that is assuming that they could readily discern the subtext originally written in another language for another culture.
Furthermore, outside of the Russian-speaking nations, there are still substantial European countries with a literature base and heritage.
So surely it must be blatant that mainland European nations must have produced some science fiction works over the years that have sold reasonably well and have been of some quality? The excuse to find out came in 2008 when the UK national convention Odyssey2010 decided to seek approval from the European SF Society (ESFS) to be designated an ESFS Euroconference in 2010. With a panel at that event on this very topic, it was more than enough justification to ask of some mainland European SF personalities what titles from their nations we might be missing in the English-speaking market? To this end time to engage some of Concatenation's network of information providers.
We asked over a dozen fans active at the European level and from several countries what SF classics they had that we might not have heard of in Britain, as they had not (yet) been translated into English. We defined a classic, for purpose of this exercise, as an acclaimed SF work that had been continually in print for a number of years and which had sold well. It has to be said that some of Concatenation's contacts from some countries said that their nation had no established SF tradition that threw up works meeting our criteria, and a couple of countries reported that views of genre experts in their nation were likely to be so partisan with personal bias that any selection would be deemed controversial. However several did manage to provide us with titles and here in a number of cases we managed to get a separate, corroborating nominations from another genre aficionado in that said country: it provided the exercise with some quality control. Even so, it is important not to take the list of works so secured as being either complete or ones that would sell well if they ever did make it to the Anglophone markets of Australasia, Britain, Canada and the US or the second language English market of countries such as India. As far as we know none of these are currently in print in English (of course not all small presses report their releases to us) but even if one or two titles have been translated and are in print, they arguably deserve a bit of a profile. In short, this was an exercise we felt well worth doing.
So what are these works? Here they are…
Though France has had a long tradition of SF (cf. Jules Verne) its modern incarnation arguably only came about in the 1950s and '60s through translations from English of writers such as Van Vogt, Asimov, Clarke and so forth. A number of modern SF classics were subsequently written by French authors. One of these writers is known under the pen-name of Stefan Wul. He wrote 11 novels, mostly between 1955 and 1960. Some of these have been re-published several times, the best known being Niourk (1957 (last re-published in France as recently as 2008)). It is the story in a far future of a young man who discovers the ruins of New York. Alas Wul died in 2003 but his stories are still relevant to present day SF readers.
Another French author is Francis Carsac (François Bordes 1919 - 1977) who has had six or seven novels published between 1955-1960, plus a final one after 1968 . Most of his novels, if not all, have been republished several times during the last 50 years. Some of his principal ones include: Ceux De Nulle Part (1954) , Les Robinsons Du Cosmos [Space Family Robinson] (1955), Terre En Fuite [World to Escape] (1960), Ce Monde Est Notre [This World is Ours] (1962), Pour Patrie L’Espace [Space for the Fatherland] (1962) and La Vermine Du Lion [The Lion's Vermin] (1967). Most of them have been republished at least three or four times, either individually or in an omnibus. His stories' plots often place contemporary humans against other more exotic cultures/planets (such as in Ce Monde Est Notre) or to very future civilisations (such as in Pour Patrie L’Espace) where the hero meets some sort of space gypsies who travel eternally between planets aboard ships that are in effect nations/cities.
André Ruellan (born 1922) who, began writing over 22 novels under the pen-name of Kurt Steiner (and other less known pennames), mostly at the end of the fifties and in the sixties. Some of them have been republished several times. Among the best known are Under Ortog's Arms [Aux Armes d’Ortog] (1960) and The Scratched Record [Le Disque Rayé] (1970) Under Ortog's Arms is set in a post-cataclysmic Earth where a new feudalism has been created. It is SF, but uses many trappings of fantasy such as swords fights. There is a second book written somewhat later set in the same world, Ortog et Les Ténčbres. His other pen-names include Kurt Wargar and André Louvigny. All told under various pen-names Ruellan wrote over 40 books the most recent of which is They Shot the Coffin [On a Tiré sur le Cercueil] (1997).
It is impossible not to mention Gérard Klein, who exploded onto France's aged 20 with The Stellar Gambit [ Le Gambit des Etoiles] (1958) This novel has somewhat a flavour of a space opera of the 1950s, yet as it is not really technological it has not dated as it otherwise might. The protagonist is a flawed character who discovers the special effects of a drug/drink named zotl that facilitates (with a device) teleportation. The The Stellar Gambit was followed by a group of stories that were not a series as such but known afterwards as the 'Argyre Saga' (or 'Argyre trilogy' would be a better English translation) that consists of Planet Surgeons [Chirurgiens d’une Plančte] (1960) (Reprinted and revised 1987 as The Dream of Forests [Le Ręve des Foręts]), The Solar Sailers [Les Voiliers du Soleil] (1961), The Long Voyage [Le Long Voyage] (1964). The first story concerns the terraforming of Mars and the political machinations that result. The second concerns travelling to another star system. The final book sees the terraforming of a world in this new system. All three books cover events over much time. Continuity is maintained through a protagonist who starts off as human and then becomes a cyborg and finally an artificial electronic intelligence. The books were signed Gilles d’Argyre, sometimes dubbed Viscount of Argyre, and published in the beginning of the sixties, then republished several times. They were short novels as was common in that era, and today could be produced as a single volume. Then, Gérard decided that having proved that it was possible to write N. American level SF in France and so done that, he decided that he was not interested to continue with more of the same. He continued to write SF and involved professional with the genre but differently. Ultimately he became the editorial director of Ailleurs & Demain, the most prestigious SF imprint of the publisher Robert Laffont. Some of his novels have been published in the US by DAW but as far as we know these are now out of print.
Germany has a thriving SF community, its own band of authors, and even its own SF television series. Having said that, little German SF is translated into English though many speaking English-speaking SF book aficionados will have heard of long-running Perry Rohdan series. (See also this news item on the 2,500th Perry Rhodan book). Then there is Kurd Laßwitz (Kurd Lasswitz) of whom there is a prestigious German SF award named. He is known for his hard SF and technical vision, including: spinning wheeled space stations, solar cells, and a range of synthetic materials. Not bad for someone who died in 1913! A couple of his novels have been translated into English such as his masterpiece Auf Zwei Planeten (1897) which appeared heavily edited (reduced) in the US in 1971 translated as Two Planets. A new, unabridged, translation is desperately needed.
Meanwhile, here are some titles of which few of us outside Germany are aware…
Mountains, Seas and Giants [Berge, Meere und Giganten] by Alfred Döblin (1924). Döblin is a classic Jewish-German novelist who is best known for the mainstream novel Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929). Spanning millennia, the book depicts the development of mankind in a similar way Olaf Stapledon did. The development of technology furthers its misuse, e.g. by influencing energy currents, which are provided for the cities. Better technology leads to a poorer situation in sociological terms. Eastern philosophy tries to counter this. There is a war between West and East involving energy beams (shades of what we would come to know as 'Star Wars' technology). Afterwards Chinese and Mongolians come to settle within the remnants of Europe. New generations achieve great improvements by geo-engineering. However dinosaurs and old kinds of plants reappear, these attack cities and the last humans have to seek refuge underground.
A more recent (1998) German classic is Andreas Eschbach's The Jesus Video [Das Jesus-Video]. It concerns a young archaeologist who finds a video camcorder that seems to be 2000 years old. It turns out that an unknown time traveller might have filmed on video the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection. The book was very successful because by choice of topic, style of writing and marketing, the writer and publisher have found a way to sell SF to mainstream readers. This novel was made into a TV film by a private-commercial channel in Germany, though this did not do justice to the book.
The above two books are very worthy. However of historical note there is one German SF writer for whose works did sell millions of copies, but who would probably be better served if translated today by an English language small press, also they are not particularly well written even if they are a genre landmark. He is Hans Dominik (1872-1945) whose 20 novels came out between the two World Wars. His novels have a nationalistic theme. His first novel, The Power of Three [Macht der Drei] published in 1922, sold several million. His books mainly show how the ingenious German inventor and technician would demonstrate the country's supremacy to evil foreigners. This happens, for instance, in the midst of an air race in his 1933 novel The Air Race of the Nations [Der Wettflug der Nationen]. N. American genre history aficionados might perhaps consider these analogous to 'Edisonades' stories.
In his novel Atlantis (1925) a German and an American capitalist compete against each other in the attempt to change the face of the Earth. The American aggressor tries to steer the Gulf Stream into the Pacific Ocean. The German defends Europe against the cold by finding some mysterious technician/magician who counters matter and, coincidentally, lets Atlantis reappear. This enables the white race to have additional land in which to settle… As said, it would take a brave publisher to bring Dominik's work out today. Better to stick with the other suggestions above.
Before the Darkness [A Sötétség El?tt] a 2004 novel by Anthony Sheenard (real name Sándor Szélesi). This novel is set in ruins of Paris in the year 2366 some time following a thermonuclear war. Nathan Gillian is a mutant who seems to be capable of manifesting Christian-like miracles and on the basis of this ability starts a sect. However the powers that be seek to capture this new Messiah including powers yet to be in the form of chrononauts from the future. The novel scores not just because of its hard SF but in the depiction of the characters and the writing style. It is part of the acclaimed 'Mysterious Universe' sequence. Before the Darkness won the Péter Zsoldos Award in 2005 and also Hungary's Nova Prize.
Nagate is a 2004 novel by Zoltán László was written early in this writer's career that shows that the author has much promise. Indeed he was given a Eurocon Encouragement Award at the 2005 Glasgow (Scotland) Eurocon-Worldcon. The novel is a science fantasy: that is to say it first appears as a fantasy but then later a science rationale shines through. There are mythological creatures as well as those of folklore in this world that has elves and centaurs. However the world is the creation of hyper- and artificial intelligences using nano' and other technology.
Artificial intelligence is also the subject of The Great Intelligence Pot [Agydobá] by Lajos Lovas in 2005. Set in a future where Mongolia is the world's super-power, the book comprises documents that are the production of the first working artificial intelligence. The AI was created by Hungarians (of course) and every one is out to steal it. But with it Hungary could save the US and European Union. This book is very worthy but needs a talented translator with SFnal sense. The novel won the Hungarian SF Union's Zsoldos Péter Award in 2006.
An even darker novel came out the following year with Diagnoses [Diagnozis] by József Antal that also won the Zsoldos Péter Award in 2006. In a population exploded world everyone is forced to have intense medical appraisals. The lucky few go on to receive anti-ageing therapies and so become long-lived, essentially immortal. The books protagonist is one such immortal who realises that while a minority cheat death, the majority are used for organ replacement, hormone extraction and so forth. He sets out to change the rules.
Another 2006 offering came from the afore author of Before the Darkness with Árnyak Ébredése [Resuscitation of the Shade] by Sándor Szélesi and this novel, as part of his 'Mysterious Universe' sequence, won him a Eurocon Award in 2007 'Best Author' category. The novel concerns a young astronaut (Gin Bowman) and begins with him embarking on a short holiday on Earth. However he soon realises that he is being hunted. He needs to find out why people want to kill him and so checks his records only to find that they have been wiped. Then in Paris he discovers that he has a connection to the sect of Nathan Gillian…
At this point it is perhaps worth mentioning that the 'Mysterious Universe' sequence now (2010) consists of some 17 novels and three collections of short stories. Many of the series' novels are co-authored with Tibor Fonyódi. Sándor Szélesi has also worked as the editor of the SF magazine Átjáró.
Zoltán László had a second acclaimed novel in 2007, that also won Hungary's Zsoldos Péter Award in 2008, with Rotation [A Keringés] though Circulation might be a better translation. The Earth is dying, its ecosystems' functions are being undermined and it is heading for an environmental cataclysm. Mass space travel to another world is the stuff of science fiction, so what to do? The answer is to time travel the population to the far future, but which one? The novel concerns the fates of three common men, a woman palaeontologist, a journalist and one vocalist, that become interwoven in the world of circulated spanning ages, where it new social experiments clash with those having the financial power, and how we pay his price after a millions of years sometimes for what we have done to our planet.
István Nemere is a well-known, prolific, Hungarian author of juvenile SF and fantasy for youngsters. He won (or rather shared with Christopher Priest) a 1983 Eurocon Award for 'Best Author', and was slated to be one of the Guests of Honour at the 2003 2nd International Week of SF but could not attend due to ill health. His 2008 novel Elveszettek [Lost] is considered one of his best for a number of years. (It has to be said that most of his works, though they sell, are not considered to be particularly noteworthy.) Lost concerns those lost to a Pacific tidal wave (tsunami). It transpires that they are not really lost but the tidal waves are a manifestation of a rift in the space-time continuum to a parallel world. Some of the 'Lost' find themselves on a mysterious island and discover people transported from other timelines. This title is arguably included in this article more to be representative of best-selling Hungarian SF rather than critical acclaim. Whether or not it would be commercial if translated into English remains to be seen but might be worth a punt. Having said that Christopher Priest, who co-won the 1983 Eurocon Award with Nemere but who has far more critical acclaim than Nemere, might arguably be envious of Nemere's proportional penetration into his home nation's book market.
In 2008 Botond Markovics, writing as Brandon Hackett, produced The Machines of God [Isten Gépei] that won the Zsoldos Péter Award for 2008 with a novel that coincidentally has elements reminiscent of a mix between Reynolds' Century Rain and Stross' Accelerando. The Machines of God sees in 2027 the Sun disappear to be replaced by a red dwarf star shed its reddish, and faint light into a tidally locked bright side of the Earth, while above the dead, and frozen dark side unknown new constellations and stars shimmers. The reason of the event, called 'the Jump', is unexplained, the human civilization is in huge shock: the bright side countries have to receive hundreds of millions of refugees, the World economy collapses and mankind struggles for survival developing technology that in the end heads for a singularity event… By the end of the novel it transpires that post-human evolution has seen the creation of a technosphere that has Omega artificial intelligence and the direct manipulation of matter. But there is more. There are also the manipulators who can transform whole star systems. For the people of Earth it comes as a bit of a shock to discover that they live in a copy and that the manipulators use different copies of the Earth to study human evolution…
Finally, there is Kálmán Dörnyei's 2009 humoristic novel The 26th Clone of Nordy Fox [A 26-szor Klónozott Nordy Fox]. Nordy Fox is a bit alarmed to discover he is a clone, the 26th clone. It transpires that he has a task but dies before it can be completed and so is cloned. To break the cycle he goes into deep space to discover that the fate of the Universe is effectively in his hands.
SF in Portugal is very much largely in the form of short stories. Also there is very little genre fiction that has ended up with large sales. Having said that, there are two Portuguese SF novels of some note.
The Real Martian Invasion [A Verdadeira Invasăo dos Marcianos] by Joăo Barreiros (2004). This is a dark comedy and the story of a punitive human expedition to Mars, led by Wells and Verne, and also several other characters from literature around that time. There they find the actual truth behind the War of the Worlds. The Real Martian Invasion [A Verdadeira Invasăo dos Marcianos] was actually the title of the second (1992) of a trilogy of novellas each published a few years apart that made up this book. The trilogy has also been published in Spain as The True War of the Worlds [La Verdadera Guerra de los Mundos]. Joăo Barreiros work has been featured in international anthologies and he has been a guest of France's SF Utopiales.
Lisbon Triumphant [Lisboa Triunfante] by David Soares (2008) This novel is basically a secret history/historical tale with a metaphysical SFnal twist at the end, but which is essential to make sense of the historical episodes that take place.
Other than the British Isles (chiefly Great Britain and Ireland), which shares a language with English-speaking Commonwealth countries Australia, Canada and New Zealand among others as well as the USA, the biggest language market in Europe is Russian. Not only is Russia itself large, many of nations that were at the heart of the former Soviet Union have a population that speaks Russian as a second language. Since 1990, the fall of the formal communist regime and the growth of the free market, science fiction and fantasy in Russia has grown markedly with leading authors seeing their novels' print runs rival those of their counterparts in the west. Modern Russian science fiction and fantasy may be young but it simply cannot, and should not, be ignored.
However, here do note the term 'science fiction and fantasy' as Russian's do not tend to distinguish between the two: they have no commonly used equivalent of the term 'science fiction', instead they use the equivalent of 'speculative fiction' – 'fantastika' – which covers both SF and fantasy. Nonetheless there are Russian SF works and also Russian fantasy: Russian speculative fiction is not all (or even largely) science fantasy.
Sergei Lukyanenko is Russia's science fiction and fantasy mega-star who is arguably most famous (albeit far less to than in Russian speaking nations) for his modern fantasy sequence of the cold war (and not so cold war) between good and evil in his 'Watch' series that begins with The Night Watch (1998). Leading works of SF (as opposed to fantasy) include Sergei Lukyanenko's Stars are Chilly Toys [Zwyezdy – Holodnye Igrushki] (1996). In it contact with outer space civilizations has turned out to be bad news: humanity was late! The Galaxy already teems with life and is already divided between 'Strong 'races and the weaker ones. Still there is still work for junior races such as human beings. Many had to accept the role of being the space-carrier that keep the Galactic economy running. But here humans have a distinct advantage because only they can easily survive the stressful moment of hyperspace 'jump'. The question is whether Mankind will be content with a menial role or to use their abilities as leverage to enhance their status on the Galactic scene?
The above book had a sequel in Star Shadow [Zwyezdnaya Ten’] (1998). It transpires that every civilization in Galaxy has its own pre-destination: every one is unique and inimitable. But what is uniqueness in destiny worth if there is no freedom?... Peter Khrumov has come to understand that the stars are only toys in somebody else hands. He has to go through many trials to return to the eternally fundamental principles of life in order to save himself and… the Earth.
A Lord from Earth [Lord s Planety Zemlya] (1994) by Sergei Lukyanenko is in three parts. It begins with a young rogue, Sergei, protecting a girl from a fight in a park. However it transpires that she is a Princess from another world... The second and third parts concern Sergei's adventures in space and time. In the second, he tries to find Earth again before religious fanatics destroy it. In the third, he visits a future utopian Earth. Yet in this brave new world there is something amiss.
Other Russian SF novels of note include:-
All Who Bear Arms [Vse Sposobnye Derzhat' Oruzhie] by Andrey Lazarchuk (1997). In this alternate future, Hitler had a strange death and the course of history changed with Germany winning the World War II. Years later, after the WWII, the Great Powers – the Reich, Great Japan and the USA – prepare for a high-level summit to decide the future of the world. In this future where Germany won WWII, Russia was split up but now (years later in the 1990s) the glory days of the Reich seem to be coming to an end. Yet there are forces who do not want any changes (such as the re-uniting of Siberia and the Russian Protectorate, or the further weakening of the Reich...) However Siberia sends a top secret team to Moscow, all dressed to kill, in order to have a hand in the goings behind the scenes. Yet it transpires that there are stranger forces at work...
SMERSH-2 by Vasiliy Golovachev (1994). Gang rule has swept the country. Matew Sobolev – gunfighter, professional counter-intelligence agent, hand-to-hand fighting expert – is called to take on the gangs. He has to clash not only with criminals of all kinds as well as corrupted bureaucracy, policemen and secret service officers, but also with the Monarch of the Dark himself: a non-human from another reality.
Technicist from Big Kiev [Tekhnik Bolshogo Kieva] by Vladimir Vasiliev (1998). This technofantasy takes place in an odd world of both technology and magic. There is much to marvel at including huge megapolises. Here devices have their own lives and do not even need human interaction. Yet this world is standing on the edge of an apocalypse and our protagonist may have to destroy it in order to save it.
Death or Glory [Smert' ili Slava] by Vladimir Vasiliev (1998) In this space-opera it is humanity's future role to be hopeless galactic provincials, doomed to misery. But an ancient weapon found at one of mankind's colony worlds has radically changed the alignment of galactic politics. Aliens send select troops to the humans’ planet (Volga) in the hope of securing the weapon for themselves. Yet here it turns out that the humans are by no means weaklings, in spite of their supposed backwardness...
Dovecote in the Yellow Glade [Golubyatnya na Zheltoy Polyane] by Vladislav Krapivin (1985) In this rites-of-passage story, an astronaut witnesses a young boy go through a space-time portal and so follows him. In another magical world the two must protect a civilization from a domineering race of 'clay people'.
Door From The Other Side [Dver' s Toy Storony] by Vladimir Mikhailov (1974) is a hard SF space opera with strong new-wave elements. Interstellar travel has its problems which the crew of the spaceship 'Whale' find out when coming out of a hyperspace jump they find that all the atoms of their craft and themselves have become antimatter. So changed, they cannot return to Earth and so set out to find an anti-matter star system. This then is the set=up, but the story is equally one of the socio-psychology of small, isolated communities.
My Brother's Keeper [Storozh Bratu Moemu] by Vladimir Mikhailov (1976) This is the first novel in a series featuring Captain Uldemir.
The star Dal is suspected to go supernova and this huge explosion could easily threaten the Solar System and planet Earth. However it turns out that the star has an orbiting planet that is populated with the descendants of one of the first interstellar expeditions. To save the Earth it is necessary to blow out the Dal star, but the population of the planet must be evacuated first. Can Captain Uldemir’s save the day?
Gravi-flyer Cesarevitch [Gravilet 'Tsesarevich'] by Vyacheslav Rybakov (1993) In an alternative future version of the Russian Empire the Bolshevik Revolution never happened and the monarchy still rules. Yet, in this seemingly utopian world, crimes start to flourish. An investigation points to someone infinitely powerful watching the country from beyond the sky. Could this somehow be related to a previous Russian-American Mars programme?
Though some Spanish SF books have been translated into English, such as The Cold Skin [La Piel Fría] by Albert Sánchez Pińol (2002), many have not. Maybe this is because that in spite of being very popular by science fiction aficionados, the size of Spain's SF market is quite small. But all novels cited below have had many editions over the years by different publishers and consequently quite good cumulative sales, so that they have almost certainly proven their commercial viability.
One of the earliest of the 20th century Spanish SF classics is The Spaceship [La Nave] by Tomás Salvador (1958). It is the story of a generation ship on a stellar voyage and so is somewhat reminiscent of Non-Stop, also coincidentally 1958, by Brian Aldiss.
Typescript about the Second Origin [Mecanoscrito del Segundo Origen] by Manuel de Pedrolo (1973). The aliens came long ago in the dim and distant past, and nearly wiped out humanity. Two children, Dawn and Dídac, have to survive among the ruins to become a new Adam and Eve. Then in the far future two human factions debate as to this myth's veracity… Now, while it may be that this book has yet to be translated, there is currently being a Spanish film made of this novel.
Master of the Wheel [El Seńor de la Rueda] by Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo (1978). This is a very original science fantasy. On a planet far, far away, King Arthur's laws rule and knights with odd vehicles fight by honour and the code of chivalry. It is a land where the nobles are served by mechanical slaves. But for Sir Pertinax le Percutens life seems a little perplexing: what is it all about? Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo's Voyage to a Wu-Wei Planet [Viaje a un Planeta Wu-Wei] is also of particular note.
Tears of Light [Lágrimas de Luz] by Rafa Marín (1984), is one of the truly landmark works of Spanish SF in that not only did it receive acclaim from SF fans but 'literary' critics too. The novel has a feel reminiscent of the epic poems of the Middle Ages. Its plot's protagonist is Hamlet Evans who is a troubadour, a man who sings about epic battles in the stars. Hamlet joined the army very young when he was only interested in glory. But the war against the aliens was cruel and bloody, and many soldiers died far from home. Because the only objective of this war is conquest for new territory that the Human Corporation can use, and in the pursuit of which the killing any kind of life that gets in the way, Hamlet realises that he has been used as a gun and decides to escape. But the Corporation never forgets and never forgives…
Worlds into Eternity [Mundos en la Eternidad by Javier Redal and Juan Miguel Aguilera (1988) is a complex and rich hard SF space opera whose plot is set in an Indian mythological based universe. In a far future, in a star cumulus called Akasa-Puspa where the close-set stars facilitate travel between worlds, a dying empire, a fanatic religious corporation and the barbarians fight for control. But they all have to forget their differences when a huge artefact is discovered. An expedition commanded by the scientist Jonás Chadragupta is sent to investigate and maybe find out about the human origins in that part of space.
Other major works of Spanish SF include: Crepuscular Estate [Estado Crepuscular] (1993), Nox Perpetua (1996) and The Furies' Gaze [La Mirada de las Furias] (1997) by Javier Negrete; Cat's Sunrise [La Sonrisa del Gato] (1995) and No-Man's Land: Jormungand [Tierra de Nadie: Jormungand] (1996) by Rodolfo Martínez; God's Madness [La Locura de Dios] (1998) by Juan Miguel Aguilera, and The Cold Skin [La Piel Fría] (2002) by Albert Sánchez Pińol.
A highly recommended resource for bibliographic information on Spanish science fiction is the library of La Tercera Fundación.
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Acknowledgements: This project was co-ordinated by Jonathan Cowie. Though we have tried to eliminate mistakes, any errors are his. Notwithstanding this last, please take care with some of the dates as it is not clear whether some refer to first publication of a novel, or the first appearance of a novel serialised beforehand in a magazine. Also be careful with dates of some of the awards cited. The ESFS Eurocon awards (have been checked) refer to year of award presentation, but some of the others may refer to the year of the books being considered (which is often the year prior to presentation).
Co-ordinator aside, this article would have been impossible without the assistance of: Arno Behrend (who is a German SF fan and writer. He is chairman of Dortmund Science Fiction Convention (DORT.con) and has received a 'Best Short Story' German Science Fiction Award (DSFP) in 2002.) Alain le Bussy (who is the Belgian author of over 40 novels the Rosny Ainé Prize-winning Delta (1993) whose latest is La Marque (2010). He is also very active in French fandom and conrunning as well as a winner of a Eurocon (Best European SF Promoter) Award.); Boris Dolingo (is a Russian writer, of mainly SF, who has eight published novels and several short-stories. His short-story 'The Architect of the Apocalypse' was published in Oceans of the Mind magazine, issue XVIII Winter-2005. He is also Chair of the organizing committee behind Aelita, which is one of Russia's longest running series of conventions and which takes place each year in Yekaterinburg.); Angel Carralero (who is the editor of Hiperespacio magazine and an active member of AEFCFT (Spanish Association for Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror.); Mandics Gyorgy (a Hungarian mathematician turned journalist who had spent much of his life in Romania. He has also been active within both the Hungarian and the Romanian SF communities as well as being an SF author in his own right with the novels such as the dark, dystopic hard SF Cocoon-Dwellers [ Gubó-lakók] (1989) and Hungary's Golden meteor Award-winning Iron Worlds [ Vasvilágok] (1986).); Rogério Ribeiro (who is a scientist and writer, editor of the fanzine Dragăo Quântico and the magazine Bang!. He is also a co-organiser of the Fórum Fantástico [Fantastic Forum] convention (2004-2010), as well as the Conversas Imaginárias [Imaginary Conversations] debates, and is currently the President of Épica – the Portuguese Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.); and Mariano Villarreal (a computer engineer and webmaster of the three-times Spanish Ignotus Award nominated Literatura Fantástica an Spanish site about criticism and new books in fantastic literature and science fiction, three-times nominee in the Ignotus Award. He has also been a jury member of some literary awards, such as the Xatafi-Cyberdark. Some of his works and reviews have been published in small press magazines and sites (such as BEM, Solaris and Hélice). There were others involved in this project in a less substantial way (providing brief comment, contacts, and some corroboration). Their help is also appreciated.
The 'Best Unread (in English) European SF Books' panel on this topic at the Odyssey2010 Euroconference (London) consisted of: Ian Watson (who ably moderated the panel and who recommendations included The Real Martian Invasion [A Verdadeira Invasăo dos Marcianos] by Joăo Barreiros (2004) cited in the main article); Jo Fletcher (of Gollancz gave the commissioning editor's perspective, that on one hand translation is expensive and on the other they have fairly full lists, however they do occasionally publish foreign SF, current (2010) examples being The Stranger and Metro 2033); Hannu Rajaniemi (whose recommendations included the Finnish novel Suit [Garsta] by J. Pekka Mäkelä that concerns the aftermath of an intergalactic war in which a clean-up team of (the losing) humans sees what they can find but the (winning) aliens naturally do not want them to pick up discarded advanced weapons); Kyrill Pleshkov (who recommendations included among others the Russian novel My Brother's Keeper [Storozh Bratu Moemu] by Vladimir Mikhailov (1976) mentioned in the main article); Christian Sauve (provided a French Canadian perspective); and Jonathan Cowie (who suggested this panel to Odyssey2010).
Points raised by the panel's audience included that the Dutch (who are invariably bilingual with their proximity to Britain) tend to read both the Dutch translation and the English originals of Terry Pratchett's novels as the humour is significantly different (but good) in both. Also that The Lord of the Rings translates very well (if not better) into Finnish (especially the hobbit names) and indeed J. R. R. Tolkien was influenced by Finnish folklore. And there was also a plug for the new SF translators' award.
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