Bulgaria is a small country but has traditions in science fiction. During the years right after the fall of the Berlin Wall not only the science fiction but the literature in general suffered a severe crisis. Only in recent years can any revival be noticed.
During the last two years (since 2005) there is a stable trend towards a stabilization of SF and fantasy literature/arts and the fandom life. There is also a tendency towards new forms of activities such as a translation team, amateur films, and an online Tolkien university.
2005 and 2006 were quite fruitful years for Bulgarian SF&F writers. During that time more than 30 new novels and stories collections were published. Furthermore many short stories from Bulgarian authors were published in Russia, Hungary, Spain, England, USA, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, etc., and about 8 novels from Bulgarian SF&F writers were published in Russia, Germany and Spain. Among these are the works of Hristo Poshtakov, Nina Nenova, Natalia Andreeva, and Zdravka Evtimova.
In 2005 a translation team was formed by Kalin Nenov. His idea was to gather a group of people with good language knowledge who would like to improve their skills in translating Bulgarian fiction into a foreign language through a joint work on selected short stories. The team also gathers quality stories from Bulgarian writers (mainly SF&F as for now) and looks for good opportunities to present and arrange publications for translated stories in foreign magazines and publishing houses. By the end of 2005 some 11 short SF&F stories had been translatred and 12 more translations had been edited by the team. The 23 stories were then sent to the US on-line magazine Oceans of the Mind. It published 4 of these stories in its December 2005 edition dedicated to the East-European science fiction. It featured 7 East-European short stories - 4 of them were written by Bulgarian writers: Angelina Ilieva, Ivailo Ivanov, Velko Miloev and Hristo Poshtakov. Two more short stories, by Atanas Slavov and Alexander Karapanchev, were translated by the team and then published in the former Danish on-line magazine Phantazm.
The first Bulgarian SF&F e-book, Legends of the Three Gates Guardians was presented in August 2005 during Aqualonia festival in Varna It consisted of 10 short stories and novelettes. The author of these wonderful tales is Angelina Ilieva - one of the most promising young Bulgarian SF&F writers who publishes under her own name and the alias Johan Vladimir. In her stories she blends the fiction with the medieval history, mythology and humanitarian ideas; she studies the problems of duty and human choice and brings to life ancient characters and concepts. Angelina has a special interest in Bulgarian mythology and folklore on which a large part of her works are based. Most of the 10 stories and novelettes presented in the Legends of the Three Gates Guardians are winners of awards in different Bulgarian stories competitions. The e-book is free access and can be found at www.johanvladimir.com. The e-book will soon have a Russian and English version. The "Legends" are richly illustrated by two young and talented Bulgarian artists - Kalina Atanasova and Ertan Musov.
In 2006 Bulgaria lost one of the doyens of Bulgarian science fiction - Agop Melkonyan. He passed away on the 21st of July. Melkonyan was a recognized writer, translator, screenwriter and stories collections compiler. He has written the SF short stories and novelettes collections [Memory of the World], [Sinfully and Sacredly], [Via Dolorosa], [Shadows of Flesh], the novel [Death in a Shell] and several other short stories and novelettes. The works of Agop Melkonyan have been translated in 9 languages. He was the first winner of the Graviton award for Good imagination and Goodness of imagination established by another doyen of the Bulgarian science fiction Lyuben Dilov and which reflects his personal choice. Melkonyan was also a tireless promoter of the Bulgarian science fiction. He organized short stories competitions and was the editor of the SF&F magazines Zone F and Varkolak [Werewolf].
In the last few years Bulgaria has seen numerous SF&F short story and novel competitions. The principal ones are:
- "Argus" publishing house's competitions for SF&F short stories and novels
- - SF society "Uibrobia" competition for SF&F short stories based on Bulgarian mythology and folklore
- - the joint short stories competition of "Bukvite" Foundation and the Translation Team
- - "Terra Fantastica" fanzine's competition
- - Vselena, Nauka i Tehnika [Universe, science and technology] magazine competition.
Selected stories/novels from the first 3 competitions were published as hardcopies. The awarded stories from the last 2 competitions are published in the respective magazine.
The beginning of 2005 saw the creation of the Tolkien On-line University Armenelos by a group of enthusiastic fans and cognoscenti of Tolkien's life and works. This is a joint project of the Bulgarian Tolkien society. The purpose of Armenelos is to help the interested people appreciate and understand Tolkien's works through mutual discussions. It also encourages the on-line students to develop their writing and drawing skills and present their works on the website. Armenelos works like a regular (yet informal) university with semesters, credits system and graduation. It has several departments - Tolkien studies, Linguistics, History Philosophy, Culturology and Arts. The Workshop to the Online University includes the 'Translators desk' (where people translate interesting texts about Tolkien and his works) and the 'Crypt' (dedicated to any ideas, elaborations and experiments outside the 'official version' with special attention to the Dark side of Tolkien's world).
Summers are usually busy periods for Bulgarian fans. In may 2006 the SF&F society A. & B. Strugatski in Pazardjik organized a SF Days festival, which lasted 5 days and presented to the general public 5 SF movies, discussions and lectures on different topics.
For 2 consecutive years the Armenelos team organizes the national Tolkien Festival (2005 and 2006). The organizers present different lectures, exhibitions and contests. The lectures present interesting aspects of Tolkien's life and works, his philosophy and his influence on fantasy in all forms. Live Action Role Playing sessions based on preliminary written scenarios are carried out for those interested in being in the centre of a fantasy quest. One of the most interesting events during this year's edition of the Tolkien Fest carried out in the first half of June 2006 was the presentation of amateur theatrical play. It represented an alternative story based on "Lord of the Rings" scrutinizing the question of the right of choice and the predestination of one's actions. A comic element was introduced to the festival by a Top Ten chart of amateur video clips mixing scenes of The Lord of the Rings film with musical records of different genres.
Every year since 2001, around Midsummer Day, the SF&F society "Uibrobia" in Stara Zagora organizes and the hosts of the annual festival "Talasamia" which is dedicated to the Bulgarian mythology and folklore. It attracts fans from all SF&F societies in Bulgaria. Uibrobia is the only SF society in Bulgaria which handles an annual competition for SF&F short stories based on the Bulgarian folklore and published collections of the best stories. The 4th collection was presented at the 2006 Talasamia in the end of June and the results of the 5th annual competition were announced. It is a tradition to present lectures about mythology, ancient Bulgarian history, ancient Thracians, interesting archaeological findings, etc. Every year an improvised crafts workshop is organized for those interested in ancient Bulgarian and Thracian arts, customs and traditions.
In the middle of August 2006 the 4th edition of the annual SF&F Festival Aqualonia took place in Bulgaria's seaside capital Varna. This festival is organized and hosted by the SF&F society Zemlemoria (named after Le Guin's Earthsea). This festival is intended not only to people known to be active in Bulgarian fandom but also to the general public. In 2006 edition of the festival Zemlemoria presented a rich and varied programme. There were 6 lectures on SF&F, Bulgarian mythology, ecology, Celtic music, Medieval weapons and historical/legendary characters. A LARP (Live Action Role-Playing game) session was organized on a site near Varna for all adventurers. The traditional astronomy theme was presented through a popular science film about Steven Hawking's universe. In the second half of September 2006 the annual Bulgarian National SF convention "Bulgacon" took place in Sandanski town in South-West Bulgaria. It gathered fans from all SF&F societies in Bulgaria and was organized by a couple of people from the SF&F societies Ivan Efremov - Sofia and A. & B. Strugatski - Pazardjik. The convention included: lectures, discussions and presentation of Bulgarian books. In remembrance of the writer Agop Melkonian his last TV interview was screened. There was also a very interesting lecture on the latest discoveries in the astronomy by the Bulgarian astronomer Valentin Ivanov. He works in Chile and in August 2006, together with a colleague of his from, Toronto discovered a double system brown dwarfs (or planemos as sometimes they are informally nick-named).
In the beginning of December 2006 the National Fantasy and Horror Club "Connan" held its annual meeting Connaniada in the surroundings of Sofia. Apart from the friendly discussions on the fantasy literature and movies, the attendees voted for the club awards in several categories - fantasy book of the year, international hit of the year, young Bulgarian fantasy writer, best fantasy website, etc. In a separate and more official ceremony the Connan club also gives its annual fantasy awards for best Bulgarian publisher, writer, book, fan, etc.
In the beginning of March 2006 the Bulgarian SF fans were happy to welcome the newest SF society based in Plovdiv. Solaris society was established by several young and enthusiastic SF fans. They gave a fresh start to the fandom life in Plovdiv but they also try to keep in contact with some of the old members of the previous SF society in Plovdiv - "21st Century". "Solaris" society handles weekly meetings and administers its own http://clubsolaris.org website. Their latest idea is the so-called Solaris TV. This is a concept for a Bulgarian TV show dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. The idea is still at its early stage of development, but the creators see great potential. The theme is unique as there is no other show dedicated to SF and fantasy in Bulgaria. The Solaris team has already prepared a 23-minute long demo show, with two more scripts awaiting production. Negotiations with a local TV stations are in process.
In July 2006 the first edition of a new SF&F webzine came out in Bulgaria - Starlighter [2015 update: www.starlighter.info website dark]. The webzine offers varied articles and is already a serious competition for the other Bulgarian webzines ( Shadowdance, Sivosten, Citadelata [The Citadel] (formerly at www.citadelata.com), etc. Starlighter has separate sections for science fiction, fantasy, movies, music and SF&F events. The webzine has the intention to give up to date information on monthly basis about the new books and movies on the Bulgarian market, national and world awards, events, etc. The 5th edition of the webzine is expected in the end of November.
In 2006 three amateur fantasy films were made by small teams of young people. Legenda za Sedemte Kralstva [A Legend of the Seven Kingdoms] was created by young people from Varna united under the name of the creative team Writen Words Entertainment. The film is a humorous fantasy story revealing the creators imagination and fresh sense of humour. The creative team leader Yana Alexandrova has prepared the script and the music to the film. She also played one of the roles and was an irreplaceable camera-girl. The first part of the film was presented at Aqualonia festival in August 2006 and by the end of October the second part was filmed and edited as well.
At "Aqualonia" 2006 festival the Tolkien society Valaroma from Burgas presented an astounding trailer to their amateur film LARP-The Movie. This film is also created by young people with their own means. The accent here is the drama and epics. The film is a kind of presentation of the LARP games, which are just starting to gain popularity among the Bulgarian fantasy fans. A larger part of LARP - The Movie was presented at the LARP Fest, which took place in Burgas in the first half of September. The complete film is currently in postproduction stage and will then be presented to a larger audience.
Another group of young enthusiasts is also working on a fantasy film, called Nositelyat na Svetlina [The Bearer of Light]. The creators wrote the script and the soundtrack to the film. They use a semi-professional camera and make the requisite and the costumes with own efforts. The postproduction of the film is expected to finish by the end of 2006.
Finally some information about just one rather special fantasy club in Kazanlak town, called Svetlini sred senkite [Lights among the shadows]. The club unites children from Kazanlak schools who write stories and novels jointly and illustrate them. In 2005 their first book was published - the children's story Vaje ot svetlina [Rope of Light] was written jointly by 10 children and illustrated by 8 other members of the club. Their second book Shahtata [The Shaft], published in the end of November 2006, is written by 16 children and illustrated by 12 children. This book can be described as a fantasy caricature of the contemporary youngsters' society. Each of the "co-writers" creates his/her own character and then they jointly develop the fantasy world. The co-writers jointly develop the chapters in which their characters participate and then the whole team participates in the editing process. Now the children are working on a fantasy series named Svetlini sred senkite [Lights Among the Shadows]. The first book of the series is now in the editing stage. The leader of this young writing team is Valentina Dimova, who has previously published 5 children and fantasy books.
The above is just a summary of the current SF and fantasy scene in Bulgaria. As I mentioned at the beginning, it had been in decline since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990. However the past two years has shown signs of a revival. Let us hope it continues.
Rossie Decheva is a Bulgarian fan. She is one of the founders of the SF&F society Zemlemoria in Varna, Bulgaria and one of the main organizers of the annual Aqualonia festival. She was on the Eurocon 2004 (reviewed here) committee. In the 'real life' she works for an international shipping line but always has time and willingness to follow the Bulgarian SF&F events and participate in fandom.
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