Spanish Science Fiction
Spain's science fiction and its history is explored by
Alejandro Mohorte Medina and José Nieto and this posting ties in
with Spain hosting its first Eurocon (Barcelona) in 2016.
Quick links to below sections:-
1. Proto science fiction in Spain
2. The “official” birth of science fiction
3. Ignotus and Sirius
4. The period of the dime novels
5. Nueva Dimensión
6. New writers and initiatives
1. Proto science fiction in Spain
The academic and author John Clute, who specialises in speculative fiction and is notably the co-editor of The Encyclopaedia of Science fiction (1979), and the The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction (1995), says that one definition of science fiction works written before the 20s is that they are 'proto science fiction'. With regards to Spain, the number of stories that falls under this classification is surprising.
Spanish proto science fiction stories can be already found within the eleventh tale of El conde Lucanor [Count Lucanor] (1330-1335) by the don Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena. The title of this story is 'Lo que sucedió a un deán de Santiago con don Illán, el mago de Toledo' ['What happened to a dean of Santiago with Mr. Illán, Toledo great master' (or wizard, depending on the edition)], and it is a tale that sits on the border between a magic story and science fiction, hence is possibly science fantasy, but in any case it would be one of the first works in Spanish that can be considered genre related.
In the Crónica sarrazina o Crónica del rey don Rodrigo con la destruyción de España [Sarrazin Chronicle or Chronicle of King don Rodrigo and the destruction of Spain] (1449) by Pedro de Corral. It is a chivalric romance that includes some curious genre elements. For instance, there is a kind of TV screen which predicts the future is located in the legendary Heracles Cave in Toledo. Then there is a utopic story in the Libro del eloquentíssimo Emperador Marco Aurelio con El Relox de Príncipes [Book of the Most Eloquent Emperor Marco Aurelio with the Clock of Princes, 1527] by Antonio de Guevara, where the perfect society of garamantes is described. Finally, as an example of interstellar travel, we find the story 'Somnium' (1532) by the humanist Juan de Maldonado that was also published with other four tales in Burgos in 1541. It includes a trip to the Moon, with a description of their inhabitants living in a perfect society. According to Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, the first science fiction story is another Somnium, by the astronomer Johannes Kepler, but that was published in 1634, almost a century later.
In 17th century in Spain, there were real personalities so outstanding that they appeared in literary works of the time. For instance, don Juan de Espina y Velasco (1565-1642) served the kings Felipe II, Felipe III and Felipe IV as a soldier, priest, scholar, and music virtuoso. He was also notably a collector of exotic objects and automata which he brought together in his 'bureau of prodigies'. Physically impossible feats were attributed to him, and for many he was a practitioner of dark sciences and maybe even a necromancer. A number of stories were written about don Juan, like the novel Casos prodigiosos y cueva encantada [Prodigious cases and the enchanted cave] (1628) by Juan Izquierdo de Piña, in which, among other topics, we find automatic mechanisms that make the furniture appear and disappear in a room.
Another remarkable work is the Viaje fantástico del gran piscator de Salamanca [Fantastic travel of the great piscator of Salamanca] (1724) by Diego de Torres y Villarroel, in which the protagonist travels to the Moon while dreaming.
We also see an interstellar travel in the Viaggio statico al Mondo planetario [Ecstatic Travel to the Planetary World], that was published in four volumes between 1793 and 1794, and written by the Spanish Jesuit priest Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro. It is a literary excuse to provide one of most advanced astronomical treatises of the time though it was initially published in Italian in 1780.
The first dystopic story within Spanish literature is the story 'El mundo sin vicios'['A World Free of Vices'] by Cándido María Trigueros, included in the second volume of his Mis pasatiempos – Almacén de fruslerías agradables [My Pastimes. Compilation of pleasant banalities] (1784). It sees a parallel world without any vice that has led to a lack of humanity, that disappoints the protagonist, a philosopher. Another trip to the Moon appears in Viaje de un filósofo a Selenópolis [Travel of a philosopher to Selenopolis] (1804) by Antonio Marqués y Espejo.
2. The “official” birth of science fiction
What really is the first Spanish science fiction novel is still debated. Many mention Lunigrafía, o sea noticias curiosas sobre las producciones, lengua, religión, leyes, usos y costumbres de los lunícolas [Lunigraphy, that is Strange News about the Productions, Language, Religion, Laws and Customs of the Lunicolas] (1855) by Miguel Estorch y Siqués, under the pseudonym M. Krotse, in which (as is disclosed by the title) we find another trip to the Moon. The other candidate is Una temporada en el más bello de los planetas [A Season in the Most Beautiful of the Planets] (1870) by Tirso Aguimana de Veca, published in four parts in the Revista de España [Magazine of Spain]. However, according to the astronomical data it features, the story might actually have been written between 1846 and 1849. If this is confirmed, it would indeed be the first truly science fiction novel in Spain, mentioning a hot balloon trip to Saturn and astronauts wearing space suits. (The previous works might be better described as being more science fantasy.) One more work which could also be classified as the first science fiction novel is Viage somniaéreo a la Luna or Zulema y Lambert [Travel by Aerial Dream to the Moon, or Zulema and Lambert] (1832) by Joaquín del Castillo y Mayone.
El anacronópete [The Anacronopete, published in English in 2012 as The Time Ship] (1887) by Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau, was written in 1881 and tells the story of a time travelling machine eight years before H. G. Wells' novel. It provides a full technical description of the machine and the passenger facilities, as well as brooms sweeping by themselves as part of a number of adventures developing across several inter-temporal journeys.
A number of science fiction and fantastic novels appeared in this period: Un viaje al planeta Júpiter [A Trip to Planet Jupiter] (1871) by Antonio de San Martín; Un marino del siglo XIX o Paseo científico por el océano [A Seaman in the XIX Century, or Scientific Journey Across the Ocean] (1872) by Pedro de Novo y Colso, El doctor Juan Pérez [Doctor Juan Pérez] (1880) by Segismundo Bermeno; the short story 'Un viaje a Cerebrópolis' ['A Travel to Brainopolis'] (1884); La familia de los Onkos [The Onkos Family] (1888); and Misterios de la locura [Mysteries of Madness] (1890]) the latter three all by Juan Giné y Partagás. Nilo María Fabra also publishes three anthologies of his science fiction stories: Por los espacios imaginarios [Through the Imaginary Spaces] (1885), Cuentos ilustrados [Illustrated Stories] (1895), and Presente y futuro [Present and Future] (1897).
In El Señor, y lo demás son cuentos [The Lord, and the Rest are Tales] (1893) by Leopoldo Alas “Clarín”, the story 'Cuento futuro' ['Future Tale'] is the first post-apocalyptic work in the Spanish science fiction (a doctor develops a machine that causes collective suicide, but he and his wife survive, to find God leading them to Paradise, although the materialism of the woman makes them drift apart). In El libro de Granada [The Granada Book] (1899), the short story 'La ruina de Granada' ['The Ruin of Granada'] by Ángel Ganivet imagines the destruction of the Spanish city by a volcanic eruption. Much later, a wise man and a poet walks across the ruins, equipped with an 'ideophone' able to record thoughts. They observe the physical differences between the primitive humans before the destruction and their own bodies, with large heads and eyes, small mouths and no feet.
El fin de un mundo [The End of a World] (1901) by José Martínez Ruiz “Azorín” – with clear influences from H. G. Wells – is in the same apocalyptic vein (humanity has created a perfect society where all wishes are fulfilled but that leads to stagnation, decadence and the end of the human race). Santiago Ramón y Cajal, known for his 1906 Nobel Prize in Medicine, also writes short stories. In his Cuentos de Vacaciones [Vacation Stories] (1905), he includes 'El pesimista corregido' ['The Corrected Pessimist'] in which a young doctor, tired of life, is visited by a science genie who shows him the future and some science advances, convincing him that the world to come is worth living for. Ramón y Cajal also published other stories which could also be classified as science fiction.
And there are some political fiction stories in these years, too, like La República del año 8 y la intervención del año 12 [The Republic of Year 8 and the Intervention of Year 12] (1903) by Pío Baroja, published in the Alma Española magazine. Baroja offeres an anticipatory satire by using sarcastic political fiction, leaving no one untouched. We find political crises, mutinies, republicans, Moroccan rebellions, newspaper scandals, political discredit and agitators. A government presided by the aforementioned scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, is overthrown by politicians, then these are in turn overthrown by another military coup and finally, to end the whole mess, there is a foreign military intervention.
In Crímenes literarios y meras tentativas escriturales y delictuosas [Literary Crimes and Written Offense Attempts] (1906) by Rafael Zamora y Pérez de Uría, marquis of Valero de Urría “Iscariotes Val de Ur”, there are robots and a portable computer, described as a “brain machine”. Also, in Mecanópolis [Mecanopolis] (1913) by Miguel de Unamuno, a futuristic technological and dehumanised society is criticised.
We can identify a generation or literary Novecentism around 1914, influenced by the British science fiction of this period, with humoristic utopias like Sentimental Club (1909) by Ramón Pérez de Ayala, actually a dystopia; and Dos mundos al habla [Two Worlds Speaking] (1922) by José Ferrándiz. In this story, after establishing interplanetary communication, the Venusians are scandalised by our terrestrial customs. A subsequent novel, El archipiélago maravilloso [The Wonder Archipelago (1923) by Luis Araquistáin, another dystopia, criticises the human ideologies and madness, like the technological advances to achieve immortality; while La jirafa sagrada [The Sacred Giraffe] (1926) by Salvador de Madariaga, is a utopia about voting rights for women.
3. Ignotus and Sirius
The first novel in Spain dealing with the topic of a scientist obsessed with improving the human race is also the first science fiction work written in Catalan: Homes artificials [Artificial Men] (1912) by Frederich Pujulà. But the ones who leave their mark in this period are Colonel Ignotus and Colonel Sirius, two writers following the path opened by Jules Verne, going even farther in describing technological innovation than many authors from other countries.
José de Elola is better known by his pseudonym “Colonel Ignotus”. He had a military career and as a topographer designed the final fortifications of San Juan de Puerto Rico, fighting in the 1898 war between Spain and the United States and teaching in the General Military Academy and the Superior School of War. Inventor, playwriter and, as “Colonel Ignotus”, writer of science fiction novels, he had already written political fiction with the title El fin de la guerra, disparate profético soñado por mister Grey [The End of the War, a Prophetic Nonsense Dreamed by Mr Grey] (1914), signing with the name that would make him famous. In 1919 he started writing De los Andes al cielo [From the Andes to the Sky] (1921), as the first volume of the Biblioteca novelesco-científica [Scientific Novel Library] from the Madrid publishing house Sanz Calleja, the first collection in Spain devoted to science fiction. The book started a whole space opera saga of seventeen stories set in the twenty first century, when the Institute of Interplanetary Travel is founded. At the Institute, engineer María Josefa Bureba built a spaceship which she named “orbimotor” and “autoplanetoide”, which was able to reach Venus. Manned with an international crew, the ship was launched to space, and its adventures spanned seventeen volumes, the last of them published in 1929 with the title El secreto de Sara [Sara’s Secret (1929). To honour this author, an annual Science Fiction award, called the Ignotus Award, was established in 1991 by the Spanish Association of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror (AEFCFT) which we will return to latter in this article.
Jesús de Aragón published his books in the same Biblioteca novelesco-científica collection. This writer was known under the pen name “Coronel Sirius” as well as informally the “Spanish Jules Verne”. He was engineer, financial director and author of accounting textbooks, but also wrote Cuarenta mil kilómetros a bordo del aeroplano "Fantasma" [Forty Thousand Kilometres Aboard the Fantasma Airplane] (1924), his first work of science fiction in a sequence of fourteen volumes, the last one being Crepúsculo en la noche roja [Sunset in the Red Night (1934).
The most successful science fiction novel before the Civil War (1936-1939) was El paraíso de las mujeres [The Paradise of Women] (1922) by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, published in Valencia by the Prometeo book company. In the story, a young engineer wants to become rich so he can marry, but his ship sinks and he ends up in a parallel, upside-down Lilliputian society. Sometime ago in this world, a revolution brought women to power over men, with a large number of them reduced to slavery and heavy physical work. History was rewritten to eliminate any male contribution to civilization. But a male movement claims for equal rights, and a radical faction wants to confine women to the kitchen. When the rebellion starts, the enslaved visitor takes his chance and escapes from the island, leaving the inhabitants to continue their struggles. We should not forget that at the time of publication, universal voting rights for men were something still quite new in most of Europe, while voting rights for women was a hot topic of international discussion that only came to pass in Great Britain in 1918 and 1920 in the United States of America. Women's vote would only be accepted in Spain in 1931, but could not be exercised until 1934. France, for instance, would not pass women’s vote into law until 1944!
During these years Mars became fashionable. The novel Viaje a Marte [Travel to Mars], (1928) by Modesto Brocos, is published, as was El fin de una expedición sideral: Viaje a Marte [The End of a Space Expedition:Travel to Mars] (1932) by Benigno Bejarano, and Un viaje al planeta Marte [A Trip to Planet Mars] (1933) by an unknown Spanish writer with the pseudonym “W. Barrymore”.
During and after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), any material not serving the ideological propaganda of one or other side in conflict was systematically rejected. Even so, there are some interesting works like the dystopia La bomba increíble [The Incredible Bomb] (1950) by Pedro Salinas, or La nave [The Ship] (1959), by Tomás Salvador, about an interstellar ark whose population has lost its memory of its origins.
4. The period of the “dime novels”
During the fifties, a new format appears, similar to US pulp fiction, called “novelas de a duro” (“dime novels”), de kiosko (newsstand stories) or bolsilibros (pocket books). For the authors, this medium provided a meagre way of living, allowing them to publish a weekly novel. Their quality was irregular, since they were quickly typed, and their length had to be limited to pocket size. Most writers used English-sounding pseudonyms, often taking several simultaneously while working in several genres at once. In science fiction we find authors like Domingo Santos, signing as “Peter Danger” and “Peter Dean”, and Ángel Torres Quesada is “Alex Towers” and “A. Thorkent”. The first collection of this type was Futuro, novelas de Ciencia y Ficción [Future, Novels of Science and Fiction] with thirty eight issues from 1953 to 1956, supported by José Mallorquí, creator of the famous action hero El Coyote [The Coyote].
There were many other collections of longer or shorter duration. The most important was Luchadores del espacio [Space Fighters] (1953-1963) from Editorial Valenciana, which was published every two weeks. Up to twenty seven authors participated in this collection, reaching 234 novels. Among the many titles are those of the Saga de los Aznar [Saga of the Aznar] (1953-1958 and 1973-1978) by Pascual Enguídanos, a.k.a. “George H. White”. He wrote thirty two novels in the fifties, and twenty four in the seventies. This saga was granted the European SF Society's Eurocon Award for the Best European Science Fiction Cycle of Novels in the Brussels Eurocon of 1978. The Saga combines epic adventure and space opera to tell the story of humanity through the Aznar family, starting with pilot Miguel Ángel Aznar de Soto. The epic story spans from Miguel’s first encounters with aliens in the Himalaya and a trip to Venus, to a new World War five centuries later. An extra-terrestrial invasion forces humans to adapt to life in space, too.
Regarding magazines and the serial publishing of novels, many Spanish fans used to get the Argentinean magazine Mas allá de la Ciencia y la Fantasía [Beyond Science and Fantasy], which published forty eight issues from 1953 to 1957. In 1955, also from Argentina, the Minotauro company started printing mostly American classic authors. They are still active today, based in Barcelona and they sponsor the important Minotauro Award.
1955 was also the year when the publication of the Nebulae collection started in Spain. Most of its titles are translations of classic novels from English-speaking authors, but there are also anthologies of stories by Spanish writers like Domingo Santos, Antonio Rivera and many others. The collection grew up to a staggering hundred and thirty eight books until it closed in 1968. Other companies, like Acervo or Castellote Editor were also publishing compilations of Spanish science fiction authors including the likes of Francisco Álvarez, Francisco Lezcano, Juan García Atienza, Carlos Buiza and Juan José Plans.
Among the most important writers of Spanish science fiction we have Domingo Santos, who began his career as author of “dime novels”, and later published remarkable works like Meteoritos [Meteorites (1965), Los dioses de la pistola prehistórica [The Gods of a Prehistoric Gun] (1967), and in a later period, his novel Gabriel (1975), the story of a robot gaining human consciousness, which was translated into many languages. He was also editor of anthologies, and several collections of novels, as well as the Nueva Dimensión [New Dimension] magazine with Sebastián Martínez and Luis Vigil, the most influential and long lived science fiction magazine in Spain, published by Dronte. Its quality was recognised in the Trieste Eurocon of 1972 with the award for the Best Professional Science Fiction Magazine. It was not surprising that Santos was later chosen as editor of the anthology Lo mejor de la ciencia ficción española [The Best of Spanish Science Fiction] (1982). The Domingo Santos Award is named after this author and given for best unpublished short story. It has been judged by a jury at each Hispacon since 1992 in his honour.
5. Nueva Dimensión
The first incarnation of Domingo Santos and Luis Vigil’s idea of a magazine exclusively devoted to science fiction was Anticipación [Anticipation] (1966). Its seven issues included twenty first stories translated from English, nine from French, one from Italian and two from Russian, but eight were Spanish. Its demise was caused by the infamous Law of Press and Printing, that same year. This law was planned as a mechanism for censorship imposed by Franco’s dictatorship, and forced all periodic publications (newspapers and magazines) to have a director with a degree in journalism, listed in an official registry. The director would be responsible for any infringement committed by the publication, so this person had veto powers on all the content of the newspaper or magazine. Anticipación was forced to hire such a director, but it was impossible to pay his salary with a very limited budget. This problem led to the closing of the publication after a year.
However, the experience gained by Santos and Vigil helped them to create in 1968, with Sebastián Martínez, Nueva Dimensión [New Dimension] (1968-1982), with the perspective of a professional-quality fanzine, learning from the lessons from and materials left over by Anticipación. Martínez was in charge of the administrative tasks required to create and manage an independent publishing company, named Dronte. The team contacted the Pomaire company to handle the distribution, and it was its owner who chose the distinctive squared format adopted by the magazine, the same as the Planète magazine by Bergier and Pauwels which had become very popular in South America. A different name was initially chosen, but that was already registered, so the final designation of the magazine became Nueva Dimensión, albeit at the risk of it being confused with a UFO or parapsychology publication, though that confusion might have benefited its sales. The new newstand magazine probably survived because of word of mouth, and a large number of dedicate subscribers. These fans wanted to receive the issues at home, instead of waiting to buy the magazine at the local stores, given the poor reliability of that distribution channel.
The magazine had a section with short stories and some short novels, mostly from English-speaking authors translated into Spanish, but also with some national writers, well known ones as well as new ones, being a key achievement of the publication to discover newcomers who found in this magazine and some fanzines the only media to become visible. A sample of important Spanish authors contributing to Nueva Dimension were Carlo Frabetti, Luis Gasca, José Luis Garci, Alfonso Álvarez Villar, Jaime Rosal del Castillo, Luis Eduardo Aute, Ludolfo Paramio, Vicente Aranda, Ángel Torres Quesada, Rafael Marín, Juan Miguel Aguilera, Javier Redal, Javier Negrete, Luis García Lecha, Ignacio Romeo, José Ignacio Velasco, Enrique Lázaro, Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo, Carlos Saiz Cidoncha, Manuel de Pedrolo... The magazine published some special issues, too, dedicated to a specific theme or author.
There were also sections with essays, comments and reviews of genre literature and films, printed in distinctive green pages. Thanks to these pages, the magazine became a vehicle for communication between the sparse fan community, giving them the opportunity to get to know each other without access to the current social networks. The magazine was the catalyst of the first Hispacon, with a call to registration in its fifth issue. The idea of an association was also born, although it would not take shape until the Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror (AEFCFT) was officially founded in 1991. Agustín Jaureguízar was in charge of selecting the new writers, and was later responsible of the green information pages using the pseudonym Augusto Uribe.
As it had happened before with its predecessor, the magazine had problems with censorship because of the Press Law. In his issue of May 14th 1970, a short story titled in Euskera (Basque language) 'Gu ta gutarrak' ['Us and Ours'], by Magdalena Mouján Otaño, told the adventure of a group of Basques travelling with a time machine to locate a paradoxical event. Despite being presented in advance for official administrative approval, a few days later the Public Order Court forced the recall of the entire issue. The prosecutor denounced that the story violated the national unity of Spain. After the seizure of the issue, the pages of this story were substituted by several cartoons strips by Johnny Hart, so it was possible to continue the distribution. The trial against Nueva Dimensión never happened, but the case brought ample criticism from international fandom. In the US, a support committee was created and some authors offered his work for token rates. A hundred issues later, in July-August 1979, and Nueva Dimensión again published the short story as a remembrance of the episode and as an apology to its author.
The magazine last for 148 issues, between 1968 and 1982, so the three founders managed to keep publishing for fifteen years, against all odds. It was finally the problems with the distribution channels which caused its demise, especially the bankruptcy of the Latin America distributors. In the year 2000 Hispacon, at Gijón, a well deserved homage was paid by publishing a symbolic issue 149 with the name of Sol 3, the original denomination intended for the magazine. Luis Vigil and Carlo Frabetti, the fourth Nueva Dimensión alma mater, gave two conferences at the 2013 Hispacon, held at Quart de Poblet, too, they are viewable at Vimeo and Youtube.
The importance of Nueva Dimensión lies in its role to push Spanish science fiction away from the adventure story approach of “dime novels”, towards a more critical and speculative perspective, and a more mature and literary style, although the adventure component never disappeared.
At the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies, in addition to Domingo Santos, another important author is Ángel Torres Quesada. He started publishing in the series 'Luchadores del Espacio' ['Space Fighters'] from the publisher Editora Valenciana with the novel Un mundo llamado Badoom [A World called Badoom] (1963). However, the most important part of his production in popular pocketbook science fiction was published by Editorial Bruguera, where he created the series 'Saga del Orden Estelar' ['Saga of the Star Order'], the second most important science fiction series (it included 50 novels) in Spain, only behind 'La Saga de los Aznar' ['Saga of the Aznar'] by Pascual Enguídanos. In this long saga, humanity has expanded across the cosmos, with different government organizations rising and falling along the ages. Torres Quesada wrote classic works of serious science fiction, too, like La trilogía de las islas [The Island Trilogy] (1988), El círculo de piedra [The Stone Circle] (1992) that garnered the UPC Award, Las grietas del tiempo [The Cracks of Time] (1998), Los sicarios de Dios [God’s Hitmen] (2001) and Sombras en la eternidad [Shadows in Eternity] (2001) that was the winner of the Semana Negra [Noir Week] of Gijón Award).
Manuel de Pedrolo wrote his first novel, Es vessa una sang fàcil [An Easy Blood is Spilled](1954) in Catalan (as are all his works), and that garnered the Joanot Martorell Award the same year. Later he also was a recipient of the Mercè Rodoreda Award for his short story 'Crèdits humans' ['Human Credits'] (1957). Pedrolo practised different genres and literary forms, from short stories to theatre and his science fiction novel Mecanoscrit del segon origen [Typed Manuscript of the Second Origin],(1974) was also produced as a very successful TV series by TV3 network and has been translated to over twenty languages. The book tells the daily life of a couple of children who, being underwater, survive an alien attack which exterminates all the mammals on Earth. After growing up, they travel to the city, to find someone else alive. Pedrolo was also an important writer of noir novels, too, and for these he received the Honour Award of Catalan Literature in 1979.
Among the very few women writing science fiction in this period we can cite María Güera. She, in collaboration with her son, Arturo Mengotti, published a very interesting series of short stories from 1968 to 1971 in Nueva Dimensión magazine, being the first and maybe most important one 'Herencia de Sueños' ['Heritage Dreams'] (1958).
The publisher Buru Lan de Ediciones, S. was founded in 1971 in San Sebastián. Between 1970 and 1977, it focused on theoretical essays on different subjects, especially comics, defending their status as a major art form. It was financed by Javier Aramburu and Manuel Salvat, and directed by Luis Gasca. It published the encyclopaedia El cine [The Cinema] (1973), with articles by Angel Fernández-Santos, José Luis Garci, Pere Gimferrer, José Luis Guarner, Román Gubern, Francisco Llinás, Terenci Moix, Ricardo Muñoz Suay, Miquel Porter Moix, César Santos Fontela or Manuel Villegas López, all of them very important writers, screenwriters, directors and producers.
In fact, the most successful Spanish science fiction TV production of the century came by one of these, José Luis Garci, who had written some science fiction stories, too, before becoming a famous TV and cinema director in the eighties. It was La cabina [The Phone Booth] (1972). Antonio Mercero, who had filmed three mid-length films for the national TV network, shot La cabina with a very good story written by Garci and himself, and the film became the most awarded science fiction production in the Spanish history, including an Emmy for the best TV film. In La cabina a common man is trapped inside a phone booth. In spite of the attempts to help him, he can’t be released. Things go to the next level when the same mysterious workers who installed the booth the previous night take the whole booth to carry the protagonist towards an unknown destination. During the trip the prisoner realises he is defenceless in the face of a sinister force driving him to an unexplained and atrocious destiny from which there seems to be no escape…
Historias para no dormir [Stories to Stay Awake] (1966-1982) was a Spanish horror genre TV series directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador for the national station Televisión Española. Being horror was notable as, unlike other countries, horrorwas almost unknown at this time in Spanish cinema and TV. The first season started with the episode 'El cumpleaños' ['The Birthday'], an adaptation of a story by Fredric Brown, shot on 16 mm film, and was the first Spanish TV production to do so. For the next episodes original screenplays like 'La alarma' ['The Alarm'] or 'La bodega' ['The Cellar'] were alternated with adaptations of Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe stories like 'La espera' ['The Waiting'], 'El cohete' ['The Rocket'] or 'El tonel' ['The Barrel']. The second season in 1967-1968 had only eight episodes, and in later years the show’s schedule became irregular, with erratic showings until 1982.
6. New writers and initiatives
During most of the period since 1980, Nueva Dimensión's maintained its dominating presence. In 1980, a new science fiction magazine was published: Kandama (1980-1984) edited by Miquel Barceló, but after a break in 1983, the eighth issue became the last one. Barceló has written short science fiction stories, but he is better known as an editor and promoter of the UPC Science Fiction Award.
Gigamesh magazine was founded in 1985. Devoted to speculative fiction, it covered the whole fantasy, science fiction and horror genre, and was initially edited by Alejo Cuervo. It continued in different formats, from fanzine to book, until 2007. Cuervo’s publishing company, Ediciones Gigamesh, also created the Stalker magazine (1998-2003) and Yellow Kid (2001-2003) that respectively focused on cinema and fantasy comics. From the first issue of Gigamesh, the Premio Gigamesh Award was presented based on the votes of readers much in the same way as the Locus Awards in the United States are managed. The last Gigamesh Award was presented in 2000.
At this time, some science fiction writers known for their work in the “dime novels” or introduced to the public in Nueva Dimensión and Kandama, started blooming as the quality of life in Spanish society increased and the freedom resulting from the end of Franco’s dictatorship spread. In addition to established writers like Domingo Santos and Ángel Torres Quesada, a new generation rose. These included:-
- Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo who has provided some short stories and novels considered Spanish science fiction classics, like La última lección sobre Cisneros[The Last Lesson About Cisneros] (1978), in which censorship is the norm in a Spain subdued by the unstoppable decline of planetary resources; and the novels Viaje a un planeta Wu Wei [Travel to a Wu Wei Planet] (1976), telling the exile of Sergio Amstrong, away from a technically advanced world, at a less developed planet with a better balance with nature; and El Señor de la Rueda [The Lord of the Wheel] (1986), which presents a Middle Age-like society and which was written with a memorable sense of humour.
- Carlos Saiz Cidoncha who has always written science fiction located in the far future, such as La caída del imperio galáctico [The fall of the Galactic Empire] (1978), and his works are full of a great sense of humour and references to famous genre stories so delighting connoisseurs as well as enriching the experience of new readers. He has also been one of the founders of contemporary Spanish science fiction fandom and has participated in the Círculo de Lectores de Anticipación [Circle of Anticipation Readers] and the AEFCF/AEFCFT publications.
- Rafael Marín Trechera started his career in the late 1970s writing for science fiction magazines such as Kandama and Nueva Dimensión as well as creating his own fanzine McClure. He then wrote his first short novel Nunca digas buenas noches a un extraño [Never Say Good Night to a Stranger] (1978), where he anticipated the cyberpunk movement, and Lágrimas de Luz [Tears of Light] (1984) which is considered as Spain's first modern science fiction novel. Hamlet Evans wants to be a poet to expand the human empire but soon is disillusioned with it and decides to continue an outlaw artistic existence to defy the Corporation. In the 1990s, he wrote the graphic novel with Carlos Pacheco Iberia Inc (1996), drawn by Rafa Fonteriz and Jesús Yugo, about a team of Spanish superheroes, the novel Mundo de dioses [World of Gods] (1998) and later Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four (2000-2001). At the 2003 SF Eurocon in Turku, Finland, he co-won a Eurocon Award for the Best European Translator.
- Elia Barceló is the most prolific female Spanish SF author and is considered one of the most important female writers in Spanishphone science fiction, together with the Argentinian Angélica Gorodischer and Cuban Daína Chaviano. The three of them form the so called “female Trinity of science fiction in Spanish” [Rafael Marín Trechera dixit]. She started writing for Nueva Dimensión and has published novels, essays and more than twenty short stories in national and international magazines. She has won the UPC Award for her short novel El mundo de Yarek [Yarek’s World] (1993) where alien life specialist Lennart Yarek faces the most terrible sentence: twenty years of exile on an uninhabited planet, with only a computer company, memories and nightmares. She also received the Gabriel Award for her career. Other remarkable science fiction works from Barceló are the collections Sagrada [Sacred] (1989) and Futuros peligrosos [Dangerous Futures] (2008).
- Juan Miguel Aguilera is very popular for his Akasa-Puspa Saga, written with Javier Redal and set in a star cluster named Akasa-Puspa that is outside the Milky Way. As the distance among the stars in that universe is quite small, interstellar travelling is easy even for less advanced civilizations, be it using the Empire's fast fusion ships or the slower Utsarpini or even the Brotherhood solar sails: these being these three factions in constant conflict. In addition, there is another method of transport and supply, the Chain System, as well as a space elevator (only way to initiate a trip to the stars), self-replicating machines and humans coexisting with the extremely aggressive angriffs, the enigmatic hivers, or the cofrades (strange nest creatures)... Aguilera has written many more books, including a zombie novel La Zona [The Zone] (2012) with Javier Negrete.
- Javier Redal has a degree in Biology and is the one of the best hard science fiction experts in Spain. He wrote the Akasa-Puspa Saga with Aguilera and won the Gabriel Award with him. Both began to write short stories about this universe for Nueva Dimensión, but he has published four novels, too, including Mundos en el abismo [Worlds into the Abyss] (1988).
- Jordi Sierra i Fabra is one of the most prolific science fiction authors in Spain and who also writes fantasy as well as juvenile fiction. He deals with themes like hοmοsexuality and drugs which, together with his preference for suspense and action instead of a purely literary style, makes him very popular among youngsters. He is the author of one of the most important science fiction sagas published in Spain: 'El ciclo de las Tierras' [The Earths' Cycle'], four novels between 1983 and 2005. about a not-too-distant future where humans and machines have equal rights. Moreover, the machines that have saved humanity the Holocaust, are the engine of progress and social life. But the charge of murder of a machine by a man alters their coexistence and triggers the start of a pending revolution.
After Nueva Dimensión disappeared, only Gigamesh and some fanzines and small publications survived in the genre until the bimonthly BEM (short for Bug-Eyed Monster) was born in 1990. Devoted to science fiction and fantasy, the magazine was helmed by Pedro Jorge Romero, José Luis González, Joan Manel Ortiz and Ricard de la Casa. BEM's 75 issues and two annual specials were a non-profit endeavour, filling a void in Spanish culture during the nineties with their regular 32-page issues.
The rise of home computers and the first word processors and editing software in the 1990s, allowed the creation and publication of content in a whole new way, without costly printing and distribution, by using electronic files in floppy disks and mail or hand-to-hand delivery. Several electronic fanzines were born before the popularization of the Internet. Because of the space limitation in the printed version of BEM, the magazine was supplemented with the e-fanzine Kermel BEM, which had five issues between 1992 and 1995. In this way it was possible to deliver content of a larger size, including multiple short stories, interviews, articles, reviews and, in the last issue, a complete short novel.
New authors appeared such as Javier Negrete,. whose very funny Estado crepuscular [Sunset State] (1992)won the Ignotus and Gigamesh awards. It is the story of womanizer and drinker David Milar, a man who involuntary embarked on an space adventure due to his sexual appetites.
Rodolfo Martínez's first novel, La sonrisa del gato [The Smile of the Cat] (1995]) was a cyberpunk spy story. He followed this up with Tierra de nadie: Jormungand [Nobody’s Land: Jormungand] (1996) a fascinating six-part novel about a planetary jail.
Eduardo Vaquerizo is an author of elaborated language who has won many awards. His best known works are steampunk Danza de tinieblas [Dance of Darkness] (2005) and Memoria de tinieblas [Memory of Darkness (2013), which share the same universe, although their stories are unrelated . We can also mention La última noche de Hipatia [The Last Night of Hipatia] (2009), a time travel story. Although part of his works can be associated with pulp adventure and the hard science fiction subgenre, reflecting his training as aerospace engineer, most of his stories are closer to the form and style developed after the New Wave, with a surreal and dreamlike quality.
Another author representing well the beginning of the century is Félix J. Palma, best known for his Victorian trilogy that comprises of El mapa del tiempo [The Map of Time] (2008), El mapa del cielo [The Map of the Sky] (2012) and El mapa del caos [The Map of Chaos] (2014), which tell stories of time travelling to the Victorian period, these have been in the New York Times' bestseller list. In addition, the author writes for the news media press as a columnist and literary critic.
Meanwhile, Emilio Bueso has surprised SF readers with Cenital (2012), an apocalyptic vision of a world without fossil fuels, wonderfully narrated and counting many positive reviews. He maintained, even improved, on this work with Esta noche arderá el cielo [The Sky will Burn Tonight] (2013). Originally influenced by “dirty realism”, Bueso has merited several awards and become one of the rising names in the new Spanish science fiction of the early 21st century.
Other outstanding authors and their main books include: Santiago Eximeno (cyberpunk Asura, 2004) ; Daniel Mares (anthology En mares extraños [Strange Seas, 2004]) ; ; Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel with his collection De mecánica y alquimia [About Mechanics and Alchemy] (2013); ; Ismael Martínez Biurrun with his futuristic thriller El escondite Grisha [The Grisha Hideout] (2011) and the apocalyptic Un minuto antes de la oscuridad [A Minute Before Darkness] (2014); and the well-known journalist Rosa Montero with cyberpunk Lágrimas en la lluvia [Tears in the Rain] (2011) and El peso del corazón [The Heart’s Weight] (2015).
Agustín Jaureguízar has never published stories or other literary works. His influence in the genre comes from his editorial commissioning work for the Nueva Dimensión magazine, where he selected the stories of new writers and later took care of the green information pages under the name Augusto Uribe. He has contributed a lot to the study and popularisation of the genre, with many articles, some of them translated into English. As a researcher of proto-science fiction, and along almost forty years, he has popularized the works of writers like Enrique Gaspar, José de Elola or Nilo María Fabra. As an essay writer, he was won the Ignotus Award for the best article in 1998. AEFCF awarded him in 1991 with the Gabriel for his lifetime achievements.
The body promoting SF in Spain is the Asociación Española de Fantasía y Ciencia Ficción (AEFCF), [Spanish Association for Fantasy and Science Fiction], that in 2004 added the horror genre to its name becoming the AEFCFT. It is the organisation coordinating national activities in all these genres. It was born in 1991, after the Netherlands Worldcon in The Hague that prompted Spanish fandom to get together. Its first official ceremony was to give the Ignotus Award to Agustín Jaureguízar in the bookshop El Aventurero in Madrid. They are in charge of organising the annual Hispacon conference and the Ignotus and Gabriel Awards (the latter called the Live Achievement Award before 1994 as a special recognition for a whole professional career in the genre).
The AEFCFT also organizes, with other entities, a contest of unpublished short stories, the Domingo Santos Award, a great opportunity for new authors, and publishes books and e-books for members and general public, as the anthologies Visiones [Visions] and Fabricantes de sueños [Dream Makers].
The Ignotus Awards were founded in 1991, and granted annually to authors publishing in Spanish and foreign languages, somewhat equivalent to the Hugo Awards. The name is taken from the pseudonym used by the early twentieth century writer José de Elola. These awards are preselected and voted by the AEFCFT members and others who wish to register in the census.
The AEFCFT organizes the annual National Conference of Fantasy and Science Fiction called Hispacon, with an additional name chosen by that year's local organising committee (e.g. Quartumcon in 2013, for its Quart de Poblet location). The location is chosen in advance at the association’s general assembly by voting among the candidate cities. Each candidacy is usually formed by a group of local fans who have some official support from the city, and take care of most of the event organization.
And so we can see that Spain has had a long tradition of Science Fiction work as any western European nature. In common with a number of other nations, its SF has been influenced by the politics of the day and social developments. It is currently well paced to continue this into the future.
Alejandro Mohorte Medina and José Nieto
Alejandro Mohorte Medina. Medina's passions are history and literature. Since 2009, he has written articles and given lectures about literature, mainly with a historical perspective, and joined the literary group El Cuaderno Rojo [The Red Notebook] in 2013. He has collaborated with them in the anthologies Del Loco al Mundo [From the Madman to the World] (2014) and Sangre y Niebla [Blood and Fog] (2016).
José Nieto is a is a sci-fi fan of TV series and movies like Star Trek and Stargate. He was the graphic and layout designer of the Spanish sci-fi fanzine Hiperespacio [Hyperspace] (1995-1999). Later he was responsible of recording and editing a tenth of sci-fi lectures at the Spanish sci-fi meeting Hispacon 2013 – Quartumcon and building that event's website.
The editors also wish to thank:-
Ángel Carralero is a longstanding Spanish SF fan who was responsible for co-ordinating the Spanish end of commissioning this article and who assisted with some of the translation.
Salvador Bayarri is a science fiction author and frequent presenter at HispaCon and other events. He provided additional translation.
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