Science Fiction Studies

#63 = Volume 21, Part 2 = July 1994


Brian W. Aldiss

Remembrance of Lives Past

It's five years since Forgotten Life was published. Since then I have written two more novels belonging in the same cluster, dealing with some of the same characters, Tom Squire, Clement Winter, and others.

Of course it is to be hoped a casual reader can understand and enjoy my novel. It carries most meaning for me when I consider it within the context of all my novels, strewn rather prodigally across the last thirty or so years. Why did I write them? Although I live by writing (and am in that respect a rare animal), I have never written purely for the money, but rather for the pleasure of it. For much of the time, I wrote to express an inner life needing voice.

A novel's an entanglement of ideas, sentences, and ornaments. Forgotten Life is furnished with a Zastava Caribbean, the view of the Banbury Road, the house in Rawlinson Road, news from Burma, and so on. They were items which caught my eye as the novel was developing.

But behind the furniture stands the structure of the room of fiction itself, underlying preoccupations which in some cases go deep. In Joe Winter's account of the war in Burma is a strong echo of my own experiences. Those times have been brought freshly to mind across half a century by the accounts of the brave Aung San Suu Kyi, at present imprisoned in Rangoon by the military; it happens we have met her husband, who is English, and so have some personal knowledge of the lady. She has read Forgotten Life during her imprisonment.

But underlying even the strain of restlessness, which haunts much of my fiction, is an older theme, that of repressed inner life, which both Joseph and Sheila Winter evince in different ways.

A repressed inner life is far from being unusual. Matthew Arnold wrote a fine poem about it, ``The Buried Self.'' Mary Shelley, an author in whom I take particular interest, gives dramatic expression to the power of that hidden seam when she speaks in her Journals of herself as one who, ``entirely and despotically engrossed in their own feelings, leads—as it were—an internal life quite different from the outer and apparent one.'' Many other instances can be found if you look for them. Perhaps the notion of doppelgangers sprang from this curious phenomenon of divided mind.

Here's a passage from Arnold's fine poem:

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us—to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.

``Our true original course....'' This idea was echoed unconsciously by Carl Jung, who stated that we may in the course of our lives, work through many personalities, while the person into whom we eventually evolve may have been already present at birth.

This sense of the miraculous, of the unaccepted, is one I have pursued in both sf and `straight' fiction.

My novels form a parabola above the straight line of my lived life. After an early comedy of English society, they take off immediately into space, to planets or futures far away, though their subjects mainly concern evolution and origins, the—as it were—hidden formats of our days. In the seventies, the novels return to Earth briefly to reminisce about a receding past, World War II. Then they are off again, even further, to a planet called Helliconia, a thousand light years away.

The dramas enacted on Helliconia reconstruct dramas of power and powerlessness such as we witness every day on Earth, acted out through personnae as vivid as I could make them. Whatever Helliconia did for my readers, it did much for me in resolving an inner struggle, in particular my religious concerns; this is accounted for by the metaphysics of the thing. I have always believed that sf was greater than its merely Gernsbackian aspect, though in truth—by which is meant practice—it cannot always live up to its Stapledonian aspirations.

The parabola of writing then brought me back to Earth: not entirely unexpectedly. Preceding the Helliconias of the early-to-mid eighties is a somewhat indigestible novel, Life in the West, which considers a global state of play from the viewpoint of a rather obnoxious character, Sir Thomas Squire.

Life in the West convinced me I was able to incorporate a novel of ideas (such as British critics, unlike American ones, mainly shun) with a novel of character, and that I should be less timid. With such a conviction in mind, I embarked on the Helliconias; which accounts for the way those three novels designedly differ in construction, one from another.

I was flying blind. During that period, I was suffering from PVFS (Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome), in which, horrendously, my memory was occluded. Not only flying blind but flying deaf . . . .

All things are grist to the writer. Forgotten Life, which followed the Helliconias, took up the theme of lost memory, as well as bringing me back to Earth, to Now. To Oxford, where I have lived for over four decades.

Not simply to Oxford. Precisely to Clem Winter's consulting rooms, 13 King Edward Street. At that address I lodged when I came to Oxford as a young man, after leaving the army, to take up a new personna. Isn't that what the novel's about—dreams, fantasies, and snatches of the past spicing and splicing the present?

The success of Forgotten Life, praised by such writers as Iris Murdoch and Anthony Burgess, was encouraging. While writing sf stories and collaborating with David Wingrove on Billion Year Spree, I planned a third novel, Remembrance Day, in which the life of some earlier characters should be extended further, as King JandanAganol of Helliconia Summer has his spiritual life transformed in Helliconia Winter.

Our personalities evolve, as Jung declared. Writers can hasten or delay what he calls individuation, by their writings, provided those writings contain an exploratory element. By paying attention to the inner voices, one can achieve a synthesis between conscious and unconscious; the buried self is unburied, and a new centre, a sort of hypothetical mid-point of balance, is achieved. This rare and beautiful development can be assisted by meditation.

But everyday life goes on. My friendship with Roger Corman, who filmed Frankenstein Unbound in the late eighties, prompted me to write Dracula Unbound as a screenplay. This proved too expensive for Roger. I turned the screenplay into a story (or novel, as publishers called it) ; I could tell by the sort of critics who praised it that it was no better than I had suspected—a mere amusement. It was a bauble on the way.

Into mind came the notion of a quartet which should carry ordinary characters into the future. An absorption in current affairs is one of the hallmarks of Life in the West, Forgotten Life, and Remembrance Day. So an interest in the emergent nations of Central Asia—Turkmenistan and the rest—led me naturally to write Somewhere East of Life. Somewhere is about Burnell, who has ten years of his memory stolen for a kind of futuristic porn video, wandering in Ashkhabad and that part of the world. This volume (published August 1994) will complete The Squire Quartet—and weld together contemporary novel and sf. And, with luck, my own MPD character . . . .

Three books, one dauntingly large, have been compiled by critics on my writing, all published in the United States, none in my own country; the same may be said of my wife Margaret's grand bibliography, published by Borgo Press. The critics haven't spotted the parabola, or that behind it lies a kind of quarrel with England.

When writers have quarrelled with their native land, it generally entails also a quarrel with their parents. So it was with me. I was shipped out to the Far East on a troopship in 1943, being not then 19. I've always loved that title, FAR EAST, and the remoteness it conjures up. The Far East was a good deal farther off in 1943 than now.

I'm the opposite of xenophobic and enjoyed the adventure, or much of it. The fact remains that when you were sent out to distant and foreign lands on active service, the British Army issued you with no promises about ever coming back. It was an official expression of exile and indifference: of your expendability. If you survived Burma, you remained stuck out there. And when eventually you returned ``home'' no one wished to know what had been happening to you, or what the countries were like you had visited. That part of your life perforce remained undigested.

Nowadays, you'd be counselled after such a traumatic time. Instead, a sergeant with a clipboard stood at the barracks gate as you went past in your unfamiliar civvy clothes, saying, ``There, that wasn't so bad, lads, how about signing on for another seven?'' You hurried past into the cold windswept regions of Civvy Street, to look for some lousy job or other.

I was so nostalgic for the East that when I first saw Indians or Chinese walking the streets of Oxford, I would follow them, in order to hear once more the the gutterals of Gujurati, the clatter of Cantonese.

I'd left England a boy and returned as a man. I understood neither the currency nor the class system. My science fiction was an expression of estrangement. Estrangement is a reason for setting one's story in the future or on a distant planet. How many other writers have exorcised their alienation by moving their characters to a remote world, Malakandria or The Wounded Land?

Early novels like Nonstop and Hothouse carry coded longings for the East, the wilds, the jungle.

A novel's function is nebulous but nevertheless definite. The novel is a literary construct with virtues specific unto itself, which can extend our imaginative boundaries, and translate for us, perhaps, our everyday reality into a larger sphere which may not find ready expression in our lived lives.

My quarrel with England must have been resolved, or I would not have written my recent books. But it's worth noting that Science-Fiction Studies voted me a neglected author. The neglect has been on my side of the Atlantic; give or take a little trouble over the ``New Wave,'' long ago, I have enjoyed much hospitality in American hearts.

As a more general point, however, short stories—long regarded an essential component of the sf mode—suffer critical and academic neglect. The reasons for this are clear: studying a collection of short stories requires more time than studying a novel, and the kudos to be gained may well be less. This is a loss, perhaps an inevitable one. As a devoted writer of short stories of many kinds, I see the short form as green leaves on a tree; the tree will never flourish without leaf.

In my recent novels lies a hard kernel of truth, like a Brazil nut at the centre of a chocolate—the truth that we are spiritual beings, subject to revelation, such as the revelation which transforms Joe Winter.

To develop, we must change our lives. Mystical experience is more common than generally allowed. It's difficult in the late twentieth century to find a context for its expression (not least in England after the premiership of Mrs Thatcher and her monetarism, which echoed much of the thinking of the Reagan administration). Mystical experiences interfere with careers. But a novelist doesn't have a career, only . . . paragraphs. He or she is free to make a fool of his or herself, and to blurt out the truth. To—well, it sounds terribly religious—to bear witness. That's what I intend by The Squire Quartet.

Nonstop (as Starship), NY 1959
Hothouse (as Long Afternoon of Earth), NY 1962
Frankenstein Unbound, NY 1974
Life in the West, NY 1990
Helliconia Spring, NY 1982
Helliconia Summer, NY 1983
Helliconia Winter, NY 1985
Forgotten Life, NY 1989
Remembrance Day, NY 1993
Somewhere East of Life, NY 1994

No Time Like Tomorrow, NY 1959
Galaxies Like Grains of Sand, NY 1960
Starswarm, NY 1964
Who Can Replace a Man, NY 1967
Neanderthal Planet, NY 1970
The Book of Brian Aldiss, NY 1972
New Arrivals, Old Encounters, NY 1979
Man in His Time, NY 1989
Last Orders, NY 1989
A Romance of the Equator, NY 1990
A Tupolev Too Far, NY 1993

CRITICAL WORK: Trillion Year Spree, 1986

 Eva Hauser

Science Fiction in the Czech Republic and the Former Czechoslovakia: The Pleasures and the Disappointments of the New Cosmopolitanism

1. My personal experiences in Communist times. In the '70s, the worst time of “normalization” and totalitarian rule in Czechoslovakia,1 I decided I wanted to be a writer. I started by trying to write realistic fiction, in the mainstream literary tradition, and sent my stories to those few magazines which had survived the purges of the early '70s. Eventually, a few of them were published, some even won prizes in competitions for “young, promising” writers, but that was all.

Barriers appeared which I was not able to cope with. The official publishing houses wanted something which was difficult to define or fulfill even if you had the stomach for it: procommunist, but not very much, as that would be ridiculous; positive and optimistic, but only in a limited way, as too much optimism would be suspicious; pretending realism, but in fact describing an alternate world with its own laws, considerably removed from our own. This world was an utterly gray one, and the “realistic novels dealing with contemporary society” which were published in the '70s were completely unreadable. Some people were able to cope somehow with these official demands: for example, one of my friends who is a scriptwriter wrote about very personal topics—family, partnership, children, etc.—but I couldn't do it. What really interested me were the wider problems of society: the way people were manipulated, the whole atmosphere of suffocating bleakness, the emptiness and aimlessness of life; demagogy; grotesque Potemkin villages which nobody believed in.

So I did the same thing as many other beginning writers: I turned to science fiction. This genre allowed us not only to speak more openly about our society, but also to extrapolate, to model, to exaggerate, to construct alternative societies with characteristics which interested us. It started to be possible to publish sf at the very end of the '70s, after there was some liberalization in our so-called “cultural politics,” and by the mid-'80s it was common.

The writers of the generation which started to publish at the end of the '70s had all read sf books as children (Verne, of course, plus Yefremov, Lem and Bradbury, who were widely accessible in our bookshops), and it made the shift to sf easier for them. We also had our own sf tradition of Karel Čapek (1890-1938), Jan Weiss (1892-1972), and Josef Nesvadba (b. 1926);2 this domestic sf was for the most part deeply humanistic, even educational, concentrating on the problems of society (typically, how to maintain human values in some kind of “alienated” or “overtechnologized” future). We didn't have anything like the American tradition of individualistic, adventurous sf.

2. The '80s: official and unofficial sf publishing.  At the start of the '80s, as soon as it started to be possible to publish more sf, there appeared two branches of sf publishing: one in the official publishing houses and the other among organized groups of fans and amateurs, what might be termed the local variant of fandom.3

Many writers of the literary mainstream turned to sf at the same time, for the same reasons as the new writers, and also perhaps for more opportunistic ones—it seemed to sell well, to be genuinely popular and attractive to our readers. A kind of fashion. For example, Vladimír Páral (b.1932), one of the most popular official writers of the literary mainstream, wrote a series of three sf novels in the early '80s which tried to deal with ecological problems, the dilemmas of the consumer society, and even feminism.4

The other “opportunist” was Eduard Martin (b.1951), whose books used sf trappings on the surface, but in fact had a very sweet, poetic atmosphere and were reminiscent of a certain kind of refined, harmless, social novel of the 19th century. My personal opinion is that they substituted for the women's novels which were not being published at the time. Martin was tremendously successful among female readers.

The mainstay of sf publishing in most cultures, however, is the magazine, and in Czechoslovakia the publication of all new magazines was forbidden by a secret regulation of our Ministry of Internal Affairs. Publishers tried to get around this regulation by publishing more or less periodical anthologies. The first editor who did this, and a really outstanding personality, was Ivo Železný (b.1950) from the Communist publishing house Svoboda, who managed to publish several anthologies of stories by unknown, amateur authors, which he found in our fandom. Vojtěch Kantor (b.1931) from the publishing house Mladá Fronta did the same thing. He asked Zdeněk Rampas (b.1956), one of the main organizers of our fandom, to bring him some interesting manuscripts, and so new names like Ivan Kmínek (b.1953), Josef Pecinovský (b.1946), and Jan Hlavička (b.1951) appeared in these anthologies, together with already well-known official mainstream authors like Jaroslav Boček (b.1932), and Jana Moravcová (b.1937), and established sf authors like Jaroslav Veis (b.1946) and Ondřej Neff (b.1945). Most of these stories seemed very good at the time, but today they seem a little out of date.

This datedness is connected with our common feeling in the early '80s that the only theme worth writing about was totalitarianism. I myself felt that I could't really like any sf which was not about the manipulation of people, about the mechanics of totalitarian regimes.

Our best sf novel dealing with this topic was Utopia, nejlepší verze (Utopia, the Best Version) by Ivan Kminek. It was written in 1986, but its publication was so delayed that in the end it appeared only after the revolution, and almost nobody noticed it.5 Bad luck—if it had been published before the revolution, everybody would have been crazy about it! My own collection of stories, Hostina mutagenů (A Feast of Mutagens), had a similar fate. We started to prepare it in 1988 (again in the Svoboda publishing house) and, at the time, it seemed to be a very provocative, avant-garde project. When it was eventually published in 1992, it seemed only esoteric and extravagant, not very easy to read, and all about totalitarianism, which seems boring today.

Alongside the self-consciously political sf writers, there was another group of writers who side-stepped the theme of totalitarianism but were still popular among sf fans. The best-known example is probably František Novotný (b. 1944), whose main themes are the heroism of the conquerors of space, and a fascination with the relationship between human beings and God, between Man the creator and robots, his intelligent creations. Novotný has continued to write in the same way since the revolution, only now he doesn't have these awful difficulties with introducing—for example—a group of robots who adore a human Madonna, or other “religious” motifs, which were so unacceptable to the Communist supervisors. Novotný's collection, Nešťastné přistání (Unhappy Landing), published in 1988, is a good example of a book which was held for a long time in an official publishing house (Československý spisovatel) and in the end was badly crippled by the forced omission of its most controversial stories.6

Novotný is adored by a large number of our sf fans. His mixture of computer technology, religion, and philosophical statements about Man the conqueror—his will, progress, and future—seems attractive to them, but his style is heavy and unclear and to Western eyes his ideas are probably a bit dated.

The Nestor of our sf, Josef Nesvadba, also seems to have been distressed by the attentions of the censor in the seventies and eighties: his novel Tajná zpráva z Prahy (Secret Report from Prague), originally written in 1968, had to be changed several times, and when it did finally appear in 1978, it was a quite different book.7

The most popular sf writer of the generation following Nesvadba's, Ondřej Neff, concentrated on technical sf about heroes who are harsh, solitary, and a bit alienated in their search for identity, which they mask under a macho surface. His stories contain many technical details, anticipations of real facts (for example, his novel Milénium, written in 1986, describes exactly a computer war of the Gulf type), and bloody adventurous scenes, so his popularity among adolescent readers is well deserved.8 He stopped writing sf for a time after 1989, because he was kept far too busy by his day job, but recently he has started to write feverishly again. He seems to be searching for something like a philosophical message, some “final touch” which would express or explain the sense of his writing.

Although fandom was connected with official sf publishing through the anthologies and other channels, there were many authors active in fandom who didn't publish officially at all, either because they were too experimental, or they didn't have enough literary skill, were too provocative or just too young (examples include Zdeněk Páv [b.1959], Jan Oščádal [b.1949], Jiří Olšanský [b.1950], Jiří Procházka [b.1959], Carola Biedermannová [b.1947], Vilma Kadlečková [b.1971], Filip Škába [b.1972]). Many of these authors opted instead to publish in specialist sf fanzines and samizdat.

The nature of the sf fanzines and sf samizdat before the revolution was not quite the same as that of the banned, dissident ones. On the contrary, many of them tried to hide behind some official label or organization (most commonly that of a special-interest group of the Socialist Union of Youth, or a university society). This semi-official status brought its own problems, however. Sometimes officials would get suspicious or irritated by something and they would ban an individual fanzine or a club, in which case it disappeared, though new activities always emerged somewhere else shortly thereafter, like mushrooms from a mycelium. There were also a number of samizdat publishers who operated completely illegally without any attempt at a pretended official status.9

Another important activity of sf fandom in the '80s was the creation of the annual Karel Čapek Award short-story contest, which allowed beginning writers who had no real hope of official publication to have their work judged and rewarded by a jury of their peers. The winners received a statue of a small black newt (after Čapek's War with the Newts), and everybody, including myself, yearned very much for this award.

The first winner was Ivan Kmínek in 1983 and 1984, then František Novotný (in 1985 and 1991) and Josef Pecinovský (1986 and 1987). With Jan Hlavička they were the biggest stars of our nascent fandom. I got my Newt in 1988, then Hlavička in 1989 and Vilma Kadlečková in 1990 (she was only 19 at the time and is one of the great hopes of our sf). In 1992, the winner was Jan Poláček (b.1957), while in 1993, it was Vilma's turn again.

Vilma is the type of author who very definitely doesn't think that “the only theme worth writing about is totalitarianism.” Her writing lies somewhere between genre fantasy and sf, is clearly influenced by Tolkien, poetic in its language, and without any obviously contemporary motifs—she is interested rather in the eternal themes of myth and psychology. Even the title of her first novel hints at this—it is called Na pomezi Eternaalu (On the Borders of the Eternaal), and is quite reminiscent of Frank Herbert's Dune.10 She has many fans.

Josef Pecinovský oscillates between political satire of totalitarian times and escapist, adventurous sf.

For the most part, we didn't know anything at all about dissident and émigré literature, as it was not widely accessible if you were not a dissident yourself. And to be a dissident meant to be excluded from official education, any possibility of travel, etc. (this was a real problem for sf fans, as most of them were either science students or professional scientists). As a result, most sf fans discovered sf books by dissidents like Jiří Hochman (b.1926), Martin Harníček (b.1952) and Egon Bondy (b.1930) only after the revolution. This was a shame, as of course most of these books are very sharp antitotalitarian satires.11

3. After the Velvet Revolution (1989). The sudden freedom that followed the events of 1989 didn't automatically bring with it an improvement in the quality of what was being published; on the contrary, the market has an almost bottomless demand for product. So it is relatively easy now to publish a book, almost any kind of book, but it is much harder to live by writing. One example: in 1991, Ivo Źelezný published an adventurous fantasy by Jiří Procházka under his George Walker pseudonym in a total printrun of 70,000 copies. In 1992, the same publisher issued my feminist sf novel, Cvokyně (The Madwoman), in a printrun of 3,000.12 The royalty is one crown per copy in both cases, so it is quite possible that “George Walker” could live on his writing (producing one or two books per year), but for me, writing is a pure luxury.13

Several other publishing houses, founded by former sf samizdat publishers from fandom, have appeared in the last two years: Nová vlna, Winston Smith, Laser, AFSF, Exalticon, Cerná planeta. They prefer publishing translations of Anglo-American sf, but they don't absolutely reject works by our domestic writers.

We also now have several specialist sf publishing houses which never had anything to do with fandom before the revolution, but which have since discovered that sf has great commercial potential. Mostly they produce only translations of foreign works.14

The force of the market is so strong that it would be an illusion to think that we can freely create what we want. Several years ago, you could live quietly on a relatively low income from some office, and during working hours—instead of chatting or drinking—you could write as much sf as you liked. Today, you must usually really work for a living, and you have much less spare time for writing as a hobby. Some people have responded to this by writing thrillers for money in order to support their more literary work. Examples are Josef Pecinovský and “George Walker”/Jiří Procházka.

For two years, from 1990 until the spring of 1992, I worked as an editor of our main professional sf magazine, Ikarie, which was started in 1990 by Ondřej Neff, Jaroslav Olša (b.1964), Ivan Adamovič (b.1967), and other fans.15 Working there was an interesting experience. The magazine has a relatively high printrun (30,000 copies a month), and an enthusiastic and encouraging readership, mostly young boys eager to read adventurous or technical sf. I worked primarily as an editor of our domestic sf and I felt that, although we have relatively good sf writers, on a professional level, they don't have enough ideas. Many of the stories were simply plagiarisms, or ill-considered stories about some man-eating animal on an alien planet, or the world decaying after an ecological catastrophe, etc. In short, they are full of cliches. When I had a chance to compare our sf with stories by Australian and Dutch writers, my impression was that our beginning writers are somehow not able to create an expressive, clean-cut world of their own. It is as if they don't realize what a lot of thinking you must do before you start to write.

4. About the murky future of our sf. It might be that we all are searching for our identity in these times. At least it is very difficult to define what is the most interesting or significant stream of our current sf, either new or established.

We still haven't absorbed any new problems worth thinking about, getting angry with, or being afraid of. We don't want to read, write, or think, about totalitarianism any more. But what is our next big theme? Nobody really knows.

Extremely fashionable at the moment are Czech imitations of cyberpunk.16 This movement, with its emphasis on computers, artificial intelligence, and the latest medical technology still seems very modern to us, even though in America it is slowly becoming obsolete. Our most succesful writer of cyberpunk is undoubtedly Jiří Procházka (when he is not writing fantasies under his George Walker pseudonym), who is probably the only one of our sf authors who can write sincerely in a punk way.17 Other writers who have been associated with cyberpunk are Jan Poláček and Ivan Adamovič.

Apart from the cyberpunk stream, there is a very strong stream of genre fantasy or something between fantasy and sf (examples would be Jaroslav Jiran [b.1955], who replaced me at Ikarie, and Josef Pecinovský). These writers tell romantic stories with clear-cut plots, usually about the fight between Good and Evil, just like fairy stories. People are romantic and enjoy them, but of course they are a bit escapist. The new worlds built by these authors are somehow not new enough . . . .

Then there are a few people who write about what really interests them, about contemporary problems. The brightest example is Carola Biedermannová.18 Although she also writes some conventional genre fantasy when opportunity presents itself, her best work is her rather radical feminist sf. With her playful approach, she is able to write whatever people want (or on the contrary don't want, just to provoke them): Freudian analyses of absolutely any text, viciously anti-clerical and anti-traditionalist sf stories, feminist diatribes. She is even promising some stories about lesbianism, which is a completely taboo subject for Czech women writers.

Other people seem to be having difficulties with finding new themes, new motifs, and new motivations for their sf. For example, the Karel Čapek Award-winning story for 1992 was another attempt at cyberpunk, a mixture of religious and computer motifs which our fans like so much, brilliantly written, but nothing qualitatively new . . . .

Perhaps this is OK. Perhaps most of our readers need something like Vilma's novels, Jiran's and Procházka's fantasy, or Novotný's pathos. Perhaps people need to return to their historical cultural roots, to renovate the traditional, eternal human values in themselves, before they can join current western cultural trends. The internalization of “contemporary capitalist” problems from the newspaper headlines to the depths of our souls will probably take several years.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. An earlier version of this article was delivered as a lecture at the University of London, at the conference East European Literature in Transition, December 1992. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the British Council which made her visit to the conference possible. English text prepared by the author and Cyril Simsa.

1. Czechoslovakia was formally dissolved into two states, the predominantly Czech Czech Republic, and the predominantly Slovak Slovakia, on 1 January 1993. Although the authors discussed here are all Czech, many of the institutions described (e.g., the Karel Čapek Award) were at least nominally open to both Czech and Slovak authors. Most of the general conditions which shaped the form of sf fandom in the Czech Republic under totalitarianism were also common to Slovakia. It is too early to say whether, and to what extent, Czech and Slovak fandom will diverge, now that they are divided by an international boundary, but so far, relations are extremely cordial.

2. Karel Čapek is well enough known to need no introduction here. Jan Weiss is the author of the classic futuristic fantasy novel Dům o 1000 patrech (The House with 1000 Storeys, 1929), available in German and French translations, but not in English. He also wrote several volumes of short stories, and a second fantasy novel, Spáč ve zvěrokruhu (The Sleeper in the Zodiac, 1937), which has not been translated: one of his better stories from the 1920s has been published in English as “The Apostle,” Fantasy Macabre 13, 1990, 2-6. Josef Nesvadba is the Czech Republic's best-known living sf writer: his first collection of short stories, Tarzanova smrt (Tarzan's Death, 1958) caused a sensation when it was first published, and marks the beginning of modern Czech sf. It was followed by several short story collections and some novels. His main collection in English is In the Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman (London: Victor Gollancz, 1970), U.S. edition as The Lost Face (NY: Taplinger, 1971).

3. There are, however, some significant differences in the way fandom was organized in Eastern Europe, in particular its dependence on local sf clubs rather than individual networking.

4. Válka s mnohozvířetem (War with the Multibeast; Praha: Československý spisovatel, 1983), Pokušení A-ZZ (Temptation A-ZZ; Praha: Melantrich, 1983), Země žen (The land of Women; Praha: Československý spisovatel, 1987). For an English summary of the first of these three, see the review by Jan Čulík in Kosmas: Journal of Czechoslovak and Central European Studies 4:149-55, Winter 1985.

5. Ivan Kmínek, Utopie, nejlepší verze (Utopia, the Best Version; Praha: Středočeské nakladatelstvi, 1990).

6. Since the revolution, Novotný has published two further collections: Bradbur-yho stín (Bradbury's Shadow; Brno: AF 167, 1991) and Ramax (untranslatable neologism; Brno: AF 167, 1992). The first of these includes the stories omitted from Nešťastné přistání.

7. Josef Škvorecký, who read the original manuscript in the 1960s, while he was still living in Czechoslovakia, comments on the discrepancy in “Panorama of (Unionized) Czech Writers,” World Literature Today 57:50-53, Winter 1983. The text of the original, uncensored version of the novel was eventually published under the title První zpráva z Prahy (First Report from Prague; Praha: Odeon, 1992).

8. Milénium also suffered from enormous delays in its publication, eventually appearing in an abridged form as a serial in the magazine Ikarie (11/91-1/92). It was published in book form in October 1992 (Praha: Golem, 1992).

9. For a more detailed account of sf samizdat in Czechoslovakia, see Jaroslav Olša, jr.: “Samizdaty a publikace tzv. `šedé zóny,' vydávané příznivci a kluby science fiction v Československu” (Samizdat and publications of the so-called “grey zone” published by fans and clubs of science fiction in Czechoslovakia), forthcoming in the Slavic studies journal Slavia (Praha).

10. Vilma Kadlečková, Na pomezi Eternaalu (On the Borders of the Eternaal; Praha: Winston Smith, 1990).

11. The works in question are Hochman's Jelení Brod (proper name; Köln: Index, 1971), Harníček's Maso (Meat; Toronto: 68 Publishers, 1981), and several works by Bondy, especially Invalidní sourozenci (Disabled Siblings; Toronto: 68 Publishers, 1981). For a discussion of Harníček in English, see Paul I. Trensky, “Harníček's Maso as a Dystopia,” Czechoslovak and Central European Journal 8:117-27, Summer/Winter 1989.

12. George P. Walker, Meč krále D'Sala (The Sword of King D'Sal; Praha: Ivo Železný, 1991). Eva Hauserová, Cvokyné (The Madwoman; Praha: Ivo Železný, 1992).

13. I should remark that Walker's fantasy is not a bad example of its genre: it is full of action, but also of good and witty gags.

14. For example, AG Kult (now renamed Classic), who published Isaac Asimov's Foundation series in Czech and are now publishing Roger Zelazny (though some of their translations are reputed to be very poor), and Najáda, who specialize in secondrate French sf as they have an advantageous contract.

15. The title of the magazine is taken from Olša's prerevolutionary fanzine, Ikarie XB.

16. Fans in Czechoslovakia first learned about cyberpunk from a lecture given by Ondřej Neff at Parcon, the Czechoslovak National Sf Convention, in 1987. Although Neff was of the opinion that cyberpunk made little sense in a country where even the telephones didn't work, subsequent events have shown that the Czechs have a surprising affinity for the form.

17. Procházka's cyberpunk stories are collected in Tvůrci času (The Creators of Time; Praha: Winston Smith, 1991).

18. An English translation of “Oni” (“They”; Ikarie 3/91), one of her most controversial stories, is in preparation for the American émigré literary magazine Yazzyk (Prague), 3, Spring 1994.


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