THOUGHTS ABOUT THE SCIENCE FICTION (ENGLISH EDITION)

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Brother1 fan,

I used this address to readers in an editorial I wrote for the first and only issue of the Bulgarian newspaper Terra Fantastika all the way back in 1993. It was the first newspaper in my country, covering the speculative genre. Of course we intended to publish fiction, but that was not the main goal. I saw it as a publication about the SF&F, much more then of SF&F. Alas, the sales were low. Those were crazy times in my country, the political system had just changed a few years earlier and the reality exceeded even our most fantastic expectations.

Despite the fact that I write on occasion science fiction, at first and foremost I am a promoter and I prefer to enjoy and to study the genre. The latter is probably due to my curiosity; just like my day-time job to do astronomy research does. I was surprised to discover that I would rather spend my time revealing the ideas and exploring the words of others rather than to come up with ideas on my own. My second drive is to find ways to use science fiction as a tool to promote the natural sciences, in particular my favorite – the astronomy.

Those who know me won’t be surprised that most of the pieces I include here were written as part of my long-standing efforts to spread the word about the Bulgarian SF&F abroad. This is a companion to another similarly titled book that includes about two dozen essays written in Bulgarian. The materials in common between the two volumes is minimal, because most of the pieces in English were written directly in that language, and as much as I wanted, I simply don’t have enough the time to translate back and forth the non-overlapping essays.

There is very little non-fiction in Bulgaria about the SF&F. A few critical books were authored by Elka Konstantinova, Ognian Saparev and more recently Kamen Todorov. There is also a number of articles by Atanass P. Slavov (who invented the word fantastologia, e.g. science of the fantastic) scattered across various venues; these are still waiting to be collected in a single volume. Critique and non-fiction translated in other language almost don’t existent. As far as I know only Rady Radev has published some general reviews of the Bulgarian SF&F in Locus, in the latest incarnation of Amazing Storis, and he has a collection of non-fiction for sale on Amazon. There are also a few blog posts in English here and there from other authors.

The probability that any of the Bulgarian books that I review here would see print in translation is negligible and older works are not easily accessible even for readers who are proficient in Bulgarian. I am sure that in the future the translating tools will be able to deal with fiction (this may require no less than achieving an working artificial intelligence), but this day has not arrived yet. Therefore, I conscientiously adopted a more narrative style, sometime even providing a full synopsis of the reviewed works.

Obviously, I am a non-native English speaker and my writing needs editing. The pieces that have appeared in written or in some on-line publications have already been edited (and I make sure to mention the names of their editors in the short intros I have added to each chapter). However, this still leaves quite a large fraction of the book to rely only on my own language skills. To remedy this I conceived this project as a crowd-sourcing effort. I do not plan to charge money for for the book – the collection is distributed freely as an e-book. However, I intend to ask for your time and intellect: while reading, please mark any typos, grammatical or stylistic errors and send them to me. I prefer to work with doc file with corrections and suggestions in save-changes editing mode. In a year or whenever I receive enough (whatever that means) corrections, I will introduce them in a new edition. The names of all contributors will be mentioned. Thank you in advance!

Note that the hyperlinks were not updated for this publication and won’t be updated in the future either. The Internet is too much in flux to to keep up. Just google it! There is another reason that I consider more important, though – I want to preserve these essays in the form they were originally published. Some of them are nearly a decade old and as the time goes by they will be – hopefully – a living monument of sites that have perished in the cracks of the global network.

My two most important English language publications are missing for copyright reasons. The first is a statistical study of the speculative publication landscape by sub-genre, based on the regular presentations of new books in Locus Online. However, I included the foreword – I have written introductions for each essay in this book. The second piece is an a comparative essay on the Tiptree Jr and her contemporary from behind the Iran wall – the Bulgarian science fiction writer Zora Zagorska. It appeared in 2015 in the award winning anthology Letters to Tiptree. The foreword that explains the origin of that essay is also a part of this book.

Those who expect to find here a work of academic literary criticism might be disappointed. I lack the education to do that. Instead, I set a goal to bring the attention of wider, non-Bulgarian speaking audience to the speculative fiction of my country. This is more an introduction to the genre in Bulgarian, than anything else. The Bulgarian fiction dominates this volume, but I have not limited myself to it. Books from other countries that caught my attention are also reviewed. The essays are featured in chronological order, with a few exceptions.

Enjoy!

May 9 – June 11, 2017

Munch

1 And sisters fans too, but back then I wasn’t thinking much about that.