New interview & talks at PragoFFest

Martin Šust prepared an interview with me for XB-1. I talk about my upcoming SF trilogy Blíženci (Gemini), the transhumanist anthology Terra nullius and other projects. It’s in Czech, though, and I really don’t recommend Google Translate (yeah, it does seem that human translators will remain unchallenged a bit longer). He surprised me by putting that particular picture there; the award was borrowed for a few seconds at last year’s Worldcon, but hey, maybe I’ll hold my own one day. One can always hope, especially if lots of work are behind that hope.

And if you’re going to PragoFFest next week, you can come to my talks about Kuiper Belt (Friday 1 p.m.) and “paranoid optimists” (on cognitive biases; Saturday 6 p.m.), both in the science&tech section.

Darkest humor in the new issue of XB-1

The February issue of XB-1 is coming soon a it features the second part of Equoid (Charles Stross), Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma (Alex Shvartsman) and What Doctor Gottlieb Saw (Ian Tregilis) in the foreign stories section. And with so much horror, humor ranging from the darkest tones to the lighter ones and a lot of lovecraftian world, it would be impossible not to build on it in the nonfiction section. Therefore my article “The Darkest Humor from Deep Spacetime” on Lovecraftian pastiches, with emphasis on the ones containing an element rarely if ever found in Lovecraft: humor.

There are hundreds or thousands of pastiches, many of them more or less humorous, some even parodies. But there are two great fiction series I’ve encountered that managed to convey deep horror and despair and season it with moments of wonderful, mostly very dark humor without making the horror seem any less serious, each series in its own brilliant way. One of them are Laundry Files by Stross. Equoid is a part of that series, among more shorter works, but be sure to try the novels as well. The other one is the Johannes Cabal series by Jonathan L. Howard. It’s composed of short stories as well as novels too and again I can recommend reading everything of it.

In light of unseen terrors and gloom, on the very verge of madness, there still can be something to laugh at. And where you’ve got laugher, you’ve got an even tiny spark of hope. Maybe that’s why the combination of true horror and humor works so well.

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New short stories (sort of) and XB-1’s anniversary

In addition to yesterday’s big news, I have some other ones today. Czech translations of my stories The Brass City and Catching A Ride, both of which have been published in English, appear in the upcoming issue of XB-1, along with my translation of Jason Sanford’s brand new column.

It’s also a special 50th issue since the transition of Ikarie into XB-1 (therefore the retro cover) and the readers can look forward especially to the foreign fiction section, which contains all the Hugo-winning short works from last year: Equoid (divided into two issues), The Lady Astronaut of Mars, and The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere.

Another big anniversary is coming up in April – there’s going to be the 250th issue of the whole magazine’s history (Ikarie and XB-1 together)!

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An oasis of European short speculative fiction?

Editor Martin Šust has recently mentioned an interesting fact: As far as we know, the Czech Republic is the only European country with two professional monthly genre print magazines (XB-1 and Pevnost) and they’ve been together on the market for more than thirteen years now. Moreover, XB-1 and Polish SF magazine Nowa Fantastyka are the only European non-English magazines that publish foreign authors and can pay them professional fees (as well as translators and Czech and Polish authors, respectively). Russian Esli, which used to publish world authors too, was canceled in 2012. (However, there are luckily more European magazines full of interesting SF, especially online – just most of them are nonpaying.) Vlado Ríša, chief editor of XB-1, may be the longest-working European genre magazine editor: he’s been the chief editor of the magazine for more than eleven years. Jaroslav Olša, Jr., the Czech ambassador in South Korea and longtime SF fan and translator, later added that Japanese SF Magajin and Chinese Kche-sue wen-i are probably the only monthly SF magazines being published longer than Ikarie/XB-1 (Ikarie is the former title of the magazine, which couldn’t be used anymore when it changed its publishing house, but the publishing didn’t cease).

I must admit I have been quite oblivious of the SF magazines situation in the rest of Europe and pretty much anywhere else across the world except for the Angloamerican market, since the only languages in which I have a reading proficiency are Czech (plus Slovakian, which is very similar) and English; after I had finished grammar school, my German became too rusty for me to even read a newspaper. Martin’s information therefore surprised me a lot and made me even prouder to be a small part of the wider XB-1 team. It also made me appreciate the overall SF situation in the Czech Republic much more. I hope it stays this way or improves over time; both magazines suffered the risk of cancellation in the last couple of years, and though both recovered quickly, it showed us how fragile the short fiction market is.

SF has a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Pretty much everyone will mention Karel Čapek (in whose R.U.R. the word robot first appeared) but it goes into the 19th century as well (to some elements of the works by Svatopluk Čech, Jakub Arbes, Karel Pleskač and others). Historical Czech SF anthologies put together by Ivan Adamovič can give one a good idea about the kinds of speculative fiction written here since the end of 19th century. What about today? I’m under the impression that if some Czech authors wrote in English, their works would find a wide audience. Vilma Kadlečková’s ambitious SF saga Mycelium, Jiří W. Procházka’s early cyberpunk stories, Karolina Francová’s dark psychological SF novels… these are just a few examples of many. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately solely for Czech readers), they only write in Czech. I get it; an author can fine-tune the language best when using their native tongue. Writing in Czech and the ability to use everything the language offers may be a part of what makes them exceptional. But still… Sometimes I wonder how an anthology of Czech stories translated into English would do. Croatian authors did this when Eurocon was hosted in Zagreb in 2012. Their anthology Kontakt was a part of the materials at the con and it became widely available this spring when published by Wizard’s Tower Press thanks to Cheryl Morgan.

Since good translations into English are insanely expensive and such a project would be extremely risky, this idea might just fit into some utopian future – and SF, utopian especially, rarely predicts the future… but hey, it happens sometimes.

 

Authors and readers across the world: How’s the SF (in the broad sense of speculative fiction, not only science fiction) magazines situation in your country? How many writers from there publish in English? Do you think there’s been a good development recently? Have I missed something important above? Add what comes to your mind.