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.

Where are current SF magazines going?

I’ve had a talk on current Anglo-American magazines at Festival Fantazie in Chotebor last weekend. I meant to present notable magazines to the Czech audience, describe the change this market went through since its establishment up until now and most of all talk about magazines with freely-accessible content, their strategies, benefits and how they shape the world of speculative fiction. Finally, I mentioned the opportunities online magazines present to authors worldwide. The talk had more impact than I had expected (especially given at 9 a.m. at a busy convention where this is about the time many people finally go to sleep); it gave one editor the idea to add podcasts to his magazine (more specifics about this later if he succeeds – I certainly hope so), some authors’ eyes brightened and Františka Vrbenská asked me to write an article based on my talk.

Well, here it is! (Czech version of the article can be found here.) Most of this information is quite easy to find for any English-speaking person interested in this topic, so I’ll only very briefly mention the history of SF magazines here and then will move to the changes brought by online publishing (and what it means for readers as well as authors).

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