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Hungary SF summary 2012

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Science fiction and fantasy in Hungary has its own little subculture, with only a few publishers in the field (not counting publishers of supernatural romance, which is highly popular): Ad Astra, Agave, Delta Vision, Metropolis Media, and one major paper magazine: the famous, and 40 years old Galaktika with three international European awards and remarkably high sales.

There are several sites dealing with sci-fi and fantasy (sfmag.hu, lfg.hu, sfportal.hu, fictionkult.hu, and many more), and there are many online workshops and fiction sites (karcolat.hu, irokor.hu, for instance), but most of the visitors belong to the same fan base.

It is no wonder that the only annual science fiction convention, organized by Avana, a union handling the legacy of Péter Zsoldos, usually has around 30-40 visitors. Winners of the Zsoldos Péter Science Fiction Award are announced on this Hungarocon in two categories: long and short fiction.

Hungarian sci-fi and fantasy now faces the challenge of broadening the readership or risk that the number of fans dwindles further. There are several attempts at attracting new audience with new marketing tools, cooperating with other organizations outside the genre, experimenting with new themes and styles; and we also try to open more to the world.

If you are interested in the post-communist history of Hungarian science fiction and fantasy, check out SFmag.hu, the most widely read online magazine dealing with speculative fiction.

There are some shared world brands that were born at the beginning of the nineties and are still popular – the brand name is as strong an attraction as the name of the best writers, even though the quality of the books within the brands varies greatly. Most popular fantasy brands are Káosz, Cherubion (by Nemes István and further writers) and M.A.G.U.S. (by Gáspár András and further writers). Although there are space opera or space fantasy brands like Mysterious Universe (by Fonyódi Tibor, and Szélesi Sándor, and further writers), individual novels are more typical in the sci-fi genre, while most fantasy novels that are published today belong to one of the brands.

Emphasis on adventure and quick pacing is typical of most of the Hungarian genre works, although readers award with their attention and good critiques those writers who deal with serious themes and put good characterization and ambitious language forward. There are books and short stories that are interesting, novel, modern and unmistakably Hungarian – and there are more and more of them every year. The last five years have seen a new rise in interesting books – while previously adventure and entertainment were the call words, the newer novels try to reflect to social and personal problems and questions and are more somber in tone.

To sample the best of contemporary Hungarian sci-fi we would recommend László Zoltán’s Keringés (Circulation), Nagate, and Nulla pont (Zero Point) and his short stories; Markovics Botond’s (Brandon Hackett) A poszthumán döntés (Posthuman Decision), Isten gépei (Machines of God), and Az ember könyve (Book of Men); and Görgey Etelka’s (Raana Raas) Csodaidők (Wonder Times) tetralogy.

Keringés searches the answer to overpopulation and global climate change by time travel. In Nagate, László Zoltán builts a strange, and genuine urban fantasy cityworld, then in the conclusion, Nulla pont transforms the story into real science fiction.

Markovics Botond explores the boundaries of being human in A poszthumán döntés, and the way technological development exponentially grows into technological singularity in Isten gépei. His latest novel, Az ember könyve answers the question as to what it is that (biologically) defines humans as human? And can we still be really human in a genetically fluid environment?

Görgey Etelka’s Csodaidők is a poignant family history set into a turbulent political and religious future.

An interesting sample of contemporary Hungarian sci-fi and fantasy are the Hetvenhét {77} and Erato anthologies, published in the Delta Műhely series. Hetvenhét {77} offers short stories based on Hungarian fairy tales, while Erato includes erotic sci-fi and fantasy writings.

Csilla Kleinheincz also explores Hungarian folklore in her fantasy novel Ólomerdő (The Leaden Forest). She happens to be one of the contemporary Hungarian SF writers whose short stories are available in English: her most recent international publication is a story in The Apex Book of World SF.

A side note: art is above the language barrier that Hungarian science fiction couldn’t breach, and several sci-fi and fantasy artists are working within the genre on international scale. Boros Zoltán and Szikszai Gábor won the Chesley Award in 2006, and are actively working on book covers and illustrations, as is Tikos Péter. Futaki Attila (comic book illustrator) has been published in French, and illustrated the Disney edition of The Lightning Thief.

Hungarian speculative fiction is getting interesting again.

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