“Europe remains a central figure in the global system. The European Union’s economy is the largest in the world, taken collectively, and the European Continent remains a center of global commerce, science and culture… And when a Continent as important as Europe redefines itself, the entire world will be affected… That the major political & economic centers of the world are completely out of synch with each other, not only statistically but also structurally, indicates that a major shift in how the world works may be underway“. – An US political scientist
For the average consumer of speculative fiction from Romania, Europe is rather an unknown continent, unexplored, inhabited by exotic and possibly graphic creatures. For the average consumer of speculative fiction from Lithuania, let’s say, Europe is rather an unknown continent, unexplored and certainly inhabited by exotic and colorful creatures. And so on, for all countries of the “Old World”, Ye Olde Europe.
To a lesser or greater degree, for any ordinary European consumer of “sci-fi” or simply, of “imaginary”, the continent is an unknown world, hardly researched and explored.
We know next to nothing about the Norwegian SF&F. Nothing about the Luxembourg one. Very little about that one existing in Bulgaria, a country which is two steps away from us. Is there SF&F, are there authors and readers of the imaginary domain in Estonia? We suspect there are, it is reasonable to assume that there is an Estonian SF&F and there are in Estonia people reading and writing books, so it would be unlikely that none among the Estonian authors wouldn’t be interested by SF&F. Only that we assume that such writers are almost totally unknown to the European general public.
Of course, there are European areas with a higher probability to have an strong SF&F universe, a consistent publishing market, many writers and fans.
For example, France. We know that in France the SF&F is well developed, that there are plenty of dedicated events, a functional editorial market, and therefore, a dedicated audience.
Another example: Italy. We know or suspect that in Italy, as in France, SF&F has a busy life, supported by numerous authors and fans.
However, if we’ll ask an European SF&F fan about the latest titles published on France or in Italy, the fan will shrug. The fan will possibly mention Jules Verne, Serge Brussolo, Gérard Klein or Lino Aldani and Roberto Quaglia and … that’s all about it.
Nothing or almost nothing about Jean Claude Dunyach, Sylvie Denis,Michel Demuth, Wolfgang Jeschke, Andreas Eschbach or Andrzej Sapkowski, Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo, Juan Miguel Aguilera, João Barreiros. Nothing or almost nothing about Francesco Verso, about Carmelo Rafalo, about Antonio Bellomi, Debora Montanari, Nina Horvath, Dănuț Ungureanu or Cristian Mihail Teodorescu.
The same or even worse if we refer to Germany, to Hungary, the Netherlands or any other European country.
Things are completely otherwise if we refer to the British SF&F: we know lots of British SF&F authors, we’ve read their books breathlessly.
Why we the euro-continentals (675 million people), do not read European SF&F ? Or just only a very small extent or even not at all ? Besides the UK’s (60 million people) dedicated SF&F, all the other national euro-continental SF&Fs are in a penumbra uncertainty or even in a complete darkness.
An explanation at hand, supported by many: the Euro-Continental linguistic mosaic. It is difficult to find a good professional translator from a European language to another except, of course, French, English and possibly German and Spanish. In my opinion, this explanation does not fully cover the grounds that EUROPA SF is a continent unknown to its inhabitants.
Maybe because Europeans are not interested in their own universe? Possibly, but things were not always as so. Let us remember the 1960-1970s when Eastern European authors were discovered and translated in the West. Western authors penetrated the Iron Curtain and were published in the East. In Romania, books by Gérard Klein, John Brunner, Lino Aldani, Herbert Franke, Karel Čapek, Strugatsky brothers, Gennady Gor, Vladimir Savchenko, Günther Krupkat, Liuben Dilov, etc. were translated and published. Within the romanian SF magazine, Colecția Povestirilor Științifico-Fantastice (The Collection of the Science Fiction Stories) and Anticipația Almanach, short stories signed by Sam Lundwall, Jon Bing, Michel Demuth, Igor Rosohovatsky, Konrad Fialkovski, Lino Aldani and many, many others were published.
And many SF anthologies offering spectacular views of the science fiction from other European countries. Let us remember the Un pic de neant (A Bit of Nothingness), which brought us a number of relevant French SF authors or Fantascienza which gave us a picture of the Italian science fiction. On the other hand, Romanian SF authors were translated in Europe, there are examples, you know them better than me and I would not want to subvert a writer or another by omission.
There was a period of national SFs diffusion in a larger space, a continental one, which today, unfortunately, almost dissapeared. Let us remember the British New Wave that emerged in the 60s, who explored and proposed new means of expression. This British SF avant-garde influenced mainland, but encountered specific adaptations or mutations throughout Europe, so the whole continent experienced cultural enrichment, and a remarkable diversity.
Paradoxically, after the fall of the “Iron Curtain”, the situation changed. The tremendous commercial pressure exerted by the US SF&F (existing even in Eastern Europe during the 1970-1980s, but under control), managed to gradually impose after 1990, a set of „pulp sci-fi” models, leading to a sterile mimicry, and inevitably to a general loss of quality. Europe has become an cultural archipelago, islands that do not communicate with each other, just enthusiastically supplying themselves from a single source. Europe’s SF&F center moved across the Atlantic, and Europeans are estranged and alienated from one another.
Unfortunately, things were and are the same for the Romanian SF&F in terms of its direct relationship to Europe: we are little or not at all known in most countries of the European continent. And believe me, I can effortlessly mention at least 15 Romanian SF&F contemporary authors which could be immediately translated and that really are deserving to be read from the Atlantic to the Urals.
We are all synchronized with the Anglo-Saxon genre fiction, we know something about the French and Italian and Spanish SFs, but we consider the other countries, just exotic and colorful alien landscapes.
A Portuguese SF&F author is nothing but a curiosity, somewhat similar to the bizarre news announcing that in Bucharest some anonymous authors from Mars were spotted.
As long as EUROPA SF is an unknown, unmapped, unexplored continent, without communication ways between the entities that inhabit it, us, Romanian SF&F authors, we will be just a godforsaken Amazonian tribe, dressed in Coca Cola or Ford T-shirts.
However, one can guess the seeds of change, even in the case of this grim cultural landscape.
For several years, a number of European entities, either authors or organizations, relaunched the cultural dialogue with their counterparts in Europe. We started to open channels of communication, pathways to the „white spots” of the European continent. We began to discover with delight that in Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Iceland, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia, Germany, and wherever you want, there is a qualitative speculative fiction published. But the most important thing, in my opinion, is that everywhere in Europe there is desire for knowledge.
EUROPA SF, the Pan-European Speculative Fiction Portal, a Romanian initiative, of the Romanian Science Fiction &Fantasy Society, coordinated by Cristian Tamas with the help of some colleagues from Europe, shows clearly that everyone would want to talk with each other. Which gives me hope that, in time, all those white areas will be populated with cities where people live, dream and love, and maybe are writing and reading speculative fiction, too. And I am convinced that sooner or later their authors will be ours and our authors will be theirs.
Thank you and Happy New Year !
© Marian Truță
Marian Truță (born April 24th, 1960, Bucharest, Romania) is a contemporary Romanian writer of science fiction and fantasy, editor of the romanian SF magazine Colecția Povestirilor Științifico-Fantastice Anticipația (The Collection of the Science Fiction Stories Anticipation), of Anticipația Almanach and Nautilus online SF magazine.
2014 – “Vegetal” (with Dănuț Ungureanu), SF novel, Nemira Publishing House, Bucharest
2012 – ”The Second Coming” (A doua venire), SF short stories, Nemira Publishing House, Bucharest
2008 – „The Give Up Time” (Vremea renunțării), SF short stories, Bastion Publishing House, Timisoara, Romania
Own texts in anthologies:
• 1987 – „Az osszerobbanas” (The Implosion), hungarian language anthology, Kriterion Publishing House, Bucharest
• 2009 – „Other shores” (Alte Tarmuri), edited by Romanian Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Bucharest
Marian Truță is a founding member of the Romanian Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy (Societatea Română de Science Fiction și Fantasy=SRSFF) and from May 2011, vice-president of SRSFF (Romanian Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy).
From July 2010, editor of the online science fiction magazine, Nautilus : http://revistanautilus.ro/ and of Colecția Povestirilor Științifico-Fantastice Anticipația (Anticipation. Collection of the Science Fiction Stories) and Anticipația Almanach.
• 1985 – Helion Literary Contest, Timisoara, for „Hunt Beneath the Moon”;
• 1986 – „Good night, Teresa”, at Romcon (Romanian National SF Convention), Iasi;
• 1987 – Award of the Writers Union of Romania – „Beginning of The Rainy Season at Ezary”, Craiova; (Premiul Uniunii Scriitorilor din România – Început de anotimp ploios la Ezary, Craiova);
• 1993 – Special Jury Vladimir Colin Contest Award organized by Nemira Publishing – „We Can Not Help But Love You” (1993 – Premiul special al juriului, Concursul Vladimir Colin organizat de Editura Nemira – „Nu ne putem abține să nu vă iubim”).
• 2013 – Ion Hobana Award for “The Second Coming” (A doua venire), short stories, Nemira Press, 2012
• 2014 – Ion Hobana Award and Vladimir Colin Award for “Vegetal”, SF novel, coll. Dănuț Ungureanu (Nemira Press, 2014)
Translations into Romanian:
• 2009 – Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
• 2012 – The Warriors – vol. 1, anthology, G. R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, eds.
Own Blog: http://www.mariantruta.ro/