Forget Star Trek!

Forget Star Trek!

Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete

February 24th, 2008, 4:43 pm #1

fans of Soviet Science Fiction may be pleased to see that Progress Publisher's classic sci fi novel Andromeda by Ivan Yefremov is now available free on the webb. See:

http://lib.udm.ru/lib/EFREMOW/tuman_engl.txt


For more on Ivan Tefremov, see:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andromeda_(novel)


Has anybody seen the film?

Any other memories, criticism or appreciation of Soviet Science fiction?
Quote
Share

Chekov
Chekov

February 25th, 2008, 9:04 pm #2

See:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyraLxGH ... re=related

for clip from Icarus XB1 (Czechoslavakia, 1965)
Quote
Share

Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

February 27th, 2008, 12:09 am #3


I started reading SF in junior school with Kemlo the space boy who lived on Sattelite Base K where all the boys' names began with a "K" including the predictable Pole called "Kowalski" (or something like that)and then graduated in my misbegotten youth to the joys of British and American SF in the school and local libraries. Only in my late teens when I started reading the Daily Worker and the Morning Star did my attention turn to Soviet and Eastern European SF and that was limited to the handful of anthologies produced by pulp British publishers and the occassional article in "Soviet Union" and its sister publications in Eastern Europe.

The only Eastern European SF writer widely recognized in Britain at the time was Stanislaw Lem who apparently inspired the Czech childrens programme Icarus that Cube refers to. This largely following the screening of the Soviet film "Solaris" (dubbed the Soviet "2001") which won critical acclaim in the 1970s for its complex plot (so dismally butchered in the recent Hollywood remake). At least half a dozen of Lem's SF books were translated into English including Solaris -- all largely focusing on the problems of ET contact. Lem died two years ago but you can read more about him on this tribute website:

http://www.lem.pl/cyberiadinfo/english/main.htm

I was particularly amused to read that Lem didn't rate the English translations of his works as I knew his Polish translator in the 1970s! Lem says that Solaris was not set in a specifically socialist future but the 1972 Tarkovsky film certainly is set in some sort of Brezhnevite dream future in my opinion. Some clips can be seen here:

http://www.betaparticle.com/post/2007/0 ... vksky.aspx

Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge

Quote
Share

Ordinary Proletarian
Ordinary Proletarian

February 27th, 2008, 6:51 am #4

some late 80s Dr Who episodes were written by Ben Aaronovitch
was he one of the Aaronovitch family.

BTW some 70s Dr Who stories had an anti capitalist nature
Quote
Share

Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete

February 27th, 2008, 11:25 am #5


Amongst a number of Soviet science fiction writers published in the west by, Macmillan and others, should be mentioned the works of Boris and Arcady Strugatsky:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_and_ ... Strugatsky
Their novel Roadside Picnic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadside_Picnic
deals with a zone, alleged to be dangerous, that was created by passing extraterrestial traffic that , oblivious of our human civilisation, had left behind various items of detritus - in the same way that country roads are littered with cans of Carlsberg and Fosters apparently thrown from passing cars. This was used as the basis for ‘Stalker’ a film by Tarkovsky:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalker_%28film%29

This film gives an overpowering sense of stagnation and decay, and deals with an illegal trip into the zone, led by a mysterious guide (the ‘Stalker’ of the title) who is both social outsider and ingénue.

Western commentators usually make a great fuss about the unconventionality of themes in Soviet Science Fiction alluding endlessly to ‘coded messages’, trouble with the censors, the ubiquitousness of the need for ‘faith’ and so on whilst ignoring the deeper social and philosophical questions that are raised.

Thus communists and socialists might relate to Tarkovsky’s film by engaging with a number of questions raised by the film including:

Can humanity progress without overcoming individualism? (note that the members of the Stalker’s party are unable to fulfil the potential promised by the zone because of the petty selfishness of their desires)

This issue could be seen as having implications for the development of communist consciousness and the progresss of socialism towards communism. I would not like to say whether the Strugatsky brothers or Tarkovsky had this in mind as a specific moral to the tale however.

The idea of the extraterrestrial visit reminds us of the danger of hubris ( human pride that leads to disaster). Possibly some might see this as pessimism concerning human perfectability but within the context of the nuclear age it seems to me to be a dimension worth exploration.

Some have seen Stalker as prophetic in relation to the Chernobyl disaster. The film was probably influenced by an earlier disaster of less global significance, which reduces its prophetic significance. However, revisiting the film in the light of Chernobyl seems to add to its relevance in terms of current debates about socialism and he environment.

Others might have different views on the above.
I think it is a far more thought provoking Sci Fi piece than anything produced in the West but maybe others might see it as an example of the trash culture of decadent soviet social imperialism!
Or maybe not even Sci Fi at all.

Appreciative thanks to others contributing to his emerging discussion.
Quote
Share

Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

February 27th, 2008, 11:51 am #6

I saw it in London in the early 1980s and like many others I was disappointed as I expected it to be similar to "Solaris". This was largely because "Solaris" was essentially mainstream SF while "Stalker" dealt with complex themes not readily understood by the English-speaking audience.

Soviet films were rarely screened or televised in Britain in those days partly because of the distributors belief that British audiences are averse to sub-titles but largely because of the prevailing Cold War mentality of the Establishment which easily crossed over to cultural affairs. We relied on the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR and the National Film Theatre that did present Soviet SF films from time to time but generally in the context of Soviet contemporary film as a whole. I doubt whether many of Tarkovsky's films were ever screened in Britain and I can only recall seeing three (including Solaris). We were aware of the Soviet criticism of his scripts though, once again, you'd needed to be a Russian-speaker to understand the nuances raised.

Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge
Quote
Share

Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete

February 27th, 2008, 12:05 pm #7

It is interesting that although Western commentators on soviet Science fiction invariably include snide remarks about the alleged cultural monotony of soviet society, and all the other stuff about censorship alluded to before, Soviet science fiction did not allow Cold war warriors the same sport as did Solzenitsyn and similar types. Thus there was no marketing of Soviet science fiction by publishers in the west, and it was left to progressive writers such as Theodore Sturgeon to take up the cudgel on their behalf. Soviet sci Fi thus stayed an open secret in the West.
Thanks for the link to the Stanislav Lem website. The story of his ostracism by sci fi writers in USA was hilarious.
Quote
Share

Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

February 27th, 2008, 5:45 pm #8

I saw this one at the NFT in the late 1970s. There's a review on the web here:

http://filmjournal.net/czech/2006/09/18 ... -with-tea/


though it's comedy SF (like Red Dwarf) it does revolve around the serious problem of the paradox of time.

Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge
Quote
Share

Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete

February 27th, 2008, 6:13 pm #9

Theodore Sturgeon mentions SF from DDR in preface to one of his collections of short stories. I have no further information onthis though.
Quote
Share

Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete

February 27th, 2008, 6:14 pm #10

I saw this one at the NFT in the late 1970s. There's a review on the web here:

http://filmjournal.net/czech/2006/09/18 ... -with-tea/


though it's comedy SF (like Red Dwarf) it does revolve around the serious problem of the paradox of time.

Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge
Theodore Sturgeon mentions SF from DDR in preface to one of his collections of short stories. I have no further information on this though.
Quote
Share