Daily Archives: January 15, 2005

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Taste of Russian Fantastica

I’m instituting a new feature here at Aliens in This World.
Every week or so, I’d like to explore a noted work of Russian Fantastica
(SF/F) by translating the first paragraph or so.

(I’m only able to do this because Russian fans and writers have cooperated
in putting a large number of books online. With a huge number of books and
stories available but few in print at any one time, a fandom that lives not
only all over the former Soviet Union but all over the world, libraries and
bookstores never able to keep up, publishers keeping prices down but also
printing on thin acidic paper, and the erratic delivery of Russian mail,
this is a very practical solution. However, I do also mean to continue to
buy actual Russian books through kniga.com
and the like, as well as physical Russian bookstores in the US.)

My intention is that Anglosphere publishers and fans should become interested
in, or at least aware of, the rich flowering of Russian science fiction and
fantasy. Also, I mean to educate myself about Russian SF/F, if only by a
quick glance at what Russian fans are reading.

I should warn people, however, that first paragraphs may be especially misleading in Russian books. Russian writers and readers seem to like a nice leisurely start, often including the season and current state of the weather in that world!

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Taste of Russian Fantastica: Andrei Lazarchuk, The Other Sky

Andrei Lazarchuk has won many Russian awards for both his science fiction and fantasy. In 1994, he won the Long Form Strannik for The Other Sky (Inoe Nebo, an alternate history novel; as well as the Moon Sword for horror for his novel Mummy; the Sword of Rumata for heroic SF, for his novel Sturmvogel; and the Mirror Sword for alternate history, for his collaboration with Mikhail Uspensky, Look in the Monsters’ Eyes.

His other novels include Too Late by Summer, The Holy Month of Rin’, Soldiers of Babylon, Tin Pinewood, Tranquilium, Everyone Able to Hold a Weapon, and another collaboration with Mikhail Uspensky, The
Hyperborean Plague
. He’s also translated works by Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, and Lucius Shepard.

Lazarchuk was born in Krasnoyarsk in 1958 and got his degree from the Krasnoyarsk Medical Institute in 1981. First he worked as a doctor, but he’s been a professional writer since 1989 and lived in St. Petersburg since 1999.

Here’s the first paragraph of The Other Sky. It’s very long!


6/6/1991
About 1400 hours.
Vargash Station, on the nation’s border.

Everyone, I’ve had enough of Japanese technology: I bought a watch a week ago, and the minute hand has already come loose and shows not the time, but the direction of the center of the Earth — that which interests me least of all today. In the end, why can’t an engineer, even given that it’s government work, not be able to get himself a decent watch? Maybe not Swiss. That’s butter. Maybe an Adler… Beyond the railcar window rolling from right to left, came the clanking of bumpers: probably they’d hitched an engine to the Imperium. Of course, the Imperium can’t diverge from the timetable. But we, of course, can… The quite identical Japanese men standing under the railcar sheds hurried to their places. The black and white Japanese — black coats, white trousers — sat themselves down in the black and white cars of the Imperium, the Pyongyang-Tomsk-Berlin-London express, the only train which passes through the lands of all four Great Powers…something about this seemed to me neither amusing nor symbolic — more likely, it seemed, done from boredom — but I didn’t have time to hit upon it, because the quiet musician from the speakers was interrupted by a sweet voice — I also saw it as belonging to this blonde, blue-eyed girl with a little doll’s mouth and a magnificent bow on her head — first in German, and then in Russian, pronouncing: “At the border guards’ insistence, the search of the railcars has been lengthened. The company extends its apologies to the gentleman passengers traveling to Kurgan, Kamenetsk-Ural and Yekaterinburg Stations; they may obtain compensation from the station cashier whenever convenient for them. We will return to the timetable after reaching Yekaterinburg.” So…it’s a lengthy search… I automatically looked at the watch, and then I slammed it against the table. When we get to Kurgan — I’ll buy a new one. I’ll buy an Adler — in spite of the Commander. It’s decided. I’ll do it that way.

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