World SF 2011 Retrospective Part 1
In part 1 of our retrospective on World SF Literature published in 2011, we have K.S. Augustin who does a recap for Poland:
Overview of recent Polish science-fiction
Genre fiction continues to make inroads into what Western readers would consider to be “literature”. Recall Jacek Dukaj’s winning of the European Literary Award for “Lód” (Ice) in 2009. If Dukaj hasn’t won another such award since then, it’s only because he hasn’t produced another epic along the same lines, his latest release (2011) being a short story collection called “Król Bólu”(King of Pain). I’m admittedly being a bit disingenuous here, because “Król Bólu” received the Polish 2011 SFinks (Sphinx) Award.
While Dukaj is published by the prestigious Wydawnictwo Literackie (Literary Publishing House), the intersection of literature with genre is also being produced by publisher Fabryka Słów (Word Factory), another imprint to look out for on the Polish bookshelves. Fabryka Słów continues to publish Andrzej Pilipiuk, whose latest release “Aparatus” (2011) is a short story anthology combining fantasy and horror elements and centering around an alternate history set in the first half of the twentieth century and based in a universe of his own making. This continues a trend that appears to have dominated Polish fiction for the past decade and points to a sustained reading audience for reworkings of Poland’s past.
While Pilipiuk mines the past two centuries for new takes and tropes in fiction, Dariusz Domagalski is an author who prefers to set his occult historical fantasy series in the fifteenth century, at a time that pitted Poles and Lithuanians against the Germanic Crusaders. His 2011 release, “I niechaj cisza wznieci wojne” (Let the silence ignite the war), is the fourth in this series.
If the boys seem to be focused on fantasy, it falls to the women to take a harder focus in genre. The best known of Polish female genre writers is Maja Lidia Kossakowska, whose 2011 release, “Grillbar Galaktyka”(Galactic Grillbar) is a gonzo sf murder mystery that, as the name suggests, roams the entire galaxy in both expanse and time. And, stepping ahead slightly, Magdalena Kozak has a 2012 release to look out for – “Nikt” (Nobody) – continuing her series that combines the military with paranormal elements.
In general, however, the last decade of Polish genre fiction is, and continues to be, dominated by fantasy and fantasy mash-ups (i.e. fantasy + horror, fantasy + history, etc.). We have yet to see another Stanisław Lem emerge, with his clean – one might say almost clinical – approach to fiction, and preference to set his stories far into the future where there could be no historical ambiguities dogging the narrative.
(For people with nostalgia for pure Polish science-fiction, they may like to hunt down a copy of “Świat na krawędzi” (Word on the Edge, 2000), a series of interviews Tomasz Fiałkowski held with Lem regarding Lem’s past, views and his predictions for the future. One thing Western readers may not know, is that Lem was as much a visionary as Arthur C Clarke, hobbled by a lack of timely translations from his native Polish.)
In summary, for 2011, historical fantasy remained the name of the game and will continue to do so, unless the women start moving into overdrive. Here’s hoping.
* KS “Kaz” Augustin is a Malaysian-based writer of mostly space opera. Her website is at http://www.ksaugustin.com She also writes a south-east Asian-based urban fantasy series under the pen-name Cara d’Bastian (http://www.CheckYourLuckAgency.com).
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