Apex Book of World SF Interview Series #6: Aleksandar Žiljak
In your opinion, what makes Croatian SF unique compared to the rest of the world? Who are the Croatian writers we should be reading?
Well, to answer this, one would have to study thoroughly the SF in the rest of the world! It’s difficult to say if Croatian SF is that much unique in terms of subjects and themes explored. From the quantitative point of view, the fact that SF writing cannot be turned into a profession resulted in relatively small outputs of most of Croatian SF writers. On the other hand, 1990s witnessed Croatian SF becoming more and more Croatian in its substance. New generation of writers that appeared in mid-1990s increasingly chose Croatian themes, situations, locations, characters, etc. This is, in my opinion, an important step forward as opposed to older writers who were in most cases reluctant to use Croatian elements in their stories, choosing instead stereotyped western characters, locations, etc.
The Croatian authors worth reading? Well, I guess I won’t have many friends left after they read this … OK, the most important and prolific Croatian SF writer is without doubt Predrag Raos. He has a relatively consistent body of work starting in 1979, that includes several brilliant novels – Brodolom kod Thule (Shipwrecked at Thula), Nul Effort, Mayerling, Vertikala (The Vertical) – and numerous stories. He is a master stylist and his technological visions are pure joy to read and experience. At the same time, he remains merciless to all kinds of human stupidity.
Ivan Gavran is a relatively new writer who already has two major novels published: Sablja (The Sabre) and Božja jednadžba (God’s Equation), being the beginning of a planned trilogy. The Sabre could probably stand shoulder-to-shoulder with best US military space opera.
We have some very important women writers, some of them dating from Sirius days. Vesna Gorše has some very good stories, as well as Biljana Mateljan. Veronika Santo is simply brilliant: her 2008 story collection Vrt pramc(anih figura (The Figurehead Garden) contains some of the best stories in Croatian SF ever. Tatjana Jambrišak, who started in mid-1990s is also very good, and so is Milena Benini.
I would also recommend stories by Danilo Brozovic’, Igor Lepc(in, Dalibor Perkovic’, Zoran Vlahovic’, Zoran Krušvar and Darko Macan. All these authors already have story collections and novels published in Croatia and established themselves firmly within Croatian SF. There’s a number of new writers, whose stars are on the rise, such as Sanja Tenjer, Gordana Kokanovic’-Krušelj, Ed Barol, etc. I could keep listing names, I guess. And of course, there’s yours truly. – read the rest of the interview.
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