The following article was published in Locus, January 1996, page 45.
|Slovene Sf and fantasy has had a long and rich tradition, reaching back to mid-19th century. Themes were in line with the spirit of the epoch, inspired by the fantastic or utopian. The first work of Slovene SF/F, Mikromega (1851) was written by Simon Jenko (1835-1869), and followed two decades later by Andrej Volkar's Dijak v Luni (Student in the Moon, 1861). A couple of years later, Josip Stritar (1836-1923) published his story "Deveta dezela" (Ninth Land). Anton Mahnic's novel Indija Koromandija was published in 1884 and reprinted in 1889. In 1888, well-known Slovene author Janez Trdina (1830-1905) published his story "Razodetje" (Uncovering). Ivan Tavcar (1851-1923) published in 1891 his novel 4000, which was often reprinted in years to come (1902, 1926, 1954, 1966). Arheolosko predavanje leta 5000 (A Lecture on Archeology in (A Lecture on Archeology in Year 5000) by Ivan Toporis was published in 1892, influenced by some recent discoveries, as well as Pogubni malik sveta, a book by Simon Subic, published a year later. The year of 1983 produced one of the most important novels of Slovene literature, Abadon by Janez Mencinger (1838-1912). Appropriately designated by the author as a "fairy tale for old people," the novel has a utopian streak and actually reflects the Europe and Slovenia of that time. Josip Jaklic published his story "Pantheon" in the same year.
A several year's calm was broken, on the eve of WWI, by Etbin Kristan's Pertincarjevo pomlajevanje (The Rejuvenation of Pertincar, 1914). The novel tells of man's dream of rejuvenation, and through it, of his advantures and experience, wisdom and folly. In 1992, Ivo Sorli (1877-1958) published his story, "V dezeli Cirimurcev" (In the Land of Cirimuries). Damir Feigel, unjustly neglected and forgotten, published his first work, Pasja dlaka (Dog's Hair) in 1926. A prolific and funny writer, dubbed by later generations "Slovene Jules Verne," in the search of a new and different man, he was strongly inspired by the fantastic traits which we find in all of his work: Na skrivnostnih tleh (In Mysterious Lands, 1929); Cudno oko (Strange Eye, 1930); Kolumb (1932); Carovnik brez dovoljenja (Magician without Permit, 1933); Okoli sveta/8 (Around the World/8, 1935); Supervitalin (1939). His contemporaries are Radivoj Rehar, Vladimir Levstik, Pavel Breznik (Temna zvezda [Dark Star] and Marsovske skrivnosti [The Mysteries of Mars]), Metod Jenko and Anton Novcan.
Probably the best novel of that time is Alamut (published 1938, 1958) by Vladimir Bartol (1903-1967), whose action takes place in the far-away Iran of mid-11th century, a somewhat unusual setting for the epoch. The hero is a boy named Ibn Tahir, groomed, together with some other boys, by a self-styled superman in the eagle-city of Alamut, for his political and ideologic schemes. The novel is a sophisticated account of some totalitarian societies in Europe of his time. After WWII, Matej Bor, a renowned writer, ventured into SF with Vesolje v akvariju (Space in the Aquarium, 1955). A few years later, Vid Pecjak (b. 1926) came up with undisputably the best SF novel for children, Drejcek in trije marsovcki (Drejcek and Three Little Martians, 1961). The novel tells us in an ingenious way what happened when little Drejcek met three little Martians.
|Later on he also wrote Pobegli robot (Runaway Robot, 1976); Adam in Eva na planetu starcev (Adam and Eve on the Planet of the Old, 1972); Roboti so med nami (Robots are Among Us, 1974); Kam je izginila Ema Laus (Where Has Ema Laus Vanished, 1980).
In his novels, Pecjak makes use of his professional experience as psychologist, easily observed in all of his works: he deals mostly with man's psyche and reactions in unusual environment, most often in relation with cybernetics. One should also mention Gregor Strnisa, with his poems and radio plays Mavricna krila (Rainbow Wings, 1973) and Steklenica vode (A Bottle of Watter, 1974).
Franjo Pucner (1934-1994) introduced in his novels and stories some Lemian themes, which was quite novel in Slovenia: namely, pointing at man's follies and errors through accounts of long journeys. His works are: Pregnani iz raja (Exiled from Eden, 1970); Izgubljeni clovek (Lost Man, 1978); Casovna vrv (Time Rope, 1993): Wemarus (1994); Opna (Membrane, 1995). Miha Remec (b. 1928) is certainly the best and the most prolific writer, master of style, whose works Votlina (1972, published 1977); Prepoznavanje ali bele vdove crni cas (Recognition, or White Widows Dark Hours, 1980); Iksion ali beg iz prikazovalnice (Iksion, or Escape from the Stage, 1981); Kuga plastionska (The Plastion Plague, 1982); Mana (1985); Lovec in necista hci (Hunter and Unclean Daughter, short novels published as a single book, 1987); Zelena zaveza (Green Convenant, 1989); Zapiski odposlanca Zemlje (Journals of Earth's Envoy, 1991) and Astralni svetilniki (Astral Lighthouses, 1993) are strongly inspired by the tradition of utopian and distopian novels, and some of them are quite comfortable in the company of Zamiatin's We and Orwell's 1984.
In the same league as Remec is France Tomsic (b. 1925), with distopian works like Zrcalo (Looking Glass, 1992), and Potop (Deluge, 1994). Boris Grabnar contributed to SF/F as author of TV play scripts, radio plays and futuristic novels: Vojna Tajna (Top Secret, 1970); Tretje zivljenje (Third Life, 1980, together with Vid Pecjak); Leto 2000 – in potem? (Year 2000 – and then?, 1982).
Other authors worth mentioning are Marjan Tomsic, Branimir Zgajner, Ivan Sivec, Brane Dolinar.
The most important representative of the generation born after WW II is Branko Gradisnik (b. 1951). Novels Cas (Time, 1977) and Zemlja Zemlja Zemlja (Earth Earth Earth, 1981) witness to his mastery of style and novel treatment of standard SF themes. He is primarily interested in time in all its forms and appearances, in its slightest details, as time, just like Gradisnik himself, moves in all directions. Almost the same can be said about about Samo Kuscer (1952), whose two collections of stories, Sabi (1983), and Zalostni virtuoz (Melancholy Virtuoso, 1989), deal with philosphic, moral and social issues, complemented with distinguished and attractive style. Certainly not a rare combination, but with Gradisnik and Kuscer
| it becomes a very original approach. Bojan Meserko (b. 1957), their contemporary, is most noted for his original ideas and style, often experimental and innovative, yet never an obstacle to a reader. He drew attention with his first book of stories, Igra in agonija (Play and Agony, 1983), for its original ideas and treatment of the genre. His novel Sanjalisce (Dreamingland, 1995), distincly original and fresh reading, is already being translated for Anglo-America readers. In the meantime, he published stories (around 120) in various media – radio, reviews, magazines, fanzines... However, his greatest success came with, Dobrodosli na planet Zemlja (Welcome to Planet Earth, 1994), animated film by Oscar-winning Dusan Vukoti, of Zagreb, Croatia. The film, based on Meserko's novella Kmecka idila (Peasant Idyll), was shown at many international festivals and won several awards for its originality. Other important authors are: Boris Cerin, Marjetka Jersak, Zvone Jirasek, Franci Cerar.
The most important critics of SF&F in Slovenia are Boris Grabnar, Branko Gradisnik, Ziga Leskovsek and Drago Bajt, whose articles and books are major contributions to the development of SF/F in Slovenia. However, only Drago Bajt has so far collected his articles and published them as Ljudje, zvezde, svetovi, vesolja (Peoples, Stars, Worlds, Universes, 1982).
Several anthologies and collections of SF/F have been published: Strah me je (I'm Afraid, 1962), Ne zakrivaj mi neba (Don't Shleter the Sky from Me, 1964), Srecni planet (Happy Planet, 1970); Od Bradburyja do Vonneguta (From Bradbury to Vonnegut, 1978), Prodajalna svetov (Shopping for Worlds, 1978); Terra (1989); Blodnjak 1 (Maze 1, 1992) and sequel Blodnjak 2 (1993); Trgovina s pregreho (1994), Dalec so zvezde (Far Away, The Stars, 1994), including works by such prominent international writers as: Clarke, Asimov, Lem, Wyndham, Anderson, Matheson, Joan Vinge, McIntyre, Le Guin, Ballard, Wilhelm, Varley, Knight, as well as Slovene writers Zvone Jirasek, Matjaz Sinkovec, F. Cerar, M. Skvarca, B. Meserko, M. Remec, V. Pecjak, and F. Puncer.
As for SF/F clubs, presently there is nothing worth mentioning, although around 1980 there were three fan clubs in Slovenia: Konstelacija from Celje, Nova from Ljubljana and Sekcija za spekulativno umetnost (Section for Speculative Arts), Ljubljana. All three dissolved after several years of activity. Nova published its fanzine Nova (7 issues), Sekcija za spekulativno umetnost published Obcasnik (Periodic, 6 issues). However, the most serious undertaking in SF&F fanzine/review publishing was Marjan Skvarca's and Bojan Meserko's Blodnjak (Maze) in the late illustrations by Slovene authors and other SF/F topics. All in all, there were 13 issues of Blodnjak, whose topicality, quality of contributions and originality, according to many critics, made it a foremost SF/F publication in the former Yugoslavia. In late 1991, the last usse of Blodnjak appeared in the form of review/fanzine, to be replaced by a book-size collection, now published by Meserko's private publishing company, entirely dedicated to SF&F.