Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
The Internet

Exploring The World Of Russian Science Fiction Online 157

jimharris writes: "There is a vast heritage of science fiction in Russian that is as large and diverse as SF in English. This Russian site has several complete science fiction novels in English. If you go to their home page you will feel the language barrier. Most of these are out of print in the English speaking world, but many were translated and published in the seventies, and can be found through AddAll.Com. I have found one Russian Science Fiction club that tries to help the English speaking world understand Russian SF, and also gives their view on Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. Only Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky appear on the Classics of Science Fiction list. I have to wonder what far-out concepts I might be missing because I only understand English -- maybe the Internet will help break down this barrier."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Exploring The World Of Russian Science Fiction Online

Comments Filter:
  • For the curious, is there a must read list of the russian sf?
    • The classic must read are books by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the modern popular writer is Victor Pelevin.
      • by 21mhz ( 443080 )
        Yup, ABS are rad, especially their later books. The earlier ones may have too much of socialist naivete; the later ones are bitter and somewhat haunting. Roadside Picnic (the proto-story of Stalker the movie) and Lame Fortune (never translated into English, I believe) are the best IMHO. Monday Begins On Saturday [] is the Soviet equivalent of the HHGTTG: a geeks' delight.

        Pelevin is not SF, at least not in the "science" category. But his fiction is curious and playful. Expect a lot of impenetrable jokes and references to things unfamiliar to you due to "cultural differences". You haven't heard all those funny stories about Chapaev and Petka, have you?

        Another SF (this being "serious" fiction again, not "science") master is Vladimir Sorokin. Absolutely mindboggling stuff, being an excellent prose on its own.

        Andrey Platonov, I think, is one of the most overlooked Russian writers of the 20th century. His stretches of Russian reality of 1920s-1930s are beautifully absurd and sarcastic -- think Kafka meets Ionesco meets Orwell.
        • Can you give us some specifics about the "mindboggling stuff?" Has a Russian writer come with something equal to THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY? Or the space opera of E.E. Smith? Or created a literary movement like cyberpunk? I was hoping to hear about some specific ideas, like Heinlein's ORPHANS OF THE SKY, where he comes up with the idea of a generational space ship and the crew forget they are passengers? Are there Russian novels equal to HYPERION or FIRE UPON THE DEEP, which are immense in scope and richness of ideas?

          I was hoping that someone who reads Russian would tell us about a science fictional idea that we've never heard about in the west.
          • Can you give us some specifics about the "mindboggling stuff?" Has a Russian writer come with something equal to THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY?

            Hmm... How about a future Chinese-dominated sexual-diversity-laden world (mixspeak glossary a-la Burgess included) where clones of prominent writers of the past are grown to produce magnificent blue fat on their bodies in the process of writing (prolonged excerpts of writing by clones of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and others, all bearing striking resemblance in style to each of the originals). Suddenly, a yield of blue fat is hijacked in a raid over gene lab by an underground hierarchical male-only sect of earth-fuckers (warning: description of unrealistically large male genitals), to be sent in the past (which is alternative to ours), where homosexual Stalin (a hot sexual intercourse with Khruschev is included) and electric freak Hitler plan to take over the world. Nevermind several side-stories, equally bizarre. Your anime is hung out to dry.

            Are there Russian novels equal to HYPERION or FIRE UPON THE DEEP, which are immense in scope and richness of ideas?

            For your usual "glorious" type of SF, refer to Lukyanenko or Oldi. Yawn. I'm more interested in authors who deliver different cultures or mindsets in their writings. Sorry if you hunt for just another Heinlein epigon.

            As for Hyperion, reading it gave me the exact understanding of why some people treat SF as worthless junk intended to waste one's time.
        • What I translated as Lame Fortune is A Lame Fate. The inner story of this novel, The Ugly Swans, has been translated to English, accordingly to this bibliography [].
    • Re:a must read list? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Here is one piece of advice from somebody who speaks Russian -

      Master & Margarita is one of the best books I've ever read, and trust me, I've read quite a few...
      • Da.

        My girlfriend gave me a translation of that for my birthday last year, and I can attest that it's definitely an excellent work.

        The author kind of plays with witchcraft and totalitarian oppression in some really fun ways. I'm sure I'm missing a good deal in the tranlsation, but enough of the beauty of that work is story dependent that you can still enjoy it even in translation. (I exhausted my Russian vocabulary on the first line of this post. :)

        However, I wouldn't call it science fiction. Heinlein hated that term because the genre often has very little to do with science. He preferred speculative fiction, which is much more broad, and even consistent with how most book stores stock their shelves these days (clumping together sci-fi and fantasy.) I'd call The Master and Margarita speculative fiction, even though it is neither fantasy nor sci-fi.
    • Re:a must read list? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "We" (My) by Zamyatkin, as it's the predecessor to 1984.

      btw, I never considered Master+Margarita SF (?)

  • "I have to wonder what far-out concepts I might be missing because I only understand English -- maybe the Internet will help break down this barrier."

    Why don't you break it down yourself? Probably the vast majority of educated people outside the U.S. speak at least one other language.
    • It's asking an awful lot of someone to learn Russian just so that he can read some of the literature for pleasure, don't you think?

      And you're right about most educated people outside the U.S. speaking at least one other language. Of course, that language happens to be English in almost every case.

      Besides, I think that there are other European languages that would be more useful to someone in general than Russian if they just wanted to have another language for the hell of it (French and German come to mind immediately.) I know that graduate programs in my discipline (Classical Stuides) and I'm sure in many others require proficiency in foreign languages such as German and French. I can't imagine too many that would require Russian, though.

      • All of what you say is true, though I was more referring to his situation in general: that he feels he's missing out on "far-out concepts" knowing only one language.

        It's a shame that North American schools don't seem to consider learning another language core to their curricula (as most others in the world do). Here in Canada there are maybe a few mandatory French lessons, but that's about it unfortunately.
        • A few lessons? What Canada are you living in? I took a mandatory 6 years of French. I appreciate it more now that I'm done though.
        • Most American schools *require* two years of a foreign language to graduate from High School. Many Colleges and Universities require a further 2 years to obtain a degree.

          However, if you look, probably 70% of those taking a second language in the U.S. take Spanish; about 25% take French leaving 5% to take something else -- in High School, anyway.
          • Like all the rest of High School, and most Colleges and Universities, students are only required to attend class -- not to learn anything.
      • Translated from Russian:
        An optimist studies English
        A pessimist studies Chinese
        A realist studies Kalashnikov gun
      • It's asking an awful lot of someone to learn Russian just so that he can read some of the literature for pleasure, don't you think?

        At face value, of course...

        However, if one were to learn Russian for the opportunity to read the lit. (SF or otherwise) it would likely turn out to be a most rewarding experience. You might think of it as a very challenging puzzle; Russian carries context in a way that most Engilsh speakers (the ones who'd notice) would find incredibly fascinating.

        Does the effort required have much of an ROI? For a USian, probably not.

        But it's one hell of a way to exercise your brain.

    • Why don't you break it down yourself? Probably the vast majority of educated people outside the U.S. speak at least one other language

      While I do not completely appreciate the somewhat confrontational tone of this posting, I do feel that the decision I made to learn a foreign language is possibly the best decision I have ever made.

      Here are just some of the benefits:

      • Expanding my appreciation of literature; Learning to think more about what I say and how I say it in my native language
      • An appreciation of the beauty in the diversity of grammatical structure that exists in languages
      • Seeing how much is the same with people who speak a different language
      • most importantly, the ability to have friends today (including some really beautiful women) that I would not otherwise have.

      Any geek [1] skilled enough to learn, say, C and Perl and Python, has the ability to learn a foreign language--of course the words which break the "rules" of a human language are rather annoying (English example: "I read today" and "I read yesterday") compared to the elegance of a human language.

      - Sam

      [1] It is interesting that a word used to describe a sub-group of people is often considered a derogatory word by people outside the group; but it is not derogatory for people part of the group in question.

    • You are quite right, more than that, even I, a native russian speaker, have some difficulties in understanding some pieces of our literature. Try reading Victor Pelevin - it is completely not the thing that it seems from the first sight For example, you'd have to know a lot of Russian "anecdots" to understand nearly 1/2 of all thoughts in the book
    • Let's many countries speak Russian? Russia, and its former satellites. Not exactly a happening part of the world, either. Now, how many countries speak English, or Spanish, or even German? Many.
  • i remember bumping into a russian s/f collection at a public library when i was in grade school (from the 70s) ... and have never found a good collection since. i found, then, that russian s/f was different - but quite cool. much of that particular collection was dark, but well concieved ... strange enough that it left me then wanting more (not far from some of the warped orson scott card short s/f). our puny little local library system, though, didn't have any other russian s/f - and since i've not seen many translated works around. *most* excellent.
  • As much as SF has some stunning and original ideas of possible futures, often it's interesting (especially in older SF) to see the basis in 'present' thought from the time it was written. Take a peek at 50's designed 'futuristic' cars for a parallel - ones which now aren't futuristic, but are just excessively 1950's. It would be fascinating to compare two relatively isolated SF styles, western and russian, to get the same feel.

    The truly original ideas should stand out as something very special

  • by ioscream ( 89558 ) on Sunday December 23, 2001 @05:31PM (#2745153) Homepage
    check out: Sovlit []
  • Cultural-Centric SF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <> on Sunday December 23, 2001 @05:31PM (#2745156) Homepage Journal
    Like languages, environment define the terms you associate with life.

    300 words for snow? Yup, if you are from the north. I think I have 5 or 6 ... Snow, SnowFall, Blizzard... whiteout...

    What's this have to do with SF? Even if there is a perfect, idiom-perfect translation, we Americans may simply not have the cultural background to understand it. Or even do it the justice it deserves.

    This is by no means a reason to stop trying- I frankly love SF and have a library rapidly approaching 1000 books... but until I bone up on my russian history, I am afraid these wonderful texts will fall short :(

    Of course, a 'monologue' like the put down at the bottom of those ancient texts you studied in Latin class (you DID read the Aeneid, didn't you?) was more than enough to get the underlying meaning, giving you the cultural explanations of the references provided. Maybe thats what their SF needs to be complete.
    • A good thought on the idea of having cultural commentaries with SF books. As a classicist myself (and having read Clyde Pharr's edition of the Aeneid), I can say that a commentary is definitely a useful tool.

      However, the danger with commentaries in general is that they can become too expansive. I was reading some Horace recently with a commentary at the back of the book, and I realized before too long that I was spending more time reading English than reading Latin! Now, it's not quite such a big deal if the commentary and the text are in the same language, but it's still a concern. I do think you've got a point, though.

    • by GGardner ( 97375 ) on Sunday December 23, 2001 @06:21PM (#2745261)
      I think you've got this the wrong way round.

      Is Russian fiction (SF or otherwise) a product of its culture? Sure, but that's a reason to read it, not a reason to ignore it.

      Chekhov said that only Russians could understand Russian lit. Perhaps only Russians can completely understand it, but that doesn't mean the rest of us should stop trying.

      • SF is a very important part of both US and Russian culture.

        I moved from Russia to Canada two years ago. Reading books and watching TV helped me a lot to understand the culture, and the most important things were Douglas Adams, JRRT, Star Trek etc.
        But especially, The Simpsons! Kinda SF, too...
      • I would have to agree with you on this one. I took a Russian history class at the university I attended at the same time I was taking the Russian Language course, both taught by the same professor who was head of the department. It was actually the best classes I ever took.

        The professors theory for the class was that no two people can see things in exactly the same way because of the "Vast rainbow of texts" (the exposure obtained in all situations) that shapes each persons life is not going to be the same for any two people. But there is a certain amount of convergence, the more texts people have in common, the better they can understand each other.

        Following this, the reading list for the Russian history class was made up entirely out of Russian Literature (translated into english) including works of fiction. It was a great way to experience a little bit of the culture you don't normally get in a history class.

        Of the books we read two stick out in my mind We [] by Yvegeny Zamyatin [], a work of science fiction that is probably mentioned a whole lot in this thread... and The Master and Margarita" [] A fanciful allegory of good and evil written in the 1930's by Mikial Bulgakov []. The writing of "The Master and Margarita" reminded me a lot of the writing styles of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain.

        I know I've always kind of been a nut for all things Russian, but I don't think that was the whole reason I really enjoyed getting into these books. The literature, even translated into english, gave a feeling I don't think you could get by reading a history book. Think of the feelings and the Ideas sparked by, say, Heinlein. Now, if you read Heinlein from outside the society that generated him, (or even possibly just outside the mainstream social class he was aiming at) you probably won't get the same feeling generated in those that love his work. But, read enough of him, and you may be able to better understand a heinlein fan when he expresses himself within similar context. (And I'm not just talking Grok.)
    • we Americans may simply not have the cultural background to understand it.

      You can even make that we non-Russians :-)

      But seriously, that would imho actually be a reason to read Russian novels. It might expand our view in a sense that it shows us how other cultures look at issues that come up in SF. Or in any kind of literature. What do they put emphasis on? In what ways does it feel different to good old western SF? Maybe certain references that you encounter can give you a handle to look further into Russian history and culture.

      btw, I'm really not promoting communism or anything, Russia has a very rich history before Lenin, Marx, and all those other folks arrived. I'm sure you know that, but others may not.

      • I think you seemed to answer your own question there, Russia like you said has a rich history and culure, although I would argue it was by no means damaged by the likes of Lenin and Marx, (btw Karl Marx may have been the visionary of something that turned out not so good, ie communism, but he was a brilliant man neverless.)

        What reason too read Russian SF? Well why to you read English sci-fi? For the story! Not for the damned cultural background! :) Unfortunatly the language-barrier is as always so very big, but im sure Russia has GREAT writers, perhaps as many as say the UK or US. (Wild guess there, sorry)

        Personally I find i cant find enough sci-fi that i truley like, i can be very picky. :( So a broader base of material, is a Damn Good Thing to me!
    • 300 words for snow? Yup, if you are from the north While I enjoyed this excellent post, I do need to be pedantic and point out that the old "The eskimos had 3 zillion words for snow" line is actually an urban legend.

      More infomation can be found at for_snow_derby.html []

      - Sam

    • 300 words for snow? Yup, if you are from the north

      Actually, I'm from one of the snowier parts of Canada, and while we have several words to describe snow/snowy conditions, I really don't feel at a disadvantage to the Inuit. Reason? The english language is full of nice little things called adjectives. They may have 300 words for snow, but I can describe each of those 300 states and more, just by using word modifiers.

      I've never felt english to be as limited as its detractors claim. Then again, I've yet to see an example of something that cannot actually be translated into english. It may lose its finer details, but I doubt anything is entirely untranslatable.

    • You're right and wrong. There are stories in both English (as in UK/US) and Russian SF that are culture-centric (or at least culture-derrived). There also are stories that are stories of themselves, that don't require one to live and breathe in USSR from the childhood to understand.

      It maybe tough to figure many of the references to Soviet reality, as well as traditional Russian fairy-tales in Monday Starts on Saturday, but it is as tough for a Russian to relate to all the kids verses and songs embedded into Alice in Wonderland. Yet I am sure that one would not have as much problem with, say, Roadside Picnic -- this is a lot more internaltional.

      As for side comments and footnotes to make this easier to understand -- well, this is a possibility. It can also be included as a preface to give a bit of a background to a reader. Or it may be better left out all together and let a more inquisative reader find out for themseleves -- after all we are not talking thousands of years time gap here as we would in case of Aristotle.

  • Broken dreams.. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by zulux ( 112259 )
    While we American fans of SF are still waiting for our flying cars and talking robots, our Russian friends are still waiting for their perpetual vodka stills and mutant psionic six-leged bears.
  • Back 5 (or so) years ago brought the world of (english language) books to the internet, and many have claimed the events of Septerm ber 11th brought the world of internet based news put pf the shadpws into the mainstream. Non-English language literature however, has not seen it's internet coming-of-age.

    Perhaps, however, this is a good thing, not that non-english language literature isn't as widely availble on the net, but the fact that it isn't suggests a continued focus on treditional puslishing for such literature.

    Whatever your view on electronic puslishing (eBooks, etc...) you must agree that electronic pusblishing is transient. when 'sponsorship' for a publisged work dries up, that work simply would simply disappear. Gone will be the days of 200 year old books being discovered in the musty corner of some atic, many years in the future. If the qualkity of a published work isn't recognized within the lifetime of the author, the work may disappear without a trace, without a single printed and bound copy to be found. While it's true that media (which un-like a website, doesn't require sponsorship to exist) containing the work may exist for a few years after the death of the author, even that is transient. Organizations such as the Long Now Foundation [] are working to preserve the vast expanse of knowlege published on the internet, but without such organizations, works not published in a physical sense may be lost to time.

    For this reason, it's somewhat heartening to see that not all publishing is moving to the internet, even though it may reduce the exposure of the works in question. Granted it's more desirable to gain the widest exposure in the shortest period of time such that the publisher can turn a proffit on works of literature but that proffit margin shouldn't be at the expense of future generations' access to the work.

  • Urban Myth (Score:2, Informative)

    by bstadil ( 7110 )
    300 words for snow? Yup, if you are from the north
    Its an urban myth that eskimoes [] have 100+ words for Snow and the color white.
  • by tifosi ( 9489 ) <> on Sunday December 23, 2001 @05:43PM (#2745185)
    There is a lot of Russian books that are getting
    published(OCR?) on the net, one thing I stubled on were real stories from Afganistan and Chechen Wars, they are incredible, told by real soldiers not writers. I only found one translated to English, but they're maybe more available.(I read them in Russian). []

    P.S. from SciFi I recomend brothers Strugatsky books, specificaly Roadside Picnic.
  • Well, we could Babelfish [] it, but I think it loses something in the translation.
  • I was half way through "23787324 32487432" when I realized that putting it through 1337 hax0r translator was useless because it was in Russian. Dammit.
    I guess that's why all I got was a recipe for making meatballs with antimatter.. hmm

    (replace 23787324 32487432 with Russian writing because the real stuff activated the lameness filter)
  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Sunday December 23, 2001 @05:54PM (#2745206)
    this mirror should be faster for all living outside of russia.
    Monday Begins on Saturday great and funny book, kinda douglas adams style
    Hard to be a god same writers, much darker sf
    The Master and Margarita kinda Faust in USSR, funny
    • Actually "The Master and Margarita" is not sf at all, but anyway it is great book. However I'm afraid that you need to live in Russia (or in USSR back then) to understand about 50% of it's beauty.
      • well i was born in estonia and i did understand this book, but i somehow didn't like it. my parents didn't like it very much either, don't know why. i kinda prefer funnier russian books (sf or not) like 12 chairs, monday begins on saturday, zvirmarillion and such.
        • Master and Margarita, seemed to be both funny and interesting to me, I was born in USSR(Latvia) though.

          As for Westerners not getting it: Finnish acquintance of mine who read it liked it very much too, which proves that one doesn't have to be born in Soviet Union/live there to enjoy it.

    • The Master And Margarita is more Gothic then SF. The places in this book are 100% real: streets, builings etc. So you had to live in Moscow to understand it totally. Again it's a Goth style book. Devil has mercy and God is making mistakes. So if you are one of those really religios people DON'T READ IT.
  • I think Yevgeny Zamyatin's We is the best Russian SF I've ever read (and maybe the only Russian SF I've ever read, now that I think about it). Anyway, his metaphors are very mathematical (revolutions are like numbers, infinite; love is like the square root of -1; maybe he was a mathematician). Anyway, I highly recommend it.
    • He wasn't mathematician but rather structural engineer or something of that sort. I think he was into ship building actually.
      • yes, he was a ship builder. Eventually he has emigrated to England and worked as engineer overthere till his death.

        'We' in a sense is a precursor of both '1984' and 'a brave new world'.

        Incidently 'we' is the only his SF work, so strictly speaking he is not a SF writer. A very good writer by the way. Actually the only thing I read (in addition to 'We') is his short stories.

        Interesting tidbit of information, by the way: Zamyatin was the last russian who has managed to emigrate in early 30s through the official channels.
  • About twenty years ago, I recall picking up a thin paperback of translations of Soviet (mainly Russian, I expect) science fiction compiled by Mirra Ginsberg. They were surprisingly good.

    One writer who has always strongly influenced western writers and readers is Polish SF writer Stanislaw Lem, whose Solaris was made by Russian movie director Andrei Tarkovsky into perhaps the best science fiction movie I have seen.

    • I'm not quite sure if you're saying that the book Solaris is Russian or just the movie but I'm currently reading Solaris and it claims to be translated from French.
      • The movie was made in Russia, but the book is written by a great Polish SF writer Stanislav Lem. Here is more information about him []
      • I'm not quite sure if you're saying that the book Solaris is Russian or just the movie but I'm currently reading Solaris and it claims to be translated from French.

        I've read Lem's Cyberiad, Futurological Congress, and Star Diaries. I read them in English translations by Michael Kandel.

        Amazon lists two translators for the American edition of Solaris, and whilst I can assure you that Mr Lem is Polish, I would not presume that he wrote all of his novels in his native language.

        Mr Lem is Polish. Mr Tarkovsky, when he was alive, was Russian.

        The Tarkovsky movie is probably still widely available, but only for as long as people like me can persuade people like you to hunt down a copy, watch it, and pass on the word.

        • AFAIK Lem did write all of his novels in Polish. Don't know about his other works though.
      • Lem is Polish, but I believe he was exiled to france and Solaris may have been written in French. Not that it is all that relevant.

        Solaris movie was awesome, though I am not a big fan of Tarkowski's. However perhaps a better big Tarkowski Sci-Fi movie is Stalker. Loosely based on "Roadside Picnic" By A & B Strugatski (an excelent book and probably the best science fiction to come out of russia and possibly the world (also mentioned in the initial post)) The script for the movie was written by Strugatskii brothers themselves. I've recently came across some alternate versions of the scripts for the movie, and I must say they show off the amaizing writing abilities. They take the same story and change the main character - and it is a completely different story.

        Generally I can say this much for russian science fiction - It is much more centered on the people, rather than scince. Whatever sci-fi concepts there are, and there are many, from alien worlds to transporters and Internet (much more impressive when you realize we are talking about stuff written in 40's, 50's) the science fiction is always in the background to the human factor. Someone (I thing Theodore Sturgeon) wrote in an intro to one of the Strugatskiis' books that great scince fiction must first be great fiction - that is what this is all about. I know that many of the US science-fiction fans miss this point. Too bad.
  • Man, that one page is *really* hard to read. Here: l

    At least in Galeon and Mozilla, anyway...maybe other browsers display this better? Hard on the ol' glazzies, and it's really distracting me from the content. I feel like I'm trying to read Wired.
  • I go to Brown University, and there is actually a Russian Studies course called Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy, which requires no knowledge of the Russian language. It's supposed to be an excellent class, and if I didn't have a conflict, I'd be takin it second semester this year.
    • Any class that requires you to read science fiction is a great class, the only "scifi" that I ever read in school was "1984" which was great but not my type of science fiction.
  • by PsychoTicOne ( 30951 ) on Sunday December 23, 2001 @06:11PM (#2745242)
    I am really glad to see the unlikely break of microsoft-flaming and transmeta-worshipping programming schedule on slashdot - especially since it has to do with good books from Eastern-bloc countries. I wil second all recommendations already given for the Strugatsky brothers. Hwever, when I think of Russian sci-fi, the first name that actually comes to mind is Polish.

    Stanilsaw Lem, a Polish author who is immensely popular in Russia and many European countries (but, alas, poorly known in the states) is, in my opinion, the most incredible sci-fi author I've ever had the privielege of reading. His books are above and beyond what is commonly referred to as "science fiction" by the people I meet. Lem's prevailing notion is that a laser gun on a spaceship does not make a rehashed soap opera plot into something that may be classified into the science fiction genre.

    Lem's books go a full range from hillarious to serious to outright bizarre. His "Memoirs found in a bathtub" was Terry Gilliam's inspiration while the latter was shooting Brazil. Lem's "Solaris" has been made into an amazing movie by Russia's cinematography great Andrei Tarkovsky - and more likely than not, it is available in your local blockbuster or library. I can go on and on, but I figured that if you (the reader) have made it this far down this post, I might as well provide the links and let you figure out if that sounds like something you'd like to read for yourself. So,

    Planet Solaris - The Official Lem site []

    A brief biography and overview of books []

    If you can read Russian, this contains the translations of the bulk of his work into Russian. []

    A really good fan site, with overviews of all major works []

    A short passage from The Cyberiad - one of Lem's most famous collections of short stories []

    List of Stanislaw Lem's books, sorted by average customer review rating, at amazon []

    Take care!

    • I have Solaris (the book, not the os :-) on my bookshelf, in english. I've read it three times now, and I still think it's one of the strangest novels i've ever read. Earlier someone wrote here about cultural differences creating different SF. I think this novel is a great example of that. It focuses deeply on the state of mind of the main character. Strange, but I enjoy it.

      btw, after writing the word Solaris I consistently make the typo of writing novel with 2 l's :-/
    • Much of Lem's writing was veiled criticism of communist rule, masquerading as fiction. It may be hard for younger generations to truly appreciate the political environment in which he was writing, and the very real personal risk involved in writing anything more pointed than he did.
    • Steven Soderbergh(Traffic) is doing an english remake of Solaris starring George Clooney.
      coming attractions []
      This will probably bring a lot more well-deserved attention to Lem and hopefully Tarkovsky.
    • Stanilsaw Lem, a Polish author who is immensely popular in Russia and many European countries (but, alas, poorly known in the states)

      You really think so? I always thought that Lem was well-known, at least in SF circles.
    • Unforutanetly, the machine did not get rid of zits!. Read the short passage from The Cyberiad.
    • If you are looking into Russian Science Fiction Movies, Solaris was excellent. I also really enjoyed "Window to Paris" [] I'm not too sure if you would all consider it sci-fi, it's certianly not solaris, but it's about some people who discover a window hidden in a cabinet in their Moscow apartment that takes them to Paris. Hey, if Star Trek can rip a hole in the continuum...
  • One of my favourite Russian sf authors is Yevgeny Zamyatin [].

    And Stanislaw Lem [], while Polish rather than Russian, has always been popular in Russia.


  • There is a website dedicated to Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy [] writers and gives bio's on the writers and what books they have released and so forth.. great site to check out

    I've read a few Russian sci-fi books when I was young (i'm russian).. but unfortunately my knowledge of the language has started to fade ;-)
  • Crime and Punishment II: Mars needs Lenin.

    ALSO. DID YOU KNOW that russia's next planned advance in their space program was going to be a beanstalk built out of exactly three copies of "War and Peace".
  • I have an old Asimov edited collection called "More Soviet Science Fiction". One of the more striking elements was the "heading to the best of all possible worlds" feeling.

    "Any thinking being from some other world that has been able to reach the Cosmos must be just as perfect and universal as the humans of our Earth, and hence just as beautiful. There can be no thinking monsters, no mushroom-men, no octopus-men! "


    "You suggest that even if they look quite different from us, we may not think them ugly? But supposing they resemble us but have horns and elephant-like trunks?"

    "A thinking being does not need horns and hence will not have them. The nose may be somewhat elongated to form a trunk, although a trunk too is unnecesary for a being with hands, and a human being must have hands [...]"

    "You win"

    The Heart of the Serpent, Ivan Yefremov...Subject: is the song that plays to awaken them from their cronosleep

    It's kind of an interesting "hard scifi" story, the two groups end up learning how to communicate partially with an exchange of information about the Periodic Table (they breathe flourine instead of oxygen....other than that they're pretty much greyish star trek aliens, minus the ridges.)

    At first I was going to write this in kind of a condescending way, but actually they're stuff holds up pretty well against ours, though it definately has trouble shaking towing the Soviet party line about a bright future through human social(ist) advancement.
    • He was actually writing the same communist propaganda stuff as many other "officially approved" writers, just disguised as SF.
      One example is The Hour of The Bull, about perfect beautiful people from the 30th century Earth (where communism flourishes) going to a planet populated by ugly capitalism-worshipping people who left the Earth in 22th century fleeing from the World War IV. Since the book was written in late 60-s when Soviet-Chinese relationships were sour, he made those villians to be of Chinese descent. Of course, there were suffering working masses, President's daughter falling in love with the Captain, revolution, etc. Pretty crappy stuff.
      • Yefemov has a lot of rosey a-perfect-future-and-communism stories. However, what you may want to do is (a) think of communism as a utopical idea that is, in fact, great of itself; (b) remember that sometimes people had to live, and some do come a conclusion that compromises and writing 'idiologically correct' stories is a god enough justification for being able to sustain a more 'true to oneself' writings. Then again, some people don't think that way...

        Also, you may want to grab a copy of any of the following books and look at a modern re-incornation of communist ideas []. Please also note that freedom is not always free, even when it comes to freeest speech country (not all of these books are available in US).

  • I'd love to start reading these stories, but I find it hard to sit and read off my monitor any large ammount of text. How do you all read books off the internet? Is there a way easier on the eyes? Printing them all out seems to be a little excessive.

    (Yes I do have a 21in monitor, and would like something short of finding an english translation in book form.)

    • simple on my palm pilot with gutentext. freely available at your favorite project gutenberg mirror.

      better than any Ebook or ebook app ever created.
    • Why exactly do you find it hard? Try different fonts and colors. Maybe the monitor flickers? Check the refresh rate. It may flicker so quickly that you don't notice it but it's still heavy on the eyes, refresh rate has to be at least 75. Higher rates may even be better, I personally read hundreds of books at refresh rate of 85 or so. It's as easy for me to read as a dead book tree. But russian sf sucks, alas. The only good authors are Ivan Efremov (real good, especially the andromeda galaxy one), and kir bulychev who is a very pleasant and amusing author working in harry potter-like style but with a scifi setting.
    • former with a 17" display, 800x600, 120 hz
      now with a 15" tft. reading on a tft display is MUCH easier than on a crt
  • Asimov is my #1 choice in sci-fi reading for years.
    I am sure there are probably many more awesome people from the country formerly known as the soviet Union that can write good Sci-fi. Too bad the site is slashdotted.... anyone have any good links to texts in english?
  • Here is URL to the best collection of books in russian - Strugatsky brothers section. If you scroll down, you'll see 'Translation ...'. There are few in English. I highly recommend 'Snail on a slope'. This is my favorite. There are few others, I don't remember one. Unfortunately, the really good one, translated into English, 'Ugly swans', is not on-line.

    The most comprehensive site on Russian SF is

    but it is in Russian.

    I read them all, in Russian. I've just started reading Ph. K. Dick and seems like they are somehow similar. The same level of brilliance and imagination, sort of. Also quite depressing, most of the time. Strugatsky brothers at this time is really russian SF classic. Arkady has passed away a while ago. Boris is alive and maintains on-line interview, at You can ask him anything you want - but without knowing Russian you'll get lost on that site.
  • Among other things on there is a complete (Russian) version of Terry Pratchett's Soul Music. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you were expected to pay good money for that sort of thing...
    • The maintainer of the library, Maxim Moshkow, has created a separate page devoted to the issue:
      In case you can't read Russian it basically lists authors, translators and publishing companies which have given their permissions to publish their stuff on the site. Then he goes to say that in case that an author or other copyright holder has a problem with the fact that his/her work is in the library it will be taken down on the first request. Even if you don't know Russian you can get an idea of how long is the list of people who gave their permissions to publish their work.
      I don't know much about details of copyright, like when it becomes public domain in Russia etc, but I'd say that large portion of the Moshkov's repository is more or less legal. All decent contemprorary authors have given their permission to to publish on the site. Those who didn't can shove it up their asses. Why would you want to read them anyway?

      P.S. And in case you wondered -- yes, Moshkow is Unix system admin ;)
  • From <>,
    click on "Science Fiction", click on "Countries":


    A strong case can be made that Russian science fiction is second only to English-language science fiction in quality and quantity, and in many cases science fiction books sell in more copies in Russia than anywhere else. Whether or not the authors get paid is another story.

    Of course, the American intelligence forces, with time-scanners, saw the impact of young Isaac Asimov, and covertly paid his family's way over to Brooklyn, New York, to keep Russia from taking over the SF world.

    Russia beat America into space with Sputnik, the definitive event that showed the world that science fiction dreams of spaceflight were now
    reality, and hammered home the point with the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. Russian authors had created the fictions that led to this

    1892 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), the Father of Space Rocketry, publishes his first science fiction story "On the Moon" in a Moscow magazine

    1895 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), the Father of Space Rocketry, publishes his second science fiction story "Dreams of the Earth and the Sky and the Effects of Universal Gravitation" and describes in fiction an artificial satellite -- the predecessor of Sputnik, as it were

    1895 A. N. Goncharov also publishes a satellite story "Fantasies of Earth and Sky" in Moscow

    An important reference work on Russian SF is "Russian Science Fiction Novel" by Anatolij Britikov (Moscow: Nauka and the Soviet Academy of
    Sciences, 1970).

    I am going to add, soon, some notes on these particularly important Russian science fiction authors:
    * A. Belayev
    * M. A. Bulgakov
    * Anatoly Dneprov
    * Mikhail Emtsov
    * I. Lukodianov
    * Georgui Martinov
    * V. A. Obruchev
    * E. Parnov
    * Victor Saparin, "The Trial of Tantalus"
    * The Brothers Strugatsky (Arkadi and Boris)
    * A. Tertz (A. D. Siniavskii)
    * A. Tolstoi
    * Konstantin Tsiolkovski (father of the Spaceship AND Rusian space fiction)
    * Ilya Varshavsky
    * I. A. Yefremov
    * Evgeni Zamiatin

    Filip Schils Abidjan, Ivory Coast, icq : 6951680 e-mailed on 2 June 1998 to say:

    "I am familiar with the "Russian classics" re: Zamyatin, Jevgeni & Arkadi Strugatski. I think you could add Vassilli Akhsionov to your essay as he often uses "SF" settings and styles in his books. If I am not mistaken he has also a scientific education (doctor ?), his style is very experimental using poetry, song texts. He is a scion of the Thaw period and should surely have been mentioned by Yevtuchenko....I am very much interested in other links on Russian SF..."

    Eugene Zamiatin (1884-Mar 1937) [Evgeni Ivanovich Zamiatin] Russian dystopian novelist, banned in the USSR, of the influential "We" (New York: Dutton, 1924, tr. by Gregory Zilboorg) which surely influenced George Orwell's "1984" -- a global state where people are denied names and love.

    Important SF figures born in Russia who emigrated include:
    * Boris Artzybasheff (25 May 1899-?) American artist born in Kharkov (Russia) and trained in St.Petersburg (1909-1918);
    * Isaac Asimov
    * Reginald Bretnor
    * George Gamow (scientist/science writer)
    * Ayn Rand
    * many who recently emigrated to Israel (see entry on Israel)

    Charles Angoff (1902-?), Russian-born American newpaperman, English professor, editor, author of fantasy anthology "Adventures in Heaven" (New York: Ackerman, 1945), nothing on the Web?

    One Russian member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America:
    * Alexander Korzhenevski

    Russian SF book publishers include:
    * Detgiz
    * Mir
    * Molodaja Gvardija
    * Mysl
    * Znanije

    Important magazines include:
    * Junost (circulation hit over 2,000,000)
    * Nauka i zjisn
    * Teknika-molodezji
    * Sveta
    * Vokrug Sveta (circulation almost 3,000,000)
    * Znanije-Sila

    32 Russian Science Fiction films/TV series include:

    * The Amphibian Man (1962)
    * "Gostya iz buduschego" (1984) (mini)TV Series
    ...aka "Guest from the Future" (1984) (mini)
    * "Krakh inzhenera Garina" (1973)(mini)TV Series
    ...aka "Failure of Engineer Garin" (1973) (mini)
    * Abdulladzhan, ili posvyaschayestya Stivenu Spilbergu (1991)
    ...aka Abdulladzhan, or Dedicated To Steven Spielberg (1991)
    * Aelita (1924) a classic!
    ...aka Revolt of the Robots (1924)
    ...aka Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
    * Charodei (1982) (TV) very popular
    ...aka Magicians (1982) (TV)
    * Chelovek-nevidimka (1984)
    ...aka Invisible Man, The (1984)
    * Cherez ternii k zvezdam (1981)
    ...aka Per Aspera Ad Astra (1981)
    ...aka To the Stars By Hard Ways (1982) (US title)
    ...aka Humanoid Woman (1981)
    * The Death Ray (1925)
    * Es ist nicht leicht ein Gott zu sein (1989)
    ...aka Trudno Byt Bogom (1989)
    ...aka Hard to Be a God (1989) [from the novel by the Strugatski brothers]
    * I Was a Sputnik of the Sun (1958)
    * Inoplanetyanka (1984)
    ...aka Extraterrestrial Women, The (1984)
    * Iskusheniye B. (1990)
    ...aka Temptation of B. (1990)
    * Kin-Dza-Dza (1986) very popular
    * Klatwa doliny wezy (1988)
    ...aka Curse of Snakes Valley (1988)
    ...aka Zaklyatie doliny zmei (1988) (Russian title)
    ...aka Madude oru needus (1988)
    * Krik delfina (1986)
    ...aka Cry of a Dolphin (1986)
    * Moon Rainbow (1985)
    * Moskva-Kassiopeya (1973)
    ...aka Moscow - Cassiopea (1973)
    * Nebo Zovet (1959)
    ...aka Battle Beyond the Sun (1962) (US title)
    ...aka Sky Calls, The (1959)
    ...aka Heavens Call, The (1959)
    ...aka Sky Is Calling, The (1959)
    * Ocharovatelnye prisheltsy (1991)
    ...aka Charming Aliens (1991)
    * Otroki vo Vselennoy (1974)
    ...aka Teenagers in Space (1974)
    ...aka Boys In the Universe (1974)
    * Planeta Burg (1962)
    ...aka Planet of Storms (1962)
    ...aka Planet of Tempests (1962)
    ...aka Storm Planet (1962)
    ...aka Cosmonauts on Venus (1962)
    * Pokhischeniye charodeya (1989)
    ...aka Kidnapping of a Wizard (1989)
    * Priklyucheniya Elektronika (1979) (TV)
    ...aka Adventures of the Electronic, The (1979) (TV)
    * Solaris (1972) classic, based on Staislaw Lem novel
    * Stalker (1979)
    * Strannaya istoriya doktora Dzhekila i mistera Haida (1985)
    ...aka Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The (1985)
    * Taina zheleznoi dveri (1970)
    ...aka Secret of the Iron Door, The (1970)
    * Tretya planeta (1991)
    * Unikum (1983) ...aka Phenomenon (1983)
    * Yevo zvali Robert (1967)
    ...aka We Called Him Robert (1967)
    * Zaveschaniye professora Dowelya (1984)
    ...aka Testament of Professor Dowell (1984)

    The story "The Blind Pilot" by Nathalie-Charles Henneberg, translated by
    Damon Knight, appears (pp.250-265) in "The World Treasury of Science Fiction", edited by David G.
    Hartwell, Boston: Little Brown, 1989 (and released by Book of the Month

    Hartwell comments "Nathalie-Charles Henneberg, who is RUSSIAN, met her Alsatian-German husband in Syria when he was in the French Foreign Legion. They began writing SF in French in the 1950s, and until his death in 1959 they signed their collaborations with his name.... Nathalie went on to become a prolific novelist, the 'most read' French SF writer in France in the 1960s, according to [Damon] Knight. This story bears an
    uncanny resemblance in atmosphere to the early works of the American writer Roger Zelazny, which it predates."

    The story "I was the First to Find You" by Kirill Bulychev, translated by Helen Saltz Jacobson, appears (pp.690-700) in "The World Treasury of Science Fiction", edited by David G. Hartwell, Boston: Little Brown, 1989 (and released
    by Book of the Month Club).

    Hartwell comments "Among the most versatile and popular SF writers in the Soviet Union, Kirill Bulychev is one of a group of younger Soviet writers to emerge in the 1960s. Above all, his talent for storytelling and his interest in human characters interacting with SF problems make him a particularly effective representative of recent Soviet SF. The strain of utopianism remains strong in Eastern European SF and sinks many stories with didacticism, but Bulychev is able to sustain his delight in the wonders of the technological future, as in the days of [American
    editor/author] John W. Campbell. And, of course, the influence of Campbell-style SF itself, in this case [A. E.] Van Vogt's 'Far Centaurus'
    is clearly present."
  • Omon Ra by Viktor Pelevin is an amazing book. You can read it in excellent English translation on

  • I think, considering the late geo-political history of Russia, broadening the subject to Eastern-European SF is perhaps more apt...if only to get Stanislav Lem in the list :)

  • I was just thinking about this very topic yesterday, toying with the idea of submitting a review of a Strugatsky book.

    I keep recommending these books to people I meet. It's wonderful literature; I keep saying it's literature, not deserving the restrictive label of "SF"; a good Strugatsky is the kind of book you don't fully appreciate until you have put it down, when its flavour lingers and you realize that, while reading it, your mind took flight, and that you're still flying a few days after.

    It is sad, but not too surprising, to learn how unknown they are outside the literati (by which I don't mean the average Slashdot geek type with their Asimov and Trekkie stuff). The English translations are, as far as I can know, almost entirely out of print. Roadside Picnic was recently resurrected, at least in Europe, by Gollancz as part of their "Gollancz SF" series (instantly recognizable as trade-paperbacks with minimalistic yellow covers), a wonderful series which also includes other semi-forgotten masterpieces by the likes of Brunner, John Sladek, Heinlein, Thomas Disch and John Crowley.

    Obtaining these absent volumes is not hard. ABE Books [] is your friend; basically it's a network of used-book sellers with a unified shopping cart -- it's an amazing system that has significantly added to my personal library. Books typically arrive by air mail within a week, even here in Europe (Norway). Also popular, but untested by me, is BookFinder [].

    There have been posts in this discussion, some serious and some not, about the readability/relevance of Russian fiction, comments pretty typical of ethnocentric Americans. I can't stress this enough: There is absolutely nothing that should prevent you from completely enjoying a Russian book (translated into English, to wit). The references to Russian culture/history/etc. are more or less nonexistent, and their stories are usually set outside the Soviet state. As for translations, most of the Strugatsky books were done by an extraordinary translator, Antonina W. Buois. I cannot vouch for their correctness, as I have not read the original texts, but I applaud their beauty, humanity, subtlety and ingenuity, qualities which I can only assume are also present in the originals.

    As for what to read, I highly recommend Roadside Picnic, which is a masterpiece in any genre (it served as the inspiration for Tarkovsky's Stalker []). It is about the aftermath of an alien visitation -- after the beings themselves have left and mysteriously, without having revealed themselves -- which has left the Earth riddled with small "Zones", contaminated by alien debris. One theme of the novel is that while we humans consider ourselves "rational beings", our sense of rationality -- a way of putting order to chaos -- is closely tied to our human form; an alien civilization may in fact appear beyond our capacity to understand, and therefore their nature will seem chaotic, irrational and impossible to us. The debris is wonderful stuff, often dangerous, often inexplicable, and humans scavenge it like ants over the trash left, as a character says, by a family "roadside picnic".

    Their other works are similarly masterly: Far Rainbow, Hard to Be a God (actually made into a French-German-Russian-produced film [] in 1989) and Definitely Maybe. The latter's original title is, translated: "A Billion Years to the End of the World: A manuscript discovered under unusual circumstance". It tells the story of how one day all scientific progress is suddenly threatened by, well, hedonistic distractions. It was adapted into the film Days of the Eclipse [] (1988).

    Many of the Strugatskys' books play out in the same "universe", or continuum, of the 22nd century [], which includes several novels featuring intergalactic investigator Maxim Kammerer, and also developing the backstory of "the Wanderers", a mysterious, never-seen, incredibly powerful race of beings that seem to be silently following and manipulating the human race, similar to the Visitors in Roadside Picnic. The most chilling example is "Wanderers and Travellers", a hypnotic little short story about a diver who tags rare marine animals with radio tracking, and who then meets a man who suspects that, after a visit to a remote planet, he has somehow been... tagged himself.

    On note: Alongside their SF production, the Strugatskys also produced some absurdist fables, including Tale of the Troika and The Second Invasion of Mars, and while this is great stuff, it's likely to shock and disappoint anyone looking for a "vintage Strugatsky".

    • Definitely Maybe. The latter's original title is, translated: "A Billion Years to the End of the World: A manuscript discovered under unusual circumstance". It tells the story of how one day all scientific progress is suddenly threatened by, well, hedonistic distractions.

      Actually, the distractions are of all kinds, some are hedonistic, some are puzzling, some are downright threatening. A group of scientific mates finds that some faceless force, perhaps a natural law, seeks to drive them away of their discoveries.
      The story is perceived by many as a picture of oppression that creativity faces in a totalitarian society. Another definite must read from Strugatskys.
  • I have to wonder what far-out concepts I might be missing because I only understand English -- maybe the Internet will help break down this barrier.

    No, learning another language will help break down this barrier.

    Don't worry, the Internet is the solution to all of your other problems though.

  • IMNSHO the best current Russian fantasy writer is Nik Perumov. His books are not an average fantasy of Good vs Evil. But rather Dark Side vs Light Forces, with author siding with the Dark. It's either an exiled mage rising a rebellion against good benevolent Gods to save his imprisoned friend. Or a necromancer on a quest against the rest of the world. Noone is always good and noone is pure evil. Very good solid high paced reading. Very enjoyable. I don't know if he is translated to English though. He had one book in English with Alan Cole. Unfortunately that sorry piece of a crap is not worth the paper it's published on.

    Another decent Russian writer is Sviatoslav Loginov - (in English). _Multiarm God of Dalayn_ is VERY original. I have not read anything like that either in English or Russian. It might be too original though. _Black Blood_ with Nik Perumov is very good. He also writes "village fantasy" which might be too thick with Russian culture and closer to common fiction than to fantasy.

    One of the older writers is Kir Bulychev. Some of his writing is space sci fi, some is social sci fi set in a fictional Russian town "Veliky Gusliar". Mostly targeted to younger readers.

    Brothers Strugatski are classics of Russian sci fi. Their earlier books are mostly space sci fi. Like _It's Hard to Be a God_ is about human outpost on a medieval planet. _Beetle in an Anthill_ is very original alien planet fiction. _Stalker_ is good reading. The _Monday Starts on Saturday_ is about government research facility studying magic (fun reading - government bureaucracy + magic). The later books tend to be more philosophical and are thick with Russian historical and cultural references.

    A lot of people like Sergey Lukyanenko. He is probably the best selling contemporary Russian sci fi writer. Another popular writer is Vladimir Vasil'ev - sci fi, fantasy, cyber, alternative history. I did not read a lot of them, so I won't comment.

    _Master and Margarita_ was written in the first half on 20th century. Classic translated to many languages including English. Satan come to Moscow. Very philosophical - love, responsibility, genius. Very very philosophical, but fun to read. Particularly if you took a course in Russian history.
  • The Internet won't break down the barriers, people will. What the Internet will do is facilitate the transfer of information and ideas with far less restrictions (though that appears to be changing-YRO). What the Internet can do is allowed like minded individuals to gather in electronic forums where they can work on understanding each other.
    Get out from behind your keyboard, or at least point your browser somewhere besides here or a kernel mirror ;). Go find some material to help you learn a foreign language, then go to a chat room or board to practice it with someone from that country. They'll be glad to work with you. Ashamed of your fluency with that language? So are they about their fluency with English. Work together to communicate. Russian is hard to learn. English is hard to learn. So is Perl, so is multiprotocol networking in an enterprise environment, so is hacking a network. Yet lot's of us that lurk here do these things. Learn a language besides C, speak with the people that use that language and learn a culture. Dare to use the 'Net for more than pr0n, cracking and flaming.
    The Russian language has a rich culture of literature. They are also not afraid to import literature from other lands. Mark Twain has been translated into Russian (amongst others) and is very popular there. I read, write and speak German, Russian (badly now) and have a working knowledge of English (American) and HTML ;). And a smattering of standard Arabic. That only leaves over a hundred other languages to go ;). Plus Perl.
    In a nutshell, the 'Net won't break down those barriers, we will. It will just help us like minded people to find each other to do it.
  • I never even considered Russian SCI-Fi before. This sounds cool. I checked out The "Snail on the Slope" story and its great. For me the fascination is to just see how these Soviet authors think and percieve the future from their unique point of view.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva