Naked Science talked with the famous Russian science fiction writer Andrey Valentinov and learned about the differences between modern Russian science fiction and Western science fiction, the generation of "erasers" and the negative aspects of postmodernism.
Andrey Valentinov (real name - Andrey Valentinovich Shmalko) was born on March 18, 1958 in Kharkov. He is now a well-known science fiction writer. Winner of a number of awards in the science fiction genre. Historian by education (Kharkiv University, 1980), candidate of historical sciences, associate professor at Kharkiv National University. According to literary critics, Valentinov's work is characterized by the use of cross-cutting themes, images and motives that pass from work to work. This technique allows you to create your own "world", "secondary reality".
Andrey Valentinovich, tell me, do you see any significant differences between modern Russian science fiction (primarily Russian) from the conventionally Western?
- I see, of course. Science fiction is part of literature. Accordingly, part of the culture of the nation. Therefore, the differences are very significant. First, literature in general and science fiction in particular in the CIS countries is much lower in quality than, say, English-language literature. This is noticeable even with poor translators. Secondly, if we talk specifically about Russian science fiction, there is a clear deformation. On the one hand, this is due to its outspoken commercialization, which has become especially noticeable since about 2000. A generation of "erasers" appeared.
What do you mean by this concept?
- I'll explain a little later. First, about the second point. This also includes sharp politicization, which reflects the politicization of society. Moreover, this is politicization in a bad sense. There is a kind of sublimation. If it is impossible to hit an enemy that is already in the past or is currently unavailable, you can hit him on the pages of science fiction books. I recall the experience of Iran during the time of Ayatollah Khomeini (Iranian politician, leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution - NS), where they loved such an alternative history. As for the episode with the "erasers", then in this case we were, if not the root cause, then the first impetus. During one of our assemblies, which were held in Kharkov and bore the name "Star Bridge", we took as a slogan the phrase: "Where is that young punks who will wipe us off the face of the Earth?" Young writers came (some, however, were 40 years old). The participants in the discussion subsequently formed a group of "erasers". Using not the best Western experience, they switched to serials, moreover to frankly commercial serials. This is exactly the millennium. Since then, the fracture has become noticeable.
In your opinion, is modern science fiction more commercialized than the works of previous generations of science fiction writers?
- All modern science fiction is 100% commerce. Even 101% (laughs).
Didn't you think that earlier cultural figures also thought about the possible income from science fiction?
- It is necessary to use the "method of reading minds" - and at a distance and in time. But, of course, the issue of publication has always been. For example, the great magazine Amazing Stories (considered the world's first mainstream magazine entirely devoted to science fiction - NS). He had readers and circulations. Naturally, I had to think about the commercial side of the issue. In the USSR, this was less noticeable. There, if you got "in the cage", the "fee" will definitely come and you could live.Therefore, the commercial issue has always appeared, but to varying degrees.
What is the essence of the phenomenon of the so-called "hitmen" and is it possible to put an equal sign between "erasers" and this phenomenon?
- It is forbidden. "Popadantsy" began earlier and continues to this day. "Erasers" are more about the very form of the work and the way it is sold to the reader. The concept of the "hitmen" is different. This is a plot that occurs regularly in world science fiction. Although he gained frenzied popularity in the 21st century, and above all in Russian science fiction.
- This is due to the "Weimar complex" - a defeat complex, which they are trying to overcome in this way. This is so noticeable that you don't even need to call the doctor, the paramedic will handle it. "Enemies" are always looming here, first of all the Americans. Moreover, they play up any situations in the past in order to annoy the "damned Anglo-Saxons" in any way. In any form, in any way, even by entering into an alliance with Hitler.
Whom could you recommend from among contemporary Russian science fiction writers?
- Of course, there are good writers. The problem is that most of them write little. Speaking specifically about Ukrainians, the number one science fiction writer is Henry Lyon Oldie (the pseudonym of science fiction writers Dmitry Gromov and Oleg Ladyzhensky - NS). These are writers of a very high class. Traditionally, Marina and Sergei Dyachenko should be mentioned behind them, but they have not written anything new for a long time. As for the writers of Russia, I somehow know little about their new publications. Those that exist do not arouse much interest. Recently there was the birthday of Mikhail Uspensky, one of the last outstanding science fiction writers in Russia, who was not only a writer, but also in a good sense a very active person … Somehow Russia now has few people who want to read. I myself read science fiction a lot, but this is "official". As it is now fashionable to say, "monitor". It's a stormy stream, Niagara. But I don't feel like drinking this water.
General question. Do you think it is justified that Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov are included in the Big Three?
- Have mercy … Who brings in? Whoever wants, he brings in. Everyone has the right to name his top three, ten or any number of writers. The Big Three is a wrong assessment, deeply subjective. In addition, it is more likely for Americans, and even then not for everyone, but for someone over 50.
If we talk about modern world science fiction in general, what are the main trends you see?
- I do not see. Because the fiction is very big. We have a very narrow view of world culture. Here's an example - cinematography. Most of the films are shot in India. We know that. Do you know which country is number two in terms of the number of films? Nigeria! Have you seen at least one Nigerian film? Me not. And I am sure that the same applies to a very large number of people. The same is fantastic. Do we imagine Chinese science fiction? She is now flourishing very rapidly. Indian fiction? And Indian authors write a lot. I'm not talking about Africa, this is generally a separate conversation. Specifically, we can judge Anglo-American fiction, European and post-Soviet. Partly Japanese. Everything.
Well, maybe there are some directions specific to this fantasy?
- Now there is the same postmodernism that reigns everywhere. Repetition of the past.
Is postmodernism in science fiction conceptually different from postmodernism as such, which we see in modern culture?
- "In culture" - it is widely said. But in practice, yes. What is the essence of postmodernism in practice? They do not want to take risks by printing books or making films on new topics, with new concepts. They are afraid: suddenly they will not like it? Therefore, they take what has already been tested. These are direct sequels, and repetition of moves, plots, ideas that are "heard" by the reader. Such an epoch, frankly speaking, mediocre.We have not repeated Belle Époque (a symbol for the period of European history between the last decades of the 19th century and 1914, - NS). It was strange but dawn. So far, this has not happened with us, as for science fiction. Now mass fiction - Anglo-Saxon, European and ours - is bad. This does not mean that there are no good authors, they are. But the flow is too great. That is, if we single out good writers separately, we will see wonderful science fiction literature. But who will distinguish them? They hardly reach the reader …
Is the service of science fiction for political purposes typical only for the post-Soviet space or for all countries?
- This is typical for everyone. It's just that political goals can be different. On the one hand, in the British and American science fiction of the 1930s and 1940s, politics was present extremely moderately, although it was noticeable. On the other hand, scientific and technological progress without borders is a purely American idea. Of course, science fiction served this idea in every possible way. Heinlein, already mentioned by you, shows the idea of the dominance of technocracy. In general, scientific and technical ideas often turn into political ones. In this sense, any literature that exists in a certain space inhabited by people reflects the mood of these people and those people who rule them. In contemporary American science fiction, however, there is no particular politicization to be seen. Commerce is much more visible.