SF&F in Slovenia

About books and writers

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 dežela” (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 Tavčar (1851-1923) published in 1891 his novel “4000” (Four thousand), which was often reprinted in years to come (1902, 1926, 1954, 1966).

“Arheološko predavanje leta 5000” (A Lecture on Archeology in Year 5000) by Ivan Toporiš was published in 1892, influenced by some recent discoveries, as well as “Pogubni malik sveta” (Devastating World Idol), a book by Simon Šubic, published a year later. The year of 1883 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 Jaklič published his story “Pantheon” in the same year.

A several year’s calm was broken, on the eve of WWI, by Etbin Kristan’s “Pertinčarjevo pomlajevanje” (The Rejuvenation of Pertinchar, 1914). The novel tells of man’s dream of rejuvenation, and through it, of his advancement and experience, wisdom and folly. In 1922, Ivo Šorli (1877-1958) published his story “V deželi Čirimurcev” (In the Land of Chirimuries). 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 as the 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); “Čudno oko” (Strange Eye, 1930); “Kolumb” (Columbus, 1932); “Čarovnik 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 with novels “Temna zvezda” (Dark Star) and “Marsovske skrivnosti” (The Mysteries of Mars), Metod Jenko and Anton Novčan.

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. Alamut was until now translated in more than ten languages. In English was translated in 2004, by Michael Biggins. The novel inspired also the creators of the video game Assassin’s Creed.

After WWII, Matej Bor, a renowned author,writethe SF novel “Vesolje v akvariju” (Space in the Aquarium, 1955). A few years later, Vid Pečjak (b. 1926) came up with undisputable the best SF novel for children, “Drejček in trije marsovčki” (Drejchek and Three Little Martians, 1961). The novel tells us in an ingenious way what happened when little Drejček 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 Olders, 1972); “Roboti so med nami” (Robots are Among Us, 1974); “Kam je izginila Ema Lauš” (Where Has Ema Laush Vanished, 1980); “Beg med zvezde” (Escape to the Stars, 2004); “Doktor živih in mrtvih” (Doctor of Living and Dead, 2004); “Aleks in robot Janez” (Alex and Robot Janez, 2007); “Zadnji odpor: Iskanje lepe Helene” (Last Resistance: Searching for a Beautiful Helene, 2007) and “Kataklizma: Selenino maščevanje” (Cataclysm: Selena’s Revenge, 2010). Last two books are ecological SF novels. In his works Pečjak use his professional experience as psychologist. He deals mostly with man’s psyche and reactions in unusual environment, most often in relation with cybernetics.

One should also mention Gregor Strniša, with his poems and radio plays “Mavrična krila” (Rainbow Wings, 1973) and “Steklenica vode” (A Bottle of Watter, 1974). Franjo Puncer (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 človek” (Lost Man, 1978); “Časovna 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” (Cave, 1972, published 1977); “Prepoznavanje ali bele vdove črni čas” (Recognition, or White Widows Dark Hours, 1980); “Iksion ali beg iz prikazovalnice” (Iksion, or Escape from the Displayroom, 1981); “Kuga plastionska” (The Plastion Plague, 1982); “Mana” (Mana, 1985); “Lovec in nečista hči” (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); “Iksia ali slovo živostrojnega človeka” (Iksia or Farewell of Livingmachine Man, 2001); “Iks ali velika samota Noetove barke” (Iks or Big Solitude of Noah’s Ark, 2006); “Omarnik” (Wardrobeman, 2006); “Ostrostrelka ali Romanje v Tibetijo” (Sniperwoman or Pilgrimage to Tibetija, 2008); “Mitrejin koder ali časovna struna v Petoviono” (Mitreja’s Curlyhair or Time String to Petoviona, 2011) 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 Frane Tomšič (b. 1925), with dis-utopian works “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 življenje” (Third Life, 1980, together with Vid Pečjak); “Leto 2000 – in potem ?” (Year 2000 – and then?, 1982). Other authors worth mentioning are: Marjan Tomšič, Branimir Žgajner, Ivan Sivec, Brane Dolinar.

The most important representative of the generation born after WWII is Branko Gradišnik (b. 1951). Novels “Čas” (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 Gradišnik himself, moves in all directions. Almost the same can be said about about Samo Kuščer (1952), whose two collections of stories, “Sabi” (Sabi, 1983), and “Žalostni virtuoz” (Melancholy Virtuoso, 1989), deal with philosphic, moral and social issues, complemented with distinguished and attractive style. Certainly not a rare combination, but with Gradišnik and Kuščer 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 “Sanjališče” (Dreamingland, 1995), distinctly original and fresh reading, is already being translated for Anglo-American readers. In the meantime, he published stories (around 120) in various media – radio, reviews, magazines, fanzines, etc. However, his greatest success came with, “Dobrodošli na planet Zemlja” (Welcome to Planet Earth, 1994), animated film by Oscar-winning Dušan Vukotić, of Zagreb, Croatia. The film, based on Meserko’s novella “Kmečka idila” (Peasant Idyll), was shown at many international festivals and won several awards for its originality. Other important authors are: Boris Čerin, Marjetka Jeršak, Zvone Jirasek, Franci Cerar. The most important critics of SF&F in Slovenia are Boris Grabnar, Branko Gradišnik, Žiga Leskovšek 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).

Now comes the new generation of writers. Among them are: Nejc Gazvoda with novels “Sanjajo tisti, ki preveč spijo” (Dreamers are Those Who Sleep Too Much, 2007) and “V petek so sporočili, da bo v nedeljo konec sveta” (Friday They Say That Sunday Will be the End of the World, 2009), Aleš Oblak with book “Hiša dobrih gospodov” (House of Good Gentlemen, 2011), Martin Vavpotič with book “Čez veliko zahodno morje” (Over Great West Sea, 2005), Mara R. Sirako, with over 1200 pages thick novel in three books “Dangober – Spopad pri Opozorilniku” (Dangober – Battle at the Alertbeacon, 2009), Andrej Ivanuša with books for kids as “Čudovita potovanja zajca Rona” (The Wonderful Journeys of Rono Rabbit, 2006), “Rheia” (Spaceship Rheia, 2009), “Vilindar” (Fairy Town Vilindar, 2009), which is an epic poem based on Slovene mitology and “Svetodrev, prva legenda iz gozda Tokara” (Svetodrev, The First Legend from Tokara Forest, 2011).

Bojan Ekselenski is author of authentic Slovene fantasy epic novel “Vitezi in Čarovniki” (Knights & Wizards), he published two stories from it until now “Indigo otroci” (Indigo Children, 2007) and “Indigo novi svet” (Indigo New World, 2011), Amedeja M. Ličen is the SF screenwriter, novelist and author of the satirical anti-utopia “Nasvidenje, Veličastni svet” (Goodbye, Magnificent World, 2008), Tanja Mencin with serial “Varuhi” (Guardians) in four books “Viharna princesa” (Stormy Princess, 2011), “Enajsterica” (Eleventh, 2011), “Kriki usod” (Destinies Shouts, 2011), “Potovanje k cilju” (A Journey to the Goal, 2012), Mariša Ogriz, Vesna Lemaić, Barbara Kokalj, Dušan Dim, Blažič Mateja, David Benjamin, Nika Maj with ten part serial for kids “Tianov čudežni svet” (Tian’s Magic World), Sarah Jerebic, Vili Ravnjak and others.

According to Pika Kofol’s The Guide to Science Fiction (vodnik-zf.info) which is an online encyclopedia of Slovenian science fiction and fantasy content in various media, analytic sources, links, authors’ opinions on the genre and current events in the field, there is 219 authors (49 woman, 170 man) and 229 publications (books, novels, scenarios, etc.) in Slovene language.

ABOUT ANTHOLOGIES AND TRANSLATIONS

Several anthologies and collections of SF/F have been published: “Strah me je” (I’m Afraid, 1962), “Ne zakrivaj mi neba” (Don’t Shelter the Sky from Me, 1964), “Srečni 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), “Daleč so zvezde” (Far Away are 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, Matjaž Šinkovec, F. Cerar, M. Škvarča, B. Meserko, M. Remec, V. Pečjak, and F. Puncer.
Lately, the most readed author translated into slovenian is G. R. R. Martin with his fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire”.

ABOUT SF&F CLUBS

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 “Občasnik” (Periodic, 6 issues). However, the most serious undertaking in SF&F fanzine/review publishing was Marjan Škvarča’s and Bojan Meserko’s “Blodnjak” (Maze) with 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 issue 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.
In 1998 was founded society Gil-galad in Ljubljana, which is a non-profit association of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien fans. The association’s objective is primarily gathering fans of J. R. R. Tolkien, publishing their articles, drawings and poems in the house magazine “Sijoča zvezda” (Shining Star) and spread the popularity of Tolkien fantasy literature. In the summer they organize several workshops in various subjects, once a year they prepare the annual meeting with role-playing.
In 2005 was founded SF-fan society Prizma, which issued 12 numbers of fanzine Neskončnost (Infinity) until 2009. Then their activity vanished and starts again this year.

In 2011, the four authors of the SF&F Ruža Barić (aka Mara R. Sirako) Amedeja M. Ličen, Bojan Ekselenski and Andrej Ivanuša founded the society Zvezdni prah (Stardust), the Author’s Society of Speculative Arts.
In 2008 Bojan Ekselenski began publishing the Fanzine for Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horor, and the World Drugotnost (Otherworld) named “Jašubeg en Jered” (means News from Otherworld in imaginary fairy language of his book), which became a society magazine and so far was published 22 numbers in five years. Next number will be issued in May this year.

After the disintegration of Yugoslavia SF&F fast died out in Slovenia due to conflicts among participants and loss of big market. Even before this speculative art was marginalized, in fact, did not even considered as an art. Recently, some new authors try to transform and re-establish it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

*