New publications on Russian science fiction

Regular readers will be delighted to learn of two new (both 2014) publications in the field of Russian science fiction studies. kremThe first is Nikolai Krementsov’s long-awaited survey of the interaction between early Soviet science and fiction, Revolutionary Experiments: The Quest for Immortality in Bolshevik Science and Fiction. See full details and order a copy from the publisher’s website, here. The cover illustration looks as if it may owe some inspiration to this blog’s home image!

matthiasThe second book is equally long-awaited and fascinating (although unfortunately, for now, available only in German): Matthias Schwartz’s Expeditions into Other Worlds: Soviet Adventure Literature and Science Fiction from the October Revolution to the End of the Stalin Era. Here is the publisher’s blurb in English translation:

Adventure literature and science fiction were among the most popular literary genres in the Soviet Union. It was within these genres that collective desires and fears about the present could be projected onto distant and exotic worlds. At the same time, this “literature of the masses” was very controversial. Adventure literature was regarded as ideologically problematic colonial literature, while science fiction was seen as challenging the official optimism about science and the future. This volume is the first to take an in-depth look at this neglected field of popular literature. The author reconstructs the journalistic and internal debates around the genres’ creation and presents a selection of texts that reveal the changing poetics within this field. He thereby provides fundamental insights into the operation and aporias of Soviet cultural policy. You can order a copy here.

Matthias Schwartz is a scholar of Slavic studies and a historian. He is currently a researcher at the Centre for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL), Berlin. Nikolai Krementsov is a professor in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto.



Sci-Fi Goes андеграунд – Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033

A guest post from Matthias Schwartz, Freie University Berlin (Germany)

The Metro is probably an even more important symbol of Moscow than Red Square  or the Kremlin – planned as the quintessence of communist promises, its purpose was to turn the way to work into a road to paradise. Moreover, it served as a refuge from hell – during World War II, Moscow’s underground lines gained central military importance and saved the lives of millions, the Germans fought unsuccessfully to occupy Moscow. Today, Stalin’s chthonian palaces have lost their utopian resonance; every day they rescue Russia’s booming capital from total infrastructural collapse. At the same time, since construction began in the 1930s, legends and conspiracy theories have grown around the Metro, where paradise and hell seem to be inseparably linked. But only a hundred years after Hitler’s rise to power, these apocalyptic notions have found a fitting literary form – in Dmitrii Glukhovsky’s first novel “Metro 2033” (2005) which describes the Moscow underground system as a last exile for humans to survive after overground life has been exterminated by an atomic Word War III. But beneath the earth’s surface, nothing is good and everyone is dangerous. First published online in 2002 under the title “metro”, the substantially enlarged and revised book version soon turned into a national bestseller with hundreds of thousands of copies. Subsequently a sequel called “Metro 2034” (2009) and a whole book series on the “Universe of Metro 2033” (2009 onwards) followed, written by different authors who claim to have encountered hidden, secret places all over Russia where humans could have survived. Now this dystopian post-histoire has also reached the United Kingdom, and in view of the staggering economies, collapsing dictatorships, and climatic irregularities all over the world Britain probably won’t be the last country going underground.  Matthias Schwartz

The first British contribution to the Universe of Metro project, Grant McMaster’s Britannia 2033, is already available in Russian and will appear in English next year! The Daily Telegraph ran this article about the project recently.