Press: University Press of the Pacific (April 1, 2000)
One more collection of Soviet SF stories now lies in your hands.
Seven stories by ten authors.
Like ten people talking around one table.
Collections of stories by different writers always resemble round-table conferences.
All the more so is this true of science fiction, as a genre that bubbles with polemic zest.
Indeed, I would compare this more to a students' debating society in some smoke-filled room, in whose blue haze the flushed faces and flashing eyes can barely be distinguished.
Here, one declaims with inspired ardour, another grins wryly, as he intersperses some snide remark, a third thumps the table, his voice hoarse with passion.
Students, indeed, most young folk, for that matter, adore to talk of love and learning, of life and its meaning, of virtuous and wicked ways, of the problems that face man today and tomorrow, and of how all this is expressed by writer and artist.
Science fiction, in effect, does the same, with, perhaps, as is only natural, a somewhat greater emphasis on the problems of tomorrow and of how best to convey their substance.
Soviet SF lies well within the mainstream of Soviet writing, generally, and is as diverse in theme and imagery.
In the fifty odd years of its existence, its course has been a chequered one, veering with all the turns in the tide of Soviet history, particularly during the times of the First Five -Year Plan and World War Two, but more so, when Sputnik shot up to furrow the unexplored outer fields of space, and the now famous dispute between poet and physicist began.
Some twenty seven years ago, Boris Slutsky, a rather well-known Soviet poet - who is no writer of SF, mind you! - produced the following quatrain, which is often quoted in this country: It is the poet versus physicist; One is out, the other in, today.
Perhaps a general law is this, And no accidental step astray? Soviet science fiction also has its physicists and its poets.
The physicists believe in the omnipotence of the exact sciences, in mathematics and the machine.
They claim that every single problem can be pinned down to the drawing board and can be solved in laboratory retorts, that everything can be done by computer and robot.
The poets are sceptical.
Not for them are the formulas of the physicists, but rather the feelings and promptings of the heart.
True enough, the machine can make life easier; but, they say, it can also become an onerous, oppressive burden.
This book, as you will have probably noticed, is entitled Journey Across Three Worlds.
It is called thus after the novelet presented herein by the Abramovs, father and son.
No generational animosity here, as you see! Quite the contrary.
One is Seventy odd years old, the other only thirty, one is a professional writer, with numerous novels, stories and essays to his credit, the other is an engineer of the breed inspired by Sputnik, and for whom all of Soviet SF that came before serves as but the launching pad for blasting off into the incredible unknown.
And, indeed, everything that comes from under their pen - pens? - is steeped in the latest and most unbelievable of hypotheses, in the wildest of fantasies and conjectures.
This time it is parallel worlds, but elsewhere it may be extragalactic visitors, invested with an aura of unfathomable power, or the duplication not just of things and inanimate objects, but also of people, whole cities, countries, an even whole epochs, what is sometimes known as the split-image theme.
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