Bulgaria

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The roots of Bulgarian sf can be found in the 1920s, when Svetoslav Minkov published three unusual collections of short stories: Siniata Hrizantema ["The Blue Chrysanthemum"] (coll 1921), Tshasovnik ["Clock"] (coll 1924) and Ognena Ptitza ["The Fire Bird"] (coll 1927). Minkov's work noticeably resembles that of Edgar Allan Poe, H P Lovecraft and the German decadents of his period, and may be closer to the "diabolic" fantasy of the German Romantics than to the main current of sf. A collection in English of Minkov's work is The Lady with the X-Ray Eyes (coll trans 1965 Bulgaria). Perhaps Georgi Iliev, author of the novels O-Korse (1930) and Teut se Bountuva ["Teut Rebels"] (1933), should be regarded as the real founding father of Bulgarian sf. These two books, intended as serious works for serious readers, deal with cosmic Disasters on the grand scale: the dying of the Sun; the cessation of our planet's rotation.

The promise of these early years was not followed up. No further sf or fantasy works were published until about ten years after World War Two, when Bulgarian sf's second period began. To understand the many paradoxes of Bulgarian socialist publishing 1946-1989 one should remember that all publishing houses and printers were state property and poorly organized; that there was a chronic shortage of paper and printing presses; and that the whole publishing system was under strong ideological control. The soil for raising Bulgarian sf was, therefore, less than fertile – certainly in the 1950s – and much sf of the period was limited to tedious imitations of the Soviet model, dealing with a bright, happy communist future and the imminent destruction of all that capitalism stood for. Books of this period are Zemiata Pred Gibel ["Earth on the Verge of Destruction"] (1957) by Tsvetan Angelov, Raketata ne Otgovaria ["No Reply from the Rocketship"] (1958) by Dimitar Peev, Gushterat ot Ledovete ["The Lizard from the Land of Ice"] (1958) by Petar Bobev and Atomniat Tshovek ["The Atomic Man"] (1958) by Ljuben Dilov.

In the 1960s, when the winds of change were detectable, a third and more interesting period began. The breakthrough was made by Georgi Markov (see David St George) – later assassinated in London – with his important novel Pobeditelite na Aiax ["The Conquerors of Ajax"] (1960), a space story about the meeting of three races who are at different stages of cultural development. In 1962 the first Bulgarian sf club, "Friends of the Future", was founded in Sofia. The most active sf writer has been Ljuben Dilov (1927-    ), whose Atomniat Tshovek is mentioned above. His later works – often satirical-include Mnogoto Imena na Straha ["The Many Names of Fear"] (1967), Tejesta na Skafandara ["The Burden of the Spacesuit"] (1969), about Aliens, Moiat Stranen Priatel – Astronomat ["My Strange Friend the Astronomer"] (coll 1971), Patiat na Ikar ["The Way of Icarus"] (1974), about a Generation Starship, Da Nahranish Orela ["To Feed the Eagle"] (coll 1977), and Jestokiat Eksperiment ["Cruel Experiment"] (1985) about Sex. Other authors include Haim Oliver with Heliopolis (1968), Emil Manov with Galacticheska Balada ["Galactic Ballad"] (1971) and Patuvane do Uibrobia ["Journey to Wibrobia"] (1976) – the latter a continuation of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726; rev 1735) – Svetoslav Slavshtev, Ljubomir Peevsky, and Pavel Vejinov with Sinite Peperudi ["Blue Butterflies"] (coll 1968), Beliat Gushter ["The White Lizard"] (coll 1977) and Barierata ["Barrier"] (coll 1977); Dimitar Peev and Petar Bobev continue to publish.

In the 1980s many more new sf authors appeared, writing on the same – not outstanding – level. But things began to look promising in the late 1980s. In 1988 the first specialist sf magazine, F.E.P., was launched; the title has since been changed to Fantastika (see Fantastika). The great hope for Bulgarian sf came in 1989 with the removal of the ban on privately owned publishing companies. A new sf publishing house is Gemini, whose fortnightly sf magazine, Drugi Svetove ["Other Worlds"], began publication in 1991. The most active sf/fantasy publishing house is Orphia. Other publishers, too, are intending to publish sf, whose future in Bulgaria looks brighter. [AP]

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