Tagged: International

To trace an Italian sf tradition is not easy, because of the well-established split in Italy between scientific language and "literary culture". It is of some relevance to read Dante Alighieri's great poem La divina commedia (circa 1304-1320 in manuscript; first printed edition 1472; trans Henry Cary as The Divine Comedy 1814) as a sort of sf journey; Dante used his theological allegory to create a world that in terms of medieval consciousness was perfectly real. But it may be more fruitful to consider as Proto SF the chronicle of Marco Polo's marvellous voyage to India, China and Japan, Milione ["One Million Stories"] (1298 in manuscript; first edited printed version 1559; trans John Frampton as The Most Noble and Famous Travels of Marco Polo 1579): the meeting of the Venetian merchant with the alien Eastern world does have the flavour of a First Contact. In his Le città invisibili (1972; trans as Invisible Cities 1974), Italo Calvino rewrites Marco Polo's work as a Borges-like catalogue of mysterious and fascinating towns, conceived by an endless imaginative process.

Fantastic Voyages and Utopian landscapes are the most effective contributions of Italian literature to the development of a genre that would eventually merge into sf, as in the Renaissance poem Orlando Furioso (1516; exp 1532; trans Sir John Harrington as Orlando Furioso 1591) by Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), based on the mythical history of Charlemagne and his Paladins. In this the palace of the wizard Atlante is a bewitched place of unrequited desires and bitter delusions, and the knight Astolfo, in his search for the brain of mad Orlando, rides on the wings of the Hippogriff to the Moon, where he visits a large valley, the land of forgotten dreams and wasted passions.

A century later the philosopher Tommaso Campanella evoked the City of the Sun, whose utopia is constructed after the political ideas of Plato. The male inhabitants have abolished private property, own all in common (women included) and believe in natural Religion, not in historical Christianity. This tale, first written though not first published in Italian, was Città del sole (written 1602-1612; 1623 in Latin as Civitas Solis; trans as "The City of the Sun" in Ideal Commonwealths, anth 1885).

In the eighteenth century – the Age of Reason, but also of a keen interest in exotic worlds – Italian culture enthusiastically hailed the satirical-fantastical mood of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726; rev 1735) and Voltaire's Candide (1759; trans anon 1759). Among the manifold imitators of Swift (and of his French disciple, the Abbé Desfontaines [1685-1745]) was the Venetian-Armenian Zaccaria Seriman (1708-1784), whose lively account of the Fantastic Voyage of a British hero is Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle terre incognite australi ed ai regni delle scimmie e dei cinocefali ["Enrico Wanton's Travels to the Unknown Lands of the Southern Hemisphere and to the Kingdoms of the Monkeys and of the Dog-Headed People"] (1764). Although issued in French, Giacomo Casanova's huge novel Icosameron (1787 5vols; cut trans Rachel Zurer as Casanova's "Icosameron" 1876) was partly drafted in Italian. Beyond its encyclopedic farrago of scientific and philosophical meditations, Icosameron establishes a well known imaginative pattern: two young protagonists (brother and sister) discover an Underground world where total harmony governs the lives of the Megamicri ("Big-Littles"). This gigantic work (the first edition was published in 5 volumes) is full of descriptions and explanations of physical principles, of the rules of the Megamicri's government and social organization, of their biology and customs, and of their fantastic inventions; including locomotion without the use of draught animals.

Italian Romanticism was not deeply involved in the industrial and scientific upheavals of the nineteenth century. There was no Italian equivalent of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein (1818; rev 1831) or of the Faustian short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. (The main literary problems of Italy were connected with the struggle for national independence, achieved in 1861, and the need for a common language.) All the same, the major Italian Romantic poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), inspired by the example of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), did deal with the relationship between the scientific and the literary imagination, as shown in the fabulous scenery of some of his Operette morali (coll 1827; preferred trans Patrick Creagh as Moral Tales 1988). One of the most fascinating operette is the dialogue between the anatomist Federico Ruysch and his mummies, reborn at the beginning of a new cosmic cycle ("Dialogo di Federico Ruysch e delle sue mummies" ["Federico Ruysch's Dialogue with His Mummies"]); while "Proposta di premi fatta dall'accademia dei sillografi" ["Proposal for Prizes Presented at Sillos Writers Academy"] elaborates the – sourly Satirical – proposal to replace defective mankind with automata in work and in sentimental and intellectual occupations.

Although Italy had neither a Jules Verne nor an H G Wells, the end of the nineteenth century did offer a minor literature of extraordinary journeys into the future, such as Storia filosofica dei secoli futuri fin all'anno E. V. 2222 ovvero fino alla vigilia incirca della fine del mondo ["Philosophical History of Future Centuries until the year 2222, or, until circa the End of the World"] (1860) by Ippolito Nievo (1831-1861). In this work of fiction – a "fantastic essay", not a novel – Nievo, who would become famous for the patriotic novel Le confessioni di un italiano ["Confessions of an Italian"] (1867), describes the future social, political and technological future of humanity, from 1860 to 2222. Among other things, Nievo's Storia filosofica predicted two world wars, a farmers' revolution, the invention and production of artificial homunculi, and the End of the World.

A decade later came Dalla Terra alle stelle. Viaggio meraviglioso di due italiani ed un francese ["From the Earth to the Stars. Wonderful Voyage of two Italians and a Frenchman"] (1887) by Ulisse Grifoni (1858-1907), a writer who also published serialized science fiction novels in La Domenica del Corriere, supplement of one of the principal Italian national newspapers – Il Corriere della Sera, published in Milan. A Utopian world is explored in Paolo Mantegazza's L'Anno 3000: Sogno (1897; trans David Jacobson as The Year 3000: A Dream 2010). Mantegazza, neurologist, physiologist, anthropologist, consultant and editor for one of the most important Italian publishers at that time – Treves, in Milan – was also a writer, mainly of scientific popularization articles and essays, and, to a lesser degree, of fiction. His other main work of fiction, the non-sf novel Testa ["Head"] (1887), is an interesting sequel to Edmondo De Amicis' famous patriotic novel Cuore ["Heart"] (1886).

The enormously popular Emilio Salgari (1862-1911), creator of a series featuring the Malayan pirate Sandokan, also published futuristic tales such as La meraviglie del duemila ["The Marvels of the Year 2000"] (1907), Duemila leghe sotto l'America ["20,000 Leagues Under America"] (1888), Alla conquista della Luna ["The Conquest of the Moon"] (1893), Il re dell'aria ["The King of the Air"] (1907). Futuristic and adventurous elements were also a staple feature of Enrico Novelli's fiction. Novelli (1876-1943), who published under the pseudonym Yambo, was a journalist and illustrator, and author of a succession of novels for young people which enjoyed great success in his day. His main characters explored underwater worlds (Due anni in velocipede ["Two Years by Velocipede"] 1899; Atlantide ["Atlantis"] 1901) (see Under the Sea); traveled to remote, imaginary countries (Capitan Fanfara. Il giro del mondo in automobile ["Captain Trumpet: Around the World by Car"] 1904), and even to the rest of the Solar System (Gli esploratori dell'infinito ["Explorers of the Infinite"] 1906; Il Re dei Mondi ["King of the Worlds"] 1910). The Moon is colonized in La colonia lunare ["The Lunar Colony"] (1908); more prosaically, his heroes are also quite happy, in La rivincita di Lissa ["The Retaking of Lissa"] (1909), to reconquer for Italy the territories on Dalmatia's Adriatic coast which had been lost to the Austrian Empire in 1815.

The Futurists' love of Machines, technological progress, and new means of Transportation in their narratives, might justify including them in a history of the genre, with novels such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Mafarka le futuriste: Roman Africain (1909; trans Steve Cox and Carol Diethe as Mafarka the Futurist: An African Novel 1998); given this literary and artistic movement's later strong attachment to Mussolini's regime, its function in any genre history will almost certainly remain admonitory.

Fantasy, both in the Gothic form and in the sphere of the wonderful and the whimsical, appeals to the modern Italian reader much more than the cognitive rhetoric of Genre SF; this is certainly why Giacinto Spagnoletti (1920-2003) a well known scholar of Italian literature, labelled native sf "neo-fantastico". The tradition is a long one. Outstanding examples of fantasy appear in the fin de siècle works of the so-called Scapigliatura ["The Dishevelled Ones"], a Milanese cultural movement fighting against tradition and provincialism, perhaps most vividly in the extravagantly Gothic tales of Iginio Ugo Tarchetti (1839-1869), a selection from his scattered oeuvre appearing in English as Fantastic Tales (coll trans Lawrence Venuti 1992). Much later, the "metaphysical" fiction of Massimo Bontempelli (1884-1960), whose Eva ultima ["The Ultimate Eve"] (1923) was inspired by De Chirico's painting; and, more recently, echoes of Scapigliatura can be detected in the hallucinatory world of Dino Buzzati's short stories and his novel of military life in a forgotten fortress, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940; trans Stuart C Hood as The Tartar Steppe 1952).

During the first decades of the Twentieth century sf narratives – not labelled as such, but clearly ascribable to the genre – appeared in Comic books: American heroes such as Flash Gordon were featured in magazines for children such as L'Avventuroso ["The Adventurer"], often "Italianized" to please the Fascist censorship. Superman, as translated in the magazine L'Audace ["The Intrepid"], became, for example, Ciclone ["Tornado"] and, later, Uomo d'acciaio ["Man of Steel"]. Important examples of a national production include Saturno contro la Terra ["Saturn against the Earth"] (1936-1942), created by Cesare Zavattini (1902-1989) (future scriptwriter of many masterpieces directed by Vittorio De Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni, Elio Petri), and illustrated by Federico Pedrocchi (1907-1945), which was serialized in various Mondadori publications (starting in the magazine I tre porcellini ["The Three Little Pigs"]) and was translated in the US by Future Comics (1940). Many stories with early sf elements (Robots, strange Scientists and their fantastic Inventions, Aliens, etc.) appeared regularly on national newspapers' supplements for young readers, such as Il Corriere dei Piccoli ["Children's Courier"] (supplement of Corriere della Sera ["Evening Courier"]) and magazines such as L'Audace and Topolino ["Mickey Mouse"].

Critics identify the creation of "true" sf in Italy only from the period after World War Two. Much of this specialized sf was arguably not culturally Italian, being heavily influenced by the US-UK canon as enthusiastically presented by publishers, notably the Romanzi di Urania series published since 1952 by Arnoldo Mondadori under the editorship of Giorgio Monicelli. Even today some of the younger Italian authors, especially those groomed by the main Italian sf publishing house, Editrice Nord, employ traditional US-UK sf formulae, sometimes with the addition of fashionable brushstrokes taken from J R R Tolkien or Jorge Luis Borges: Luigi Menghini and Vittorio Catani are examples.

The reasons why, in spite of the presence of the above-mentioned Italian sf precursors, after the Second World War sf was perceive in Italy essentially as a foreign – Anglo-American – matter, are complex. In terms of industrial development, Italy was a late and slower starter compared to England and America. World War Two took a toll on the publishing industry, with a hiatus in the 1940s, and only during the "economic miracle" of the 1950s were most people first able to buy a comic book, a weekly magazine or a cinema ticket. Sf translations were also part of a broader cultural influence of the US, clearly connected to the central position of the US in the global economy as well as its political situation after the conflict. In fact, some measure of American dominance in sf publications was common in many other European countries during the same years. In Italy, however, there were also specific cultural circumstances which worked against the success of sf. Italian literary criticism in the early twentieth century was dominated by the philosophy of Idealismo ["idealism"] as promulgated by Benedetto Croce (1866-1952), which tended to penalize narrative in general, saw popular genres as inferior forms of literature and undervalued the hard sciences and technology as second-class forms of knowledge. At the other end of the scale, Marxist criticism was openly suspicious of a narrative form perceived as a consequence of American cultural colonization, not produced within the working classes, but produced for them in a top-down process, and with the ultimate aim of entertainment: in other words, an opium of the people.

The very fact that the Italian word fantascienza was coined as a translation of the English term "science fiction" is emblematic. Giorgio Monicelli (1910-1968), the inventor of the term, had been a self-taught translator from French and English since the 1930s. An avid reader of the American pulp magazines that came from overseas, he created in 1952 the first Italian sf magazine, Urania, for the Mondadori publishing house in Milan, taking as his model Horace L Gold's Galaxy. The publisher came up with the idea of launching a series of novels to be sold at news-stands alongside the magazine, to be called I Romanzi di Urania ["Urania's Novels"].

Fourteen issues of the original magazine Urania, with the subtitle "Avventure nell'universo e nel tempo" ["Adventures through Space and Time"] were published, between November 1952 and December 1953, featuring short stories, serializations, articles and columns. Articles and columns, in particular, showed an idea of science fiction close to other popular genres and imageries (mysterious archaeology, curiosities, enigmas, philosophies and doctrines from the far East), while the models for the editorial formula and sources for works of fiction were the American Astounding and especially Galaxy: out of 78 stories published in Urania, 56 were translations from that journal. One year after its first appearance, the magazine ceased. The closing down of the original Urania can be partly traced back to the distinction and sophistication of the selected fiction: while in the US sf readers came to Galaxy after reading other publications in the previous decades, Italian readers were approaching the genre for the first time. Another reason was probably the major success of I Romanzi di Urania, with Monicelli editing both publications on his own – from the choice of texts to proof reading. In June 1957 the series left aside "I Romanzi di" from its title and became simply Urania. Thanks to the combination of inspired choices on the part of the editor and Mondadori's influence in terms of production and distribution, an international canon of sf and collective imagery arrived in Italy, and in the early 1950s, published weekly or fortnightly, the series sold around 25-30,000 copies per issue. The earliest issues featured works by Arthur C Clarke, Clifford D Simak, Lester del Rey, John Wyndham, Jack Williamson, Robert A Heinlein. While a few works were translated from French, only eleven of the first 267 issues included complete novels by Italian authors. With very few exceptions, when the first Italians started contributing to the series, their identity was carefully concealed behind foreign pseudonyms (Luigi Rapuzzi wrote as Louis R Johannis, Maria Teresa Maglione as Elisabeth Stern, Maria De Barba as Marren Bagels, Ernesto Gastaldi as Julian Berry, and Adriano Baracco as Audie Barr).

In 1957, after an argument with Mondadori, Monicelli created the concurrent publication I Romanzi del Cosmo for the publisher Ponzoni in Milan, which adopted the same formula as I Romanzi di Urania: one complete novel in each issue, sold cheaply at news-stands. Many Italian authors wrote adventurous sf under pseudonyms for the Romanzi di Cosmo series, and some of them were to become household names in the Italian sf market of the 1960s, including authors like Roberta Rambelli (1928-1996) and Ugo Malaguti (1945-    ).

Nevertheless, in the late 1950s, magazines such as Oltre il cielo – founded in Rome, in 1957, by Armando Silvestri (1909-1990), with Cesare Falessi (1930-2007) and later Gianfranco de Turris (1944-    ) editors for the fiction section – started to feature a few Italian authors using their real names and Italian sf began to take off, first with adventurous short stories of space colonization, written by authors such as Falessi himself, Renato Pestriniero (1933-    ), Vincenzo Croce, Ivo Prandin (1935-    ), Giovanna Cecchini and others; and later with more varied experimentation by authors from the generation debuting in the early 1960s like Sandro Sandrelli (1926-2000). The magazine – with its "Gernsbackian" formula (see Hugo Gernsback) combining technical articles on space flight technologies, sf and columns on futurology, rocket model building and UFOs – would remain in print until 1970, but with increasing difficulties and irregularities in publication from the early 1960s onwards. In these years, events such as the launch of the first Sputnik (October 1957) and the first manned space flight (April 1961) stimulated interest in the new genre and leaded to the birth of many (often short-lived) publications. One exception worth mentioning is the birth of Galassia in 1961, published by the small La Tribuna, in Piacenza. With a formula similar to Urania – one complete novel per issue like a book series, but sold only at news-stands – Galassia introduced translations of Anglo-American social sf, especially during Rambelli's time as editor (1962-1965), and then during the editorship of Vittorio Curtoni (1949-2011) and Gianni Montanari (1970-1978), it would feature translations of New Wave authors (often too refined for the popular Urania of those years) from John Brunner to Samuel Delany, from Roger Zelazny to Harlan Ellison; and many talented Italian authors and their various experimentations, such as Pierfrancesco Prosperi (1945-    ), Mauro Antonio Miglieruolo (1942-    ), Vittorio Catani (1940-    ), Livio Horrakh (1946-    ), Curtoni and Montanari themselves.

From the 1960s there rose a group of writers who, while basically accepting the formulaic conventions of sf, began to emphasize the need for psychological insight, a "human" perception of the Alien and a (somewhat sceptical) moral probing into the triumphs of Technology. Of these, Lino Aldani – an accomplished and witty storyteller, as in Quarta dimensione ["Fourth Dimension"] (coll 1964) – Sandro Sandrelli (1926-2000), Inìsero Cremaschi (1928-2014) and Gilda Musa (1926-1999) are certainly worth mention. Aldani, Cremaschi and Musa, together with Massimo Lo Jacono (1937-    ), Giulio Raiola and others, took part in editing and writing for the magazine Futuro ["Future"] (1963-1964). Futuro featured short stories and novelettes mainly written by Italian authors (here also using their real names), reviews and a series of interview with well-known Italian mainstream authors interested in fantastic genres or science – such as Libero Bigiaretti (1905-1993), Giovanni Comisso (1895-1969), Ennio Flaiano (1910-1972), Mario Soldati, and Elio Vittorini (1908-1966). The aim was to propose a more highbrow version of sf, attempting to propound it as worthy of the attention of Italy's cultural elites. Due mainly to distribution problems, the magazine ceased publication after only eight issues. Other Italian sf magazines (notably Gamma in the mid-1960s and Robot in the mid-1970s) were short-lived and had to rely heavily on US and UK material.

Connected to the magazine Futuro was the collective Anthology Esperimenti con l'ingnoto ["Experiments with the Unknown"] (anth 1963); along with other collections published during the 1960s and the 1970s, this represented the debut of sf in bookshops and the development of a national school, or at least an attempt to foster the visibility of Italian authors, e.g. I labirinti del terzo pianeta ["The Mazes of the Third Planet"] (anth 1964) edited by Cremaschi and Musa, Universo e dintorni ["Universe and about"] (anth 1978) edited by Cremaschi, and Interplanet, the series of collective volumes edited by Sandro Sandrelli during the 1960s.

Despite the fact that the specialized market was shrinking in the late 1960s (probably due to the plethora of new publications in the late 1950s and early 1960s), 1967 saw the founding by Malaguti of a small specialized publisher, Libra, which produced a mail-order only magazine called Nova Sf*. Edited by Malaguti, with an international editorial board which included, from the third issue, Brian Aldiss, James Blish, Ray Bradbury, Walter Ernsting, Jean-Pierre Fontana, Rurt Lvif, Domingo Santos (see Spain) and Donald A Wollheim, Nova Sf* was – and remains – characterized by the ample space accorded to articles and essays, the preference for short stories, the editorial quality and the relatively high price of the publication. It was – and is – sold only by mail (without any distribution in bookshops or newsstands), as were all the later Anthologies published by Malaguti's Libra (later on refounded as Perseo and later Elara): Slan, Classici and Saturno. Libra's anthologies exemplify the economic difficulties of Italian sf publications: a small publishing house is able to offer products clearly labelled as sf, and of high editorial quality, but only at the price of giving up traditional distribution.

Lino Aldani was also the author of the first monographic study of sf to be written in Italian: La fantascienza ["Science fiction"] (1962), in which he defined sf as a genre able to "place the reader in a different relationship with reality" thanks to an estranged point of view on things, anticipating, to some exteni, Darko Suvin's idea of cognitive estrangement (see Definitions of SF). The same year also saw the translation into Italian of Kingsley Amis's New Maps of Hell (1960). Among Italian academic critics, the genre was still largely ignored, with very few exceptions. The refined critic and poet Sergio Solmi (1899-1981) wrote an important essay in 1953, analysing English sf as the "mythology of the atomic era", and pointing to the conventional nature of many sf themes and tropes, adopted, shared and developed by many authors. Worth mentioning during the 1960s is the sf presence in the work of the philosopher Gillo Dorfles (1910-    ), who approached the genre from the perspective of the sociology of aesthetics, taking into account sf cinema more than literature. Umberto Eco dealt with sf in his famous essay collection Apocalittici e integrati (1964; part trans Robert Lumley et al as Apocalypse Postponed 1994), categorically defining the genre as "para-literature", to be studied as a significant production of our age, but not with the same critical instruments to be used for "high literature".

A phenomenon worth mentioning is the gradual development from the early to mid-1960s of an Italian sf Fandom. A whole range of non-professional publications began to appear and to be exchanged at Conventions and festivals, including Futuria Fantasia ["Future Fantasy"] (1963) published by Luigi Cozzi (who would go on to direct sf films), Aspidistra (1964-1967) by Riccardo Leveghi, Nuovi Orizzonti ["New Horizons"] (1965) by Luigi Naviglio, and Micromega (1965) by Franco Fossati and Pierfrancesco Prosperi . The first European Science Fiction Convention (EuroCon) was organized in the city of Trieste (in 1972), just a few years the first International SF Film Festival was held in the same city (1965). A series of small informal conventions took place in Milan, Turin and Carrara, and in 1967 a Premio Fanzine ["Fanzine Award"] (see Awards; Fanzine) was created for short stories, later renamed Premio Numeri Unici ["Unique Issues Award"] and diversified in different categories also for poetry, graphic work and essays.

On the big screen, after the claustrophobic protectionism that characterized the Fascism regime, the 1950s saw the massive arrival, in Italy, of American productions, and the screening of all the great blockbusters of the period. As regards the national production, Italian cinema inclined more towards Horror than sf but, hovering between the two, a few quite good Italian films were released that play on the theme of cosmic catastrophe, as in La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio (1958; vt Death from Outer Space; vt The Day the Sky Exploded) directed by Paolo Heusch, and Il Pianeta degli Uomini Spenti ["Planet of the Soulless People"] (1961; vt Battle of the Worlds; vt Planet of the Lifeless Men) directed by Antonio Margheriti credited as Anthony Dawson. Another sf/horror blend, Terrore Nello Spazio (1965; vt Planet of the Vampires) directed by Mario Bava, was in some ways a predecessor of Alien (1979). The 1963 adaptation of Richard Matheson's I am Legend, co-directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkov, was set in an hallucinatory Rome, and interpreted by a great Vincent Price.

More commonly, Italian sf films exploited already successful foreign films: Contamination: Alien Arriva Sulla Terra (1981; vt Contamination) mimics Alien; 1990: I Guerrieri del Bronx (1982; vt 1990: Bronx Warriors) owes much to Escape from New York (1981); and L'Isola degli Uomini Pesce (1978; vt Island of Mutations; vt Screamers) seems inspired by The Island of Dr Moreau (1977). Possibly the one real contribution of Italian cinema to sf lies in the field of Satire and Parody, exemplified by Tinto Brass's Il disco volante (1964; vt The Flying Saucer), Elio Petri's La Decima Vittima (1965; vt The Tenth Victim), based on a story by Robert Sheckley, and Mario Bava's Diabolik (1967; vt Danger: Diabolik). Inspired by the French Comics character of the same name, there was also the playful Barbarella (1968), directed by Roger Vadim and interpreted by Jane Fonda.

The debut as a director of Luigi Cozzi with Il Tunnel sotto il mondo ["The Tunnel under the World"] (1969), inspired by Frederik Pohl's story "The Tunnel under the World" (January 1955 Galaxy), expressed a harsh criticism of consumerism and Advertising typical of the left-wing extra-parliamentary movements of these years, as also would other Italian sf movies between the end of the 1960s and the 1970s, such as Liliana Cavani's I cannibali ["The Cannibals"] (1970). Dystopian or catastrophic settings characterized Marco Ferreri's Il seme dell'uomo ["Mankind's Semen"] (1969) and Bruno Gaburro's Ecce Homo – I sopravvissuti ["Ecce Homo – The Survivors"] (1969).

On the small screen, the national public channel (the only channel existent in the peninsula until 1961) aired the national production Gli eroi di carta – Dalla Terra alle Stelle ["Paper Heroes – From the Earth to the Stars"] (1954), an adaptation of Jule Verne's novel. Il Marziano Filippo ["Philip, the Martian"] (1956) with the comic actor Oreste Lionello, inclined towards farce as much as towards sf. A few productions during the 1960s appealed to a children and young audience, as Gli Eroi di carta already did: the miniseries Obiettivo Luna ["Target Moon"] (1964), remake of the British Target Moon; the adventurous I legionari dello spazio ["Space Troopers"] (1966). The principal American sf series arrived in Italy partially, disorderly and often many years after the original screening dates: 1950s series and serials such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Flash Gordon were translated and aired only during the 1980s; the original series of Star Trek (1966-1969) was partially aired only in 1979, and became established only after the success of the first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

During the 1970s, the specialized market lost many of the publications which had been sold at news-stands (such as the above-mentioned Oltre il Cielo, Galassia, and others) but saw the appearance of new Anthologies, now distributed in bookshops. Interest in the sf genre was much stimulated at the close of the 1970s by the success of American blockbusters in the cinema, such as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) during the last years of the decade. The big names in the publishing market at this time were Nord, set up in 1970 in Milan by Gianfranco Viviani (1937-2014), and Fanucci, founded in 1971 in Rome by Renato Fanucci. The first anthology series published by Nord was Cosmo ["Cosmos"] (anth 1970), with the advice of Renato Prinzhofer for the choice of the first volumes, and later of one of the best-known sf experts, Riccardo Valla. The collection consisted mainly of translations from English, and was immediately marked by the value of the critical notes: introductions, biographical and bibliographical notes on the authors, profiles, and so on. There would always be only a limited presence of Italian authors in Nord's catalogue; the most important ones were Luigi Meneghini with Reazione a catena ["Chain reaction"] (1977) and many other novels later during the 1980s and 1990s, Daniela Piegai with Parola di alieno ["Alien's Word"] (1978) and Ballata per Lima ["Ballad for Lima"] (1980), Virginio Marafante with L'insidia dei Kryan ["Kryans' Menace"] (1978), Gilda Musa (1926-1999) with Fondazione "ID" ["ID Foundation"] (1981); Paolo Aresi (1958-    ) – one of the few Italian authors of hard sf – with Oberon. L'avamposto tra i ghiacci ["Oberon. Outpost over the Ice"] (1987), Il giorno della sfida ["The Day of the Confront"] (1998), Alessandro Vietti with Cyberworld (1996) and Il codice dell'invasore ["Invasor's Code"] (1999), along with a few others.

Fanucci's anthologies were distinguished by the critical approach adopted by the two main consultants: Gianfranco de Turris (1944-    ) and Sebastiano Fusco. Along with the quality of biographies and bibliographies of the featured authors, de Turris and Fusco had a special interest in the fantastic genres (sf, but also fantasy and heroic fantasy), worthy of serious critical attention and read as modern myths, to be interpreted as symbols, drawing on the work of Mircea Eliade and Julius Evola (1898-1974), and on a value system close to the political right of the Italian Social Movement. The main anthology Futuro (1973-1981) featured mainly translations from English, with some slight preference for modern adventurous sf (Poul Anderson, A E van Vogt, Jack Vance, Philip José Farmer, along with many others). In the year 2000, it started a major initiative in sf with the first volume of Philip K Dick's complete works, edited by Carlo Pagetti.

During the 1970s, there was an important emphasis on Italian authors in the anthology series Andromeda (1972-1975) published by Dall'Oglio and edited by Inìsero Cremaschi. Andromeda inherited the sophisticated approach first established by Futuro, and offered such fare as a personal anthology selected by Gilda Musa, Festa sull'asteroide ["Celebration on the Asteroid"] (anth 1972) and the novel Giungla domestica ["Domestic Jungle"] (1975), the novel Sfida al pianeta ["Confrontation with the Planet"] (1973) by Anna Rinonapoli, an author of dystopian and satirical stories which had appeared in Futuro; and La donna immortale ["The Immortal Woman"] (1974) by Gustavo Gasparini .

Among periodical publications, in its brief existence Robot (1976-1979) introduced a relatively innovative formula for the Italian market: a "real" magazine with a selection of high-quality short stories mainly translated from English, but featuring an Italian author in each issue, and including articles and columns on the most various expressions of sf across different media, and inflamed debates about sf and politics, sf and mainstream, sex in sf and so on. Among the reviewers there were for example Giuseppe Lippi for books and literary articles, Danilo Arona and Lorenzo Codelli for the cinema sections, Franco Fossati for comics.

As regards sf criticism, the 1970s saw the publication of the first studies by Italian critics: Il senso del futuro: la fantascienza nella letteratura Americana ["The Meaning of the Future: Sf in American Literature"] (1970) by Pagetti and Che cos'è la fantascienza ["What sf is"] (1970) by Franco Ferrini (1944-    ). At the same time, other scholars of American literature, such as Ruggero Bianchi, explored the genre with a particular interest in Utopias and Dystopias, and one of the first important conferences on the topic was held in Turin: Utopia e fantascienza ["Utopia and sf"], the proceedings of which were published in 1975. Three years later, an even more important conference was held in Palermo which marked the real arrival on the scene for the genre in Italian academic circles: La fantascienza e la critica ["SF and Criticism"] organized by the scholar Luigi Russo. Among the many contributions published in the proceedings in 1980, most notable was the paper by Darko Suvin (leading up to the 1985 translation of the Metamorphoses of Science fiction), along with papers by Marc Angenot (1941-    ), Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), Fredric Jameson and Brian Aldiss. A few years later La Città e le Stelle (1982-1987) also appeared, edited by Pagetti. It was the first journal sf studies to appear in Italy, mainly animated by scholars of English and American literature (Oriana Palusci, Daniela Guardamagna, Francesco Marroni) and fine extra-academic critics (Daniele Brollo, Antonio Caronia, Domenico Gallo, Fabio Giovannini).

As for Italian Fandom during the 1970s, at the Trieste EuroCon in 1972, a Premio Italia ["Italy Award"] was also established, which became annual from 1975 onwards. Annual Science Fiction Italian Roundabouts (SFIRs) took place in Ferrara until 1978 and it was an SFIR which hosted the main Italian sf Convention – ItalCon – which took place independently from 1981. From 1969 to the early 1970s, the number of fanzines decreased, but a few new ones were founded which are worth mentioning, such as Astralia, edited by Gianfilippo Pizzo and Pippo Marcianò, and Alternativa (1974-1978) edited by Giuseppe Caimmi and Piergiorgio Nicolazzini, who would later be on the editorial board of the above mentioned Robot. The fanzine production in the late 1970s was more diversified. To mention just two examples: The Time Machine (1975-1985), an initiative of the Club Fantascienza Padova (["Padua Sf Club"], animated by Mauro Gaffo, Filiberto Bassani, Franco Stocco), which presented a number of Italian authors such as Musa, Aldani, Pestriniero, Massimo Pandolfi and Gianluigi Zuddas (1943-    ). Il Re in Giallo ["The King in Yellow"] (1976-1980), was the mouthpiece of the Trieste group (including Giuseppe Lippi, a future editor of Urania). In the second issue an important dossier on H P Lovecraft presaged the publishing world's rediscovery of that author a few years later. In 1979, the fanzine Intercom (1979-current online) was founded by Staglianò. After a series of changes in format, editorial board, and place of publication, Intercom eventually migrated to the web and became one of sf's most lively "virtual cafés".

Especially in the first half of the 1970s decade, films were released that prosecuted the growing interest in social sf, civil rights movements, sexual liberation, Ecology and sustainable development that had already characterized the end of the 1960s. Examples are Silvano Agosti's N.P. – Il segreto ["N.P. – The Secret"] (1971); Pasquale Festa Campanile's sf comedy Conviene far bene l'amore (1975; vt The Sex Machine and Love and Energy) and Ugo Tognazzi's I viaggiatori della sera ["The Evening Travellers"] (1979), adapting Umberto Simonetta's novel. After the success of the first Star Wars film Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), a few national attempts were made in the subgenre of space adventures and battles: L Cozzi's Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione (1978; vt Starcrash; vt The Adventures of Stella Star); Alfonso Brescia's trilogy Anno zero – Guerra nello spazio (1977; vt War of the Planets and Year Zero War in Space), Battaglie negli spazi stellari (1978; vt Battles in Stellar Space) and La guerra dei robot (1978; vt War of the Robots and Reactor). The directors operated under English pseudonyms – Lewis Coates for Cozzi and Al Bradley for Brescia – and the movies were produced with an extremely low budget. Nevertheless, some of them, and likewise Antonio Margheriti's works, are being recently rediscovered, with new releases in DVD and a cult following.

The 1970s saw the airing of more than one interesting Italian production for the small screen: Gamma (1976), four episodes by Flavio Nicolini and Fabrizio Trecca, and directed by Slavatore Nocita, along with the sf element, had a crime story at the centre of the plot. The interesting La Traccia verde ["The Green Trail"] (1975-1976), written by Niccolini and directed by Silvio Maestranzi, was also a sf-crime stories; with its main focus around experiments to prove and develop sensitivity and emotivity of vegetal life forms. Other noteworthy mini-series were adaptation of literary works: Uova fatali ["The Fatal Eggs"] (1977), based on Mikhail Bulgakov's short novel "Rokovye iaitsa" (1925 Nedra #6), and Tre racconti di Primo Levi ["Three Short Stories by Primo Levi"] (1978) were both directed by Ugo Gregoretti (also director of Omicron for the large screen in 1963); Paura sul mondo ["Fear upon the Earth"] directed by Domenico Campana, adapted Corrado Alvaro's novel L'uomo è forte ["Mankind is Strong"] (1938), a bitter Dystopia directed against totalitarian regimes and showing some similarity to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

In the meantime, the main sf series published by Fanucci, Mondadori and Nord continued to appear, with one significant difference: at Urania, Gianni Montanari (the previous editor of Galassia) took over from Fruttero and Lucentini in 1985 and radically changed the editorial line. In what were difficult times for sf publications, Urania now aimed to win the trust of the most passionate sf readers, with better-quality translations, the inclusion of non-English authors and more sophisticated and experimental works – from Serge Brussolo, to Arkadij and Boris Strugatsky, from Octavia Butler to Somtow Sucharitkul (see S P Somtow). In 1989, Montanari established the Urania Award for Italian authors, the winner to be published in the series from 1990 onwards: the first winner was the remarkable Gli universi di Moras ["Moras' Universes"] (1990) by V Catani. The 1989 Montanari left Mondadori to edit the sf section of Interno Giallo, a small publishing house later absorbed by Mondadori. Here Montanari forested the translation of important contemporary English authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson, Butler, K W Jeter, Dan Simmons, and the publication of R Vacca's Questo barbaro dominio ["This Barbaric Domain"] (1991) and a collection of his short stories Carezzate con terrore la testa dei vostri figli ["Caress with Terror your Children Heads"] (1992).

In 1989, Giuseppe Lippi took over from Montanari and has been editing Urania since then with his own, eclectic approach. After many changes over the years, the series became a regular monthly publication, and during the 1990s and 2000s Italian authors had a regular showcase in the shape of the annual Urania Award. Among the winners are Nicoletta Vallorani (1959-    ), Massimo Mongai (1950-    ), and Luca Masali (1963-   ), presenting various hybrid versions of sf and crime stories, alternate histories, uchronias. Another writer, Valerio Evangelisti (1952-    ), made his debut by winning the Urania Award, with a first novel about the figure of Eymerich – Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitore ["Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor"] (1994), protagonist of a cycle which has had remarkable success.

Malaguti followed up on the activities of his publishing house Libra (closed and recreated as Perseo in 1885 and Elara in 2008), with a new edition of Futuro (1989-2008) and a book collection especially dedicated to European authors. Also noteworthy during the early 1980s was the magazine La Collina (1980-1983), edited by Cremaschi, who tried to promote the idea of Italian neo-fantastic literature. La Collina published short stories by Italian authors such as Claudio Ferrari, Virginio Marafante, Renato Besana, Giuseppe Bonura (1933-2008), Gianni Menarini and Gilda Musa, accompanied by critical essays and profiles.

In the 1980s the emergence of a group of young Women SF Writers in Italy confirmed an international development. Daniela Piegai, perhaps the best of them, continued her career with Il mondo non è nostro ["The World is Not Ours"] (1989) a technological version of Franz Kafka's castle, whose inhabitants are entrapped in a sort of temporal vortex (see Time Loop), unable to return to the external world.

Not until the late 1980s and during the 1990s did an Italian version of Cyberpunk emerge, with new publications, authors and critics often connected to the underground cultures of left-leaning movements. Among those authors who managed to incorporate cyberpunk elements successfully in their writing were Giovanni De Matteo (1981-    ), Dario Tonani (1959-    ), N Vallorani; among the publishers particularly involved in cyberpunk, with translations from English and with the magazine Decoder (1987-1996), was the small company Shake. The collective that produced Shake's publications also promoted the first dial-up Bulletin Board Systems in Italy. Some of the most interesting critical essays during this period came from the cyberpunk milieu, from critics such as Daniele Brolli (1959-    ), Caronia and many others.

From the academies few new attempts were made to reflect on the genre. The fresh wave of interest in sf between 1978 and the early 1980s, which had emerged with the popularity of certain blockbuster movies cited above, saw the publication of numerous guides, companions and studies, either translated from English or written by Italian editors; these usually devoted little space to Italian authors, while academics still made few attempts to reflect seriously on the genre. As examples of two opposing critical attitudes towards the genre still alive in this period, it is worth mentioning two very different contributions: the introduction to the 1985 translation of Darko Suvin's Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979) by Oreste Del Buono (1923-2003), and Antonio Fabozzi's and Adolfo Fattori's essay for a 1989 academic history of Italian literature edited by Alberto Asor Rosa. In his introduction, Del Buono, editor of popular publications like the comic magazine Linus, radically subverted Suvin's approach, claiming that however many in-depth studies might be produced, sf remained a subgenre with a mass-market origin, a rough and ready product. Fabozzi and Fattori's essay, on the other hand, was the first important writing on Italian sf ever to be included in a history of Italian literature (a multivolume reference work widely adopted on university courses), taking as its starting point the sociology of literature. By the end of the 1980s, the position of sf in the English and American departments of Italian universities was finally well-established, with ongoing studies appearing by scholars such as Pagetti and Oriana Palusci. The 1980s and 1990s were marked by the publishing of R Giovannoli's La scienza della fantascienza ["Science and Science Fiction"] (1982), S Salvestroni's Semiotica dell'immaginazione ["Semiotics of the Imaginary"] (1984), on Russian sf, A Caronia's Il Cyborg ["Cyborgs"] (1985), on the artificial human in sf, O Palusci's Terra di Lei ["Herland"] (1990), on the female imagination in sf (see Feminism), and F La Polla's contributions on sf Cinema and Television.

The 1980s and the 1990s saw the birth and development of specialized Fandom communities, each with their own conventions and awards (variously centred on Star Trek, Quantum Leap and Babylon 5) and the creation of new publications. The Star Trek Italian Club – STIC – was founded in 1982; after the particularly poor Italian dubbing of Star Trek – The Original Series by the network Tele Monte Carlo between 1978 and 1981, the Italian Fan Club complained and was entrusted with supervising the translation and dubbing of subsequent series and franchise products. The STIC also began an annual Italian Star Trek convention in 1986. Among other, more literarily-oriented new Fanzines of this period, two examples are La Spada spezzata (1981-1993) edited by Paolo Pavesi and Silvio Sosio (the latter future editor with the publishing house Delos), and THX 1188 edited by Scacco, Ragone and Catani in Bari.

The Bulletin Board Systems begun in the 1990s, followed by the ever-growing use of the Internet and of new digital printing technologies in the 2000s, have fostered the creation of a number of new initiatives – from small publishing houses offering SF Magazines and book series to a small, but passionate readership, to new virtual cafés, forums, and single-authored blogs. Carmilla, founded as a fanzine by V Evangelisti in 1995, later developed into a professional magazine devoted to non-realistic genres (see Fantastika). It ceased publication in 2004 because of distribution problems; its on-line version, Carmillaonline, continued with remarkable success.

Among other important initiatives, the magazine Delos was distributed via BBS from 1995 onwards and later migrated onto the web. Edited by Silvio Sosio, it still has a paper edition, sold only by mail-order, plus an on-line version hosted by [see under links below]. has become a significant portal for sf readers, featuring the magazines published by Delos Books as well as writers' personal blogs, a secondhand book exchange, and so on. Among other magazines, a new series of Robot began in 2003, edited first by Curtoni and then by Sosio from 2011. Another publication, Hypnos, founded by Andrea Giusto, began life as a fanzine and became a professional magazine, and in 2010 a small publishing house. In the meantime, the annual Urania Award has continued to bring interesting new authors to the attention of Italian readers, adopting an eclectic approach to its choices over the years, with the prize going to a wide range of sf authors. Under the editing of Giuseppe Lippi, Urania has continued to specialize in publishing translations from English, as eclectic as ever in its approach, so as to keep its appeal with its faithful readership, but its numbers are now much smaller than in its heyday (the 50,000 plus copies sold in the 1950s-1970s period have shrunk to 5000-7000 copies per issue today); since 2012, an electronic edition has also been available.

Non-genre Italian sf has continued to appear through the second half of the twentieth century: some of the best of those postwar novelists usually thought of as Mainstream Writers have shown a highly original imagination in handling sf themes and symbols. A mad astronaut is imprisoned in a living Starship in Tommaso Landolfi's Cancroregina (1950; in Cancerqueen and Other Stories as coll trans 1971); the achievements of scientific progress are ironically explored by Primo Levi in Storie naturali ["Tales of the Natural World"] (coll 1966), whose contents make up part of The Sixth Day (coll trans 1990); wandering on an untouched Earth from which mankind has suddenly disappeared, a solitary Last Man survivor lives in grotesque and suicidal loneliness in Guido Morselli's posthumously published Dissipatio H.G. ["The Dissolution of the Human Race"] (1977); the impact of the scientific imagination, and the history of science, help shape the fantastic narrative of Umberto Eco's Il pendolo di Foucault (1988; trans William Weaver as Foucault's Pendulum 1989). One outstanding sf writer – although he did not like to be referred to as such – was Italo Calvino, most conspicuously sf-like in the complicated web of scientific fables and myths published as Le Cosmicomiche (coll of linked stories 1965; trans William Weaver as Cosmicomics 1968). Contemporary non-genre sf seems obsessed by theological and religious themes. In 1994: La nudità e la spada ["Year 1994: The Nakedness and the Sword"] (1990), Ferruccio Parazzoli (1935-    ) builds up an anti-Catholic coup-d'état in a grim, Near-Future Italy, while in Ascolta, Israele ["Hearken, Israel!"] (1991) Ugo Bonanate creates an Alternate History where Judaism is the only Western religion, early Christian communities have been wiped out, and the Gospels are buried in a hidden place until their sensational discovery by a team of astonished international scholars.

While the field of sf published as such seems to have suffered a marked decline in publication numbers, non-genre sf and sf imagery have become ubiquitous in mainstream narrative in the 2000s. There is more than one telling example of critically acclaimed and/or best-selling authors who have written works of sf published without any specific label, or works incorporating elements of sf elements – for example Tullio Avoledo (1957-    ), who debuted with L'elenco telefonico di Atlantide ["Atlantis Telephone Book"] (2003) and is now continuing on a double path: mainstream fiction incorporating sf and slipstream elements, with particular attention to catastrophic and post-catastrophic tropes like La ragazza di Vajont ["The Girl from Vajont"] (2008) or L'anno dei dodici inverni ["The Year of the Twelve Winters"] (2011), published without any generic label; and overtly sf narratives belonging to the Metro 2033 fictional universe (see Metro 2033) owned by Dmitry Glukhovsky (1979-    ), titles including Le radici del cielo ["Sky's Roots"] (2011) and La Crociata dei Bambini ["Children's Crusade"] (2014). Also Antonio Scurati (1969-    ), already winner of prestigious mainstream literary awards, set his La seconda mezzanotte ["The Second Midnight"] (2011) in a 2092 dystopian future, with a Venice rebuild by Chinese corporations after a fatal flood. Antonio Pennacchi (1950-    ), winner of the mainstream Strega award, debuted in the sf field with a novel – Storia di Karel ["Karel's Tale"] (2013) – set in an outer space colony (a science fictional transposition of his city of origin, Latina, build by the Fascism during the 1930s).

Following on from the Bulletin Board Systems, it is now the Internet which offers Italian Fandom the greatest space for discussion, critical appropriation, and creative writing. There are a whole host of interesting initiatives, from the personal weblogs of readers interested in the genre, and those of sf fans and writers (such as Riccardo Barbieri's blog, Carlo Bordoni with Micromegas, Gian Filippo Pizzo with Fantascritture) to very high-quality e-zines such as Roberto Forlani's Continuum (2000-2011), and Sandro Pergameno's Cronache di un sole lontano (2013-running). Several current websites are dedicated to collections, to archives, and to libraries (SF Quadrant, Mondourania, Uraniamania, and Urania & Co). In conclusion, the only equivalent in the whole world to the online catalogue of sf, fantastic and horror in Italy – edited by Ernesto Vegetti (1943-2010) but unfortunately not updated since 2012 – seems to be the English-language Internet Speculative Fiction Database (see Online SF Resources).

Italian sf criticism has usually been stronger on the Utopian tradition and modern Dystopia than it is on Genre SF, owing perhaps to the activities of Vito Fortunati, founder of the Centre for Utopian Studies in Bologna, and to the publications of A Monti and Carlo Pagetti on H G Wells and of D Guardamagna and S Manferlotti on Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Anthony Burgess. In fact, over the last decades, while the rediscovery by the critics of an Italian fantastic tradition has led to the publication of numerous anthologies edited by scholars of Italian literature, sf remained essentially the domain of foreign language departments. Indeed, the most important writing about Italian sf during the 2000s came from scholars working outside Italy such as Pierpaolo Antonello, Roberto Bertoni, Florian Mussgnug, Arielle Saiber; or from scholars of American literature likeUmberto Rossi on Evangelisti, and Salvatore Proietti, editor of the journal Anarres (2012-running); or from sociologists like Carlo Bordoni and Adolfo Fattori, who are also editors of, and contributors to, the journal If. Insolito e fantastico ["IF. Uncanny and Fantastic"]; or philosophers like Giuseppe Panella; or independent scholars like Domenico Gallo and Riccardo Gramantieri. [CP/GI]

further reading


Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.