Spain

Tagged: International

Mostly influenced by Jules Verne and Camille Flammarion, Spanish nineteenth-century Proto SF featured four voyage-to-the-Moon tales, beginning with the anonymous didactic utopia Viage de un filósofo a Selenópolis ["Selenopolis"] (1804); Joaquín Castillo y Mayone's oneiric story Zulema y Lambert ["Zulema and Lambert"] (1832); Miguel Estorch y Siqués' Lunigrafía ["Moonography"] (1855-1858) and Aureliano de Colmenares y Orgaz's Selenia ["Selenia"] (1863). Travel to Jupiter and Saturn (> Outer Planets) are respectively featured in Antonio de San Martín's Un viaje al planeta Júpiter ["A Voyage to the Planet Jupiter"] (1871) and in Tirso Aguimana de Veca's proto-Sword and Sorcery Una temporada en el más bello de los planetas ["A Time in the Most Beautiful of Planets"] (1870-1871). Of special note is Enrique Gaspar's El anacronópete (1887; trans as The Time Ship, 2012), a comic Time Travel adventure introducing the first Time Machine eight years before H G Wells's. Another special mention goes to Rafael Zamora y Pérez de Urría (1861-1908) who in his only published work Crímenes literarios ["Literary Crimes"] (1906) describes Robots and automatons as well as a "cerebral machine", an artefact very like our modern laptop Computers. Yet the most prominent turn-of-the-twentieth-century writer is Nilo María Fabra (1843-1903), a journalist devoted to the genre who published three short story collections: Por los espacios imaginarios ["Through Imaginary Spaces"] (coll 1885), Cuentos ilustrados ["Illustrated Stories"] (coll 1895), and Presente y futuro ["Present and Future"] (coll 1897). A recent selection of Fabra's stories edited by David González Romero is titled after a story based on the Spanish American War of 1898: La guerra de España con los Estados Unidos y otros relatos ["Spain's War against the US and Other Tales"] (coll 2010).

Modern sf appeared in Spain during the 1950s with the publishing imprint Minotauro and the magazine Más Allá (1953-1957), both from Argentina (> Latin America). Spanish sf editions began in 1953, with pulp novelettes in the Futuro and Luchadores del Espacio series, followed by Nebulae, the first specialized Spanish imprint for sf books. During 1955-1990 about 1300 sf books were published in Spain, mostly translations from English, with only about 50 by Spanish authors.

Before the Civil War, Coronel Ignotus (the pseudonym of José de Elola), Frederic Pujulà, Elias Cerdá and Domingo Ventalló were the most important authors of old-fashioned speculations and fantasies, mainly Satirical and sometimes political. Ignotus was published in one of the earliest quasi-sf Magazines in the world, earlier than any in the USA or UK: Biblioteca Novelesco-Cientifica (1921-1923), each of whose ten issues contained a single novel by Ignotus, three featuring interplanetary voyages. In the 1950s George H White (pseudonym of Pascual Enguídanos) wrote a series of 32 sf adventure novelettes known collectively as the Saga de los Aznar ["Aznar Saga"] series (1953-1958). More interesting are subsequent stories in the 1950s and 1960s by Antonio Ribera, Francisco Valverde, Juan G Atienza, Domingo Santos, Carlos Buiza and Luis Vigil (1941-    ); it was with these that modern Spanish sf really began.

The 1960s saw the first boom in sf publishing in Spain. After the short life of the magazine Anticipación (1966-1967), the most influential of all Spanish sf magazines began: Nueva Dimensión, founded in 1968, edited by Sebastián Martínez (1937-    ), Domingo Santos, and Luis Vigil; it was voted the best European sf magazine at the 1972 {EUROCON} in Trieste. A true milestone in Spanish sf, Nueva Dimensión published local authors alongside the best sf from other countries. It lasted 148 issues, until December 1983.

Incursions into sf have also been made by writers who normally work outside the genre, such as Tomás Salvador (1921-1984), whose La nave ["The Ship"] (1959) is a reworking of the popular Generation-Starship theme and a return to the epic discourse, and Manuel de Pedrolo (1918-1990), who had a big success with his novel written in Catalonian, Mecanoscrit del segon origen ["Mechanuscript of the Second Origin"] (1974), about Post-Holocaust life after a world Holocaust.

Domingo Santos – the pseudonym of Pedro Domingo Mutinó (1941-    ) – is the major contemporary Spanish sf writer. Some of his stories and novels have been translated into several foreign languages. His best known novel is Gabriel, historia de un robot ["Gabriel, The Story of a Robot"] (1963), about the personality and coming of age of a Robot not subject to the "fundamental laws" that compel other robots to obedience (> Laws of Robotics). Another interesting novel is Burbuja ["Bubble"] (1965), but the best of Santos is found in his short fiction. Meteoritos ["Meteorites"] (coll 1965) is a classic collection, but more demanding are the eight stories in Futuro imperfecto ["Future Imperfect"] (coll 1981) which present a dark view of a future society ruled by the individual pursuit of happiness, and No lejos de la Tierra ["Not Far from Earth"] (coll 1986), set in the Near Future and often concerned with Ecology and the threats that endanger the quality of our lives.

In the 1970s Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo (1934-    ) appeared with well-written books such as Viaje a un planeta Wu-Wei ["Travel to a Wu-Wei Planet"] (1976) and action-adventure novels such as El señor de la rueda ["The Lord of the Wheel"] (1978). Carlos Sainz Cidoncha (1939-    ) has specialized in Space Opera writing several novels similar to his first, La caida del imperio galáctico ["The Fall of the Galactic Empire"] (1978), based on Greco-Roman mythology (> Galactic Empires). In 1976 Sainz Cidoncha privately published the first history of Spanish sf; this was the embryo of his 1988 PhD thesis, the first in Spain on such a topic.

The political changes following Franco's death in 1975 appear to have had no effect on sf publishing. Sf in Spain has always had a restricted market, perhaps too small to bother with. Its only political censorship under Franco may have been the prohibition in 1970 of Nueva Dimension #14, which contained "Gu Ta Gutarrak", a story by the Argentinian Magdalena Mouján Otaño (1926-    ) that appeared to advocate Basque separatism. Fortunately the story eventually appeared in issue #114 in 1979.

A second boom in sf publishing took place in the 1980s, and more new authors appeared, the most gifted perhaps being Elia Barceló (1957-    ). Her novelette "La Dama Dragón" ["The Dragon Lady"] (1981 Kandama) has been translated into several foreign languages and is collected in her Sagrada ["Sacred"] (coll 1989), the title being the feminine form of the word for "sacred". The first Spanish woman to publish an sf book, Barceló is a very good stylist in a country where the usual style of sf writing precludes it from consideration by more demanding literary critics. Her stories are concerned with women's role in society and with the contrast between technological and primitive cultures. Several other new authors worthy of note appeared on the scene, such as Rafael Marín Trechera (1959-    ) who published the novel Lágrimas de Luz ["Tears of Light"] (1982), an interstellar epic. It would later be followed by numerous other sf works, most notably Mundo de dioses ["World of Gods"] (1991), a short novel influenced by Greco-Roman and Christian myths and the aesthetics of the modern comic. Javier Redal (1952-    ) and Juan Miguel Aguilera (1960-    ) collaborated on a modern Hard-SF space opera, Mundos en al abismo ["Worlds in the Abyss"] (1988), an unusually science-conscious book for Spain. The two would also produce a series of hard sf novels set in a star cluster outside the Milky Way known as Akasa-Puspa. These include Mundos en el abismo ["Worlds in the Abyss"] (1988), Hijos de la eternidad ["Children of Eternity"] (1989), En un vacío insondable ["In an Unfathomable Vacuum"] (1994), Mundos en la eternidad ["Worlds in Eternity"] (2001), and Mundos y demonios ["Worlds and Demons"] (2005). Other collaborations between the two are El Refugio ["The Refuge"] (1994) and Némesis ["Nemesis"] (2006). Redal would also co-author El otoñ o de las estrellas ["Autumn of the Stars"] (2001) with Miquel Barceló. Aguilera has also experimented with blending sf with other genres: La locura de Dios ["God's Folly"] (1998) combines factual historical detail and biblical prophecy with conventions of both sf and fantasy, La red de Indra ["Indra's Net"] (2009) blends sf with military-political thriller, and Oceanum ["Oceanum"] (2012) mixes Young Adult and Alternate World fantasy in an adventure in classic Vernian style. Ángel Torres Quesada (1940-    ) specializes in sf adventures such as his trilogy Las islas del infierno ["The Hell Islands"] (1988), and his novel Las grietas del tiempo ["The Cracks of Time"] (1998). Another important author to debut in the 1990s is Rodolfo Martínez, who won an Ignotus Prize (see below) with his debut novel La sonrisa del gato ["The Cat's Smile"] (1995), a Cyberpunk-espionage thriller.

In general the 1990s saw a reduction of sf publishing in Spain, and the disappearance of one imprint, Ultramar, in 1991. But the same year brought the resurrection of sf Conventions with Hispacon 91, and the announcement of the "Premio UPC de novela corta de ciencia ficción" ["UPC Prize for Short SF Novel"], an sf award for best novella, sponsored by the university UPC (Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya); the first award was shared by Rafael Marín Trechera and Ángel Torres Quesada. That year's UPC Awards also saw the arrival of Javier Negrete with his novella La luna quieta ["The Quiet Moon"] (1992). Negrete would publish several more sf novellas that decade, although he would later gain greater renown as a writer of historical fantasy.

Science fiction production is alive and well in the twenty-first century, with younger authors such as Leon Arsenal, Lola Robles, Santiago Eximeno, Joaquín Revuelta, Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel, José Ramón Vázquez, Juan Antonio Fernández Madrigal and Eduardo Vaquerizo among many others joining the ranks of more experienced ones. Mainstream authors have begun to incorporate science-fictional elements into their work, or even write genre sf itself: for example, Rosa Montero once again ventured into sf with Lágrimas en la lluvia ["Tears in the Rain"] (2011). The novel, an hommage to Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and its film adaptation by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982), was almost immediately translated into English by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites. A recent anthology, Prospectivas: Antología del cuento de ciencia ficción española actual ["Prospectives: An Anthology of Contemporary Spanish Science Fiction"] (anth 2012) compiled by literary critic Fernando Ángel Moreno, features 18 stories as examples of the best of Spanish science fiction production of the preceding 30 years. Spanish Fandom has its own Association called the Asociación Española de Ciencia Ficción, Fantasía y Terror (AECFFT), which maintains an online site that keeps fans up to date on every aspect of Spanish science fiction [see links below]. The AECFFT sponsors the Ignotus Prize – a genre award presented annually in several categories and named in honour of Coronel Ignotus above – and the already-mentioned HispaCon, a conference at which fans, critics and writers meet every year. Other such fan-based events in Spain are Aznarcon, the Star Trek-oriented Espatrek and the sf/fantasy AsturCon [see links below].

Spanish Cinema is very much stronger on Horror than sf. The two genres are married in some films directed by Jesús Franco, and in El caballero del Dragón ["Star Knight"] (1986) directed by Fernando Colomo. The screenplay for Universal Pictures' release Stranded (2002), directed by María Lidón, was written by Juan Miguel Aguilera.

One book-length study of sf in Spain is Ciencia ficción: Guía de lectura ["Science Fiction Reader's Guide"] (1990) by Miquel Barceló; Ciencia ficción en español: una mitología moderna ante el cambio ["Spanish Science Fiction; A Modern Mythology in the Face of Change"] (2002) by Yolanda Molina-Gavilán presents a general study and analysis of Spanish modern sf narrative; and La ciencia ficción española ["Spanish Science Fiction"] (anth 2002) offers an anthology of critical articles on the subject. Fernando Ángel Moreno's Teoría de la literatura de ciencia ficción: poética y retórica de lo prospectivo ["Theory of Science Fiction Literature: A Poetics and Rhetoric of the Prospective"] (2010) makes a theoretical and comparative contribution to the scholarly panorama. Molina-Gavilán and Andrea L Bell co-edited Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain (anth 2003) translated by them and others, which and includes a useful critical introduction and notes. [MiB/MJ/DKn/YMG]

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