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Baraniecki, Marek

Entry updated 31 August 2018. Tagged: Author.

(1954-    ) Polish environmental engineer, journalist and author, who began publishing work of genre interest with "Karlgoro, godzina 18" ["Karlgoro, 6 p.m."] for Fantastyka in January 1983, stylistically rather conventional and plain but conceptually an invigorating meditation on the power of human spirit and mind versus chaos. The story involves a group of military mentalists supervised by a spiritual guru of incredible powers Psi Powers who unite their psychic abilities to remotely heal a severely injured member of a research vessel seven light-years from Earth. Baraniecki delineated a dualistic universe in which human technology and spirituality, clearly derived from oriental philosophies, function as an organizing principle opposing and assailing the natural entropic tendencies of nature.

In the same year the title novella of Głowa Kasandry ["Cassandra's Head"] (July 1983 Fantastyka; coll 1985; exp 2008) was published along with three other stories, including "Karlgoro, godzina 18", "Wynajęty człowiek" ["The Hired Man"] and "Teatr w dolinie ciszy" ["Theatre in the Valley of Silence"]; the revised edition adds "Ziarno Kirliana" ["Kirlian's Seed"] (August 2007 Nowa Fantastyka) and the previously unpublished "Wesele dusz" ["The Wedding of Souls"]. One of the most memorable Polish sf texts, it narrates the quest of Teodor Hornic, aka the Great Hunter, to locate the eponymous Cassandra's Head – a mythical Doomsday Machine capable of annihilating the remaining life on Earth Post-Holocaust. The novella is set thirteen years after World War Three in a world of geomagnetic reversal – the dire consequence of the use of atomic power – and Pollution and Climate Change. On a mission to destroy known missiles, Hornic discovers Cassandra Head's location and sets off to deal with it. Eventually, he discovers that Cassandra's Head is not a single missile, as commonly believed, but a system of both ground and satellite ballistic rockets secretly designed, constructed and deployed in the last days before the war by a group of scientists and military people from both sides of the barricade to offer an individual survivor the godlike chance to decide humanity's fate: to destroy Homo sapiens or not, the former decision perhaps setting Evolution on a completely new course. Even though Baraniecki's stories were produced off the beaten track of Polish sf of the time, which in the mid-1980s was to a large degree dominated by Polish Sociological SF, the success of the collection, and particularly its title novelette, was unquestionable. "Głowa Kasandry" was the first winner of the Janusz A Zajdel Award; it was serialized on the radio while a screen adaptation was announced. Although this first attempt failed, it remains possible that the novella may eventually be filmed. [KW]

see also: Optimism and Pessimism.

Marek Baraniecki

born Gliwice, Poland: 16 June 1954


collections and stories

  • Głowa Kasandry ["Cassandra's Head"] (Rzeszów, Poland: Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, 1985) [coll: pb/Ryszard Woytowicz]
    • Głowa Kasandry ["Cassandra's Head"] (Warsaw, Poland: superNowa, 2008) [coll: exp of the above: pb/Tomasz Maroński]


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