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Basque SF

Entry updated 11 January 2021. Tagged: International.

The Basque language, known as Euskera, is spoken by around 750,000 inhabitants of Basque Country and Navarre in Spain, and the department of the Atlantic Pyrenees in France. However, according to statistics, just over half are fully competent: not only understanding the language but being able to speak and write it correctly. Of these, only 100,000 people read literature in Basque and a bare 6% sf, too few for a stable community of sf writers, editors and readers to exist; but over time there has been some native sf in addition to translations. This entry also covers authors born in the Basque Country who have written sf or fantasy in Spanish.

In general, Basque sf is scarce and not very relevant, although there are some remarkable works; but in terms of the central tradition of sf, many stories are too dependent on external influences despite the writers having at their disposal a wide oral tradition based on a rich Basque Mythology, as notably revealed by the priest, ethnologist, anthropologist and archaeologist José Miguel de Barandiarán (1889-1991), author of numerous twentieth-century investigations into Basque folklore.

One of the pioneering sf writers in Basque was Xabier Kintana (1946-    ). His novella "Izaki berria" ["A New Creature"] (in Euskal Elerti 69 ["1969 Basque Literature"], anth 1969) tells how a Basque researcher aspires to develop an intelligent Hive Mind capable of communicating with human beings; in the story, values of tradition and progress are contrasted, the final choice being an idealized Basque rural environment that respects nature. Three years later Kintana wrote the short story "Ukronia" ["Uchronia"] (in Behin Batean ["Once Upon a Time"], coll 1972), a Satire with political purposes; in this Alternate History he described a ridiculously idealized Basque Country where nationalism has ruled for decades.

En la Luna también se habla vascuence / Ilargian ere euskeraz ["Basque Is Also Spoken on the Moon"] (1967) by José Luis Muñoyerro (1925-2015) describes the first Basque voyage to the Moon, a bilingual Spanish-Basque edition. Two years later, the linguist Jose Luis Alvarez Enparantza (1929-2012), better known as Txillardegi, wrote the short story "Kosmodromo" ["Cosmodromo"] (in Kosmodromo, coll 1984), a Dystopia that could not be published until 1984. Itzal gorria ["Red Shadow"] (1972) by Txomin Peillen (1932-    ), winner of the Txomin Agirre Prize in 1966, is a socio-political novel set in a fictional country with some dystopic elements; his collection Ale gorriak ["Red Grains"] (coll 2001) also includes some sf. Further 1970s Basque sf appeared in magazines, anthologies and literary contests.

In the 1980s, the French writer Maddi Pelot (1947-2016) published Biharko oroitzapenak ["Memories of Tomorrow"] (coll 1985), six stories set in 2050 in Euskal Herria after World War Three, and the novel Teleamarauna ["Teleamarauna"] (1987), which deals with control by Telepathy. Pelot's stories are close to the lyrical and the most progressive and literary visions of the genre. Inaki Zubeldia (1945-    ) wrote the first sf novel for children in Basque: Euskaldun bat Marten ["A Basque on Mars"] (1982), and Edorta González (1961-    ) published Azken belaunaldia ["Last Generation"] (1988), a fable about the next step in the Evolution of Homo sapiens. The special "Future-No Future" issue of the magazine Susa (November 1986), dedicated to the noir future, includes several stories by Basque authors, along interviews, introductory texts, and so on; of particular note is "Celosamente gordea" ["Jealously Saved"], a short story by Jon U Baltza (1964-    ) written in a degenerate Basque that is a passionate defence of the language.

The 1990s were far more productive. Jesús Mari Olaizola (1951-    ), better known as Txiliku, wrote a new novel for children: 2061, antzinako kronikak ["2061: Ancient Chronicles"] (1990). Joanes Urkixo (1955-    ) published Lurra deika ["Earth Calling"] (coll 1991) and the Children's SF novels Shangai Tom, espazioko zaindaria ["Shanghai Tom, Space Guardian"] (1992), Zeruak erori zirenekoa ["When the Skies Fell"] (1998) and Gerlari Zuria ["White Warrior"] (2003), a Sword and Sorcery tale that won the Apirila Prize for 2003.

The contemporary politician Iñaki Irazabalbeitia (1957-    ) wrote two Space Operas: Arrotza paradisuan ["Stranger in Paradise"] (1991) and Uda guztiak eztituk berdinak, Isi ["Not All Summers are the Same, Isi"] (1995), plus Ipuin deslaiak ["Lighthearted Tales"] (coll 1999). Finally, Manu Lopez (1961-    ) wrote the Young Adult novel Olioa urpean ["Like Oil Under Water"] (1998), a critical look at our consumer society from the Near Future, and the children's book Gogoa lege ["The Spirit Law"] (2005), a winner of the Baporea Prize.

With the arrival of the new millennium, sf production increased. Zura eta harrak ["Wood and Worms"] (coll 2001) by Julen Garikanopeña comprises two novellas. Kandido eta Euskadi independientearen ukronia ["Kandido and the Ucronia of an Independent Euskadi"] (2002) by Luis Haranburu (1947-    ) is a strongly anti-nationalist political fiction. Azken gurasoak ["Last Parents"] (2003) by Aitor Arana (1963-    ) is another example of sf for children, a winner of the Baporea Prize. Gloria Mundi ["Gloria Mundi"] (2004) by Fernando Morillo (1974-    ) is a Technothriller set in the International Physics Center in San Sebastian, and the same author's Bilbo samurai ["Bilbao Samurai"] (2009) is a Post-Holocaust novel. Apokalipsia guztioi erakutsia ["The Apocalypse Shown to Everybody"] (fixup 2009) by Joseba Gabilondo (1963-    ), winner of the Erein Award for 2009, begins in the Neolithic (see Prehistoric SF) and posits the independence of the Basque Country in 2050. Nola ez dakizun hori ["How Can You Not Know That"] (2009) by Irati Jiménez (1977-    ) features a lycanthrope (see Werewolves) in the Northern Basque Country. Lasai, ez da ezer gertatzen ["Calm Down, Nothing Happens"] (2014) by Ana Malagon (1978-    ) is a micro fiction book with a fantastic and futuristic touch. Ipuin izugarriak (anth 2004) edited by Xabier Mendiguren (1964-    ) includes some fantastic stories such as "Isuritako ura ez da batzen" ["Poured Water Does Not Mix"] by Begoña Bilbao (1932-    ) and "Adibidez" ["For Example"] by Ana Morales (1969-    ).

Xavier Mauméjean (1963-    ) wrote some fantasy novels in French: Les Mémoires de l'Homme-Eléphant ["The Memories of the Elephant Man"] (2000); the urban psycho-thriller Gotham, Le Masque ["Gotham: The Mask"] (2001); La Ligue des héros, Mnémos ["The League of Heroes"] (2002; trans Manuella Chevalier as The League of Heroes 2005), and its sequel L'Ere du Dragon ["Dragon Age"] (2003), winner of the Bob Morane Prize; La Vénus anatomique ["The Anatomical Venus"] (2004) and Lilliputia ["Lilliputia"] (2008), winners of the Rosny-Aîné Prize; and Rosée de feu ["Fire Dew"] (2010).

Perhaps the most interesting books for an adult audience are Etorkizuna ["Future"] (coll 2007) by Iban Zaldua (1966-    ) and Belarraren ahoa ["The Mouth of the Grass"] (2004) by Harkaitz Cano (1975-    ), an Alternate-History tale which won the Euskadi Prize 2005 in which the Nazis not only conquer all of Europe but also send a huge fleet to invade the US (see Hitler Wins). Zaldua also scripted the Graphic Novel Azken Garaipena ["Last Victory"], a new uchrony related to Nazis and winner of the 2012 Euskadi Prize.

Recent books of particular note are Bioklik ["Bioklik"] (2018) by Asel Luzarraga (1971-    ), which develops the concept of biodemocracy, or democracy supported by highly participatory technology that in this instance becomes Dystopia; the Ahire Munduak trilogy by Garazi Albizua (1985-    ), dystopian Feminist sf comprising Izadia ["Nature"] (2018), Geun ["Spiderweb"] (2019) and an upcoming third novel; Bihotzean daramagun mundua ["The World We Carry in Our Heart"] (2019) by Maite Darceles (1971-    ); the Young Adult novel Ataria ["Doorway"] (2019) by Yolanda Arrieta (1963-    ), and Kripton 85 ["Krypton 85"] (2019) by Itxaro Borda (1959-    ), a feminist and queer story.

Sf in Spanish written by Basque authors is relevantly scarce, though there are some notable works. Magdalena Mouján Otaño (1926-2005) is an Argentine writer of Basque origin, author of the short story "Gu ta gutarrak" ["We and Ours"] (March-April 1970 Nueva Dimensión), a funny Parody that plays with the mysterious origin of the Basque people and their language. The publication caused the confiscation of that issue of the magazine by Franco's authorities, accused of inciting Basque separatism.

In the 1970s and 1980s, mention should be made of some Fanzines, such as Lux daemoniarum, Psicosis, IF ..., Caos, Xarabatz and Avalon. An early sf novel is Los anafroditas ["The Anaphrodites"] (1985) by Rafael Castellano (1943-    ), born in Madrid but based in the Basque Country, that shows Dystopian details related to Sex and political issues. Another is El jardín de Marte ["The Garden of Mars"] (1990) by Javier González de Durana (1951-    ), set in 2051 in an apocalyptic Bilbao that shows a completely destroyed Basque Country, isolated from the rest of the world after decades of infighting.

Probably the most important and prolific writer is José Antonio Cotrina (1972-    ), author of a score of books and a hundred short stories and novellas (mostly fantasy but with some sf), who has also published for the US market. Additionally, the aforementioned Iban Zaldua published Si Sabino viviría ["If Sabino Would Live"] (2005), a hilarious novel full of Clichés about Basque idiosyncrasies. Ekaitz Ortega (1983-    ) wrote around twenty sf short stories and Mañana cruzaremos el Ganges ["Tomorrow We Will Cross the Ganges"] (2017), perhaps the best Dystopia in Spanish, an intimate and allegorical novel that narrates the progressive loss of social rights and freedom of expression in the Europe of the Near Future.

The output of the Small Press Espiral (1994-2016), run by Juan Jose Aroz (1961-    ), is also remarkable. He edited about sixty sf books, some of them by Basque authors such as Expedición a Cajal ["Expedition to Cajal"] (1998) by Juan José Sánchez Arreseigor (1965-    ), Sombras de un mismo sol ["Shadows of the Same Sun"] (2003) and Devoradores ["Devourers"] (2009) by David Calleja (1975-    ), DSK3 ["DSK3"] (2010) by Joseba Paulorena (1976-    ) and Terápolis ["Terapolis"] (2015) by José Manuel González (1956-    ).

Ediciones Cívicas continued on its way and published Paciente 101 ["Patient 101"] (2013) and Muerte en blanco ["Death in White"] (2017) by Joseba Paulorena, Peón blanco, dama negra ["White Pawn, Black Queen"] (2019) by Pedro de Andrés (1967-    ), and some fantasy novels by the mentioned authors. Another fantasy of note is Su muerte, gracias ["His Death, Thank you"] (2016) by Abel Amutxategi (1978-    ), a humorous novel in the manner of Terry Pratchett.

A very interesting online bilingual project is Borradores del futuro ["Drafts of Future"], which tries to put into practice Utopian actions with the help of speculative fiction, always related to a new paradigm in the economy, social relations, Ecology, culture and so on. Some important Basque authors have participated, including Katixa Agirre (1981-    ), Iban Zaldua (1966-    ), Danele Sarriugarte (1989-    ), Karmele Jaio (1970-    ) and Belén Gopegui (1963-    ).

Related to awards, the Alberto Magno contest (1989-current) organized by the Faculty of Sciences of the University of the Basque Country is the oldest sf prize in Spain. Currently, it is endowed with €2,000 for the winning novelette in Spanish or Basque and €1,000 for the second, and it has awarded more than a hundred stories, which have been published in six collections to date. Among the winners are important figures associated with the world of culture and the university, as well as sf writers such as José Antonio Cotrina with eight awards, Santiago García Albás (1973-    ) with nine and José Manuel González with four. García Albás published some of his winning stories in Cybersiones ["Cybersions"] (coll 2014) and González in Recuerdos de la vieja Tierra ["Memories of Old Earth"] (coll 2011). Another important award was the Fantastic Literature University Contest (1992-2017), organized by the same entity, which honoured the debuts of important Basque writers in Euskera. All the stories were published in three collections.

In the fan field, the SF Basque Association (TerBi) publishes a Fanzine and organizes a contest for short fiction. AnsibleFest is an important Feminist sf Convention held in Bilbao since 2018, attended by hundreds of people every year. Two of its organizers, Arrate Hidalgo (1987-    ) and Laura Lazcano, are also responsible for the podcast on feminist sf ¿Qué haría Barbarella? ["What Would Barbarella Do?"]. Another outstanding sf podcast is Xerezaderen artxiboa ["Xerezade Files"] by Ana Morales and Jasone Larrinaga.

Finally, in Cinema the director Alex de la Iglesia (1965-    ) stands out with films such as Acción mutante ["Mutant Action"] (1993), El día de la bestia ["The Day of the Beast"] (1995) and Las brujas de Zugarramurdi ["Witches from Zugarramurdi"] (2013), a dystopian, apocalyptic or witchcraft film with many humorous and badass touches. His new work is the dark series 30 monedas ["30 Coins"] (HBO Spain). Another outstanding sf movie is El hoyo ["The Platform"] (2019) directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia (1974-    ). [MV]

further reading

In Basque

  • José Luis Muñoyerro. Ilargian ere euskeraz ["Basque is Also Spoken on the Moon"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Izarra, 1967) [pb/]
  • Txomin Peillen. Itzal gorria ["Red Shadow"] (Zarautz, Spain: Itxaropena, 1972) [pb/]
  • Inaki Zubeldia. Euskaldun bat Marten ["A Basque on Mars"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 1982) [pb/Redondo]
  • Maddi Pelot. Biharko oroitzapenak ["Memories of Tomorrow"] (Baiona, France: Maiatz, 1985) [coll: pb/]
  • Maddi Pelot. Teleamarauna ["Teleamarauna"] (Baiona, France: Maiatz, 1987) [pb/]
  • Edorta González. Azken belaunaldia ["Last Generation"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 1988) [pb/]
  • Txiliku. 2061, antzinako kronikak ["2061: Ancient Chronicles"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 1990) [pb/]
  • Johanes Urkixo. Lurra deika ["Earth Calling"] (Tolosa, Spain: Erein, 1991) [coll: pb/]
  • Inaki Irazabalbeitia. Arrotza paradisuan ["Stranger in paradise"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 1991) [pb/]
  • Joanes Urkixo. Shangai Tom, espazioko zaindaria ["Shanghai Tom, Space Guardian"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 1992) [pb/]
  • Inaki Irazabalbeitia. Uda guztiak eztituk berdinak, Isi ["Not All Summers are the Same, Isi"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Oria, 1995) [pb/]
  • Joanes Urkixo. Zeruak erori zirenekoa ["When the Skies Fell"] (Durango, Spain: Ibaizabal, 1998) [pb/]
  • Manu Lopez. Olioa urpean ["Like Oil under Water"] (Irun, Spain: Alberdania, 1998) [pb/]
  • Inaki Irazabalbeitia. Ipuin deslaiak ["Lighthearted Tales"] (Bilbao, Spain: Gero, 1999) [pb/]
  • Txomin Peillen. Ale gorriak ["Red Grains"] (Alegia, Spain: Hiria, 2001) [pb/]
  • Julen Garikanopeña. Zura eta harrak ["Wood and Worms"] (Alegia, Spain: Hiria, 2001) [pb/]
  • Luis Haranburu Altuna. Kandido eta Euskadi independientearen ukronia ["Kandido and The Ucronia of an Independent Euskadi"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Hiria, 2002) [pb/]
  • Aitor Arana. Azken gurasoak ["Last Parents"] (Madrid, Spain: SM, 2003) [pb/]
  • Harkaitz Cano. Belarraren ahoa ["The Mouth of the Grass"] (Irun, Spain: Alberdania, 2004) [pb/]
  • Ana Malagon. Lasai, ez da ezer gertatzen ["Calm Down, Nothing Happens"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 2014) [pb/]
  • Xabier Mendiguren, editor. Ipuin izugarriak (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkarlanean, 2004) [anth: pb/]
  • Fernando Morillo. Gloria Mundi ["Gloria Mundi"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkarlanean, 2004) [pb/]
  • Manu Lopez. Gogoa lege ["The Spirit Law"] (Madrid, Spain: SM, 2005) [pb/]
  • Iban Zaldua. Etorkizuna ["Future"] (Irun, Spain: Alberdania, 2007) [pb/]
  • Joseba Gabilondo. Apokalipsia guztioi erakutsia ["The Apocalypse Shown to Everybody"] (Tolosa, Spain: Erein, 2009) [pb/]
  • Irati Jiménez. Nola ez dakizun hori ["How Can You Not Know That"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkarlanean, 2009) [pb/]
  • Fernando Morillo. Bilbo samurai ["Bilbao Samurai"] (Tafalla, Spain: Txalaparta, 2009) [pb/]
  • Asel Luzarraga. Bioklik ["Bioklik"] (San Sebastian, Spain: Elkar, 2018) [pb/]
  • Garazi Albizua. Izadia ["Nature"] (Berriozar, Spain: Denonartean, 2018) [pb/]
  • Garazi Albizua. Geun ["Spiderweb"] (Berriozar, Spain: Denonartean, 2019) [pb/]
  • Yolanda Arrieta. Ataria ["Doorway"] (Berriozar, Spain: Denonartean, 2019) [pb/]
  • Itxaro Borda. Kripton 85 ["Kryton 85"] (Baiona, France: Maiatz, 2019) [pb/]
  • Maite Darceles. Bihotzean daramagun mundua ["The World We Carry in Our Heart"] (Irun, Spain: Alberdania, 2019) [pb/]

In Spanish

  • Rafael Castellano. Los anafroditas ["The Anaphrodites"] (Spain: Ttarttalo, 1985) [pb/]
  • Javier González de Durana. El jardín de Marte ["The Garden of Mars"] (Spain: Haizagoa, 1990) [pb/Jesús María Lazkano]
  • Juan José Sánchez Arreseigor. Expedición a Cajal ["Expedition to Cajal"] (Bilbao, Spain: Juan José Aroz, 1998) [pb/Koldo Campo]
  • David Calleja. Sombras de un mismo sol ["Shadows of the Same Sun"] (Bilbao, Spain: Juan José Aroz, 2003) [pb/Koldo Campo]
  • Iban Zaldua. Si Sabino viviría ["If Sabino Would Live"] (Madrid, Spain: Lengua de Trapo, 2005) [pb/Sean Mackaoui]
  • David Calleja. Devoradores ["Devourers"] (Bilbao, Spain: Juan José Aroz, 2009) [pb/Koldo Campo]
  • Joseba Paulorena. DSK3 ["DSK3"] (Bilbao, Spain: Juan José Aroz, 2010) [pb/Koldo Campo]
  • José Manuel González. Recuerdos de la vieja Tierra ["Memories of Old Earth"] (Granada, Spain: Grupo AJEC, 2011) [coll: pb/Koldo Campo]
  • Joseba Paulorena. Paciente 101 ["Patient 101"] (Bilbao, Spain: Ediciones Cívicas, 2013) [pb/C J Creative]
  • Santiago García Albás. Cybersiones ["Cybersions"] (Gijón, Spain: Sportula, 2014) [coll: pb/Sportula]
  • José Manuel González. Terápolis ["Terapolis"] (Bilbao, Spain: Juan José Aroz, 2015) [pb/Koldo Campo]
  • Joseba Paulorena. Muerte en blanco ["Death in White"] (Bilbao, Spain: Ediciones Cívicas, 2017) [pb/C J Creative]
  • Pedro de Andrés. Peón blanco, dama negra ["White Pawn, Black Queen"] (Bilbao, Spain: Ediciones Cívicas, 2019) [pb/]


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