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Jęczmyk, Lech

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author, Editor.

(1936-    ) Polish editor, translator, columnist and essayist, primarily known for his translations of novels and short stories from the English by J G Ballard, Philip K Dick, Ursula K Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut and numerous others. In 1970, while working as an acquiring editor for the Warsaw-based publishing house Iskry, he initiated the Steps into the Unknown series of annual anthologies Kroki w nieznane ["Steps into the Unknown"] in which he published both Eastern European and Western science fiction, editing and partly translating six volumes by 1976, comprising the widest presentation of sf – in terms of both theme and style – on the Polish market, with short stories, novellas and novelettes from Stanisław Lem, Janusz A Zajdel, the brothers Strugatski, Brian Aldiss, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, John Wyndham and others. The publication of the seventh volume was cancelled for political reasons; Jęczmyk refused to include Soviet stories in it as in his view those available at the time were of rather poor quality, and the publisher was reluctant to bring out an edition compiled merely of Western fiction. He reintroduced the title in 2005 when he co-edited another volume of Kroki w nieznane with Konrad Walewski, who then took over and edited two more collections on his own, eventually resigning the job to Mirosław Obarski; the anthology has been continued ever since.

In 1976 Jęczmyk then conceived a series of sf mass-market paperbacks with no specific title but the characteristic logo of an astronaut. For the project he selected and occasionally translated an impressive variety of both Eastern and Western authors. The series turned out to be conducive to the emergence, development and coordination of Polish Sociological SF, since a number of key texts employing explorations of Dystopian social systems were published in it, including Wir pamięci ["A Whirl of Memory"] (1979) by Edmund Wnuk-Lipiński, Cylinder Van Troffa ["Van Troff's Cylinder"] (1980) by Janusz A Zajdel, Twarzą ku ziemi ["Face Down"] (1982) by Maciej Parowski, Senni zwycięzcy ["Sleepy Victors"] (1983) by Marek Oramus, Wyjście z cienia ["Out of Shade"] (1983) by Zajdel, Rozpad połowiczny ["Partial Disintegration"] (1988) by Wnuk-Lipiński. In 1978 Jęczmyk edited the second volume of Rakietowe szlaki ["Rocket Trails"], an anthology of Anglophone sf short fiction originally created and edited by Julian Stawiński and first published in 1958. During the same period Jęczmyk selected stories for Wynalazca wieczności ["The Inventor of Infinity"] (1978) and Gość z głębin ["A Visitor from the Depths"] (1979), both uncredited collections of Soviet and Polish sf respectively. In 2011 he employed the title Rakietowe szlaki once more – this time to launch a series of anthologies of classic sf (see Checklist).

Around 1984 he joined the editorial staff of Fantastyka and between 1990 and 1992 served as its editor-in-chief. In the same period co-edited and partly translated texts for Spór o SF ["The Dispute over SF"] (anth 1989), one of the first theoretical books on the genre for the Polish market; the volume contained reprinted material by Kingsley Amis, Brian W Aldiss, Michel Butor, Umberto Eco, Eremei Parnov, Scott Sanders, Darco Suvin among others as well as work by Polish scholars such as Ryszard Handke, Jerzy Jarzębski, Antoni Smuszkiewicz, Andrzej Zgorzelski, and Stanisław Lem.

Jęczmyk also wrote columns and essays for Fantastyka and a few other magazines on sf literature and writers like Philip K Dick and the brothers Strugatski. More originally, he addressed a range of contemporary social, political and economic issues in highly critical terms, claiming that Western civilization is reaching the self-destructive Decadent phase characteristic of all empires (see History in SF) and is steadily drifting towards its disintegration followed by a New Middle Ages, whose approaching can be delineated by the rapidly expanding neo-feudal separation of the super-rich and secluded elite from the poor uneducated masses; by global migrations; by the proliferation of religious fundamentalism; and by the ethnicization and regionalization of Politics. These arguments are fully presented in Trzy końce historii, czyli Nowe Średniowiecze ["Three Ends of History or the New Middle Ages"] (coll 2006) and Dlaczego toniemy, czyli jeszcze nowsze Średniowiecze ["Why Are We Drowning or Yet Newer Middle Ages"] (coll 2011).

In 2007, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fantastyka, Lech Jęczmyk, along with some of its founders and editors, was awarded the silver Gloria Artis medal by the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage. [KW]

see also: Fantastyka; Poland.

Lech Jęczmyk

born Bydgoszcz, Poland: 10 January 1936



works as editor


Steps into the Unknown

  • Kroki w nieznane 1 ["Steps into the Unknown 1"] (Warsaw, Poland: Iskry, 1970) [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Bohdan Bocianowski]
  • Kroki w nieznane 2 ["Steps into the Unknown 2"] (Warsaw, Poland: Iskry, 1971) [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Bohdan Bocianowski]
  • Kroki w nieznane 3 ["Steps into the Unknown 3"] (Warsaw, Poland: Iskry, 1972) [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Bohdan Bocianowski]
  • Kroki w nieznane 4 ["Steps into the Unknown 4"] (Warsaw, Poland: Iskry, 1973) [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Bohdan Bocianowski]
  • Kroki w nieznane 5 ["Steps into the Unknown 5"] (Warsaw, Poland: Iskry, 1974) [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Bohdan Bocianowski]
  • Kroki w nieznane 6 ["Steps into the Unknown 6"] (Warsaw, Poland: Iskry, 1976) [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Bohdan Bocianowski]
  • Kroki w nieznane Almanach Fantastyki 2005 ["Steps into the Unknown An Almanach of Fantastika"] (Stawiguda, Poland: Solaris, 2005) with Konrad Walewski [anth: Steps into the Unknown: hb/Maciej "Monastyr" Błażejczyk]

Rocket Trails

individual titles

  • Spór o SF ["The Dispute over SF"] (Poznań, Poland: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1989) with Ryszard Handke and Barbara Okólska [anth: pb/Józef Petruk]


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