What Russian SF&F pages are about

Dmitriy Vatolin
Dedicated to all those who don't believe in altruism. ;) 
      Honestly, it's hard to put in a few words what's the purpose of - anything... But it's necessary to do. Too often I had to hear recently - "And all that is done for free?" - said with disbelief. The answer is - YES!  

Lyrical Introduction  

 "No one is gonna be better than us on our street!"  
  (An old children's game battle cry.)   

      This page was created in 1996 for a very simple reason - there was NO information at all on Russian SF&F to be found on the web at that time. Meanwhile, I had in my posession (because of FIDO and scanning) quite a bit of material on the genre in general and on various writers.  

     Since then the situation, generally speaking, HASN'T IMPROVED!!! To this day, it's not a problem to find in the Russian Net information on Harrison or Zelazny (I don't even mention Tolkien), while information is almost lacking on Russian authors. There is a little something on Strugatsky brothers (on our pages, by the way) - but what about Efremov, Belyaev, Bulgakov??? They are CLASSICS, my friends! Their pages SHOULD be out there! At the same time, people I know have a literal treasure trove of books, drawings, essays, photographs, manuscripts of bibliographies, fanzines, etc., etc.!!! Archives collected by I.G.Khalymbardja (an outstanding bibliographer, who is no longer with us) contain relatively complete files on 40,000 Russian authors and on 100,000 Western ones (less exhaustive)!!! That's an OCEAN of information which SHOULD but CANNOT be published, for lack of financing for such projects.   
Our publishers realize that such an undertaking would take a LOT of effort, while the result would be appreciated mostly by writers themselves, editors and academics (much smaller audience than that of a space opera).  
     Other treasure troves of information belong to "Lyudeny" ... and to other well-known fans... Photographs collect dust, the original (!) manuscripts of famous books get mixed, the original tapes with old interviews deteriorate... Does that sound familiar?  
     A similar thing happened to the critical works. Good literary criticism is VERY important for the authors, because it points, indeed, to the literary problems. That helps in improving the writing craft.  
     But these days, the general audience ISN'T AWARE of the publication of such works, and doesn't know they are necessary (The IF (Esli) magazine doesn't publish nearly enough criticism). At the same time, it's a fact that people do write such essays! The problem is connecting an editor in Moscow who wants to have a review or an essay, to the critic (consider Evgeny Savin, the author of the best academic analytical essays on Krapivin; he lives in Kaluga, so even sending his author's fee to him is a problem). As a result, good essays are occasionaly published in regional fanzines, but such occurences are few and far between - the runs are in single digits, and even the subject of the essay doesn't always get a copy.  

Thus good analytical reviews get lost, without wide publication, without readership.  

     A similar situation is with artists. Not only it's often cheaper for publishers to pay licensing fees for an illustration from a westerm image bank than to commission an original work -- oftentimes, the publishers aren't even AWARE of good contemporary artists. Especially if these artists live not in Moscow or Petersburg.  

     The result of all that is that high quality art, critical essays, photographs, bibliographic information, etc. - are underused or lost. The cause of that is lack of any funding even for the gathering and preservation of such information, not to mention its publishing. After 20-30 years of that, it turns out that, say, "there are almost no pictures left with the writer X", or UNBELIEVABLE mistakes are being made in writing on Russian SF&F - because the authors have used rumors of unknown origin instead of hard facts ("Lyudeny" can tell a lot stories involving fantastic rumors about Strugatsky brothers, and comment on where those myths come from).  


     It doesn't matter that nobody is going to pay for it. What's important, is NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO DO THAT! Only fans could spend huge amounts of time collecting and checking materials on their favourite authors and on Russian SF&F literature.  


     A consequence: the materials on the history of the literature (like the section on the Russian SF of the 19th century) SHOULD get precedence over the up-to-date information.  

     The collection and processing of the materials is the responsibility of the section editors.  

     We have done quite a bit: "Russian SF&F" server contains 100,000+ files. But this is just a small part of information avalable about our "small" field. It is important that this information is being made available to the general public.  
     We have up to 10,000 visitors a day. Many of them learn for the first time that there are things like fanzines, many are very surprized to learn that EVEN NOW there are conferences held, to many it's a surprize that a writer they thought they knew well wrote books they haven't heard of, and so on, and so forth... They learn new things about Russian SF&F, and that very important!  

     Our greatest achievement this year is, perhaps, the project "History of Fandom" (http://fandom.rusf.ru/). It was officially launched in August, 2001 and has grown from 10 to 600 visitors a day since. 600 visitors for a server dedicated to the history of sci-fi and fandom - that is a result two-three times greater than what we had expected. Recently some archives of SF-related FIDO echoes have been added. Very soon the amount of material is going to increase greatly (there are now 2.4 Gb in 36900 files), so come, use, and don't forget to refer!

    The number of authors at the "Bookshelf" became more than 1000 in April. Our library is one of the few libraries on the Net that freely (by author's will) accepts fragments of books, which explains its popularity. Also, last December all books have been laid out more conveniently at a specialized server: http://books.rusf.ru/

     These days, more than 100 people work on our server in their spare time... And this number grows all the time. We are glad to welcome new people who would like to do something for their favourite author, or for Russian SF literature in general. To avoid turning a good thing into a mess, it's important that those who want to join are responsible (very important!), modest, hardworking, and wanting to do that work long-term (In other words, irresponsible egomaniacs wishing to do something for a bit, until they are bored, should not bother ;-)  

     And if someone doubts that such outstanding (truly!) people, who do this work for free, do exist at all, I'll just laugh and point to the list of our section editors (and also to the epigraph to this text).  

     There are such people! They live in different cities and countries, and they do a great and important work! And that's the important thing!  

Russian Science Fiction & Fantasy

© 1996-2000 by Dmitriy Vatolin (editor-in-chief)
© 2000 English translation by Alexander Gimelbrant © 2002 Modernization by Denis Lianda