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Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
Russian Science Fiction & Fantasy

FANTASY or Pantene Pro-V for Overgrown Souls

   Three years ago, an unknown Moscow publishing house "Krang" published a book by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, unknown authors from Kiev, "The Gate-Keeper". They were noticed at a European convent, later their debut was noticed at Russian "Interpresscon" (eighth position in the "large form" nomination). Later on "Krang" published one more book of Dyachenkos - "Ritual"; last year "Raduga", a magazine, has published a novel "The Scar" (1996, N 7-8, 9), which has already been nominated for our "domestic" literary SF&F award "Wanderer". "Азбука", Saint-Petersburg publishing house, has just published a novel by Dyachenkos called "Skrut", and "AST", Moscow publishing house announced the publication of their two-volume edition.

   For three years - eight novels, three substantial contest prizes, entrance upon the most prestigious sector of Russian book market. The impressiveness of their start provides the grounds for talking about a phenomenon.

   "In our opinion, SF&F can do the same things realism does, and then some. It's like an ideal gas - it doesn't actually exist, but scientists manage to manipulate it and make great discoveries", - this phrase is taken from theoretical discussions of the Dyachenkos.

   So what is this "and then some"? We feel that SF&F is able to freely and sincerely speak on the subjects not accepted for discussion in a "decent society": Good and Evil, Love and Hatred, Friendship and Betrayal, Moral and Crime. These are the so-called "immortal truths", that the further the mankind moves the less time it has for their comprehension.

   "The thought said aloud it a lie", - said a witty philosopher. But, from the other side, the unpronounced thought does not exist at all. Its place is taken by a narcotic-like deceitful unconscious feeling of "knowledge". And when there is a need to rely on such "knowledge" in an actual personal communication - the person often steps into the void. The soul untrained by the discussions about the "eternal" is knocked down by the immoral pragmatics of everyday life.

   By ages, human souls were trained by fairy-tales. A fairy-tale is, in its core, an unhurried dialogue about the eternal in a definite situation-exam from life itself. Literature, the great fairy-tale of new times is like a psychoanalyst's office: talks, talks, and again talks. The lust for reading for a mankind is a quest for a compensation for the limitation of deep real-time communication.

   The history runs in cycles, and every time the critical mass of "non-comprehension of the eternal" was accumulated, the great storytellers came forth. They could speak on the issues that would sound too pompous or hypocritical in the classical "realistic" literature in times of distortion of ethical standards in the society. There appeared the works that cornered literary critics: What is the genre of "The Little Prince" by Saint-Exuperi? or "Fairy-Tales" by Hermann Hesse? "Scarlet Sails" and "Road to Nowhere" by Alexander Grin?

   Note: the mentioned plots (they are chosen from a number of possible examples because they come to mind when reading Dyachenkos' "Skrut") are either out of any historical time, or take place in slow times when telephony, television and airplanes haven't taken from people the possibility to discuss the flow of their life. The Middle Ages are the ideal decoration for unhurried substantial talks and a kaleidoscopic flow of exotic events (as a way to hold the readers' attention). This discovery was made by Walter Scott and Robert Lewis Stevenson, who "professed" to their readers by plunging them into the far-gone world of conversations about great passions accompanied by clanging of swords; the world, which oppressed everyday worries about daily bread often contrary to "the ideals". Today we call it "gothic novel", where the beacons are Umberto Ecco and Patric Zeuskind. Let's consider attentively the best novellas of our Valery Shevchuk - the conversations of his characters about the "eternal" are only possible due to monasteries and endless битым дорогам запоздалого отечественного средневековья.

   We seem to have the peak of reflexive times right now. Morality in the impoverished society is not the best currency. The fight for the survival does not leave any time for communication, only after a relaxing shot-glass of vodka.

   Another way to satisfy the inborn taste for self- and inter-confession is to watch the rich cry out loud, since they have time for it. Realism writer, who wants to speak with his readers in terms of "Good and Evil", can only write a number of sequels to "Born by the Wind". Non-realism writer will only write fantasy. The genre that can be identified as accelerated gothic novel. In essence, it's a "soap opera" inside out, where the role of detestably treacherous Mr. Evil is played by a dragon, and "miss Right" is played by miss Princess.

   Marina and Sergey Dyachenko are like a deep well. Their "Skrut" is a whole fantasy in general, and an incomparable and diverse mutation. An unexpected handicraft of a serial article. An inclusion of genuine literature to the literature-like layer of word therapy. It is what we call "fine literature". The abyss of the Crime can be looked at through the eyes of worn-out mind of Dostoyevsky, or - through the eyes of perceptive intuition of Dyachenkos. And when the both experiments will result in equal readers' terror in the face of the fatality of human nature, it will mean that we have come across the Literature. Different, but equally genuine. Because - magical.

   "Scarlet Sails" became a culturology sign. Who knows, maybe the same will happen to the symbol of "skrut" ("Skrut is a creature... into which, according to the legend, turns a deadly offended person... It is eternal unforgiveness. It is torture and lust for revenge. The reverse side of the devoted love... And betrayed love. It is the twisted veins of the oldest powers of the earth. It is the twisted necks of hopes. It is a soul, twisted into a tourniquet...")

   Who knows, maybe Dyachenkos are the reincarnation of A. Grin? Since the books of both, are, in addition "the oblivion, granted by a poignant sting, the state of absolute happiness that never happens in ordinary life. Or practically never".

Konstantin RODIK

All-Ukrainian newspaper "Kievskie vedomosti", 6.6.97. (Weekly supplement in Ukrainian language, translated into Russian by Ye. Volkova)

Russian Science Fiction & Fantasy --> M. & S. Dyachenko