Interview with Kir Bulychev by readers at the Biblio-Globus Book Store
— Five years ago you published the first volume of «The River Chronos» [«Reka Chronos»]. When will the second volume come out?
— I did publish that book, but it wasn't the first volume but a complete novel. But Moscow Worker Publishing House, which printed the volume in a rather odd, oversize format, has written at the end: «End of the first volume». And since then people have asked me where was the second volume? I wrote a third and fourth volume to the series but I never wrote a second volume. Terra Publishers have offered to bring out the first three books together, but first of all I'd like to sit down and look at what I wrote all at once because I was never able to do that at the time and wrote 'winging it', so to speak. I really would like the book to be finished some day.
— Have you abandoned SF?
— No, certainly not.
— Why did you decide to write only for children?
— I write mostly for adults. I write very little for children. I write a lot of scientific books and papers, I write children's fiction, adult and popular science. Chronos Publishers is now looking over one of my books; I really hope it comes out. It's a history of medals. Armada Publishers is about to bring out two thick adult adventure novels.
— They often ask: what's Bulychev done that's new? How well known is Igor Mozheiko?
— Mozheiko's been publishing constantly, but is far less well known as he comes out primarily from Oriental Literature Publishers.
— What are you plans for scientific publication? What are your plans for work on South-East Asia?
— I'm currently researching the question of drugs in South East Asia. It's something they already paid me to do. There is a book dealing with S. E. Asia I'd like to come out from Chronos; I rewrote it and rewrote it until I got it right. It's called: «North Wind — Clear Weather: The Second World War in South-East Asia» [«Severnyj veter — jasnaja pogoda: Vtoraja mirovaja vojna v Jugo-Vostochnoj Azii»].
— What would force you to continue «The Mountain Pass» [«Pereval»]?
— I have the feeling that everything's still not finished. I'd like to go back to these people again. If I had the strength I would certainly continue it, but with age I find myself working slower and slower.
— You just published a book in a completely new genre, for you, a detective thriller, «Sleep, Beauty» [«Usni, krasavitsa»]. Will you be doing any more like it?
— Yes, I've written another detective novel, but I want to go over it again and re-write from the beginning. To put it frankly, I'm just not a detective writer. I keep wanting to write about ordinary people, and in a detective thriller that's not possible. That's why I wrote the mystery «They don't kill people like you» [«Takih ne ubivajut»], for us, because they do kill us too. And it seems to me that my detective novels have proven insufficiently energetic.
— You've came out with a books where history was given in chronological order, much like a diary, haven't you?
— That's very complicated. The book «North Wind — Clear Weather: The Second World War In South-East Asia» took me ten years to write. I will not undertake such a work again.
— Will there be a sequel to «The Timeless World» [«Mir bez vremeni»]?
— That story is just one part of two large volumes which will come out from Armada Publishing House. One volume will be called «With The Old Year!» [«So Starym godom!»]. The story is an excerpt from that volume.
— What do you think of your first collection «Gusliar Wonders» [«Chudesa v Gusljare»]?
— It's rather embarrassing to hear that one's first collection was the best, but it happens. It even happened to Alexandre Dumas. Personally my preference is for the collection which came out from Tekst Publishers, although I can't remember the title («Who Needs It?» [«Komu eto nuzhno?»] — JHC). And in any event all my stories were put into print by Chronos Publishers.
— Will there be a sequel to «The Pet» [«Ljubimets»]?
— No, there won't. On the other hand, certainly, I might think of something, but I haven't yet.
— What can you tell us about your play «Flash In the Pan 67» [«Osechka 67»] which was written for November 7 and which was first shown on Leningrad television channel in 1996?
— That's a long story. At first it was a short story, I wrote it many years ago and hid it away in a desk so no one would ever see it.
— Are you an optimist?
— I am not an optimist, I am a fatalist.
— What do you think of Khmelevskaya's work?
— I have never chased after Khmelevskaya. Those novels are for women only.
— How do you explain that Gakov did not include a single one of your stories in his noted anthology «SF Twentieth Century: The View From Russia» [«Fantastika. XX vek. Vzgljad is Rossii»]?
— Evidently, I was not up to his standards.
— How did you begin to write?
— When I was not quite grown SF books for children were few and far between. I saw the films «Kaschei the Deathless» [«Kashchej Bessmertnyj»] and «Pioneer Vasja» [«Pioner Vasja»] and it seemed to me that kids might be interested in other things.
— Is China in the sphere of your interests? What do you think about the border agreements?
— China is in the sphere of my interests only aesthetically. Professionally I haven't the slightest relationship to China whatsoever. I study South-East Asia: Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia.
— Is there any interest in your works in the aforenamed countries?
— None whatsoever.
— Do you agree with those who say that there is a lower interest in reading in the West than in Russia?
— That's all relative. We often live in a world of ready-made myths. If you speak about SF, every year in America some 1600 new books are published. In Russia, somewhat fewer. That leads us to the question of the quality of the reader. Wise and talented people are distributed more or less evenly around the whole world. But in some countries they have no chance to realizing their potentials.
— Why did you name your daughter, and your heroine, Alice?
— First of all my daughter is named Alice, but that doesn't mean she reads my books any more than anyone else. I was searching for a unusual name, and I liked that one. Since then I've been accused of ripping off Lewis Carroll. The truth be told, Alice was at home and that's the name the character got.
— Do you write your scientific papers in the same plain, forthright style that you use for your other books?
— I try. I think that any work in the historical sciences should be intended for the readers, but I do know some writers, my own colleagues, who are interested not in what I wrote but in my footnotes.
— Do you consider yourself a better writer or a better scientist?
— It would be difficult for me to decide. For years and years I hid the fact that I was writing fiction on the side, especially at the Institute. Gradually, it became pointless.
— In your books one can detect an enormous respect for the Russian language. Is that because you had linguistic training?
— That's because I've read a lot of books. More precisely because I graduated from a translators program of a foreign languages Institute.
— What languages have you studied? Any of them exotic ones?
— Nothing exotic. My first language was English, the second Czech. In as much as I work at the Oriental Institute it may be said that I theoretically know Burmese. In the practical sense I do not know Burmese.
— Have any of your books been translated into other languages?
— A great deal. Right now in general they're being translated into Chinese. The Chinese do not pay in money. I have offered to build them a publishing house on the Tamansky Peninsula.
— What type of writer would you describe yourself as?
— In my opinion writers may be divided into two categories. One thinks out everything all the way through and in great detail in advance, and then sits down and starts to put it on paper. The second, and I'd number myself among them, does not know beforehand how the book will end, otherwise he'd find it uninteresting. While I write everything changes, otherwise I would get very bored. That's why I shall never become a great scientist.
— Why is it your book of poetry can't be found anywhere?
— That's because I published it myself with a print run of 500 copies. I wrote an encyclopedia for «The New Russian» — «How to become an educated historian in an hour and a half». This was a longer work. The encyclopedia came out as an insert in the newspaper «Book Review» [«Knizhnoe obozrenie»]. I had hoped it would come out with illustrations. Such a grandiose work should be illustrated.
— Do you find a knowledge of the natural sciences necessary for writing SF?
— Absolutely not. SF is fiction, a form of literature. As soon as a writer aspires to write of the hard science he's stopped writing fiction and started to write popular science. I am interested in the natural sciences the same as any educated person. You shouldn't write utter drive, but that's a question of your refinement.
— Did you ever have complications with the Censors?
— Yes, I did. But we are now exaggerating the meaning of the censorship. It was not the censor who made the decisions, but the writers themselves. They knew very well what they could write and what they could not write. When I wanted to write something I wasn't supposed to write, I wrote it and showed it to my wife and friends, but when I wanted the money I carried the publisher something they could print. I am not a revolutionary, but I always had «unprintable questions». Now, in general, they've been printed.
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(ñ) Êèð Áóëû÷åâ, 1997.
(ñ) ÒÎÎ ÒÄ "Áèáëèî-Ãëîáóñ", 1997.
(ñ) Äèçàéí Äìèòðèé Âàòîëèí, Ìèõàèë Ìàíàêîâ, 1998.
(ñ) Íàáîð òåêñòà, âåðñòêà, ïîäãîòîâêà Ìèõàèë Ìàíàêîâ, 1998-2007.
(ñ) Ïåðåâîä John H. Costello, 1999.
(ñ) Êîððåêòîð Ìàðèÿ Âåëèêàíîâà, 2000.
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