Or, yet even more Russian-language books I have to read!
I keep forgetting to blog about this article I saw on Slate recently (it’s from July, when I first started work, so I missed it back then) called The Sci-Fi Writers’ War. It’s about Russian writers who have a conflict with Ukraine as a central focus of their novels. (Whether they truly “predicted” the current conflict in Ukraine, as the article asserts, is debatable.) The author categorizes these works as science fiction, but I think they sound more like a sort of alternate history. Admittedly I haven’t read any of these books, so I could be wrong.
Listen to the summaries of these novels. We’ll start with an author who lives in Donetsk, where a lot of the fighting is currently taking place:
A pro-Western, NATO-backed Ukrainian government faces a stubborn insurgency in the pro-Russian East. Fighting rages around Donetsk, with civilians dying in artillery fire and airstrikes, while Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border. The latest headlines? No, a two-novel series by Russian-Ukrainian science-fiction writer Fedor Berezin: War 2010: The Ukrainian Front and War 2011: Against NATO.
As if that isn’t enough, there’s more:
A forerunner of the genre, Omega, by veteran sci-fi/fantasy writer Andrei Valentinov, came out in 2005, shortly after Ukraine’s pro-Western Orange Revolution. It depicted three alternate-history versions of 2004, one of them a dystopia in which Crimea had been invaded and occupied by NATO forces in 1995; while the main characters were resistance fighters, they were both anti-Moscow and anti-NATO.
A far more straightforward vision of Russian good vs. Western evil is offered in The Age of the Stillborn by Gleb Bobrov, who like Berezin is an ethnic Russian from Eastern Ukraine (Luhansk) and an Afghanistan war veteran. The apocalyptic novel, set in a near future in which a brutal Kiev regime seeks to quash rebellion in the East with NATO help, was first published online in 2006 and became a hit on the Russian Internet before going to print in 2007.
And that’s not even all the novels mentioned.
Considering that I absolutely love this genre in English (Harry Turtledove writes a ton of alternate history that sounds a lot like these, and he’s one of my favorite authors ever), I need to read these books in Russian. I have entirely too many books to read (remember that Russian classics project I blogged about?). Believe me, every single one of these is going on my to-read list. It’s going to be amazing.
And who knows, maybe I’ll write some alternate history involving Ukraine soon.