A Short History of Russian "Fantastica"/Supplement 1 to part 4
THE SCANDALOUS CHRONICLE OF SCIENCE FICTION.
A while back Y. Medvedev's story PROTEY was published by the Molodaya Gvardia Publishing House in the anthology SIMPLE SECRETS (Moscow, 1988, in an edition of 75,000 copies). It was published twice more - over 2 million copies up to now. And in it many Soviet readers read, with great consternation, the following words.
"Shervinsky: I would tell more about divine enlightenment after this meeting with the "brain" , now I am touching on the words: "and sea skunks' entrance under water... I am not interested very much in sea skunks. But skunks on land... I thought: "Will I have another opportunity to become a thing of the past? Will I take a chance?" For many years I was stirred about the mystery of death; not even of death, but the loathsome events which happened soon after the death of one world-famous scientist and writer of the last century, who was a great traveler, historian, philosopher and prophet.
The events were thus: after a false denunciation, the crowd of curious citizens, with appropriate certificates, appeared suddenly in the house of the sick man. They turned everything upside down, turned through the manuscripts page by page, looked over books, letters, personal effects, examined with a mine detector all the walls and even the urn holding the remains of the deceased. You may ask, what did they look for? They found one-and-a-half tons of gold, which the master seemed to have brought back from distant journeys. Certainly it is nonsense, delirium, banana oil; everybody understood that, and most of the curious also, because money was nothing to the scientist, nor the car, cottage or expensive things - oh, it was an good illustration of the social and even intellectual prestige of the scientist in that bygone century! So, you know these yourselves. So, all my life I tormented myself with the question: who denounced, scribbled about, fabricated the banana oil about the filthy lucre, and to what object. Though the object is very clear - his right name was kept covered for nine years after that search. It was struck even out of crosswords. In medieval Russia it was called "The deed of the dead".
The Chairman: You are distracted, Mr. Senior Inspector! These events are really loathsome, but not important to today's talks.
Shervinsky: But if they can happen after your death, are they not very important? Or after mine? You can imagine that as difficult, do you not? But his relatives, his friends, disciples - could they imagine such an enormous blasphemy after his death?... Though, I will finish... I saw those people, who devised this delirium, who urged on this base search. I saw two men, two relatives. One of them is skinny, acrimonious, an exact inquisitor. He excels in baseness, even the starry sky through he telescope he can butcher with a Galactic scale, with hatred for everything that is moral, harmonious, beautiful and eternal. The other is corpulent and goitrous, like a turkey. He is an informer, loudmouthed, against everyone, a pen-pusher, fiction writer and translator. When the world-famous genius was alive, they were together said to be his disciples, and it happened that the teacher defended them, but after his death they never telephoned his widow.
I saw the ins and out of baseness, the microstructure of envy. And if only for such a discovery I may some day lose my life. Don't worry, the same thing happened the 8th Magelian..." [Taken from UNUSUAL SECRETS anthology - Moscow, Molodaya Cvardia, 1988; Y. Medvedev, E. Gryshko A. Bachilo, editor M. Takachenko - (Efremov's School) - 75,000 copies]
Really, any reader, if he knows even a little fantasy, can easily recognize this world -famous scientist and writer, whose house was searched after his death - of course, this is the classic Soviet fantast Ivan Efremov (author of the novels ANDROMEDA, THE BULL'S HOUR, THE RAZOR'S EDGE, etc) and he would recognize the "informer-friends" - they are the most famous Soviet science fiction writers the brothers Arcady and Boris Strugatsky.
The fantasy readers reaction was: the All-Union Council of the Fantasy Amateur's Club appealed with an open letter to V. I. Plshchenko, the director of the All-Union Creative Society of Young Fantasy Writers. This was the gist of the letter:
We and other members of the Fantasy Amateurs' Club in this country have had ample time to listen to your various assurances that you personally are opposed to the split in Soviet fantasy. Besides, you have repeatedly insisted that the All-Union Creative Society of Young Fantasy Writers attached to the "Molodaya Gvardia" Publishing House has given up using the printed word for any argument and paying off of old scores.
The publishing of Y. Medvedev's story PROTEY in the anthology AN UNUSUAL SECRET indicates something different. This story is an unprecedented occurrence in Soviet Science Fiction. This story is immoral; it outrages A. and B. Strugatsky and its denunciation is provocative and cynical, and it is obvious that no explanation is sought. It is remarkable, and this is not the first time that Medvedev has used such an unscrupulous method. Fantasy Amateurs remember this author's story BAKERS' DOZEN OF OSCARS - it is a disgusting lampoon about A. A. Tarkovsky. Such "Literature" of Medvedev's rises straight from his own viewpoint, which became infamous at the beginning of the 70's. At that time Medvedev was appointed a director of the fantasy section of the "Molodaya Gvardla" Publishing House, and he began the rout of Soviet science fiction literature and the persecution of its best representatives.
We are asking you, on behalf of numerous fantasy amateurs: how can you combine your appeals to all authors and Clubs to "Live Together" with your publication of Medvedev's story?
- - The All-Union Council of Fantasy Amateur's Clubs.
And many letters demanding an explanation of the situation poured down on each edition. The official editions kept silent; only amateur magazines published fans' letters (for example "VESTNICE GLF). The fans' bewilderment blew over a little, then the Strugatsky brothers sent all clubs the following letter:
- To the Council of Fantasy of the USSR
- To the Council of Fantasy of the RSFSR
- To the Council of FAC To the Council of ACS
- To all Fantasy Amateurs' Clubs
We must inform you of the fact that Yury Medvedev, in the story PROTEY in the pages of the anthology AN USUAL SECRET by the numbers 3 and 4 tells of the event of the search in the death flat of I. A. Efremov, not giving out names, but in an unambiguous manner he accused us, Arcady and Boris Strugatsky, that we wrote denunciation our dead teacher and benefactor. We understand that our numerous verbal and written statements about Y. Medvedev's activity, which was destroying Soviet science fantasy - our statements could arouse the greatest enmity in him of us.
We understand that he would not answer our queries, and this statement would inflame him to the greatest hatred.
But there was a limit - the slanderous lampoon with a circulation of 70,000 copies. This is the answer of a drag and a coward - it cannot be forgotten.
We haven't decided yet as to whether we would bring the case before the law. The lampoon is completely skilful and the answer to the question "Who is it in this lampoon" is very obvious to every "fan", but it is not obvious enough for justice, which is far from the history of Soviet fantasy. Except, in accordance with Clause 130 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, "The libel in a published work will be punishable by imprisonment for a period of three years (only), or by corrective labor for a period of one year." So any spoiler can hope to get off with a small scare.
However we are quite sure, that all our "fan" friends, all societies, who are connected in any way with Soviet fantasy, will add their weighty words, without needing the "Law".
We are addressing this to the Councils of all these organisations; asking them to give careful consideration to the writer Medvedev's action, and to express their opinion of this slanderous lampoon and its author.
There is an old German proverb: "Every pig can give a slice of ham" or, in Russian, "There is a black sheep in every flock". Our lampooner reminds us that the strange search at the deceased flat, and the attempted oblivion of I. A. Efremov - that it may be extremely black today, but also that a very secret event occurred in our science fiction's history. It seems to us that now is the time to decipher this mystery.
We are inviting all the Councils to combine efforts and address an inquiry to the State Security Council with an appropriate letter on behalf of all Soviet Fantastic writers and also all fantasy fans. In actuality, there is talk about the public rehabilitation of I. A. Efremov (the private one was some time ago, thank goodness).
We want answers to some questions:
- What such terrible crime did the greatest fantastic writer in the USSR commit, that his name was placed under a ban for so many years after his death?
- What thing were they looking for in his flat - was it really gold or a manuscript of a certain secret novel? (Such was a version of the story).
- Everybody understands now that certain mistakes were made at that time. Who is the author of this denunciation? What is his name? And where is he now working? What punishment did he receive because of this falsehood and slander? And was he punished at all?
- - Arcady & Boris Strugatsky,
January , 1989.
None of these questions have been answered up till now.
They remain unanswered. And Yury Medvedev didn't think the affair needed a public apology to the writers whom he slandered. It is vague now as to what will be the next step. But we can say very definitely that it is quite inadmissible to use Soviet fantasy for a slanderous purpose. As one of the fans said: "After these pages I want to go and wash my hands".
- -Andrew Lubensky
- Cherkassy City
- USSR 257005.