Russian Science Fiction Literature and Cinema: A Critical Reader

Russian Science Fiction Literature and Cinema: A Critical Reader

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Edited and introduced by Anindita Banerjee

Series: Cultural Syllabus
ISBN: 9781618117229 (hardcover) / 9781618117236 (paperback)
Pages: 400 pp.
Publication Date: March 2018

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Since the dawn of the Space Age, when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite and sent the first human into the cosmos, science fiction literature and cinema from Russia has fascinated fans, critics, and scholars from around the world. Informed perspectives on the surprisingly long and incredibly rich tradition of Russian science fiction, however, are hard to come by in accessible form. This critical reader aims to provide precisely such a resource for students, scholars, and the merely curious who wish to delve deeper into landmarks of the genre, discover innumerable lesser-known gems in the process, and understand why science fiction came to play such a crucial role in Russian society, politics, technology, and culture for more than a century.

Contributors include: Mark B. Adams, Anindita Banerjee, Lynn Barker, Eliot Borenstein, Aleksandr Chantsev, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Stephen Dalton, Dominic Esler, Elana Gomel, Andrew Horton, Yvonne Howell, Asif A. Siddiqi, Robert Skotak, Michael G. Smith, Vlad Strukov, Darko Suvin

Anindita Banerjee is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and a Faculty Fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University. She is the author of We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity (Wesleyan University Press, 2013), winner of the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Book Prize.


Cementing her reputation as a leading scholar of world sf, Anindita Banerjee’s edited collection Russian Science Fiction Literature and Cinema introduces readers to the rich tradition of sf in Russia, from the pre-Wellsian period to the present day. … Overall, Russian Science Fiction Literature and Cinema: A Critical Reader provides a much-needed pedagogical tool and informative collection for scholars and fans alike. As it ably demonstrates, Russian sf is a vibrant tradition that contributes to contemporary scholarship on ‘worlding’ sf—incorporating national and globally intersecting traditions beyond the imperial centers of European and American modernity.
— Caroline Edwards, Science Fiction Studies Vol. 46, No. 2
Russian Science Fiction and Literature: A Critical Reader consists of 15 remarkable texts on the history, developments and re-appropriations of the genre of science fiction in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian literature and film. The texts collected in this volume edited by Anindita Banerjee succeed in providing a comprehensive overview of a very broad spectrum of topics, approaches and transformations that have marked the developments of the genre of science fiction in Russia from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century. ... Each of the essays in this collection addresses science fiction in a markedly intersectional way. In doing so, the reader emphatically points not only to the genre’s national and regional significance, but also to its relations to other genres, its counterparts from the Western tradition of science fiction, its transformations across media, particularly literature and cinema, and its broader socio-cultural influences, inspirations and reverberations.
— Natalija Majsova, University of Antwerp, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema Vol. 12
This Critical Reader is a pioneering achievement, not least because it brings together, for the first time, important English-language essays on Russian and Soviet science fiction. … On the whole … the Reader does achieve Banerjee’s stated goal, to ‘highlight the treasure trove’ of Russian SF and its critical literature. Let’s hope this volume will stimulate many further studies in this still largely unexplored field of research.
— Matthias Schwartz, Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin, BASEES Newsletter
Russian Science Fiction Literature and Cinema ... offers a compelling investigation of the genre whose development was significantly reshaped in the second half of the 20th century. ... [The book] presents science fiction not only in terms of aesthetic inspirations and experimentations, but also in terms of political contestations and existential crises.
— Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed, New Books Network
This collection of scholarly articles related to the chronological history and development of Russian science fiction in film and literature is a valuable contribution to a little-studied genre.
— Ayse Dietrich, International Journal of Russian Studies
A decidedly scholarly work attempting to reconcile Soviet-era space race Sci-Fi with Cinema – also politics, technology and society – though one which remains particularly valuable given the paucity of any consistent accounts to date. It’s a comprehensive, and even exhaustive, read featuring a host of contributors and which, to varying extents, likely will appeal not just to those wanting a handle on the Sci-Fi/Cinema connection, but perhaps to Russophiles across-the-board, too.
— Screentrade Magazine, Spring 2018

Table of Contents

Anindita Banerjee. A Possible Strangeness: Reading Russian Science Fiction on the Page and the Screen

Darko Suvin. The Utopian Tradition of Russian Science Fiction
Mark B. Adams. Red Star: Another Look at Aleksandr Bogdanov
Anindita Banerjee. Generating Power
Asif A. Siddiqi. Imagining the Cosmos: Utopians, Mystics, and the Popular Culture of Spaceflight in Revolutionary Russia

Dominic Esler. Soviet Science Fiction of the 1920s: Explaining a Literary Genre in its Political and Social Context
Eliot Borenstein. The Plural Self: Zamjatin’s We and the Logic of Synecdoche
Andrew J. Horton. Science Fiction of the Domestic: Iakov Protazanov’s Aelita
Yvonne Howell. Eugenics, Rejuvenation, and Bulgakov’s Journey into the Heart of Dogness

Michael G. Smith. Stalinism and the Genesis of Cosmonautics
Lynn Barker and Robert Skotak. Klushantsev: Russia’s Wizard of Fantastika
Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Towards the Last Fairy Tale: The Fairy-Tale Paradigm in the Strugatskys’ Science Fiction, 1963–72
Stephen Dalton. Tarkovsky, Solaris, and Stalker

Elana Gomel. Viktor Pelevin and Literary Postmodernism in Soviet Russia
Vlad Strukov. The Forces of Kinship: Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch Cinematic Trilogy
Aleksandr Chantsev. The Antiuopia Factory: The Dystopian Discourse in Russian Literature in the Mid-2000s