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Mariano Martin Rodriguez

Sci Phi Journal 2023/4 – Winter Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of speculative philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but no less trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities and thought-provoking essays will serve as a cosy read for the winter months!

Enjoy the trip,

the Sci Phi crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2023/4

Lectori salutem.

Welcome to our 2023 Winter edition.

How time flies! T’is the fifth instance already that we write these words of introduction against the background of the Advent season, with Sinterklaas celebrations in Belgium and preparations afoot for Christmas and its sibling yuletide holidays.

“Alas, one cannot shake the feeling that it is not entirely appropriate for a publication dedicated to SF, a genre most commonly associated with the future, to avert its gaze towards the sentimentality of the path already travelled. Yet with the approach of the festive season, we permit ourselves this small indulgence.”

The above lines are quoted verbatim from the first winter editorial we had penned as co-editors back in 2019 – in a world before COVID-19, war on Europe’s Eastern frontier and the advent of generative AI. It almost feels like an alternate reality to our own.

Yet, undeterred, Sci Phi Journal’s present issue intends to do just that – transport you to alternate realities which, even if they do not always take themselves entirely seriously, provide ample food for thought and, may we say, speculation. The original fiction created by our merry band of authors range from mathematical and theological conundrums to legal fantasy and epic world-building, complimented by another hitherto unpublished imaginary city by Săsărman. The selection is rounded off by two essays on the relationship between science-fiction and music, and the narrative potential of strategic (war)games, respectively.

So it appears befitting to recourse back to our erstwhile editorial in order to quote its parting words (with merely the markers of time removed):

“The entire team thanks you for your companionship along the journey and looks forward to sailing forth to bring you more cutting-edge philosophical speculation.

We wish all our readers, authors and contributors a merry Christmas and an auspicious start into the New Year!”

So say we all.

Speculatively yours,

the Sci Phi co-editors & crew

~

Sci Phi Journal 2023/3 – Autumn Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of speculative philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but no less trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities and thought-provoking essays will serve as a cosy read for the autumn months!

Enjoy the trip,

the Sci Phi crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2023/3

Lectori salutem.

Welcome to our 2023 Autumn edition.

As summer gives way to fall in the northern hemisphere, several members of the crew watch their children start primary school and set out to accompany them on the journey of “learning the world” (to borrow an SF title). The awe experienced by youth in encountering the countless novelties still in store for them can often inspire a yearning for a renewed taste of the same in those more advanced in years. In the ‘golden age’, that quest was once seen as the prime mover of speculative fiction. And it is that same ‘Sense of Wonder’ which, in their various tiny ways, our stories and articles seek to explore this time around.

Both essays featured in this issue navigate the publishing landscape and editorial currents prevalent in the SF of the past and present, respectively, and the striving for novel angles on well-worn themes which sought to offer readers something new to think about with each turn of the page. We hope that in the ten works of fiction that form the body of this quarterly edition, every curious mind will find the odd bit to ponder. As often in this publication, they span the breadth of time from the Earth of antiquity to the Dyson-clad suns of the far future.

Excursions off the beaten track are, of course, not always welcome in this day and age. The story “A Rejection” resonated in particular with co-editor Mariano owing to his experience of having his research paper on non-heterosexual utopias rejected out of hand (i.e. without peer review) by a leading journal in the field of gay studies, for he had unearthed works of fiction which do not cleave to currently accepted orthodoxy. For more on this, see also his previous article on peer-enforced intellectual conformity, c.f. horizontal totalitarianism.

In a rebellious vein, we also resume the publication of the “missing” chapters from Georghe Săsărman’s imaginary cities – those that had not been available in English thus far. This time we include the most controversial, which Ursula Le Guin had declined to include when she translated the Romanian SF master’s urban fantasy flash cycle. The story is brought to life here through Monica Cure’s skilful English translation.

Enjoy the ride!

Speculatively yours,

the Sci Phi co-editors & crew

~

Sci Phi Journal 2023/2 – Summer Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of speculative philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities and thought-provoking essays will serve as a cosy read for the summer holidays!

Enjoy the trip,

the Sci Phi crew

~

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2023/2

Lectori salutem.

Welcome to our 2023 Summer edition.

While the spring had started quietly, to our surprise this turned out to be another bumper issue, containing ten original short stories loosely arranged around two themes: the possibility of communication (and the lack thereof) between different forms of intelligence, and the lore, history and mythology humans tend to build around concepts both real (wine, for instance) and fantastical (such as magical artefacts).

We are also featuring three essays which, each in their own way, tie into the ideas mentioned above, by examining works of fiction that deal with these issues in both written and audio-visual media.

The Sci Phi editors and team have also had some serious conversations with fellow SF practitioners and friends of speculation on the potential near-future impact of machine-generated literary and artistic content. We have come to the conclusion that, for now, we simply don’t know how to predict the extent to which the blanket deployment of these novel technologies will displace or empower individual creativity – there will likely be instances of both in equal measure.

Sci Phi Journal is not against the use of “artificial intelligence” as an expressive tool, per se, and even if we were, the tide of progress would merely wash over our objections. However, for the time being, we would like to hang on to the aspect of speculative fiction that brought us to this genre in the first place: the companionship of wonder. Communing with the visionary mind of the human author behind a story or artwork, and then engaging in rapt discussions with fellow fans to tease out the underlying ideas: these are some of the supreme pleasures of SF.

Therefore, until further notice, we will continue to publish only writing and illustrations wrought by human hand, harking back to the aesthetics of the pre-AI era.

This may or may not be wise. Time will tell. Meanwhile, enjoy the ride!

Speculatively yours,

the Sci Phi co-editors & crew

~

Sci Phi Journal 2023/1 – Spring Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of Speculative Philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities will serve as a cosy and thought-provoking read for the balmy days of spring!

Enjoy the trip,

the Sci Phi crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2023/1

Lectori salutem.

Members of the Sci Phi Journal crew started the year quick on their feet, roaming the world in search of inspiration and interesting conversation partners. Co-editor Mariano continued his quest for rarities deserving to be more widely known; some of his latest discoveries are reported in a comprehensive paper on early Latin European high fantasy published in our scholarly sister journal Hélice. Meanwhile, his colleague Ádám was particularly touched by the warm welcome extended to him by futurist Taiyo Fujii and Hirotaka Osawa, chairman of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan. Over many a steaming bowl of tea under the arching bookshelves of Sarugakuchō’s still surviving Tsutaya bookstore, they lamented the fading art of traditional publishing – an industry that, like most creative sectors, finds itself caught between the dual pressures of automation fuelled by artificial intelligence, on the one hand, and various strands of ideologies intent on curbing the freedom of expression, on the other.

Some things, though, remain unchanged. This latest issue of Sci Phi Journal carries on its old-school mission of bringing you stories ranging the width of speculative philosophy, from contemplative theology to light-hearted flights of fancy – all written and illustrated by actual humans.

Apropos fancy. When faced with the rise of censorious tendencies in print and online, we couldn’t help but commit the following ditty to paper:

Once upon a time in Cacophonia,
All words were equal and free to fret,
Till the ruckus offended the arbiters
Who put a speedy end to that.

In their terabytes of wisdom, they
Separated Bad talk from the Good,
Banished the former to naughty corners
Lest further dissonance be afoot.

Four-letter words were first to go,
For they make innocent maidens blush.
Then came jabs, jokes, and teases,
And detractors were told to “hush”.

Soon it was frowned upon to question,
To query, per change to moot.
The mavens wanted harmony, thus
Unruly thoughts were given the boot.

The naughty corners grew and grew.
Few Good words were left to abide,
And they eavesdropped longingly on
Lively banter from the unapproved side…

Speculatively yours,

the Sci Phi co-editors & crew

~

Sci Phi Journal 2022/4 – Winter Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of Speculative Philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities will serve as a cosy and thought-provoking read for the winter holidays!

Enjoy the trip,

the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/4

Lectori salutem.

As 2022 is drawing to a close, the wider world will no doubt pause and ponder the events of the past twelve months – some of which, like the return of full-scale military conflict to the European continent, would have been considered science fiction just a year ago. But those of us drawn to future-bound speculation will also remark on the heady mix of technological developments that burst into the collective consciousness and may have an epoch-defining impact on creative domains formerly considered the dominion of humans.

Our cover image reflects one such phenomenon: the rise of AI art. The picture gracing the Journal’s front page is still entirely hand-drawn, yet its creator, Dustin Jacobus, contemplates in an op-ed that which may be lost all too soon with the advent of machine art.

Mindful of the warm glow of Christmas and its associated winter holidays, though, the present issue is filled with the otherworldly and wry, even humorous side of spec fic, though not without darker, more menacing tones lurking between the lines. Staples of sci-fi and fantasy make an appearance, from AIs to elves, rubbing shoulders with alien artefacts and furry critters, intertwined with visions of alternate realities and the afterlife.

Such mixed omens seem to colour discussions also at European sci-fi gatherings. Most recently, our co-editor Mariano presented Sci Phi Journal and our sister publication, Revista Hélice, during last month’s SF convention in Barcelona at a round table on the relationship between fandom and academia. With the two journals seeking to serve as a bridge between both uplifting and light-hearted speculation as well as serious academic thought about SF and philosophy, it was remarked that the genre itself is straddling both modes of thought, frequently oscillating between pessimism and euphoria.

To continue the conversation, you may wish to catch fellow co-editor Ádám at the first instalment of #AskTheEditors, a new series of live web meetings with a rotating panel of sci-fi & fantasy magazine editors, where (as the title suggests) the audience is encouraged to pepper the virtual podium with questions. The inaugural episode is scheduled for Saturday, 7 January 2023 at 17h00 Central European Time (contemporary with 08h00 Pacific Standard Time).

But for the present, we extend Christmas greetings to all our fellow SF readers and practitioners, and hope that the New Year will bring us closer to, rather than further from, Utopia.

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew

~

Sci Phi Journal 2022/3 – Autumn Issue For Download

Sci Phi Journal‘s 2022 Autumn Issue features another glorious cover art by Utopia Award finalist Dustin Jacobus and our customary melange of speculative philosophical fiction and essays off the beaten track.

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of SFF on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, you can download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope you enjoy the trip,

the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/3

Lectori salutem.

More by happenstance than by assertion of intent, our Autumn 2022 issue features stories that circumnavigate themes of language and perception, both at individual and anthropological levels, as these tend to gravitate towards each other on our editing desks. Sometimes, ideas seem to exert a mutual pull of attraction on the platonic plain, and we are but swept along.

This time around, our imaginary voyages shall range from the ancient past (incl. Sasarman’s classic Isopolis, hitherto unpublished in English), via alternate interpretations of the present reality we live in, to reports of future leaps of human evolution and far-flung planets with societies very different from our own.

A common concern amidst these tales is that how we perceive our relationship to our environs, our predicament in life, or our station within the wider community, is a substantive determining factor in a person’s picture of reality – even independently of external, material circumstances. It is hard to conceive of concepts we do not have words for. Thus, it can be uncomfortable to be made to think outside the “box” – or the dictionary. But language (as well as technology) can also be used as conduits to reprogramme minds, if the stimuli involved are sufficiently pervasive and persistent.

In this vein, our co-editor Mariano had recently returned from an immersive linguistic expedition of his own in the Swiss canton of Graubünden (or Grischun in local Rhaeto-Romance parlance), home to the speakers of Romansh. Having sufficiently recovered from his language lessons, he is now ready to publish his findings on the fantastic and speculative fiction that thrives with surprising vigour within that arcane literary corpus. Mina is also back with an essay on “proper and improper monsters,” exploring the shades of differences along the spectrum that spans from Frankenstein to futuristic cyborgs.

And as always, we thank you for your continued support on this journey of epistemic exploration – all aboard!

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew

~

Peaks Of Imagination: Speculative And Fantastic Fiction In Romansh

by Mariano Martín Rodríguez

Among the super-minority languages of Europe, there is one, Romansh, which may count itself as one of the richest in literary terms on the continent, at least relative to the small number of its speakers. They barely amount to fifty thousand, but looking at their literature, we will be astonished not only by the large number of works published, but also and above all by their quality, as suggested by their translations into other languages, firstly into German, but also into French, Romanian, and even English. One of them is already an undisputed classic of the postmodern fiction of our century, Arno Camenisch’s Sez Ner (The Alp,[1] 2009), just as Gian Fontana’s short novel about rural xenophobia and its totalitarian manifestation, “Il president da Valdei” (The Mayor of Valdei, 1935), is a classic of 20th-century fiction.

Both works belong to the genre of rural realist fiction that predominates in Romansh literature, as would be appropriate for a language spoken in small villages in various valleys of the Swiss canton of Graubünden. However, fantasy and speculative literature (or, rather, literatures) have also been brilliantly cultivated. In fact, to speak of a unified Romansh language or literature is not entirely accurate, as there are several regional linguistic standards with their corresponding literatures. Rumantsch Grischun, which is used by the cantonal and Federal administration, is a recent syncretic linguistic standard which does not correspond to any particular dialect and whose literature is, in any case, limited. Romansh literature is expressed in three main regional variants: Surmiran (surmiran, spoken in the Surmeir area situated in the centre of Graubünden), Ladin (ladin, spoken in the Swiss county by the Inn river called Engadine, a variety sub-divided into two subregional standards, the Southern one, called puter, and the Northern one, called vallader) and Sursilvan (sursilvan, in Surselva, in the valley of the Anterior Rhine, which extends from the source of the river to the vicinity of the cantonal capital Chur).

These main three standards of the Raetho-Romance Swish group have a similar relationship to each other as Gascon, Occitan (which has two concurrent rules, Provençal and Languedocian) and Catalan do in the Southern Gallo-Romance group, with Catalan as the most powerful, orthographically and grammatically stable, and culturally relevant language. In Romansh, mutatis mutandis, Sursilvan, the language of the aforementioned Fontana and Camenisch, would be equivalent to Catalan within the Rhaeto-Romance group, which also includes the Ladin dialects of the Dolomites in South Tyrol, now part of Italy. For this reason, this overview of speculative and fantastic fiction in Romansh focuses on Sursilvan, although it should not be forgotten that there are also works of great interest in the other varieties, including in Dolomitic Ladin. For example, their traditional oral literature is allegedly the origin of the legendary matter of the kingdom of Fanes, which has all the characteristics of high fantasy. Unfortunately, this rich mythological and heroic matter, which could rival that which inspired the Finnish Kalevala (1835/1849), seems to be nothing more than a display of fakelore, and even an example of cultural appropriation. It was first published in 1913 by the folklorist Karl Felix Wolff in German, under the title Das Reich der Fanes (The Kingdom of Fanes), but the compiler omitted to include a single line of it in one or the other of the Ladino dialects in which he claimed it had been orally transmitted. Later, there have been several versions of the legend in German and Italian, but only one in Dolomitic Ladin, Angel Morlang’s tragedy Fanes da Zacan (Fanes from Days Gone, 1951).

There are no legends, genuine or false, resembling those of the Fanes in the proper Romansh Kulturdialekte, which are the Surmiran standard and the two varieties of Engadine Ladin. The local production of fantasy is an artistic and individual endeavour. In Surmeir, there is a portal fantasy novel Sindoria (Sindoria, 2013) by Dominique Dosch, which takes place in parallel in our primary world and in a secondary world designated by the name in the title. In Engadine, one of the modern classics is a humorous and acerbic roman à clef entitled La renaschentscha dals Patagons (The Revival of the Patagons, 1949). The Patagonians of the title are none other than the Romansh exposed to the activism of certain intellectuals who would have wished to import the premises and methods of European ethno-nationalism to the region, following above all the Catalan models. Rather than the narrative itself, the most interesting part of the book is perhaps the series of fictional non-fiction reports on the imaginary country of the Patagonians, its organisation and customs. Years later, Ladin writers from Engadine led the modernisation of fantastic and speculative literature in the Romansh-speaking region thanks to a couple of short-story collections by Clo Duri Bezzola and Ana Pitschna Grob-Ganzoni, respectively. The former, entitled Da l’otra vart da la saiv (On the Other Side of the Edge, 1960), includes a masterful fantastic tale entitled “Tube to Nowhere” (Tube to Nowhere), which is set on a London Underground train that ends up in an undefined and mysterious Kafkaesque space. The second, entitled Ballas de savon (Soap Bubbles, 1970), is composed of three short stories: a high fantasy entitled “La clav dal paradis” (The Key to Paradise), a theological fantasy entitled “Ormas dal diavel” (Devil’s Souls) and a highly original science fiction entitled “Inua vi?” (Where?), which takes place on a spaceship and is narrated in the first person by a woman whose emotions are expressed in a highly poetic style that makes this text an outstanding example of lyrical SF prose narration.

In Sursilvan there is a large amount of genuine oral literature, sometimes of pagan origin, such as the short aetiological myths featuring wild men that Caspar Decurtins collected in 1901, in the same volume in which he published the “Canzun da sontga Margriata” (The Song of Saint Margriata), the best-known Romansh folk narrative poem. Despite her name, the main character seems to be a fertility goddess who passes herself off as a shepherd and, after her true sex is discovered (to speak of gender would be anachronistic here), abandons the fields, which become barren. A similar plot is used by other texts conceived as artistic literature, but which are presented as folk texts, such as the tale “Il nurser da Ranasca e la diala nursera” (The Shepherd from Ranasca and the Fairy Shepherdess, 1941) by Guglielm Gadola, and the poem “La diala” (The Fairy, 1925) by Gian Fontana, the brevity and concision of which make its story of the abuse of a fairy by shepherds in a mythical time all the more atrocious.

Other folktales collected by Decurtins were used in a modern Romansh Decameron, set in the Middle Ages and entitled Historias dil Munt Sogn Gieri (Stories from Mount Saint George, 1916), authored by Flurin Camathias. The stories included are for the most part gracefully versified renditions of local folktales that follow the conventional motifs and plots of the fairy tale. We even encounter the traditional combat between knights and dragons, though told with pleasant humour. An exception is “Il sogn cristal” (The Holy Cristal), which describes a Catholic mystical vision related to the Holy Grail.

Whereas Camathias versified oral tales in prose, Sep Mudest Nay did the opposite by developing in prose a popular song (even in our days) entitled “Il salep e la furmicla” (The Grasshopper and the Ant), which Nay turned into a tragicomic, almost neo-realist tale, despite its fabulous subject matter and insect characters. This is perhaps the best-known example of a whole series of stories featuring animals as allegorical figures of humans, as in Gian Fontana’s story “Corvin e Corvina” (Corvin and Corvina, 1971), or living in a fictional secondary world embedded in nature in the manner of Rudyard Kipling’s beast fantasies, as it is the case in Rico Tamburnino’s books entitled Igl uaul grond (The Big Forest, 1988) and Ratuzin (Ratuzin, 1990).

The Sursilvan fantasies mentioned so far are closely related to forms of oral literature, even if their writing is not, since the authors generally strive to offer literary versions, stylistically and structurally much more sophisticated than the folk texts themselves. They are works of literary art, not mere transcribed folklore, as befits a literature that had achieved standardisation by the end of the 19th century, during the so-called Renaschientscha revivalist period, parallel in some ways to that of the Catalan Renaixença. That normalisation, which at first followed (neo)Romantic patterns also in Surselva, became gradually more modernised in its literary outlook. The process was, however, rather slow. Highly original symbolist fantastic prose poems such as “Verdad” (Truth) and “Buntad” (Goodness), were published in 1971, decades after the death of their author, Gian Fontana. A fantastic tale as innovative as Gian Caduff’s “L’uldauna” (The Undine, 1924), which combines psychological fiction, allegory and pagan legend, went virtually unnoticed.

The full alignment of Surselvan literature with modern international trends in speculative fiction was, in fact, something that took place after the Second World War. The main architect of this was Toni Halter. In 1955 he published Culan da Crestaulta (Culan from Crestaulta), a novel set in the Rhaetian Alps in proto-historic times. Its hero, Culan, manages to bring the technology of bronze metallurgy to his village, Crestaulta, which was technologically still in the Neolithic period, after numerous adventures that Halter narrates in a perfectly balanced way between fast-paced action, with hunting and war scenes and even a criminal intrigue, and the detailed recreation of the atmosphere of that time and place. In doing this, he takes full account of both natural and cultural conditioning factors, including power relations among the populations, as well as the way in which customs and beliefs shape mentalities and personal and collective agency. If we add to this the plausibility of the psychological characterisation of its characters, especially the protagonist from adolescence to maturity, and the richness and flexibility of its style, it is perhaps no exaggeration to consider Culan da Crestaulta a world masterpiece of its kind of fiction. In any case, it is an undisputed and repeatedly reprinted classic of Romansh fiction.

Culan da Crestaulta interestingly includes a couple of narrative samples from the invented mythology of the peoples evoked in the novel, so that these examples of mythopoiesis makes the novel all the more appealing as speculative fiction. A later writer, Ursicin G. G. Derungs, did the same in perhaps his most famous story, “Il cavalut verd” (The Little Green Horse), which gives its title to the collection in which it appeared, Il cavalut verd ed auter (The Green Little Horse and Other Things, 1988). That ‘little green horse’ appears one day in an Alpine village to the astonishment and consternation of the adults and the joy and delight of the children, to whom he tells of his origin in an earlier, peaceful, paradisiacal natural world in which everything was permeated by bright colours and music. Its appearance and disappearance are fantastic, but the questioning it implies of the primary reality is not a source of horror, but of wonder. It is also a cause for sadness arising from the conviction that something so beautiful could not remain in our present world. The critique implicit therein is expressed in other speculative stories from the same collection, in which Derungs shows the rhetorical sophistication of his writing. For example, in “Il papa che saveva buca crer en Diu” (The Pope That Could Not Believe in God), a pseudo-historiographical narrative shows the hypocrisy of an official Catholic Church that accepts an atheist Pope, but not his decision to live in the world according to the Gospel. In the short imaginary historiographical text “Ils plats” (The Flat People), a mysterious disease flattening people and its consequences are described using a literary technique that can be considered science-fictional. Other stories by Derungs from the same book are also good examples of speculative fiction of the fantastic kind, such as “La sala de spetga” (The Waiting Room), where that venue is a Kafkaesque symbolic place suggesting an anguishing concept of human existence, and “Niessegner sper il lag dils siemis” (Our Lord by the Lake of Dreams), a masterly Borgesian tale of divine suspension of the flow of time. However, Derungs rarely eschews social criticism in his speculative fiction. This can easily be seen, for example, in a former tale entitled “Correspondenza cul purgatieri” (Letters from Purgatory, published in the 1982 volume Il saltar dils morts (The Dance of the Dead), a highly original vision of the different planes of that theological venue from a rather social perspective, from the hell of selfishness to the utopia that precedes the ineffable space of Heaven.

Other writers of Derungs’s generation adopted similar approaches to speculative fiction, conflating it with social criticism, although not as consistently as he did. Notable works in this vein are, for example, Theo Candinas’ “Descripziun d’in stabiliment” (Description of a Plant, 1974), a piece of fictional non-fiction adopting the highly original form of an architectural and topographical description of the exterior of an industrial slaughterhouse in order to criticise the Swiss party system, and Toni Berther’s “Ils ratuns vegnan” (Rats Are Coming, 1978), which is a kind of historiographical account of a small town’s efforts to attract tourism by organising rat-hunting parties and the catastrophic consequences of the proliferation of these intelligent animals. The black humour of the story and its narrative fluency make of Berther’s parable an effective anti-tourism dystopia.

After this flowering of the speculative and fantastic tale in Surselva, which coincided with the same phenomenon in Engadine, as we saw in the above-mentioned works by Bezzola and Grob-Ganzoni, the following years witnessed the hegemony of postmodernism also in this linguistic area. As a result, realism, albeit sometimes formally innovative as in Arno Camenisch’s case, virtually excluded speculative and fantastic fiction from current Romansh literature. With the exception of the short novel L’umbriva dil temps (The Shadow of Time, 2017) by Paula Casutt-Vinzenz, in which life in a Bronze Age village is recreated with pleasant verisimilitude and from a female perspective, Sursilvan speculative fiction took refuge mainly in young adult literature, especially in the form of high fantasies following global sets of conventions. So do the two novels written by young lady authors entitled Emalio (Emalio, 2015) by Flurina Albin and Stina Hendry and Oranja (Oranja, 2021) by Stella Sennhauser. While the latter reads as a sort of compensatory teenage fantasy, the former shows a surprising maturity in the description of the characters’ motives and actions, as well as a good command of narrative, within the limits of the simple writing style common to the genre of high fantasy in the 21st century.

Novels such as Emalio give hope that Romansh fantastic and speculative fiction could recover at some point from its current postmodern crisis and, after having adopted high fantasy, may undertake the task of filling in its main gap, the science fiction novel. Even without doing so, the Romansh language in general, and Sursilvan in particular, can still boast of having one of the richest literatures in Europe in relative terms to its small number of speakers, also with regard to fantastic and speculative fiction.


[1] Titles in italics are those of translated works in English that I am aware of. In this case, this short novel by Camenish was translated into English from Romansh, but from the German version written by the author himself. All the other translations mentioned in this essay were published in the following book: The Curly-Horned Cow: Anthology of Swiss-Romansh Literature, edited by Reto R. Bezzola, translated from the Ladin by Elizabeth Maxfield Miller and from the Surselvan by W. W. Kibler, London, Peter Owen, 1971.

~

Sci Phi Journal 2022/2 – Summer Issue for Download as PDF

Sci Phi Journal‘s 2022 Summer Issue comes out hot on heels of this nerdy publication winning the European Award for Best SF Magazine – and it’s brimming with more off-beat essays and speculative philosophical fiction than ever.

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of SFF on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, you can download your free PDF copy just below.

Enjoy,

the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/2

Lectori salutem.

We write these words humbled by the developments of recent months. When word was sent, back in April, that Sci Phi Journal would be an award finalist at EuroCon, the annual gathering of the European SF family, it was more than we had ever thought possible for our exceptionally nerdy sub-genre: speculative philosophy (or “sci phi”).

Indeed, we’d have been happy to make the journey to Luxembourg simply to commune with like-minded (and, even more so, with contrarian) readers and other members of fandom, and render our homage unto the eventual laureates.

You may then imagine our astonishment when, at a dramatic moment during the ceremony, the announcement came for the Best SF Magazine award and the Sci Phi logo appeared on the mighty overhead screen, emblazoned over the grand auditorium. The conférencier had to call us out twice before we were able to arise, such was our surprise.

Unbeknownst to us, over the course of the convention weekend, the assembly of the European Science Fiction Society (ESFS) had voted to elevate Sci Phi Journal into the “hall of fame” of European SF. In the tapestry of our continent’s speculative literature, where much of each country’s output and nominations are (understandably) specific to their linguistic island, it was a rare moment to have an award bestowed upon an English-language magazine, published in Belgium, cross-nominated by Hungary, and run by a ragtag crew ranging from Malaysia to Spain.

Thus, in line with the sentiment we sought to express in our improvised acceptance speech, we hope for this award to be the pylon of a bridge. One little piece in a chain of many links to bring Europe’s fragmented literary and publishing landscape closer together. And a source of encouragement for the endeavours of authors and thinkers, who seek to tell timeless (rather than timely) stories, for whom speculative fiction is more than just literary entertainment or public activism, but rather an epic tool for philosophical enquiry.

To avail ourselves of an oft abused word: we feel that this once-in-a-lifetime award “validates” the editorial approach that Sci Phi Journal stands for. A respect for classic rhetorical standards; carefully guarded intellectual independence; and a commitment to keep our little bit of literature unshackled from the fashionable agendas of the day.

Much to our delight, the journey doesn’t end here. At the start of summer, Dustin Jacobus was shortlisted for a 2022 Utopia Award in recognition of his work on our cover art, in addition to another nomination in the non-fiction category (citing Eric Hunting’s essay “On Solarpunk”).

Onward, then! Let us carry the torch further still into the twilit corridors of the Library of Babel

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew

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Sci Phi Journal wins 2022 European Award for Best SF Magazine!

We are stunned and speechless – though still just about able to type! 🙂

At the 2022 EuroCon in Dudelange, Luxembourg, the European Science Fiction Society (ESFS) voted to honour Sci Phi Journal with the Hall of Fame Award for Best SF Magazine.

This is a fantastic moment for our all-volunteer crew and for the Journal’s mission to bring high-quality, concept-driven, philosophical SF from Europe and beyond to a world-wide audience.

We thank our authors, illustrators and readers from the heart for having shared this journey with us since our re-launch in 2018. And we thank you for your continued support for our non-profit publication and its commitment to offer semi-pro financial recognition to both established and emerging SF authors for their work.

Check our the list of all Award recipients across 12 categories for a flavour of the richness and diversity of European SF in all its contemporary glory!

THANK YOU – WE COULDN’T HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT YOU!

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