Did the First SF Magazine Appear in Russia in 1894?


As many of you know, I’m a fan of the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin and I decided on the title of my novel A Calculated Life when I read this sentence from his science fiction dystopia, We:

But a thought swarmed in me; what if he, this yellow-eyed being – in his ridiculous, dirty bundle of trees, in his uncalculated life – is happier than us?
The ‘yellow-eyed being’ was a human, one of many, excluded from the perfect world of ‘One State’.An article in io9 this week, Did the very first science fiction magazine appear in Russia in 1894?, gives fascinating insights into Zamyatin and the emergence of Scientific Fantasy, Nauchnaia Fantastika, in the years before the Russian Revolution. It includes exclusive extracts from We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity by Cornell University Professor Anindita Banerjee (Kindle edition more expensive than the paperback!) She delves into the history of early Russian science fiction and explains the Russian obsession with all-things-modern.
Banerjee says:

We tend to think science fiction magazines started when Hugo Gernsback introduced the concept of “scientificion.” But for the quarter-century leading up to the Russian Revolution, the Russians were massive consumers of “scientific fantasy,” and they had a popular magazine called Nature and People, full of science-fictional speculations.

In 1894, the magazine brought attention to nauchnaia fantastika stating: Is it not in the imagination where bold theories and amazing machines are first born? Along with news of the latest scientific and technological developments, therefore, our magazine will continue to present a rich panorama of meditations on their potentials that will seem anything but fantastic to those of our times.

Banergee continues:

Three decades later in 1923, Yevgeny Zamyatin — author of the landmark dystopian novel We (My), which George Orwell acknowledged as an inspiration for 1984  —  designated nauchnaia fantastika, or scientific fantasy, “the kind of literature that best commands the attention and wins the belief of us modern people.

This article is a fascinating read for anyone interested in Science Fiction and there’s an interesting contribution in the ‘Comments’ that highlights ‘scientific romance’ as a descriptive term used pre-1850 to describe works such as Jules Verne’s.

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