The Curious Cross Street Grannies Discover New Worlds
Sometimes, I get tired of how carefully you have to work with the term sci-fi in our country. You move your writing a bit beyond the limits of the possible and suddenly, you’re put in the literature ghetto. This is exactly how Ondrej Herec, the grand master of Slovak modern fantasy and sci-fi theoretician, phrased it. “Fantasy is a genre which, in our country, belongs to a literature ghetto. It operates parallel to the acknowledged ‘high’ literature. Fortunately though, it’s been slowly building its self-esteem.”
After tens of mystery stories and two “light-fantasy” novels, I wrote a collection of short stories called VIGIL. More than anything, I find it romantic. Its main theme makes it a part of the sci-fi genre, which also puts it on those shelves at the very back of book stores. In my gallery, however, people can find it right on the counter. All those people who have been buying my pictures and paintings for seven years now are somehow intrigued to read my book. They get a signed copy, after all. So, why not?
Science fiction – what a revolting and uninteresting term to an old granny! But when I start talking to her about the plot of my novel over coffee, the amount of curiosity I inspire makes her decide to flirt with this genre as well. She soon understands that sci-fi is not just about extraterrestrials, spaceships, and robots. I know it’s personal. I know she will only read it because of me.
In literature, science fiction is defined as an image of the world typically projected into the future, built on the knowledge of contemporary science and technology with its expected developments.
Ancient Greek Myths and Legends was the first book I ever read. Fantasy travelogues and ancient myths were being written in the ancient times and this trend continued in medieval times, too. I have always been obsessed with the marvelous pieces written by Jules Vern. That is exactly why I often wonder whether the label of science-fiction, put on this genre in the early 1930s, might have actually harmed it.
If there was one person in my life I “infected” with fantasy and spread the infection right into his veins, it was my son. Which seems pretty natural. Even though he was “nurtured” by Tolkien, King, Clark and many other authors, he would have probably never thought his mother would attempt to write sci-fi one day. Eversince he was little, he would mostly see me with a brush in my had, surrounded by paint.
I’ve always wanted to show him the world not only as it is but also as it could be. Good or bad, reflecting our hopes as well as our fears. The world we desire and the world we reject.
He would typically end our talks about books saying, “I know this is not true, but it could be. Right, mom?”
Last week, I was just cleaning the dust off the shelves in my gallery, thinking about a plot line of my new novel, when the door swung open and I heard a voice saying, “We converted to sci-fi!”
I turned to face the door and saw it was Mrs. Irenka, smiling. There was something new in the face of this 86-year-old lady standing in the doorway, wearing a hat, leaning on a beautiful, carved cane.
“How did that happen?” I asked. “And who’s we?”
“Your book was making the circles at Cross Street,” she smiled. “All of the girls that come here have read it. Can you recommend some other sci-fi to us? I’m planning a trip to the book store.”
The curious grannies from my street turned into this strange phenomenon to me. A new species that can only be found in my vicinity. I prescribed to them The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Needful Things from King, to move the girls into this genre cautiously.
Irenka and I drank some coffee and as she was leaving, her last sentence flew through me like an arrow. She said it with a kind of smirk that resembled my 10-year-old son back then.
“These things are not real, but, well, they could be. Right, Mrs. Monika?”