Alternative reading orders

by Kalin M. Nenov

 

(I lied. Still no stories here.

But bear with me. This is the final boring part. I promise.)

The current arrangement of works in ФантАstika obeys two overarching principles:

1. Genre classification.

(Incoming: a longish aside. You may wish to skip to the closing bracket.

Classifying fiction within a particular framework is a subjective, and perhaps futile, endeavor. Putting narratives into boxes contradicts a major purpose of art: to offer us something new—new questions, new answers, new angles, new sensations. If you go around seeking a box among your ready-made ones, you are about to make the new feel old and stale; to emphasize its similarities to what is already there, rather than celebrate its differences.

Therefore, we ask you to treat the current classification as tentative; and completely optional. It aims, not to impose a reading order, but to provide some extra context; to build bridges that may make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

There are certain works here—the most valiant trespassers and transcenders—that baffled us in our classification attempt. Should we put “In the Beginning Was the Subway” in the Science Fiction section, given that all the technologies inside are based on real, bona fide examples? (You may wish to look up Vlail Kaznacheyev if you don’t trust me.) But what about that ectoplasm at the start? Is The Celestial Way science fiction or fantasy? I mean, it has dragons in space … much like Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. And what exactly is “A Small Step”? In fact, the entire Avant-garde Speculative Fiction section is a tribute to these kinds of texts: baffling and beautiful in their elusiveness. If you insist on defining a common denominator for them, it is their experimental nature. Not very helpful, right? But then, how helpful is the definition of slipstream or weird fiction—New and old alike?

Incoming: closing bracket.)

2. The mysterious recipe for making a collection of short fiction more memorable. You know, start with the strongest piece, leave an even stronger one for the end, never mind paradoxes, alternate different lengths, moods, and topics, pair up pieces that engage in some form of dialogue, and so on.

However, you may want to take a different approach.

Like, flip open or scroll the darn thing to a random page and start right there.

Yet, if you find the above too random, try the following two.

Chronological order

Each piece in ФантАstika ends with the year and venue of its first publication in English (if any). However, if you are more interested in the historical evolution of Bulgarian speculative fiction, it makes more sense to know when the Bulgarian originals were written, or at least published for the first time. The following list provides that information, to the best of our knowledge.

1978:

“The Empty Room”

1988:

“Beating the Air”

1989:

“Journey to Akkad”

1990:

“That Thing Gone with the Birds”
“Virgil and the Water”

1998:

To Wake a Dragon Girl

1999:

“Father”

2000:

“Asked the Soldier, ‘Who Called Me?’”
I, Sinner Ivan

2004:

“The Keresztury TVirs”
“The Most Terrible Beast”

2005:

Mina, the Spells and the White Vial
“The Assassination”
“The Film-thin Bound”

2006:

“In the Beginning Was the Subway”

2007:

“Dragonflies and Planets”
“How I Saved the World”
Orpheus Descends into Hell
“Mindster”
The Coin

2008:

“The Dragon and the Orange Juice”
“Three Tales of a Very Windy Town”

2009:

“Wrong”

2010:

“Words Unspoken, Beasts Unnamed”

2011:

“Deflation”
“Impossibly Blue”

2017:

“A Small Step”
“Love in the Time of Con Crud”

2019:

Chirpy Firewood

2020:

The Celestial Way

Author’s age

Is there a correlation between age and accomplishment? Judging by such opposites as Roger Zelazny and R.A. Lafferty, not necessarily.

Still, if you’d like to look for one:

51-60:

“Dragonflies and Planets”
“The Most Terrible Beast”
“Impossibly Blue”

41-50:

“Wrong”
Orpheus Descends into Hell
I, Sinner Ivan
“Love in the Time of Con Crud”
“Three Tales of a Very Windy Town”
“Deflation”
“In the Beginning Was the Subway”

31-40:

“Mindster”
“How I Saved the World”
“Beating the Air”
“Virgil and the Water”
“The Keresztury TVirs”
“Asked the Soldier, ‘Who Called Me?’”
“The Assassination”
To Wake a Dragon Girl
Mina, the Spells and the White Vial

21-30:

The Celestial Way
“That Thing Gone with the Birds”
“Father”
“Words Unspoken, Beasts Unnamed”
“The Empty Room”
“Journey to Akkad”
Chirpy Firewood
“The Film-thin Bound”

20–:

“The Dragon and the Orange Juice”
The Coin