Wednesday 10 June 2015

Interview with Małgorzata Mika

Djibril al-Ayad (for TFF): Hello, Małgorzata. You’ll be known to TFF readers as one of our reviewers, and perhaps also as the editor of the Speculative Treasury (more on that later). What other activities do you get up to in speculative fiction?

Małgorzata Mika: Hello Djibril! When it comes to my work for The Future Fire, I have only just begun my journey. I am grateful that this opportunity has landed in my lap, allowing me to finally word texts in English. It has been my dream to contribute to the field of the fantastic in a language that is used worldwide. Yet, my previous writings included essays, articles and reviews for the Polish academic journal, Creatio Fantastica. Since 2013, I have been attending sci-fi/fantasy conventions in Poland, such as Grojkon in Bielsko-Biala, Krakon in Cracow and Dni Fantastyki (Fantasy Days) in Wroclaw. At times, apart from being an active listener, I was an active lecturer, giving a talk on some of the topics in the field of the fantastic. Sharing my knowledge is an experience I deem powerfully enriching for me, and I hope that a piece of it will stay with my audience.

DA: How did you first get into science fiction or fantasy? What are some of your favorite works today?

MM: The circumstances surrounding my first encounter with science fiction are pretty incongruent, and, looking back at them from the perspective of time, I feel a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. It happened when I was around five years old and I was hardly a literary type at that time. One evening I was watching a remake of Flash Gordon from 1980, and I was absolutely amazed by its fast-paced action and visual beauty. However tacky and pulpy this movie appears to me now, to me as a child, it was an immensely intense experience for me at that time. It needs to be noted here that I was more captivated by the variegated scenery and special effects than by the story itself.

When it comes to fantasy, I adored an Italian show, Fantaghirò, presenting the vicissitudes of a young princess who, contrary to the women residing in the imaginary kingdom in the period of the Middle Ages, prefers combat to embroidery. Based on a folktale that, apart from being popular (at least in the 90s) remains surely intriguing from the feminist perspective. Another example is Ladyhawke, a story with a romantic theme also set in the Middle Ages. What I found captivating about it is the quasi-legendary ambiance that permeates the movie, the ambiance that, in my view, makes it unforgettable among the fantasy movies of today.

My current interests are localized more in science fiction (or science fiction with the inclusion of other genres), with such works as Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Thomas M. Disch’s novel, On Wings of Song or Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord, George R.R. Martin’s Dying of the Sun, and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas being among my favorites. Fantasy is the genre that hasn’t won my favor to such an extent as science fiction, so apart from the works of Ursula Le Guin, my engagement in this genre is rather limited.

DA: What are the Polish and Czech SFF scenes like at the moment?

MM: I must admit that Polish science fiction is a very robust and engaging field. Poland can take pride in such writers as Stanisław Lem (Solaris) whose works have been translated into various languages including English, Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg (Robot), or Jacek Dukaj (Lód). These are the writers whose works add high literary value to the field of science fiction and are considered almost canonical. The most recent writers praised for their art of writing science fiction are Rafał Kosik, Marek S. Huberath or Michał Cetnarowski to name a few. Among the fantasy writers one may find Rafał Dębski, Wojciech Zembaty, or Marcin Pągowski. A very fertile writer, definitely worth mentioning, is Anna Brzezińska, who is called a Lady of Polish Fantasy. In the field of fantasy, the humorous prose of Andrzej Pilipiuk is cherished by readers.

When it comes to Czech fantastic literature such writers as Pavel Kosatík, Jan Hlavièka who have written science fiction or Jana Reèková, who is considered The First Lady of Fantasy in the Czech Republic.

DA: The Speculative Treasury is a listing of speculative fiction magazines, publishers, editors, associations and departments/programs, with a focus on international partnerships and meetings. What niche do you think this site fills, as compared, for example, to the many market listings out there?

MM: There are a few websites that accumulate information concerning magazines, publishing companies existing in the field of the fantastic. Not all of them are concerned with creating a basic profile of a magazine or a publisher nor are they interested in promoting writers or artists. In the majority of cases, they are designed to serve an English-speaking market. My purpose is to encompass the international market as a whole, allowing writers, artists and other professional aficionados of the fantastic who want to contribute to its development beyond the boundaries of their homelands by providing them with access to places that could fit their profile. This would give them an opportunity to reveal the potential their cultures of the fantastic possess, but remain unknown worldwide.

DA: You’ve talked about the possibility for authors, editors, fans and scholars of speculative fiction to meet and create new collaborations. Do you know of any such meetings, and what has come of them?

MM: Although Speculative Treasury is a website that is to facilitate collaborations between authors and magazines, publishers, scholars or people who would like to contribute to the field of the fantastic, fostering the actual collaborations lies on them. Creating a network of contacts, and lasting dialogs is an objective that requires constant care and dedication of one’s free time. Realizing that writers have professional and personal lives that exist irrespectively of them being men of letters, I know how challenging this can be. No writer has yet informed me of any collaborations he has made owing to my website, but I have noticed that I have captured the attention of some publishers who would like to join forces with me. This communication is very promising for the future and I hope it will be developed!

DA: Tell me about the sort of trans-cultural collaboration you imagine in your wildest dreams helping to facilitate

MM: I imagine Speculative Treasury to become a large resource of international magazines, publishing houses, communities, institutions that would invigorate the field of the fantastic by posting articles, reviews, essays, organizing events and contests. It would be wonderful to set up a special section for academics and teachers who could use this resource to invigorate their lectures and classes by using the content provided by Speculative Treasury. Moreover, I would like Speculative Treasury to extend a patronage over institutions and events worldwide in order to promote the fantastic. The contribution on the part of visitors, whoever and wherever they are, would be very much appreciated.

DA: What can our readers do to help?

MM: They can visit my website and share their creative ideas with me! Speculative Treasury has been created for them, and without their involvement, it will not be able to develop in the right direction. Currently, I am in need of volunteer book reviewers who would offer their services in the field of critical writing, and be able to construct texts on the books as they are sent to Speculative Treasury via e-mail. The offer is available at the Jobs subsection (ABOUT->Jobs) on my website.

What is more, those who work in the literary, film and artistic parts of the fantastic, are welcome to submit their organizations, institutions via application forms or e-mail. Also, all the news concerning contests, conferences, conventions, or other events related to the fantastic would be much appreciated. Yet, first and foremost, I need ideas and people who would help me put new concepts into practice.

DA: TFF is currently celebrating our tenth anniversary—what do you think will be the biggest change in the speculative fiction world in the next ten years?

MM: I believe speculative fiction, as a constantly-developing and ethereal domain, would feature a growing number of literary phenomena that may later become a part of the film industry franchise. We have been witnessing the rise and fall of vampires, werewolves, and most recently, the plague of zombies, and young rebels posing as “resistance for sale” in countless young-adult novels. We can expect new ethereal phenomena to come to electrify mass audiences. We should not forget about a wave of remakes and half-remakes that will also be flooding speculative literature, film and art. This act of returning to the roots is and will be a battlefield of creative victories and uninventive defeats. What is more, science fiction considered as a writing of the future, will become extinct (if it ever truly existed) or greatly marginalized. When it comes to fantasy, we may expect a growing development of this genre which will surely astound us with its ability to shed its literary skin. Also, I believe new sub-genres will emerge from the ashes of their predecessors, allowing for new vistas of imagination to reopen.

DA: What is the most spooky or frightening thing that you ever experienced?

MM: I have experienced a plethora of spooky or frightening things in my life, especially in childhood. It may sound rather incongruent these days, but all the frightening things I have experienced are related to a cult TV show, The X Files. Every time I watched an episode, a profound feeling of anxiety infested my mind, filling me with fear of the unknown. Each eerie sound or shadow shifting in the darkness made me wonder whether an alien being or a hideous monster living in urban pipelines would appear to hurt me. My imagination was operating on the fourth gear, presenting me with truly dreadful visions. Although I am no longer a child, and watching The X Files for the second time does not create havoc in my mind, I will never forget those panicky feelings this show once evoked in me.

DA: Thank you so much for coming along to talk to us. All the best!

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