Editorial – November 2022

A Story of the Not So Distant Past

There’s a tendency among Greeks to recall and speak about things that happened centuries, even millennia, ago, and forget what has been happening the last decades or even the last couple of years. This type of selective memory—or amnesia—certainly rests on the comfort the thought of a glorious past provides, in contrast to the direr and direr situations that come up one after the other in our little part of the world.

So, the question arises: If Greek people cannot even face their present, how could they ever write stories about the future? And yet, some of us do. How do we do that? Well, it’s mostly gloomy visions about a future that echoes our own – and perhaps the whole world’s – present. Another surprising fact is that Greek speculative fiction writers do not draw on ancient history or mythology as much as one would expect – especially when it comes to fantasy stories – as some recent communication I had with several writers revealed. It’s kind of an attempt at paving our own way. It’s not that Greece lacks modern culture – even if, there as well, the attachment to older times is prevalent. I just believe that Greek spec fic writers desire to show what they can do based solely on their own powers.

This is a story of the recent past. The pandemic might have made a mess of the last years in most people’s head – for me, it’s just a hazy period of quarantines, hecatombs of dead and general fear – but I’ll make an attempt at putting things in order. It was sometime in early 2021 when visual artist and script writer Lina Theodorou, who spends most of her time in Germany, suggested that I should contact the Science Fiction Club Deutschland. If you’re justly wondering in what capacity I should contact them, please allow me a small digression.

Since 2019, I happen to be vice-chairman of the Science Fiction Club of Athens, Greece, more commonly known with the initials ALEF. Now, I am relatively a newcomer to the club, since it’s been around since 1998, but one of the things I’ve been trying to do is get in touch with like-minded organisations from around the world and establish a network of cooperation. And the SCFD was a perfect point of contact.

Chairman Thomas Recktenwald was happy and prompt to respond and provide me with loads of information on the state and history of science fiction in Germany – he was even kind enough to make a presentation for our members. What he also provided me with was contacts. And one of those contacts was Michael K. Iwoleit, your beloved editor of this magazine. Somewhat hesitantly, I asked for a few stories from some author acquaintances and friends, added a couple of mine and sent them in. I didn’t know what to expect.

And then the big surprise came: Michael wanted to do an issue dedicated to Greece. The very issue that you are holding in your virtual hands right now.

The themes of the stories at hand are varied, and at first sight they might not appear that “Greek” to the casual reader (e.g., one of them is set in Japan) – even though there exists an increasing tendency to use Greek settings in spec fic stories, something many writers used to, and some still dread to do – but they are quite characteristic of what one could call the modern wave of Greek sf: somewhat bleak, not always hopeful, with some social and political critique thrown in the mix; quite a curious product to come from the land of sunny islands and endless beaches, isn’t it?

Leaving my personal preferences aside (I’m not that big a fan of summer), there are many possible answers to this alleged paradox: the socioeconomical situation of the country, the fact that Greece does not only comprise sun and sea – a visit to the big city centres will convince you otherwise – or simply the fact that a few rays of sunlight won’t necessarily make a person more optimistic – or it could just be an artistic preference and nothing more. I cannot say for sure whether one or some of the above can provide a convincing explanation to the phenomenon; what I can point out, however, is that you often find things you don’t expect in the most unlikely places. After all, Monty Python were from Britain, weren’t they? The land of leaden clouds and constant rain.

But this is a story of the recent past. And the recent past has bestowed upon us a boom in quality Greek spec fic production. There are many factors that have contributed to that flood of creativity. The important word here is “quality”. Bad works have always existed; it’s the really talented and hard-working authors that suddenly came out of their shells. One only needs to take a look at some names listed by Dimitra Nikolaidou in her essay, where she tells our story from start to finish. From the distant to the recent past, all the way up to the present. We have been having Greek authors appearing in major publications abroad, we have had Nebula nominations, a World Fantasy Award … But what happens when it comes to the “real thing”, purely Greek spec fic – works written in Greek for the Greek audience? I regret to say that in this respect, things have remained virtually unchanged. Publishers and audience alike do not trust Greek sf authors. So the Greek writer has to face a dilemma: do their service to their mother tongue or prefer the global lingua franca of English and write in a language they might not even know well enough?

Some choose the former, some choose the latter, some do both. I’m not the one to say what’s right and what’s wrong. But this is more or less the recent history of Greek science fiction and speculative fiction in general. One of dilemmas, rejection and hard-won victories. Maybe it’s not that surprising that Greek sf is not as sunny as one might expect.

Hephaestion Christopoulos

October 2022

Hephaestion Christopoulos is confused: part engineer, part translator, part aspiring linguist and part hopeless bassist. He also writes. He has published two short story collections in Greek and has participated in several anthologies. His latest book The Whales on the Moon mixes realism with speculative elements and has received positive reviews. His novella A Precambrian Discourse on Filipassianism is forthcoming in 2023 from Raven Canticle Press. He lives in Athens with five women, only three of which are furry. You can find him on Twitter @CompsonsCurse.