A couple of years ago, I picked up a book to review for SF Signal, looking for something different. That book was Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, and it turned out to be one of those books that quietly never quite left my head.
Thinking about Roadside Picnic and its authors, as well as our last column on Stanislaw Lem, we get a good starting point for examining how science fiction developed outside of the United States. Given that a lot of SF has been published here in the US, we appear to be a leader in the genre, for better or worse.
At the same time, we forget, ignore or simply don’t realize that authors such as Lem and the Strugatskys were as big as the giants in the United States: on par with Bradbury, Asimov or Heinlein. Examining their publishing experiences and approaches to the genre is good to highlight the limits and potential of genre, but also where US authors and fans tend to put on blinders for the world around them.
As awareness of foreign SF grows (see Clarksworld’s Chinese SF project, funding now), it’s important to realize that a) this isn’t a new phenomenon, and b) SF isn’t limited to the United States and England.
On top of all that, go read Roadside Picnic. It’s a phenomenal book.
Go read Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.