SFF in Hungary: A Status Report

By Bence Pintér: Mandiner.sci-fi celebrated its first birthday this October. I used this joyful occasion as a pretense to ask bloggers, critics, fans, writers, publishing professionals and other luminaries of the Hungarian SFF-scene to answer the question: where are we now? And while the respondents were not exactly like-minded, some aspects of the answers I got were surprisingly similar. The following is a summary of the dozens of answers I get.

  1. Being up-to-date. Hungarian SFF-publishing nowadays is up-to-date, professional and thorough like it never was. The most popular English-language titles are on the shelves in translation in the same year they were published in the USA. The Hungarian publishing houses offer a wide scale of subgenres of speculative fiction. They are mostly translated from English, but there are some books from Russia, the Czech Republic and Estonia.

  2. Publishing classics. There is a never-ending debate about publishing the classic authors of SFF in Hungary. In fact, during the communist era a lot of books by the contemporary SF masters (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, etc.) were published, and a lot more was published in the last two decades. But everyone can name five favourite authors, ten favourite books, which were never translated into Hungarian. And probably they’ll never be. Small market, small opportunities: only the really big names could make it.

  3. Domestic authors. Short fiction could be the best training ground of a genre author, but in Hungary there are just few opportunities. The only monthly magazine dealing with domestic SFF stories is the infamous Galaktika. There is also the quarterly Új Galaxis (New Galaxy) which is publishing novice writers’ work; and Aranymosás competition with a similar approach. We have a shortfall of online venues also. There aren’t any serious writers’ workshops. There were some really good books and we saw new talents emerging in the last few years. The respondents’, and also the genre readers’ favourite seems to be the fantasy novel Horgonyhely by Anita Moskát. But generally we can not be satisfied. A part of the respondents think that Hungarian authors need to be more open-minded and they have to read more to be able to compete with foreign titles. Others think that the publishing houses have to take part in bringing up a new generation of Hungarian SF writers.

  4. Establishments. There is a Hungarian sci-fi award, the Zsoldos Péter Award. It is an understatement that it has limited reputation: a lot of prominent authors refused to take a part in it in the last few years. There is also a debate about HungaroCon, the only convention of SF literature in Hungary. One representative of a publishing house also expressed concerns about Hungarian fan’s willingness to visit events. There is a growing need for the academic discussion of genre fiction.

  5. What we need to do? The majority of respondents think that the mentioned trends and facts indicate that we are heading in a good direction, although we have to be more open-minded to put together the fragmented puzzle which is now the Hungarian SFF fandom.

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So that’s the situation now. On our part, I can say that Mandiner.sci-fi, the first professional Hungarian news site in the field had a very exciting first year. We wrote countless reviews about Hungarian and English books, comics, TV shows and movies, made interviews with Hungarian authors, while reporting on the events of domestic fandom. And also we managed to shock the national (and also the international) genre community by revealing the extensive copyright infringements made by Galaktika in the last twelve years. You can read the two-part article here and here. (These ones are also Hugo-eligible in the Best Related Work category. Just sayin’.)

In one year we built a solid readership amongst the hardcore SFF fans, but we look for more. For the next year our aim will be to invite new readers to the field of speculative fiction. It will be a great challenge, finding the ways to do that. But we will try.

3 thoughts on “SFF in Hungary: A Status Report

  1. Intriguing article. Thanks for this 🙂

    Naturally, I’m immediately comparing and contrasting to my own home community of non-English-speakers, in Israel. A lot of similar points – a lot of enthusiasm, very very few markets and publishers.

    The Zsoldos Péter Award sounds like something I’d like to hear more about. I could understand not participating actively, but what does it mean that authors refused to take a part in it? What’s the story there?

  2. Authors or publishers should nominate their books, and they also have to send five copies to the jury. If they refuse to do that, they won’t be in the competition. Some SF authors tell that the jury is amateur and unprofessional, and they gave the Award to novels which are not just not great, but awful. If I take a look at the awarded works, I could confirm this for the last five years. But the award was contorversial before that. Some reports said that the jury did not keep the terms of the competition, and awarded books which could not have been won by the rules. (E.g. the book was fantasy, not science fiction, or it was the second part of a series of books – and the jury decided in the previous years that series can not compete.)

    There was several attempt to reform, to no avail. From this year a literary agency started to organize the award: they want to build some prestige for it.

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