This is an interview with Lucie Lukačovičová from the Czech Republic
Lucie, please present yourself to our readers (information about yourself and your activity in SF)
I am a writer, translator, creative writing teacher and cultural anthropologist. I have published over 100 short stories, 5 novels and another 5 novels with co-authors in Czech. Also, some short texts in English, German, Chinese, Romanian and Kannada. I try to cooperate with people abroad, take part in international conventions and LARPs when I have the chance (one of my interviews in Romanian: https://fantastica.ro/interviu-cu-scriitoarele-sf-cehe-julie-novakova-si-lucie-lukacovicova/ ). I collect myths, legends and ghost stories from all over the world. I started a project of youtube video channel “Creepy Travels” about haunted places and their history. If you want a ghost tour around Prague, just let me know 😉
Please try to make a brief introduction on the Czech SF history.
Since the 19th century ghost stories, magical realism and fantastic stories were popular. Jakub Arbes (1840-1914) with his St. Xaverius, Gustav Meyrink (1868-1932) with Golem and the Angel of the Western Window or Jiří Karásek from Lvovice (1871-1951) with his Novels of Three Mages are typical representatives of this trend, showing us the shadows of magical and mystical Prague of their time.
At the beginning of the 20th century Franz Kafka (1883-1924) became world famous with his story of indictment, trial and retaliation contained in a phantasmagoric novel The Trial. Another well known author Jan Weiss (1892-1972) wrote speculative fiction in the form of sci-fi or fantastic stories (House of 1000 stories, The Mirror that Delayed Itself).
The founder of sci-fi themes in the Czech modern literature is Karel Čapek (1890-1938). He invented the word “robot” in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) which presents one of the first examples of artificial intelligence human-like beings in art and literature. In a play Macropulos Case he is passing a message that people should not desire unreachable longevity or immortality, they should better make the best from the time which is given to them on this earth. In the SF novel Krakatit he warns against the possibility that all inventions can be used and misused in an genius prediction of the force of nuclear energy. War with the Newts, also known as War with the Salamanders is a satiric SF novel showing tensions between humans and the Newts which lead up to war.
Which are the most popular SF magazines and fanzins (printed and online) in the Czech Republic?
The printed ones are Pevnost (Fortress), which aims more at fantasy and Czech authors and XB-1 (formerly Ikarie) which goes more for science-fiction and has both Czech and foreign writers. On-line, there is the pretty huge, active and massively read Fantasymag.cz, then Fantasyplanet.cz and Sarden.cz, both with a long tradition. Of course, we have a wide range of smaller but active on-line platforms and e-zines usually publishing book and movie reviews or interviews with authors (vanili.cz, mfantasy.cz, deti-noci.cz, knizni-dira.cz etc.)
Which are the SF&F Clubs that have regular meetings?
Since the 80’s we have Czechoslovak Fandom, which unites Czech and Slovak clubs. The countries have been separated but the Fandom still holds together.
From the Czech clubs I could name Jules Verne Club in Prague, which holds meetings and lectures each month. Clubs AF 167 a NYX help to organize Fénixcon in Brno, club Andromeda in Pilsen organizes smaller cons and a literary competition, Draconian is active in Most, KLF Ostrava in Ostrava, SF club Palantir runs the literary competition Vidoucí, FK Atair/SF&F Workshop publishes the yearly anthology Kočas. There are many more, 16 in the Czech branch of Fandom.
Slovak clubs hold their own meeting, have their own awards and conventions.
There are also independent clubs outside the Czechoslovak Fandom, e. g. the Club of Terry Pratchett. Very active is HMS Phantom (since 2008), fans of Honorverse and members of the international The Royal Manticoran Navy – they do cosplay, videos, go to donate blood in costumes (“Bloodcon”) etc. We have also the Czech section of Rebel Legion and 501st.
Which are the most important local and national SF&F associations?
Prague by Night association (http://praguebynight.eu/ ), which started as a fan club of Vampire: The Masquerade RPG, is a very active one. It promotes SF, F, LARPs and organizes free time activities for children and young adults (summer camps Letní kempy) and participates in the international LARP Vampire International Chronicle. Also Rolling makes LARPs with international participation (https://rolling.cz/ ).
There is the SFFH Academy, which awards the SFFH Academy Awards (since 1996). It has a long tradition, for some time it was held alive by enthusiasts, now there is a new fresh organizing team, but they are struggling because of the pandemic. There is the Czechoslovak Fandom, awarding the Karel Čapek Award since 1982 and also merit awards.
Which are the printing houses that publish mainly SF and Fantasy?
SFF publishing houses are usually the small ones, although recently also some of the bigger ones (Albatros, Argo etc.) have published SFF, but it is only a part of their production.
SF and F are mainly published by: Epocha (broad range of speculative fiction, great anthologies), Brokilon (excellent space opera pieces), Gorgona (they dare go for strange interesting stuff), Straky na vrbě (publishes mainly Czech production), Konektor XB-1 (connected to the magazine XB-1), Triton (SFF only partly, mainly translations), Mytago (mainly gamebooks and fantasy connected to RPG).
Very elegant and high-quality translated SF is the specialty of Gnóm! publishing house. Polaris goes for Warhammer, Honorverse and Joe Abercrombie novels; Planeta9 deals in hard SF, space opera and dark fantasy. Then there is Fantom Print (American, Czech and Russian SF, also works by Patricia Briggs, Robert Jordan and Larry Coreia) and Host (only part of their books are SF, but they have Czech authors and a wide range of world authors like N. K. Jemisin, Li Cixin or Yoon Ha Lee).
Which are the most popular SF&F conventions in Czech Republic? What are their main attractions?
Last year (2019) was launched the first ComicCon in Prague, big event with international guests. It was a huge success and another run is being planned. Another successful event was PevnostCon in Prague, organized by the crew around Pevnost (Fortress) magazine. This one has only a few lectures but a lot of music, historical fencing, cosplay, stalls with food and different fantasy themed goods etc. The Festival Fantazie in Chotěboř (a smaller town in Bohemian-Moravian Highlands), with the same organizer as ComicCon and quite long a tradition is still quite big. It is also our longest convention as it lasts for ten days.
There are some smaller conventions with cozy atmosphere (FénixCon in Brno, small DomestiCon in Havlíčkův Brod etc.) or specialized conventions for segments of the fandom (BlaviCon for fans of the Witcher; StarCon for fans of Star Wars, Star Gate and Star Trek; TrpasliCon for fans of Red Dwarf; RepliCon for fans of history and historical fencing; CONiáš organized by Prague Main Library mainly for readers; TolkienCon etc.)
Who are the main author names in today’s Czech SF&F?
Julie Nováková (https://www.julienovakova.com/ ) and Jan Kotouč (https://www.facebook.com/jankotouc87 ) are two authors who keep in touch with the SF abroad. Julie writes great hard SF and poetic historical fantasy. Jan writes mainly alternative history, military SF and space opera. Brilliant is Vilma Kadlečková who is famous for her SF series Mycelium. All these three authors were published abroad. By the way I have tuckerized them in my English short story „The Three Magi“ 😉 (https://www.worldweaverpress.com/store/p171/Recognize_Fascism.html ).
Then there is Františka Vrbenská (mainly historical fantasy), Jan Hlávka (fantasy and space opera), František Kotleta (the Czech “action school” which I will mention later), Karolína Francová (her space opera and her fantasy series set in the city of Liberec), Hanuš Seiner (great SF, also published in English), rising stars Michaela Merglová, Kristýna Sněgoňová, Petra Lukačovičová (yes, we are sisters) or Vendula Brunhoferová. There are more, of course.
If you would like to read some Czech works translated into English for free, here is the anthology Dreams from Beyond (prepared for EuroCon in Barcelona):
My text in the anthology is part of my novella Spark of Thought; if you would be interested in the whole text, please let me know.
Give us some names of SF&F Czech graphic artists.
I think that the works of Jana “Maffet” Šouflová who does many book-covers (all my own novels have covers by her!) are awesome! Then there is a very variable style of Tomáš Kučerovský, who can be either lyrical or coldly technical in his artistic expression. Another one is Roman Kýbus with his floating fantasy images (connected to Mytago publishing). Of course, we have many other talented artists.
What makes Czech SF original?
Czech writing is very varied. I would say diversity is its strength. Some authors copy the English-speaking market, some go their own way. We have Czech “action school” (light reading with lot of action, blood, dry and black humor), Slavic fantasy (building on Slavic myths and fairy-tales), we have a steampunk community, we have alternative history focused on Czech lands, urban fantasy (my personal favorite; some of it with hints of noir), also postapocalyptic and horror texts. New blood in high-fantasy writing and space opera are gaining ground… We write in a kaleidoscope of subgenres and we have many points of view and many styles to work with the genre. The texts which use Czech Republic as a setting – and also a bit of Czech humor (usually full of irony or black as shoe polish) – can be very interesting in their own way.