Saturday, 2 July 2016

Alexander Veltman, Russian SciFi Pioneer

Alexander Fomich Veltman (30 July 1800 — 23 January 1870) was one of the most successful Russian prose writers of the 1830s and 40s. He wrote many kinds of fiction, but he was one of the pioneers of Russian science fiction.


He graduated from a military school and joined the army, but later left to pursue a career in literature. This did not bring in enough money to support him and his wife, so he was appointed Assistant Director of the Kremlin Museum of Armaments, eventually becoming Director.

In 1833 Veltman published MMMCDXLVIII god: Rukopisʹ Martyna-Zadeka (3448 AD: a manuscript by Martin Zadek). It tells the story of a utopia in which a traveler visits the imaginary Balkan country of Bosphorania, ruled by the righteous Ioann, who devotes all his time and effort to the good of his people. It describes the social and technological advances of the 35th century, including popular festivals and expeditions to the South Pole. Ioann has an evil twin brother Eol, who seizes power and drives the country into ruin; after his death, peace and order are restored. 

In 1836 he published Predki Kalimerose: Alexsandr Filippovich Makedonskii (The Forebears of Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon) recognised as the first Russian science fiction novel.  As a side note, Kalimeros is the Greek equivalent of Buonaparte, and a lot of Veltman’s books feature Napoleon.

This was the first novel to use time travel, as the author goes to ancient Greece on a hippogriff! He wants to find out what made the ancients great leaders and rulers. He meets Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and Aristotle. After going on a trip with Alexander, he then returns to his own time. In the end he decides that people of all times and places are the same, and it’s the laws of history that can turn them into heroes.

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