30 July 1974 |
|Alma mater||Jagiellonian University|
|Notable works||Katedra, Czarne oceany, Inne pieśni, Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość, Lód|
|Notable awards||Janusz A. Zajdel Award (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010)|
Jacek Dukaj (born 30 July 1974 in Tarnów, Poland) is a Polish science fiction writer. Winner of the Janusz A. Zajdel Award (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010), Śląkfa (2000, 2007, 2009), Żuławski Award (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012), Kościelski Award (2008) and the European Union Prize for Literature (2009). In 2013 Dukaj received Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
Dukaj studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University. The first science fiction story he read was The Investigation by Stanisław Lem, which inspired him to write his own stories in that genre. He successfully debuted at the age of 16 with a short story Złota Galera (Golden Galley). Winner of the Janusz A. Zajdel Award for 2001 for his novel Czarne oceany (Black Oceans), for 2003 for his novel Inne pieśni (Different Chants), for 2004 for his novel Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość (An Ideal Imperfection), for 2007 for the novel Lód (Ice) and for 2000 for short story Katedra (The Cathedral). A short animated movie by Tomasz Bagiński based on this short story was nominated to Academy Award in 2003.
His short stories have been translated into English, German, Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Italian. His first story, "Golden Galley," was translated into English by Wiesiek Powaga and published in The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy. Michael Kandel's translation of "The Iron General" has been published in A Polish Book of Monsters and his translation of fragments of "The Cathedral" into English is available online. "The Apocrypha of Lem", a mock-review in Borges' tradition, written as an afterword for reedition of Lem's "A Perfect Vacuum", was published in "Lemistry", translated by Danusia Stok.
He is known for the complexity of his books, and it is often said that a single short story of Dukaj contains more ideas than many other writers put into their books in their lifetime. Popular themes in his works include the technological singularity, nanotechnology and virtual reality, and thus his books often can be classified as hard science fiction. Among his favorite writers is Australian writer Greg Egan, and Dukaj's books bear some resemblance to Egan's, or to the likes of David Brin's, although his stylistic brio makes him as much a 'literary' as a 'hard science fiction' writer.
- Xavras Wyżryn (SuperNOWA 1997, contains two short novels - Xavras Wyżryn and Zanim noc)
- Aguerre w świcie (Aguerre at Dawn) (short novel in anthologies Wizje Alternatywne 3, Solaris 2001 and reprinted in Król Bólu, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2010)
- Czarne oceany (Black Oceans) (SuperNOWA 2001) - in the mid-21st century, an event resembling technological singularity suddenly takes place, with Earth being transformed into a bizarre world.
- Córka łupieżcy (The Plunderer's Daughter) (short novel in anthology Wizje Alternatywne 4, Solaris 2002). Daughter of an archeologist is forced to hide in The City - an uninhabited, multidimentional alien city, that seems to be the 'essence of all cities'.
- Extensa (Extensa) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2002) - in a post-technological singularity world, some people have chosen to remain unchanged and 'just human'. This is a story of one of them.
- Inne pieśni (translated as Different Chants or Other Songs) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2003) - in this alternate Earth, people can change the reality with their thoughts. The Earth is divided into several empires, each controlled by a kratistos - a former human with demigod abilities, who has proven to have the most powerful mind and is able to warp reality within his domain. When the Earth is attacked by aliens, a former nobody, merchant, starts on a path to become somebody much more.
- Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość (An Ideal Imperfection) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2004) - a 21st-century astronaut is revived several centuries later, in a post-technological singularity world. First in the planned trilogy, this book chronicles how he is caught in the web of a transgalactic intrigue. In a world were a dedicated universes are evolved just to create a more potent weapon, can a normal human become anything more than a toy of a vastly more intelligent beings?
- Ice (Lód) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2007) - alternate history. There was no World War I, in 1924 Poland is still under the reign of Russia. Benedykt Gierosławski, talented mathematician, but also compulsive gambler has been sent to the Siberia, to bring his father back to the country. It is said that he is somehow connected with lute - Angels of Frost.
- Wroniec (The Crowe) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2009) - illustrated fairy tale about the Martial Law in Poland (1981), told from the perspective of little boy, kind of darker version of "Alice in Wonderland" set in Polish history, with wild wordplays, rhymes, songs etc.
- Science Fiction (in anthology Science Fiction, Powergraph 2011) - the story has three levels: level A is about Edward Caldwell, a hard science fiction writer from very near future, living in London, co-funder of a software company which produces 'ethics apps', whose girlfriend is working in Brasil for Gates Foundation on 'universal social converter'; meanwhile Caldwell writes a science fiction novel and the chapters from his novel are level B: the story of the Martians (distant, auto-evolving descendants of human colonists on Mars) returning to Earth centuries after the destruction of whole human civilization on Earth by Mathematics: self-propelling progress bypassing Technological Singularity; the Martians are absolute individualists, each one being an independent state with its own laws and politics, and to interact with each other they need Judges, one of these being the main hero here, sent to discover what had triggered the Mathematics in the 21st century; and the story the Judge uncovers is level C: history of 21st century exploration of distant space by means of internal computer simulation and evolution based on changing external data; one of the scientists there plays with the parameters of his inside-world which leads directly back to level A, thus creating a structural loop. However some hints hidden in the text allow for more complicated interpretation: a structure of Mobius strip or an infinite spiral. Main themes of "Science Fiction" are: self-reference, symbolism of T. S. Eliot's poems, absolute loneliness as a consequence of absolute freedom. As a scientific foundation Dukaj uses here proofs from Physical limits of inference by David H. Wolpert and the theory of Umwelt by Jakob Johann von Uexküll. Level A is written in style resembling J. M. Coetzee, level B - in style of baroque worldbuilding SF, level C - in dry style of hard SF by Egan or Chiang.
- Starość aksolotla (The Old Axolotl) (Allegro 2015) - neutron-like radiation from cosmos hits the Earth, killing instantly all living organisms on one hemisphere; people on the other hemisphere have max 12 hours left, and some of them manage to use gaming gadgets to neuroscan themselves into the imperfect digital copies. After the Extermination the only way for the transformed to feel again like humans is to use various mechs and robots as their "steel bodies". This way starts the new humanity and a 300-year long nostalgic odyssey of Bart, the last hardware specialist in a world where "only hardware remains". Note that this novella is the first book of Dukaj published in English: http://jacekdukaj.allegro.pl/en/
Short story collections
- W kraju niewiernych (In the Land of the Unfaithful) (SuperNOWA 2000):
- "Ruch Generała" (The Iron General) - In a world where magic is treated with scientific rigour, and which has achieved a level of development of 21st century Earth, an old, civilized country is facing increasing troubles with a larger, restless and more primitive neighbour. Note that the title in the official translation is "The Iron General," although the Polish title literally translates as the "General's Move."
- "IACTE" - On a space colony, there is a place where dreams can become a reality, and a revived Native American hunter sets on the trail of a vampire.
- "Irrehaare" - In a full immersion, virtual reality multiverse, something has gone terribly wrong. For months now, players cannot log out, and are engaged in a war against the Artificial intelligence attempting to take control of this VR universe. When a new, strange player appears, one with powerful abilities but suffering from amnesia, the plot quickly thickens.
- "Muchobójca" (Flykiller) - In space and on space colonies, there are ghosts. And where there are ghosts, there will be exorcists. However, can human-trained exorcist deal with magic that evolved elsewhere?
- "Ziemia Chrystusa" (Christ's Earth) - After one Earth civilization has discovered how to travel to parallel universes, this technology was captured by another. Now there are several parallel civilisations, existing in uneasy truce, each trying to subjugate more parallel Earths and gain an upper hand in this multi-dimensional cold war. When a new Earth is discovered, an expedition is sent to scout it. And this new Earth seems truly unique: Jesus never died and people do not believe in God - because they know he exists...
- "Katedra" (The Cathedral) - A Catholic priest arrives on one of the Jupiter's moons, to investigate an alien artifact that resembles a gigantic Gothic cathedral.
- "Medjugorje" - Can money buy everything? A certain billionaire thinks so, as he employs teams of mercenaries using advanced technology to attempt to 'steal' a God-sent revelation and transmit this vision to himself... See also Međugorje.
- "In partibus infidelium" - After humanity makes contact with other space-faring civilizations, Christianity spreads far and wide. Humans become just a minority of believers and an alien is elected a pope... Note that 'in partibus infidelium' translates as 'in the land of the unbelievers' which is the title of the anthology it was published in.
- Xavras Wyżryn i inne fikcje narodowe (Xavras Wyżryn and Other National Fictions) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2004):
- "Xavras Wyżryn" - In this alternate history, Soviet Union triumphed in the Polish-Soviet War. In the mid-1990s a US journalist is accompanying Polish partisans as they capture a nuclear warhead and smuggle it towards Moscow...
- "Sprawa Rudryka Z." (The Case of Rudryk Z.). The story is the dialogue of persecutor and the defender in a trial of Rudryk Zlatk, a Macedonian dictator guilty of many crimes against humanity apprehended by the United Nations. There is, however, a slight problem with the accused. He is but one of the twelve clones of Rudryk.
- "Przyjaciel prawdy" (Friend of the Truth) Antisemitism is a difficult subject. This is a story of a person who comes to believe that Jews have superior genetics - and for that suggestion is accused of antisemitism by his friends.
- "Gotyk" (Gothic). 19th century alternate history, golem as the main hero of the story and science-fiction continuation of Kordian by Juliusz Słowacki.
- Król Bólu (King of Pain) (Wydawnictwo Literackie 2010):
- "Linia Oporu" (Line of Resistance) - Singularity will come or will not come, but anyway we all already live in its shadow. In a society of free luxury based on the creative economy the only scarce, priceless commodity is the meaning of life. The main character is a creative "producing" the meanings of life: creating for people their "lines of resistance". What do you live for, when you can have everything at will, including immortality? The novel is written in a unique style of "ADHD narration", reflecting the way we perceive reality in the information-saturated world; only the parts taking place in virtual worlds are written in classic, "epic" style.
- "Oko Potwora" (The Eye of the Monster) - A retro-SF: space adventure in the future taken from SF of the 1950s, especially Stanisław Lem's early stories. During a solar storm the crew of an old freighter encounters strange artificial intelligence born from chaos, kind of archaic Boltzmann's Brain.
- "Szkoła" (School) - dark, pessimistic, cyberpunk. A child orphan from Latin America is subject to scientific experiments, turning him into part-human, part-alien: a mental bridge, which is the only way to "understand" aliens. This story can be described as Dukaj's mixture of Akira, Blade Runner, Flowers for Algernon and A Clockwork Orange.
- "Aguerre w świcie" (Aguerre at Dawn). Humans have spread through the stars, thanks to 'gleiotic's - humans who gained the power to manipulate space-time. When one of them is killed in a mysterious way, the resulting investigation will shake the foundation of human civilization, touching on such issues as first contact and conspiracy theory - of course, in a post-technological singularity setting.
- "Serce Mroku" (Heart of Darkness). This is a retelling of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" set on an alien planet, in an alternate history in which Nazi Germany won World War II. Years later, in a multi-sided Cold War, Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, United States and Japan achieve interstellar flight capability and struggle over the control of a new space colony. A German special forces agent arrives on a planet and is immediately sent with the mission into the wilderness to assassinate a rebellious Untermensch. Author's note: best read with Rammstein music in the background.
- "Crux" - Futuristic nanotechnology and neo-sarmatian story of Polish inner-city ghetto uprising.
- "Król Bólu i pasikonik" (King of Pain and a Grasshopper) - World is divided between the zones of various artificial genetics (AG). AG is a weapon, a politics, a passport and a medium of semi-intelligent evolution. King of Pain is born as a "collateral damage" of AG: unique neuroplasticity allows him to manipulate people, but at the same time causes constant pain in contact with people and material objects. But he operates through bodies of others, "lives by proxy" - since it's impossible to travel from one genetics to another, people developed the technology of borrowing and tele-controlling bodies of others.
- "Piołunnik" (Wormwood) - in the time of People's Republic of Poland, an agent for the secret police deals with Chernobyl coverup - and resurrections, as enthropy reverses itself and all history "shrinks" to one point, timeless "Poland eternal".
- "Złota Galera" (Golden Galley), "Fantastyka" 2/1990, anthology Jawnogrzesznica, anthology Miłosne dotknięcie nowego wieku, anthology The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy) - Dukaj's first short story. Hell is a spaceship and it is on collision course with Earth...
- "Smierć matadora" (Death of a Matador) ("Fantastyka" 1/1991, anthology Co większe muchy).
- "Opętani" (Possessed) ("Fenix" 1/1991)
- "Książę mroku musi umrzeć" (The Prince of Darkness Must Die) ("Nowa Fantastyka" 12/1991, Hungarian translation in "Galaktika" 7/1992) - the motif of Heaven fighting Hell is common. But much less so is the vision of the aftermath. The story of the last devil.
- "Korporacja Mesjasz" (Corporation Messiah) (anthology Czarna Msza, Rebis 1992) - When hell and business engage in economic warfare....
- "Panie, pobłogosław morderców" (God, Bless the Murderers) ("Fenix" 2/1993)
- "Wszystkie nasze ciemne sprawy" (All of Our Dark Deeds) ("Voyager" #6)
- "Irrehaare" ("Nowa Fantastyka" 6,7/1995, anthology W kraju niewiernych) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Wielkie podzielenie" (The Great Divide) ("Nowa Fantastyka" 3/1996) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Szkoła" (School) ("Nowa Fantastyka" 11/1996, anthology Król Bólu) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Ziemia Chrystusa" (Christ's Earth) (anthology Wizje alternatywne 2, Zysk i S-ka 1997, anthology W kraju niewiernych) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "IACTE" (anthology Wizje alternatywne 2, Zysk i S-ka 1997, anthology W kraju niewiernych) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Ponieważ kot" (Because the Cat) (anthology Trzynaście kotów)
- "Serce Mroku" (Heart of Darkness) ("Nowa Fantastyka" 11/1998, anthology "Król Bólu") - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Ruch Generała" (The Iron General) (anthology W kraju niewiernych, anthology A Polish Book of Monsters) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Muchobójca" (Flykiller) (anthology W kraju niewiernych) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Katedra" (The Cathedral) (anthology W kraju niewiernych, album Katedra, Czech translation in Ikarie 11/2002) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Medjugorje" (anthology W kraju niewiernych) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "In partibus infidelium" (anthology W kraju niewiernych) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Gotyk" (Gothic) (anthology Strefa Mroku, anthology Xavras Wyżryn i inne fikcje narodowe) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Sprawa Rudryka Z." (The Case of Rudryk Z.) (anthology Xavras Wyżryn i inne fikcje narodowe) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Przyjaciel prawdy" (Friend of the Truth) (anthology Xavras Wyżryn i inne fikcje narodowe) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Crux" (anthology PL+50. Historie przyszłości, Wydawnictwo Literackie 2004) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Diabeł w strukturze" (Devil in the Structure, anthology Trupy Polskie, Wydawnictwo EMG 2005)
- "Kto napisał Stanisława Lema?" (Who wrote Stanisław Lem, attached to the 2008 edition of A Perfect Vacuum) - Review of the fictional 2071 book about post hominem Stanisław Lem's.
- "Linia Oporu" (Line of Resistance, anthology Król Bólu) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Oko Potwora" (The Eye of the Monster, anthology Król Bólu) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Król Bólu i pasikonik" (King of Pain and a Grasshopper, anthology Król Bólu - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Piołunnik" (Wormwood, anthology Król Bólu) - description available in the "Short story collections" section above
- "Portret nietoty" (Portrait of a Nonit, anthology Zachcianki) - There is a sixth sense, not some supernatural ability, but a common trait of all animals, like smell or touch. Dukaj invented here history of culture, language, medicine, technology and art based on this sense. Laura is a "nonit": born with a flaw making her incapable to use this particular sense. Nevertheless she became a muse and a lover for an artist creating art based on it (as paintings are based on sight and music on hearing). Laura's whole life is an exercise in "blind translation" from one sense to another. The story has some pagan undertones (referring to pre-Christian sensuality and sexuality).
- (Polish) Gotyk, Stronice Dukaja
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jacek Dukaj.|
- Passages from The Cathedral
- Passages from Iron General
- Passages from Black Oceans
- Passages from Other Songs
- Educational project based on "The Crowe" (in Polish)
- More about contemporary Polish fantasy and sci-fi
- The Old Axolotl: Man without Body, Book without Paper