Janusz Zajdel

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Janusz Andrzej Zajdel
Janusz A Zajdel.jpg
Born 15 August 1938
Warsaw, Poland
Died 19 July 1985 (aged 47)
Warsaw, Poland
Occupation Writer
Nationality Polish
Period 1961–1985
Genre science fiction, social science fiction

Janusz Andrzej Zajdel (15 August 1938 – 19 July 1985) was a prominent Polish science-fiction author, second in popularity in Poland to Stanisław Lem.[1][2] His major genres were social-science fiction and dystopia. His main recurring theme involved the gloomy prospects for a space environment into which mankind carried totalitarian ideas and habits: Red Space Republics, or Space Labor Camps, or both. His heroes desperately try to find meaning in the world around them. His novels are recognized as classics of science fiction in Poland.

His most famous works are five social-science fiction novels: Cylinder van Troffa (Van Troff's Cylinder, 1980); Limes inferior (The Lower Limit, 1982); Cała prawda o planecie Ksi (The Whole Truth about Planet Xi, 1983); Wyjście z cienia (pl) (Out of the Shadows, 1983); and Paradyzja (Paradise: World in Orbit, 1984).[2]

The Polish science fiction fandom award was named after him: the Janusz A. Zajdel Award. He was a trustee of World SF.[1]

Life[edit]

Janusz Zajdel was born 15 August 1938 in Warsaw, Poland.[2]

He studied physics at the University of Warsaw. After graduating, he worked many years as a radiological engineer and an expert on nuclear physics at the Central Laboratory of Radiological Protection in Poland.[2] He published a number of academic works, handbooks of safety regulations, and educational texts.[2][3]

In his spare time, he popularized science by writing science fiction.[2] With his brother, he started a column in a Polish magazine for young people interested in science and engineering, Młody Technik (pl) (Young Technician), in which they proposed various futuristic gadgets.[2] In 1961 Młody Technik published Zajdel's science-fiction debut, the short story "Tau Ceti" (Polish: Tau Wieloryba).[2] Other stories by him soon appeared in several other Polish magazines.[2]

His science-fiction book-writing career began in 1965 with the publication of a short-story anthology, Jad mantezji (The Venom of Mantesia), which included stories from Młody Technik and some others that had already appeared a year earlier in another anthology.[1][2] By 1982 he had published four more collections: Przejście przez lustro (Through the Mirror, 1975); Iluzyt (1976); Feniks (The Phoenix, 1981); and Ogon diabła (The Devil's Tail, 1982).[3]

His first novel, Lalande 21185, appeared in 1966, a year after his first short-story anthology, and was geared toward young adults.[2] His first serious science-fiction novel was a "first contact"-type SF mystery, Prawo do powrotu (pl) (Right of Return, 1975); but it was his novels of the late 1970s and early 1980s — Cylinder van Troffa (Van Troff's Cylinder, 1980); Limes inferior (The Lower Limit, 1982); Cała prawda o planecie Ksi (The Whole Truth about Planet Xi, 1983); Wyjście z cienia (pl) (Out of the Shadows, 1983); and Paradyzja (Paradise: World in Orbit, 1984) — that earned him a reputation as one of the most important Polish science-fiction writers.[2][3]

He was an active member of Polish and international science fiction fandom, and a Trustee of World SF.[1][2]

In the 1980s he was an active supporter of the Polish Solidarity movement.[2]

On 19 July 1985, after three years' struggle against the disease, he died of lung cancer.[1][2]

Themes[edit]

Zajdel's early works, from 60s and early 70s, can be located in the Cambellian, classic science fiction genre, focusing on scientific inventions and their role in space exploration, alien contact or artificial intelligence.[2][3] Quickly, however, his stories evolved to focus on the social aspects and often negative consequences of those inventions.[2] Increasingly visible theme in his works was the concern over dangers inherent in attempts to control the human society.[2] He is also condemning human ignorance, warning against xenophobia, and asking philosophical questions about the nature of the universe, happiness and human destiny.[2] Zajdel's most important works are from his second period - late 70s and 80s - and represent the genres of social and dystopian fiction.[2] In his works, he envisions totalitarian states and societies leaving under extreme forms of mass surveillance.[2]

His works are also recognized as being a critique of the totalitarian, communist state, a reality of his life in People's Republic of Poland. Science-fiction genre, with its outer-worldly, clearly fictional, and often allegorical setting and invented jargon was able to debate fundamentals of such systems with frankness that more mainstream literature would not be allowed to.[2]

Importance[edit]

Zajdel has been described as the second science fiction writer in popularity in Poland after Stanisław Lem.[1][2] He has also been described as the writer who replaced Lem as the "top Polish SF writer", after "Lem vacated [this position] earlier of his own volition".[4]

He is recognized as an originator of the social science fiction genre in Polish science fiction, known in Poland as the sociological speculative fiction (fantastyka socjologiczna).[2][3][5] He has been an inspiration to a number of younger Polish science fiction authors such as Maciej Parowski and Marek Oramus.[2]

His works have been translated into Belorussian, Bulgarian, Czech, Esperanto, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Russian and Slovenian.[3] Almost none of his works have been translated into English; the only exception is the short story Wyjątkowo trudny teren ("Particularly Difficult Territory") that Zajdel wrote for the English language Tales from the Planet Earth anthology edited by Frederik Pohl and Elizabeth Anne Hull.[3]

Recognition[edit]

In 1973 Zajdel received a honorary award Magnum Trophaeum from the Młody Technik (Young Technician) magazine for long-term cooperation.[6] In 1980 Zajdel received the award of the Polish Ministry of Culture and Arts for Van Troff's Cylinder.[7] Zajdel was twice recipient of the Golden Sepulka Award: for Limes Inferior (1982 novel; 1983 award) and Wyjście z cienia ("Out of the Shadow") (1983 novel; 1984 award).[2]

In 1984 Polish fantasy and science fiction fandom (associated with the Polish SF convention Polcon) decided to establish an annual award, initially named Sfinks ("Sphynx"). Janusz A. Zajdel became the first winner of this award, for his 1984 novel Paradyzja. He won the award in 1985, shortly after his death, at which time it was decided to rename the award after him, the Janusz A. Zajdel Award.[2][8]

Frederik Pohl dedicated the anthology Tales From The Planet Earth to Zajdel and A. Bertram Chandler.[9] This book also contains the English translation of one of Zajdel's short stories, Particularly Difficult Territory. It is his only work to have been translated into English to date.[3]

Bibliography[edit]

In addition to the solo-authored works listed below, Zajdel's stories have also appeared in many anthologies of science-fiction stories, together with works by other authors.[2]

Novels[edit]

Short-story collections[edit]

  • Jad mantezji (The Venom of Mantesia), Nasza Księgarnia, 1965
  • Przejście przez lustro (Through the Mirror), Iskry, 1975)
  • Iluzyt, Nasza Księgarnia, 1976
  • Feniks (The Phoenix), Nasza Księgarnia, 1981
  • Ogon diabła (The Devil's Tail), KAW, 1982
  • Dokąd jedzie ten tramwaj? (Where Is This Streetcar Going?), 1988
  • Wyższe racje (Higher Considerations), Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1988
  • List pożegnalny (Farewell Letter [including outlines of unfinished novels]), Alfa, 1989
  • Relacja z pierwszej ręki (First-hand Account), superNOWA, 2010

See also[edit]

  • Koalang – term invented by Zajdel

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Frederik Pohl; Elizabeth Anne Hull (15 October 1986). Tales From The Planet Earth. St. Martin's Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-312-78420-1. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Janusz Andrzej Zajdel". Culture.pl. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Authors : Zajdel, Janusz A : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Elżbieta Gepfert; Grzegorz Kozubski; Piotr W. Cholewa (2000). Anthology: chosen by fate : Zajdel award winners. Śląski Klub Fantastyki. p. 8. ISBN 978-83-7054-142-2. 
  5. ^ "Janusz A. Zajdel" (in Polish). Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Janusz A. Zajdel, List Pożegnalny, 1989, ISBN 8370011896, p. 6.
  7. ^ Robert Klementowski, "Modelowe boksowanie ze światem: polska literatura fantastyczna na przełomie lat 70. i 80", 2003, ISBN 8373226087, p. 124
  8. ^ "Historia Nagrody" (in Polish). Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  9. ^ Frederik Pohl; Elizabeth Anne Hull (15 October 1986). Tales From The Planet Earth. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-78420-1.  p. v

External links[edit]