Alien Places in Late Soviet Science Fiction : The "Unexpected Encounters" of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky as Novels and Films

Abstract: This dissertation deals with how science fiction reflects the shift in cultural paradigms that occurred in the Soviet Union between the 1960s and the 1970s. Interest was displaced from the rational to the irrational, from a scientific-technologically oriented optimism about the future to art, religion, philosophy and metaphysics. Concomitant with this shift in interests was a shift from the future to an elsewhere or, reformulated in exclusively spatial terms, from utopia to heterotopia.The dissertation consists of an analysis of three novels by the Strugatsky brothers (Arkady, 1925-1991 and Boris 1933-2012): Inspector Glebsky’s Puzzle (Otel’ U pogibšego al’pinista, 1970), The Kid (Malyš, 1971) and Roadside Picnic (Piknik na obočine, 1972) and two films Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (Hukkunud alpinisti hotell/ Otel’ U pogibšego al’pinista, Kromanov, 1979) and Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1980).  The three novels, allegedly treatments of the theme of contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, were intended to be published in one volume with the title Unexpected Encounters. The films are based on two of the novels.In the novels an earlier Marxist utopia has given way to a considerably more ambiguous heterotopia, largely envisioned as versions of the West. An indication of how the authors here seem to look back towards history rather than forward towards the future is to be found in the persistent strain of literary Gothic that runs through the novels. This particular trait resurfaces in the films as well. The films reflect how tendencies only discernable in the novels have developed throughout the decade, such as the budding Soviet consumer culture and the religious sensibilities of the artistic community.

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