The following is the first of a special series of posts contributed to us by Montenegran writer and academic, Marija Nenezić. May these posts ignite in you the same thirst for Montenegran science fiction poetry that they have for us.
Part One: The Bermuda Triangle
Montenegro is a small country, once a part of Yugoslavia. In addition to a solid traditional basis in literature, it also offers a touch of the new wave. That new wave is science fiction poetry, but for us in the Balkans, that part of genre literature is vibrant but still inadequately represented. Notable poets who appear in the genre are often swallowed up by other literary currents led by the mainstream. Readers of SpecPo may be interested to learn that one of the Montenegrin science fiction pioneers who remained faithful to the genre is Slobodan Vukanović.
Vukanović began his poetic expression dedicated to the genre in the 1980s when he crafted the most important opus of Montenegran science fiction poetry. Before we examine his work more closely, we should zoom out and examine the roots of science fiction poetry within the Montenegran and Yugoslavian world. To get better acquainted, the reader might familiarize themselves with Signalism.
Signalism, which was later renamed scientism, from the Latin signum, sign, appeared in our country in 1959, as part of an avant-garde creative movement that experimented with graphics and visual symbols, and found a thematic basis in the scientific disciplines of physics, mathematics, biochemistry, astrophysics, and biology. Signalism is respected in literary spheres, science fiction is not.
Poetry was once treated as part of human art yet was seen written only by the chosen – men, and then, it was predestined to deal only with sublime themes and emotions. Following this logic, it is not surprising that science fiction poetry is not recognized as an equal member, and that it has not been recognized appropriately.
In 1990, Zoran Zivkovic, a literary scholar and writer, published a two-volume “Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.” Yet even Živković does not describe the source of science fiction poetry, nor does it mention scientism or signalism. We consider that a great omission because it was in former Yugoslavia that an avant-garde movement paved the way for contemporary science fiction poetry. It is was signalism.
ENTER: BASEMENT LITERATURE
Prolific writer and speculative poet, Ilija Bakić, studied science fiction in former Yugoslavia. He highlights in his work how science fiction poetry is more neglected than (narrative) science fiction. As a special feature of science fiction poetry, Bakić emphasizes the narrative, concluding that it is closer to the epic poetic key. The problem of accepting science fiction poetry, even through signalism and scientism, is reflected in the elitist practice of defining art through the denigration of genre.
What can be especially emphasized, and what Bakić also points out, is the literary world’s avoidance of certain topics and genres. Instead of recognizing its refusal to address those topics, science fiction poetry was relegated to the category of basement literature. This category is the so-called The Bermuda Triangle, unjustly combining two genres, science-fiction and children’s literature (this triangle also includes the romance genre.) Even then, when it comes to scientific/signal poetry, there have been attempts to expand to the field of literature for children and youth.
“The problem of accepting science fiction poetry…is reflected in the elitist practice of defining art through the denigration of genre.”
As a special feature of science fiction poetry, Bakić cites lexical differentiation. Perhaps if we consider the middle of the last century when science and technology were not accessible topics to everyone in Europe, you could understand how the language of science fiction poetry might alienate or confuse a reader. However, in the twenty-first century, that argument does not hold water. Even in the world of science fiction, science fiction poetry gets less attention.
Certainly, the main problem of science fiction poetry is simply its reception. This is hampered by the “traditional” understanding of literary verse and theme that alienates the typical science fiction reader and locks in the poet who might experiment with a breakthrough form.
Bakić called the writing of science fiction poetry a breakthrough, but in the literary world the science fiction poet does not take a step forward by writing it, rather they commit a crime. In a way, Bakić’s text on science fiction poetry is a kind of lament over our literature, as well as for writers and poets who remain in the tried and tested paths of tradition, which is so well-trodden that the purpose of certain writings is not seen.
All is not lost. A happy circumstance awaits for the future. There are linguistic spaces (thinking of SF poetry) and those who have decided to look differently at the past, the present, and to turn to the future.
In the next segment of Marija Nenezić’s Introduction to Montenegran Science Fiction poetry, we turn to the delightful work of Slobodan Vukanović, a celebrated poet that Bakić cites Slobodan Vukanović, and his poetry, as “ahead of time.”
THE SPECk and the SFPA would like to thank Marija Nenezić for her contribution to our field. We look forward to much more in the future as she opens doors to new worlds in former Yugoslavia. This work was written by Marija Nenezić and edited for format.
Marija Nenezić is a professor of Serbian Language and South-East Literature. She holds a degree in Children’s & YA Literature with a focus on oral fairy tales. She is currently working on her Masters thesis on Harry Potter. She is the founder and editor at Zlatna Gora publishing and an editor, critic, and lecturer at the Association of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
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