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CELESTIAL HELLSCAPES COSMOLOGY AS THE KEY TO THE STRUGATSKIIS’ SCIENCE FICTIONS The Real Twentieth Century Series Editor Thomas Seifrid (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) Editorial Board Stephen Blackwell (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) Jonathan Bolton (Harvard University) Clare Cavanagh (Northwestern University) Nancy Condee (Pittsburgh University, Pittsburgh) Caryl Emerson (Princeton University, Princeton) Beth Holmgren (Duke University) Mikhail Iampolskii (New York University, New York) Galin Tihanov (Manchester University, Manchester) Ronald Vroon (UCLA) CELESTIAL HELLSCAPES COSMOLOGY AS THE KEY TO THE STRUGATSKIIS’ SCIENCE FICTIONS KEVIN REESE BOSTON 2019 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Reese, Kevin, author. Title: Celestial hellscapes : cosmology as the key to the Strugatskiis' science fictions / Kevin Reese. Description: Boston : Academic Studies Press, 2019. | Series: Real twentieth century Identifiers: LCCN 2019001629 (print) | LCCN 2019003686 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618119803 (ebook) | ISBN 9781618119797 (hardcover : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Strugatskii, Arkadii, 1925-1991--Criticism and interpretation. | Strugatskii, Boris, 1933-2012--Criticism and interpretation. | Science fiction, Russian--Soviet Union--History and criticism. | Cosmology in literature. | Astronomy in literature. Classification: LCC PG3476.S78835 (ebook) | LCC PG3476.S78835 Z86 2019 (print) | DDC 891.73/44--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019001629 Copyright © 2019 Academic Studies Press All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-61811-979-7 (hardback) ISBN 978-1-61811-980-3 (ebook) Book design by Lapiz Digital Services. Cover design by Ivan Grave. On the cover: Top: Andrei Sokolov and Aleksei Leonov, "The Planet of Two Suns," 1964 (in public domain); Bottom: Arkadii Strugatskii’s sketch of a conjunction of the Moon and Venus on 28 January 1953 (reproduced by permission). Published by Academic Studies Press. 1577 Beacon St. Brookline, MA, 02446, USA press@academicstudiespress.com www.academicstudiespress.com Contents Acknowledgements#8;viii A Note on the Names of Our “Author”#8; xiii The Strugatskiis’ Pushkinian Cosmology#8; xv Introduction#8;xvii Chapter 1. A Biography through Astronomy#8; Chapter 2. Minor Planets: The Strugatskiis’ Earlier Experiments in Cosmology #8; Chapter 3. The Hell of the Ignorant: The Second Martian Invasion #8; Chapter 4. Poincaré’s Starless Hell: The Inhabited Island #8; Chapter 5. Exceptions to the Laws of Thermodynamics: Roadside Picnic#8; Chapter 6. “Long live darkness!”: A Billion Years until the End of the World #8; Chapter 7. The Island Universe and the Copper Doorknob: The Doomed City #8; Chapter 8. Chronic Bewilderment and Astronomical “Fact”: Those Burdened by Evil #8; Coda. “Day and night my Man in Black gives me no peace…”: The Yids of the City of Peter#8; 1 21 34 59 77 98 137 191 225 Afterword#8;235 Bibliography#8;236 Appendix: The Altitude of Vega#8; 242 Index#8;246 This book is dedicated to Books Do Furnish a Room in Durham, North Carolina, the bookstore where, in the fall of 1999, I came across the paperback that introduced me to the Strugatskii brothers: Soviet Science Fiction, edited by Isaac Asimov. I am grateful to Asimov for having introduced me to this world, and to Violet Dutt for having translated “Spontaneous Reflex” (one entry in the collection), the first text by the Strugatskiis I ever read. Acknowledgements First, I would like to thank Jehanne Gheith, my thesis advisor at Duke, who, in January of 2004, read a short paper that was the first, poorly formulated version of what would later become this book. I also wish to thank Yvonne Howell, who, moved by Boris Natanovich’s death (the news of which spread among the Soviet science fiction researchers at ASEEES in New Orleans in late November of 2012), suggested that I contribute a paper to a panel on the Strugatskii brothers and science. This conversation prompted me to dig out that old essay and to work it into a paper that I presented at ASEEES in Boston the following fall. I doubt very much that I would have taken those first steps towards writing this book had Professor Howell and I not spoken that day. I would also like to thank Ivana Vuletic, my dissertation advisor at UNC, who supported me in my quest to fuse poetry and science fiction (Maiakovskii, the Strugatskii brothers, and the New Soviet Man), an experience that prepared me to explore the role of Pushkin’s poetic texts in the works of the Strugatskiis that I investigate here. I wish to thank Sibelan Forrester, whom I met when she served as the panel discussant at AATSEEL in December of 2008, at which I was presenting a paper on Maiakovskii, the Strugatskiis, and “functional immortality.” She made me feel, even when I was a graduate student, that I was a co-equal member of the relatively small number of those who study Soviet science fiction. Scholarship cannot thrive without the active intervention of influential persons like Professor Forrester on the behalf of those coming up. Outside of Slavic studies, I owe a great deal to the excellent math professors under whom I studied at both Duke and UNC, particularly to Robert Proctor, in whose classes I most thoroughly learned the rigorous art of writing mathematical proofs. Training in this art has benefited me both as a teacher and as a writer—logical rigor is a tool with myriad uses. I was fortunate to have two careful readers, Jasmine Trinks and John Wright, who helped me tighten the manuscript up before submission. My Acknowledgements ix two anonymous readers provided invaluable insights that aided me in my post-submission revisions. Additionally, Thomas Seifrid, the series editor of “The Real Twentieth Century,” helped me early on with a fundamental reframing of the book project, suggesting that I move the focus away from astronomy and place cosmology at the center of the book’s “universe.” For nearly twenty years I have been corresponding via email with Alla Kuznetsova, a prominent member of the “Liudeny,” the Russian fan collective devoted to researching the Strugatskiis. In addition to serving as a sounding-board for ideas, Ms. Kuznetsova was kind enough to find for me books that I needed for my research that are available in no American library. Among these was Polak’s 1939 Kurs obshchei astronomii, which Arkadii Strugatskii used for self-study during the Blockade, and the 1933 The Stars in their Courses, Russian translation of Jeans’s another childhood favorite of Arkadii Natanovich. Lacking access to these texts would have left gaps in my research, and I am very grateful to Ms. Kuznetsova for having mailed these volumes to me across the world. In the years that I have been working on this book, I have been in contact with four acquisitions editors at Academic Studies Press, beginning with Sharona Vedol, who first got in touch to encourage me to submit a proposal. Since then, I have corresponded with Meghan Vicks (who oversaw the drafting and signing of the contract), Oleh Kotsyuba (who facilitated the final submission and reader reviews), and Ekaterina Yanduganova (who has kept me abreast of the copy-editing and other final stages). Each of the four has been very helpful, always willing to field my myriad questions. Finally, Kira Nemirovsky, the production editor, brought the book to its final, polished form. My thanks go out to these and all other persons at ASP who worked on bringing this thing into the world. In the very final stages of editing the book, a potential discrepancy arose regarding the calculations I had done on the altitude of Vega across various dates in 1937—calculations that are crucial to one of the conclusions I The Doomed City. make in Chapter Seven on I would like to thank my former Russian student Patrick Wise for putting me in touch with Amy Sayle of UNC’s Morehead Planetarium. I would like to thank Dr. Sayle herself for putting a second set of eyes on my reasoning and on my math—and for pointing out that the timing of sunset should be incorporated in the discussion. I thank my parents for their support during this process, and my son Henry—who grew from a toddler to a third-grader while this book was being written—for being a model of curious inquiry. I would also like to thank Karin Breiwitz for making a professional version of my hand-drawn chart of the altitude of