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AUBG Hosts Inaugural Science Fiction and Communism Conference

June 28, 2018

Scholars from all over the world arrived in Blagoevgrad in late May for the first in the region Science Fiction and Communism conference. They spent the weekend of May 26-27 presenting their research and exchanging ideas at the Andrey Delchev Auditorium.

The conference, a collaboration between AUBG and Sofia University, opened at Sofia’s Gallery One where participants enjoyed the “Fantastika in a Time of Communism” exhibit, showing archival and artistic sci-fi works from Bulgaria’s socialist period. The activities then moved to AUBG’s Blagoevgrad campus.

While the topic might seem like an odd combination, the conference aimed to explore the complex relationship between the communist regime in the 20th century and science fiction. This relationship has opened a large discussion provoked both by the abundance of futuristic symbolism in the ideological rhetoric and propaganda of the regimes, as well as by the immense popularity of science fiction art during the Cold War.

“I think this conference has done a lot to try to bridge this gap, of having a balanced and objective view of what role sci-fi played in both a positive way and in a negative way. It was used as propaganda, certainly, but during communism everything the regime was trying to do was somehow twisted and people managed to get something else out of it,” said AUBG Provost Emilia Zankina.

Another goal of the Science Fiction and Communism conference was to shine a light on a field of study that is largely undeveloped in Eastern Europe, and especially Bulgaria.

“One of our goals here is to raise the interest because we see clearly that science fiction is embedded in our everyday life and in our past – culturally, architecturally, through everything that surrounds us,” said Emilia Karaboeva, a professor at Sofia University. “This connection between communism and science fiction is very interesting not only because it is very provocative and there are many different opinions and arguments about it, but also because communism is, in one way or another, still here with us so we have to address many questions about it.”

Over the two days of the conference different panels explored various angles of the relationship between science fiction and communism – an overview of the genre in the soviet world, the ties between sci-fi in the East and Western blocks, the idea of space in communist children literature, and others. The event concluded with remarks by Dr. Darko Suvin, a professor emeritus at McGill University and one of the most prominent figures in science fiction studies, who joined via conference call.

The Science Fiction and Communism conference aims to become an annual event on the AUBG campus. The organizers hope to even take it a step further and establish an association whose goal it would be to cooperate and work further for the development of the field in the region and beyond.

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