Science fiction and fantasy in Poland

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Stanislaw Lem, the most famous Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem 2.jpg
Stanisław Lem, the most famous Polish science fiction writer

Science fiction and fantasy in Poland dates to the late 18th century. During the later years of the People's Republic of Poland, social science fiction was a very popular genre of science fiction. Afterwards, many others gained prominence. Currently there are many science fiction writers in Poland. Internationally, the best known Polish science fiction writer is Stanisław Lem. As elsewhere, Polish science fiction is closely related to the genres of fantasy, horror and others. Although many English language writers have been translated into Polish, relatively little Polish language science fiction (or fantasy) has been translated into English.

Social science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction, usually soft science fiction, concerned less with technology/space opera and more with speculation about society. In other words, it "absorbs and discusses anthropology" and speculates about human behavior and interactions.

Genre is any form or type of communication in any mode with socially-agreed upon conventions developed over time. Genre is most popularly known as a category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical, communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions. Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while others may show great flexibility.

Science fiction genre of fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".



Science fiction in Poland started in the late 18th century during the Polish Enlightenment, when Michał Dymitr Krajewski wrote a novel about the adventures of a Pole on the Moon. In the mid-19th century, during the age of romanticism in Poland, Adam Mickiewicz, reckoned by many to be Poland's top poet, also worked on a Verne-like science fiction novel A History of the Future, but never published it (only a few fragments remain). Later in the same century, the period of positivism in Poland saw several writers explore themes similar to Verne and H.G. Wells, among them Władysław Umiński, Włodzimierz Zagórski and Sygurd Wiśniowski. However, perhaps the most famous Polish writer of the time, Bolesław Prus, used science fiction elements in his mainstream fiction. For example, his novel Lalka includes a "mad scientist" as well as a "lighter-than-air" metal. Similar themes are seen in the works of Prus's colleague, Stefan Żeromski, with his 'houses of glass' in Przedwiośnie, and his death rays in Róża.

Enlightenment in Poland

The ideas of the Age of Enlightenment in Poland were developed later than in Western Europe, as the Polish bourgeoisie was weaker, and szlachta (nobility) culture (Sarmatism) together with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth political system were in deep crisis. The period of Polish Enlightenment began in the 1730s–40s, peaked in the reign of Poland's last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, went into decline with the Third Partition of Poland (1795) – a national tragedy inspiring a short period of sentimental writing – and ended in 1822, replaced by Romanticism.

Michał Dymitr Krajewski Polish writer

Michał Dymitr Tadeusz Krajewski, sometimes also referred to as Dymitr M. Krajewski, was a Polish writer and educational activist of the times of the Enlightenment in Poland. His 1784 book Podolanka became the most debated and published Polish novel of that year, and his next book, Wojciech Zdarzyński, is considered to be the first Polish science-fiction novel.

Romanticism in Poland

Romanticism in Poland, a literary, artistic and intellectual period in the evolution of Polish culture, began around 1820, coinciding with the publication of Adam Mickiewicz's first poems in 1822. It ended with the suppression of the Polish-Lithuanian January 1863 Uprising against the Russian Empire in 1864. The latter event ushered in a new era in Polish culture known as Positivism.

In the early 20th century Jerzy Żuławski was probably the most popular Polish science fiction author, with his Lunar Trilogy (Trylogia księżycowa), a masterpiece for its time and place of composition. Similar works were created by Tadeusz Konczyński, Wacław Gąsiorowski and Maria Julia Zaleska. In the reborn Second Polish Republic other writers followed in this genre. Edmund Kruger and Kazimierz Andrzej Czyżowski were known for his many books addressed to the younger audience; Bruno Winawer for his satirical take and Jerzy Rychliński and Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski for their catastrophic vision of future war. Finally, Antoni Słonimski's Dwa końce świata(Two Ends of the World) is perhaps the best known dystopian work of the time.

Jerzy Żuławski Polish philosopher, writer, poet and playwright of the Young Poland period

Jerzy Żuławski was a Polish literary figure, philosopher, translator, alpinist and nationalist whose best-known work is the science-fiction epic, Trylogia Księżycowa, written between 1901 and 1911.

Maria Julia Zaleskade domo Perłowska was a Polish writer, prosaist and publicist. Editor of weekly magazine Wieczory Rodzinne [Family evenings].

Second Polish Republic 1918-1939 republic in Eastern Europe

The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as interwar Poland, refers to the country of Poland in the period between the First and Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland, sometimes Commonwealth of Poland, the Polish state was re-established in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I. When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were fixed in 1922, Poland's neighbours were Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union. It had access to the Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of Gdynia. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-Hungarian governorate of Subcarpathia. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of European theatre of World War II.

After World War II, in the first decade of the People's Republic of Poland, science fiction was used as a propaganda tool by the communist regime, with its main purpose being to show the "bright future" of communism. Only after Joseph Stalin's death were Polish writers to gain more leeway and start questioning the reality around them, albeit always struggling against censorship. At that time the undisputed leader of Polish science fiction was Stanisław Lem, who first questioned the regime's actions in his Memoirs Found in a Bathtub . He was followed by Janusz A. Zajdel, Konrad Fiałkowski and Czesław Chruszczewski, and from the mid-70s for a short period by the acclaimed writings of Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented. Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups, companies, religious organizations and the media can also produce propaganda.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Shelves in a bookstore (Empik, Katowice), containing only new releases of science fiction and fantasy by Polish authors with surnames from P to Z (approximately from first half of 2006). Despite their popularity in Poland, virtually none of these books have been translated into English. Polish sci fi fantasy books.JPG
Shelves in a bookstore (Empik, Katowice), containing only new releases of science fiction and fantasy by Polish authors with surnames from P to Z (approximately from first half of 2006). Despite their popularity in Poland, virtually none of these books have been translated into English.

In the late 1970s the genre social science fiction (Polish: fantastyka socjologiczna) arose in the People's Republic of Poland. At these times it focused on the development of societies dominated by totalitarian governments. The genre is dominated by Janusz A. Zajdel ( Limes Inferior , Paradyzja ), Edmund Wnuk-Lipiński ( Apostezjon trilogy), Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg and Marek Oramus. Some works by Stanisław Lem can also be classified within this genre. The fantastical settings of books of this genre were usually only a pretext for analysing the structure of Polish society, and were always full of allusions to reality. After the revolutions of 1989, when the use of real-world examples in fiction became safe in former Eastern Bloc countries, the genre largely transformed itself into political fiction, represented by writers such as Rafał A. Ziemkiewicz, although an echo is visible in the 1990s dystopia/hard sf duology by Tomasz Kołodziejczak.

Totalitarianism political system in which the state holds total authority

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.

Paradyzja is a 1984 science fiction novel by Janusz A. Zajdel.

Edmund Wnuk-Lipiński Polish sociologist

Edmund Wnuk-Lipiński was a Polish sociologist, political scientist and writer. A professor of sociology, he was the founder and first headperson of the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Political Studies and the rector of Warsaw-based Collegium Civitas. He was also a fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna, the University of Notre Dame, and Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, as well as a member of the Polish National Council for Civil Service and the National Council for European Integration. He was teaching at the College of Europe since 1999.

Polish fantasy began to appear in the late 1980s. Polish authors notable as fantasy writers include Andrzej Sapkowski ( The Witcher series) and Feliks W. Kres (the world of Szerer). Another fantasy series of that time was authored by Konrad Lewandowski.

Andrzej Sapkowski Polish novelist

Andrzej Sapkowski is a Polish fantasy writer. He is best known for his book series, The Witcher. His books have been translated into about 20 languages.

<i>The Witcher</i> series of fantasy short stories and six novels about the witcher Geralt of Rivia

The Witcher, by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, is a fantasy series of short stories and novels about the witcher Geralt of Rivia. In Sapkowski's books, "witchers" are monster hunters who develop supernatural abilities at a young age to battle deadly beasts. The books have been adapted into a film, a television series, video games, and a graphic novel series. The series of novels is known as the Witcher Saga. The short stories and novels have been translated into numerous languages, including English.

Feliks Wiktor Kres is a popular Polish fantasy writer. He debuted with his short story "Mag" (Mage), submitted to a writing contest of the Fantastyka magazine. Since then, he has published seven novels and dozens of short stories. His pseudonym may be translated as Lucky End.

The 1980s were also the time Polish comics dealing with fantasy and science fiction were released, such as The Witcher comic book, and the science fiction comic series Funky Koval .

In the 1990s there was an explosion of translations, primarily from the Western (English language) literature. The major Polish publishing house specializing in Polish science fiction and fantasy literature was SuperNOWA. [1] The scene was transformed around and after 2002, with SuperNOWA losing its dominant position, and many new Polish writers, the "2002 generation", appearing. [1] An increasing number of translations from non-English speaking countries (Russian, Ukrainian, Czech) has been noticeable as well.

Currently, much of Polish science fiction and fantasy resembles that familiar to English-language writers. There are many science fiction writers as well as fantasy writers in Poland, and their works vary from alternate histories to hard science fiction. The best internationally known Polish science fiction writer is undoubtedly Stanisław Lem, although many others can be considered world-class, [2] with their books being translated into many (mostly European) languages. Relatively little Polish language science fiction and fantasy has been translated into English, even though countless English language writers have been translated into Polish.

Modern writers

Anna Brzezinska at the Janusz A. Zajdel Award ceremony at Polcon 2001 in Katowice. Zajdel 2000.jpg
Anna Brzezińska at the Janusz A. Zajdel Award ceremony at Polcon 2001 in Katowice.
Marek S. Huberath at Polcon 2005. Marek S. Huberath Polcon 2005.JPG
Marek S. Huberath at Polcon 2005.
Andrzej Pilipiuk. Pilipiuk.jpg
Andrzej Pilipiuk.
Andrzej Sapkowski. Sapkowski.jpg
Andrzej Sapkowski.
Rafal A. Ziemkiewicz. Ziemkiewicz.jpg
Rafał A. Ziemkiewicz.

Modern Polish science fiction and fantasy writers include:


There are two major Polish science fiction and fantasy monthly magazines. The oldest one is Nowa Fantastyka (published in 1982-1990 as Fantastyka). Another one, founded in 2001, is Science Fiction, which publishes mainly new Polish works and much fewer translations than Nowa Fantastyka. [1] As of 2006, both had a circulation of about 8,000–15,000. [1] Discontinued magazines include Fenix (1990–2001), [1] SFinks (1994–2002) [1] and Magia i Miecz (1993–2002). Several are published online in ezine form, including Fahrenheit and Esensja. [1]

There are two major Polish publishing houses specializing in Polish science fiction and fantasy, Fabryka Słów and Runa. [1] SuperNOWA, once a dominant publishing house on that field, has now lost much of its position. MAG and Solaris publish mostly translations, and in what is seen as boom for the Polish science fiction and fantasy market, mainstream publishing houses are increasingly publishing such works as well. [1] A book with a circulation of over 10,000 is considered a bestseller in Poland. [1]


Polish science fiction fandom is prominent, with dozens of science fiction conventions throughout Poland. The largest of them is Polcon (first held in 1982), other prominent ones include Falkon, Imladris, Krakon and Nordcon. Two largest prizes awarded by fandom are the Janusz A. Zajdel Award and the Nautilus Prize; other notable include the Śląkfa—award of the oldest Polish fandom club, the Silesian Fantasy Club. Science fiction conventions in Poland are de facto almost always "science fiction and fantasy conventions", and are often heavily mixed with role-playing gaming conventions. On the other hand, although Poland has also several manga and anime conventions, they are usually kept separate from the science fiction and gaming fandom conventions. The most important comic books and science-fiction conventions in Poland include the Warsaw Comic Con and the International Festival of Comics and Games in Łódź.

Other media

Polish science fiction writing has not had much impact on non-print media like cinema, television and computer games,[ citation needed ] although several science fiction, fantasy and horror films and games have been made in Poland. The notable exception is Seksmisja (Sex Mission) which has become something of a cult film in Poland, and has been widely aired abroad, for example in UK. Other lesser-known examples include the films of Piotr Szulkin.

In the late 2000s, The Witcher computer game series became a best-seller worldwide.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 Jacek Dukaj, Krajobraz po zwycięstwe czyli polska fantastyka ad 2006, Nowa Fantastyska, 1/2007 (292), p. 11–16
  2. Myths, Legends, Fantasy... An Overview of Polish Science Fiction & Fantasy, British Council
  3. Frederik Pohl, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Tales from the Planet Earth, St. Martin's, 1986, ISBN   0-312-78420-1, Google Print, p.268

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