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FANTASTIC TANDEM: Henry Lion Oldie about the future of Ukraine and the world. A new archaic or a new XX century? (Part III)

FANTASTIC TANDEM: Henry Lion Oldie on the structure of reality and envisioning the future (Part I)
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Dmytro Gromov and Oleg Ladyzhensky / facebook.com

 

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Read Part II

 

It is hard to find a better person to talk about the future of Ukraine and the world. We offer you the continuation of the conversation with outstanding Ukrainian writers Dmytro Gromov and Oleg Ladyzhensky, who work under the pseudonym Henry Lion Oldie in the genre of science fiction.

The works of this fantastic tandem are popular not only in Ukraine but also in dozens of countries around the world. Their books’ total circulation exceeds 2 million copies.

Recently, with the story «The Unknown Painter», they have been nominated for the prize awarded by the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA Awards).

 

BEYOND THE «MAGIC»

 

Dmytro: When we work, we periodically consult with specialists. Of course, we also «dig» ourselves and study some concepts, articles, monographs, etc. But you have to realize that no matter how deeply a writer delves into the material, he will still be inferior to a professional in one particular area.

The writer’s task is different — to create the illusion of authenticity. We are all magicians, illusionists. We don’t launch a real spaceship, we don’t build a real reactor, we don’t utilize the characteristics of real AI. If we could accomplish all of these things in the reality of the world rather than the reality of the text, our discoveries would have been working for the benefit of the motherland long ago.

Our works are realistic illusions, not reference books for specialists or amateurs. Yes, there should not be obvious bloopers from the scientific point of view. But the main thing is not their absence but unexpected nuances of plot, concept, and choice of theme.

A fantastic concept is an invented technology, although it is based on some actual knowledge. We work in a vast range: the minimum is with what already exists, and the maximum is with what does not exist but is potentially possible.

Oleg: The term «science fiction» is incredibly broad. It’s a huge mass of knowledge that different sciences offer us — sociology, history, geography, anthropology, physics, math…

It’s everything beyond magical assumption and folkloric wizardry. Why do readers often mistake science fiction for fantasy, for magic?

In the novel «Oikoumene», we make the assumption that there are people who are able to shift from a material form of existence to a waveform of existence. This gives «wave people» the ability to go into space directly, without a spaceship.

Many have taken this idea as a fantasy. Although it was borrowed from Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who wrote about «radiant humanity». Such people do not even need planets to live in space.

 

Обложка цикла «Ойкумена»
Cover of the book «Oikoumene» / oldieworld.com

 

CAN A TEXT CONTROL REALITY?

 

Dmytro: Once in the novel «We Are to Live Here», written in co-authorship with Andrey Valentinov (also from Kharkiv), we made a sort of fantastic assumption… One of the novel’s heroes is a writer whose texts become a reality.

However, we did not imagine that we could find ourselves in the role of such a writer. The novel «We Are to Live Here» was created from 1995 to 1998. At the end of the work, Kharkiv is invaded by a column of tanks from the direction of Belgorod.

At the time, such a scenario seemed absolutely fantastic to the vast majority of people on the planet. Unfortunately, our fictional assumption turned out to be prophetic.

Then, there were several other similar cases and very strange coincidences. For example, in the novel «Let Them Die», there is an episode in which a mysterious disease strikes certain cities and even entire regions. People suddenly begin to fall asleep right in the middle of the street, at the workplace, driving a car, etc. There is no clear cause for the epidemic. Three weeks later, it passes as abruptly and without reason as it began.

When the book was already written and went to the publisher, we came across a small note in one of the newspapers. It was about a town in northern Italy, where events unfolded exactly as in the novel. It’s as if the plot was stolen from us.

Oleg: The novel mentioned above, «Oikoumene», was written back in 2006. There, the action takes place in a distant space. One of the planets breaks away from an enormous space power and declares itself a separate republic.

Separatists are forced to return to the state by military means, but they are supported by another, powerful space civilization, which brings to the orbit of the rebellious planet its military fleet. I will not retell the whole plot, but I will note one detail — the planet in question is seen from space as yellow-blue. It was written eight years before the war began and sixteen years before the massive invasion.

In «Oikoumene», the space civilization is on the verge of a war of all against all, but total conflict is derailed for a number of reasons. Much of this novel has parallels to the current geopolitical reality on planet Earth.

Strange coincidences between reality and our assumptions happen, but I don’t think we should demand the same from a writer as we do from a politologist. Fiction has a different function. Even Jules Verne’s predictions did not all come true.

No human being, including the most advanced and informed, knows reliably what will happen in the future. Of course, like all ordinary citizens, we try to reflect on the war in Ukraine and draw some conclusions. But we do not voice them publicly.

First of all, we are writers. Why should we stand in a long line for hype together with hundreds of military analysts, forecasters, and politologists?

 

Обложка романа «Нам здесь жить»
Cover of the novel «We Are to Live Here» / oldieworld.com

 

Вступая в клуб друзей Huxleў, Вы поддерживаете философию, науку и искусство

 

IS A «NEW MIDDLE AGES» POSSIBLE?

 

Dmytro: There is a relatively popular assessment of current events, according to which the world is shifting to a «new Middle Ages», to a «new archaic». Perhaps, to some extent, this is indeed true. For example, we cannot help but notice that Russia is acting in the most savage archaic manner towards Ukrainians and its own citizens.

We can say that Iran is also developing in a medieval paradigm. However, I am now observing directly opposite processes, something like a «new Modern». That is, two completely opposite vectors of development are fighting for the future of humankind. And it seems to me that the progressive trend prevails.

I don’t think that the fashion for fantasy has anything to do with the «new Middle Ages» either. Science fantasy is far from a new phenomenon. It is a genre where, in general, the scientific picture of the world neighbors with elements of magic and supernatural creatures.

We also paid tribute to such a hybrid genre. However, there is nothing in the popularity of this literary technique that would say that the world is sliding into the Middle Ages.

By the way, in the first half of the XX century, it is in the era of modernity that you and I see the birth of the most outstanding examples of fantasy. Take at least Tolkien’s «The Lord of the Rings» or Howard’s «Conan the Barbarian».

Oleg: I think it’s a mistake to define modernity as «Middle Ages.» All the horrors that are happening before our eyes — from «meat storms» to repressions, from Europe’s indecisiveness to internal conflicts in the United States — all of this has already happened in the XX century.

We are entering a «new XX century» whose horrors are far more terrifying and sweeping than those of the Middle Ages.

 

WE ARE REFLEXING THE XXTH CENTURY, WHICH WE «MISUNDERSTOOD»

 

Oleg: But as fiction writers, not as political scientists, we can try to conceptualize the path that humanity is on. We see that for decades, there has been a colossal struggle between globalists and adherents of the idea of national states.

The former insist on the priority of world controlling organizations, such as the UN, NATO, the World Health Organization, but in a new format. Another important player is transnational corporations, which want a more significant share of control than nation-states. During the Covid epidemic, we saw transnational regulations override the laws and constitutions of national states.

For example, they override the constitutional right to freedom of movement — I can’t get on a plane because I don’t have a vaccination, a certificate. However, we also see the opposite examples, such as national states pursuing policies that ignore transnational corporations and international agreements.

This struggle is now in full swing. Where will it lead? I am not sure that a homogeneous new world order will emerge. I think some countries may move to the left, others to the right. What the balance between the global and the national will be is almost impossible to predict now.

The only thing that should probably be clarified is that when we talk about nation-states, we should perceive them as a political nation, not as a nation «by blood». Otherwise, we will come to the horrors we experienced in the last century. In fact, you and I are now rethinking the XX century — we misunderstood it!

All the mechanisms of checks and balances that were created in the XX century have collapsed today. So we have to do this work — we have to reconsider the experience of the last century anew. 

Dmytro: I think that at the end of the conflicts, we will get something in between, a «mix» of modified nation-states and globalist structures. There will be political, economic, trade, and military alliances that previously seemed impossible.

These will be completely new configurations and arrangements since no one — neither governments nor globalists and corporations — will be able to gain the final victory. The role of big cities will probably change, and they will become more subjective. Hopefully, the further redivision of the world will be in the style of a cold rather than a hot war.

 

FANTASTIC TANDEM: Henry Lion Oldie about the future of Ukraine and the world. A new archaic or a new XX century? (Part III)
Cover of «Let Them Die» / oldieworld.com

 

IT IS TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT RECONCILIATION WITH RUSSIA

 

Dmytro: Imagine you are in 1943. You come to the ruined Kharkiv and ask people a question: are you able to forgive the Germans? I think you could have been killed for one such phrase. But it is dangerous to raise the issue of reconciliation with the Russians now, not because of that, but because words spoken at the wrong time have negative consequences.

There is a war going on now, which the Ukrainians want to win. Any war is inhuman by nature. If a soldier in the trench thinks about forgiving the enemy, he himself will die and let his country down. Will a government official or volunteer be able to properly help a soldier at the front if he thinks about the same thing?

Oleg: It is tough for us to accept that war goes beyond ethics and humanity. But, unfortunately, it does. Therefore, war cannot be measured by an ethical ruler meant for peacetime. When a predator attacks a prey, they both don’t think about ethical categories. These are very complex topics for «standard» interpretation.

For example, what should be considered a Ukrainian victory? We can talk about reaching the borders of 1991. But I would also suggest the following version of our victory: we did not let this war dehumanize and divide us, we were able to answer the question of why we, so different, need to be together. As the Bible says, «A house divided against itself will not stand». And it’s vital for us to stand.

«Together» — I would suggest this word as the central metaphor for Ukrainian victory. If, as a result of the war, some new ideology emerges that can unite all of Ukraine, we have won!

We need an ideology based on the image of a comfortable and secure future where everyone wants to live together. It is impossible to construct a desirable future based on ideas and characters from the past.

As we know, you cannot step into the same river twice, but you can step on the same rake twice. If we fail some history test, we will be forced to repeat it until we can’t pass.

 


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