FrankN.Stein and I boldly ventured in an universe largely unknown to outsiders. Made in Hollywood titles dominate Germany's scifi scene. What about science fiction Made in Germany? Let's explore! Entry portals are disguised as websites, such as Das Science-Fiction Portal, Sciencefiction.de and Deutsche Science Fiction. There's also nerdcore for general German nerdy stuff.
Top image by Lothar Bauer, Saargau Arts, posted with permission.
1. Browsing the bookstores
Karsten Krushel's novel "Galdäa" won the 2012 German Science Fiction award for Best Novel. Described as a sci-fi story, thriller, origin story and art novel, Galdäa is part of the world Krushel created in his previous novels, the Vilm series.
German Science Fiction literature is - not exactly a well developed genre, I haven't found a lot I like, writes FrankN.Stein. Andreas Brandhorst, who is one of the nominees is probably one of the two most famous writers of the genre, together with Andreas Eschbach, last year's nominee, but the little I read of any of the didn't exactly make me a fan of both...
As for German scifi German authors... I can't really think of pure scifi writers I like, as those Germans who specialize in it like the two above tend to be a little pulpy, writing rather trivial and low brow stuff. My favorite German scifi novels come from authors who only dip their toes into the genre once in a while...
The Swarm, by Frank Schätzing, is an eco-thriller with a hint of Michael Crichton.
And probably the most entertaining (and surprising one as I never heard of the author or the book before or ever since) one I read in the last years was 42 (I still haven't figured out if that is a Hitchhiker's Guide reference in that title or just coincidence) by Thomas Lehr. In 42, journalists visit the underground particle storage rings at CERN in Geneva. After their visit, the journalists return to their cars only to find themselves in a world frozen in time. Birds hang frozen flying in the air, people are frozen, cars and planes are frozen. The group of 60 journalists are the only ones left unfrozen. How will they cope?
2. Night at the movies
New movies: Blood Panzer is scheduled for release in the fall of 2013. An independent production with hints of manga, Blood Panzer follows the crew of a tank called Madness as they battle the mutant beast Yokai, rogue war machines and zombies. In a post-apocalyptic world, their only allies are the Immunes, but is there an enemy within the crew? Blood Panzer will be released in English.
Hell (2011) is a sun gone rogue, or is it other people in a post-apocalyptic world? Hell has been covered on io9, so it kinda has official blessing ;) - personally I like how mixes genres pretty unexpectedly half through the movie, writes FrankN.Stein. German-born Roland Emmerich, of Independence Day and Stargate fame, was executive producer of Hell.
The spoof Dreamship Surprise, "(T)Raumschiff Surprise," a parody featuring Captain Kork, Mr. Spuck, and first engineer Schrotty as gay characters, topped the German charts in 2004. Trailer with English subtitles available here.
Digging a little deeper, we hit on German classics getting the scoop on Hollywood. A pre-Running Man running-man-themed movie, Das Millionenspiel (1970) stirred its share of controversy. For reference, Stephen King's book The Running Man came out in 1982. Trailer in German available here.
3. Short movies
We can hardly wait to see the short R'ha adapted for the big screen. R'ha was made by 22-year-old Kaleb Lechowski, a student at Mediadesign Hochschule in Berlin. "I had no budget but I was given the programs and computers to do this by the university," writes Lechowski. R'ha's popularity soared the same day it was posted on Vimeo and soon, Lechowsky flew to LA to work on a full-length movie.
109 is a nice short if you understand German, it's a graduation project for cameraman Sven Voß, who tipped us off to the upcoming movie Blood Panzer.
4. The small screen
German TV is even less daring than our movies or books, the only think I can think of that dared to venture into scifi is "Ijon Tichy: Raumpilot" (2007), a series of comedy shorts based on Stanislaw Lem's Star Diaries. We can point to a couple of episodes with English subtitles on youtube, other than that, they should be pretty hard to come by (even in Germany, I don't think many people even noticed their existence.)
The campy space romp focuses on astronaut "Ijon Tichy" and his holographic companion "Halluzinelle."
Spacepatrol "Orion" (Raumpatrouille - Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion) premiered in September 1966, within a week of the Star Trek pilot. "Commander McLane" and the crew of the fast space cruiser "Orion" patrol Earth's outposts and colonies in space and defend humanity from the alien "Frogs," English trailer available.
5. Postcards from the past: East Germany
With communism having conquered the globe and a new era of international peace, prosperity and cooperation secured, engineers discover what appears to be an alien artifact in the Gobi Desert. Scientists determine that the object is some kind of extraterrestrial flight recorder, and a partial decoding of its contents indicate that it came from a spaceship which originated from Venus. A multinational crew is sent to investigate the planet, where they find only the shattered remnants of an extinct civilization, and evidence of a terrible catastrophe that could portend doom for the Earth. [...] The Silent Star is a chilling cautionary tale of the dangers of technology run amok — and its vision of a future where all nations cooperate for the common good establishes it as a kind of communist mirror image (and precursor) of the democratic utopia posited by Star Trek.
Based on one of Stanisław Lem's early works, the movie, like the book, had to pay lip service to communism. We remember that writers, movie makers and their families could all loose their lives if their fictional works were found to disparage the communist dystopia in any way.
In 1951 Lem published his first book, Astronauci (The Astronauts); it was commissioned as juvenile SF and Lem was forced to include many references to the 'glorious future of communism' in it. [...]during the era of Stalinism, all published works had to be directly approved by the communist regime.
6. Fantasy worlds
I've been eagerly awaiting for new chapters in the ongoing WormWorld Saga, by Daniel Lieske. Gorgeous art shows the boy trekking through nature in lush Pandora-like woods. The saga is available in many languages, the First Chapter has been translated in 25 different languages, many translations contributed by fans. There are five chapters online, and the Saga is just getting started. Subscribers get special perks and access to more art.
Hovering between fantasy and philosophy, Michael Ende's 1973 Momo remains a classic. I remember the sheer delight of reading it way back when, yet I had no recollection of the plot until I found the full title: Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people. Ende's next book,The Neverending Story, peppers young adult writing with enough whimsy to please the grownups, a feat the 1984 movie could not quite replicate.
We have to add Walter Moers, whose comedic fantasy trumps swords and sorcery. Many of his books are available in English. The fourth book in the "Zamonia" series, The City of Dreaming Books is about a dinosaur named Optimus Yarnspinner in English,Hildegunst von Mythenmetz auf Deutsch.An aspiring writer by any name, Optimus inherits the perfect story upon an uncle's death. He travels to Bookholm, the city of dreaming books. Alas, literary masterpieces share Bookholm with deadly Toxicotomes – books which can injure and kill anyone who touches them, blood-thirsty book hunters, and worst of all, the Shadow King. Will Optimus the dino find the author who wrote that perfect story?
7. The dime novels
The world's longest running and most successful literary scifi series ever.... The Perry Rhodan series started with "Stardust" in 1961 and celebrated it's 50th anniversary two years ago with a new novela, the Perry Rhodan Neo.
FrankN.Stein: I'm not much of a fan, but there is no way in denying our nation's biggest contribution to science fiction.
Perry Rhodan was created by K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting (using the pseudonym Clark Darlton.) I (Irinel) find it interesting that they chose a fictional hero who was an American, a U.S. Space Force Major. Imagine if Iraqi or Afghani writers today would choose Americans as fictional heroes of their works.
One of the regular contributors to the Perry Rhodan series was Marianne Sydow, who sometimes used "Garry McDunn" as her pen name. You can read some of her novels, auf Deutsch, on her website Villa Galactica.
Perry Rhodan still tops the titles many first associate with German science fiction, as shown by the 2006 article Beyond Perry Rhodan, Contemporary Speculative Fiction in Germany. A 2004 article, Diminishing Returns, discusses how printed scifi is loosing momentum, at a time before everybody had broadband access to the web.
Captain Mors, "The Pirate of the Air and his Navigable Airship," was a dime-novel series published between 1908-1912. Adventures happen in space and on Earth, various authors are not known.
You can read "The Ruler of the Ocean of the Air" here, translated by Justin Gilbert.
For a list of other German works, especially vintage, available in English, check out this bibliography.