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Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was born September 17, 1857 in Izhevskoya, just east of Moscow. In 1867, at the age of nine, after going sledding, he caught a cold and contracted scarlet fever. This caused him to become almost deaf for the rest of his life. He suffered in school and eventually had to be homeschooled. Tsiolkovsky managed to become a high school math teacher in 1880 and spent his free time on space calculations, becoming known as the first pioneer in rocketry.

Even without much formal education, Tsiolkovsky biggest passion was space travel. Inspired by the French science fiction writer Jules Verne, he was the first to work out the equation for reaching space by means of rockets and liquid fuel. In 1920, he retired from teaching, on full state pension, to continue rocket investigations.

Tsiolkovsky was a recluse and very antisocial but did write over 500 scientific papers, magazine articles and books. His first science fiction book, “On the Moon,” was written in 1886 to 87 and was published as an appendix in the journal “Vokrug Sveta” in 1893. It is a story that mainly focuses on what a person can experience while on the moon, and the differences from Earth. Other science fiction stories of his include “Dreams about the Earth and the Sky and Effects of Universal Attraction” published in 1895 and “Outside the Earth” in 1918, which explored Tsiolkovsky’s views on conquering space, describing detailed devices he thought would be used and his view of society in the future. Some of his other scientific works dwelled on his belief of other life forms in the universe, that they are watching us and waiting to contact us at the opportune moment. He believes they were waiting for human kind to create a better world than their own, at which point they will take over and exterminate us.

In 1935, Tsiolkovsky was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died two weeks later on September 19 in the town of Kaluga. He is recognized worldwide for his efforts in the field of cosmonautics, and even has a crater on the far side of the moon and the State Museum of Cosmonautics in Kaluga named after him.

Alexander Bogdanov

Alexander Bogdanov Alexander Bogdanov was born August 22, 1873 in Sokolka, of Belarusian descent. Bogdanov is his pseudonym, his real name being Alyaksander Malinovsky. He is considered to be the founder of Soviet Science Fiction. His formal education is in medicine and psychiatry and he was a physician during the First World War.

Throughout his life, Bogdanov spent numerous occasions imprisoned and exiled for his social-democratic propaganda. In 1903, he joined the Bolshevik party, rising through the ranks becoming second only to Lenin. The two competed for leadership, Bogdanov believed in a more cultural revolution, advocated for Marxism and opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. In 1911, he eventually left politics, partially forced out of the Bolshevik party by Lenin, who criticized him and his work.

Bogdanov’s works span many different fields, writing only two science fiction novels. His first, “Red Star” was published in 1908. It is a memoir of Leonid, a young socialist intellect who travels to Mars. Considered to be its sequel, “Engineer Menni,” was published in 1913 and pointed out the differences between the bourgeois and socialist societies. They are both stories written as guidebooks or teaching tools for socialism views, portraying a socialist utopia based on scientific Marxism. He used his fiction work to test out his politic views and ideas. His works were both very simple and more realistic than some science fiction novels.

While working as a physician, Bogdanov became interested in blood transfusions and founded in 1924 the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Hematology and Blood Transfusions. He was convinced that blood transfusions were a ‘cure-all’ remedy and conducted many experiments, including on himself. He died April 7 1928 due to a bad infusion with one of his student’s blood, who happened to be suffering from malaria and tuberculosis.

Red Star

Alexei N. Tolstoy

Alexei N. Tolstoy Alexei Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born January 10, 1883 in Nikolaevsk, Russia. His mother was a descendent of Ivan Turgenev, author of the well-known Russian novel “Fathers and Sons,” and his father was a descendent of Leo Tolstoy, one of the most famous Russian authors of all time, although Alexei’s stepfather raised him. In 1900, however, his biological father died and left him a substantial inheritance, which helped Alexei through his schooling.

Alexei Tolstoy spent a lot of his time in France or Germany, becoming famous early on among the Paris Russians. Tolstoy established himself among the leading Soviet writers in the 1930-s and was elected Chairman of the Writer's Union in 1936. Working mainly as a writer, Alexei also served as a journalist and propagandist during World War II. He died February 23, 1945.

His work is primarily situated in science fiction and historical fiction. One of his historical works, “Peter the First,” with part one published in 1929 and part two published in 1945, was considered one of the best accounts ever written about the tsar. His two science fiction novels were extremely popular: “Aelita” published in 1923 and “The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin” or “The Death Ray” published in 1927. “Aelita” told the story of a soviet expedition to Mars where the main character falls in love with the Martian Princess. “The Death Ray” is about a scientist and inventor’s idea to use his death ray to conquer the world, managing to rule a capitalist USA for a short period of time.

“Aelita” inspired the 1924 silent film by Yakov Protazanov. This was one of the earliest full-length science fiction films and broke cinematic ground, most notably for its distinct sets and costumes designed by Aleksandra Ekster.


Andrei Platonov

Andrei Platonov Andrei Platonov was born August 20, 1899 in Voronezh. During his early years after his schooling, he had many different occupations, including assistant railway engineer, specialist in land improvement, electric power station builder, and many other labour intensive jobs. During his free time he did find time to write scientific papers and stories, starting his literary career in poetry during his schooling years.

In the 1920s, Platonov enjoyed writing satires about socialism and Russia’s advancement towards this new ideal, although Platonov himself supported communism. His doubt of the Soviet future and satirical interpretation of events in “The Inner Man” written in 1929 caused uproar in the communist community and he was banned from publication. He was able to publish some short stories and excerpts of his work, but none of his major novels such as “Chevengur” written in 1926 and “The Foundation Pit” written in 1930 were published during his lifetime, both criticizing the socialist system of the time.

Stalinists of the time sought revenge and Platonov’s son was arrested in 1937 and sent to the Gulag were he contracted tuberculosis and upon his return home died, guilt for the death of his son plaguing Platonov for his entire life. After Platonov’s ban, he could publish little other than adapted fairy tales and excerpts from his less ‘dangerous’ works. He found other work as a military correspondent during World War II and eventually died on January 5, 1951 in Moscow of tuberculosis, contracted from his son.

Better known for his fiction and political works, and his ability to incorporate colloquial speech of the peasants and formal language, Platonov did write three science fiction stories: “Descendents of the Sun” published in 1922, “ The Ether Way” and “The Lunar Bomb” both published in 1926. “The Lunar Bomb” dramatized the idea that man was destined to conquer and colonize space, telling the story of an engineer who builds a projectile and sends himself into space, radioing earth of his trip. Eventually all of Platonov’s banned works were published during the perestroika era.

Chevengur, The Foundation Pit

Descendants of the Sun

Alexander Belyaev

Alexander Belyaev Alexander Belyaev was born March 16, 1884 in Smolensk Russia. His father was a priest and his family was very religious. When he was old enough, he was sent to school to also become a priest but upon finishing, refused any further religious education. Instead, he decided on becoming a lawyer.

At the age of 30, in 1914, Belyaev became ill with tuberculosis and moved to Yalta in hopes of getting better. The disease quickly spread to his spine temporarily paralyzing him from the waist down. He was bed ridden for six years and in excruciating pain. During this time, he developed an interest in the science fiction literature of Tsiolkovsky and Jules Verne. Inspired, he began to write himself and in 1923, fully recovered, moved to Moscow where his literary career took off.

His first novel was published in 1925 titled, “Professor Dowell’s Head.” It was set in Paris and told the story of a scientist who resurrects the heads of dead people, hiding and using them for his scientific and personal needs. Soon followed one of his best-known novels, “Amphibian Man,” published in 1928. Set in Argentina, it tells the story of a boy who received a life-saving transplant – shark gills. He was forced to split his time between water and land. This latter work was made into a film adaptation directed by Vladimir Chebotaryov, which deputed in 1961 and was filmed in the Crimea. The film had a musical style and became extremely popular in the USSR. Belyaev’s works often investigate the possibilities of physical survival under extreme conditions as well as the moral integrity of scientific experiments.

In 1931, Belyaev moved to Leningrad with his family. When the Nazis invaded Russia during the Second World War, Belyaev refused to leave because he was still recovering from a recent surgery due to his earlier illness, which plagued him throughout his life. He died of starvation in 1942 during the Nazi invasion of Leningrad, the exact location of his grave unknown.

Amphibian Man

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