Friday, March 21, 2008

Stations of the Tide - Untranslated (SD #53)

Stations of the Tide (Michael Swanwick)
Author: Roland

The Distant Future. Mankind has colonized the galaxy, and life among the stars can be just as strange and mystical as it is common and mundane. А bureaucrat is sent on the planet Miranda, where in mere days the Jubilee Tides of the powerful Ocean are going to swallow most of the Continent, as they do every two hundred years. But in the chaos of evacuation Gregorian the mage, educated on the orbital cities, has taken a forbidden technology to the surface and plans to reshape the planet according to his dark vision. And he must be caught before the Tides.

Stations of the Tide brims with ideas, which have probably provided solid inspiration for David Brin’s Kiln People and Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky – virtual realities on the scale of Zelazny’s Donnerjack, forbidden supertechnologies, AIs and space cities…

…all of them simply a backdrop. Stations of the Tide is much more a work of poetry than a story. I don’t mean poems, but the whole feel of the novel. With complete mastery, Michael Swanwick creates a universe of forbidden advanced technologies, of shamanism and mysticism holding hands with modern thought, of an indigenous race supposedly gone forever, that now returns. It is a universe of greatness now past, one of subtle elegance, tantric sex and decadent pageants, where most things are not only unexplained, but also unexplicable.

+ Т
he novel’s incredible atmosphere. It carries something of Zelazny at his best and yet does not seem derivative.
+ The vivid and memorable characters, again so much like Zelazny’s – not realistically, but romantically drawn, many (all???) of them larger than life.
+ The story is not especially involved,
but it is full of mysteries and draws you in irresistably.
+ The book is full of stories-within-the-story that constantly enrich the setting.

At the same time all these tales make you feel as if you’re holding a thematic collection of short stories rather than a novel. Practically every chapter contains a tale that yet again directs the reader away from the main plotline. It’s on purpose, of course, but a bit irritating nevertheless.
The plotline itself isn’t especially brilliant. A quibble, given the novel’s atmospheric bias, but it might grate on the story-geeks.

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Stations of the Tide has won the Nebula – the more high-brow of the two Big Ones. It is as much a philosophical book as it is a work of science fiction, even if the philosophy is not quite of the concrete, intellectual kind. One thing is certain – you are obliged to read it.


Translation: Trip

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ursula Le Guin - Profiles (SD #15)

Ursula Le Guin (1929 -)
Author: Demandred

The time has finally come for us to pay due respect to the mistress of fantasy and science fiction, after a long period of unseemly neglect. Very few are the writers who can rise up to her achievement in defining and developing the science fiction genre. But, first things first…

The events of her life are rather unremarkable - she wasn't in Vietnam, she didn’t engage in bizarre occupations before she built up her reputation as a writer. Ursula Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, California, the daughter of renowned anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, which in a way accounts for the method she employs in many of her works and her special interest in subjects related to anthropology, which are among the predominant themes in her fiction. Her mother was an anthropologist herself, as well as a writer. Le Guin received a Bachelor’s Degree in literature from the Radcliffe College in 1951 and a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in 1952. A year later she married the historian Charles Le Guin, whom she met while studying in Paris. The two of them have lived in Portland, Oregon since 1958, avoiding public appearances.

The first short story that Le Guin submits to a science fiction magazine, is rejected, which is hardly a surprise, she being eleven at the time. Her first successfully published short story was called April in Paris in the Amazing Stories magazine. Her first published novel was Rocannon’s World, released in 1966.

Her most popular works (in fact taking up the larger part of her creative output) are the fantasy series taking place in the realm of Earthsea, as well as the novels of the Ekumen Cycle. In the case, though, the definitions "SF" and "Fantasy" are rather relative - neither is Earthsea a classic fantasy, nor is the Ekumen Cycle pure SF. The Earthsea series of novels is somewhat unique in the field of fantasy fiction - the plot, the setting, or the outcome of the "Good vs Evil" struggle are not as important. It is not the standard yarn to kill some time, a book that you will forget in a month’s time. The deeper message that Le Guin has infused in the series has the quality of connecting with the more sensitive readers and leaving them with ample food for thought afterwards. Balance, the choices we are obliged to make, whether the end we tend to justifies our means, the power of things’ true names, etc.

Le Guin’s other significant cycle concerns itself mostly with the issues that arise from the clash of different cultures, the development of the political and social models under diverse conditions and preconditions. Her knowledge of anthropology shines through in these books, the various societies invented by her and populating distant planets look incredibly realistic and are meticulously and systematically described. The events take place in the distant future, where a large number of planets are inhabited by descendants of human beings, who are almost like us, or only slightly deviating from our understanding of humanity (the asexual people from The Left Hand of Darkness). The main themes here are similar to those of the Earthsea series, with the addition of a larger dose of social-political ideas and issues. The most famous among them are The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, both winners of Hugo and Nebula. The former is a stunning and penetrating study of a society without any gender distinctions, and the latter - an original take on the issue of whether it is possible for an anarchistic community, which has abandoned all claims to government and private property, to exist.

Both books fully deserve the acclaim they've received and are still considered some of the greatest classics in the science fiction genre (although their subject matter subordinates the SF elements to matters of greater anthropological and sociological import). As a whole, the Ekumen Cycle is a far cry from the so-called hard science fiction, which is mainly concerned with the implementation of new technologies in the future, and bearing the mark of scientific argumentation and prognostics. There are no strange and evil aliens there either, nor are there any cutting-edge technical gadgets or majestic spaceships. Le Guin uses the premise of a human civilization, advanced enough to be able to spread on a number of foreign planets and diversify, culturally and socially, to illustrate her ideas about the juxtaposition of humanity and nature.

Apart from her most famous creations, Le Guin has written a large number of other books, most popular among which is The Lathe of Heaven. This is the story of a man, whose dreams can affect and alter reality. The man is manipulated by a psychiatrist, striving to create an utopical society. This is, to me, Le Guin’s best book - only 170 pages long, it contains a rich fare of great ideas, characters and atmosphere, as well as a good number of rewarding plot twists. Le Guin has also published many short stories, and it is unfortunate that only a fraction of those have been released in Bulgaria. She has not constrained herself merely to writing fantastic fiction, but has written also poetry, children’s books, mainstream fiction, etc.

Another thing that is deserving of mention is that, for more than 40 years now, Ursula Le Guin has been working on her translation (or interpretation, rather, since a translation faithful to the original is impossible) of the ancient Chinese thinker Lao-Tzu’s classical philosophical treatise Tao Te Ching, the principal foundation of Taoism (known among us Bulgarians as Daoism). The concepts associated with understanding and interpretation of Taoism by Le Guin, are instrumental in her fiction, this being especially apparent in The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea series.

Here I will enumerate some of the most important distinctive features of Le Guin’s works:

- Ideas, both original and gripping, often hiding beneath the sometimes simple plot. The fact that I have thought through each of her books for at least a week after finishing it, and often even after that, speaks volumes in itself. The ideas in her books never intrude upon the reader, and many of her works possess a delightful ambivalence of meaning.

- Incredible style of writing - Very few writers nowadays can equal Le Guin’s voice in telling a story and her skill with words. The way she writes is clear, poetic and moving at once. A pleasant respite from the mire of mediocrity and downright incompetence that has been flooding speculative fiction lately.

- The presence of real, complete characters - all behaving as a normal human being should, with all the good sides, as well as the bad. No invincible superhumans or inadequate puppets.

- The pervasive atmosphere - in almost all of her works the atmosphere is gloomy, oppressive, dark even, but also inexplicably and poetically beautiful. One can easily plunge into the vast seas of Earthsea or travel across the boundless glaciers of Gethen. Her books, contrary to genre cliches, seem to open out after they end, instead of rounding up.

- Maybe the chief element in almost all of Le Guin’s fiction - the unraveling of the plot is, to a great extent, a façade under which the true essence and intention of the book are concealed. That is why it often lacks excitement and surprise. If you are of the people that judge what they read by the pace of plot and action, you are almost certain to be disappointed.

But if you want something more out of your reading experience than mere entertainment, something that will make you think, and to relive the story alongside the characters, then Le Guin is the one you need.

(A complete list of Ursula Le Guin's works follows in the original article)

Translation: Trip

Grave of the Fireflies - Anime (SD #36)

Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata)
Author: Roland

September 21, 1945... that was the night I died

I’m not at all convinced that I can write an adequate review about this

film. It just… saddened me. I’ve wept before while watching films, but this time the tears just flowed. I have never been so upset. The film touched me very deeply and painfully, but apart from that, I’m not sure if it managed to convey anything else. Maybe it didn’t try hard enough, or I wasn’t sensitive enough to feel it. One way or another, it doesn’t matter…

Grave of the Fireflies is a drama - of everything that I’ve watched thus far, I think this is the film that, to my mind, best fits the definition. Its message is nothing special, likewise its plot. It begins by showing us the lowest end of one long and fatal spiral towards the very bottom of existence, and then works its way up to show us how it has come to that. And it does that through the cruelest means possible – by showing us the destruction of something innocent and helpless. The whole film becomes clear to the viewer in the first three minutes but this too doesn’t matter.

The story starts unfolding sometime at the end of the Second World War, and it’s based on the autobiographical novel Hotari no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) by Akyuki Nosaka. The author himself describes the book as an attempt to reconcile himself with his feeling of guilt. In the coastal town of Cobe a boy named Seita (the alter-ego of Nosaka in the book) and his little sister Setsuko lose their mother in one of the ceaseless American bombardments, which also leaves them without a home. At first they live with an aunt of theirs, but as their mutual relationship becomes more and more strained, Seita decides they should take care of themselves without any help from others.

The big brother does everything in his power to save Setsuko from hunger, but in the turmoil of war, under the constant threat of bombardments, without a job and a way to earn their bread, misery grips the two children by the throat. And as the little girl, so full of life, starts to wane and waste away, the love and the wholehearted devotion the two nourish for each other, and their desire to find happiness in spite of all the vicissitudes of fate, transform the movie into an immensely heavy and difficult emotional experience. Because powerless love and doomed happiness hurt.

The truth is that I am not certain if Grave of the Fireflies, in itself, is a truly powerful and touching movie, but since I have a little sister myself, it was impossible not to take it somewhat more personal. The whole tragedy of life falling apart, the inability to find a way out of the maelstrom…The lack of willpower, perhaps, or maybe just the helplessness and simplicity of the child - Seita himself is not capable of taking care of himself and Setsuko, despite his desire to be the shoulder for her to lean on. The film creates the sensation of desperation and misery in a way that is incredibly real. Maybe the drama is in excess sometimes, maybe it isn’t - what matters is that one can really feel it. This is not the tragedy of the world, of humanity, not even of love. There is no heroic sacrifice (although what Seita is trying to do for his sister, is probably immeasurably more heroic than a thousand space rangers blowing themselves up in an embrace with a deadly alien), there is not even an enemy. Actually, no, that’s not true. There is an Enemy, the most terrifying and relentless of them all - reality.

This is the impression that Grave of the Fireflies creates, without trying to lay any serious stress on it. Reality marches on, inexorable, trampling upon the weak, deservedly or not, it does not matter. Faces turn away and refuse to give up their sustenance, even for money. Others feel nothing for the little barefoot girl, even as death peers from inside uncomprehending eyes. Or maybe that’s the reason for their callous looks. But it is here that we’re struck by the greatest horror - the film does not judge these people, and it takes away from us the possibility of doing it ourselves. These people… we can understand them. They, too, are the victims of that same reality, bowing, bending, breaking under Fate’s blows. And that they refuse to reach out to the ones who are even more miserable than they, does not make them bad, or evil, or even weak. It makes them human. And, watching this, all we can do is to clench fists in grief and feeble outrage. Because, in its essence, Grave of the Fireflies is one slow, but unwavering and certain road to perdition.

The film takes a rather aggressive stance at the viewers, and touches them in the simplest, oldest and surest way - by showing them a child’s suffering. This is something that, under normal circumstances, irritates me, because it is a cheap and easy way of ensuring the viewer’s emotional involvement - almost as epidermally superficial as tickling people in order to get them to laugh. But, for some reason, Grave of the Fireflies did not irritate me at all, what with all its coarse manipulative methods, that I did not fail to notice throughout the whole movie. It is just that it is not meant to manipulate, it is not sweetened or smoothened in any way in the sorrow it expresses. It makes no attempt whatsoever to make us like it by making us cry. It is indeed so subdued in its sadness that one has the feeling that the director himself (Isao Takahata, a long-standing colleague of Hayao Miazaki) was suffering, while making the film. And he doesn’t impose that nagging feeling of a dilettant, trying to serve the viewer cheap drama, achieved through amateurish methods. Rather, he seems to be a man that wants us to live through a heart-rending tragedy with him. The wonderful music contributes to the whole experience, every theme fitting perfectly the viewer’s emotional state in every given moment of the film.

The animation is incredibly realistic and devoid of any excessive shapes or colours in that respect. Along with the other elements, it builds a story that is real. Not only through all of this does the film appear entirely truthful to us, but through the little details as well. Gestures, words, grimaces… The character of Setsuko is perfection incarnate, and this is not an overstatement. She is a four-year-old girl of flesh and blood (even the girl who gave her voice to Setsuko - Ayano Shiraishi - was at that time (1988) only five years old). Every word of hers, every gesture, reaction, are something I have seen in reality, and something I have had to deal with. I have never before, in an animated movie, seen such a brilliant rendering of the character of a little child. Honestly. Seita, although a bit more ordinary, is nonetheless just as real and alive, and his struggles, fuelled by desperation, arouse not only pity, but also genuine sympathy. Because we know that not only we wouldn't have been different in such circumstances, but we would have probably done much worse. Which only serves to heighten the pathos of the film.

And at the end… the light of the fireflies flickers and dies, and so do they. Fleeting and feeble, a starlet that burns out to oblivion, leaving trace nowhere but in the heart of innocence, itself a small, evanescent thing. A light that, glowing, has unveiled nothing but its own woeful existence. And the small, nameless grave of the firefly, that no one will ever come to.

Because a firefly means nothing to the world…

Translation: Trip

Tigana - Untranslated (SD #23)

Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
Author: Matrim

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the authors that stand out in the mass of fantasy writers. His unique style, rich and poetic, lends his books the quality of majestic, yet tenderly-lyrical poems. What with all that, I honestly admit that I didn’t much enjoy the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, I didn’t even get round to finishing the third book. I am, however, ready to argue with anyone that The Lions of Al-Rassan is a magnificent book, a true chef d'oeuvre. Because of these conflicting passions, I was quite uncertain as to what to expect from Tigana when I took it up.

The Story: The Peninsula of the Palm (so called because of its geographical shape), divided into small feudal provinces, is under the reign of two warring magician sovereigns. One of them, Brandin, in his desire to avenge his son’s death, magically erases the name and memory of the most beautiful of the nine provinces - Tigana. Most of its inhabitants emigrate into other parts of the peninsula due to the terrible oppression, exercised in their home land. Liberation and restoring the memory of Tigana seems impossible, but is it really so?

Positive: As I have already mentioned, Kay’s specific style makes the reading of each one of his books a true pleasure. What is more important, however, is that he employs his mastery of the language to convey the emotions of the characters in a brilliant way. Sorrow, joy, melancholy - the whole kaleidoscope of human emotions is not only shown, but also passed on to the reader. In other words, Martin can kill off a hundred of his characters, and I wouldn’t care, while the description of Tigana alone touched me, and I have no reasons for nostalgia. The experience the book offers cannot be put into words, it has to be, well, experienced, and it is this beauty that is the novel’s greatest asset.

Speaking of characters, a fact that deserves mention is that they are finely delineated, each and every one having their strong and weak sides, and they rise much higher than the level of The Average Fantasy Character™. There is a slight element of idealization present, but it is in keeping with the poetical qualities of the novel and it didn’t bother me at all. To some extent, the lack of "screen time" for each of the characters to become fully developed may be seen as a problem, but on the other hand, we don’t want a book that could barely be contained in ten Tomes, do we (now that’s not the kind of comment I would have expected from a devout fan of Jordan and Erikson – note: inner voice)? Moreover, Kay manages, in a few pages, to make a character more sympathetic, than Jordan can in 10 books.

The setting is not especially original- it is reminiscent of Renaissance Italy in its heyday with the Arts flourishing, the small city-states battling with each other, etc., although less so than the world of the The Lions…, which reminded one too much of Spain. At least here the events do not have their historical equivalents in the real world, which contributes to the suspense. The book looks more like an alternative history than a typical fantasy novel - no other sentient beings except humans, magic is almost none-existent, etc. It’s good that Kay has put effort into detailing the various peoples and customs in the different provinces, without putting them too much to fore, and thus neglecting the plot.

The plot itself, I should say, is not one of Tigana’s strong features. I like intrigues and conspiracies, but their quantity here is disproportionately large, compared to the other elements. Nevertheless, they are pleasingly above the average in quality. The rebel group’s struggle for Liberation is presented in a rather interesting way, and mostly, their doubts as to whether the great end they aspire to justifies their means. The conflict – although at first glance offering us another take on the "Good vs Evil" theme – turns out to be quite complex and multi-layered. The events remain unpredictable in their unfolding right until the very end and the story takes more than one surprising turn. The aforementioned struggle is not only about freedom, but also for the restoration of the memory of beautiful Tigana.

Unlike most of his colleagues, Kay is comfortable with describing sex-scenes, and he does it very well - without the coarse descriptions in Martin, or the laughable results produced by Jordan’s efforts.

Negative: The plot’s unraveling is somewhat too slow and, as a whole, the book could do better with 50-100 pages less. I have nothing against retrospections, but Kay gets a little carried away. Battles, which are usually one of the best characteristics of his books, are this time sub-standard.

Brandin’s character is rather unrealistic - the evil Tyrant, who’s ready to live his whole life expatriated, to erase the memory of Tigana, he subjects its population to genocide, yet in all else he reveals himself as a wonderful personality and a wise ruler. I have nothing against contradictions in one’s character, but here this "split personality" is wholly inexplicable.

The Deus ex machina assists the "good guys" all too often, and this is somewhat irritating. Not that it is not a standard practice in the genre, but I think I have to mention it.

The Epilogue is too short, and much remains unexplained.

Conclusion: Tigana is far from the perfect book, but I just cannot criticize it without forcing myself. The way Kay works with descriptions - the Dawn over the blue sea, the funeral dirges, the towers of Tigana - is so poetic, so beautiful and pure, that any shortcomings recede far in the background to make space for the storm of emotion. If you are carried off by the eloquence of Guy Gavriel Kay, you will stop noticing the negative aspects of the novel, the way a lover overlooks all bad qualities of his beloved.

And the people who’ve enjoyed The Lions of Al-Rassan will probably love Tigana.

Rating: 8.5/10

Translation: Trip

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Because, Mr. Anderson, without Purpose we would not exist...

It is in the nature of every living thing to try and evolve. And ShadowDance is as much a living thing as any member of its team. Seven and a half years ago, when the magazine was first created, its purpose was simple - to review whatever the SD authors felt like writing about. As time passed and the team grew, we defined a new agenda - to be always up to date and to cover everything in the SFF field as far as Bulgaria is concerned.

Yet, as is often the case, people grow up and their interests change. And by this I don't mean we've stopped caring about the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Exactly the opposite. Only we came to realize how utterly wrong the way books are published in BG is. We're a small country and as such, we don't have publishing houses comparable with those in America or the UK. What's worse, things always seem to get done the opposite of right here.

Whatever the reasons, Bulgarians are denied not only 8/10 of the best books currently published in the West, but also more than half of the great SFF classics. There are amazing authors that are practically unknown here, either because they've been published at the wrong time, with the wrong title or with an awful translation, or simply because they haven't been published at all.

So we defined a new Purpose, one deserving of a capital letter. We decided to promote the Happening World to Bulgarian audience. These days our Profile section is almost exclusively dedicated to unknown or less known authors. We have an Untranslated section where we review either new or older books that haven't yet been published in BG. Also, our Evergreen section has been redirected into reviewing world-renouned classics that - even though they've been around in our country - have never recieved the attention they deserve.

Well, that's us in a nutshell. Pretentious buggers one and all, but buggers with an ideal. We want publishers to know what we think, because - impertinent as it sounds - it's what the intelligent reader thinks. And guess what - some people have finally started listening...

The Team

Yan Silversword - Yan is the creator of ShadowDance, his father, so to speak. And like many fathers, he did it because he was bored, but we're not gonna let such things ruin the family. What does he do beside being a symbol: Book, Movie and Music reviews, Editorials and News.

Moridin - A programmer with a poet's heart and a scholar's attitude, Moridin was the second to join the ranks of ShadowDance, almost from the very beginning. Now he's dealing with being an editor, author (mostly Book and Movie reviews, Evergreen and Articles), and also being our top man where all things technical are concerned.

Roland - Yours truly came on board around a year after the Beginning. Being an active bugger though, I quickly started taking more work than I could possibly bear, so sometimes I need to... shrug. What I do in the magazine is simple - everything up to editing. There isn't a section of ShadowDance where I haven't left my mark, but that sounds a bit Chihuaua as it goes, so I'm gonna shut up now...

Xellos - One of the oldest (pun intended) members of the magazine, Xellos is our leading designer, webmaster and sometimes - if the planets align just right - author, mainly in the Movies section. He's a fine example of the axiom that placid surface often hides monsters. With tentacles. Oozing tentacles. You know what I mean. But we love him anyway, and sometimes we even think it's reciprocated so I guess it's ok.

Clio - The third in our cute triumvirate of editors, Clio is a charming young lady with a loveable personality and a Nazi obsession with punctuation and spelling. Nothing escapes her notice, which is nice, when you think about it, since both me and Moridin are prone to overlooking things that we're too lazy to fix... Oh, did I mention she used to write reviews too? And even a short story once. Ah, the good old free days...

Alanna - Just another name in the long list of Wheel of Time nicks in Shadowdance but by far the prettiest among them. Alanna is an artist with a personality to match - fickle and witty, both gentle and harsh, and of course - extremely temperamental. She's our designer and even if we've yet to make her write something in the magazine itself, she's still an irreplaceable part of the team.

Matrim & Demandred - It's not easy being an ex-WoT addict, what with all those Moridins, Asmodeans and Rands walking around, but Mat & Dem manage it just fine. Almost identical twins, they've been a part of the magazine since time immemorial, and they've always been among the most active authors in the team in every area, be it Books, Movies, Evergreen or Profiles. And they're actually quite different from one another, but we can't really pass the opportunity to present a pair of twins as... erm... a pair. Can we?

Random - The second youngest member of the Shadowdance team. Previously of the programmer persuasion, but now - thankfully - an honest student of English Language and Literature. Random is as stable and dedicated to the cause as one can get, without being a nerd, and he has extremely broad interests when it comes to literature. And that's a field where, as we know, the urge to experiment can never be a bad thing. Also, Random is one of the last ShadowDancers who can still find the time to write short stories.

Trip - Another student (now almost graduate) of English Language and Literature, Trip is among the newer members of the team, but very valuable none the less. He's a paradox - both very productive and always being late with his texts - but he's so cute and universally liked by almost every living creature in existence, that we can hardly hold it against him, even if we wanted to.

The Dragon - Another programmer (God they're everywhere!), but one who actually reads fiction instead of only code, which kinda makes him uniqe, doesn't it? He's been with Shadowdance for years and in that time he's written a really appalling quantity of Book, Movie and Games reviews. By far the fastest reader I know, and one of the most active members of the team.

Morwen - Our own personal Jane Austeen has all it takes to be unique-but-still-cute in the XXI century. She's always fighting for what's Appropriate And Decent, yet never shies from listening some depressing music in the small hours, or asserting some good biting sarcasm. Morwen mainly reviews Movies, but like any old member of the team she's been there and done most of that.

Alexis - Alexis is a Medicine student. She's also our resident yaoi fan-girl. Or she was. Or she still is, but not quite. It's not perfectly clear. You don't really know what yaoi is? Well so much the better for you, although Alexis would be the first to explain it in detail if you make the mistake of stating your ignorance in front of her. Alex is also an anime-geek and has written many reviews in the Anime section. She also reviews Movies and Books. And in her spare time she writes slash fiction. For what it's worth, she's damn good in it.

Ghibli - A quiet personality can often hide treacherous waters, and just like Xellos, Ghibli isn't as calm as she looks. One of the last Tolkienists alive in the team, she often has fits of Righteous Anger concerning our rather lax ways of doing things in ShadowDance. But don't let that fool you. Ghibli has a big heart and is always there when you need her. She's also Yan's girlfriend, so that practically makes her Mrs. ShadowDance when you come to think about it...

Marfa - As strange birds go, Marfa is pretty strange. She's one of those people who live in a parallel universe where things are almost the way they're in ours, but not quite. That gives her a unique perspective on things, one that is invaluable at times, even though she's never been among the most active members of the magazine. Still, we're all family, and Marfa is as much a part of it as anyone else.

Garo - Garo is the current force behind the Music section. He's also good with Movies, but his true passion is music (or at least parts of it, ones I don't really understand) and in the few months he's been in the team, he's already made a name for himself. Which is "Garo". Not extremely original, I grant you, but if it's ok with him...

Amelia - Another anime-geek and the paragon of criticism and irony, Amelia is a girl with attitude. One should be very careful to be on her good side or consequences might occur. When there's a will there's a way, and Amelia never lacks the will. She's been in the magazine for a few months now and she shines in the Anime and Movies sections.

Dangerous Pumpkin - Almost as mysterious as her nickname, this charming young woman is our secret agent among the Enemy (a.k.a. the publishing houses). She is witty, smart and critical, and she rarely has the patience for bad literature or misbehaving publishers. Which means she's in for an awful amount of never-ending suffering, but she's bearing it like a trooper. And we love her for it.

Pugsley - The youngest and newest member of the team, Pugsley is into Movies and Anime. He's a party animal and his skills in improvisation when it comes to cursing and vulgarity are beyond human. Beneath this rather rough visage however he is a very intelligent young man and a loyal friend. Yes, the combination is as good as it sounds.

In those long almost eight years many other people have been around and left, or just guest-appeared for a specific Review/Article. Our team is dynamic and we never turn down people who want to write and have the ability. That's the only way to stay alive after all...

On introductions, translations, meaning and the lack thereof...

Ok, so this is my attempt at hustling a BG fanzine to an English-speaking audience. Namely - the on-line magazine ShadowDance. This blog will present selected stuff (reviews, articles and the like), translated in English. Is there a point to it? No, not really. Even if you like what you read here, you're still not gonna be able to read the magazine. But hey! Why should such banality stand in the way of Pointless Undertakings?

So, anyway, my name is Simeon, but I use Roland on-line, and NO - that's not some obscure call for help, but a remnant of a different Age, long ago, when true men roamed the wastelands, women were to die for, and little yours truly was a die-hard fan of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. What I do in ShadowDance is mostly everything - from organization to writing reviews and editing. I'm not alone in this, of course, as you'll have the chance to see if you check the Team page. Shadowdance is entirely fan-based and therefore - still alive, kicking and keeping with the proud traditions of unprofessionality set by thousands of net-junkies through the ages.

Even so, we've been on for more than seven years now, and that's not a small feat, all things considered. Furthermore we've established ourselves as the leader in SFF on-line community in Bulgaria. Which is less of an accomplishment than it sounds, but nice and fluffy all the same.

So, without further ado...