|The ambassador with some of his Czech scifi books.|
On January 23, I trooped to Uno Morato for a meeting with the Czech ambassador to the Philippines, his Excellency Jaroslav Olša, Jr., not to discuss matters of state, but to meet a him as a lover and reader of science fiction, too.
I am hardly what you'd call extremely versed in scifi. My SF&F phase reached its bloom in my late teens, so I am merely a dabbler now. But when Paolo Chikiamco--speculative fiction writer, founder of Studio Salimbal, and friend--invited me, I was not going to say no.
The Czech ambassador, his Excellency Olša, arrived at Uno Morato in a flurry, carrying plastic and paper bags with books. He was exuberant, interested, and interesting. He stumped us by revealing knowledge of Filipino sci-fi authors whom we had not heard of or barely knew. He wrote about Philippine scifi in Locus Magazine. He brought some old Filipino sci-fi books. He brought Czech sci-fi books, some of them extremely lovely.
|Two books from one of the early Filipino scifi writers, Jose Ma. Espino. From Ambassador Olša's collection.|
|The ambassador's Locus article, written in 1995.|
|The ambassador with Jose Ma. Espino|
|First edition copy of early Czech scifi book|
He gave us photocopied samples of English translations of some of the best Czech scifi novels. He asked us to recommend scifi stories, which he intends to show Czech publishers so they can be translated to Czech and included in one of the Czech anthologies. He told us that in every country he went to, he made an effort to seek out the scifi community to exchange scifi literature with them. He offered to hold a showing of a classic Czech scifi film which was reportedly one of the inspirations of the original Star Trek series.
|One of the post-communist Czech scifi books|
|Currently looking for an English translation of this, too.|
|A Czech scifi magazine|
|Obviously, Kyra, editor of Visprint, loved this.|
In other words, Ambassador Olša is not only the Czech ambassador; he is a strong ambassador of science fiction, no matter where he is and what he does.
It was lovely listening to him talk, watching him excitedly bring out his books, watching him watch us ooh and ahh over his books, listening to him speak about the development in scifi in his country and about the scifi communities in other countries. It was a lovely night that ended in promises of more interaction between the literary communities of the Philippines and the Czech Republic, and perhaps not just in scifi.
|Ambassador Olša's card is all kinds of awesome. The Filipino translation of his title sounds heroic, at the very least.|
|The ambassador is also apparently a fan of Coke Zero.:)|
I recently read this scifi book last month called Among Others, written by Jo Walton, and winner of the 2012 Hugo Award . One of the things that drew me to it was that it purports to be one of the best books to read to get an intro into the best books of scifi. In other words, it talks about a lot of other scifi books. The main character, Mor, LOVES scifi novels. She has read almost everything. Even the ones she deems bad, she always has something very smart to say about them, such as the prose was bad, but it had an amazing structure. She could speak intelligently and honestly of most authors' ouevre, never pretentiously, but as a real reader and fan. I'd say that book averaged about 2-3 mentions of scifi novels per page. I wanted to be like that main character, who had breadth and depth of knowledge on one genre, not because she had to study it and wanted to sound smart, but because she really loved it.
I mention Among Others and its main character, Mor, because as I was listening to Ambassador Olša, I realized he reminded me of Mor. That breadth and depth of knowledge, that love of scifi. Although Mor is a teenage girl versed in Anglo-American scifi, and Ambassador Olša is a middle-aged dignitary with a preference for non-Western scifi, I thought that the same love for the genre was there.
And when you meet someone like that, it will make for a lovely, lovely night.
I hope to meet Ambassador Olša again soon, after I've read a couple of his Czech scifi novel recommendations, and to bask in the glow of a a true book lover.
|The group, with Ambassador Olša|