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‘Queer Science Fiction in Russian’: What space epics and tech dystopias tell us about post-Soviet minority activism

32 minutes
‘Queer Science Fiction in Russian’: What space epics and tech dystopias tell us about post-Soviet minority activism
00:0031:56

LGBTQ activists in the Russophone world face obstacles that many in the Anglophone world do not, but that means they also find ways to survive that defy the imagination. One way queer Russian speakers have found to work through those life-and-death decisions is writing science fiction. Through stories about augmented reality, lesbian seduction in space, sentient plants, and more, activists have offered political commentary on post-Soviet oppression that’s impossible to find in the mainstream opposition.

To understand how Russophone writers are using sci-fi to map out the region’s political future, “The Naked Pravda” reached out to scholars in Japan, Kyrgyzstan, and Sweden. They walked us through the broader Russian sci-fi scene and reflected on how speculative writing has changed their own scholarship and activism.

In this episode:

  • (6:33) Mikhail Suslov, an assistant professor of Russian History and Politics at the University of Copenhagen currently sheltering in Sweden, explains why the vast majority of Russian sci-fi published today has ties to the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church.
  • (14:29) Georgy Mamedov, an academic who chairs the board for the LGBTQ organization Labrys in Kyrgyzstan, asks why so much queer Russophone science fiction fantasizes about complete separation from the rest of the world even as the people who write it get more and more determined to engage with the homophobes around them.
  • (16:19) Syinat Sultanalieva, a prominent activist and a PhD candidate in international studies at the University of Tsukuba, breaks down the geopolitical undertones of her short story “Element 174.”

“The Naked Pravda” comes out on Fridays. Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at kevin@meduza.io with the subject line: “The Naked Pravda.”

Producer, sound editing, and mixing — Hilah Kohen and Kevin Rothrock

Send any questions or comments to kevin@meduza.io

Executive producer — Alexandr Sadikov

Music — Victor Davydov

Arcadia by Kevin MacLeod / Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3377-arcadia / License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Fast Talkin by Kevin MacLeod / Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3740-fast-talkin / License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Marty Gots A Plan by Kevin MacLeod / Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4992-marty-gots-a-plan / License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/