BELYAEV, Alexander (Romanovich)


BELYAEV, Alexander (Romanovich)
(1884-?1942)
   Russian writer whose surname has been variously transliterated; further spellings include Beliaev, Beliayev and Belyayev. His death-date is likewise insecure: he died during the German occupation of the city of Pushkin and, while his body was discovered in January 1942, it is possible that his death was in fact in late 1941. As one of the originators of the sf genre in Soviet literature, AB's WELLS- and VERNE-influenced writings dominated the field between the wars, providing models for most other Soviet practitioners of the time. His first story, Golova Professora Douellia (1925 in story form; 1937; trans Antonina W. Bouis as Professor Dowell's Head 1980 US), is both a prophetic story about organ transplantation and a dramatic account of life without motion - the affect of the latter focus being intensified by the author's own invalid status due to incurable illness. After dealing with traditional themes, such as that of ATLANTIS in Poslednii Tchelovek Iz Atlantidy ("The Last Man from Atlantis") (1927), AB tackled space exploration in Bor'ba V Efire (1927; trans Albert Parry as The Struggle in Space: Red Dream; Soviet-American War 1965 US); he returned to this theme in Pryzhok V Nichto ("Jump into Nowhere") (1933) and Zvezda KETZ ("The KET Star") (1940), the latter promulgating the ideas of Russian space pioneer Konstantin TSIOLKOVSKY.Though the literary style and themes of AB's sf had standard pulp limitations, a personal note resounded through his otherwise orthodox representations of potential SUPERMEN, a theme seemingly encouraged by his own miserable condition. In Tchelovek-Amfibia (1929; trans L. Kolesnikov as The Amphibian 1959 Russia), the protagonist - a boy with transplanted shark's gills - is totally uncomfortable in the society of "normal people"; in Vlastelin Mira ("The Master of the World") (1929) a morally wicked but ingenious biophysicist tries to control people through the use of telepathy; and in Ariel (1941) the same dramatic incompatibility afflicts a levitating boy, the victim of another mad scientist's enthusiasms. Despite the manifest ideological content and frequent cliches in AB's work, his books remain permanently in print, maintaining his status as the first Soviet sf "classic".
   PN/VG/JC
   See also: RUSSIA; UNDER THE SEA.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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