[Millennium Books Publishing House, 2012]
(a reader’s guide to fantasy )
by Oliviu Crâznic
translation from Romanian by Cristina Baciu [MTTLC student]
click aici pentru versiunea română
Fiction writer (Madia Mangalena, Despre singurătate şi îngeri, Aşteptând-o pe Sara, Povestiri fantastice, Povestea lui Calistrat Hadâmbu), critic (Nu sunt guru, …nici Torquemada), editor, collections coordinator and promoter of fantasy literature in general (including SF, fantasy, horror), Michael Haulică stands out through his tireless activism in the field and the indisputable results he has achieved in all respects. Suffice it to mention the prestigious prizes he was awarded with, the numerous writers – well-established today – whose debut he has endorsed or the fact that for many years he has ranked among the few native specialised critics to tackle almost every published work in the genre, as well as the SF movement in general.
Regardless if we label it modular novel or if we see it as an anthology of novellas and short stories that are interconnected or have a common denominator (the common denominator being the mysterious assassination scene of a blogger – an aspiring writer), the volume Transfer undoubtedly constitutes a whole that flows differently, in every respect (from plot to style) than each particular. Thus, although each component – there are four texts: Vremea zăpuşelii, Glitcherine, O hucă în minunatul Inand şi Microtexte – has an individual meaning and development, through an encompassing approach, the reader is sure to grasp the vast fresco of a fascinating cyberpunk universe which reveals itself gradually in all its dimensions and purposes. I used ‘cyberpunk’ and not ‘postcyberpunk’ because in ‘post…’, by definition, the depicted worlds do not lose their optimism completely, as their heroes battle dystopian order or attempt to stop the further deterioration of the society they are a part of. On the contrary, in Michael Haulică’s work we are confronted with the typical cyberpunk whose intensity is all the more powerful as he is presented to us by new and original stylistic means, a cyberpunk with an individual destiny in a world devoid of hope, but in which beauty is not yet dead as long as we prove ourselves capable to capture it. The Josephine bar, the Floare de Cais smiles, the glitch shows and the dream of becoming a novelist in a degraded and turbulent society, all these are aesthetic and reassuring points of reference designed to counterbalance the troubled and gloomy décor and help achieve a perfect equilibrium. Even the author’s poetic language positions itself artistically against the triviality victoriously dominant in Transfer, as ‘brutal’ words coming from the mouth of characters in those particular situations sometimes sound downright suave.
By nuancing the norms of isolation, alienation and the disintegration of personality in a literary adventure where technology is a corrupt influence on its protagonists, that leads to non-being both physically and spiritually, all the while providing an illusory and fragile – in the right hands – refuge from fate, Michael Haulică seems to present us with a vivid demonstration of humanity’s survival in the most severe conditions our world and society have to offer us, even when nothing can be done to find a new path because no one is looking for it anymore.
What transpires is not the image of a bunch of self-confident heroes dedicating their lives and resources to the purpose of ‘saving the planet’ (the ‘post-cyberpunk’ trademark), but the portrayal of resigned anti-heroes who are facing the dissolution of the universe they are inhabiting and are preoccupied strictly with their own survival (the ‘cyberpubk’ trademark); this survival, however, depends on more than just physical integrity, the little beauty still accessible to them playing an essential part in their lives, despite it being made up only of fragments, memories, details and dreams (the ‘Michael Haulică’ trademark). The Gibsons (ardent fans of William Gibson, a writer in the genre, utopically willing to follow in his footsteps but painfully aware, deep down, of the impossibility of reaching such an ideal), huci (hired ‘prostitutes’ participating in the exchange of human bodies as entertainment and more; here, experiencing life in someone else’s body is a key element of the author’s message), paid samurai, cynical private detectives and femmes fatale built on the pattern of the female protagonists in noir novels confront each other and get caught in a terrible spider web with a central node toward which fate carries them all.
Transfer is one the three volumes that are essential to the native literature published by Romanian SF&F writers in 2012, a mandatory read for science fiction and noir lovers and a recommended read for anyone. On the other two remarkable accomplishments in our literature, we’ll talk perhaps on another occasion.