BulgaCon, an annual gathering of speculative fiction fans in Bulgaria, took place this year on September 22 – 24. I am pleased to provide here an excerpt from Valentin Ivanov, professional astronomer and Bulgarian SF promoter, about the speakers and panels that made this BulgaCon so successful. Enjoy!
“Postscript of a Wonderful Bulgacon“
by Valentin D. Ivanov
Bulgacon 2023, which took place in Plovdiv between September 22 and 24, ended about a week ago. About 150 people were registered, but not everyone was around all the time, and several parallel streams of events further created the impression of low attendance. In comparison, a year ago in Kardzhali there was only one stream of events. The effort invested in the preparation of the two conventions was comparable, but Plovdiv offered the advantage of being a larger and more centrally located city.
The program of Bulgacon 2023 was very diverse, but concentrated around two thematic centers. One was exotic SFF – from the point of view of the average Bulgarian reader, not overly spoiled by publishers. A particularly interesting, understandable and well-structured report was given by Wole Talabi, a Nigerian speculative fiction writer who is an engineer by profession and didn’t shy away from including graphs and histograms in his presentation. Sumeira Buran, Emad Aisha, Agnieshka Halas and Aleksandar Žiljak revealed surprising secrets about the speculative fiction in Türkiye, Egypt, Poland and Croatia. Somewhat exotic for us is the unknown, but important work of Andreas Eschbach (Germany) – because it is dedicated to the all-important topic of freedom.
Separately and specifically I should mention the good friends of Bulgaria, Nina Horvath (Austria) and Eric Simon (Germany), who have visited our country numerous times, and Eric, with his many translations and editorial work, is a true progressor and promoter, spreading Bulgarian SFF in his country. I mustn’t leave out the panel in which speculative fiction writers from five European countries came to the conclusion that the more a country feels threatened – whether politically or economically – the more national specificity dominates over global ideas in its speculative genre.
The second center – I dare say it dominated in terms of variety of topics and number of events – was publishing. There was a series of presentations of new books with readings, the new issue of Terra Fantastica magazine and a new book from the series of the same name were released. Francesco Verso shared his experience in publishing European fiction, and Alex Shvartsman gave a “course” in English language publishing. Hristo Kotsev from Artline Studios presented the point of view of Bulgarian publishers.
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A clear success of Bulgacon 2023 was the short story competition. This is something I wanted to organize last year, but the infamous human factor got in the way. My initial impressions were very disappointing, but the more I kept reading through the submitted stories, the more beautiful works I came across, and by the end there were about a dozen stories, any of which could have been the winner. I think in the end the awards went to these – all three names are well known to me, and I warmly congratulate them! – who held their texts to higher professional standards and worked harder on them. I am glad that the Bulgarian SFF community has a vast creative potential and I am sure that in the future, we will also enjoy great Bulgarian speculative fiction from the writers who did not receive awards this time around.
This year we drew on the rich speculative history of Plovdiv, which to a large extent oriented the festival and the fanzine towards the past. Next year – if I still have something to do with the organization of the event – I will try to direct it more towards the Future (yes, with a capital letter). One idea is to theme the next convention “Dreamers”, in all possible interpretations of this word. And there may be other surprises…
Bulgacon 2023 is over, now we have to get some sleep, let the cuts and bruises heal, dust ourselves off and think about Bulgacon 2024!