20 best genre fiction writers from other countries to expand your horizons

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Roadside Picnic (Cover image via Chicago Review Press)

12. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

From an American point of view, it can be embarrassingly easy to forget that there is an entire world of writers beyond U.S. borders. Call it cultural chauvinism, perhaps, or simple short-sightedness. Add in a geopolitical conflict that spans decades and involved some of the longest-running tensions between countries in the 20th century and it becomes even more complicated.

Boris Strugatsky, the elder of the two writer Strugatsky brothers, was born in 1925. That meant he was of age to be drafted into the Russian army during World War II. Shortly before that, Arkady and his father were evacuated from Leningrad shortly before the devastating siege took hold of the city. However, Arkady was the only survivor from his particular train car.

Eventually, Arkady became an interpreter, working mainly for the army until 1955. At that point, he began a career as an editor and writer, eventually collaborating with his younger brother, Boris. Nearly eight years younger than Arkady, Boris had already found work as an astronomer and computer engineer. In 1966, he finally moved to full-time writing.

Noon Universe

The Strugatsky brothers eventually became popular science fiction writers within the Soviet Union. They won particular acclaim for their “Noon Universe,” wherein humanity lives in a utopia, with each individual working in their favorite field and seeing that their needs are met by society. In fact, in the Noon Universe, money does not exist at all.

The socialist bent within their work helped the Strugatsky brothers publish in a literary world that was dominated by its political system. Members of the ruling Communist Party often directly determined whether or not a book could be approved for publication.

Later, some interpreted their work to be anti-Soviet, with dissident themes clear to the careful reader. Certainly, the pair created complex works that changed over their lifetimes. Roadside Picnic, which focuses on an Earth grappling with the strange aftermath of an alien visitation, is an especially good place to start.