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Cuban web magazines promoting science fiction

They have been circulating online in Cuba for about a year. There are eight issues of a project with a name on his own: The Voice of Analder, a magazine that allows us to look into the world of Trillidor, Jeffrey and Sandor, Alnader, the fantastic land, Sahai, El Silfo, [email protected] and «Adexenim, the apprentice witch.»

The magic does not end here. The news bulletin Estronia open its doors to all those who want the latest news, comments and curiosities on fantasy and science fiction literature. Estronia has been around for more than three years, and its parents, Isilwen and Elendil, has become in a reference for more than 500 anonymous followers who roam online looking for seriousness and deepness when it comes to fantasy and science fiction.

Those who decide to leave the keyboard and computer screen can also spend more than three hours together on the last Saturday of every month at the Ruben Martinez Villena Library, in Old Havana, as part of activities organized by the group of youngsters who call themselves «Project for the Promotion of Fantasy Art and Literature.»

They are, in short, lovers of science fiction art and literature who have found a way to channel their interest in the virtual world.

Onírica, the mother universe

The first effort in Cuba to promote this love for science fiction was the website Onírica. Although it is currently offline, since its creation in 2004 it was defined as a cultural project to promote artistic education, the culture of fantasy and the creation of the genre in all its forms.

It also had a news bulletin distributed via e-mail that encouraged discussion, an essential means for communication and exchanges on different topics between readers.

From Onirica were born other spaces that are either distributed by e-mail or hosted by different servers. They are The Voice of Alnader, Estronia and DIALFA-Hermes, all having a common objective: to promote fantasy and science fiction among those interested in these.

In October, 2006, The Voice of Alnader was born. Initially, it was a joke between two friends, but ultimately the dream of making their own magazine where they could show all their literary interests, and at the same time contribute to informing followers of these genres, became a «why not?»

Consequently "after thinking about different formats, types of design, sections, main topics and names" Alnader was born. It is the fantasy world of the novel that magazine creators Jeffrey López and Sandor Gálvez have been writing since their high school days.

When The Voice of Alnader was launched, Estronia, another magazine distributed via e-mail, had been on the web for more than a year. Since the beginning, when this was a weekly magazine that later turned into 30 issues annually, it promised «to give news, comments, short everything we the creators can think of, and it includes input from you - our readers.»

Beginning September 2006 "with the first airing of the Havana local TV show X Distante, which deals mainly with this topic" Estronia made a new supplement available to its readers that was intended to inform them about the movies that the TV station would air during the month.

DIALFA-Hermes is the youngest project of all, but not the least important. With five directors and a few months of experience, these young people have learned how organize activities outside the digital universe. Though they continue to distribute via e-mail, they have also organized lectures, shown movies and held roundtables where they discuss everything related to fantasy and science fiction. Its headquarters is at the same modern library in Old Havana.

The Voice of Alnader has also been featured over the Internet in an original and amazing way, taking advantages of one of the possibility of interacting with webmasters and readers.

The magazine has sections, such as Argadel, where readers must decipher codes hidden in four sections: dragon, lion, Phoenix and scorpion. The final code appears in every fourth issues of the magazine.

Another section is the Dwarfs corner, a space created so readers could express their opinions. This has become one of the favorite sections of the news bulletin. In addition, there is also e-mail discussions, a space that was created to exchange and debate opinions on topics related to science fiction.

Project director Michel Ibarra Díaz says, «E-mail debate works as follows: when people come to the activity at the library, they leave their e-mail addresses, because they can only be part of the list if they are invited. List moderators organize these e-mail addresses and everyone who wants to write in about a certain topic interacts with those who want to answer, and at the same time all people registered on the list receive it.»

Moreover, registered users receive listings and information on the activities they hold through an electronic list called «DIALFA.»

Parallel worlds

In addition to these sites, in Cuba there are other digital magazines on science fiction. That is the case of Disparo en red, published by the Grupo Espiral, from the Hermanos Saíz Association. Here, readers can find various analytical articles on science fiction literature and the best stories produced from the workshop on literary creation.

Following the line of Cuban and international cyberpunk literature, through the Qubit magazine, Cuban writer Raúl Aguiar offers monthly materials published in other media outlets, as well as articles related to topics that have a great deal in common with the genre - both in their literary and cultural aspects, and in their social impact.

The growth of «fanzines,» as digital magazines dealing with science fiction are also called, is due to several factors. These include the recent international impact that books like Harry Potter or the three parts to The Lord of the Rings, as well as the growth of these types of publications linked to the development of new technologies.

In Cuba, there is also a desire to restore the genre and change the tendency to relate science fiction fans with childrens concerns. In fact, there are just a few institutions "which do great work, however" that recognize and publish the works of these creators.

The Pioneer of Fantasy on the Web

The first Cuban science fiction web site was El Guaicán Dorado, which appeared from 1998 to 1999. Shortly after, El Guaicán Literario showed up in cyberspace from a national server, and included in the Cubaliteraria portal.

Even though the site has had updating problems, it is still on the web and amasses a valuable collection of commentaries, critics, sketches, reports and interviews, which includes most of the nationally-produced science fiction and fantasy literature.

Source: Elaine Diaz Rodriguez, Juventud Rebelde

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