Pictured are the editorial staff of Biblioteka Galaktika, former award winning science fiction book imprint in Bulgaria. They were the only Eastern Bloc publishers distributing translations of Western authors like Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, and Ray Bradbury.

After Dilov's death, Milen Asadurov specualted, "There's only one thing I never understood, and I'll never understand it now because Lyuben Dilov left this world. Did he suggest Ognyan Saparev (for the editorial board) because he was an associate of the Sixth Department of State Security? Was he hinting that if our work wouldn't pass without a person on the "Sixth", at least this way we would know who it is?"

preface to The Weight of the Spacesuit (1983 edition)

Ognyan Saparev

The Theory of Contact and Practice of Flirting

Lyuben Dilov’s novel The Weight of the Spacesuit is popular enough to require a special presentation and so skillfully written that it requires a defense before the readers. But it is precisely for these reasons that we must make some clarifications.

This is the third edition of the novel which is also translated into German, Hungarian and Slovak.

The first edition was in 1969 and until the appearance of the novel The Path of Icarus (1975) (L.Dilov’s most ambitious work), it was his most significant work. But to this day, The Weight of the Spacesuit remains the most concise, complete, and cast as if “one breath” work of our famous writer, one of the models of Bulgarian science fiction.

The weight of the spacesuit - this is the physical limitation of an existence that is totally dependent on the machines without which humankind is desperately defenseless in the icy horror of the cosmos...

The weight of the spacesuit - this is the “fatal” error in humankind’s programming, from the conditions of anthropogenesis and ecological environment, from the historically formed consciousness and culture...

The weight of the spacesuit - this is hypothetical but quite real possibility of legal and moral responsibility that humankind takes on with their departure into space - as a representative of Earth civilization they become a member of a galactic Community of Reason whose laws are yet to be mastered but which, perhaps, they themself can impose. How will they achieve it? Will they be able to suppress the “overly human” inside? And what is that exactly - their power or their weakness? And what else is there for them to rely on?

Lyuben Dilov does not like categoricality. His skeptical writer’s attitude prefers open discussion, the collision of contradictory points of view without any didactic-unambiguous answer. The Weight of the Spacesuit is in fact a discourse-novel; the discussion is carried out on both the plot-character level and the idea-concept level. And let’s not be mistaken: the author doesn’t merge with his hero-narrator whose point of view is neither the only one nor the most correct.

The problematic center of the novel is the wit of having the “making contact theory” seen as a cosmic tease. Flirting is “an unconscious bluff of virtues”: an unconscious lie triggered by the communication instinct to win over the other. In this setting, it isn’t machines but hearts that desire reciprocation and indicate what needs to be done. But the realization of the wanted reciprocation can only happen... with the machines. This is not the only ironic paradox, the meeting of the two intelligent beings takes on the character of the Spartakiad Olympics; good intentions lead to tragic results; the self-destruction of one form of civilization leads to the revival of another... and so on. Descending into semi-parody is not the result of a frivolous wit - it’s the unexpected comparison-interpenetration of the problem-abstract and life-anecdotal, which characterizes the artistic “modeling”which gives rise to the generalized views of the “archetypes”.

The logic of human thinking, the value orientation of human culture, will not change automatically when we go out into the cosmos. What’s more, once we get there it may well be that it’s too late for that. The ambition of homo sapiens to be a “Cosmic Human” obliges them to reconsider their role as a “planetary human”: on Earth, the attitude towards Nature is analogous to the attitude towards the cosmos, and the attitude towards our neighbors - analogous to the attitude towards our star siblings in reason. Therefore, we shouldn’t perceive the characters of Lyuben Dilov unequivocally: they also carry their own denial, their justification, their human aggressiveness, and human nobility. These problems, coded in the work, are important in order to feel the writer’s moral pathos - they get a more straightforward development in other works by Lyuben Dilov.

The Weight of the Spacesuit offers the combination of philosophical essayism and adventure, reflection, and guesswork; very “exotic” for our literary practice. We have to admit that it’s done with intellectual depth, genre ingenuity, and artistic measure - not very common in science-fiction literature. Recently, our reader has been more favored with such kind of reading from around the world, so they can better judge what I’m saying.

The topic of Contact is one of the most popular themes in world fiction, developed in hundreds of variants and thousands of works. In this multinational, noisy, colorful (and often insolent) company, Lyuben Dilov’s work - without being extravagantly dressed - is not a poor relative; there’s a reason it’s dignified without provincial complexes.