, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 391–399 | Cite as

When “Boy Meets Tractor” became “Scientist Meets Cybernetics”: post-war scientific paradigms and the socialist realist plot

  • Yvonne Howell


In the 1976 novella One Billion Years Before the End of the World, the Soviet Union’s science fiction writers A. and B. Strugatsky created a tale about contemporary Moscow scientists who are prevented by mysterious forces from completing their work. This analysis shows how the Strugatskys imbedded the systems feedback (cybernetic) paradigm into the familiar narrative stages of a socialist realist fairytale. The non-teleological principles of cybernetics could not be reconciled with the formal structure of socialist realism, so that the exchange between science and literature proceeded in an unanticipated direction. Insofar as writers used advances in Soviet science as a source of aesthetic material, they were able to create new possibilities of meaning and interpretation in a mandated literary form.


Strugatsky Soviet science fiction Socialist realism 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of RichmondRichmondUSA

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