Roadside Picnic

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Roadside Picnic  
Author Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Original title Пикник на обочине
Translator Antonina W. Bouis
Cover artist Richard M. Powers
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher Macmillan
Publication date 1972
Published in
Media type print (hardcover)
ISBN 0-02-615170-7

Roadside Picnic (Russian: Пикник на обочине, pronounced [pʲikˈnʲik na ɐˈbotɕɪnʲe]) is a science fiction short novel written in 1971 by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, published in 1972 and since deemed a classic. The film Stalker directed by Andrei Tarkovsky is loosely based on the novel, with a screenplay written by the Strugatskys.


[edit] Plot summary

Aliens have visited the Earth, and departed, leaving behind a number of artifacts of their incomprehensibly advanced technology. The places where such artifacts were left behind are areas of great danger, known as "Zones." The Zones are laid out in a pattern which suggests that they resulted from the impact of an influence from space which struck repeatedly from the same direction, striking different places as the Earth rotated on its axis.

A frontier culture arises along the margins of these Zones, studded with space-time anomalies and peopled by "stalkers" who risk their lives in illegal expeditions to recover the artifacts, which do not obey known physical laws. The one most sought after, the "golden ball", is rumored to have the power to fulfill the deepest human wishes.

The novel's main protagonist is stalker Redrick "Red" Schuhart, initially employed as a lab assistant at the Harmont branch of the International Institute for Extraterrestrial Cultures, near the edge of Canada's Zone. He leads an expedition in search of a valuable artifact, as a result of which one of his colleagues is indirectly killed by an anomaly. Red later discovers that his girlfriend Guta is pregnant and wants to keep the child, despite rumours of monstrous births as a result of stalkers' exposure to the Zone's mutagen effect. They marry, against the wishes of Guta's family, and she gives birth to a mutant daughter, driving Red into the Zone one last time in order to find the golden sphere.

The name of the novel derives from a metaphor proposed by the character Dr. Valentine Pilman, who compares the visit to a roadside picnic. After the picnickers depart, nervous animals venture forth from the adjacent forest and discover the picnic garbage: spilled motor oil, faded unknown flowers, a box of matches, a clockwork teddy bear, balloons, candy wrappers, etc. He concludes that humankind finds itself in a situation similar to that of the curious forest animals.

[edit] Analogies with the Chernobyl disaster

Although the accident happened 14 years after the publication of Roadside Picnic, the area affected by Chernobyl disaster has become analogous to the Zones in the Strugatskys' novel in the former Soviet Union.

Humans are not supposed to live within 30 km (19 miles) of the disaster site, giving rise to a 3,600-square-kilometre (1,400 sq mi) region formally referred to as the Zone of alienation, and informally known as "The Zone." The Zone, straddling the Ukraine-Belarus border, contains the two ghost cities Prypiat and Chernobyl as well as many ghost villages. It has, unexpectedly, become a major nature reserve. As in the novel, the Zone attracts illegal scavenging.

[edit] Awards and nominations

  • The novel in received a John W. Campbell Award for the best science fiction novel of the year published in English.
  • In 1978. the Strugatsky are accepted as honourable members of "Society of Mark Twain" (USA) with formulation for their outstanding contribution to world science fiction literature.
  • A 1979 Scandinavian congress on science fiction literature awarded the novel the Jules Verne prize for the best novel of the year published in Swedish
  • In 1981, the sixth festival of science fiction literature in Metz, the novel won the award for the best foreign book of the year.

[edit] Adaptations

  • Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker is loosely adapted from the book, although with the Strugatsky brothers contributing to the script.
  • In 2003, the Finnish theater company Circus Maximus produced a stage version of Roadside Picnic, called Stalker. Authorship of the play was credited to the Strugatskys and to M. Viljanen and M. Kanninen.
  • While not direct adaptations, the video games S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and its prequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky borrow from the original novel and from the film. The series has a wish-granting monolith similar to the Golden Sphere of the novel, or the Room of the Tarkovsky film. The series has other "artifacts" which defy laws of physics.
  • A Finnish language tabletop roleplaying game called Stalker was published in 2008 by Burger Games with the permission of Boris Strugatsky. The game was written by Ville Vuorela.

[edit] English releases

  1. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic / Tale of the Troika (Best of Soviet Science Fiction) translated by Antonina W. Bouis. New York: Macmillan Pub Co, 1977, 245 pp. ISBN 0-02-615170-7. LCCN: 77000543.
  2. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic. London: Gollancz, April 13, 1978, 150 pp. ISBN 0-575-02445-3.
  3. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic / Tale of the Troika. New York: Timescape (Pocket Books), February 1, 1978. ISBN 0-671-81976-3.
  4. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic. London: Penguin Books, September 27, 1979, 160 pp. ISBN 0-14-005135-X.
  5. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic. New York: Pocket Books (Timescape), September 1, 1982, 156 pp. ISBN 0-671-45842-6.
  6. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic (SF Collector's Edition). London: Gollancz, August 24, 2000, 145 pp. ISBN 0-575-07053-6.
  7. Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. Roadside Picnic (S.F. Masterworks). London: Gollancz, February 8, 2007. ISBN 0-575-07978-9.

[edit] Notes

[edit] External links

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