Milena Benini

IMG_3382MtopicOccasionally, I get asked to speak on TV. A couple months ago it was about the awesome Russian SF film Kin dza dza! which was aired on Croatian TV, today it was about the fictional worlds of Milena Benini, one of the best and most versatile Croatian SF writers. As I was trying to squeeze as much interesting info into the 4 minutes they allowed for the interview, I realized just how late I was with what I tend to call my “SF authors posts”.   So here goes.
I have no idea how long I have known Milena – I think I met her at Essekon in 2005 or thereabouts, but it feels like I have known her forever. I knew of her long before that: she was the 1999 SFERA Award winner for the fantasy novel Kaos (Chaos) serialized in the Croatian SF magazine FUTURA where she was later also the editor-in-chief and consequently the person who published the ad for SFera seeking new SFERA Award Jury members that got me into fandom.

Photo by Zvonimir Ferina
Receiving a SFERA @SFeraKon 2010 Photo by Zvonimir Ferina

Milena went on to win three more SFERAs: for the novella “McGuffin Link” in 2006, for a short story “Plešimo zajedno pod polariziranim nebom” (“Dancing Together Under Polarized Skies”) and one in the non-fiction category, for “Divide ed morere”, an essay about vampires published by a Croatian mainstream literary magazine, Književna republika. Yes, in addition to being an author, Milena is also up to her neck in theory. Having graduated English literature at St. George University at Oxford she went on to become a teacher, a translator of famous SF authors into Croatian (Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King), an editor (we have her to thank for Croatian translations of Gail Carriger, N. K. Jemisin and Kate Eliot), and a theoretician. She is also one of the authors of The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy vol. 1 and The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction vol. 1: First Contact, which one the Eppie Award as the best e-book of the year.

In her spare time, which I believe she creates in ample amounts by having written some kind of a time-traveling loophole into the walls of her apartment in the very center of Zagreb, Milena is a member of the Croatian Women’s Studies Centre where she researched the position of women in Croatian SF (and found it to be excellent!), romance novels and vampires. About which she not only writes essays, but also novels.

237580956In 2012, Milena’s vampire novel, Djelomicna pomrcina (Partial eclipse)  came out to bring us a different take on the immortal life where the girl is bored, the man is a photoreporter and the world is oh so very Croatian. I’s give you details, but then you’d want to kill me – the novel is not translated into English. Her latest novel – Priestess of the Moon – is a whole other story, albeit a slightly complicated one. It was published in Canada in 2013. In Croatian, however, it came out in book form a whole year later. But long before that, back in 2008 when I was alternating panicking about the possibility of a Zagreb Eurocon and having a child, Priestess of the Moon was another innovative experiment Milena conducted in the world of Croatian SF. She first published the novel in a series of weekly posts on her blog Milerama. True to form, only the recent Croatian edition of the novel is what prompted the TV people to do a story on her.

For me, it is always stories, and so it is with Milena Benini as author, too. You can sample some of her style by reading “The  Marrakech Express” or by buying Kontakt, the Croatian SF anthology that came out for the eponymous Zagreb Eurocon in Kontakt3002012. It is her story “Bloodhound”, in which the main character’s name is a combination of a common English name, Johnny, and a Croatian surname made famous in the Balkans by a rock’n’roll singer, frontman of Psihomodo pop and an all-round bad boy, Damir Gobac, that opens the anthology. I loved it when I read it the first time, precisely for this cheeky nod to the Croatian reader, who as a rule belongs wholeheartedly to the tribe of  ‘I do not want to read about adventures of anyone Croatian in any space or time since it is a truth universally acknowledged that any American (i.e. Johnny) can do it better’ and thus will appreciate anything foreign sounding more than the domestic product. This is just a tiny example of  the lovely subversiveness in details Milena’s stories enrich the world with.

I could go on but I seem to have turned what I had planned as a short introduction into a whole blog post! So, I will finish by saying that Milena Benini was an awesome Guest of Honour at SFeraKon 2010, is an excellent friend and a exceptionally capable writing instructor. Go read her and come back for a short interview with her on Friday!

Milena as GoH @SFeraKon 2010 Photo by Mirko Bulaja
Milena as GoH @SFeraKon 2010
Photo by Mirko Bulaja



3 thoughts on “Milena Benini

  1. She’s amazing. She ought to be far, far better known by the English speaking world.

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