Daniel Kalder, author of Strange Telescopes, is profiled by Jeff Salamon in the Austin American-Statesman. Here's a brief excerpt:
"In 1996, Kalder left for Russia to work as an English tutor. He figured he'd stay a year or so, but he wound up falling in love with Moscow and lived there for a decade. "You just see this entire society where nothing's fixed; everything is broken down," he says. "Something is being born and no one knows what it is." The two books Kalder has written about the former Soviet Union, Lost Cosmonaut and Strange Telescopes, have vaguely science-fictional titles, and he speaks of the fallen empire in distinctly fantastical terms, calling it a "parallel reality" and a "shadow universe." So when Kalder decided to turn himself into a journalist, he didn't much resemble the traditional model of the foreign correspondent who spends a few years filing dispatches and then writes a sober-minded tome about his host country.
"I lived there for almost 10 years, and I don't recognize Russia in that writing," he says. "It tends to be very, very kind of ponderous, very tragic, very chin-stroking, almost pious."
By contrast, what Kalder saw in the wreckage of post-Soviet Russia was something at once funny, tragic and perverse: a wild variety of realities auditioning for the 21st century.
Strange Telescopes, which was released last month in the U.S., tells the story of four of Russia's fervent believers: Vadim Mikhailov, the self-declared leader of a supposed army of "Diggers" who live in a subterranean kingdom that lies beneath Moscow's streets; Edward, a young man who wants to revive the culture of exorcism that was once central to the Russian Orthodox Church; Nikolai Sutyagin, who tried to build the world's tallest wooden skyscraper; and the book's most compelling character, Vissarion Christ, a self-proclaimed messiah who has established a base for his religious movement in remote Siberia. Unlike the other three, Vissarion isn't a failure; he has 4,000 followers. "For me, he was the greatest dreamer of all, because I entered his dream," Kalder says of the weeks he spent among Vissarion's cult.