Sue Burke on Fantasy Fiction in Spain
Sue Burke writes on Castles in Spain: fantasy writers and publishers have high hopes:
Big changes are on the horizon, and they’re going to be good. That’s what many Spanish fantasy authors and publishers believe. Fantasy is luring more and more readers, and soon, they hope, Spanish readers will believe that “made in Spain” novels and stories are as good as those by Anglo-Saxon (English-language) writers.
Raúl Gonzálvez sees “an upward spiral that just five or ten years ago would have been almost impossible.” His small publishing company, Grupo AJEC, focuses almost exclusively on Spanish writers, especially new ones, and has given some well-known authors their start.
“Spanish writers are starting to lose their complexes,” Gonzálvez says, “and even more importantly, to seek their own voice outside of Anglo-Saxon literature, which was the reference for readers for decades.” These days small publishers, and even some larger ones, are offering a full range of fantasy literature; he hopes this will overcome a long-standing barrier.
“Soon, frequent fantasy readers who usually read only Anglo-Saxon novels may give Spanish authors a chance – or at least treat them the same as a translated novel – and I think that sooner rather than later we can speak of a more normal situation in the production of national fantasy literature, compared to other European countries.”
This abnormal situation goes back four centuries – to Don Quixote. Cervantes’ book satirized the fantasy adventure novels of its day, and ever since then realism has reigned in the Kingdom of Spain, despite a rich oral tradition of tales of fantastic events and beings.
In the last half of the 20th century, popular genre works translated from English began to capture readers, but the few Spanish genre writers of those decades often had to use British- or American-sounding pseudonyms. Then in the ’80s and ’90s, a new generation of writers appeared, proud to use their own names, including Rafael Marín, César Mallorquí, Elia Barceló, Juan Miguel Aguilera, Javier Negrete, and Rodolfo Martínez. They wrote what in Spain is known as “fantastic literature,” which encompasses science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Their quality inspired more writers.
However, quality wasn’t enough. Luis G. Prado heads Alamut and Bibliópolis, small genre presses that publish mostly translations – but from many languages, not just English – along with some Spanish authors. For many years he edited an important fanzine, Artífex. In the 2002 book La Ciencia Ficción Española, he noted that some fine writers were leaving the genre. “It isn’t a field that welcomes authors with ambition, and its survival in Spain has been based more on the personal efforts of a handful of unyielding writers than on favorable conditions.”
The money wasn’t there ten years ago, and not much has changed. But a loyal fandom has always filled in somewhat for the lack of professional money and recognition. Fan groups have published anthologies and magazines, and sponsored conventions and awards. As in the US and Britain, writers and readers mix freely, and often fans became writers or publishers.
National conventions, called HispaCons, occurred intermittently before 1980, and in 1991 they were revived and are now held annually, sponsored by the Spanish Association for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror (AEFCFT, in its Spanish initicials).
Two other groups especially strong now are TerBi, a Basque association for science fiction, fantasy, and horror; and the Spanish Epic Fantasy Association, a grouping of local clubs, whose website name,espadaybrujeria.com (“swordandsorcery.com”), explains its focus.
“Thanks to social networks, digital tools, Creative Commons licenses, etc., contact and mutual support among Spanish writers is increasing visibly,” says Nuria C. Botey. Her works include fantasy, science fiction, horror, and gay romance; she’s also won several prizes. She points to the Spanish Association of Horror Writers, Nocte, as another example of a community for writers. – continue reading!