Gorette found her second godhead buried under piles of plastic bottles, holy symbols, used toilet paper and the severed face of an avatar. No matter how much the scavengers asked, the people from Theodora just wouldn’t separate organic from non-biodegradable, from divine garbage. They threw out their used up gods along with what was left of their meals, their burnt lamps, broken refrigerators, tires, stillborn babies and books of prayer in the trash can. And when the convoys carrying society’s leftovers passed through the town’s gates, some lazy bureaucrat would mark in a spreadsheet that another mountain was raised in that municipal sanitary landfill, the Valley of the Nephilim. And to hell with the consequences.
Her father says no dead god is dead enough that it can’t be remade on our own image. The old man can spend hours rambling about over-consumption, the gnostic crisis, the impact of all those mystical residues poisoning the soil and the underground streams, how children are born malformed and prone to mediunity, and how unfair it is that only the rich have access to miracles. People will do what’s more comfortable, not what’s best for everyone, he’d finally say. It’s far easier to buy new deities than try to reuse them. So he taught her how to recycle old gods and turn them into new ones, mostly, she believed, because he wanted to make a difference. Or maybe because he was the one true atheist left in the world.
It was a small one, that godhead, and not in a very good shape. Pale silver, dusty, scratched surface and glowing only slightly underneath the junk. At best, thought Gorette, it’d have only a few hundred lines of code she’d be able to salvage. Combined with some fine statues and pieces of altars she’d found early that morning, perhaps she’d be able to assemble one or two more deities to the community’s public temple at Saint Martin. The neighborhood she was raised in had only recently been urbanized, so that meant the place was not officially a slum anymore. But still, miracles were quite a phenomenon down in the suburbs.
“Hey, daddy. Found another one,” Gorette said, covering her eyes from the burning light of midday. “Can we go home now, please?”
The egg-shaped thing had the pulse of a dying heart, and fitted almost perfectly in her adolescent hand. So she arranged a place for it amongst the relics in her backpack, inside the folds of a ragged piece of loincloth, and into a beaten up thurible where it’d be safe enough to survive the hour-long ride back to the city.
Her father stood next to a marble totem, sweeping the field with a kirlian detector. The pillar was part of a discarded surround-sound system with speakers the size of his chest, and served as a landmark to the many scavengers exploring the waste dump. When he heard her daughter calling him, he took his gas mask off and said “That depends,” his low-toned voice coming like a sigh, tired. “Do you think this will do? We’re running out of code and there are many open projects in the lab.” – continue reading!
Over at the Apex blog, Christopher Kastensmidt reports on the 4th annual Fantasycon in São Paulo, Brazil:
This last weekend (the last weekend in August) I participated in Fantasticon 2010: IV Symposium of Fantastic Literature in São Paulo. This impressive event, dedicated exclusively to speculative fiction literature, gathered together most of Brazil’s top SF editors and writers. Let me summarize by saying: 1) Fantastic literature in Brazil is thriving, and 2) I should be reading a lot more of it!
Although Fantasticon is in its fourth year, this was my first real-life contact with both the event and the Brazilian speculative fiction community at large. And what an amazing community it is. Even with my relative ignorance of the Brazilian SF field (I’ve read several collections and novels, but only a drop in the bucket of what’s out there), people were open to discussion and recommendations. Everyone was wonderful, but then again I think that describes the speculative fiction community the world over. I’m glad to be a part of it!
The event was housed in a thematic library which deals only with fantasy literature for kids (how cool is that?). The administration allowed Fantasticon to use their space free of charge, which helped keep the entry fee at the extremely reasonable price of free! For the most part, Fantasticon consisted of two parallel tracks: one for workshops and one for panels. Anyone could participate in any event, but had to grab a number beforehand to prevent overcrowding.
Over twenty books were launched at the event, not to mention a huge gamut of previously-published fantasy titles for sale, proving that fantastic literature in Brazil has come a long way in the last decade. – continue reading!
Or click here for photos of the event, taken by Leandro Reis.
Young writers of Fantasy, Brazil, 2010, photo by Leandro Reis.
This week’s original content, Charles Tan interviews Brazilian author Misha’El, author of the Spanish-language science fiction novel Qedem.
Hello! I do thank you for the wonderful opportunity. At ten years old, I was a trumpet player and played the second piston in a band. I felt I had talent for music, and then, I continue learning other instruments, adding a total of eight instruments.
World Cup Feelings – Really Global Ones
By Fábio Fernandes
By the time you read this, it’s quite probable that the World Cup has already come to an end. Brazil, alas, is already out of the game, but that happens. What’s really important is that the FIFA World Cup has managed to do something extraordinary, and for decades now: to unite most of the world around a major event.
Note that I said most of the world. Not every country is crazy about soccer – or football, as it is called in Europe, or simply futebol, as I call it in Portuguese. (From now on, I will refer to it as football, because that is how this sport is referred to in the countries that really care about it.)
Not that the countries that don’t care about football should be covered in tar and feathers – I just feel sorry for them, because they miss all the fun! The emotion, the sheer energy of the players in the field running after the ball is something unique – everyone should go to a stadium at least once in their lifetimes to experience it.
(But, hey!, some of you will promptly say to me. The same applies to baseball, for example. What about the thrill of the game, all the fastballs, home runs, and whatnot. I won’t argue with that. I’m sure it’s awesome as well.)
Some people I follow on Twitter, most notably people from the US, simply can’t understand some key notions of the game, like the tie. For them, no match should end with both teams failing to score a goal, or – even worse – scoring the same amount of goals each (perish the thought!)
Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but certainly it’s not something you are born with. It’s more like an acquired taste. Or love at first sight. It may happen for both sports, and it does. Country notwithstanding.
Recently, Glenn Beck (for those of you who don’t know him – I, for one, didn’t before the World Cup began – he is the utterly conservative host of a news show in Fox News TV channel in the US) said that he hates “soccer”, and, guess what? Because it’s global!
(Years ago, I believe I already established that America is a concept that goes far beyond the borders of the country called United States, encompassing no less than three continental landmasses, North, Central, and South America, so I won’t tackle the subject again here – please refer to this guest post in Jeff VanderMeer’s blog.)
As for Beck, I take the liberty of quoting him from another site, Media Matters for America:
BECK: I don’t get the baseball thing, but the soccer thing, I hate it so much — probably because the rest of the world likes it so much, and they riot over it, and they continually try to jam it down our throat.”
It appears that Beck is not alone on this, and thinks that soccer is part of a kind of socialist conspiracy against America of something like that.
I’m not trying to reasoning with those arguments. I just wanted to say a thing or two.
First, going back to baseball, I’m truly sorry, but you can’t possibly call World Series a championship series comprising only one or two countries. If only Japan, Cuba (yeah, I know I’m dreaming), or even Brazil (we have baseball here too, but we’re less proficient in it than the US in soccer – for now, that is) were also on it, then the American professional baseball World Series would really be global. But then, according to Glenn Beck, it could be dangerous.
Second, and that maybe will strike you as a curiosity: in Portuguese, we often use the word socialize as a verb, but not with a political meaning. We just happen to use it sometimes when talking about sharing stuff with our friends. (For instance, let’s socialize this book, shall we? Or, let’s socialize the bottle, when you’re in a bar – you got it).
Does that sound odd to you? Maybe it does. What the hell, Brazil is a different country, so it should sound odd to you after all.
I don’t even know if this rarticle (part rant, part article) will be published, because it apparently doesn’t have anything to do with science fiction. But that’s just on the surface. Since we’re having a global conversation here, those were just some thoughts I thought I should share with you all. Or socialize.
Earlier this month, Fabio Fernandes was pondering on Brazil’s presence in Science Fiction, over at his blog Post-Weird Thoughts:
The Quiet War – Paul McAuley’s novel presents us a kind of old-fashioned space opera where Earth is mostly dominated by Greater Brazil, a sort of mega-country that seems to occupy all the Americas and then some. That is never made entirely clear – nor does it anything else regarding Earth culture. McAuley is interested in telling us a story of a war between our planet and humans living in other worlds in the system. The story is fast-paced but failed to attract me, and I still didn’t understand why he chose Brazil to rule Earth when any other country would do, since there is nothing on the novel that can give the reader any specific information on Brazilian culture. The characters doesn’t sound convincing, and even Brasilia, our capital city, seems cardboard-like in the end, which is a shame, because I was really looking forward a great reading here. I’m starting Gardens of the Sun next week, so let’s see if it can clarify something on that matter.
Flood – Stephen Baxter is a terribly competent writer when it comes to hard SF. In this catastrophe-ridden novel, which really scared the bejesus out of me, the world is quickly flooded entirely in a few decades, and there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. The protagonists are strong and resorceful, but (fortunately) not especially trigger-happy mankind-savior kind of people, something that annoys me to no end. But there is one thing that upsets me along the reading: there is not a single mention of Brazil in the novel. I’m not trying to be an übernationalist here, but let’s keep it straight: Brazil is one of the top economies of the world right now; we’re (very) quickly rocketing out of a underdeveloped position to a developed one in the geopolitical scene. So, it would be more than natural that Brazil could play an important role of some kind in that novel, economically at least. (I’m halfway through Ark and so far nothing, by the way.) Sometimes the absence is louder than the presence.
Anyone care to chime in on the discussion?
This week, Charles Tan interviews Brazilian writer Jacques Barcia.
Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you first become acquainted with speculative fiction? What’s the appeal of the genre for you?
Thank you, Charles. It’s a pleasure and an honor, really.
Well, I usually tell this story: I was 13 and ended up reading a Wolverine story in which he refuses to join the X-Men to become an S.H.I.E.L.D. special agent. A year later I borrowed a copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune from a friend. And that absolutely blew my mind. It really changed my life. I remember walking the school’s corridors with that 600+ pages tome, skipping classes just to finish another chapter. I was educated in a catholic school, so you can imagine how Herbert’s opinions on power and religion had an impact on me. That and the worldbuilding, the big ideas and the strength of those characters. I read the rest of the series in the following year.
The cool thing about genre is that it has everything non-genre literature has plus dragons, or artificial intelligences, or mushroom people, sentient cities, evil angels, ruthless detectives, etc. Big ideas, high contrasts. To me, genre offers much more than simply Earth. It gives me the chance, as a reader and writer, to meditate on mundane life displayed on a big, multicolored, hyper-symbolic picture. It lets me explore future/past/parallel human conditions that mimetic fiction cannot express.
What made you decide to become a writer?
Sheer necessity, pleasure, ego and self-hatred. I mean, you have all those cool ideas and you have to put them out. It’s a great feeling when you write down that beautiful metaphor, or when a character reveals itself to you and you know his story is great. It’s wonderful when people like your story. It’s pure pleasure. The problem is that sometimes (maybe most of the time) you do it wrong. That cool idea doesn’t work, or you didn’t work it well enough. And that hurts. A lot. But you keep on writing until an editor likes your story and publishes it.
Besides, I’m terrible at soccer.
How has roleplaying games influenced (or not influenced) you as a writer?
Deeply. Gaming was my first experience with storytelling. At first I was afraid with the position of storyteller/game master. I was positive I had no talent for that. Tried once, thought it was disastrous, but my friends insisted that I had done good and encouraged me. Guess the other GM was tired and needed a substitute. Anyway, I finally got to like it and I keep GMing even to this day.
Now, RPGs have not influenced my writing, nor did it have any influence on my themes, or the settings in which I tell my stories. Gaming and literature are two completely different media, not to say completely different experiences. But RPGs did teach me some things about delivering fun, working pace and character creation. I remember the first time I read about theme and mood was in Vampire: The Masquerade.
And finally, most gaming books come with lists of authors and novels that have influenced the setting. Those lists proved to be invaluable, since most of those SF/F/H authors were absolutely obscure to me.
What made you decide to write in English? What are the challenges when it comes to writing in English?
First, Brazilian genre market is very small. It’s growing fast, but it’s still very modest. So I wanted to reach a wider audience and I thought I had enough skill to write in English. And I may be wrong, but it seems that the Anglophone market is opening itself to writers from outside the English-speaking world. It seems readers and editors are looking for stories with non-Eurocentric perspectives. This possibility really encouraged me.
The biggest challenge to writing in English is to think in English in order to write better and faster sentences. Sometimes I have to translate my thoughts to express the exact thing I want and It’s frustration, no to say infuriating when I want say X, but I just don’t know the exact word in English for it.
What are the hurdles in getting published?
Finding the right editor/publisher. Heard that some days ago, from Jetse de Vries. And he’s absolutely right. You have to find an editor that likes your story as much as you do, or an editor which is interested in spending some time polishing that raw material. And you have to submit to a publisher interested in the kind of story you’re telling.
What’s the science fiction and fantasy field like in Brazil?
Like I said, Brazilian SF/F is small, but it’s growing fast. So far, there’re four small publishers dedicated to genre with several anthologies and some novels by Brazilian authors coming out every year. We’re also experiencing a growing interest in steampunk, with a themed anthology already out (Larry “Of Blog of the Fallen” Nolen, read and liked it. This one has one of my stories), a social network fully dedicated to this sub-genre and very well organized groups of steamers all across the country.
But there’s a lot to do. The quality and quantity of fiction produced here isn’t stable yet. In the short story field, most books have both awesome and terrible fiction because, in the first place, there aren’t enough submissions, not to say good enough stories, for editors to choose from. So, editors work with whatever comes into their inboxes. And when it comes to novels, then things get even worse. But still, I feel things are improving.
Do you think your country’s writers leans more towards fantasy or science fiction?
Science fiction, definitely. Can’t say why. Though the newest generation has shown a lot more interest in fantasy, SF still leads the show. But following what happens in the rest of the world, vampire fiction reigns supreme here.
What do you feel when foreign writers like Ian McDonald appropriate South America for their own stories?
I think it’s awesome. It adds diversity to the genre. Besides, it indirectly opens the way to “foreign” writers to reach the Anglophone market. But when using non-Anglophone cultures in semi-realistic settings (contemporary or near-future SF, historical fantasy, etc), one should pay some attention to geography, behavior, religion and history, as to not commit any gross mistakes. And one should never write caricatures.
That being said, I love cultural mashups and I think they work great especially in less realistic settings. Want to put some semi-naked, six-armed mulatas covered in blood dancing samba to Shiva? Go for it!
And I should say I’m a big fan of Ian McDonald. I loved both Brasyl and River of Gods (and I’m looking forward to The Dervish House).
What’s your opinion when it comes to the term magic-realism?
All I should say is that in the Library of Babel, Vellum is on the Magic-Realism section. And in Lucien’s library, there’s a mass-market paperback of A Hundred Years of Solitude, with a cover by John Picacio.
Over at Tor.com, Brazilian author Fábio Fernandes talks about working in two langauges:
And with that, she had just found out a simple thing that many of us, alas, may take an entire life to find – and most never do: the miracle of understanding a language other than your native one. This expands our universe of knowledge and leaves us wide open to new sources of information. New cultures. New ways of life. New modes of thinking. Things outside your comfort zone. Things that are alien to you. – read the rest of the post.
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Working in two tracks
By Fábio Fernandes
Last November, when I had recently published my novel Os Dias da Peste in Brazil, some friends of mine (here and abroad) asked me when Os Dias da Peste would be translated into English. My answer has consistently been that I don´t know – but the truth is that it will probably never happen.
This is not me being bitter or egocentric, on the contrary. As far as publications in English goes, 2009 was an excellent year to me. I had nine original stories published in several online magazines, and two of them were podcasted in StarShipSofa. I have more stories in the slush piles of magazines all over, and on the top of that, I´m writing a novel in English right now. So, I have no doubt that 2010 will be better.
But then again, it may be an over-pessimistic view, or even self-censorship (we Brazilians over 40 years old tend to do that a lot – maybe that has something to do with the military dictatorship we had in the country from 60s to the 80s, even though we´re living ever since in a democracy and President Lula, at least IMHO, is by far the best president we had in a very long time, but I digress).
What I want to explain is this: I have a huge interest in matters of language – in my particular case, I started studying English at eight years old (I´m 43 now) and have lived for a short time in England in the early nineties. Shortly after that, I decided to write in English. It was a short-lived attempt (I manage to publish one short story in a US fanzine, but other than that I collected several rejection slips), after which I returned to the Brazilian market by way of the theater (I also write for the stage). I found my English wanting then, and I knew I needed to get much more acquainted with it before giving it another try. This is what I decided to do in 2009, when I finally thought I was ready. But, naturally, things are never that easy.
As a translator, I strongly believe that nothing is untranslatable – Joyce´s Finnegan´s Wake was recently translated in Brazil, in a major accomplishment by linguist Donaldo Schüler, and a Brazilian classic, also considered impossible to translate, Guimarães Rosa´s Grande Sertão: Veredas, was translated to many languages decades ago, in several cases (especially in German and Italian) with the help of Rosa himself, who was a polyglot and discussed painstakingly several words and terms typical not only of Brazilian Portuguese, but of the Minas-Bahia wilderness, the sertão (his correspondence with his translators is famous).
But, despite being a translator, I find myself working in two different tracks when it comes to writing. When I write science fiction in Portuguese, I focus not only on the language, but also on the canon of stories – that is, on all the narratives that have been written in the tradition of Brazilian SF. The problem with that approach is the lag – Brazilian SF is light-years behind American or British SF, both in theme and in style, I´m afraid.
Os Dias da Peste intends to be a breakthrough of sorts – but to the Portuguese-speaking canon, not to the English-speaking one. Again, this is not about egocentrism or conceitedness; this is just about doing something that has never been done before in Brazilian SF. Os Dias da Peste is an experience: a return to a cyberpunk/slipstream panorama with an assortment of satirical elements (though not a fundamental one, it´s a very important trait in Brazilian literature) and, more importantly: a setting where Murphy´s Law is king: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This is definitely something with which Brazilian readers can relate to.
The English novel is an entirely different affair, since it makes me think in other frequency, so to speak, and it also makes me access another canon of stories, which is also very refreshing. This will pose a huge challenge to me in the years to come, but it will be an interesting one – to struggle with two extremely different languages and the completely diverse stories they urge to me to write in them. That said, I still don´t know if Os Dias da Peste will ever see the light of day in the English language – who knows? – but I have many more stories to tell.
I read each of these stories three times over the past four months, since my reading fluency in Portuguese is less than that of Spanish. What I discovered with each read is that most of these stories took on additional layers of meaning for me. There is no single common approach to telling a steampunk story in this collection. Some stories, such as the opening “O Assalto ao Trem Pagador” are a bit more heavy on overt action involving steam-driven trains, boats, and dirigibles than some of the others, but there are certain nuances in the writing that refer more specifically to issues of Brazilian history. In the footnotes to Romeu Martins’ “Cidade Phantástica,” the author refers to how the character João Fumaça has been utilized by other authors, including an alt-history where Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay lost the 1864-1970 War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay. In Jacques Barcia’s “Uma Vída Possível Atrás dad Barricadas,” Barcia references the long-standing popularity of communists among the proletariat. – read the rest of the review.
Jha pointed out this interview with Brazilian Steampunk (Steampunk activist?) Bruno Accioly.
Moreover, one of the issues that have been discussed in the steampunk communities I participate in is how steampunk should address the darker aspects of the Victorian era. Topics like slavery, colonialism, sexism, class divides, and the history of race have been brought up by steampunks as important issues to talk about. I have discussed with others how to appropriately express steampunk style without promoting oppressive ideas that people had during the Victorian era. Have these concerns been discussed in your communities as well?
This is a very important issue to me and to Brazilian authors and journalists. Certainly more important to us than to the general public who expect to be entertained instead of taught by the SteamPunk works.
On a long (and extensively edited) workshop, myself, the sci-fi author Fabio Fernandes and Gianpaolo Celli, who is responsible for the book “SteamPunk - Histórias de umPassado Extraordinário”, discussed this with other authors and the press. It was a major concern not to depict the Victorian Era in England and the XIX century in Brazil as an Utopian period. [Note from Ay-leen: Bruno linked the video of this workshop here].
There is a tendency to believe that time was actually the greatest time of all. In Brazil, “Belle Époque” (just like the French, but we call it “Belle Époque in Brazil”), so it is very clear where the “cameras” were pointed at. Sure, technology made great steps and science consolidated its credibility and influence upon our minds, but the social and cultural mindset then was borderline Dystopian in nature.
I think it would be a waste not to use it and depict it in a way that it would make a difference to the “reader” of a piece. I like to write not to criticise the period, but to use the Zeitgeist of that Era as an argument about the crudeness of the intolerant totalitarian essence and as a sarcastic way of criticizing today’s thoughts, philosophy and modusvivendi.
It is important to say that the author is not obligated to criticize, embed subtext propaganda or try and denounce anything, although it is a very engaged and difficult thing to do it properly. The thing is SteamPunk is a very rich genre that way and it offers a very prolific setting in terms of similarities to today’s thinking.
The amazement with new machines, crazy products that do not work properly, practices that could lead to the extinction of our race, moral relativism, and lack of ethics toward other human beings based on a set of dissimilar characteristics… SteamPunk is a blessing to the artist ready to kick some totalitarian butt!
Even though the Victorian Era and the XIX century wasn’t even nearly perfect, it is very important to Conselho SteamPunk to maintain a structure based on a set of principles some would describe as Utopian, without any leaders but filled with mutual admiration, without the need for bureaucracy but filled with selflessness generosity, without any excess of cautiousness towards others but filled with “Pronoia” the opposite of paranoia, the healthy delusion that other people are conspiring to help you succeed. – read the rest of the interview.