Dagon is a new Portuguese magazine, edited by Roberto Mendes and dedicated to showcasing both Portuguese and international speculative fiction. The first issue contains stories from Luís Filipe Silva, João Barreiros and Carla Ribeiro, and articles by Pedro Ventura and Nuno Fonseca. It also publishes Nir Yaniv‘s story, “Cinderers” from The Apex Book of World SF, features an interview with anthology editor Lavie Tidhar and an article by Larry Nolen.
The magazine was launched on the 23rd of January – click here for photos from the event.
This week on the WSNB, Charles Tan interviews Roberto Mendes:
It is an honour Charles. It was a book that first drove me into speculative fiction. I was eleven years old when the magic first appeared in my life, in the form of a book; It was The LOTR by Tolkien. I remembered feeling really small, standing at the gates of the gigantic Middle Earth. From that moment on I read almost every thing that came out by Tolkien. I also began to discover other writers, such as Jules Verne, Edgar A. Poe, Lovecraft, and many more. It was love at first sight.
I will have to say that pretty much everything excites me about speculative fiction. But not only in the form of literature: I love every type of art inspired by the marvellous world of fantasy, science fiction, horror, you name it! I love the drawings of many authors, like L. Royo, Karem Beyit, etc. I also love the music inspired in fantasy such as the classical Wagner (inspired by Norse mythology) and the recent metal by Manowar or the melodic metal by Ayreon, in which we can embark on a voyage into space, filled with science fiction references!
Well, I think the term “Speculative Fiction” stands for various genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy and all sub-genres. I believe that all these genres came from the same place: the mythology and the need to think about the past and the future, so I really prefer this term!
It is the only magazine of speculative fiction published in paper, since the magazine “Bang”, edited by Rogério Ribeiro, left the market (now it is published for free in the web). Its objectives are clear: to promote speculative fiction in Portugal, reveling in new worlds of opportunities for writers and readers. It is not only a magazine of literature, we are also going to have an illustrator working on every issue, who will draw a cover inspired by one of the tales and we intend to publish really good illustrations inside every issue. In the first issue, we have cinema reviews, articles (including one from Larry Nolen), tales from Portuguese writers such as João Barreiros, Luís Filipe Silva and Carla Ribeiro, a tale by Nir Yaniv (“Cinderers”), in cooperation with Lavie Tidhar, to whom I thank, and finally we have some poetry and an interview with Lavie. The name of first issue cover illustrator is Miguel Ministro.
I’ve edited the August 2009 issue as an experimental issue in e-book. It is free on the web, that was the first step for the magazine.
Here goes the link for the download. It has really great illustrations and those who cannot read in portuguese can watch them:)
Why the name Dagon?
Dagon is sort of a fetish character for me. It was a major northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain and agriculture, but it is more known as one of the characters that came out from the imagination of Lovecarft, one of my favorite writers. It is, mostly, a name that almost every reader of speculative fiction knows, so I thought it would be a great choice!
The state of the speculative fiction in Portugal, but it was an old dream of mine to publish a magazine like Dagon. The idea just popped into my head one day and I thought “well, the hell with it, I’m not going to just sit back and wait for the winds to change, I’m going to be an active part of a new age of speculative fiction in Portugal”. With the help of my girlfriend I started to make contacts with the writers, and I had already drawn some objectives: to be a magazine not only for regular writers, those that had their names already on the market. I wanted to publish new voices you know?
I’ve already assembled some tales to another project, an anthology of Portuguese SF, called “Vollüspa”, that will come out in March, and so I was already impressed by the quality of the works that got into my hands. Some people called me crazy, and told me that this project was too weak, that it was never going to last. But more and more people became really supportive, and now I’ve got really a lot of people to thank to.
After the first experimental issue, published for free on the web, a few editors approached me, with interest in the magazine. I’ve decided to accept the offer of the “edita-me” company, and they have been great all this time!
Well, mainly the Portuguese and Brazilian readers. Not only the genre lovers, I have the objective to reach out to a new market, the mainstream readers, showing them the quality of speculative fiction.
I think that Portuguese speculative fiction first needs to be strong within our walls, and only then we can reach to other markets, such as the international one. Maybe after the first four issues we will be ready to publish the magazine in English, and then everyone will have access to the Portuguese SF. But first, we need to be careful and to get better and better.
I thought that that would be more of challenge, but everything’s great so far, every contributor has been supportive, the translations work out really good (Jorge Candeias and Luís Filipe Silva were the translators), and the acceptance of the magazine turned out to be wonderful.
It will surely be a great afternoon!
Why did you choose the Web as your platform?
Mainly because when I edited the experimental issue, I did not have the necessary funds to publish it on paper. But it turned out to be a great choice. Ive learned a lot doing issue zero. The difference in quality between that issue and the first issue now is enormous!
We are like a frozen river: the silence is becoming overwhelming! With Dagon I intend to crack the ice a little bit, making some noise! In Portugal the editorial markey is failing and the readers are despairing every day but we have great writers like João Barreiros, Luís Filipe Silva or David Soares and emerging writers with enormous quality like Carla Ribeiro or Pedro Ventura. But the market is saturated with books of little quality, mostly vampire books taking advantage of the “Twilight” success or fantasy books, almost copies of Tolkien’s work.
There are only a few publishers that go out on a limb to publish Speculative Fiction: mostly Saída de Emergência, Editorial Presença and Gailivro! We had some good fanzines like Nova or Phantastes but now they are over, leaving Bang the only online magazine. The “edita-me” publisher is taking a risk in publishing a collection of Portuguese speculative fiction called Yggdrasil and I hope that will bring the writers and readers together. There are great gaps that we need to fill such as readers’ low knowledge of the genre and the inability of publishers to “teach” published fundamental works of SF.
Who are some of the writers that have influenced you?
Portuguese writers? Well, I’ll have to say João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva regarding science fiction. As to fantasy, Pedro Ventura. On horror I have no preferred Portuguese writers (well, there isn’t much of that specie either) but David Soares is a really good writer.
I think that our past could make us unique SF writers. But I do not think SFin Portugal has reached a stage in which we are unique. The only way to make our SF unique is to provide exotic references, exclusively Portuguese, as well as to reinvent our past of adventures through the world, a time of colonizers…writing about it, say, in a steampunk way, would be something unique! But a Portuguese SF writer cannot expect to write a novel set in New York, and then be perfect doing it or just writing a romance of vampires and expect it to be a masterpiece! But we have great voices, if only all of you could hear them… I mostly think we forget a lot about our great past, not realizing that the future of our SF is there, in our history, in our blood, in our hearts!
Over at Rebellious Jezebel, blogger Jha takes Nuno Fonseca (for his editorial here this week) and Luis Filipe Silva (for his response) to task on their treatment of gender, saying in part:
Well, yes, of course arguing the lack of representation in spec fic is a goddamn personal thing. Fuck the male privilege horse you rode in on, because this isn’t an intellectual exercise; issues of representation are serious and personal, because when we read stories, we would like to find some stories that represent us. There are the narrow few perspectives which are overrepresented compared to many other minority perspectives. The fact that you can even pretend that these attitudes don’t exist anymore or are so 1950′s is a sign of privilege, because even while overt racism is rare, what makes you think you don’t subconsciously hold racist attitudes?
These benefits of colonization he’s talking about…. where to start? Speaking English isn’t a benefit, it’s a necessity. Are minority writers always read? They may read but they may not get fair opportunity to be read. And if debates were really that easy to engage internationally – no wait, never mind, because they’re not, taking into account different cultural environments and contexts, which cause people to talk past each other and not necessarily be on the same page as is going on here in this very post.
And I like the number 8. So I will add an 8th point: the rest of their points ring true – it IS difficult non-English spec fic to flourish outside their linguistic contexts. We do face prejudice on whether our books will be picked up or not. Genrecan be a difficult market, what with varying tastes and diverse opinions on what it really should be like bouncing around. Yes, it can get better, but it can’t get better with folks trading on stereotypes and sweeping assumptions like the ones I’ve pointed out above to make their points.
While over in the UK, the gender debate continues with fjm’s Open letter to fans, authors and critics of the male sex:
Women, last time I looked, made up more than 50% of the population. We aren’t quite there in terms of fandom and authordom, but we’ve been past 35% for decades now.
So: the next time you are asked to be on a panel, or part of a discussion, or an anthology, and not a single woman is included, I suggest that it is not enough to shrug and say “well, I didn’t issue the invitations”. Question it. If the answer is “there wasn’t room” consider making a sacrifice.
Furthermore, if you are asked to talk about the state of the field, it is also your responsibility to think before you go ahead and give a list of “the best” science fiction writers with not a single woman on the list [and if you seriously think there isn't a single woman on that list you aren't doing the right reading].
I am really tired of hearing men discuss the field as if there are no women writers. There have always been women sf writers (see the research of myself, Merrick, Larbalastier and Davin). There is not a single decade of sf in the twentieth century in which there were no women writers.
I wish I could say that I am directing this at at some other men, men I don’t know, men who I don’t regard as my friends. But I’m not. I’ve seen almost every man I respect cheerfuly take his place on an all male panel, or reel off a list the best writers which is mysteriously free of women.
I am very tired of this. I will keep pointing it out, every time I see it.
Conventions and panels seem to be an enormous part of the US – and to an extent the UK – world of fandom – a series of social events that seem to play a central role in at least some identities of genre. I find them interesting enough to try and write something more in-depth in the future about it – including the inaccessibility of “world” writers to that social/business network, and whether it should even matter – but I think in the meantime it’s worth highlighting fjm’s concerns. It should be noted that, at least from anecdotal evidence (as you can guess, I don’t really have access to any conventions!) “world” sf writers – particularly of a different shade – tend to end up in the “Others” panel. If I recall, Anil Menon told me he met Vandana Singh at “a panel about the Other”. What IS the other? dark-skinned? Or simply non-North American? I don’t know enough about panels and convention programming to comment… perhaps you could.
And finally, also in the UK, Liz Williams elaborates on fjm’s comments:
OK, here comes massive unpopularity, but I’m a bit tired of maintaining a unified front when there seems to me to be precious little unity behind the lines. fjm has posted a (perfectly reasonable) open letter asking that male fans, critics and so on think first when they compile lists, TOC etc for SF, because the women still get left out. This is fair enough. Sexism is still alive and well, and let’s kick its sorry butt, but I would like to add something.
The last panel I did in the UK was with Pat Cadigan and Jaine Fenn at the Sf film fest in London, and it was about being women writers in a male dominated world. The message that, thank God, Pat got out in the first 5 minutes was how bored we are about constantly being stuck on panels where we talk about Our Struggle. Instead, IIRC, we talked about books we liked. I have done this ‘women’ panel in various forms about 5 times now and thank you, Judith, for not making me do another one at Eastercon. Pat and I are not 20 somethings who think feminists all wear dungarees: I hope Pat will correct me if I am wrong, but we both regard ourselves as feminists and in my case, a lot of my views come out of 1970s feminist theory.
Why is it still all about What the Guys Think? Some moron comes out with some reactionary statement on a blog no one reads and we all run about like there’s a fox in the henhouse (derogatory metaphor is intentional). Why invest them with a power that they don’t really have any more? I’m not that interested in what doesn’t get said on Radio 4 – I’ve done a lot of BBC interviews, they’re always cut to hell and you could bang on about female SF for hours and still end up with a 20 second sound bite about rocket ships.
Much more in all those links, and large comment threads though, as always, we’d love to hear your comments here, too.
Over at his blog, Luis Filipe Silva has a thoughtful response to the Nuno Fonseca editorial we published yesterday.
This season’s highlight on the Portuguese SF must be the publication of what we hope is the first article by Nuno Fonseca for the World SF blog, thus kicking off the Portuguese-speaking contribution to the general debate on the legitimacy of an international SF.
The fundamental question that arises from Nuno’s take is that a (literary) criticism about the state of a World SF done on a full stomach is substantially different from a criticism that has to crawl into the other people’s bins and live on crumbs.
By criticism we refer to the set of international authors complaining that there are not enough women to write SF or enough people of colour or of alternative sexualities – arguments which, I confess, always leave a hint of defending a particular, very personal condition, more than reflecting a generalized condition of the genre as they purport to be. On the other hand, I do not belong to any of these alleged conditions of exclusion nor do I live in a country where conflicts of race are socially dominant, so my opinion may be unfair. But in essence, it’s not as if we were still living in the 1950s, as if we hadn’t already gotten rid of a set of damaging social and cultural prejudices (so much that someone holding prejudices becomes a target for prejudice) – and by ignoring this change, the exclusion argument risks becoming stale and repetitive.
Perhaps in the end the real issue is about wishing a shift on the themes addressed by SF – say, from a technological vision of the future into a mystical vision – that will make SF closer to the cultural heart of the complaining person. It is natural that, as an example, the perspective of the all-American-hero not only has little to say to an Eastern citizen but, to a large extent, will be seen as offensive in a region formerly colonized by the West. – read the rest of the post.
Editorial: Having it all
By Nuno Fonseca
We have it all. Seriously.
Bear with me a little while I digress.
“We” is a strong word. As a species, we managed to obtain some proeminence through brute darwinian force and relentless acculturation. As people, we gained sufficient aplomb to be able to communicate globally. As SF fandom, we thrive on the propaganda of change. We, as in all of us, are able to read and write science fiction every single day of our lives if we decide to do so. But here’s the catch: we, as in all of us, are only able to do it globally. Individually, or in each country, the speculative paradise is not.
Every time I see a flame war, a heated commentary discussion or simple online tantrum about the derision of a specific, be it gender-based, or around the colonialist-nationalistic axis, or about race discrimination, or even senseofwonder uberall-ism and whatnot, I feel happy and sad. Why? Because in most of these cases what we see is a plain bellyful attitude, even though it is a post-inclusive one. Let me explain.
I happen to live in a country where there are no women writing science fiction. Or black people. Or gay, or whatever you may think about as a specific. Oh it’s true there are a few one-off examples, but way too few. It is a country where the few people who do write SF, are inclusive ones, as it is possible in our global information society. The problem is not one of segregation, but a far more problematic one: we have been getting no one to include here. And this, I tell you, is the truly sad thing.
Let me repeat this: no one.
As a reader, writer, editor and full-time fan, I can assure this is the case. There are several factors that contribute to this sorry state of affairs.
As you saw through the comprehensive 1998 article By Teresa Sousa de Almeida on Portuguese SF posted here on the 23rd, we do have some genre-related problems when it comes down to simple publication, a problem that today, 11 years later after that article, though a bit better when we talk about fantasy, continues to haunt SF Portuguese publication. Today, as in most places, fantasy in Portugal is riding a fad, mainly centered in children lit and the paranormal romance mode; epic fantasy has been getting some attention by national authors, and there, fortunately, we have been seeing at least some new women authors, with moderate market success. And that’s it. On the other hand, in my editing experience, submissions are very scarce, mostly male-dominated (and as for race or other specific, I obviously have no idea since they are entirely from new unknown authors). If I tell you also that I only remember two submitted shorts by female authors, I will not be exaggerating (sadly of very poor quality).
Is there anything we can do to better this? Of course. But the main problem remains that of the whole genre market itself and its poor expression. In the last couple of years, two main publishing houses (Saída de Emergência and Gailivro) have been betting on genre, with low but steady rising success. But mainly in Fantasy, because Portuguese SF works published in this timeframe just number… two. Though more are planned for the next year, fortunately. The rest of the publishing world just treats genre as non-existing or a fad, with the occasional one-offs.
So, you see, I marvel constantly when I see people passionately flaming editors for not including women in an anthology. Or whatever. And I also feel sad, because this is a “comfortable” discussion. Because people, be they women, black, foreign, gay, etc. do get published a lot in the anglo-speaking SF market. And because I remember that the SF fandom, writers, fans, publishers and editors, throughout the years, have been the most socially inclusive and tolerant and active people in the literary world.
The speculative fiction inclusive paradise is globally here, but it still needs to get better outside the English-speaking countries. However, I assure you that, thanks to the long-standing efforts of the SF community, we do find the strength to carry on.
And it will get better.
Nuno Fonseca is a speculative fiction writer, was co-editor of the Portuguese e-zine Nova and is currently editing for the e-zine Bang!, the leader magazine of the genre in Portugal.