Monday Original Content: An Interview with Roberto Mendes (Portugal)

This week, Charles Tan interviews Portuguese editor Roberto Mendes about his new anthology, Vollüspa, genre fiction in Portugal, and more!

Hi Roberto! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, could you tell us about your latest project, Vollüspa?

Hi Charles, it is always a pleasure to do this kind of interviews. Last time we’ve done this, Dagon was being launched to the World, two years ago. Man, time just flies. If you remember, in January 2010 when we’ve talked about Dagon, Vollüspa was already being developed. To tell you the truth, the concept of Vollüspa crossed my mind in an extremely hot night in the year of 2008 and I began pursuing the goal to turn that idea into reality since then. First I wanted to make people write. The main goal of Vollüspa is just simple as that: to make people write more. How could I accomplish such a thing? By creating a training ground to the new voices, and also by publishing some of the authors that I believe to be between the top cream of the Portuguese writers, such as Álvaro de Sousa Holstein, Luís Filipe Silva, Afonso Cruz and others. I sincerely believe that the goal of Vollüspa was met. I received about 60 to 70 submissions; read them all, talked to the authors about their short stories, made some comments and then I made invitations. The submissions were open for quite long time, and the table of contents of the anthology was only closed after four years counting off the kick start post on Correio do Fantástico. Vollüspa is also attempting to shake things up in the Portuguese Speculative Fiction scene. We want to publish more youngsters, and try to find the next great Portuguese writer. Will we be able to do it? We never know, isn’t that right? So, in order to describe Vollüspa, I would say that it is an Anthology strictly of Portuguese writers attempting to show their skills, trying to show their stories to the World. It features short stories of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. It features never before published authors and some of our greatest speculative fiction writers in the present days. It is trying to unite writers, fans and readers of Speculative fiction, and maybe, who knows, to bring some of the mainstream readers into our “sense of wonder”!

What made you decide to work on the anthology?

I was truly feeling the need to shake things up and give more opportunities to writers to publish their works and I am still feeling that need. I know it would involve many challenges, but I really had the time of my life creating Vollüspa.

What was your criteria for your contributors and selected stories?

I was mostly concerned with the quality of the short stories. I also wanted to publish only Portuguese writers. Don’t get me wrong, I love all Portuguese speaking nations Speculative Fiction, I’m even on the verge of opening the submissions period for the second number of Vollüspa and will now accept submissions from other Portuguese speaking nations, but now I´m thinking in publish maybe 30 short stories, and on the first number, I thought in publishing only 12 or 13 short stories (in the end I’ve published 15) and therefore I wanted to make it a starting number of Portuguese native voices. The contents of Vollüspa are divided into submissions and invitations. I invited some authors in whom I believed in from the start, some of them accepted, some declined. Of those who accepted and sent their short stories, some met the quality of work I was looking for and some didn’t. So the invite to publish on the Anthology didn’t mean a guaranteed spot on its pages. In the submissions guideline’s I asked for short stories of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. I was also looking to find some specific elements in the short stories, of the kind that only Portuguese writers could provide, therefore showing that the Portuguese Speculative Fiction can be special. I think I managed to do so in some of the short stories, but unfortunately not in all of them. Then the criteria’s were the same that I had stipulated for appearing in Dagon Magazine. Also I asked some authors to republish in Vollüspa some short stories that I really liked. To choose the cover was really easy. I was following the work of Augusto Peixoto for quite a while; I’m a huge fan of his art. Rafael Mendes did the design and lettering. So I only invited Augusto and the result, in my humble opinion, was awesome!
Will there be an eBook version of this? Why or why not?

We are thinking about publishing also in e-book format, but we have not decided yet. I’m all pro paper books, but I know that it is a marked that one can not ignore in the present days so I’m discussing it with the Publisher House.

How has your experience with your magazine Dagon influenced the way you worked on the anthology?

It had a great deal of influence on me. First off, Dagon taught me a lot about the Portuguese fandom and readers, and it also taught me to be suspicious about Publishers and their promises. But I’ve learned many things about publishing, editing, marketing and so on working in Dagon. I met so many great people because of Dagon and then because of another fanzine called “Conto Fantástico” (something like: “Fantasy Tale”) that I’ve published with another Portuguese Editor, Flávio Gonçalves, and all those people influenced me a lot and taught me many things. I used all the things I had learned to publish the best Vollüspa that I could. 
Right now, how would you describe the Portuguese speculative fiction field? Who are the writers we should be looking out for?

Well, I must say that I’m a really optimistic guy. Pessimists will want to kill me but… do you remember my answer to a similar question you made me back in 2010? I believe that we have improved a lot since then, but we still need to grow stronger. Portuguese authors are in need of more “training grounds” in which to publish their stories. Notwithstanding the above, now we are far better then in 2010. Vollüspa is here to help out a bit. We have a small group of speculative fiction fans that created a fanzine called “Fénix” (curiously I was invited to edit the second number of the fanzine. I’m announcing it for the first time. It’s printing already and should be out in two weeks), Bang! Magazine is getting better each number (it is published in paper and distributed for free, how awesome is that?), Conto Fantástico is published on the web for free and will come out with a new number this month. Only Dagon is having some finantial troubles but I expect it to be all solved soon. Also Rogério Ribeiro recently published an anthology of Science Fiction in cooperation with “Fantasporto” as well as Luís Filipe Silva that recently published an anthology of Portuguese pulp fiction. There are more blogs dedicated to Speculative Fiction, we have now a fanzine called “Nanozine” that will dedicate a number to Steampunk… so I really believe we are experiencing great times regarding our Speculative Fiction, but we do need to improve! Wow, I’m feeling optimistic:) As for the authors amongst others I like the work of José Manuel Morais, Madalena Santos, João Ventura, Álvaro de Sousa Holstein, Luís Filipe Silva, David Soares, Afonso Cruz, Pedro Ventura and João Barreiros (all of them published authors and 6 of them are in Vollüspa). As for the new voices, amongst others, I really like Carlos Silva, Joel Puga and Pedro Pedroso first works (Carlos an Joel are published on Vollüspa).

Could you tell us about your other project, “International Speculative Fiction”?

It is also the first time I’m going to speak about “International Speculative Fiction”. Thanks for bringing that subject up! We are still in an early stage of the concept but I can tell you that it will be a Magazine of non Anglophone speculative fiction. It will be published in English and, for the first number, I’m thinking in publishing it for free as an e-book. It will have its own site and will feature 3 short stories, one article, one review and one interview per number. We’re going International and we are aiming to publish the first number in the summer.I’m talking about publishing speculative fiction from China, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Japan… you name it. And you Charles, you are part of my inspiration, together with Lavie Tidhar. I thank you both for that! We are aiming for a type of website sort of magazine like “Clarkesworld”, but featuring only International writers. In order to succeed in such a project, I’ve made many invites to join the cause and many have step up to the challenge. I can say that in the first number we will publish a Portuguese writer called Romeu de Melo. Romeu is acclaimed as the father of Portuguese Science Fiction by some of us. He passed away a few years ago I’ve talked with his son in order to be able to honour his father’s life and work, and amongst other things I will publish one of his brilliant short stories in the first number of “International Speculative Fiction”.

What are currently some of the challenges?

They are so many… first off all, I am not familiar with the International market, so I’m speaking intensively with international writers, editors, readers and publishers to get an idea of how things work. Secondly we have the greatest issue of all: the translation of the stories. I’m still trying to seduce some translators to help out, but they must be capable of getting the job well done and they must have the time to do so. In the first number we will translate from Romanian, Portuguese, Spanish and all other languages. It’s going to be difficult and extra expensive, but hey, well survive it and get the number to come out!

Will the stories be translated? From what language to what language?

Like I said, the Magazine will be published in English, so we will have to translate from all sorts of languages into English.
For you, what are the similarities between working on Dagon, Vollüspa, and International Speculative Fiction? And what are the differences?

Except for the translation parts that are 80% of the work of “International Speculative Fiction” it is pretty much the same. You research, you invite, you receive works, you read them, you like or you dislike them, you smile or you cry, you talk to the authors; you get all this mixed feelings: happiness, disappointment, crankiness… you name it! But at the end of the day you love what you are doing and you feel good about it! There is no other way, you have do be deeply passionate about this kind of stuff or you don’t do it at all!

Anything else you want to plug?
I would like to take the chance to thank you once more, and also to thank all the feedback on Vollüspa (either International or Portuguese). The support has been great! And to finish, remember when I said above that the main goal of Vollüspa was to get people writing? Well, after publishing the anthology, we dared all the readers and authors to write really small short stories (with the max. of 300 words) in which Vollüspa had to appear! We are now close to receive 40 Short Stories. We promisse everybody to edit and publish an Anthology with those short stories if we receive at least 40 and we will come true to our promisse:) We are publishing those sort stories one a day in our webstie (  And I dare you all: keep an eye on the Portuguese Speculative Fiction because you might be surprised!

6 thoughts on “Monday Original Content: An Interview with Roberto Mendes (Portugal)

  1. Question forRoberto Mendes:

    Why did you choose the name Volluspa for the anthology? I know that name as the title of an Old Norse eddic poem. . . .

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