The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

International SF issue #0 now available

Editor Roberto Mendes has sent in the table of contents for the premiere issue of International Speculative Fiction Magazine, which you can download for free:

Editorial by

  • Editorial By Roberto Mendes (Portugal)

Short Stories

  • “The Wind-Blown Man” by Aliette de Bodard (France)
  • “The Death of Mr. Teodorescu” by Cristian Mihail Teodorescu (Romania)
  • “The Ethics of Treoson” by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (Brazil)


  • Dispatches from Brazil by Fábio Fernandes (Brazil)


  • A Conversation with Judit Lörinczy (Hungary) by Cristian Tamas (Romania)

July 3, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

International Speculative Fiction Online Magazine

We interviewed Roberto Mendes last week and he mentioned his project International Speculative Fiction, which is now online. You can check the site for some fiction and nonfiction.

May 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off on International Speculative Fiction Online Magazine

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!

April 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

Tidhar, Marques, Nussbaum nominated for BSFA Award

Lavie Tidhar‘s Osama has been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel. Portuguese artist Pedro Marques has been nominated for his cover artwork for the novel (see below!).  Israeli critic Abigail Nussbaum has also been nominated, for the second year running, in the non-fiction category for her review of M.J. Engh’s Arslan.

The full list of nominees at Locus Online.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tidhar, Marques, Nussbaum nominated for BSFA Award

Unseen Mainland European SF Classics

Over an Concatenation (a very valuable resource), there is an article entitled Unseen Mainland European SF Classics which was “written as a precursor to the Euroconference Odyssey 2010 in London and a panel on this topic”. They highlight various works from France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Russia, and Spain.

Here’s an excerpt:

If you happen to frequent many of the various major international SF gatherings, be they in France, Russia, or wherever, the chances are that a good proportion of SF books in the dealers hall will be by British and North American authors. Indeed if you go to that very Anglophone of conventions, the SF Worldcon, then virtually 99% of the books on sale in the dealers hall will be in English by English-speaking writers even if their nationality is Scottish, Canadian or Australian, let alone English. What you do not see in British and N. American bookshops (outside of French-speaking Canada) that often are foreign SF/F books translated from another language. Yet all mainland European countries, and nations further afield, have a substantial history of SF publishing and many have had SF and fantasy classics that have sold well over the years.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unseen Mainland European SF Classics

Monday Original Content: Dagon Magazine and an Interview with Roberto Mendes

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:

Hi Roberto! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you become acquainted with speculative fiction?

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.

What’s the appeal of the genre for you?

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!

Why do you prefer the term “speculative fiction” as opposed to, say, science fiction or fantasy?

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!

Could you tell us more about Dagon Magazine?

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!

What made you decide to start the magazine?

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!

Who is your target audience for the publication? What made you decide to publish the magazine in Portuguese?

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.

What are the challenges in running the magazine so far? Any problems with translation?

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.

We have a great presentation session prepared, with a little convention in witch the writers will be able to reach for the audience, talking about important themes like the international science fiction or the future of the Portuguese speculative fiction! We will have a pianist playing and an art exposition regarding fantasy and science fiction inspired works!

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!

For readers not familiar with Portugal, could you share with us what the speculative fiction scene there is like?

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.

But we have a rising community of readers and great writers: all we need is to keep going with hope in our hearts!

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.

What is it about Portuguese speculative fiction that that makes it unique?

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!

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Gender debate

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.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Luis Filipe Silva on SF in Portugal and Fonseca’s Editorial

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.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on Luis Filipe Silva on SF in Portugal and Fonseca’s Editorial

Wednesday Editorial: Having It All, by Nuno Fonseca

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.

I’ll elaborate.

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.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

Monday Original Content: Science Fiction in Portugal

Science Fiction in Portugal: The Drawing Up of a Territory

Teresa Sousa de Almeida

[Published by arrangement with Correio do Fantástico, with thanks to Roberto Mendes and Luis Filipe Silva]

In memory of José Diogo Nazareth Sousa de Almeida, (1924-1997)

This work intends to present the outlines of science fiction and of a certain fantastic literature related to it, having a reference in the national space in which it has been produced (Portugal). Although it contains a sort of introduction, it is mainly focused upon the production of the eighties and nineties, in which there has been a slight defining of a new paradigm. It does not aim at drawing up a history, but at simply defining some guidelines for reading. This is not a question of going from world SF in order to refer to its reflections; on the contrary, the aim was that of reading the greatest number of texts possible in order to present some questions which seemed essential. It is a carefully studied journey based on the critical reading of dozens of books, on a study of some of their authors, and on the probably subjective choice of some individual cases.

As belonging to Science Fiction, I have considered all of the books that are presented as such, whether explicitly, by means of a textual or paratextual reference, or implicitly, by means of a collection in which they are grouped or through their later recovery by the genre. I have opted for a conventionalist approach, which states that it is impossible to define the «essence» of literature and the genres, sub-genres and forms which constitute it or contest it. This was a bold choice, especially as I am aware of the fact that most of the narratives written in Portugal are closer to the so-called fantastic literature than to SF proper, as, indeed, will be shown.

I started, however, from some presuppositions. In the preface to the anthology Side Effects, published in 1997, Luís Filipe Silva states that SF is not «an aspect of Literature which can be catalogued», «a ghetto within a slightly larger ghetto», but as «a philosophy of behavior», «a means of reaction to change and to life itself» . We here once again encounter the reasons for which it refuses to be classified: the force which breaks down frontiers opposes the form which is necessary for a definition, and creates alternative spaces, subverts and deconstructs. Thus, in responding to the stability of the past with the dynamics of the present, SF ends up by not being on the edge in which it has chosen to live or to which it has been relegated, but in the hidden center of the vortex which it is in itself, the mirroring of a period which blinds itself because it is afraid to look at itself. It would be in no way ironic for me to quote the words of George Slusser: «if any literature is mainstream in the twentieth century, it’s science fiction» . The history of literature is not made up of a pre-established canon, but of genres which, in going against the tradition, became absorbed in it from the moment they were able to be classified. The literary institution has always included texts which were marginal, censored, forgotten or damned during their period, showing a rare capacity for tolerance towards the past and a remarkable blindness in relation to the present. The fact that it has not yet included SF is a homage to the vitality of the genre.

SF carries within it an ambitious project, which again takes up the moment which witnessed the birth of the concept of Literature, at a time in which it still presented itself with all the potentialities of a new form of writing. To the contrary of the mainstream, it does not intend to be a depicting of the real, but intends to act upon it, opening up alternatives to the future or showing the possibilities presented by the present. In this sense SF has inherited the subversive nature of the eighteenth century novel, a genre which was able to integrate the scientific discoveries of its time, at a moment when fixed forms, codified by Rhetoric and Poetics, were unable to respond to the issues presented to them by their time.

Like all genres which live on the edge or on the frontiers, SF is characterized by its capacity to absorb all the discourses and all the voices of the so-called counter-culture, transforming itself into a sort of laboratory in which new forms of expression are tested, and providing the ground for, as so often has been stated, a type of looting on the part of official literature. As always happens, its marginal character seems to be the reason for its very versatility. Those who dwell on the fringes of institutions are unusually aware, do not settle within the canons, and know the freedom which imagination allows.

The Outline of a Story still to be told

In Portugal SF lives within a clandestine situation. It is completely ignored by the national literary institution, by schools and, with notable exceptions, by the critics. It has been relegated to authors» publications, specialized collections, briefly-lasting fanzines and some historical anthologies. There are no crossings nor contaminations, excepting one or two works by a consecrated author. Faced with this oblivion, it responds by the same token. In 1992, João Barreiros, one of the most lucid SF critics, wrote: «In Portugal we don’t burn books nor prohibit cartoon strips. We don’t do any of this simply because the new works written in these fields are not published, or are published and no one reads them. In Portugal, bookshops are a desert full of the crammed anguish of stock gathering dust» . In a slightly less pessimistic view, Álvaro de Sousa Holstein and José Manuel Morais, the authors of the only Bibliografia da Ficção Científica e Fantástica Portuguesa [Bibliography of Portuguese SF & F], the second edition of which was published in 1993, produce the following diagnosis: «In a country in which there is practically no science nor scientific research, SF literature lives in a rarefied atmosphere, which is difficult to nourish writing by authors who favor this genre. And yet they continue to appear, surviving with the tenacious stubbornness of weeds growing between the pavements of the streets. SF and F written by Portuguese authors is alive and well, and is recommendable, and if it often does not yet correspond in terms of quality and quantity to the output of countries with a demographic and cultural dimension similar to our own, it is still true that it is little by little gaining the rights to its own space» . The problem of SF and the fantastic literature associated to it in Portugal is still that of a legitimizing and delimiting of a space of its own. Its existence appears to have gone unawares except for those who belong to the fandom.

I may state that for those who come from the mainstream, the quantity and quality of the authors who write SF or who use it to write other types of texts which may perhaps be classified nowadays as F (Fantasy) is astounding. This is an underground territory, a type of reverse of official literature, with different codes and different laws, and perhaps with a different history.

As always happens during a process of affirmation, it was SF itself which felt the need to find its antecedents, its founding myths, thus establishing its own history. If we look again at the Bibliografia we have already referred to, we may establish a course which begins with the visionary attitude of Father António Vieira, takes account of the emergence of the romantic imagination, and recovers fundamental narratives in Portuguese Modernism, devoting particular attention to some writers connected to Surrealism.

If we look at the history of fantastic literature from the point of view of the literary institution, we see the emerging of a territory which is not especially valorized except when it is forgotten. In the article dedicated to the «Marvelous» in the Dicionário de Literatura Portuguesa [Dictionary of Portuguese Literature], Jacinto do Prado Coelho remarks that «it is in the nineteenth century that a fantastic literature is introduced into Portugal» , and considers that this genre has a limited scope among us. He recuperates some romantic writers, referring to texts which have a founding character: the short story by Júlio César Machado, «Uma récita de Roberto do Diabo» [A Performance of Roberto do Diabo], included within the Contos ao Luar [Moonlight Tales], 1861, the Contos Fantásticos [The Fantastic Tales] by Teófilo Braga, 1865, the Prosas Bárbaras [Barbarian Proses] by Eça de Queirós (1866-67) and the Contos [Tales] by Álvaro de Carvalhal, 1868. He highlights the particular case of Fialho de Almeida (O País das Uvas [The Country of Grapes], 1893) and calls attention to some symbolist writers, João Rocha and Henrique de Vasconcelos, who were influenced, just like Álvaro de Carvalhal, by Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe. He considers the particular case of Teixeira Gomes, with Blood Lust (1909) and draws attention to the experience of Mário de Sá-Carneiro, forgetting some of the texts from Portuguese Modernism, such as the case of Almeida Negreiros with «The Turtle», or even Fernando Pessoa himself. The article mainly deals with some writers who made incursions into the genre: José Régio, Ruben A. (A Torre de Barbela [The Tower of Barbel], 1964, Myself the Other, 1966), David Mourão-Ferreira (Os Amantes [The Lovers], 1968). Strangely, he forgets Jorge de Sena and surrealist production, but he includes the work by Domingos Monteiro (Histórias deste Mundo e do Outro [Stories of this World and the Other], 1961 and O Dia Marcado [The Appointed Day], 1963). Portuguese SF is completely ignored by the manuals and dictionaries, having, however, the right to four lines in the História da Literatura Portuguesa [History of Portuguese Literature] by Óscar Lopes and António José Saraiva, in a chapter dedicated to the bibliography .

The presupposition that fantastic literature has very little importance in Portugal deserves to be reanalyzed, especially considering that it is the history of literature itself which grants greater or lesser importance to a genre, integrating or excluding authors and works according to criteria which are rarely made explicit. As for myself, I would like to draw attention to some authors and some works.

In 1906, in the Illustração Portugueza, a text was published which it is difficult to characterize, but which might be considered, according to José-Augusto França, as the first Portuguese work of SF. It is entitled Lisbon in the Year 2000, and was written by Melo de Matos, a civil engineer. It is a view of the progress in technology, industry and commerce, centered around the description of a bustling and modern capital city, the center of the world, criss-crossed by revolutionary forms of transportation, «the raised metropolitan railway», and accessed by new forms of communication such as, for example, the tunnel connecting Lisbon to Seixal, on the other side of the river. The text, which has significantly just been republished , has been studied by Daniel Tércio, who states that the author projected «a highly technological modern city around a sort of domesticated capitalism» .

Secondly, I would like to mention surrealist production, now no longer in the field of SF but in fantastic literature. I would recuperate the magnificent text by António Pedro, Apenas uma Narrativa [Just a Narrative] (1942), a lyrical and corrosive masterpiece of irony and humor, and would add the works of Virgílio Martinho and Mário Cesariny.

A history of fantastic literature in Portugal was finally made in the sixties, with the publishing of the Antologia do Conto Fantástico Português [Anthology of the Portuguese Fantastic Tale] , which recuperated romantic, modernist, presencists, surrealists or those connected to neo-realism, ending in Almeida Faria, after having included texts by David Mourão Ferreira, Ana Hatherly and Herberto Hélder.

At the same time, in 1966, we witness an attempt to draw up the limits of the field of SF, with the publishing of Terrestres e Estranhos [Earthlings and Aliens], with authors who, with the exception of Dórdio Guimarães and Natália Correia, did not appear in the anthology by Ribeiro de Mello. The book presents a set of texts which, although they are different, have a common factor in that they deal with the fate of mankind, taking up old myths (Fumos siderais [Sidereal Smoke] by Manuela Montenegro or A criatura [The Creature] by Dórdio Guimarães) and are contaminated by the philosophical short story, as is true of the fiction by Fernando Saldanha, an author who would publish, in 1969, the book O Planeta Prometido. Antecipação 69 [The Promised Planet. Anticipation 69]. In the short story «Destruição»[Destruction], by Hélia, we penetrate into the world of terror: a woman witnesses a horrific metamorphosis taking place on her body and on the surrounding environment. To the contrary, the story Os dois Marcianos [The two Martians], by Lima Rodrigues, shows us the distraction of a character who chooses not to see the reality in front of his eyes, in a clear allegory of human blindness, whilst Luís Campos (O Homem que não quis viajar [The Man who didn’t want to Travel]) tells us of a character lacerated by a choice presented to him by a being from another world. Among all of the short stories I will highlight Barbo by Natália Correia, a text written in the first person and narrated by the last survivor of a technological civilization, and which equates the birth of the myth, its precarious strength in a world without hope, and the simultaneously divine and finite nature of the human being in the cosmic solitude of the universe. The authors chosen are part of a sort of corpus of Portuguese SF and Fantastic, determined empirically by their repeated inclusion in other collections. Manuela Montenegro, Luís Campos, Fernando Saldanha, Hélia, and Natália Correia turn up once again in the editions of Selecções Mistério, published in the eighties, along with texts by Fialho de Almeida and by Teófilo Braga, both recuperated within the tradition of fantastic literature.

The history of SF and the fantastic will once again be implicitly re-written in the eighties, through the magazine Omnia , which, during its short period of existence, devoted an important space to the genre, promoting new writers (João Barreiros, João Paulo Cotrim, José Manuel Morais, Ernesto Rodrigues and Daniel Tércio) and including previously published texts by Romeu de Melo, Mário-Henrique Leiria and Natália Correia, as if stating that this latter group were after all the recognized predecessors. On the other hand, the anthology Side Effects, published in 1997, is dedicated to the memory of the first two writers.

Romeu de Melo appears neither in the histories of literature nor in the literary dictionaries, as if he had in fact not existed. Of greater interest than his first novel, AK. A Tese e o Axioma [AK. The Thesis and the Axiom] , published in 1959 in an edition by the author, are his short stories, which, in my view rank alongside the best works which have been published in Portugal. His texts, moving within the world of allegory, pose a question, analyze a problem, and leave the reader in suspense and without an answer. I will highlight the short story Os Anões Cegos [The Blind Dwarfs] , in which a higher species protects a lower one merely to amuse itself with its absurd conversations. In the evil consciousness which periodically attacks the higher people we may note the complex relationship between the exploiter and the exploited, whilst in the blindness of the girofantes, who consider themselves to be great and intelligent, we may find a portrayal of humanity itself. In opposing the world of intellectuals and scientists to that of politicians and the police, Romeu de Melo appears to advocate a sort of spiritualization of mankind, within a political philosophy which seems to be diffuse and ideologically ill-defined, although it appears to be clearly pacifist and is open to a world which holds some promise.

The caustic world of Mário-Henrique Leiria is very different. He translated Brave New World and other SF texts, and published Casos de Direito Galáctico [Cases of Galactic Law] , a short masterpiece ignored by official literature. As has been shown by Maria Manuela Pardal Krahler , the texts may be included within the field of surrealist black humor, irony, parody and satire, also functioning as a limit case in the creation of an alternative world which is proper to SF. The narrative is made up of a set of «exemplary cases presented for analysis in the Course of Galactic Law for students of the mixed federation (humanities of the 1st Stellar Agglomerate) in the Regional University of Aldebaran 3», in an obvious satire on the university system, and which almost always function as a paradox for which the solution is arbitrary and impossible to judge, not only because they present beings which function with eccentric and conflicting paradigms, but also because, as Manuela Pardal states, the referential function of language itself is disturbed . Very rarely has there been a creation in Portuguese literature of such a subversive universe, which not only questions the earthly world but, in a final analysis, questions the very possibility of communication and dialogue which should be inherent to language itself.

In the individual efforts and in the collective works of the sixties and seventies we may see a somewhat incoherent attempt to draw up a territory which has variable frontiers. Indeed, the majority of the texts quoted have more to do with fantastic literature than with science fiction, although here and there we may encounter the presence of a Martian or the description of an alternative universe. Yet, through these choices we may note that there is a tenuous sharing between a fantastic literature which recuperates little known texts by consecrated authors (Ribeiro de Mello’s Antologia) and another one which plunges into the edges, defending a degree of relationship with science fiction, that is, making Portuguese production live side-by-side with international production, as is the case of Terrestres e Estranhos, and of the two volumes of Alguns dos Melhores Contos de Ficção Científica [Some of the best Tales of SF] , organized by Romeu de Melo, which include works by the author himself and the short story «Os filhos de Anaita» [The Children of Anaita], by Natália Correia.

Another distinction may be established. Mainstream writing decisively excludes Romeu de Melo, an author consecrated by Portuguese SF and translated abroad, just as is the case of Strong-Ross (Francisco Valério de Rajanto de Almeida e Azevedo) or Fernando Saldanha. On the other hand, the short stories of Natália Correia transit among genres, whilst the case of Mário-Henrique Leiria appears to be more complex, given that the Casos de Direito Galáctico seems to belong to SF, and are claimed to be such, whilst the publications of the Contos do Gin-Tonic [Tales of Gin & Tonic] make him become included within a literature which, if it is not official, is at least officialized.

The difficult legitimizing of a genre: the eighties and the nineties

In 1986, Editorial Caminho publishes a book with 597 pages, written by two Portuguese authors, João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva, entitled Terrarium. Um romance em mosaicos [Terrarium. A Novel in Mosaics]. In the second postface, João Barreiros states: «It is indeed true, gentlemen, a monstrous SF novel, totally accepting itself as what it is, post-modernist, cyberpunk, with Artificial Intelligences, aliens, Big Dumb Objects, apocalyptic visions of the end of the world, and a pinch of metaphysics which one critic once suggested that no one in their right mind would include here» . It could have been considered as one of the literary events of the year, but it wasn’t: critical reviews were rare and the silence was heavy. In this distortion one may see that which appears to be one of the characteristics of the Portuguese SF of the nineties: the creativity of its authors contrasts with the almost total absence of critical activity, which, with rare exceptions, has been losing ground in the press. And yet, in the case of Terrarium, one can almost understand the critics» terror when faced with a novel which radically breaks away from the Portuguese tradition which might legitimize it, integrating it within a story in which influences are woven and pacts are drawn up.

Terrarium is a magnificent parody of the western imaginary and of some forms of expression particular to the twentieth century: the cinema (with a clear preference for B movies), comic strips, children’s stories popularized on the big screen, TV series and, above all, SF. Pulp magazines live alongside androids by consecrated authors, TV heroes converse with characters from comics. The mainstream is discreetly referred to either by the use of a name (the Kreepo who works in the Fantasia Inn store is called K) or through an ironic quotation, as is the case of a best-seller by someone called Virginia Gordon, entitled Visit to the Radio-Lighthouse. The reader finds it difficult to become lost within the impossible game facing him (that of deciphering all the references one by one) because the novel, divided into five parts, each with its own style, its preferential work, its tone, and its story, preceded by a prologue and finished off by three alternatives, moves at a lightning pace which almost loses sight of its base project.

However, the plurality of stories which are here played out  «between the inhabitants of the earth, both human and exotic, between the latter and the Potentates, among the Potentates, and between them and some others and the Ixytils, involving beings which metamorphose voluntarily or against their will» clearly show firm aims and radical criticisms. Firstly, in favor of SF and against any and all types of subjectivity: the theory of art for art’s sake or art as narcissistic self-contemplation is violently subverted when the allegories become literal, as takes place in the third part of the novel. Secondly, against a certain type of SF (the canonical, represented by Bradbury or Asimov) and in favor of another kind, in which we may note the synchrony brought by the cyberpunk movement, in erasing the line which separates life from death or reality from the virtual space .

It would be difficult to state the theme of the novel, as it is impossible to make a summary of it. It is a politically incorrect work: the exotic beings and the earthlings may be necessarily cruel, because nothing seems to be more important than individual life or the survival of the species. There is no room for fine sentiments in a world which reflects a journey to the heart of darkness and in which each being, whether programmed or a victim of outer programming, is forced to choose between the minimal possibilities offered to it, when they are offered, because they often have no choice.

If it opted to be a strict definition of SF, that which states that the genre draws up or proposes alternatives bearing in mind current science, this article could almost begin and end here. Due to its monstrous and encyclopedic nature, due to the project which justifies it and due to the reading which it makes of itself, Terrarium may be read as a challenge and a manifesto, a founding break with a history which still cannot be made.

However, another world may be considered, more modest in its aims, but no less creative, being full of promise and of authors with a notable work. We will leave the pure and hard world of the end-of-century SF in order to enter the field of texts which are difficult to classify, which cross over frontiers or live on the edge of the mainstream.

The eighties witnessed the appearance of the fanzines mentioned in the Bibliografia by Álvaro de Sousa Holstein and José Manuel Morais: some were short-lived, and others continued their existence into the nineties, as is the case of Célula Cinzenta [Gray Cell] in which new authors were published and texts from the past have been recuperated. At the same time a space was occupied in the magazine Omnia (from 1988 to 1991), with a project which revealed new authors and old texts, drawing up a new paradigm. And finally, Editorial Caminho publishers created an SF collection, in bright blue and easy to spot in bookshops, which became the preferential vehicle for discovering Portuguese writers.

It is difficult to present an overall view of the vast Portuguese production. I will firstly define the individual histories of the authors.

With five books published , João Aniceto creates a technologically advanced universe which, although located in the future, presents us with the image of our old, tired world and of the old humanist values which might still be able to structure it. With the exception of A Teia [The Web], which seems to mark out a turning point, his novels and short stories present a beginning and a voyage, depicting an outer adventure which is basically the reflection of man’s confrontation with himself, of that of Good versus Evil, of freedom versus slavery. For example, in Os Caminhos Nunca Acabam [The Pathways never end], a crew leaves in search of another planet and another civilization. The mission never achieves its aim: three characters remain on the planet and the other three return, being unable to communicate an experience which has altered their behavior and their values. An identical situation is posed in the novel O Desafio [The Challenge], although the issue may appear to be reversed in the sense that it portrays mankind’s confrontation with an almost unsurpassable barrier, which clearly refers to the finite nature of the human. In A Teia, a novel which depicts an authoritarian and technologically advanced society, but which is coming to its end, the figure of the Apocalypse, which had already appeared in previous works, is more clearly presented. The world of the generals, controlled by using androids, is opposed by the world of the heroes of the resistance, with the romantic figure of a couple in love. There is no hope in this universe tormented by pollution and the greenhouse effect, and in this manner the epic and Utopian aspect which characterized João Aniceto’s previous fiction is radically dissipated.

In 1987 the Editorial Caminho SF collection also introduced a new writer, Isabel Cristina Pires. In her Universal Limitada [Universal Limited] she transports us to a world which might be able to be included in the universe of fantastic literature, as it seems to obey the rules of the genre: the construction of a text in which a maternal and day-to-day world is threatened by the breaking out of strange facts. The short narrative describing the impotence of a cleaning lady who is unable to perform her duties because the course of time has been destroyed is an impressive work, as is the case of «A menina feia ou a flor do desejo» [The ugly Girl or the wishing Flower], in which a forgotten dream is realized through the recourse of the world of wonder. In the same year was published a book by Artur Portela, entitled Três Lágrimas Paralelas [Three Parallel Tears], a set of twenty-six narratives which may be situated within the field of the fantastic.

Totally different is the world created by João Botelho da Silva, a writer who tragically died at the age of 27, after having written a novel, Beduínos a Gasóleo [Beduins on Petrol] , Caminho Science Fiction Prize in 1993, and left an anthology of short stories for publication entitled As Horas do Declínio [The Hours of Decline] . The first book describes the struggle between a hunter, Nose Jones, and cars which suddenly behave like living beings, the last survivors of a lost society. This is a literature of anticipation, a tendency which is partially confirmed in the following anthology. In the short story «Cidade dos novelos de cotão» [The City of Fluff], a fascinated elegy of the planet earth, in which two cyborgs meet one of the last representatives of humanity, the narrator seems to condemn technological progress in order to praise a lost civilization (ours). To the contrary, the text «Algures na Mongólia» [Somewhere in Mongolia] takes us to a cruel universe which shows that which could be called SF in order to then dive into the fantastic.

Contrary to this, the world of SF is clearly drawn up in the short stories O Caçador de Brinquedos e Outras Histórias [The Toy Hunter and Other Stories] by João Barreiros, a hyper-lucid testimony of a genre which, in his words, «has created the future in countries in which the future exists» . It is presented as a «rite of passage» to the coming millennium, and its narratives often deal with the difficult learning process of adolescence, caught within the desire to plunge into the world of the child (which is the world of commercialized dolls, one should note) and the violence demanded by the struggle for survival, establishing an imaginary universe of its own, which is coherently articulated around the scientific discoveries on which it is based.

Which the novel A GalxMente I & II [The GalxMind] , published in two volumes by Luís Filipe Silva, who is also the author of O Futuro à Janela [The Future at the Window], an anthology of short stories, we are plunged into the world of virtual reality which, after all, we already inhabit, in order to then slowly return to the human world, which discreetly seems to be valorized in its condition as finite and infinite, ephemeral and immortal. Its reflection upon art and on the artist is central to this novel, which may be analyzed as the illustration of a dual question: is it necessary to suffer in order to create, is it not true that those who enjoy artistic creations are not, themselves, deriving parasitic pleasure from the suffering of others? Curiously, although it is presented in a different manner, the problem of knowing what poetry is and of what are the criteria for its assessment appear to be central in the novel A Fraude [Fraud], by Rui Miguel Saramago .

Mixing SF with fantastic literature, António de Macedo presents us with a strange and disturbing world, in which irony is always present. In the work O Limite de Rudzky [Rudzky’s Limit] , made up of three short stories, we firstly see a world in which science is suddenly upset and undone in order to give way to the appearance of beings which until then had lived in ethereal or infernal regions. In this first story the reaction to the appearance of the divine becomes a satire on a well-known present-day institution, as if time had nothing to teach, at least to certain societies. The other two narratives, which are impressive due to their strangeness and poetic beauty, are closer to fantastic literature, as is also the case of the Contos do Androthélys [Tales of the Androthelys] , 1993. After Sulphira & Lucyphur , in which a realistic description of Portugal at the end of the nineteenth century clashes with another dimension which goes beyond it, António de Macedo gave us a magnificent novel entitled A Sonata de Cristal [The Crystal Sonata] . Its imaginary world, now centered on the artist, on the scientist, and on the fabulous mediating and impassioned female characters, reflects upon the relationships which may be woven between music and life. There is a surprising choice made in the name of love and not that of the sterile celebration of art for art’s sake, the magical power of which is, however, never shown to be questioned, and also surprising is the transfiguring which the real world sees itself going through when it is affected by the strangeness of a different reality. In the fantastic universe of António de Macedo, the real world merely provides a set of signs which can only be deciphered with a key coming from another universe, to which only a few people have access. Thus the reading of his works becomes an initiating process in which the reader seeks out the occult truth hidden behind the story.

Some of the authors mentioned here have taken the care to locate their fictions in Portugal, expressing a sort of distanced criticism. This is the case of Maria de Menezes, the author of Três Histórias com Final Feliz [Three Stories with a Happy Ending] , 1993, which ironically and incisively subverts the genre which they parody, yet paradoxically include some benevolence. In the two last short stories the description of Portuguese reality comes together with the irruption of a strange element which ends up being integrated due to the fact that the characters are flexible in their blindness: Elias the guard ends up by not fining an alien spaceship, Mrs. Etelvina and Mr. Antunes manage to domesticate a vampire, as if the country and society had the gift of taming the strangeness within a familiar and day-to-day life.

Ana Godinho’s alternative universe is very different. In Artiauri she presents us with a world populated by strange beings, with their own codes, rituals and founding myths which, through their magical beauty, hark back more to the world of the wonderful than to the SF which is their starting point.

Finally, it remains to highlight the work of Daniel Tércio, the development of which from 1984 to 1998 may document, in a certain manner, the transformation of the genre itself in Portugal. His first book, A Vocação do Círculo [The Circles’s Vocation] , tells us the story of a character who is suddenly transported, firstly to an alternative Lisbon, in which Portugal is a part of the Iberian Federation and King Philip II is a national hero, and then to Olissipo, a city in which there still echoes the nightmare of a type of Inquisition. Lyricism comes together with irony, creating a universe which we recognize in its difference and its strangeness. His capacity to make Portuguese reality the object of an intelligent game with the reader appears again in the short story collection O Demónio de Maxwell [Maxwell’s Demon] , in which there is for example, in the title story, a portrayal of the meeting between a door-to-door shoe salesman with a male (and female) alien. His reflection upon time and history may perhaps be the justification for his latest work, Pedra de Lúcifer [Lucifer’s Stone], a violent exercise on an alternative world, which takes on the darkest side of the western world. Subversion appears at the end, when the reader understands that one of the aims of the novel may be that of its own deconstruction.

An anthology fulfills a project and allows a reading which it usually legitimizes in a justification through a preface. This is the case of O Atlântico Tem Duas Margens [The Atlantic has two Shores] by José Manuel Morais, a collection of thirteen short stories and a poem, published, once again, in the Editorial Caminho’s SF collection in 1993. In a contrast with Portuguese pessimism, the tone appears to be almost euphoric: «The fact that science fiction in Portuguese has produced enough authors and works to fill an average sized volume might be surprising to some people, but the reality is precisely this» . Portuguese and Brazilian authors appear side by side in a work of over two hundred pages, showing an exchange of experiences and an intertextual dialogue which apparently does not exist in other fields. As José Manuel Morais stresses, «the authors have very little in common in themes and styles». Yet it may be possible to draw up territories and to define some main lines. The first separation is made by the editor, who points out that some of the texts belong to SF and others to fantastic literature, noting that it is not possible to theorize on a genre through the narratives (and the poem) here included. One notices, however, a sort of insistence on that which could be termed political fiction. The ferocious vision of a normalized and racist Portugal, given to us by José de Barros »” an author about whom one may know nothing »”, may be linked to the denunciation of contemporary Brazil which transpires in the short story by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, an alternative history, and the fiction by Ivanir Calado, which brings us the not always happy union between power and organized crime. Equally critical, despite the note which accompanies it, is the fiction by Roberto de Sousa Causo, a Brazilian writer, who portrays the somewhat less pacific efforts of the peace-keeping forces. In a similar manner, Luís Filipe Silva’s economic fiction is a serious warning as to western cultural centralism.

In «A Capilomante» [The Hair-Diviner], José Carlos Neves provides us with a first person narrative in which daily life is transformed through a moment of magic, whilst Finisia Fideli seems to tell us that not all desires should be satisfied. José Luís Calife’s «A Sonhadora» [The Dreamer] is a nine year old girl who traces out shipping routes and deviates them from their point of arrival when the dream finds its own path. The difficult world of adolescence is expressed in the short story by João de Mancellos, the author of Veleiros do Tempo Cósmico [The Ships of the Cosmic Time], published in 1988 by Edições Vega, and in the disturbing fiction by José Manuel Morais, the author of several short stories, in which the commanding figure of Jorge Luis Borges may often be noticed. In a strange narrative, Manuel F. S. Patrocínio presents us with a world in which nothing is known besides that which is told, besides a maxim which seems to play with the narrator’s ignorance.

Some of the texts even propose a reflection upon the genres in which they work. This is the case of the fiction by Daniel Tércio, which gives us an allegory of the fantastic itself, in describing how a self can discover itself, in its strangeness, through the drawings which it itself produces or through the vision of a figure standing out in a window. The final sentence («And I draw myself, alien, on the page») could well be the epigraph for the enigmatic poems by João Paulo Cotrim, written by someone who does not seem to move within our paradigms. On the contrary, João Barreiros presents us with a reflection on SF itself, in contrasting two narratives (The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and Martian Fantasy by Ray Bradbury, with the latter being fictitious and ironic), which represent two alternatives which come together and suddenly annul each other, with each of them ending up functioning as a form of resistance to the other, although in different manners.

Some of these authors (José Manuel Morais, Daniel Tércio, João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva) will be included, along with António de Macedo, Maria de Menezes and David Alan Prescott, in the anthology Non-Events on the Edge of the Empire , which is the result of the First Encounters of Science Fiction and Fantasy.On the Edge of the Empire, organized by the Cascais Town Council Department of Culture. The tone of the introduction by José Jorge Letria is that of a counter-attack: «Literature of the fantastic and science fiction: a damned brotherhood in a country whose literary institutions have yet to get used to dealing with difference, with heterodoxy, with transgression. A damned brotherhood which joyfully forms a common front in this Edge of the Empire. Here to stay» . And so it was. In 1997 the project is extended to internationally renowned authors (Joe Haldeman), it has the presence of Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, and once again includes David Alan Prescott, who thus may be included within Portuguese production. The second anthology Side Effects is the first official publication by SIMETRIA, Portuguese Association of Science Fiction and the Fantastic, «whose goal is to promote the efforts of Portuguese writers and fans» . Besides a more lucid and clearer awareness of the problems of the genre, the existence of a group will surreptitiously draw up a series of tendencies. We once again find João Barreiros’ fascination for the violence hidden behind the childish and childlike universe of the consumer society, Luís Filipe Silva’s concern for the perversion brought by virtual reality and the irony, this time more violent, of Maria de Menezes, here about the excesses which the so-called new pedagogies may lead to, whilst both António de Macedo and Daniel Tércio himself seem to be moving progressively towards the universe of SF. David Alan Prescott, who in the previous anthology had written an ironic and subtle short story in the first person, in the form of a diary in which a sort of progressive madness emerges, here writes a fantastic narrative in which he portrays, with distance, the reality of the Portuguese university. José Xavier Ezequiel, a new author, presents us with a narrative which shows the violence of an exterminator, in a universe which reminds one of João Barreiros. The short story by Helena Coelho, who won the Fiction Prize since established by Simetria, is very different, and describes the confrontation between two worlds whose rules are tragically incompatible.

In analyzing the joint production of the authors mentioned and the anthologies studied, we may once again note the diversity of the options, of the genres, of the themes and of the styles, which does not prevent one from noticing a sort of convergence. Firstly, a certain type of irony runs through almost all of these texts, whether cruel or playful, as if the marginal situation of SF and F allowed a type of lucidity and distance. Parody, a «repetition with critical distance» , according to Linda Hutcheon, is also a process favored by many writers, who use it not only to show the models they use and the paradigms governing them, but above all to subvert them in a creative manner. Thirdly, crossing over into parody, there is a concern for Portuguese reality, as if at times there were an obsessive desire to nationalize SF itself. Finally, there is a slight tendency, perhaps more Brazilian than Portuguese, to create political fictions, of which EuroNovela [EuroNovel] , the recently published novel by Miguel de Almeida is an example.

The history of SF (& F) draws out a territory, defended vehemently by some, like João Barreiros, or in a surreptitious manner by others who ignore the distinctions between genres or play with them in a distant and ironic way. But whatever are the paradigms governing them, all of the authors have to do with that which Literature has always been, not as a normative institution, ruled by the critics and the school, but simply as a set of the production of those which constantly subvert it: a shifting terrain, with oscillating frontiers and wide edges, which offers, between the joy of a promise or the terror of a threat, a world which insistently represents its own alternative.

Translated by David Prescott

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments


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