Brasil in “An Overview of International Science Fiction/Fantasy in 2009”

12 Mar

Jeff VanderMeer compiled a list of what was relevant in last year international Science Fiction, asking for his contacts around the world for books worth reading in a variety of countries and languages.

Brasil was represented by translator/writer Fabio Fernandes:

Xochiquetzal by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (Editora Draco)
— Considered the foremost name in Alternate History in Brazil, Lodi-Ribeiro had published so far three short story collections and had stories published in Brazil and Portugal. This is his first novel, in which he depicts a 16th Century where Portugal, not Spain, leads the discovery of the Americas (christened Cabralias in that timeline, in honor of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the Portuguese navigator who discovered Brazil). The story of the novel is a chronicle of adventure written by the Aztec princess Xochiquetzal, wife of Vasco da Gama — in that timeline, the Aztecs were incorporated to the Portuguese Empire, not massacrated. The story “Xochiquetzal e a Esquadra da Vingança”, which opens the volume as a prologue, was translated to English and was a finalist of Sidewise Awards 2000.

Steampunk—Histórias de Um Passado Extraordinário, edited by Gianpaolo Celli (Tarja Editorial)
— This is the first Brazilian Steampunk anthology, with nine stories ranging from weird to Alternate Fiction (both Brazilian and foreign) also presenting characters from Jules Verne and Conan Doyle. There is also a story of mine in there, a version of a story previously published in English earlier in 2009. Steampunk is growing fast as a subculture in Brazil, and this anthology has been meriting a lot of attention in several reviews among steamers’ blogs and sites.

Padrões de Contato, by Jorge Luiz Calife (Editora Devir)
— Calife is the man that started it all. In the early 80s, when Arthur C. Clarke published 2010, Calife’s name was in his acknowledgments. That happened because Calife sent Clarke a short story called “2002” and told him to do whatever he wanted with it. Clarke didn´t use the story, but it came to him as an inspiration to write the long-awaited sequel to 2001—A Space Odyssey. Calife became famous in Brazil overnight; a science and tech journalist, he soon published his first novel, “Padrões de Contato” (1985) , a fix-up of four novellas set up in a the far future, where humankind lived in a Clarkean-inspired utopia. This novel was followed by other two in the same setting, “Horizonte de Eventos” (1986) and “Linha Terminal” (1991). In 2009, the classic trilogy was finally republished in an omnibus volume.

For me, the only important omission was Fernandes’ own work, the cyber(?)punk novel Os dias da Peste.

The four books are on the list of reviews to be published here.

Norman Spinrad talks about ‘Brazilian Science Fiction’.

11 Mar

This blog appears in the middle of an intense debate provoked by Norman Spinrad’s latest column On Books, where he talked about the ”Third World” SF.

Here in Brazil, the term was widely used in the 1980’s, when the country was going through a painful redemocratization process and needed sort of identification. We weren’t part of the capitalist and industrialized First World, nor of the socialist Second World – so, we had to hang out with our Hispanic neighbours and the Third World.

So, for me, as a Brazilian who grew up in the 1980’s, it is very strange to read that no, we aren’t part of the ‘Third World’- not anymore, at last – because of our ‘European roots’.

In his column, Mr. Spinrad recognized his total ignorance of Brazilian Science Fiction – an ignorance that’s almost reciprocal, since only one of Mr. Spinrad’s books was translated in Brasil:

“I happen to know that there are in fact Brazilian science fiction writers, but I wonder if any of them have created extrapolated future Brazilian cultures as deeply rooted in their own culture as has [Ian] McDonald, an outsider from Ulster.”

This praise for Mr. McDonald’s works is contested by Nick Mantas:

“He lauds Ian McDonald’s Brasyl which for the first 200 pages was indeed a very strong novel. It devolved utterly into a series of silly fights and battles though, and at least some of the silliness can be laid right at McDonald’s feet. He credits the Brazilian martial dance capoeira, for example, with a martial prowess it simply doesn’t have. That’s especially sad as there is a native Brazilian martial art which is one of the most formidable in the world: Brazilian jiu-jitsu. BJJ even has multicultural origins (based on Japanese Judo and Euro-American catch wrestling, perfected by a Scottish-Brazilian family: the famous Gracies), which is one of the themes of the book. Sounds like nitpicking, but much of Brasyl’s climax does hang on the efficacy of capoeira and anyone familiar with Brazil’s martial or street cultures knows that it just doesn’t work outside of its own set of highly stylized competitions. McDonald stumbled in my view—the last 100 pages of Brasyl just felt like action-packed “fan service”—and Spinrad didn’t notice the fall at all.”

Both writers came up with some interesting questions. So, after reading them, what do you, Brazilian Science Fiction writers, have to say about Mr. Spinrad’s thoughts regarding our genre literature? And about Mr. Mantas’ reply?

(Ana Cristina Rodrigues, revised by Eric Novello)