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)


2 Responses to “Norman Spinrad talks about ‘Brazilian Science Fiction’.”

  1. Roberto de Sousa Causo December 20, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    I haven’t read Spinrad’s essa, but Nick Mamatas clearly has no idea of what capoeira can do as a martial art in real combat situations. A few years agot capoeira was portrayed in a Discovery show about the physics behind the martial arts, and capoeira delivered one of the strongest kicks of all martial arts. Apparently Mamatas fell for the true origins of Brazilian capoeira — to disguise a fighting technique as dance and ritual.


  1. “Third World Worlds” Link Compilation « The World SF News Blog - March 12, 2010

    […] Science Fiction Made in Brasil on Norman Spinrad talks about ‘Brazilian Science Fiction’. […]

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