Now Playing: rumbling slowly into gear as I fly to France
Subject: [RGParaliteraria] the manifesto
Date: November 1, 2004 8:01:20 PM CST
I just happened to re-read the RGP manifesto and I realized I hadn't
really contributed with any article or email that would present non-
Anglo sf as was in the heart and core of this mailing-list...
I had to redeem myself :)
I wanted to share with you a long article on recent Portuguese sf,
written by a scholar. The English version was available in the
Romanian website Wordmaster, but alas it has gone to the limbo of
So instead I'm sending a couple of articles I published on some
websites and that came out of an email interview I had with a French
journalist about Portuguese sf. They're short and hardly thourough.
Consider them just as introductions.
As I've learned from my travels abroad, foreigners usually see
things with a lighter eye than locals. So, if you read too much
bleakness in it, please take it with a grain of salt... :)
The question was: what do you think sets Portuguese sf apart from
"The theme that Portuguese science fiction most dwells upon must be
History. It there is a thing that a Portuguese person knows
about is its country's history. We perspire it so much as a culture
that it's hard not to look upon it as a telling sign of the nation's
current uneasiness with its international low-key status. It's just
an opinion, of course, and as such, it should be supported by other
evidence; but its existence does cause some attrition in the
development of the culture: still in our modern days, it doesn't
sound right in calling the ship's captain Felgueiras, and not John
Such uneasiness is heightened by this simple fact: Portuguese
writers are not scientists by training, and much less by profession.
The closest example must be that of a writer who used to be an MD
(Jo?o Aniceto). Hard sf - being the speculative fiction that uses
the tools of the hard sciences, mathematics, physics and such - is
practically non-existent (I can't think of any book or story that
uses a new and bold scientific idea as a plot device - you won't
find a Greg Egan or any of the Killing B's).
Even Portuguese History as a plot device for speculative fiction -
which usually means alternate history - is fairly recent. Some years
ago, on the 20th-something anniversary of the 1974 revolution that
overthrew the fascist regime, there were a couple of novels about
what would have happened if the revolutionary forces hadn't come
through. They were badly written and poor in their historical
analysis, or heavy-handed in the presentation of the alternate
facts. Nevertheless, someone had finally done it.
Jos? Saramago would "almost" make its own (unwilling?) contribution
to the AH canon, with his book, _The History of the Siege of
Lisbon_. One of the stories in this novel is about the conquest of
Lisbon by King Henriques from the Muslim hold, and what might have
happened if the crusaders in his army, who in actual History were
essential to the victory, had said no to him. The story is actually
very interesting and the depiction of that kind of life very
graphic... but Saramago doesn't carry his assumption to the end, he
backs away from it, and instead we see that most of the crusaders
(but not all) end up turning their minds and engaging into battle.
So that all ends up happening as it did... not the best food-for-
thought for the average sf reader...
The myth of King Sebastian (more on it here:
is finally addressed by Maria Moura-Botto in O Regresso de D.
Sebasti?o (The Return of King Sebastian). An interesting novel.
Alternate History written in Portuguese is usually best done by the
Brazilian author Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro. "?tica da Trai??o" ("Ethics of
Treason") - also published in France - is a novella from the
Portuguese-Brazilian anthology of the 90's: O Atl?ntico Tem Duas
Margens (The Atlantic Ocean Has Two Shores) that tells the story of
a Brazil which has lost the War with Paraguay and has been split
into two independent states, one of which, the Guarani Republic,
became the largest country in South-America.
Meanwhile, a Brazilian
scientist has discovered a means to travel back in time and help in
the defeat of Paraguay. That would place Brazil in the history path
that ends up in our own present world, but the scientist doesn't go
through with it - he understands that Brazilians would have a
harsher, poorer way of life in this timeline. A very interesting,
political, well-written story. And it's not the only one he has on
alternate Brazils. (link:
Going back to the statement about the absence of hard science in
national sf, the lack of strong scientific plots doesn't mean that,
even as laymen or researchers, the writers completely ignore science
elements and ideas from their stories - most of them are borrowed
from English-written sf, since its ideas have been sufficiently
digested for an audience of non-scientists. Such is the case of
nanotechnology, that Jo?o Barreiros uses in the short stories of his
_ Toy Hunter_ anthology, of Daniel T?rcio (the novel _Stone of
Lucifer _), and also some of my stories (just for reference)."
PS - the next article needs to be translated. Maybe only after
*See you in Nantes! -- bruces