Recently I read an excellent interview that K. Tempest Bradford did with Justine Larbalestier and Ekaterina Sedia. Bradford put both in a chat room so they could interact, and she begins the interview saying that she wished they could both be in the same room in the flesh, explaining:
â€œNot because they both write fantasy or were both born outside of the US (Sydney for Justine, Moscow for Ekaterina), but because they often had very similar reactions to American reactions to them.â€
It is a most revealing interview: they miss their respective countries, but they also feel that, in spite of their very particular cultural frameworks, they have found â€œmore people like them in the U.S. than back homeâ€ (JustineÂ´s words, with which Kathy Sedia agreed).
I agree wholeheartedly with them, for I also felt the same thing when I lived in London in the early 1990s. I still feel very often this kind of â€œothernessâ€.
IÂ´m also the other. Not in the same sense of Kathy or Justine, inasmuch as they live in the U.S., while I returned to my home country (Brazil, though I moved from Rio de Janeiro to SÃ£o Paulo in 2001). This doesnÂ´t preclude me to be considered a weird guy by some of my friends and my students, but, what the hell, at least we share a common culture and language â€“ IÂ´m a weirdo, but IÂ´m a Brazilian weirdo, ergo IÂ´m a weirdo they can relate to.
ItÂ´s a very weird feeling to be the other. This situation reminds me of a Brazilian short story written by Luis Fernando VerÃssimo, that illustrates this situation brilliantly: itÂ´s an allegory in which a KingÂ´s fool claims to know the whereabouts of a huge treasure (on the other side of a big, Amazon-like river), and for that heÂ´s forced to go on a journey across the river with the kingÂ´s corsairs. But (thereÂ´s always a â€œbutâ€ in this kind of story) as soon as they land at â€œthe other sideâ€, the other side becomes â€œtheir sideâ€, and their former side of the river automatically becomes the other side. You already know what follows.
There is no such thing as the other. A human is always the â€œotherâ€ of another human. We all die naked, as the title of that famous James Blish novel goes. We also live alone (although this is not a bad thing, on the contrary).
In the past, Native Americans were the other of the white man (the same goes to Brazil and the entirety of South America, of course); today, maybe the aliens or zombies fulfill this role (much more in sci-fi movies than in the literature of the genre â€“ think of Independence Day or, to mention a much more recent Will SmithÂ´s film, that horrible adaptation of Richard MathesonÂ´s I Am Legend).
The strange thing today, however, is that only U.S. citizens call themselves Americans; for we used to do that too until the first half of the 20th Century. BrazilÂ´s foremost novelist of the 19th century, Machado de Assis, has published in 1875 a book of poems titled Americanas. Brazilians also called themselves proudly as Americans â€“ because thatÂ´s what we are: Americans, from South America.
But, alas, the military coup in 1964 changed that for good; the US government supported the Brazilian military (the coup was allegedly against a possible Communist infiltration in our country). Thus, we stopped calling ourselves Americans (speaking of which, that process also happened in the entire South America and Central America since the end of the 19th Century).
Things are different these days. Today IÂ´m proud to be an American. A South American. A Brazilian. A human being. Like Justine and Kathy, I have a very particular cultural framework (which includes, but is not limited to, Samba, and Bossa Nova, for that matter â€“ I also love American rock, Britpop and punk rock).
But IÂ´m finding more and more people like me in the U.S. and England than back home. And thatÂ´s a good thing. Because Â IÂ´m not â€œthe otherâ€ of Anglo-Americans, and neither you are â€œthe othersâ€ of me. We are very much equal, you and I. We are here. We read and write science fiction. We belong to the same universe. IsnÂ´t that great?