The Three Epiphanies of a Brazilian Science Fiction Writer

My first literary epiphany was the discovery of Jorge Luis Borges in 1984.

I was 15 when I broke up with the Catholic Church and went searching for a religion which could fulfill me and give me solace. I´m not boring you with the details, but three years later I was meditating in a Buddhist monastery in Rio de Janeiro (it is still there, in a hill in the middle of the city; from there you can see the statue of Christ the Redeemer really close) and I found one of his books in the meager collection of books that passed for a library there. The book was Ficciones; I found the Brazilian Portuguese translation there, Ficções. The first short story of the collection I read was The Library of Babel.

That story was for me the cosmic equivalent of the laser beam that pierced Philip K. Dick´s head. It was a hammer falling on my head, a rubber blanket wrapping around my skin and pushing not so gently its way into my skin. I felt suffocated. I needed air. Strangely as it may sound, it felt good. I felt alive.

I was already trying to be a writer before (but who writes anything good at 18 years old?). After reading Borges, however, I knew for sure that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

The second epiphany was SF-related: the reading of Neuromancer in 1989.

It was a late discovery: even though everybody was talking about the Cyberpunk Movement, I couldn´t find anyone in Brazil that had read any cyberpunk author. (All right, all right, Brazil is a VERY LARGE country; someone must have read it as soon as it got published in the U.S.) But, in the Brazilian SF fandom, I was the first one.)

And – for a while – I was a cyberpunk myself.

I felt like an evangelist then: I needed to tell my friends that the SF literature wasn´t restricted to what we call here the ABC of SF (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke – the all-time best-selling SF authors in Brazil). The DUNE series had also been translated then, just because of the David Lynch film (it´s a trend until these days: most SF books are translated in Brazil provided that there is an upcoming film adaptation. But that was pretty much everything; in the 1960s, a famous Brazilian editor, José Sanz, published many authors like Robert Sheckley, Fredric Brown, Robert Silverberg, but his work, alas, had no follow-up – nobody got interested in publishing SF in Brazil in the 1970s and in the early 1980s.

So my evangelism of sorts fell on deaf ears in the end. A handful of close friends also read Gibson and Sterling then, but that was all. (In the early 1990s, Islands in the Net was published in Brazil, but didn´t sell very well, and that was that.)

The third epiphany – and last so far – was the reading of Perdido Street Station, in 2005. By this time, I had become a kind of wildcard in the fandom. I wasn´t even participating in any event anymore (I wasn´t being invited to them, but that´s another story). The China Miéville New Crobuzon novel didn´t make me feel the same way Borges did – it just made all those loose pieces in my mind click into place. I wasn´t a weirdo after all – I was just a weird writer and I didn´t know it!

Today, things finally seem to be a-changing. Not in the market: we don´t have any new authors published in Brazilian Portuguese – we´ve just published Neuromancer and Snow Crash, and there´s no New Weird authors in the horizon. But I wasn´t the only one to read China Miéville and to highly recommend it to a fandom that wasn´t so skeptical on new stuff any longer. (even though I was the first one to read and recommend Ekaterina Sedia, Jeff VanderMeer, Alastair Reynolds and others; Jacques was also great in this process, having found by himself authors as Jay Lake and Charles Stross and starting to recommend them as well.

Now we´re starting to build a big fan base and a rather interesting Brazilian Sf/Fantasy writers base. Ana Cristina Rodrigues reactivated the fanzine SOMNIUM, after a four-year hiatus from paper to (finally) the web. Jacques Barcia has just launched a new Fantasy online magazine, Kaliopes, and in August we´ll be publishing the first issue of TERRA INCOGNITA, an SF online magazine edited by me and Jacques featuring short stories by new Brazilian writers and foreign authors in Brazilian Portuguese translation (the first issue will feature Ekaterina Sedia´s The Disemboweler. We´ll be issuing a call for submissions right after that, in Portuguese and in English. Both Kaliopes and TERRA INCOGNITA want to be bilingual magazines. And open new possibilities for the near future. We´re pretty sure we can do it.

Not so bad for three epiphanies, I think.


  1. says

    Just to make things clear to everybody, Jacques is referring to a post in Duncan´s blog ( where he answers very adequately to a homophobic reader, ending with this “coup de grace”:

    “So, yes, I think from now on I must insist on being introduced as “THE…. Sodomite Hal Duncan!!”

    And, for the benefit of Brazilian readers, his short story The Last Shift was translated and published in Kaliopes #1. :-)