Epilogue: For an Anti-Autophagic Writing

For some time now, I´ve been writing, with my friend Jacques Barcia, a blog written in English, the Post-Weird Thoughts. I created that blog not only to communicate with readers and writers from all over the world, but also because I don´t think I´m communicating very well with Brazilian writers.

A friend of mine interviewed Tim Powers in 1990 for a long-deceased SF magazine, the Brazilian version of Isaac Asimov´s SF Magazine – it was one of my first jobs as a translator; I translated for them short stories and novellas by James Patrick Kelly, George R. R. Martin, Frederik Pohl and Kim Stanley Robinson, among many others that, unfortunately, were never published again in Brazil, neither in short form, nor in novels.

Powers cautioned us against the danger of autophagism – That is, if all you read is SF, you probably won´t write anything really good and new in the genre. This is not necessarily an absolute truth, but it made quite a sensation down here. Especially for starting writers like myself, who wanted very much to “make it new” (Ezra Pound sixty years late, go figure). Remember from the last post: I had just read Neuromancer, and I was thrilled at the possibilities the cyberpunks opened for science fiction in literature.

Alas, this was not to be. A few years after that interview, there was a series of schisms in the Brazilian SF fandom, and that created a gap so huge that only recently it began to be bridged. In the meantime, in what I call today the limbo years of the 1990s and half of the Oughts, fanzines shriveled and died with a whimper, not a bang; friendships were damaged beyond any chance of recovery; and many writers simply stopped writing.

Since 2005-6, this situation changed – for the better. A new generation of writers is beginning to appear, and with a difference: instead of publish their first stories in fanzines, as we did back in the 1980s, they are now starting by publishing their first novels in small presses. It´s a great evolution, and a welcome one. It even encouraged some of the older writers-in-hiding (including this one here) to make a comeback, after a rather quiescent decade.

But I didn´t stay very quiet for long: in the last half of the 1990s, I returned to acting and writing for the stage, and I produced (not very successfully, I must admit) two of my plays. In 1998, I wrote a short-short story collection inspired in the works of Raymond Queneau, Pequeno Dicionário de Arquétipos de Massa (A Small Dictionary of Mass Archetypes), still unpublished in its original form but with several stories published in Brazilian and Portuguese paper and web magazines. I also wrote some stories in a shared universe, the Intempol Project, created by a good friend of mine, Octavio Aragão.

Last March, in a meeting between the old and the new generation of writers, I officially announced that I was “coming out of the closet” and I could finally call myself a science fiction writer again. Proudly. Because the schisms are (finally!) over, and people are getting together again to talk, eat, drink, and be merry – you all know the drill. It has being fun so far, and I bet it will be fun for a long time.

This is my last post as Guest Blogger. It´s been a short but very fine week blogging here on Ecstatic Days. Thank you very much, Jeff, for letting me share your personal writing space in the Web. Thanks also to you, Gentle Reader, for dropping by. If you’ve enjoyed the posts, just let me know paying a visit to Post-Weird Thoughts. You´ll be very welcome. I hope that, in the near future, you´ll also be able to read one of my English-written stories in a magazine or in an anthology.


  1. says

    Yeah, I actually think it might even be best, after a point, to read as little as possible in the “genre” you intend to get marketed in. Otherwise you might find oyurself m-itating, instead of um, imitating.

  2. says

    On the other hand, you do need to be able to recognise the tropes and cliches of your chosen genre, and understand what has been done before.

    I’ve encounter a few people who’ve never read any genre of any sort before, only to read, say, Pulman and decide they’ve found their calling, which any one who’s read much in the genre will find an imitation.

    I think the trick is more to read more than -just- your chose genre. There’s a balance in there somewhere.

  3. Timblynod says

    I’d say the trick is to read lots of everything. That includes poetry and essays, and the obscure works stowed away in the “special collections” department of the local university library.

    And reread.

    And rereread.

  4. says

    Maybe the trick is to let your genre find you?

    By that I mean write about what interests you and then find the correct venue instead of the other way round.

    Reading all kinds of stuff is of course good!

  5. says

    I think that all the approaches you mentioned above are pretty good.

    Brendan – To let your genre find you is an excellent choice. Instead of worrying about what kind of genre/market niche/reader´s age you are going to write, “just do it” should not apply only to Nike. ;-)

    Sir Tessa – This kind of kind happens a lot in Brazil as well. We´re full of pseudo-writers (mostly youngsters who are just now discovering Tolkien, Paolini et caterva) who never even wrote a short story but have outlined entire medievalesque-fantasy sagas. I don´t know how you call it down under, but down here we use to call this procedure “reinventing the wheel”. :-)
    But, yes, balance is a powerful key, always.

    Timbylnod – That´s what I do and that´s, IMHO, what I found works best for me at any rate – right now I´m reading Tom Disch, e.e.cummings, Alain Pauls, Kelly Link, and rereading Conrad and Nabokov. That´s the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it. :-)

  6. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Hey–Fabio. Thanks for a great week of guestblogging. I really appreciate it. I thought your posts were wonderful.


  7. Timblynod says

    Hey Fabio–I tried to google Alain Pauls (never heard of him) but couldn’t find anything. What’s he all about?

    Also, I was wondering what particular Conrad piece you enjoy the most…I’ve read a few works by him (Heart of Darkness, Kim), but nothing exhaustive. I could use a good recommendation.

  8. says

    Timblynod, my bad – his name is ALAN Pauls, not Alain. He´s an Argentinian writer whose book “The Past” had a great reception both by critics and readers in Brazil – recently an Argentinian-Brazilian filmmaker, Hector Babenco, adapted The Past to the big screen, starring Gael García Bernal (I didn´t see the movie yet, though my local videostore already have it in DVD, but reviews are also thumbs-up, so I´ll see it this week to write a more rounded-up review of the book – and the book is beautifully written, and very, very sad (but I like that kind of narrative).

    Here´s a review of The Guardian about The Past:

  9. says

    About Conrad: My favorite stories are “The Duel”, “The Secret Sharer”, “Heart of Darkness”, and “Youth”.

    And hey, Kim is Kipling´s – but I also like him a lot (specially The Man Who Would Be King). ;-)

  10. Timblynod says

    Ha! My bad, too. I meant ‘Jim’ (Lord Jim) instead of ‘Kim.’ Brain hiccup. Seems like they are getting more and more frequent as the years stack up.

    I’ll check out those things by Alan Pauls and Conrad. Thanks a brazilian! I mean a bazillian!! =D