Dear ISF readers, it is with great pleasure that we present to you today an interview with Fábio Fernandes and Djibril Al Ayad, editors of the upcoming antology “We See a Different Frontier”, a project successfuly funded at the Peerbackers site.
Want to find out all about the anthology? And also about the new non-fiction editor of ISF, Fábio Fernandes? So go ahead and read the questions and answers below;)
Roberto Mendes: “We See a Different Frontier” is an anthology of colonialism-themed speculative fiction from outside the first-world viewpoint. What’s the reason behind the idea? Or better yet, What are you and Djibril aiming for?
Fábio: It all began when The Future Fire magazine issued a call for guest editors last year. They were looking for people who could push the envelope a bit, offering new themes and challenges, always relating to the social and political views of TFF, which publishes, in their own words, “Social-political and Progressive Speculative Fiction. Feminist SF. Queer SF. Eco SF. Multicultural SF. Cyberpunk. An experiment in and celebration of new writing.” Even though I’m becoming to be known more as a steampunk writer now (according to The Steampunk Bible and Steampunk Reloaded, in which I was respectively interviewed and had a piece of my fiction published), I began writing cyberpunk fiction. In my heart of hearts, though, I never had an absolute favorite subgenre in SF, but I love writing science fiction stories with a strong social and political uptake, and with plenty of multicultural settings and gay and lesbian characters. These things always came naturally to me, so I thought of submitting to them a theme based on colonialism. TFF’s editor, Djibril al-Ayad, liked the idea and we quickly started to work together in the project that soon came to be named WE SEE A DIFFERENT FRONTIER, in a tribute to a Bruce Sterling story I love, “We See Things Differently”, where he shows the clash of cultures and – in that context – the utter impossibility of understanding between each other. What I’m aiming for is the exact opposite – is the possibility of an understanding between all of us, regardless of where in the world you live and what your ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/religion happens to be. An understanding via a rich mosaic of stories from all over the world to show that, even though, alas, there are still geopolitical frontiers very hard to cross, the real frontiers always were in our minds, and we can cross over them at will. Djibril: All I’d add to this is that what I really want to publish is an anthology that I’d like to read: stories from all backgrounds, with varied topics and voices and perspectives. I want to see variety, and read work by authors I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. If I saw this anthology on the shelf of a bookstore, I think I’d be very excited to read it.
2- The title of the anthology strikes me has a clear statement of the likes of “We are here and we have a voice”. Is this true? Do you believe International authors will be able to offer new points of view to the genre fiction?
Djibril: I think that’s true. We very much wanted to say to mainstream science fiction that its monochrome view is not representative of the whole world. Nancy Kress wrote a novel recently in which aliens advertised for a representative sample of humanity to “witness” a galactic event, and the qualifications included, “Must speak English”. WTF? Why would aliens insist on a language spoken by only 10% of people on this planet, and natively by half that? Insane. (Well, narrative convenience, but that’s no excuse.) That’s how sheltered scifi is. But it’s not just that people from outside the white anglo world have too few positive role models in scifi (not to mention women, queer people, the disabled, the poor, the old…). The genre itself is full of the language and imagery of colonialism. “Space: The Final Frontier”; “Discovering New Worlds”, all these glorious phrases only work because for the white anglo world colonialism has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. It was an adventure, an opportunity, the frontier was a place of excitement and freedom and almost utopian richness. If you’re a native of this “new world” or live beyond this frontier that’s being “newly settled”, these phrases are going to have a very different meaning for you, and science fiction may not be such a positive and romantic genre. That’s the challenge we’re laying down with this title. There are more voices out here than you dream of in your Golden Age-fetishizing publishing culture. They have things to say, new things, beautiful things. And they will change the genre. I have no doubt about it.
3- You have succeeded in the funding goal of 3000 Dollars in Peerbackers, and you are almost successful “funded” by 4000 Dollars, tell me about that experience: how does that work? Who do you believe to be your backers?
Djibril: It’s been pretty amazing experience, actually. We’ve had to promote the fundraiser pretty much constantly. If we took a couple of days off, nothing came in on those days. But thanks to many guest posts by luminaries in the genre, people who posted about us, interviewed us, gave us books to giveaway as incentives, and many many people who told all their friends about us in Twitter, Facebook, etc., on those days when we had something to show and bring people’s attention to it, we received many many donations. What was interesting to me was how many people seemed to want to make sure this project was successful. Most crowdsourcing projects get more donations the more successful they are, but we had a pretty strong support from the start, and the day we hit the $3000 mark, donations almost completely stopped (until we later raised the target to $4000). I think this is because people didn’t contribute because they wanted the rewards, they contributed because they were concerned it might now happen otherwise. That is a huge vote of confidence! Fábio: As you and your readers may know by now, we were most generously backed up by someone who donated $500 in the nick of time and we passed the threshold of 4k (as I write we reached $4271.00 with 3 days to spare) and we’re out of our minds with joy. People are still donating! Our backers are wonderful people, and we are grateful to them for their generosity, from the ones who gave $10 to the one crazy guy (crazy in the best sense of the world, naturally!) who gave half 1k to our project. We won’t do nothing but our very best in retribution to all this love.
4- You and Djibril were recently involved in a “giveaway” of books. First for all International authors and readers and then to the Portuguese speaking world. How come the Portuguese speaking world failed to attend actively in such a giveaway when the International authors and readers attended in large numbers?
Fábio: To answer part of the earlier question, most of our backers seem to come from the Anglo-American world, with a no small part from Asia (I don’t have the information on the countries, but taking from the people I know, we had backers from Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, India), and a smaller part from Africa and South America. We had lots of Spanish speakers among the backers, but to my knowledge there were only three Portuguese-speaking backers, all of them from Brazil. I can only guess the reason why the Portuguese-speaking world failed to attend and even to show support to a project that had everything to do with them. I think Brazil (I can’t speak for Portugal) has a long, and sadly not honorable, tradition of navel-gazing and exclusion of other cultures. Even today I find fans in the local community debating heatedly about… Asimov and Clarke! Most of them still never read Gibson and Sterling, much less Doctorow, Stross, Mieville, VanderMeer, Jo Walton, Octavia Butler… I could go on forever. For the best part of two decades I worked closely to the Brazilian community trying to bridge this gap (I did this in a way, translating a few works of SF like Neuromancer and Snow Crash, but the Brazilian publishing market is translating much more Fantasy than SF these days. I have nothing against it (I work as a translator, after all, and I’m even translating a major work of Fantasy right now, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time), but the Brazilian fandom, with a few exceptions here and there, is far behind what is being done in other countries and doesn’t reach out. I really would like that reality to change, but it’s out of my hands.
5- Did you feel unsupported by your country and all the Portuguese speaking world, or is there a nice level of support?
Fábio: It’s not that I feel unsupported. I have many good friends in Brazilian fandom. They support my efforts on a personal level, and we often meet to talk about our projects. The thing is, in the past few years, I’ve started to do things in a whole other level which does not involve writing in Portuguese anymore, at least not in the foreseeable future. I’m fascinated by other cultures and other languages: I speak English and Spanish, and I can read French, Catalan, a bit of German and Dutch, and I’m always looking for new challenges culturally and linguistically speaking. So I guess things just came naturally to me when I started to write SF stories in English. English is the current lingua franca of the world (even though Mandarin Chinese has a bigger number of speakers, negotiations are still conducted in English, which is a less complex world, though no less beautiful for it), and it was the natural choice because it is also the science fiction lingua franca. (For now, at least.) So let’s just say I feel much more supported by the largest English-speaking/writing community, whose members may come from South Africa, India, Vietnam, France, Israel or even USA and the UK.
6- You are the new Non-Fiction Editor of the “International Speculative Fiction” e-zine, what can the ISF readers expect to see from you?
Fábio: Well, I have already talked to some great friends in the international SF community and I can say that ISF readers will have a few good things to read in the near future regarding interviews and articles about science fiction in non-Anglo countries. I think they can also expect a steady flow of small pieces on the state of Brazilian SF, and I strongly encourage submissions of anyone who wants to write about the current state of speculative fiction in their respective countries. I’m specially interested in South America, Africa, and Asia, but everybody is welcome to submit.
7- Anything else you want to talk about?
Djibril: Well, we’ll be putting out an open Call for Submissions in the next week or two, so I look forward to reading many new stories told from outside the first-world perspective in the next three months. This will be the most exciting and rewarding part of the project, and a lot of work. (I know, because I’ve got an issue of The Future Fire coming out in a couple of weeks, and another anthology titled Outlaw Bodies due in just under two months, and a lot of reading lined up in the meantime.) I hope the readers of and contributors to ISF are planning to write stories on this theme!