Table of Contents:
1 – Science Fiction in Portugal – The Drawing up of a Territory
Teresa Sousa de Almeida
2 – Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction
3- Science Fiction in Croatia
4 – (Second Part) Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction
5 – The Music in Foreign Words
Thomas Olde Heuvelt
6 – Euro Steam Con – Porto, Portugal
Euro Steam Con – Porto, Portugal
On the last weekend of September, the Portuguese contribution to the European Steampunk convention was held in Porto. Though it was the country’s first major steampunk event, a concept unknown to the general public in Portugal, there were still about 150 visitors between both days.
The Clockwork Portugal team has been working towards this event since February with the purpose of uniting all the small communities and draw attention to a genre that internationally has been ground or motto for a lot of activities and prized works. Imbued with a punk spirit, active and idealistic, without any institutional backup or logistic support, we slowly built from scratch a dynamic community to be the main platform to divulge steampunk and launch the Euro Steam Con (ESC) in Portugal. Meanwhile and with all this in mind, we created a website where we publish reviews of steampunk books, share related news and crowdfunding projects, interview creators and organize giveaways. We also created the “Diários Steampunk”, a webseries where we talk about steampunk related themes (p.e. the steam technology) or specific works as for example the book The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. As the project grew, some publishers gave occasional support providing copies of steampunk inspired books for giveaways on our site (p.e. Presença, Saída de Emergência). Vogais publishing house provided the Leviathan trilogy books for our Steampunk Basket raffled during the convention.
After all this time, work and preparation, the moment of the most ambitious international steampunk convention ever, as Tor.com described it, finally arrived. In Portugal the event was held in the former Parnaso Academy, a symbol of the cultural and artistic history of Porto, as the owner Daniel Oliveira explained in the opening of the event. It was a moment for all to remember a time of great writers, painters and musicians that paved the way for the next generations to be able to, themselves, leave a mark in Portuguese cultural history.
Luis Filipe Silva, João Barreiros and João Ventura, all of them Portuguese authors, were invited as speakers for both days of the convention and were able to maintain a relaxed and fruitful conversation about all the themes proposed by them or by the organization.
The first day of the ESC began with a short presentation of Clockwork Portugal itself, followed by a discussion board about the steampunk concept and definition. Using this as a cue, the authors in the board were then invited to talk about steampunk in Portugal and in Portuguese. The Brazilian experience (deeply connected with some of the authors invited to participate in this first ESC edition) was represented by two videos: one from Romeu Martins (author and journalist) and the other by Gianpaolo Celli (Tarja Editorial, publishing house), gently arranged by Luís Filipe Silva. It was certainly a good excuse to bring the two portuguese-speaking steampunk communities together. At the end of this first day, Clockwork Portugal team presented and officially released the Almanaque Steampunk, a book inspired by the classic almanacs but based on speculative works and given a steampunk twist. The designer Joana Maltez spoke about the creative process and the whole experience of pulling together this first edition of a publication we intend to turn into a tradition in the Portuguese steampunk community. A lively autograph session, with the starring authors in the Almanaque Steampunk, ended the activities.
On the last day, the speakers were invited to comment on the so called punk genres: steampunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, nanopunk, solarpunk, stringpunk and multiple others, explaining their origin, their characteristics, what unites them and what sets them apart from the speculative fiction in general. Special emphasis was given to eletropunk because the anthology Lisboa Electropunk is about to be released. The anthology’s organizer João Barreiros invited the authors that participated in the work to comment on the concept in general and on their own contributions to the collection. Afterwards, the Clockwork Portugal team gave some recommendations on steampunk books, including novels, graphic novels and manga. We hope that this event encourages the authors and publishers in Portugal to invest in Steampunk, both in original works and translation of foreign recognized books. In this final day, we also had the participation of Luís Melo, who talked about and showed examples of his work in illustration, which often met the steampunk aesthetic with amazing results, some now available on his much recommended website.
Throughout the whole convention, there were a few other participants with their own stands, showing a bit of what is done in Portugal in terms of steampunk: Nanozine, with an issue fully dedicated to steampunk; the first volume of Downspiral by Anton Stark, officially released in the final moment of the convention, when all had the opportunity to get to know the story, the author and the publisher; Lusitânia, a portuguese magazine dedicated to speculative fiction to be launched soon and Águas Furtadas, whose stand sold some steampunk inspired fashion accessories developed by Koollook. During the tea breaks the Confeitaria Chá das Cinco sold cupcakes and cakepops and the Clockwork Portugal team gave everyone some tea and biscuits. The people that used their imagination and talents to come to the convention in steampunk attires were invited to participate in our cosplay contest and were photographed during these breaks.
During the ESC, the activities that took place in Parnaso were broadcast to the whole world, through the Clockwork Portugal hangout and youtube channel. This way Porto could join the other cities that answered to the Call to Steampunk Arms for an international convention to unite all Europe. At the Euro Steam Con official Facebook page you can now find links and photographic galleries of the different events throughout the continent. Whoever couldn’t be present or simply want to review our convention can visit our YouTube channel to access the live stream videos. The Portuguese event was also recorded by SciFi World Portugal, who already started sharing videos on their site.
A special thanks to all those that believed in this project and to all who came to this first steampunk convention in Portugal or watched us online. We hope that you all enjoyed as much as we did, and wish to be back next year!
Article Signed by:
Clockwork Portugal Team
The Music in Foreign Words
In Article on September 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm
Last week I attended Chicon7, the 70th annual Worldcon in Chicago, USA. Yeah, it had George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, and it had the online scanning robots accidentally cutting off the live stream of the HUGO Award Ceremony just before Neil and George started to speak, causing a huge online rage that even made it to CNN… although I thought it was kind of fitting for an SF-convention to have a man versus machine battle topping it off. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
In between all the parties and networking, I was in a panel called “Making a More Universal Worldcon”, together with Chinese author Qiufan Chen (or Stanley Chen, as his Anglophone name sounds), Brazilian-US author Christopher Kastensmidt, and US Fan Kerri-Ellen Kelly, moderated by Sri Lankan-US author and editor Mary Anne Mohanraj. Coming from The Netherlands, I proudly represented Europe.
Breaking into the English-language market for us ‘foreign’ authors is a long-term and delicate process. In an era of globalization and cultural awareness US and UK publishers and authors are in fact broadening their horizons. China Miéville recently pleaded in his speech at the 2012 Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference for the market to open up to fiction from all over the world. I’ve been going to UK Cons for a while and the publishers and agents all state the same: we very much like to read stuff from abroad, but you have to cope with our disability: we can’t speak your language.
Yup. We Dutch kids learn four or five languages at school. You guys from overseas are good at many things, but not in other languages. (One relief: the French are just as bad). It’s a simple given, and we have to deal with that.
We do. An example: a couple of years ago, my story “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” won the €750 Paul Harland Award for best Dutch story of the fantastic. As I think translating your own work is generally a bad idea, I contacted a professional translator. Professional translation is expensive: 14 to 16 cents a word. Do the math. I put on a cute smile and the translator bargained me for €1000 euros. I bought a cheap Easyjet ticket to London and paid my convention membership plus hotel. Then I met Pete Crowther, who fell in love with the story, and bought international rights for PS Publishing for about €350. Adding up after all expenses, the story made a profit of exactly FIVE euro’s. But I had to fly like cattle and could *not* afford a burger at Gatwick Airport.
No complaints there… just to show you how hard it is. The reward is not in money. I made my first international sale and “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” was nominated for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards, administered by the Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation. I didn’t win the award, though. I got second. Qiufan’s story “The Fish of Lijiang” did.
(Yeah, there was a lot of kicking and stabbing under the panel table… that’s what you get with cultures colliding. Kidding – his story is truly amazing and the award is well-deserved. You can find both stories online.)
So how do we get around the trouble of translation? Mary Anne told us that she runs the South Asian Literature Organization. Occasionally she’s asked by writers who write Bengali or Tamil, if they can read at their poetry reading series. Mary Anne tried it out as an experiment to facilitate foreign language literature, and although no one in the audience could understand a word they were saying, the Bengali or Tamil poet read for five minutes. I asked if it didn’t come across as Vogon poetry without having a Babel Fish in your ear. But Mary Anne said it was like listening to music, and the audience loved it.
So Qiufan started reading from his story… in Chinese. And we all felt what Mary Ann had meant. Although no one in the audience understood a word Qiufan was saying, we all heard the music of his words.
There you have it. I guess we can’t get around the troubles of translation, and as money is sparse, that first responsibility is up to us, the international authors. But the world has many magical stories to tell, and how great would it be if we can share them with one another across the globe?
Please read Thomas short story “The Boy who Cast No Shadow” at PS Publishing site: http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-boy-who-cast-no-shadow-etale-by-thomas-olde-heuvelt-1153-p.asp
About the author:
Born in 1983, Thomas Olde Heuvelt is the much praised Dutch author of four novels and many stories of the fantastic. His work contains elements of magic-realism, fantasy, horror and humour, and he is well-known in Holland for evoking strong emotional responses in readers either laughter, crying, or terrible outbursts of violence. BBC Radio called Thomas (they couldn’t pronounce his last name) “One of Europe’s foremost talents in fantastic literature.”
His story The Boy Who Cast No Shadow won the prestigious Paul Harland Award for best Dutch story of the Fantastic in 2010. Olde Heuvelt tells that he wrote it in a four-day rush in between two chapters of a novel which was giving him uncontrollable screaming fits at the time. “To me,” he adds, “it’s a story about being different and coming to terms with the fact that that ain’t such a bad thing. With this story I humbly paid homage to Joe Hill’s Pop Art, which I think is the best short story of the 21st Century.” It was published by PS Publishing in PostScipts 26/27 and received an Honorable Mention in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards.
Currently, Thomas is working on both the Dutch and English version of his fifth novel HEX, which will be out in April 2013 with Luitingh Sijthoff in The Netherlands.
As promised, we publish the second part of the article by Cătălin Badea-Gheracostea called “Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction”. In the second part of this article, Cătălin speaks about Dan Dobos!
This great pamphlet of Romanian Speculative Fiction was presented inCroatia, during the Eurocon 2012, and aims to “raise awareness, to inform and to be liked”.
We will present the full pamphlet in a series of chapters, published once a week.
The Editor in Chief: Roberto Mendes
Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction
told for strangers, aliens and secluded scholars
(Second Part of the Article)
A Case Study: Dan Doboş
One Breath on Manner
An attentive reader, or only just another Romanian scholar or even a Romanian cultural journalist, might say that my look over the last 20 years of Romanian speculative fiction is very partisan as it shows only writers who have their debut after 1989. It is true, the previous generations’ writers published too in the given period of time, some of them – their best books. However, I think it is important to see the new seeds of every season, so I will keep this convention: one writer will be shown with all his books in the chapter of his debut’s generation.
One of the common fears of any historian and, in this case, of a storyteller, is that the very same thing could have been (better) said using other words, examples, books, authors, all in one, using other references. Choosing of whom you are talking is a privilege, but also a curse. I would rather stay privileged, so I am going to use Dan Doboş and his books as examples of an in-depth presentation and analysis.
Dan Doboş, The Human
The „Person” or the „Man” were my first two choices, yet „The Human” sounds better to describe a speculative and science fiction writer fromRomania, in 2012.
See www.dandobos.ro, the personal site of my case study and you realise why: all of a sudden you get to know him with his family life, with his job and profession, with likes and dislikes, with a full joy of being here and now shared with the world not only by his books, but definitely supporting the creation of these books.
There is no English page, so I’ll be the guide.
The home page bears the name of the site, Dan Doboş – Digital Abode (… – sălaş digital), with an interesting choice of a photo for background – ruined walls under a scorching sun, in a desert… Above and underneath, two taskbars with six and four buttons to click for the site’s content. The page itself is a classical two asymmetrical columns space with the newest articles or opinions Dan Doboş has written balanced with the trivia links and likes a respected site should have.
Clicking on the bars is where the fun begins: above we have a „Bio”, a „Biblio”, one „DemNet”, one „Magazin”, plus one „Trilogia Abaţia” (The Abbey Trilogy) entries. This is the writer’s portal, very neat, very professional. Underneath, four buttons with a more relaxed style: “Goodies and Meanies” (“Bunătăţi şi răutăţi”), „Left Biffs” („Directe de stânga”), „Mentations and sci-fi” („Panseuri şi sefeuri”) and „I lose weight writing” („Slăbesc scriind”).
The „Bio” is straightforward: Doboş Dan Nicolae, born 31st July 1970, living in Laşi (the capital of Romanian Eastern province, Moldova). BA Chemical Engineering in Laşi with a thesis on cosmetics. Married, one child. Current job: Editor in Chief of Evenimentul (The Issue) daily newspaper, with a regional coverage. And after this, Dan Doboş finds necessary to get closer to his site’s visitor with the following text on which I have no intervention:
“The dry data above has to be rounded as follows: I am chubby, a gourmand, I hate gym, I love smartness, I won’t put my glass to my ear unless it is the tenth glass and I am no more able to find my mouth, I cheer for «Steaua Bucharest» since childhood, before Sevilla 1986, and I do believe my supreme achievement would be a party about which all the guests would be saying at the Judgement Day, asked by St. Peter, that it was the most drastic bacchanalia of their entire lives.
I don’t have that self-love to think that my existence has other reason than entropy, I hate the upstarts and the communists who paint themselves as right wing moralists. And I really don’t take myself in earnest when I write SF unless I know Gheracostea is reading me…”
Well, I do read you, so you’d better…
Dan Doboş, The Writer
Clicking on the “Biblio” entry gives the chronology of Dan Doboş’ overall writing. It is important for understanding him as a SF writer where from and amongst what Dan Doboş mastered his literary approach. With a start at the end of the ‘80s, under the formative atmosphere of two literary clubs, Quasar, the nationally renowned SF club of Iaşi, and The Prose Matinee (Matineul de Proză), the mainstream literature club from the same town, Dan Doboş is starting to write short stories and gaining his first awards. After graduating Uni, in 1994, he starts working as a journalist at Evenimentul, where he takes the responsibility of editing the weekly SF supplement, Supernova, task he carries on till 2001, making Supernova the SF supplement with the longest life in Romania. Training by writing weekly episodes of a crime and then a SF series in Evenimentul – 1994-1998 –, Dan Doboş is ready for his debut in volume. However, with his self-described “pachydermic” slowness, he starts with a novel with and for teenagers, The Elephant among Pumpkins (Elefantul în bostănărie) (1999).
The new millennium is giving Dan Doboş wings. He translates for Nemira publishing house The Nome (Bromeliad)Trilogy, by Terry Pratchett. And then, November 2002, the first volume of The Abbey, the long planned, long written novel of Dan Doboş, hits the shelves in bookshops. In 2003, RomCon people votes The Abbey as the best novel published by a Romanian writer in 2002. That November, The Abbey’s Curse, the second volume, comes out to meet the public. Again, in 2004, RomCon award for the best novel published in the previous year goes to Dan Doboş. Unfortunatelly, some misunderstandings with Nemira, on the royalties as well as on the editing, keeps the third volume of The Abbey trilogy off the printing press, but only for one year. Believing in his star, Dan Doboş is founding his own publishing house; The Infinite Abbey comes from Media-Tech in 2005. Next year, 2006, finds Dan Doboş „resting” by publishing a book of riddles for chidren; The Abbey trilogy is nominated at that year’s Eurocon for The Best European Novel. 2007 is one of the best years for Dan Doboş – he becomes member of the Romanian Writers’ Union, his translations are reprinted by Corint Junior and, in December, he receives the Vladimir Colin Award, ahead of the others, in recognition for The Abbey’s quality; the Colin was the cumulative edition, 2002-2006. Last but not least, the short stories anthology George – a special man (Gheorghe – un om special), is published before the year is over. 2008 – Dan Doboş publishes translations, as well as having The Abbey’s second edition coming out from Millennium Press. Also, 2008 is the debut year for Dan Doboş as a playwright, with Toys’ Christmas, to be seen on stage in Iaşi. The Abbey is published under the title… The Abbey in United States, in 2010. In 2011, Millennium Books publishes the omnibus edition of the Romanian The Abbey trilogy and the new novel, DemNet, hits the common and the electronic bookshops, published by Media-Tech. This last novel receives in 2012 the award of Galileo SF magazine.
Impressive, isn’t it? Do I need more arguments why I chose Dan Doboş as a case study? …Yeap, I didn’t think so.
Three Books, One Writer
It is good to tell the story and the stories of Dan Doboş’ books. It is, in all its complexity, a straight-forward one. Even if the order the books entered the public eye will not be the order I discuss them here, the line George – The Abbey – DemNet is the line proper to better understand Dan Doboş’ writings.
So, George – a special man (2007), contains 16 short stories. In his Foreword, Dan Doboş tells the reasons these stories were printed: some of his fans asked him to put together the sources of The Abbey; also, accepting this, he felt the other texts deserve the same treatment. Not in the order of the content, I would identify three types of short stories in George…: those which developed their own world and have no influence on other texts – the four stories based on word games and Romanian language sayings are the best examples (AntiProVerb…), which would be a nightmare of a translation, especially that, apparently, they are so ordinary… if you know the references; then there are stories with their own world which can be sensed in the novels – like Franciscasino and The Sixth Way (A Şasea Cale), in which, based on the Christian philosophy of St. Francis or St. Thomas d’Aquino, Dan Doboş enhances his dialogues with moral dilemmas or brings the problem of a „mechanical mind” to be solved by The Theologian; then there are stories who were the sources or the dropped variants of some parts from The Abbey or DemNet – The Locks of St. Augustin (Pletele Sfîntului Augustin), Forgive My Anger, My Love! (Iartă-mi furia, iubite!) – for The Abbey, and for DemNet – Angels, Rise fromTombs! (Îngeri, ieşiţi din morminte!). It can be seen how serious Dan Doboş works on his subjects. However, writing only on serious subjects can dry up your pen so, every so often, Dan Doboş allows himself to laugh, taking the reader with him. It’s the case of the short story which gives the volume’s title, George – a special man, and this is what happens: George, a man living in the rural area, a man at his third wife, is watching a football game on TV and is cursing as his favorites play nothing. A ripping sound from the vegetables and herbs garden under his window makes George coming out the house only to meet a strange man, near a hole in the garlic plot. In the hole, fumigating, there is an object like two bowls stuck to each other, bonded in something like Christmas tree lights. You guessed right, this is a third degree encounter (close encounter of the third kind)! So far, so good, but what makes Dan Doboş prose so special is a perfect pairing: the saucy humor and the solid internal logic of his subject. Because George is the most important element in sustaining a wormhole, being the source of „alternative time waves” – determined by his emotional life’s ups and downs -, the extraterrestrial has the mission to protect George from unhappiness. Changes are made in George’s bio, but not at a fairytale scale, not even on the border of absurd – like in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy –, changes which only irritates more “the special man”. More visits follow for other corrections. George uses these times to ask heavy questions on the ET. In the end, as nothing changes to better, but to worse in his life – the third wife dumps him, the mother-in-law has a great life in Thailand, his favorite player is sold by his favorite team, ET is not sharing any groundbreaking knowledge etc. –, George contemplates suicide. He is saved by being transformed into a medusa-like creature and taken to live on an intergalactic, interspecies space station near the wormhole, as his new psychological life makes him no longer significant for his initial purpose. The End. Dan Doboş has the courage of this self-irony in the Foreword, talking about George – a special man: „it is shamefully autobiographical”.
The Abbey (2002, 2003, 2005 – 1st edition; 2011 – the omnibus hardcover edition) is the most pirated book of speculative fiction in Romanian language. Its author has counted only on one site providing the pdf. file, more than 9000 download. Let’s see why. Frank Herbert’s Dune and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation are the closest references from the rest of the world to what Dan Doboş wrote. Similar with Herbert’s and Asimov’s series, The Abbey creates and solves conflicts into a mankind living in feudalism, across the galaxy, prone to genetic manipulation, under a multi-polar game of politics, led by gifted individuals with outstanding qualities, skills and capacities. For Romanian speculative fiction, The Abbey trilogy marks several “firsts”: it is the first trilogy, the first book with her own website and discussion groups, the first book for “the masses” which pays her author without jeopardizing literary quality. Even if for a SF novel, Dan Doboş throws The Abbey’s characters in sharp dialogues, gives leverage to psychological analysis and is not afraid to jump into disputes with moral and/or religious subject. He targets and hits the intellectual pleasure in reading. Dan Doboş has re-written The Abbey to that extent that the omnibus edition is having full pages, dialogues, even new secondary characters that help to give more of the wanted message. This introduction of new characters, individual or group characters, we remember it was a feature in Dune as well: Bene Tleilaxu coming in only in Dune Messiah; in the second book of The Abbey we have the Kyrall world, with its very strange ecology and human tribes of high „psi” capacity. These new characters modify the course of action and open new conflicts, either by solving, or – in most of the cases – by enhancing the old ones. So, what is happening in The Abbey? Mankind lives a decent life under an Empire which is ruled at his discretion by Bela, The Emperor. This is possible because, more or less, nobody has to work for food, as every system has a Farm Planet where clones are religiously enslaved to work in agriculture. These religious clones give the food as offerings in temples… The clones are provided to every buyer by The Abbey, an institution who has the genomes of 1001 initial fanatics who were anti-religion fighters. These genomes are producing clones prone to be manipulated with secret viruses which give them the religious behaviour. To function as a religious community, every Farm Planet needs a Messiah from amongst the clones. Every Messiah bears the same genes as Saint Augustine the New. All good and well till the Emperor wants more. He sends a super-soldier, a quint, a combination of Dune’s mentat with Heretics of Dune Miles Teg in high gear, to take The Abbey under control. The first volume of The Abbey is a string of moral, political, love, religious dialogues and some violent sequences, all culminating with the death of Rimio de Vassur, the quint, and a would-be clone Messiah, Styn. The Emperor made that unwise move to take control over the Abbey because mankind discovered Z, a planet inhabited by an alien race with ant-like society but human proportions, which the Emperor wants to enslave. But there will be a war… In the second volume, the Abbot releases a second wave of viruses onto the Farm Worlds and the clones are regaining their first warrior minds and rebel against their masters. The entire society collapses, the clones become the masters of the human universe, the Emperor takes refuge, with several thousands loyalists, on Z. Meanwhile, the Kyrall world enters the action. Here telepaths and telekinesis able people live a hard life defending against local life forms with psi weapons. Also, on Kyrall there is the psyac, a device for telepathic communication for all the galaxy, the only one, manned by imperial psi-specialists. A special character rises from the Kyrall population, Jorlee, who gains after several fights and tribulations more and more power: in his tribe, then uniting the tribes of Kyrall, then occupying the psyac… During the action, Jorlee is becoming Xtyn, a super-mutant which has in his head several minds, including the super-warrior Rimio, kills the Emperor, so Xtyn could be the new galaxy ruler… only the clones would step back. Meanwhile, the last move of the Emperor was to have the Z species transformed – by negociation and cultural exchange, including space flight – into his new army. Probably the best space battles in Romanian literature are fought by the Z(ed)s against the clones. The war will turn uglier as nukes become involved. So, in the third volume, the status of mankind is bad and can go worse. Xtyn will be the solution, again through final sacrifice. Before that, we find out that Z and the Abbey have a sort of a common father, as well as the Kyrralians and the quintarrat, the actual enemy of mankind being a liquid metal consciousness. The third volume is the place where the super-soldiers’ order of quintarrat sacrifices too. The clones settle down. Mankind is separated in small planetary systems entities, as the psyac is destroyed. The only way of communicating now is to travel with a space ship and the very rare substance which allows spaceflight, austral, becomes even more expensive. However, with temporary peace and no more alien threats, mankind, including the clones has a new destiny. The End. What is The Abbey about? The sheer conflict between so many protagonists does not say, because everybody has selfish targets, unless they are not superior beings as Xtyn and the quints. What I couldn’t tell here, the string of moral, religious, sentimental discussions bears the meaning of the book. This is an exploration of the humanity’s limits by searching them towards sub-human, super-human and non-human. Where the humanity’s limits match on what can be created in sub-human (we find out Kyrall’s ecosystem is man made!), or assumed in supra-human (Xtyn and the quints), understood or not in non-human (the Zeds plus the very personal theodicy created by the author), that is where the meaning of The Abbey is to be found.
DemNet (2012) shows that Dan Doboş is used to follow his projects on a long term. This and the intensity of his work individualise him. DemNet is the link between the literary talent of Dan Doboş and his day by day profession, journalist with an executive position. Taking this under the eyes of a socio-psychologist, we would understand precisely what “continous text processing” means. Therefore, I dare say that DemNet is the novel of the autobiographical phantasm of Dan Doboş, up to the point this is a sufficient key for understanding it. However, forgetting the trip into the author’s biography, DemNet stands by its world’s construction and the conflicts within, both given in a more fluent style than in The Abbey.
DemNet string of events happens in the last two weeks at the end of year 2102, on Earth and Moon. We are in an average term anticipation. The century between today and DemNet is presented in a chronology, at the beginning of the volume. Discreetly and thoroughly, Dan Doboş exploits elements from the last years of our society, either political or scientific, to project his novel’s society future. Even from the beginning DemNet’s reader sees clearer than in The Abbey that a multi-level comprehension is not only possible, but to be desired. DemNet is an action and adventure tale as well as a novel about ideas, as well as a literary essay on social policies. For a too traditional reader this might seem too much, however Dan Doboş knows how to write without too sharp tones, melting the genres and species with the elegance of a spy in a secret mission in a square full of people.
So, the main character of the book, Igor Lemme, is a special person, having the „J Syndrome”, which makes him never to forget and never to sleep. His “gift” allows Lemme to learn, synthesise and work – and please pay attention now! – on his electronic newspaper Now, to that extent that his groundbreaking columns, judgemental on the social and political issues of the whole world, are read by hundreds of millions of people and are seriously considered by those in power. You can see a pattern here, Igor Lemme, with his super-human capacities and, especially, his “Messiah” attitude towards mankind, is a character you already met in Dan Doboş writings. Both the author of DemNet and the author of Now’s columns share the belief in the power of their words to make their worlds better. Simultaneously, both author and character are lucid enough to know their limits, exploring them to the last consequence. Similar with how The Abbey ends; the main character of Dan Doboş sacrifices himself in DemNet too. The difference is that the symbols of the latter death are liberated of any theological reference; the humanity found here belongs to a new anthropocentrism.
Coming back on he developing story, we find in DemNet a string of columns/essays which are very hands-on on the fictional reality – with the same glitter towards an attentive reader, which makes them applicable on our reality. Dan Doboş allows himself to draw doctrines (“societarism”, “comunitarism”, “postliberalism”) plus ideological conflicts embroidered with poetry (you will love the character of the poet Maxwell, an ideological motivator, sort of a more melodic Maiakovsky). Dan Doboş writes through his character Igor Lemme what he believes inevitable to happen for real. DemNet is more of a projection than anticipation, it is a speculation based on enormous synthesis, more than it is a fiction.
The literary balance of DemNet as a novel lies in the directness of the last two weeks of Igor Lemme’s life. Everything which is happening to him, Igor Lemme takes it as a proof that his destiny was drawn and the final picture is his death: he is defended by the catog Maxie, a furry friend weighting 120 kilos, against the attacks of an ocult group which chase him from his living room to Azores to the Earth’s orbit, then to Moon; he is loved by a woman and her clone, at different biological ages; he speaks with the outcast and the omnipotent people alike. The final demonstration of how right was the main character is similar with The Abbey’s ending: the contact of mankind with extraterrestrial civilisations changes in DemNet the significance of the main conflict. As I said above, only the symbols are different. If The Abbey was compared with Dune, DemNet is more of a Stand of Zanzibar book.
Several words need to be said on DemNet style. Though at a quicker pace than The Abbey, adding the difficulty of overlapping literary species, DemNet gives a feeling of solidity. Dan Doboş forgets nothing, but every extra data or explanation does not take the place of action, nor covers the dialogues (some of these of a subtle humour). From this point of view, DemNet is better than The Abbey, showing Dan Doboş in his prime as a writer. The ordeal to write about anything in any type of discourse is taken only by the writers who matter for the literary history. I am happy to say Dan Doboş is one of them.
To be continued next week!
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Science Fiction in Croatia
Translated into English by the Author.
1. The Beginnings
Although the elements of fantastic and speculative (as far as science in the modern sense is concerned) in the Croatian literature can be traced back to the years immediately before and after World War I (for instance, the novel Crveni ocean (The Red Ocean, 1918/1919) by Marija Jurić – Zagorka and the story “Red Tank” by Vladimir Nazor), it is generally agreed today that the first true Croatian SF novel was Na Pacifiku 2255. (On the Pacific in 2255) by Milan Šufflay, first serialised in 1924 and re-issued in a book-form in 1998.
In 1932, Mato Hanžeković published Gospodin čovjek (A Man of Rank), a utopia about a group of people rebuilding the civilisation destroyed in a new world war. Even more novels and stories appeared in Zagreb during the 1920s and 1930s, mostly by authors using pen-names, initials, or altogether omitting to sign themselves.
Claimed by some authorities to be the best are Muri Massanga (1927) by Mladen Horvat, and a series of novels by Aldion Degal (a pseudonym of Josip Smolčić): Atomska raketa (The Atomic Rocket), Zrake smrti (The Death Rays) and Smaragdni skarabej (The Emerald Scarab), all dating from early 1930s.
Also worthy of mention is the novel Majstor Omega osvaja svijet (The Omega Master Conquers the World) by Stan Rager, serialised in 1940. Stan Rager was a pseudonym used by Stanko Radovanović and Zvonimir Furtinger (whom we’ll encounter later) writing in tandem. Very little is known of these texts today, most of them being serialised in newspapers and magazines. They are seldom available and they need to be more thoroughly studied and critically evaluated. The same goes for some proto-SF works dating as far back as the Renaissance.
Better appreciated are the early Croatian SF comics from the 1930s. The first-ever was Gost iz svemira (The Guest from Outer Space) by Božidar Rašić and Leontije Bjelski, published in 1935 in Zagreb, and followed by Krešimir Kovačić’s and Andrija Maurović’s Ljubavnica s Marsa (The Mistress from Mars) and Podzemna carica (The Underground Empress).
2. Croatian SF Comes Of Age
Some SF stories by Croatian authors, still using pseudonyms, were published even during World War 2. Immediate post-war years, with the war-winning Communist Party becoming the ruling political force inYugoslaviaandCroatia, represented a short lull in the continuity of the Croatian SF. However, the 1950s saw an increase in number of translated novels (by American, Soviet and European authors) published by various Yugoslav publishers. Such renewed interest in SF coincided with rapid industrialisation, consequent urbanisation and widespread education carried out under Tito’s rule.
As far as Croatiais concerned, late 1950s and early to mid-1960s were definitely marked by Mladen Bjažić and Zvonimir Furtinger, writing in tandem. Both stemmed from the juvenile magazine Plavi vjesnik, where Bjažić was the editor, while Furtinger contributed stories (most notable being his SF novelette Vila na otoku – The Villa on an Island) and scripted comics.
Their first collaborative effort was Osvajač 2 se ne javlja (The Conqueror 2 Does Not Reply), first published in 1959. Svemirska nevjesta (The Space Bride), Varamunga – tajanstveni grad (Varamunga – The Mysterious City) and the juvenile novel Zagonetni stroj profesora Kružića (The Mysterious Machine of Professor Kružić) followed in 1960, Mrtvi se vraćaju (The Dead Return) in 1965 and Ništa bez Božene (Nothing Without Božena – being an updated version of The Mysterious Machine of Professor Kružić) in 1970. Well-written, these novels deal with cosmic catastrophes, aliens visiting Earth, artificial intelligence and robotics, and various machines, such as matter replicator and anti-gravity device. Character-oriented, action-packed and spiced with humour and fine irony, they often include elements of the mystery genre. Bjažić and Furtinger novels were the pioneering works in Croatian science fiction, introducing many new and fresh ideas, and it is no wonder they were very popular. Being reprinted several times, they undoubtedly influenced many fans and subsequent writers, which makes them even more important. Both Bjažić and Furtinger were very prolific authors of popular and juvenile literature, but Furtinger remained more faithful to SF, writing a considerable number of SF stories and radio-plays on his own.
After Bjažić and Furtinger, the second most important author was Angelo Ritig with his novels Sasvim neobično buđenje (Quite an Unusual Awakening, 1961) and Ljubav u neboderu (Love in the Skyscraper, 1965). As opposed to Bjažić and Furtinger, who were concerned with action and humour, Ritig was more interested in psychological development of his characters facing technologies such as brain transfer and a mind-reading device. It’s a pity he wrote only two science fiction novels, because he was successfully combining mature literary style with interesting scientific speculations and convincing futuristic settings.
Silvije Ružić published the juvenile Uspavani diktator (The Sleeping Dictator) in 1961, while Milan Nikolić, otherwise a very prolific and skilful crime and mystery writer, ventured into SF with his 1960 novel Zovem Jupiter … Beležite (Calling Jupiter … Take Notes).
Other Croatian authors of that period were mostly writing SF novels for children, the tradition continuing to the present day.
3. The Sirius Years
The crucial year in the history of the Croatian SF was 1976. In July of that year, the first Croatian SF magazine Sirius was started. Sirius was published by Zagreb newspaper and magazine publisher Vjesnik, one of the largest such companies in socialist Yugoslavia. It was started by Borivoj Jurković (its first editor) and Damir Mikuličić, no doubt inspired by a growing interest in SF manifested in Yugoslavia in the early 1970s. Despite severe economic difficulties in the 1980s Yugoslavia (resulting in inflation and chronic shortage of paper), Sirius maintained a regular monthly rhythm throughout most of the period of its publication, lasting until December 1989, when it reached issue number 163/164. It had a circulation reaching 30 000 in its heyday, and was elected twice (in 1980 and 1984) the best European SF magazine. After Jurković edited Sirius for more than 100 issues, he was succeeded by Hrvoje Prćić, although Milivoj Pašiček was signed as an editor for some time.
Sirius was modelled after American SF magazines and published stories of various lengths, mostly by English-speaking, but also Soviet and European (particularly French) authors. In more than thirteen years, Sirius introduced the Croatian readers to the stories by the best SF writers in the world, authors both classic and recent ones. Sirius was also opened to various theoretical works, reviews, biographical texts, interviews and fandom news, and all this had considerable influence on the development of SF inCroatia.
Most important of all, Sirius offered Croatian (and Yugoslav) writers an opportunity to publish. Having the full-colour cover and later even black-and-white story illustrations, Sirius also became a sort of exhibition hall of the SF art.
Several writers became well-known on the pages of Sirius.
While Branko Belan and Zvonimir Furtinger were the best of those already established on the Croatian cultural scene (Belan was a film director and lecturer, as well as writer, and Furtinger was a journalist and writer, both being in their mid-sixties when Sirius was started), Predrag Raos was certainly the greatest among the young writers beginning their career in Sirius. The most prolific Sirius authors were Branko Pihač and Živko Prodanović, and we should also mention Neven Antičević, Radovan Devlić (otherwise a comics author), Darije Đokić, Damir Mikuličić, Slobodan Petrovski, Zdravko Valjak and many others.
The pages of Sirius also revealed the significant presence of women-writers, such as Vera Ivosić-Santo (a.k.a. Veronika Santo), Vesna Gorše, Biljana Mateljan, Vesna Popović, Tatjana Vranić and several others. We can state without any doubt that women publishing in Sirius were on the average superior writers to their male colleagues, both thematically and stylistically, particularly when their relatively small outputs are considered.
Although it is really impossible to draw any common denominator for some 500 Croatian SF stories (including short short ones) published in Sirius, some trends are obvious. For instance, it’s easy to notice a large number of anti-utopias, most often post-nuclear. This was an obvious comment on the Cold War, as well as the Yugoslav single-party socialist society. (We must point out, however, that socialism in Yugoslavia was much more liberal than in other East European countries, let alone USSR. Yugoslavia was not a member of the Warsaw Pact, and indeed maintained a delicate balance between West and East, being opened to both.) Other classic SF subjects and subgenres were also present, such as space-opera, hard-SF, first contact, time travel and ESP. On the other hand, some of the then-popular subgenres were almost completely missing, such as cyberpunk. There was also a total lack of alternative histories and parallel world stories. Due to the strict editorial orientation towards SF, encouraged by contemporary readers, there was no fantasy or horror on the pages of Sirius.
Between 1976 and 1989 – the years now dubbed the Sirius period – some very important SF novels appeared.
Predrag Raos published his two-part epic Brodolom kod Thule (Shipwrecked at Thula) in 1979. Mnogo vike nizašto (Much Ado About Nothing) followed in 1985 and Nul effort in 1990. Shipwrecked at Thula, almost 850 pages long, is the most important and possibly the best Croatian science fiction novel so far. Describing the utopian, but stagnant human society 600 years in the future that sends the first faster-than-light expedition to Alpha Centaury, and the disaster striking this expedition, it is brilliantly written and never boring despite its length. It is at the same time great literature and great science fiction, firmly based in sound scientific speculation. Shipwrecked at Thula, Sirius stories, Much Ado About Nothing (about an expedition to Mars) and Nul effort (about a space expedition caught in a middle of an intergalactic war) firmly established Predrag Raos as one of the finest Croatian writers.
In the mid-1980s, Neven Orhel wrote two medical-SF novels, Uzbuna na odjelu za rak (Alert at the Cancer Ward, 1983) and Ponoćni susret (The Midnight Encounter, 1985).
Branko Belan published the anti-utopian Utov dnevnik (Ut’s Diary) in 1982, incorporating some of his stories previously appearing in Sirius. In the same year, Damir Mikuličić published a collection of his stories entitled O. Hrvoje Hitrec, well-known Croatian writer, published his SF novel Ur in 1982, and is also famous for his SF novel for children Eko eko from 1978. Some other mainstream writers also incorporated the SF and fantastic elements in their novels, most notably Pavao Pavličić and Goran Tribuson, two of the most prominent and prolific of several so-called Croatian Borgesians appearing on the literary scene in the early 1970s.
So far the only two Croatian SF movies also appeared in this period. The first was Izbavitelj (The Rat Saviour) in 1977, directed by Krsto Papić and awarded at the Trieste SF Film Festival. The second was Dušan Vukotić’s SF comedy Posjetioci iz galaksije Arkana (Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy), shot in 1980.
4. Future With Futura
The untimely death of Sirius in December 1989 is still mourned by many. Although there were rumours in the following year or two that Sirius will be revived, nothing ever came out of it. In the meantime, the clouds of war were gathering over Croatia …
The early 1990s, marked by the fall of socialism and the violent break-up of Yugoslavia, seemed hardly an appropriate time for the Sirius successor. So it came out of the blue when, in late autumn 1992, a small Zagreb graphic design and publishing company Bakal introduced Futura to the news-stands. Less than a year after the war inCroatia was stopped by an uneasy cease-fire, and with war at full swing inBosnia and Herzegovina, here we were, bewildered, holding a new SF magazine in our hands!
Basically, Futura was not very different from Sirius. It was a monthly and it opened its pages to the Croatian artists and writers almost immediately. However, the times had changed. Futura’s circulation was much lower than that of Sirius. Denied the support of the major state-owned publisher and faced with a general drop in income and living standard in Croatia, Futura had financial problems. It changed several editors (they were: Vlatko Jurić-Kokić, Krsto A. Mažuranić, Mihaela Velina, Davorin Horak and Milena Benini) and was sold to another publisher (Strip-agent) in 2001. Eventually, it became very irregular, not appearing at the news-stands for months. The last issue (December 2010) was #131, and Futura is now defunct.
Futura had similar importance for the Croatian SF as did Sirius. It became the place where authors could publish. However, in 1995 Futura stopped being the only such place.
5. New Vibrations
In spring of 1995, a new and important project in the Croatian SF was started. The SF club SFera from Zagrebissued the first of their story-collections, entitled Zagreb 2004 and edited by Darko Macan. Zagreb 2004 collected stories by young (the oldest being 32) writers, about Zagreb 10 years in the future. The collection was actually prepared in 1994 – hence the reference in the title – but was somewhat delayed, and the primary subject of the stories was obviously the war in Croatia, at that moment still unresolved. Although many featured writers had already published, mostly in fanzines and Futura, this collection proved a new generation of SF authors had arrived. At the same time, it seemed the Sirius generation had mostly faded away, at least in their capacity as writers.
Not that nothing was heard of them. Predrag Raos was vehement as a member of the opposition against President Tuđman’s authoritative rule. However, only two of the books he published in the 1990s were true SF: Mayerling and the children’s novel Od rata do zvijezda (From the War to the Stars), both from 1996. Raos is also a well-known translator and controversial public persona, always opposing any authority.
Zdravko Valjak collected his old Sirius stories in Plastična duša (The Plastic Soul), published in 1997. Živko Prodanović published the somewhat old-fashioned Tamara in 2000 and Smrt među rimskim ruševinama (The Death Among the Ruins of Rome) in 2003. Damir Mikuličić became an important SF and popular science (Einstein, Hawking, etc.) publisher. Neven Antičević, too, became one of the most important Croatian publishers. Vesna Gorše, also one of the Sirius writers, but today better known as an ethno-jazz musician, collected some of her stories in the book Dar (The Gift), published in 2003.
In the meantime, SFera continued producing its annual collections, timing them to coincide with the annual SFeraKon convention held in Zagreb. After Zagreb 2004, Dnevnici entropije (The Entropy Diaries) followed in 1996. Then, there were Kvantni portali imaginacije (Quantum Portals of Imagination, 1997), Zagreb 2014 (1998), Krhotine svjetova (Fragments of the Worlds, 1999), Dvije tisuće šarenih aliena (Two Thousand Gaudy Aliens, 2000), Jutra boje potopa (Deluge-Coloured Mornings, 2001), Alternauti (Alternauts, 2002), Djeca olujnih vjekova (Children of the Stormy Eras, 2003), Zagreb 2094 (2004), Kap crne svjetlosti (A Drop of Black Light, 2005), Zagrob (Aftergrave – a collection of horror stories, 2006), Trinaesti krug bezdana (The Thirteenth Circle of Abyss, 2007), Zmajev zlatni svitak (The Dragon’s Golden Scroll, 2008), Strune nemira (The Strings of Restlessness, 2009), Parasvemir (SteamSpace, 2010), Lakuna (Lacuna, 2011) and this year’s SMAK! (Judgement Day!).
The editor of – and the driving force behind – most of these collections was Darko Macan, alone or together with Tatjana Jambrišak and, recently, Darko Vrban. Quantum Portals Of Imagination was edited by Davorin Horak, while Tatjana Jambrišak and Darko Vrban edited A Drop Of Black Light, Zagrob and The Thirteenth Circle of Abyss. They were joined by Mihaela Marija Perković for editing work on The Dragon’s Golden Scroll, Irena Rašeta on The Strings of Restlessness and Bojan Popić on Lacuna.
Because of the careful selection and editing, these collections became the cutting edge of the modern Croatian SF. The stories published in them were on average much better than those in Futura, firmly establishing the new authors.
Interesting comparisons can now be made between stories in Futura and SFera collections, and those published in Sirius. The approach to various themes and subjects became more modern and diverse in 1990s. Young writers now pay more attention to characters and plotline. The stories are no more just an excuse to elaborate some SF idea, which was a frequent shortcoming of numerous Sirius stories. New generation of authors devoted more time to literary qualities of their texts, employing modern story-telling techniques, some even showing tendency towards radical literary experiments. Finally, the 1990s authors freely introduced Croatian themes, characters and settings into their stories. Why was the majority (not all and not always, but majority nevertheless) of Sirius authors reluctant to do this, even when appropriate, opting instead for stereotyped American and/or European characters or choosing some neutral settings, remains open to discussion. Whatever the reason, it seems as if the future finally started happening to Croatians inCroatia, and this is a considerable and very important quantum leap, implying a further maturing of the Croatian SF taking place in the 1990s.
One of the results of the SFera books was the spreading of the story-collection bug from Zagrebto Istria, so, starting in 2002, short short story-collections were promoted at annual Istrakon conventions held in the small town of Pazin. These collections are: Tvar koja nedostaje (The Missing Matter), Svijet tamo iza (The World Beyond), Bolja polovica (The Better Half), Ispod i iznad (Below and Above), Sami na svijetu (Alone in the World), Krivo stvoreni (Wrongly Created), Dobar ulov (The Good Catch), Treća stvarnost (The Third Reality), Dimenzija tajne (Dimension of the Secret), Deseti krug (The 10th Circle) and this year’s Astrolab gladi (Astrolabe of Hunger). In recent years, theme collections are prepared for the annual The Festival Of Fantastic Literature, also held in Pazin. The books appearing so far are Vampirske priče (Vampire Tales), Priče o starim bogovima (Tales of Old Gods), Priče o divovima (Tales of Giants), Priče o dinosaurima (Dinosaur Tales), Priče o zvijezdama (Star Tales) and Turističke priče (Tourist Tales).
Another story-collection, Priča o Anđeli Novak (The Story of Anđela Novak) was published in Osijek in 2006. Irena Rašeta edited story collections blog.sf (2006) and Bludućnost (The Future Lust, 2007), thus beginning an ongoing TranSFuzija (TranSFusion) series. In 2009 and 2011, Zoran Krušvar edited two story collections entitled Laboratorij fantastike (The Fantasy Laboratory), resulting from writing workshops he was running inRijeka.
Beside Futura and the annual collections, there were several mainstream magazines where an occasional SF story could be found, particularly the defunct Plima that regularly published stories and plays with elements of the fantastic. Since late 1998, short stories have been published in the juvenile Sunday-supplement of the Jutarnji list newspapers, and we must not forget various fanzines.
By 2003, ten years of writing and publishing resulted in enough material for some authors to plan their own story-collections.
The edition SFera was started by Zagreb publisher Mentor, with four story-collections: Duh novog svijeta (Spirit of the New World) by Tatjana Jambrišak, Purgeri lete u nebo (Burgers Fly Up to the Sky) by Igor Lepčin, Teksas Kid (i još neka moja braća) (Texas Kid (and Other Brothers of Mine)) by Darko Macan and Slijepe ptice (Blind Birds) by Aleksandar Žiljak.
This project was continued in 2004, with another series of four books: Najbolji na svijetu (The Best in the World) by Zoran Krušvar, Preko rijeke (Across the River) by Dalibor Perković, Čuvari sreće (Keepers of Happiness) by Zoran Pongrašić and Frulaš (The Piper) by Zoran Vlahović.
Finally, in 2005, the third set of four books was published. These were Jednorog i djevica (The Unicorn and the Virgin) by Milena Benini, Jeftine riječi (Cheap Words) by Goran Konvični, Zvjezdani riffovi (Star Riffs) by Krešimir Mišak and Zeleno sunce, crna spora (Green Sun, Black Spore) by Danilo Brozović.
This edition brought together twelve of the best and most prolific of the new generation of Croatian SF authors. It also spans the entire spectrum of interests and themes covered in their stories. However, compared to writers in the West, the individual output of Croatian authors is quite small. The reason is simple: SF writing in Croatiais not commercial and cannot be turned into a profession. Therefore, it is merely a hobby for most of the authors. This also results in writers who show up with only a story or two and then disappear for good, a phenomenon observed as long ago as the Sirius days.
Another consequence during the 1990s was almost total lack of true (much less good) SF novels. However, beginning with the new century, this started to change. Publishers, previously reluctant to publish Croatian SF, now show much more interest. This resulted in a steady stream of at least one or two very good SF novels published annually.
In 2002, two SF novels appeared, both including considerable amount of humour. These were Topli zrak (The Hot Air) by Davor Slamnig and Ja i Kalisto (Me and Callisto) by Dejan Šorak. They were followed by two very good novels for children, Prsti puni mora (Fingers Full of Sea) by Igor Lepčin and Pavo protiv Pave (Paul vs. Paul) by Darko Macan.
In late 2003, the best Croatian SF novel in more than a decade was published. It was Sablja (The Sabre) by Ivan Gavran. A fast-paced and superbly written space opera about a group of post-apocalypse Earth pilots fighting with their F-86 Sabre jets in a galactic air combat tournament, Sablja remains a unique blend of space-opera, military SF and a sharp comment on the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the author being from Sarajevo. His new SF novel is Božja jednadžba (The God’s Equation, 2008), the first part of the planned trilogy.
Another excellent novel appearing in 2003 was Christkind by Boris Dežulović, otherwise a well-known journalist and columnist. In 2004, a three-part epic Araton by Oliver Franić was published, while Dalibor Perković published his first novel Sva krv čovječanstva (All the Blood of Mankind) in 2005.
Predrag Raos also returned to the SF scene with his first major novel in years, Vertikala (The Vertical) from 2006, dealing with moral dilemmas faced by the designer of an orbital elevator and spacecraft-launch system. The Vertical was followed by two story-collections: Škorpion na jeziku (A Scorpion on the Tongue) and Hrvatski bog s Marsa (The Croatian God from Mars). While A Scorpion on the Tongue collects three of Raos’s best Sirius novelettes, The Croatian God from Mars contains humoristic SF, most of it previously unpublished, editorial censorship being one of the reasons. His 2007 fantasy novel Let Nancija Konratata (The Flight of Nancio Konratat) confirmed his status as a writer.
In 2006, Veselin Gatalo published Geto (The Ghetto), an action-packed allegoric vision of future Bosnia and Herzegovina. His 2007 novel Cafe Oxygen, while well-written, is probably best considered a juvenile fiction. Danilo Brozović caused quite a furor with his 2007 political cyberpunk novel Bojno polje Istra (Battlefield Istria), while Marina Jadrejčić – well-known from the early days of Futura – published her story-collection Tužna Madona (Sad Madonna) in 2008.
Two SF serials were also initiated in the past few years, one being Zoran Vlahović’s cyberpunk-noir Strijelac (The Shooter), the other being Lovina (The Prey), created by T.H. Knight (a pen-name) and Marin Medić, combining vampires and cyberpunk.
Three SF novels by newcomers to the scene created quite an interest: Pobjednik (The Winner, 2008) by Tamoya Sanshal (a pseudonym), Xavia (2009) by Damir Hoyka – otherwise a renown photographer – and Strašni (The Horrible, 2009) by Rade Jarak. Ivana D. Horvatinčić drew considerable attention with her first juvenile novel Pegazari (The Pegasus Riders, 2009). We must also mention Luna (2010) by Robert Naprta, following in the footsteps of various globally popular juvenile horror/fantasy serials. Among the most recent novels, let us mention Kriza (The Crisis, 2010) by Marko Mihalinec and Velimir Grgić, Lomljenje vjetra (The Wind-breaking, 2011) by Edo Popović, Formula za kaos (The Chaos Formula, 2011) by Franjo Janeš, and Irbis (2012) by Aleksandar Žiljak.
One of most important events in the last few years is the first collection of stories by Veronika Santo, entitled Vrt pramčanih figura (The Figureheads Garden), published in 2008. While known from the pages of Sirius, Veronika Santo, now living in Rome, was absent from the Croatian scene for almost fifteen years, publishing sporadically in Serbia. The Figureheads Garden collects her most important stories, ranging in subjects from classic SF to Borgesian fantasy and firmly establishing her as one of the finest Croatian story-tellers, with very few peers indeed.
Another classic Croatian SF woman-writer got her first story collection, albeit posthumously. It was Vesna Popović, whose limited-edition book, published in 2009, is entitled Miran san do odredišta (A Quiet Sleep till Destination). Also in 2009, Irena Rašeta published her first story collection Cabrón, while Darko Macan collected the large part of his story opus in a book entitled 42. In 2010, a story collection Psihophor was published, collecting all the available stories by the classic Croatian SF writer Zvonimir Furtinger. Another classic story collection is Sindrom vlasti (The Power Sindrome, 2010) by Radovan Domagoj Devlić. In 2011, Najveća igra u svemiru i šire! (The Biggest Game in Space and Beyond!) was published, being the first story collection by Danijel Bogdanović, one of the most important young authors.
As far as other speculative fiction genres are considered, fantasy is represented by several novels so bad they don’t even desert mentioning. Two notable exceptions are juvenile Čudesna krljušt (The Miraculous Scale, 1995) by Zvjezdana Odobašić, and fantasy spoofs by Vanja Spirin. Recently, a good fantasy story or two can be found in Grifon magazine, published by theZagreb re-enacted history, medieval culture and fantasy society Red Srebrnog Zmaja (The Order of the Silver Dragon).
Horror scene is somewhat more lively, with the most prominent and prolific author being Viktoria Faust (a pen-name), called “the first lady of Croatian horror”. Beside numerous horror and SF stories (collected in several collections), her novels include U anđeoskom liku zvijeri (In The Angelic Image of the Beast, 2000), Neizgovorena priča (The Untold Story, 2005), Nasmrt preplašen (Scared to Death, 2005), Anastasia and Solarne mačke (The Solar Cats, 2009), as well as numerous books on supernatural.
Denis Peričić collected his horror stories in Krvavo (The Bloody), published in 2004. In 2006, Boris Perić drew a lot of attention with his novel Vampir (The Vampire), inspired by actual events. Zoran Krušvar’s novel Izvršitelji nauma Gospodnjeg (The Executioners of Lord’s Intention) from 2007 developed into a multimedia project, involving heavy metal bands and video artists. Darko Macan ventured into juvenile horror with his 2007 novel Dlakovuk (The Hairwolf) and Jadnorog (The Poorhorn) from 2008, followed by Pampiri (The Pampires, 2009) and Djed Mrz (Santa Claws, 2011). A novel Zvijeri plišane (Beasts of Plush) by Zoran Krušvar is in the similar vein.
6. Translations, Art, Comics, etc.
Some fifteen to twenty SF, fantasy and horror novels, almost exclusively by American and British authors, are being translated annually into the Croatian language. Despite the 1991-1995 war, books published inSerbiawere also available through various channels. Naturally, the choice of imported books (exclusively in English) is much larger.
The SF art, being tied to book and magazine covers, is not particularly developed in Croatia. Several artists created quite an enviable amount of artwork on the Sirius covers, the best being Miroslav Sinovčić, Vjekoslav Ivezić and Igor Kordej. Among the artists producing in some quantity during the 1990s were Igor Kordej, Esad T. Ribić and the author of this text. Karlo Galeta and Robert Drozd monopolised the Futura covers for several years with their 3D computer art. A much better computer artist is Goran Šarlija, while Miljenko Zvonar produced a large body of SF art, illustrating the already-mentioned Jutarnji list’s Sunday-supplement stories. Željko Pahek also returned to the Croatian art scene, working mostly inSerbia before the war. He is famous for his SF art, but also for his hilarious comics, spoofing almost every SF cliché known to mankind.
We have already seen that the tradition of SF comics in Croatiadates back to the mid-1930s. During the 1950s and 1960s, the best SF-comics authors were brothers Norbert and Walter Neugebauer, who also started their career before the Second World War. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, the best new authors were Radovan Devlić, Igor Kordej, Goran Delić and Krešimir Zimonić. During 1990s, the situation with comics in Croatiawas poor indeed. No comic magazine succeeded in running regularly and for any period of time, so the scene was mostly oriented towards fanzines and school-magazines. Foreign comics translated into Croatian were also quite sparse. Things have recently improved considerably, however, with new SF comics being translated into Croatian in ever-increasing numbers, and magazines gaining some hold. More important, the Croatian comic artists have a relatively long tradition of working for foreign publishers. This continued in the 1990s with the breakthrough on the American market, mostly in the franchise-universe and super-hero series by Dark Horse, Marvel, DC and Antarctic Press. The best-known writer in this field is Darko Macan, while the art was produced by late Edvin Biuković, Igor Kordej, Goran Parlov, Esad T. Ribić, Goran Sudžuka, Milan Trenc and Danijel Žeželj.
The SF theory work was, until very recently, sporadic at best, but we must mention Darko Suvin here. One of the world foremost SF theoreticians, he was born in 1930 in Zagreb, but, after editing the anthology Od Lukijana do Lunjika (From Lukian to Lunik) in 1965, he continued his career in the USA and Canada from the late 1960s. His seminal work Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979) was published inCroatia only in 2010.
7. F Is For Fandom
The organised fandom in Croatiadates back to 1976 (the year of Sirius!), when the SF club SFera was founded in Zagreb. It was followed by more clubs, particularly since 1990. As usual, these clubs have been involved in convention-organising and fanzines-publishing, the oldest fanzine being SFera’s own Parsek, started in 1977. Parsek reached issue #120 in April 2012, thus being by far the longest-running fanzine in Croatia. Considering the current absence of a monthly magazine, the importance of Parsek exceeds that of a regular fanzine. Since early 1990s – beside Parsek, and not counting various bulletins, news-letters and address lists – we know of at least 15 or so printed or web-issued fanzins, published by clubs or individuals.
Perhaps the true phenomenon of the Croatian fandom are conventions. At this moment, Croatiahas annual conventions in Zagreb, Kutina, Pazin, Opatija, Rijekaand Osijek. To these, one must add gaming conventions and LARP events, as well as the Jules Verne’s Days and The Festival Of Fantastic Literature, both held annually in Pazin.
SFeraKon in Zagreb is the oldest convention in Croatia, running from 1977. It is organised by the SFera club and is now held on the last full weekend of April at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences in Zagreb. SFeraKon attracts up to 1000 visitors (other conventions are smaller), offering the usual convention programme, lectures, movies, costumes and gaming, as well as being an opportunity for fans and professionals to meet and exchange ideas. SFERA Awards are also given for the best SF stories of various lengths, plays, novels, art and life-achievements. These are the traditional annual awards, first given in 1981.
In recent years, SFeraKon invited quite an enviable number of foreign GOHs, including Martin Easterbrook, Gay Gavriel Kay, Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, Walter Jon Williams, Lois McMaster Bujold, George R.R. Martin, Ken MacLeod, Michael Iwoleit (German writer, editor and translator), Michael Swanwick, Bruce Sterling, Richard Morgan, Robert Bakker, Ian McDonald, Dave Lally, and this year’s (SFeraKon also being the Eurocon) Tim Powers, Charlie Stross, Dmitry Glukhovsky and Cheryl Morgan. This is a continuation of good international relations maintained during the 1970s and 1980s, when names such as Frederik Pohl, Jack Williamson, Brian W. Aldiss, James Gunn, Bob Shaw, Richard D. Nolan, Sam J. Lundwall, Joe Haldeman, Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, Gianfranco Viviani and Gerald Webb visited Zagreb and/or Croatia, either as SFeraKon or Eurocon 86 guests, or on some other official occasion.
Istrakon in Pazin is now firmly established as the second-largest Croatian SF convention. Held in March, it is attracting some 500 visitors looking for a lot of fun and good times in the beautiful landscapes of central Istria. Istrakon begun inviting foreign GOHs in 2006, the first being Brian W. Aldiss. Essekon in Osijek is also a convention with some tradition, while Liburnikon in Opatija and Rikon in Rijeka are rapidly establishing themselves as popular events. Unfortunately, Kutikon in Kutina seems defunct, but there are new conventions and events being planned all overCroatia.
The spread of Internet provided a further impetus to the growth of the Croatian fandom. There is a number of web-sites and forums dedicated to all aspects of speculative fiction in the broadest sense, and there is also a marked rise of the blog scene. Beside the usual fandom communication, the Internet scene in general supports new aspiring writers, through on-line magazines (most notably, NOSF – http://www.nosf.net), on-line literary workshops and blog-stories, thus alleviating the present lack of a regular (semi-)professional magazine.
8. Fast Forward Into Future
Science Fiction is now becoming accepted as part of Croatian popular culture. The history of SF inCroatiaincludes two long-running magazines, important annual story-collections, numerous author collections and several good novels, all appearing under difficult, if not severe, economic and political conditions. Indeed, younger people inCroatia, including the author of this text, spent most of their lives living in some sort of crisis, culminating, but not ending with the 1991-1995 war. Several authors are now well-known and established on the Croatian SF scene, and the next logical step – already taking place – is their breakthrough into the international market.
A process of thorough evaluation of the historic development of SF in Croatiais now under way. The first major step was Ad Astra, an anthology of the Croatian SF story from 1976 to 2006. This mammoth 640-page book was edited by Tomislav Šakić and Aleksandar Žiljak and published in April 2006, after two years of work. It contains 40 stories by the most important Croatian SF writers. Also included are theoretical and historical texts, biographic notes on authors and other prominent characters in the Croatian SF, as well as the reasonably complete bibliography of the Croatian SF story in the aforementioned 30-year period.
Another problem addressed by the editorial tandem Šakić-Žiljak is the lack of a professional-looking SF magazine publishing Croatian authors. While Parsek partly filled some vacuum created by the de facto closure of Futura, something better was needed.
Thus, in November 2007, the first issue of UBIQ was introduced to the public. UBIQ is a 260-page literary magazine devoted (for a time being, at least) exclusively to Croatian writers. It also publishes theoretical and bibliographical texts, thus creating a completely new and desperately needed niche. Two issues are planned annually. UBIQ – issue 10 published in April 2012 – brings high-quality stories and serious essayistic works by prominent Croatian writers (including the veterans such as Veronika Santo, Biljana Mateljan, Branko Pihač, Lidija Beatović and Vesna Gorše, as well as established and new-generation authors such as Ed Barol, Milena Benini, Jasmina Blažić, Danijel Bogdanović, Katarina Brbora, Danilo Brozović, Josip Ergović, Marijo Glavaš, Gordana Kokanović-Krušelj, Zoran Krušvar, Darko Macan, Nada Mihaljević, Kristijan Novak, Dalibor Perković, Irena Rašeta, Dario Rukavina, Igor Rendić, Tereza Rukober, Iva Šakić Ristić, Sanja Tenjer, Zoran Vlahović, and others) and theoreticians, most famous being Darko Suvin. Although small-press and state-sponsored, UBIQ already caused quite a commotion on the Croatian literary scene, getting very favourable reviews and, apparently, finally drawing the attention of the so-called mainstream and academic circles to the science fiction. On Eurocon 2011 in Stockholm, UBIQ was voted the best European science fiction magazine.
While the future of UBIQ, within non-paying small-press limitations, now seems assured, only time will tell what its ultimate reach will be. UBIQ cannot alleviate the lack of a regular monthly magazine, which currently seems to be commercially unfeasible. (However, as the most recent development, we must mention the new magazine Sirius-B, four issues being published since November 2011.) What UBIQ can do is provide space for contemporary Croatian SF prose and theory.
This project was expanded in 2010 by the Edition UBIQ, dedicated to story collections, short novels and theory works. The first three published books were the collection of fantasy stories Božja vučica (The Divine She-wolf) by Aleksandar Žiljak, the short novel Koža boje masline (The Olive-coloured Skin) by Darko Macan and the book of essays by Zoran Kravar Kad je svijet bio mlad (When the World was Young). Further titles are in preparation.
In the meantime, we hope this text, with all its shortcomings, will provide the basic insight into the past, present and possible futures of the Science Fiction inCroatia.
The ISF is proud to present a series of articles by Cătălin Badea-Gheracostea called “Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction”.
This great pamphlet of Romanian Speculative Fiction was presented in Croatia, during the Eurocon 2012, and aims to “raise awareness, to inform and to be liked”. Starting off today, we will present the full pamphlet in a series of chapters, published once a week.
The Editor in Chief: Roberto Mendes
Short (Hi)Story of
Romanian Speculative Fiction
told for strangers,
aliens and secluded scholars
The Reassess before The Start
It is the Romanian way of doing things, or at least we like to consider it so, to ponder right at the beginning of an endeavour, in the very moment when others would say “Go!”. In other words, we shall start this run through Romanian Speculative Fiction with a “Stop!”. I believe it is not only a matter of style, of national identity, but this will help the reader enter the right frame of mind for the journey he or she will take with us.
There are three purposes of this pamphlet and all can be better fulfilled if all are taken simultaneously into consideration. The first is to raise awareness, the second is to inform, the third is to be liked. A pamphlet has some liberties that an academic paper has not and in these liberties lies sometimes a faster comprehension. One of these liberties will be the lighter writing, prone to bring smiles on the readers’ lips. Another might be the fast-forward (fast-backward, in this very case) approach, which is suggested primarily by the almost non-existing translations of Romanian writings with “speculative fiction/SF” label on them. To present 200 years of literature, no matter how thin the niche might be, is a work for a storyteller, because there is the need to summarize subjects, novels, tendencies. That storyteller better brace himself and I, in his role, have to ask my reader for tolerance, promising I will not give away too many of an abstract term and judgement, letting the entry Romania from The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction by John Clute, to end that mission (www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/romania).
One, two more things before we actually start storytelling about Romanian SF: unlike the “normal” history of a literature which starts at the beginning of the beginning, this pamphlet gives a fall back approach, considering that the present is more important than the past, without diminishing the causalities in all their extra- and intra-literary forms and without disrespecting any of the “Founding Fathers”, or Mothers, whomever they might have been. Also, unlike other (hi)stories, this would bring in the front line/front pages the other historians, critics and theorisers: without them to have fun storytelling the Romanian speculative fiction would be a multi-layered superficial attempt.
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12 pages long
Science Fiction in Portugal – The Drawing up of a Territory
Teresa Sousa de Almeida
(Translated by David Prescott)
In memory of José Diogo Nazareth Sousa de Almeida, (1924-1997)
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This work intends to present the outlines of science fiction and of a certain fantastic literature related to it, having a reference in the national space in which it has been produced (Portugal). Although it contains a sort of introduction, it is mainly focused upon the production of the eighties and nineties, in which there has been a slight defining of a new paradigm. It does not aim at drawing up a history, but at simply defining some guidelines for reading. This is not a question of going from world SF in order to refer to its reflections; on the contrary, the aim was that of reading the greatest number of texts possible in order to present some questions which seemed essential. It is a carefully studied journey based on the critical reading of dozens of books, on a study of some of their authors, and on the probably subjective choice of some individual cases.
As belonging to Science Fiction, I have considered all of the books that are presented as such, whether explicitly, by means of a textual or paratextual reference, or implicitly, by means of a collection in which they are grouped or through their later recovery by the genre. I have opted for a conventionalist approach, which states that it is impossible to define the «essence» of literature and the genres, sub-genres and forms which constitute it or contest it. This was a bold choice, especially as I am aware of the fact that most of the narratives written inPortugalare closer to the so-called fantastic literature than to SF proper, as, indeed, will be shown.
I started, however, from some presuppositions. In the preface to the anthology Side Effects, published in 1997, Luís Filipe Silva states that SF is not «an aspect of Literature which can be catalogued», «a ghetto within a slightly larger ghetto», but as «a philosophy of behaviour», «a means of reaction to change and to life itself» . We here once again encounter the reasons for which it refuses to be classified: the force which breaks down frontiers opposes the form which is necessary for a definition, and creates alternative spaces, subverts and deconstructs. Thus, in responding to the stability of the past with the dynamics of the present, SF ends up by not being on the edge in which it has chosen to live or to which it has been relegated, but in the hidden centre of the vortex which it is in itself, the mirroring of a period which blinds itself because it is afraid to look at itself. It would be in no way ironic for me to quote the words of George Slusser: «if any literature is mainstream in the twentieth century, it’s science fiction». The history of literature is not made up of a pre-established canon, but of genres which, in going against the tradition, became absorbed in it from the moment they were able to be classified. The literary institution has always included texts which were marginal, censored, forgotten or damned during their period, showing a rare capacity for tolerance towards the past and a remarkable blindness in relation to the present. The fact that it has not yet included SF is homage to the vitality of the genre.
SF carries within it an ambitious project, which again takes up the moment which witnessed the birth of the concept of Literature, at a time in which it still presented itself with all the potentialities of a new form of writing. To the contrary of the mainstream, it does not intend to be a depicting of the real, but intends to act upon it, opening up alternatives to the future or showing the possibilities presented by the present. In this sense SF has inherited the subversive nature of the eighteenth century novel, a genre which was able to integrate the scientific discoveries of its time, at a moment when fixed forms, codified by Rhetoric and Poetics, were unable to respond to the issues presented to them by their time.
Like all genres which live on the edge or on the frontiers, SF is characterized by its capacity to absorb all the discourses and all the voices of the so-called counter-culture, transforming itself into a sort of laboratory in which new forms of expression are tested, and providing the ground for, as so often has been stated, a type of looting on the part of official literature. As always happens, its marginal character seems to be the reason for its very versatility. Those who dwell on the fringes of institutions are unusually aware, do not settle within the canons, and know the freedom which imagination allows.
The Outline of a Story still to be told
In Portugal, SF lives within a clandestine situation. It is completely ignored by the national literary institution, by schools and, with notable exceptions, by the critics. «It has been relegated to authors», publications, specialized collections, briefly-lasting fanzines and some historical anthologies. There are neither crossings nor contaminations, excepting one or two works by a consecrated author. Faced with this oblivion, it responds by the same token. In 1992, João Barreiros, one of the most lucid SF critics, wrote: «In Portugalwe don’t burn books nor prohibit cartoon strips. We don’t do any of this simply because the new works written in these fields are not published, or are published and no one reads them. In Portugal, bookshops are a desert full of the crammed anguish of stock gathering dust». In a slightly less pessimistic view, Álvaro de Sousa Holstein and José Manuel Morais, the authors of the only Bibliografia da Ficção Científica e Fantástica Portuguesa [Bibliography of Portuguese SF & F], the second edition of which was published in 1993, produce the following diagnosis: «In a country in which there is practically no science nor scientific research, SF literature lives in a rarefied atmosphere, which is difficult to nourish writing by authors who favor this genre. And yet they continue to appear, surviving with the tenacious stubbornness of weeds growing between the pavements of the streets. SF and F written by Portuguese authors are alive and well, and are recommendable, and if it often does not yet correspond in terms of quality and quantity to the output of countries with a demographic and cultural dimension similar to our own, it is still true that it is little by little gaining the rights to its own space». The problem of SF and the fantastic literature associated to it inPortugal is still that of a legitimizing and delimiting of a space of its own. Its existence appears to have gone unawares except for those who belong to the fandom.
I may state that for those who come from the mainstream, the quantity and quality of the authors who write SF or who use it to write other types of texts which may perhaps be classified nowadays as F (Fantasy) is astounding. This is an underground territory, a type of reverse of official literature, with different codes and different laws, and perhaps with a different history.
As always happens during a process of affirmation, it was SF itself which felt the need to find its antecedents, its founding myths, thus establishing its own history. If we look again at the Bibliografia we have already referred to, we may establish a course which begins with the visionary attitude of Father António Vieira, takes account of the emergence of the romantic imagination, and recovers fundamental narratives in Portuguese Modernism, devoting particular attention to some writers connected to Surrealism.
If we look at the history of fantastic literature from the point of view of the literary institution, we see the emerging of a territory which is not especially valorized except when it is forgotten. In the article dedicated to the «Marvelous» in the Dicionário de Literatura Portuguesa [Dictionary of Portuguese Literature], Jacinto do Prado Coelho remarks that «it is in the nineteenth century that a fantastic literature is introduced into Portugal», and considers that this genre has a limited scope among us. He recuperates some romantic writers, referring to texts which have a founding character: the short story by Júlio César Machado, «Uma récita de Roberto do Diabo» [A Performance of Roberto do Diabo], included within the Contos ao Luar [Moonlight Tales], 1861, the Contos Fantásticos [The Fantastic Tales] by Teófilo Braga, 1865, the Prosas Bárbaras [Barbarian Proses] by Eça de Queirós (1866-67) and the Contos [Tales] by Álvaro de Carvalhal, 1868. He highlights the particular case of Fialho de Almeida (O País das Uvas [The Country of Grapes], 1893) and calls attention to some symbolist writers, João Rocha and Henrique de Vasconcelos, who were influenced, just like Álvaro de Carvalhal, by Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe. He considers the particular case of Teixeira Gomes, with Blood Lust (1909) and draws attention to the experience of Mário de Sá-Carneiro, forgetting some of the texts from Portuguese Modernism, such as the case of Almeida Negreiros with «The Turtle», or even Fernando Pessoa himself. The article mainly deals with some writers who made incursions into the genre: José Régio, Ruben A. (A Torre de Barbela [The Tower of Barbel], 1964,Myself the Other, 1966), David Mourão-Ferreira (Os Amantes [The Lovers], 1968). Strangely, he forgets Jorge de Sena and surrealist production, but he includes the work by Domingos Monteiro (Histórias deste Mundo e do Outro [Stories of this World and the Other], 1961 and O Dia Marcado [The Appointed Day], 1963). Portuguese SF is completely ignored by the manuals and dictionaries, having, however, the right to four lines in the História da Literatura Portuguesa [History of Portuguese Literature] by Óscar Lopes and António José Saraiva, in a chapter dedicated to the bibliography.
The presupposition that fantastic literature has very little importance in Portugal deserves to be reanalyzed, especially considering that it is the history of literature itself which grants greater or lesser importance to a genre, integrating or excluding authors and works according to criteria which are rarely made explicit. As for myself, I would like to draw attention to some authors and some works.
In 1906, in the Illustração Portugueza, a text was published which it is difficult to characterize, but which might be considered, according to José-Augusto França, as the first Portuguese work of SF. It is entitled Lisbon in the Year 2000, and was written by Melo de Matos, a civil engineer. It is a view of the progress in technology, industry and commerce, centered around the description of a bustling and modern capital city, the center of the world, criss-crossed by revolutionary forms of transportation, «the raised metropolitan railway», and accessed by new forms of communication such as, for example, the tunnel connecting Lisbon to Seixal, on the other side of the river. The text, which has significantly just been republished, has been studied by Daniel Tércio, who states that the author projected «a highly technological modern city around a sort of domesticated capitalism».
Secondly, I would like to mention surrealist production, now no longer in the field of SF but in fantastic literature. I would recuperate the magnificent text by António Pedro, Apenas uma Narrativa [Just a Narrative] (1942), a lyrical and corrosive masterpiece of irony and humor, and would add the works of Virgílio Martinho and Mário Cesariny.
A history of fantastic literature in Portugal was finally made in the sixties, with the publishing of the Antologia do Conto Fantástico Português [Anthology of the Portuguese Fantastic Tale] , which recuperated romantic, modernist, presencists, surrealists or those connected to neo-realism, ending in Almeida Faria, after having included texts by David Mourão Ferreira, Ana Hatherly and Herberto Hélder.
At the same time, in 1966, we witness an attempt to draw up the limits of the field of SF, with the publishing of Terrestres e Estranhos [Earthlings and Aliens], with authors who, with the exception of Dórdio Guimarães and Natália Correia, did not appear in the anthology by Ribeiro de Mello. The book presents a set of texts which, although they are different, have a common factor in that they deal with the fate of mankind, taking up old myths (Fumos siderais [Sidereal Smoke] by Manuela Montenegro or A criatura [The Creature] by Dórdio Guimarães) and are contaminated by the philosophical short story, as is true of the fiction by Fernando Saldanha, an author who would publish, in 1969, the bookO Planeta Prometido. Antecipação 69 [The Promised Planet. Anticipation 69]. In the short story «Destruição»[Destruction], by Hélia, we penetrate into the world of terror: a woman witnesses a horrific metamorphosis taking place on her body and on the surrounding environment. To the contrary, the story Os dois Marcianos [The two Martians], by Lima Rodrigues, shows us the distraction of a character who chooses not to see the reality in front of his eyes, in a clear allegory of human blindness, whilst Luís Campos (O Homem que não quis viajar [The Man who didn’t want to Travel]) tells us of a character lacerated by a choice presented to him by a being from another world. Among all of the short stories I will highlight Barbo by Natália Correia, a text written in the first person and narrated by the last survivor of a technological civilization, and which equates the birth of the myth, its precarious strength in a world without hope, and the simultaneously divine and finite nature of the human being in the cosmic solitude of the universe. The authors chosen are part of a sort of corpus of Portuguese SF and Fantastic, determined empirically by their repeated inclusion in other collections. Manuela Montenegro, Luís Campos, Fernando Saldanha, Hélia, and Natália Correia turn up once again in the editions of Selecções Mistério, published in the eighties, along with texts by Fialho de Almeida and by Teófilo Braga, both recuperated within the tradition of fantastic literature.
The history of SF and the fantastic will once again be implicitly re-written in the eighties, through the magazine Omnia , which, during its short period of existence, devoted an important space to the genre, promoting new writers (João Barreiros, João Paulo Cotrim, José Manuel Morais, Ernesto Rodrigues and Daniel Tércio) and including previously published texts by Romeu de Melo, Mário-Henrique Leiria and Natália Correia, as if stating that this latter group were after all the recognized predecessors. On the other hand, the anthology Side Effects, published in 1997, is dedicated to the memory of the first two writers.
Romeu de Melo appears neither in the histories of literature nor in the literary dictionaries, as if did he in fact not exist. Of greater interest then his first novel, AK. A Tese e o Axioma [AK. The Thesis and the Axiom], published in 1959 in an edition by the author, are his short stories, which, in my view rank alongside the best works which have been published in Portugal. His texts, moving within the world of allegory, pose a question, analyze a problem, and leave the reader in suspense and without an answer. I will highlight the short story Os Anões Cegos [The Blind Dwarfs] , in which a higher species protects a lower one merely to amuse itself with its absurd conversations. In the evil consciousness which periodically attacks the higher people we may note the complex relationship between the exploiter and the exploited, whilst in the blindness of the girofantes, who consider themselves to be great and intelligent, we may find a portrayal of humanity itself. In opposing the world of intellectuals and scientists to that of politicians and the police, Romeu de Melo appears to advocate a sort of spiritualization of mankind, within a political philosophy which seems to be diffuse and ideologically ill-defined, although it appears to be clearly pacifist and is open to a world which holds some promise.
The caustic world of Mário-Henrique Leiria is very different. He translated Brave New World and other SF texts, and published Casos de Direito Galáctico [Cases of Galactic Law], a short masterpiece ignored by official literature. As has been shown by Maria Manuela Pardal Krahler , the texts may be included within the field of surrealist black humor, irony, parody and satire, also functioning as a limit case in the creation of an alternative world which is proper to SF. The narrative is made up of a set of «exemplary cases presented for analysis in the Course of Galactic Law for students of the mixed federation (humanities of the 1st Stellar Agglomerate) in the Regional University of Aldebaran», in an obvious satire on the university system, and which almost always function as a paradox for which the solution is arbitrary and impossible to judge, not only because they present beings which function with eccentric and conflicting paradigms, but also because, as Manuela Pardal states, the referential function of language itself is disturbed . Very rarely has there been a creation in Portuguese literature of such a subversive universe, which not only questions the earthly world but, in a final analysis, questions the very possibility of communication and dialogue which should be inherent to language itself.
In the individual efforts and in the collective works of the sixties and seventies we may see a somewhat incoherent attempt to draw up a territory which has variable frontiers. Indeed, the majority of the texts quoted have more to do with fantastic literature than with science fiction, although here and there we may encounter the presence of a Martian or the description of an alternative universe. Yet, through these choices we may note that there is a tenuous sharing between a fantastic literature which recuperates little known texts by consecrated authors (Ribeiro de Mello’s Antologia) and another one which plunges into the edges, defending a degree of relationship with science fiction, that is, making Portuguese production live side-by-side with international production, as is the case of Terrestres e Estranhos, and of the two volumes of Alguns dos Melhores Contos de Ficção Científica [Some of the best Tales of SF] , organized by Romeu de Melo, which include works by the author himself and the short story «Os filhos de Anaita» [The Children of Anaita], by Natália Correia.
Another distinction may be established. Mainstream writing decisively excludes Romeu de Melo, an author consecrated by Portuguese SF and translated abroad, just as is the case of Strong-Ross (Francisco Valério de Rajanto de Almeida e Azevedo) or Fernando Saldanha. On the other hand, the short stories of Natália Correia transit among genres, whilst the case of Mário-Henrique Leiria appears to be more complex, given that the Casos de Direito Galáctico seems to belong to SF, and are claimed to be such, whilst the publications of theContos do Gin-Tonic [Tales of Gin & Tonic] make him become included within a literature which, if it is not official, is at least officialized.
The difficult legitimizing of a genre: the eighties and the nineties
In 1986, Editorial Caminho publishes a book with 597 pages, written by two Portuguese authors, João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva, entitled Terrarium. Um romance em mosaicos [Terrarium. A Novel written in Mosaics]. In the second post face, João Barreiros states: «It is indeed true, gentlemen, a monstrous SF novel, totally accepting itself as what it is, post-modernist, cyberpunk, with Artificial Intelligences, aliens, Big Dumb Objects, apocalyptic visions of the end of the world, and a pinch of metaphysics which one critic once suggested that no one in their right mind would include here» . It could have been considered as one of the literary events of the year, but it wasn’t: critical reviews were rare and the silence was heavy. In this distortion one may see that which appears to be one of the characteristics of the Portuguese SF of the nineties: the creativity of its authors contrasts with the almost total absence of critical activity, which, with rare exceptions, has been losing ground in the press. And yet, in the case of Terrarium, one can almost understand the critics» terror when faced with a novel which radically breaks away from the Portuguese tradition which might legitimize it, integrating it within a story in which influences are woven and pacts are drawn up.
Terrarium is a magnificent parody of the western imaginary and of some forms of expression particular to the twentieth century: the cinema (with a clear preference for B movies), comic strips, children’s stories popularized on the big screen, TV series and, above all, SF. Pulp magazines live alongside androids by consecrated authors, TV heroes converse with characters from comics. The mainstream is discreetly referred to either by the use of a name (the Kreepo who works in the Fantasia Inn store is called K) or through an ironic quotation, as is the case of a best-seller by someone called Virginia Gordon, entitled Visit to the Radio-Lighthouse. The reader finds it difficult to become lost within the impossible game facing him (that of deciphering all the references one by one) because the novel, divided into five parts, each with its own style, its preferential work, its tone, and its story, preceded by a prologue and finished off by three alternatives, moves at a lightning pace which almost loses sight of its base project.
However, the plurality of stories which are here played out «between the inhabitants of the earth, both human and exotic, between the latter and the Potentates, among the Potentates, and between them and some others and the Ixytils, involving beings which metamorphose voluntarily or against their will» clearly show firm aims and radical criticisms. Firstly, in favour of SF and against any and all types of subjectivity: the theory of art for art’s sake or art as narcissistic self-contemplation is violently subverted when the allegories become literal, as takes place in the third part of the novel. Secondly, against a certain type of SF (the canonical, represented by Bradbury or Asimov) and in favour of another kind, in which we may note the synchrony brought by the cyberpunk movement, in erasing the line which separates life from death or reality from the virtual space.
It would be difficult to state the theme of the novel, as it is impossible to make a summary of it. It is a politically incorrect work: the exotic beings and the earthlings may be necessarily cruel, because nothing seems to be more important than individual life or the survival of the species. There is no room for fine sentiments in a world which reflects a journey to the heart of darkness and in which each being, whether programmed or a victim of outer programming is forced to choose between the minimal possibilities offered to it, when they are offered, because they often have no choice.
If it opted to be a strict definition of SF, that which states that the genre draws up or proposes alternatives bearing in mind current science, this article could almost begin and end here. Due to its monstrous and encyclopaedic nature, due to the project which justifies it and due to the reading which it makes of itself, Terrarium may be read as a challenge and a manifesto, a founding break with a history which still cannot be made.
However, another world may be considered, more modest in its aims, but no less creative, being full of promise and of authors with a notable work. We will leave the pure and hard world of the end-of-century SF in order to enter the field of texts which are difficult to classify, which cross over frontiers or live on the edge of the mainstream.
The eighties witnessed the appearance of the fanzines mentioned in the Bibliography by Álvaro de Sousa Holstein and José Manuel Morais: some were short-lived, and others continued their existence into the nineties, as is the case of Célula Cinzenta [Gray Cell] in which new authors were published and texts from the past have been recuperated. At the same time a space was occupied in the magazine Omnia (from 1988 to 1991), with a project which revealed new authors and old texts, drawing up a new paradigm. And finally, Editorial Caminho publishers created an SF collection, in bright blue and easy to spot in bookshops, which became the preferential vehicle for discovering Portuguese writers.
It is difficult to present an overall view of the vast Portuguese production. I will firstly define the individual histories of the authors.
With five books published, João Aniceto creates a technologically advanced universe which, although located in the future, presents us with the image of our old, tired world and of the old humanist values which might still be able to structure it. With the exception of A Teia [The Web], which seems to mark out a turning point, his novels and short stories, present a beginning and a voyage, depicting an outer adventure which is basically the reflection of man’s confrontation with himself, of that of Good versus Evil, of freedom versus slavery. For example, in Os Caminhos Nunca Acabam [The Pathways never end], a crew leaves in search of another planet and another civilization. The mission never achieves its aim: three characters remain on the planet and the other three returns, being unable to communicate an experience which has altered their behavior and their values. An identical situation is posed in the novel O Desafio [The Challenge], although the issue may appear to be reversed in the sense that it portrays mankind’s confrontation with an almost unsurpassable barrier, which clearly refers to the finite nature of the human. In A Teia, a novel which depicts an authoritarian and technologically advanced society, but which is coming to its end, the figure of the Apocalypse, which had already appeared in previous works, is more clearly presented. The world of the generals, controlled by using androids, is opposed by the world of the heroes of the resistance, with the romantic figure of a couple in love. There is no hope in this universe tormented by pollution and the greenhouse effect, and in this manner the epic and Utopian aspect which characterized João Aniceto’s previous fiction is radically dissipated.
In 1987 the Editorial Caminho SF collection also introduced a new writer, Isabel Cristina Pires. In her Universal Limitada [Universal Limited] she transports us to a world which might be able to be included in the universe of fantastic literature, as it seems to obey the rules of the genre: the construction of a text in which a maternal and day-to-day world is threatened by the breaking out of strange facts. The short narrative describing the impotence of a cleaning lady who is unable to perform her duties because the course of time has been destroyed is an impressive work, as is the case of «A menina feia ou a flor do desejo» [The ugly Girl or the wishing Flower], in which a forgotten dream is realized through the recourse of the world of wonder. In the same year was published a book by Artur Portela, entitled Três Lágrimas Paralelas [Three Parallel Tears], a set of twenty-six narratives which may be situated within the field of the fantastic.
Totally different is the world created by João Botelho da Silva, a writer who tragically died at the age of 27, after having written a novel, Beduínos a Gasóleo [Beduins on Petrol] , Caminho Science Fiction Prize in 1993, and left an anthology of short stories for publication entitled As Horas do Declínio [The Hours of Decline] . The first book describes the struggle between a hunter, Nose Jones, and cars which suddenly behave like living beings, the last survivors of a lost society. This is a literature of anticipation, a tendency which is partially confirmed in the following anthology. In the short story «Cidade dos novelos de cotão» [The City of Fluff], a fascinated elegy of the planet earth, in which two cyborgs meet one of the last representatives of humanity, the narrator seems to condemn technological progress in order to praise a lost civilization (ours). On the contrary the text «Algures na Mongólia» [Somewhere in Mongolia] takes us to a cruel universe which shows that which could be called SF in order to then dive into the fantastic.
Contrary to this, the world of SF is clearly drawn up in the short stories O Caçador de Brinquedos e Outras Histórias [The Toy Hunter and Other Stories] by João Barreiros, a hyper-lucid testimony of a genre which, in his words, «has created the future in countries in which the future exists». It is presented as a «rite of passage» to the coming millennium, and its narratives often deal with the difficult learning process of adolescence, caught within the desire to plunge into the world of the child (which is the world of commercialized dolls, one should note) and the violence demanded by the struggle for survival, establishing an imaginary universe of its own, which is coherently articulated around the scientific discoveries on which it is based.
Which the novel A GalxMente I & II [The GalxMind] , published in two volumes by Luís Filipe Silva, who is also the author of O Futuro à Janela [The Future at the Window], an anthology of short stories, we are plunged into the world of virtual reality which, after all, we already inhabit, in order to then slowly return to the human world, which discreetly seems to be valorized in its condition as finite and infinite, ephemeral and immortal. Its reflection upon art and on the artist is central to this novel, which may be analyzed as the illustration of a dual question: is it necessary to suffer in order to create; is it not true that those who enjoy artistic creations are not, themselves, deriving parasitic pleasure from the suffering of others? Curiously, although it is presented in a different manner, the problem of knowing what poetry is and of what are the criteria for its assessment appear to be central in the novel A Fraude [Fraud], by Rui Miguel Saramago .
Mixing SF with fantastic literature, António de Macedo presents us with a strange and disturbing world, in which irony is always present. In the work O Limite de Rudzky[Rudzky’s Limit] , made up of three short stories, we firstly see a world in which science is suddenly upset and undone in order to give way to the appearance of beings which until then had lived in ethereal or infernal regions. In this first story the reaction to the appearance of the divine becomes a satire on a well-known present-day institution, as if time had nothing to teach, at least to certain societies. The other two narratives, which are impressive due to their strangeness and poetic beauty, are closer to fantastic literature, as is also the case of the Contos do Androthélys [Tales of the Androthelys] , 1993. AfterSulphira & Lucyphur , in which a realistic description of Portugal at the end of the nineteenth century clashes with another dimension which goes beyond it, António de Macedo gave us a magnificent novel entitled A Sonata de Cristal [The Crystal Sonata] . Its imaginary world, now centered on the artist, on the scientist, and on the fabulous mediating and impassioned female characters, reflects upon the relationships which may be woven between music and life. There is a surprising choice made in the name of love and not that of the sterile celebration of art for art’s sake, the magical power of which is, however, never shown to be questioned, and also surprising is the transfiguring which the real world sees itself going through when it is affected by the strangeness of a different reality. In the fantastic universe of António de Macedo, the real world merely provides a set of signs which can only be deciphered with a key coming from another universe, to which only a few people have access. Thus the reading of his works becomes an initiating process in which the reader seeks out the occult truth hidden behind the story.
Some of the authors mentioned here have taken the care to locate their fictions in Portugal, expressing a sort of distanced criticism. This is the case of Maria de Menezes, the author ofTrês Histórias com Final Feliz [Three Stories with a Happy Ending] , 1993, which ironically and incisively subverts the genre which they parody, yet paradoxically include some benevolence. In the two last short stories the description of Portuguese reality comes together with the irruption of a strange element which ends up being integrated due to the fact that the characters are flexible in their blindness: Elias the guard ends up by not fining an alien spaceship, Mrs. Etelvina and Mr. Antunes manage to domesticate a vampire, as if the country and society had the gift of taming the strangeness within a familiar and day-to-day life.
Ana Godinho’s alternative universe is very different. In Artiauri she presents us with a world populated by strange beings, with their own codes, rituals and founding myths which, through their magical beauty, hark back more to the world of the wonderful than to the SF which is their starting point.
Finally, it remains to highlight the work of Daniel Tércio, the development of which from 1984 to 1998 may document, in a certain manner, the transformation of the genre itself in Portugal. His first book, A Vocação do Círculo [The Circles’s Vocation] , tells us the story of a character who is suddenly transported, firstly to an alternative Lisbon, in which Portugal is a part of the Iberian Federation and King Philip II is a national hero, and then to Olissipo, a city in which there still echoes the nightmare of a type of Inquisition. Lyricism comes together with irony, creating a universe which we recognize in its difference and its strangeness. His capacity to make Portuguese reality the object of an intelligent game with the reader appears again in the short story collection O Demónio de Maxwell [Maxwell’s Demon] , in which there is for example, in the title story, a portrayal of the meeting between a door-to-door shoe salesman with a male (and female) alien. His reflection upon time and history may perhaps be the justification for his latest work, Pedra de Lúcifer [Lucifer’s Stone], a violent exercise on an alternative world, which takes on the darkest side of the western world. Subversion appears at the end, when the reader understands that one of the aims of the novel may be that of its own deconstruction.
An anthology fulfils a project and allows a reading which it usually legitimizes in a justification through a preface. This is the case of O Atlântico Tem Duas Margens [The Atlantic has two Shores] by José Manuel Morais, a collection of thirteen short stories and a poem, published, once again, in the Editorial Caminho’s SF collection in 1993. In a contrast with Portuguese pessimism, the tone appears to be almost euphoric: «The fact that science fiction in Portuguese has produced enough authors and works to fill an average sized volume might be surprising to some people, but the reality is precisely this» . Portuguese and Brazilian authors appear side by side in a work of over two hundred pages, showing an exchange of experiences and an intertextual dialogue which apparently does not exist in other fields. As José Manuel Morais stresses, «the authors have very little in common in themes and styles». Yet it may be possible to draw up territories and to define some main lines. The first separation is made by the editor, who points out that some of the texts belong to SF and others to fantastic literature, noting that it is not possible to theorize on a genre through the narratives (and the poem) here included. One notices, however, a sort of insistence on that which could be termed political fiction. The ferocious vision of a normalized and racist Portugal, given to us by José de Barros »” an author about whom one may know nothing »”, may be linked to the denunciation of contemporary Brazil which transpires in the short story by Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, an alternative history, and the fiction by Ivanir Calado, which brings us the not always happy union between power and organized crime. Equally critical, despite the note which accompanies it, is the fiction by Roberto de Sousa Causo, a Brazilian writer, who portrays the somewhat less pacific efforts of the peace-keeping forces. In a similar manner, Luís Filipe Silva’s economic fiction is a serious warning as to western cultural centralism.
In «A Capilomante» [The Hair-Diviner], José Carlos Neves provides us with a first person narrative in which daily life is transformed through a moment of magic, whilst Finisia Fideli seems to tell us that not all desires should be satisfied. José Luís Calife’s «A Sonhadora» [The Dreamer] is a nine year old girl who traces out shipping routes and deviates them from their point of arrival when the dream finds its own path. The difficult world of adolescence is expressed in the short story by João de Mancellos, the author of Veleiros do Tempo Cósmico [The Ships of the Cosmic Time], published in 1988 by Edições Vega, and in the disturbing fiction by José Manuel Morais, the author of several short stories, in which the commanding figure of Jorge Luis Borges may often be noticed. In a strange narrative, Manuel F. S. Patrocínio presents us with a world in which nothing is known besides that which is told, besides a maxim which seems to play with the narrator’s ignorance.
Some of the texts even propose a reflection upon the genres in which they work. This is the case of the fiction by Daniel Tércio, which gives us an allegory of the fantastic itself, in describing how a self can discover itself, in its strangeness, through the drawings which it itself produces or through the vision of a figure standing out in a window. The final sentence («And I draw myself, alien, on the page») could well be the epigraph for the enigmatic poems by João Paulo Cotrim, written by someone who does not seem to move within our paradigms. On the contrary, João Barreiros presents us with a reflection on SF itself, in contrasting two narratives (The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and Martian Fantasy by Ray Bradbury, with the latter being fictitious and ironic), which represent two alternatives which come together and suddenly annul each other, with each of them ending up functioning as a form of resistance to the other, although in different manners.
Some of these authors (José Manuel Morais, Daniel Tércio, João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva) will be included, along with António de Macedo, Maria de Menezes and David Alan Prescott, in the anthology Non-Events on the Edge of the Empire , which is the result of the First Encounters of Science Fiction and Fantasy.On the Edge of the Empire, organized by the Cascais Town Council Department of Culture. The tone of the introduction by José Jorge Letria is that of a counter-attack: «Literature of the fantastic and science fiction: a damned brotherhood in a country whose literary institutions have yet to get used to dealing with difference, with heterodoxy, with transgression. A damned brotherhood, which joyfully forms a common front in this Edge of the Empire Here to stay» . And so it was. In 1997 the project is extended to internationally renowned authors (Joe Haldeman), it has the presence of Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, and once again includes David Alan Prescott, who thus may be included within Portuguese production. The second anthology Side Effects is the first official publication by SIMETRIA, Portuguese Association of Science Fiction and the Fantastic, «whose goal is to promote the efforts of Portuguese writers and fans». Besides a more lucid and clearer awareness of the problems of the genre, the existence of a group will surreptitiously draw up a series of tendencies. We once again find João Barreiros’ fascination for the violence hidden behind the childish and childlike universe of the consumer society, Luís Filipe Silva’s concern for the perversion brought by virtual reality and the irony, this time more violent, of Maria de Menezes, here about the excesses which the so-called new pedagogies may lead to, whilst both António de Macedo and Daniel Tércio himself seem to be moving progressively towards the universe of SF. David Alan Prescott, who in the previous anthology had written an ironic and subtle short story in the first person, in the form of a diary in which a sort of progressive madness emerges, here writes a fantastic narrative in which he portrays, with distance, the reality of the Portuguese university. José Xavier Ezequiel, a new author, presents us with a narrative which shows the violence of an exterminator, in a universe which reminds one of João Barreiros. The short story by Helena Coelho, who won the Fiction Prize since established by Simetria, is very different, and describes the confrontation between two worlds whose rules are tragically incompatible.
In analyzing the joint production of the authors mentioned and the anthologies studied, we may once again note the diversity of the options, of the genres, of the themes and of the styles, which does not prevent one from noticing a sort of convergence. Firstly, a certain type of irony runs through almost all of these texts, whether cruel or playful, as if the marginal situation of SF and F allowed a type of lucidity and distance. Parody, a «repetition with critical distance», according to Linda Hutcheon, is also a process favored by many writers, who use it not only to show the models they use and the paradigms governing them, but above all to subvert them in a creative manner. Thirdly, crossing over into parody, there is a concern for Portuguese reality, as if at times there were an obsessive desire to nationalize SF itself. Finally, there is a slight tendency, perhaps more Brazilian than Portuguese, to create political fictions, of which EuroNovela [EuroNovel], the recently published novel by Miguel de Almeida is an example.
The history of SF (& F) draws out a territory, defended vehemently by some, like João Barreiros, or in a surreptitious manner by others who ignore the distinctions between genres or play with them in a distant and ironic way. But whatever are the paradigms governing them, all of the authors have to do with that which Literature has always been, not as a normative institution, ruled by the critics and the school, but simply as a set of the production of those which constantly subvert it: a shifting terrain, with oscillating frontiers and wide edges, which offers, between the joy of a promise or the terror of a threat, a world which insistently represents its own alternative.
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