Side Effects

A Lifetime of Science Fiction

Not to be
Today begins the European convention, EUROCON, at Copenhagen, and sadly I won't be able to attend.

It's going to last until Sunday. Not only would that be a phenomenal opportunity to meet people from European sf and get to know that city, but I'm also particularly interest this year because I've submitted a story to the European contest (a maximum-2000 words ultra condensed short short, which surprisingly took me more time to write than a longer story usually does) and I'm supposed to have another story included in the convention anthology, Creatures of Glass and Light, representing Portuguese SF. Let's see how it goes (the competition is tough, and honestly what I'm really hoping is to have a chance to enter the "best of" contest anthology they said they might publish afterwards).

I'll leave you the cover for the latter. It has this year's Hugo winner for best novelette, "The Djinn's Wife".

I'll try to find a blog that covers the event live (oh, the wonders of internet).

Helpful advice for writers... or not
Thankfully I've never had this kind of experience. It's usually the "you might wanna make a story out of this" kind of well-meant helpfulness.

What about you? Any ghastly encounter with a connoisseur, agent, editor?

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That's one kind of it
British scientists are concerned about the use of vocal simulation tools for dangerous ends.

But if you go further ahead in that line of thought, mass induced hysteria through semiotics (probably helped by chemical agents in the water supply) can also have devastating results.

A decade ago I tackled the issue in a short piece I called "The Rodney King Global Mass Media Artwork" (you can read it here).  I found my inspiration in the early 90s LA upheavals, but didn't consider back then that it could be used as a global weapon.

That's a lesson every SF writer ends up learning: reality will catch up with you and bite you where it hurts...

C'est arrivé près de chez vous [Dream Bites Man]
If you live in Portugal, you might be interested to know that FICÇÕES CIENTÍFICAS E FANTÁSTICAS, a recently published anthology of short SF stories, will be distributed in the newsstands and sold along with the newspaper PÚBLICO on the 21st of September.

It displays 9 stories by different and well-known authors - Rui Zink, Luísa Costa Gomes, João Barreiros, David Soares, etc. - mostly original work (mine is).

My story in it is called A VIDA DA MINHA HISTÓRIA, that simply means The Life of My Story, and it's all about the power of dreams coming true and how that will change your life - for real, and not necessarily for better.

I call it a bedtime cautionary tale for grownups...

Well worth a look, if I may say so... :)


Publicación means Publication
And that's because we're talking about the fabulous Spanish fanzine Alfa Eridani, a professionally-designed, content-heavy free online ezine made by a number of volunteers that is helping Spanish Science Fiction & Fantasy move along difficult, non-commercial tracks. And that's because in its latest issue my flash fiction «Voluntad de No Querer» (Wanting Not to Want) has just been published - again, before it has been officially published in Portugal/Portuguese (though you can find an earlier version at my Fiction Notebook blog).

No English translation yet, I'm sorry to say - that's something I have to do as soon as I get some free time.


Life as a Zombie
A heartfelt and honest account. It take guts for this person to come out and show it, considering that he probably has no real guts left, poor man. It's all here...

By the way, should zombies have such great teeth?..


For readers of Portuguese, mainly

Almost two decades after its publication and of its absence from bookstores, I've finally decided (after following the debate in other blogs and seeing the response to the Technopeasant Day - google if you haven't heard about it) to scan the pages of my first book (I've written it all in a manual typewriter - yes, I'm that old and I was that young and energetic then), to make a PDF out of it and to place it in the web to be downloaded.

Results so far? Less than a week has gone by and after posting the news on half a dozen Portuguese websites I'm over 100 downloads - I'm now moving on to English and Spanish websites, trying to find readers of Portuguese or emigrants. I know from experience that Portugal is a kind of internet black hole. Most writers don't like it, are afraid of it, and for anybody working abroad it's very difficult to even order a Portuguese book, to know what's hot and what's not - we needed an Amazon, and even if we do have a Fnac, their online presence is not content oriented.

So why not, thought I, get into the spirit of things and make myself googlebe? Whenever I try to read a story or get to know a non-English-language author, I never find anything. Italians, Spanish, French - their material is unavailable, out of print, difficult to reach. I'm not talking about full length novels - just short stories. Just snippets to make yourselves known.

So here it is, along with a small flash presentation. It's in Portuguese, though. Not that difficult a language to learn, I've been told... (hint, hint :)

Jeff VanderMeer in Europe
Jeff VanderMeer's place in the web has gone through a change, and has now become one of the best examples of what an author website should be: beautiful, easy-to-read and very personal (a trio that don't always hang out together in this virtual landscape). Jeff is a very entrepeneurial person, energetic, full of projects, and widely creative. I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife Ann last year in Portugal, on occasion of their travel through Europe and the publication in Portuguese of «The Transformation of Martin Lake», a story set in Ambergris, the exquisite city that has been haunting most of his latest fiction. I urge you to read him, if you haven't done it yet. Ambergris is a very different place from what you've experienced, not quite surreal but also not quite absolute, like something you might be familiar to you but in which you don't feel entirely at ease because of all the bizarre happenings taking place, all of which make sense in the mindscape of the city; it's perhaps an Aleph (a place made of other places, a canvas for stories that is always shifting and making the stories change as they're told), or it might just be the land that stands before your eyes in that second when the dream ends and just before you fully wake up. In any case, please do step in and read CITY OF SAINTS & MADMEN.

Jeff also has some interesting opinions on his experience of Europe and its several local science fiction markets, in an article published in Locus early this year that he has just now made available online. This is what he had to say about Portugal:

Take, for example, the Portuguese market for genre fiction, which is tiny-a print run of 1,500 would be average. We were, half jokingly, half seriously, introduced to Portugal’s “SF writers” (João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva) and “only Horror writer” (the incomparable David Soares, who also creates graphic novels). Half-jokingly in that these writers represented perhaps the majority of successfully published homegrown Portuguese SF and horror writers (many more are struggling to achieve publication).

In Portugal, the terms “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy” are often seen as a detriment to sales, and the most common result is the attempt to disguise SF/F as something else-and then compare it to Borges, who is wildly popular in Portugal. This is certainly the tact taken with my own collection from Livros de Areia, one of the smaller presses (despite having published Eduardo Galeano, Jerzy Kosinski, and other well-known writers).

Problems of publishing genre in Portugal also include the sudden collapse of the SF/F infrastructure in Portugal about a decade ago and, at least according to some writers I talked to, that only three decades have passed since the overthrow of an authoritarian dictatorship in a military coup (not to mention, an educational system that is still in severe disarray).

This sense of history still impinging on the literature of the present became a recurring theme, especially in places like the Czech Republic, Romania, and Germany. Events like the fall of Communism might seem as if they happened long ago, but it has only been a generation or so, and that’s not long enough for the wounds to have healed or some societies to have completely recovered from the harm done to them.

However, there’s a difference between a lack of institutional support and the full-on passion and effort of individuals, and there are many committed people in the current SF/F scene. In addition to the efforts of Joao Seixas and Pedro Marques from Livros, Luís Corte Real’s commitment to his publishing house Saída de Emergência has resulted in several exciting projects, like the translation of Alan Moore’s novel into Portuguese. Another activist in the scene is the translator and editor Luis Rodrigues, the man largely responsible for the dialogue between Portuguese SF/F and the English-speaking world through his Fantastic Metropolis website and corresponding anthology, Breaking Windows.

Rodrigues bemoans what he calls a vicious cycle: “Everything is done on the cheap, due to the flimsiness of the market and also because most publishers don’t take SF/F seriously enough themselves. So they take the cheapest books and translators they can find (usually translation students or people with no training at all), which only keeps readers from investing in Portuguese genre editions. Things are either done for the love and with some sacrifice, or done poorly, and you can’t reach critical mass with bad books or butchered classics….We have a long, long road ahead of us.”

This may be true, but my perception of the Portuguese SF/F scene was rather less jaded: I saw many pragmatic people working very hard for the fiction they love to read and write.

The World is at an End - first report

    This will be the first of my postings regarding this awful day. A lot has happened since daybreak, and a lot is going to happen, I'm sure, before this day is done. It's getting harder to get into the internet or make phone calls. Communications are breaking up all the time. I just wanted to assure everybody that knows me that I'm ok, so far. I'm home, they haven't got into my neighborhood yet. New developments have been reveled, most of them very surprising.

    I admit that at first I didn't link the growing noise of honking and shouting with any bizarre incident, even though it is a city holiday and the streets were supposedly quiet this early in the morning. I didn't want anything to disturb our breakfast with the nice but distant German representatives, not only for my sake but largely because our continuing dead-end attempts on getting the business out of the ground was starting to affect my business associate very noticeably. I admit I was ready to go back to the employment websites and look for something else, but he won't accept failure and that's why he was behaving like a drowning man in high seas. He even held the senior German's arm when the man tried to get up and find out why everybody in the bar had moved to the windows and were gazing in disbelief. I told my friend to take it easy, but he just stood up and went to the waiter to get another espresso. I realized then that the noise hadn't subsided, in fact it was increasing. And everybody was making comments in several languages that expressed chock and surprise. I managed to get into a spot besides my clients-to-be.

    The panoramic bar at the top of the Sheraton Hotel provides a wonderful view of Lisbon. From this high place one can see the hill of Amoreiras, the central Park, the street towards Rato, the beginning of the Avenue of Liberdade, the Marquês roundabout, and a whole sea of rooftops and structures, as far as the eye can see. The high buildings hide most of the streets at ground level, which in another day wouldn't matter, because the eye is supposed to gaze into the horizon. I don't know if the place is still open or what its new function will be, since it's now at the heart of the occupied zone, it now belongs to them. It has always been for me a place to relax, seduce, do business, and in the end, a symbol of the passing from the old to the new world. Because that's where I saw them for the first time.

    I thought they were protesters. Or some publicity stunt. Or some event on occasion of the City Festival. Or supporters of some politician for the upcoming elections. Or soccer fans. Or all of those things happening at once on account of some unique coincidence of schedules. But it was stranger than that. They were coming down the Park and the streets at a slow and unsteady pacing, as if they had trouble walking straight. Heads were tilted to the side, the arms and legs moved in jolts. But they were so many that they seemed to flow like a river. They marched into the roads without stopping, forcing the traffic to halt and cars sometimes to crash into another. I saw some of them being hit by a blue Mercedes. I saw the driver step out of the car and bend over the victims. I saw him become surrounded by others, all of a sudden, who dropped him into the ground and were upon him mercilessly. I saw his arms go up asking for help. I saw most people frozen in place, watching them, screaming with all their might, silent because of the distance. I saw some of this bystanders get attacked as well. I saw a couple of young men run with sticks or poles in their hands and try to help the fallen man. I saw how easily they also fell under the growing attack. Even though they walked slowly, those things moved quite fast when preying. They did that to a group that hadn't run, to a girl at the roundabout, to the newspaper street vendors.

    There so many of those things attacking each person that I couldn't understand what was happening, even if I knew it wasn't a good thing. But the sheer horror made me keep looking, as if not knowing the outcome made it worse. Finally a group broke apart, the assaulters taking things in their arms and by their mouths that I simply couldn't, wanted not, name.

    Somebody else at the bar said it for all of us: They ate him!

    And the room was dead silent.

    Is this for fucking real?, asked the younger German. My partner, taking the cue, started to explain that it was probably some movie shooting sequence, or some street performance, and that we had go get back to the negotiations. But the lift beeped, then, and a British lady came forth, waving her hands in the air and running towards a man in the other side of the bar, possibly her husband. She was shrieking and shaking like nobody I had ever seen outside of theater.

    It was awful, James. It was so awful! They were coming after me! They killed a child! I ran here but they're coming, they're coming!

    That did it, of course. Everybody was moving towards the door a second later, or trying to get down the stairs. The staff tried to calm them down, but even they were shit-scared and were not going to be able to convince anybody otherwise. My friend was of course only troubled by the prospect of another contract down the drain. He didn't run to the exit. The last I saw him (before he called me an hour ago) he was pouring a glass of whiskey for himself in the empty bar stool.

    I was going down the stairs in a hurried but careful pace (it's over 30 floors to get to the ground) when my cell rang.
    It was Mariana. She seemed anguished. My heart stopped.

    Are you ok, darling? Are you ok? Are you ok?, I could say nothing else.

    Have you heard the news? Do you know what's happening?

    I figured then that no, I had no idea what was really happening.

    Are we at war?, I chanced. Are we being invaded?

    Luís, they're saying in the tv that it's the dead.

    Which dead? When?

    The dead people. All the dead people. I don't know anything else. But they're coming back to life. Baby, we are being attacked by zombies. And it's happening all over the world!

    Someone's knocking at my door now. It must be my business associate, he said he wanted to see me. He had some good news about this. I hope so. We have to fight back. I have to go now but I'll be back with more info. I've tried to look up other bloggers in Portugal but there are no others, so far. Read this, and thisand this, stories of survival. They might help you.

This surely merited an earlier posting but duty took hold of me and only now am I able to let you know about a recent web publication of one of my short stories («Apêndice para Obra Desconhecida», a Ballardian take on the power of global communications) in Axxón, an Argentinian e-zine of old that has already brought to light a lot of international authors. It's obviously in Spanish (Castillian), so if you read the language you can find it here. A Portuguese version is also available (though only until publication in a print zine) here. And finally a plain translation in English can be found here at Myspace (in four parts). Will we ever achieve the instantaneous translator that might preclude us from rewriting the same stuff in several languages?...


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