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Fabio Fernandes

Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer: Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, when I was finishing the Part 1 of this article/review, I was talking to a student of mine at my Worldbuilding class at the university about how much I hate the Hero’s Journey. Really. To bits.

Naturally, that was a provocation of sorts: the reason I complain has more to do with the way everyone seems to overvalue and overuse this scheme, especially in films. Naturally, there are plenty of positive examples of the structure being used quite effectively, particularly in fantasy. The Lord of the Rings is one of the most mentioned, of course—but The Book of the New Sun tetralogy is one the most successful cases of the Hero’s Journey, IMHO, even if it doesn’t exactly fit the bill—and maybe just because that this series deserved much better recognition. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer: Part 1

In pre-Internet times, it was hard for everyone who didn’t live in an English-speaking country to buy science fiction and fantasy made in the US or in the UK. It was far from impossible, but very often it wasn’t feasible: we had to send letters (yes!—paper ones, mind you) to bookstores, but the whole operation would only be interesting money-wise if we gathered in a four- or five-person group to buy, say, two or three dozen books. And I’m talking about used books, of course. Most of my English-language books during the Eighties and Nineties were acquired this way, including Neuromancer (but that is another story, as the narrator in Conan the Barbarian would say), in the notorious A Change of Hobbit bookstore, in California.

Some of them, however, I borrowed from friends who had been doing pretty much the same, or buying the occasional volume in one of the two bookstores in Rio that carried imported books. One of these friends I’d met in a course on translation—Pedro Ribeiro was an avid reader, as I was, but his interests tended more to the Fantasy side. He introduced me to many interesting writers, such as David Zindell (who remains to this day one of my favorite authors), and, naturally, Gene Wolfe.

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

The Devil in a Forest: Exploring the Evil That Lurks in the Hearts of All Men

I could begin this particular article on a metalinguistic key, telling of the coincidence that occurred just the other day, when I had just finished this book and suddenly heard the song “A Forest” playing in a bar. But this would be stretching the truth a little bit, and, even though Gene Wolfe had said in an interview that no narrator is reliable, after all, I’d rather tell the truth: I’m writing this article listening to King Crimson instead of The Cure.

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

Peace: Wolfe’s Masterful Rumination on Nostalgia, Memory, and Uncertainty

If Gene Wolfe is oftentimes a writer hard to decipher, there is nothing unclear or equivocal about his allegiance to the genre. He is first and foremost a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and in this he was always straightforward.

But there are a few cases in his body of work when the reader is not that sure of what genre (if any) a particular narrative is part of. That seems the case with Peace.

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Wolfe’s Holy Trinity

The first novel by Gene Wolfe that received acclaim from critics and fans (you’ll recall, per the introduction, that Operation Ares isn’t going to be covered in this reread) is, as almost everything related to this author, significant—by the fact that it’s not quite a novel. As in one of the mysteries of the Catholic faith, it’s a trinity that is one; in literary parlance, a mosaic: three interlinked novellas, telling different aspects of the same story.

Which story is this? This is never a simple question when reading Gene Wolfe. He doesn’t make it any easier for the reader—nor should he. Wolfe’s stories are labyrinths, and one should be very careful to enter them. As with any book, in fact, but in Wolfe’s case one tends to get lost in trying to understand things too clearly.

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

Introducing the Gene Wolfe Reread on The Reader in the Mist

How did I initially encounter Gene Wolfe’s work? When was the first time I heard his name?

I can’t remember exactly. Memory fails. It’s like a mist shrouding my eyes. It doesn’t help that I lost my only pair of glasses a few months ago and couldn’t afford a new one until last week, so this mist is not just a metaphor. The tribute to this Grand Master is quite fitting, I’m afraid.

But, if I could venture a guess, how then?

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Series: Rereading Gene Wolfe

Steampunk Appreciations: Steampunk by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

The VanderMeers’ first Steampunk anthology (2008), can already be considered a classic, for the quality mix of the stories and non-fiction articles. The introduction by Jess Nevins, explains, “The 19th century roots of steampunk”—it’s a real treat, for it offers an extensive research on the origins of the steam-driven fiction writing. An important thing to readers who still don’t know what exactly is steampunk is: Nevins establishes the difference between the All-American Edisonade and the British Steampunk, clarifying things already in the beginning.

[The stories featured in Steampunk]

Series: Steampunk Week

Bruno Accioly: Creator of the Brazilian Conselho Steampunk

If there is an established fact on the Brazilian fandom, is this: there was never a force so strong, all-encompassing as steampunk in our shores. The flamboyant army of corsets-and-goggles with their mindboggling variety of steam-powered infernal devices has definitely conquered the hearts and minds of the Brazilian fans and writers. After almost four years of activity, Brazilian steampunk can’t be considered just a fad anymore. We’re not in Kansas, Dorothy: we are in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and several other big tropical cities which probably you’ve never heard of—but you will.

In the interview below, Bruno Accioly, one of the masterminds of the Brazilian steampunk movement as well as one of its Founding Fathers, spills the beans (or should we say the cogs?) on the steampunk Lodges (a thing that attracted the attention of a big name of the trade, the former cyberpunk Bruce Sterling, who wrote about them in Wired Magazine) and interesting plans for the near future. There are big things in store for steampunk in Brazil—and in the world.

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Series: Steampunk Week

A Clockwork Orange: Brave Weird World

Okay, all of you read A Clockwork Orange (or at least watched Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation), so I won’t be boring you with a review here. If you haven’t done any of the above, out out out out out, you dobby chellovecks. Go read the book then return. This here is the story behind the writing of Anthony Burgess’s classic novel — which is in itself the stuff stories are made of.

An ex-British Army officer by the end of World War II and a teacher of English Literature, Burgess joined the British Colonial Service as a teacher and education officer in Malaya in 1954. (This experience would lead him to become a writer, first, as he said, “as a sort of gentlemanly hobby, because I knew there wasn’t any money in it,” and to publish his first novels, Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket and Beds in the East.)

However, Burgess was sent back to England and released from the Colonial Office in 1959, after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The doctors told him he didn’t have much more than a year to live.

[Burgess’ fate and that of the orange]

Series: Dystopia Week

Review: Vaporpunk: Relatos Steampunk Publicados Sob As Ordens De Suas Majestades

Over the course of the Fortnight, I’ve talked a bit about the growth of steampunk activity in Brazil. This extends to the publishing sphere, with authors publishing several stories of the Gilded Age in online venues, and two theme-oriented anthologies in less than two years—a record for the Brazilian market.

The second steampunk anthology to be published in Brazil is called Vaporpunk: Relatos Steampunk Publicados Sob As Ordens De Suas Majestades (Vaporpunk: Steampunk Reports Published Under the Orders of His Majesties), published by Editora Draco. In a way, it’s a complementary anthology to Steampunk: Histórias de Um Passado Extraordinário, a review of which you can find here.

[Explanations right after the cut]

Series: Steampunk Fortnight

Review: Steampunk: Historias de um Passado Extraordinario

Since 2008, it seems that Brazilian science fiction has finally began to keep up to speed with what’s being written in the Anglo-American sphere of science fiction and fantasy. Blame it on steampunk: the apparent fad became a lifestyle for a big chunk of the Brazilian fandom, and most of the newcomers are first of all hardcore steamers.

Brazilian writers and publishing houses weren’t blind to this trend, in spite of all that steam: they adapted. The first case is Tarja Editorial’s Steampunk: Histórias de um Passado Extraordinário (Steampunk: Stories from an Extraordinary Past), which was published last year and is close to a third printing. Officially considered the first Brazilian steampunk anthology, this book contains nine short stories from writers old and new to the genre in Brazil. The result, though irregular, is very interesting.

[More after the cut…]

Series: Steampunk Fortnight

From Brazil With Steam

Go ahead, ask them: in the country of Carnival, geeks, nerds, and science fiction buffs are usually not different from what you would find in, say, U.S., Canada, Australia, or the U.K. They’d rather be reading a good book or watching a TV series marathon than getting dressed in costumes and having fun with samba in the streets, for instance. But is samba so far removed from science fiction these days? Maybe not: in February 2009, a well-known samba school from Rio, the União da Ilha do Governador, chose as its theme the wonderful world of Jules Verne!


[More photos and commentary below the cut]

Series: Steampunk Fortnight

The Translation Lag

I recently wrote a guest post for Lavie Tidhar at the World SF News Blog. It was initially intended to be a shameless pimping of my newly-released novel Os Dias da Peste. Not that it would be a huge, fit-for-the-Hugo pimping—the novel was being published only in Brazil, alas, and in Portuguese.

But as soon as it was out, a few friends of mine from the US and Europe asked me when it would be going to be published in English. The short version of the answer is that I don’t know, but I wouldn’t count on it. But why?, they asked me. That was when I decided to shift the focus of the World SF post and explain my opinion better—for that’s what it is, my opinion, not a decision written in stone.

Basically, the post still was about Os Dias da Peste, but I ended up writing more about the challenge posed to Brazilian writers every time they try to keep up to date with their Anglo counterparts. Several explanations have already been offered for this over the years, but there is only one that really fits the bill: the lack of translations of recent Anglo-American SF novels in Brazil.

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Found in Translation

Consider the famous Italian adage “traduttore, traditore”—literally, translator, traitor. Maybe this untranslatability angst is one of the things that best defines the work of the translator. More often than not, translators are worried about failure, about things getting lost in translation.

A corollary to the saying above is that the true measure of a translation is its degree of invisibility: it is good as long as it is not perceived. The translated narrative must be as perfectly readable and enjoyable as if that were the original language. If the reader notices something is wrong in the text, she will most likely blame the translator rather than the author.

In 2003, I was invited by a Brazilian publishing house to do a new translation of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. This classic novel had already been translated to Brazilian Portuguese in the early 1970s, and it was a prime quality job, done by an award-winning translator, Nelson Dantas. But, after thirty years, even the finest translations can become outdated. They are still good and readable, but they lose their edge, their élan, their vitality.

In A Clockwork Orange‘s case, the earlier translation was fruit of the zeitgeist of the seventies: the slang was different then, the phrasal constructions and the kind of neologisms of one’s choice. (Agglutinations were all the rage then—portmanteau words sound wonderful in Portuguese.) Now, however, a second reading of that translation proved a weird experience to me—weird in a bad way.

[Peel more oranges…]

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