As I mentioned on Twitter, I struggle a little bit to relate with the average Science Fiction enthusiast who had their upbringing in an Anglo-Saxon social context. In a certain way this is just me coming with terms with my Brazilian mutt complex, but also trying to identify positive elements in my non-linear trajectory. Overall I believe I faced not a lack of appropriate stimuli (even though it can appear that way sometimes) and more exposition to an array of sensibilities that engaged me in less conventional interests related to science fiction.
I spent the first 10 years of my life in Brazil, more precisely in the city of Goiânia, which used to be a cultural black hole during the 80s and the first half of the 90s. I was lucky to have been raised in a middle-class household with a father that was a journalist and encouraged me to read lots of fiction. I can’t say the same about my mother, who is an anthropology professor and doesn’t read a lot outside her field, although I remember when I asked to her once, when I was 6 or 7, what was the difference between the Incas and the Aztecs, what lead to me spending hours seated next to her while she showed me pictures of the two civilizations now ruined citadels and explained their History and cultural traits to me.
Until I was 10, most of the fiction books I read were affiliated to Brazilian literature. When it’s up to Science Fiction and Fantasy, I’m afraid that my first major influence turned out to be Monteiro Lobato, a prolific Brazilian writer who is more known for the The Yellow Woodpecker Farm fantasy children novels and less known for his racism and enthusiasm for eugenics (which were very explicit in his adult stories and novels but only coded in his children novels).
I loved Monteiro Lobato’s books, I read and re-read all the Yellow Woodpecker Farm novels to the point that the pages started falling apart. The whimsical aspects of Monteiro Lobato novels were engaging and thrilling, giving me an escapist outlet. I won’t enter in details about plots and themes since anyone curious might google about it (and its many problematic aspects), but there’s a rough summary: the main characters were Pedrinho and Narizinho, two cousins who spent their holidays in their grandmother Dona Benta’s ranch where, after Narizinho’s raggedy doll Emilia became alive (stealing the spotlight from Narizinho, as she became the de facto main character of the saga), they went through all kinds of fantastic adventures that included space and time travel.
My memories of those years are a little blurry, but I assume that my obsession with Monteiro Lobato’s children books was due to two factors: the fact that my parent’s personal library contained mostly adult material and the lack of a decent public library in my hometown of Goiânia (at least during these years). Beyond Monteiro Lobato, I remember when my dad brought some Choose your Own Adventure books after a trip to São Paulo (Brazil’s largest city, which had good bookstores), as well as what I assume were every single Steven Jackson gamebook that had been translated to Portuguese at that point. I used to play the latter with my sister, by the rules. We even used dice!
When I turned 10 my family moved to France where I discovered a new world of awesome public libraries. That’s where my “awakening” happened, and I will discuss that in my next post on this blog.