The Non-Linear path to become a Science Fiction aficionado when you are born in a 3rd World Country (part 2)

In 1993 I was 10 years old and my family moved to Strasbourg, France, as my mom had dreams of obtaining her PhD outside Brazil. My mom had first prepared herself to do that in Upstate New York, even spending three months there learning English back in the late 80s, but my dad was not exactly an Americanophile and vetoed any plan to move to the US (although, in his case, might be also a lack of willingness to leave his life in Brazil for a few years). When my mom applied and obtained the scholarships that could fund our stay in France, there is not much that my dad could argue against the move. François Mitterrand was a socialist, after all…

Goiânia

I know it’s corny, but I feel compelled to describe those two years of my life as magic, although the expression cultural shock would be more accurate (in its best meaning) would be more appropriate. There was so much to discover as a tween who was raised in such a backwards place like the state of Goiás back in the late 80s and early 90s when you land in a reality that values culture and intellectuality. In Goiânia, a city over 1 million persons back then, we only had one major theater. Quality children plays would come over only when there was some theater company touring the country thanks to a private donation. Strasbourg, which was four times smaller than Goiânia, had a whole theater focused only on children (Théatre du Jeune Public).

Strasbourg

As the legislative capital of the European Union, Strasbourg felt cosmopolitan despite being just a medium sized city. The European Union flag proudly flew on top of its pink medieval cathedral’s spire (seconded only by Cologne’s cathedral in height). I was in classroom where most kids went to the conservatory twice a week and had recently been invited by ZDF to sing with German children in a TV ad lauding the European Union. There was an optimistic and energized vibe related to social existence in that time and place that I thought it would be the standard for life in a first world country (personal experiences and more awareness later in my life about how your mind too can be colonized showed me that it wasn’t the case).

And then there were the libraries. I had to take a bus to go to Strasbourg central library and dive in what was for me the novelty of the French-Belgium comics universe. You have the usual suspects such as the René Goscinny fare, in which he would partner as a writer with an artist to create hilarious comics such as Asterix (with Uderzo), Iznogoud (with Tabary) and the Dingodossiers (with Gottlieb), among so many others). The solo work with these artists was never as great as the one they delivered when teaming up with Goscinny. There was also a very cool science fiction and fantasy fare prone to feature strong (and somewhat flawless) female leads such as Yoko Tsuno (a brilliant engineer), Isabelle (a witch in training) and Marine (an aspiring pirate). And, of course, there were plenty of gamebooks that I could borrow with my Library card which featured a cool drawing from Tommy Ungerer (an elephant reading a book with a line up of glasses on his trunk). And then, if I was not feeling like taking the bus all the way to the central library or do the 30 minute walk to the branch in Neudorf, every Friday the Bibliobus would park on my street in the Esplanade neighborhood with a very decent catalogue of comics and books. But the fact is that I lacked guidance to get the right books in science fiction, as my dad was only into horror and thrillers/crime. That changed in 1995, just one month before I returned to Brazil.

My dad enrolled me in the French boy scouts a few months after we moved to France. As a kid prone to sedentariness it took me lots of adjustment to integrate a movement that required me to sleep in relatively uncomfortable tent and walk many and many kilometers in their activities. I grew fond of it, though, even if I was the chubby kid that would trail behind. That was specially the case in our 2 week camping trip in the Massif Central, the mountain chain that sprawls across France’s rustic and not particularly industrialized Auvergne region and beyond. After two weeks of breathtaking yet exhausting daily excursions in the area, we all needed a break, so the chiefs gave us a lazy day. One of the chiefs was a SFF enthusiast but he kept it to himself. However, in the lazy day he showed us a metallic crate filled with part of his personal library. I sat down in the morning in a shady comfy tent filled with cushions and picked a book that intrigued me, a certain “Le Guide du Voyageur Galactique” from a certain Douglas Adams. By 4pm I was done with it, and I hated that the book was over. I wanted more of that crack, I wanted to go where Arthur Dent went, because that place was as cool compared to where I was as France was cooler than Brazil.

Massif Central

And then I moved back to Brazil the following month and couldn’t find the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy anywhere, but that’s a matter for my next post.

The Non-Linear path to become a Science Fiction aficionado when you are born in a 3rd World Country (part 1)

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).

This is Monteiro Lobato, and yes, his eyebrows are for real.

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.

Pedrinho, Narizinho, Emilia and the gang traveled through time by inhaling a substance called “Pirlimpimpim Powder” as if it was cocaine!

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.  

Short Story Sale

Image

I said it on twitter a while ago and I keep forgetting to update this blog, so there it goes: my humorous science fiction story Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal will be published on the eight tome of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology. That’s huge for me because UFO is a pro market, meaning that I will be able to apply for membership at the SFWA.

Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal is a time traveling romp about a “normal” man named Terri Normandeau, who discovers that his chronic bad luck in life is caused by agents of the future whose goal is to prevent him to become the next Hitler. It’s also a commentary on the current ascension of fascism in the US (where I live) and Brazil (where I am from).

The day I decided to turn my query into comedy

I haven’t posted in a while, but I finally have really good news to share: my humorous science-fiction novel Terminal 3 will be released on September the 1st (tentative date). I thought about starting using this blog to share a few updates concerning that release, but since I have none other than the date (and the fact that the cover art is a work in progress but the artist is going in a direction I really really like), I will share what got this sale done: the query letter.

The query I sent to Mobius Book was a product of a process where I had submitted a much more formal, serious even, letter to other publishers and agents, resulting in rejections. So I took a big risk and spiced things up by writing a funny letter. I mean, my novel is a work of comedy, so why not? You can read the query letter below.

Dear Editor, 

Close your eyes and imagine… oh wait, you need eyes to read my query, huh? Fair enough. Skip the closing-eyes thing and stick to the imagining. Image the future. No. Not the flossy-glossy one that feels like riding a Tesla driven by an Ayn Rand clone on cocaine. Imagine… No. Neither that one… too dystopian, post-apocalyptic and, let’s be real, kinky – unless you are not into leather. Let’s try again: imagine the future… a future… that is somewhere in between a white straight libertarian wet dream with sexbots and a nightmare Greta Thunberg had during a nap after she ate an expired tofu chimichanga. Can you see that? No? Fair enough, let me cut to the chase then.  

The time is the early 22nd century and we, humans, lucked out: it turned out that Earth is in the “fabulous side of the galaxy”. Literally, that’s how they name it. The “fabulous side of the galaxy” is located between Perseus and Sagittarius galactic arms. Just after we humans figured out we are not alone, we got an invitation from our galactic neighbors from the fabulous side to join the wealthy Galactic Confederation (kinda like Nextdoor.com, but a little less creepy and a little more gentrified). In exchange, Earth had to provide a hub for travelers coming from and going to the Norma and Scotus-Centaurus arms, also known as the “fucked up side of the galaxy”, as their planets are not part of the Galactic Confederation and are struggling economically and politically. (Yes, I just dropped an F-bomb in my query letter. Also, I’m very aware that a certain asshole would call them shithole planets. I’m not an asshole, but I’m Brazilian, and Brazil is fucked up, so I can make that joke, kay? Good, moving on.) 

So, remember the hub I mentioned? It turns out that this hub is Los Angeles’ Spaceport’s Terminal 3. T3 is overcrowded, has an unfriendly staff and is on the verge of collapse. But it’s not totally bad:  J Wing’s toilet stalls have the dopest cruising scene in the quadrant. 

And then there’s our protagonist: Gabe Chagas. What he has to do with Terminal 3? Well, his mother Cida was a spaceport security guard. However, when he was 9 years old, back in 2109, Cida was presumed dead after what seemed to be a quantum terrorist attack at her workplace. 

After that Gabe spent the rest of his childhood and teen years in Los Angeles’s foster care system and, once emancipated in 2119, he decided to try to realize his dream of becoming a spaceport security guard, in part because he wanted to follow his mother’s footsteps, and in part because he received a cryptic message stating that he should show up at Gate 665 if he wanted to know the truth about what happened to Cida.

See, Gabe could feel in his guts that there was something off with the quantum terrorist attack version of what happened to his mom. As a member of the Terminal’s hapless security personnel, he will face challenges and be pushed to abhorrent chores such as deporting aliens for a living, unaware that his own residency in the 22nd century is jeopardized due to his mother’s status as an undocumented time traveler.

As I mentioned I am a Brazilian writer currently based in the US. I live with my husband in Rehoboth Beach, the gayest city of Delaware (one of the reasons why we decided to move here from a very red suburb of Pittsburgh). I published a novella in Portuguese a long time ago and a few months ago I sold my first short-story in English to NewMyths.com (they made me remove all the F-bombs). If you want to know more about me, NewMyths.com made me answer some biographical questions that you can see here.    

As you might have guessed, Terminal 3 is a SF/Humor Novel in the 70,000 word range and was written originally as a TV pilot that was a semi-finalist in the SeriesFest’s Storytellers Initiative. Terminal 3 is about flawed humans trying to be better in a flawed society that… is not really trying to do better, at all. It’s about my experience as an immigrant and a social commentary about that craziness around us. Hope you can give it a shot. If not, I appreciate the time you spent reading my query.

Per your guidelines, you can find the first ten pages of my novel’s first chapter pasted below. 

Best regards,

Illimani Ferreira 

Deliverance

First they promised to deliver their products at home in three business days.

I bought something.

They delivered.

Amazing.

Then they started delivering their products in three business days without a delivery fee.

I bought something.

They delivered.

Amazing.

Then they offered free same-day deliveries.

I bought something.

They delivered.

Amazing.

Then they came up with day-before deliveries. I still had to order and pay for stuff after their free delivery, but without the cumbersomeness of having to decide what to buy. I’m now the owner of ninety crates of pinto beans cans that are now my only source of nourishment.

They taste amazing.

Overdue updates

In my lost post I mentioned that I was submitting my novelette Trial of the Bull to some magazines. So, I sold it to NewMyths.com , and they will publish it on their website in June. I will share the link as soon as it’s available, but I’d invite you to take a look at their amazing e-zine, filled with beautiful fantasy and science fiction short-stories and novelettes that lean toward elevated, emotional themes.

I also finished the first draft of my sci-fi/comedy novel Terminal 3. I am looking forward to submit it to agents and hopefully it will have a better reception than my first novel Serpentine. Unlike Serpentine that is a noir sci-fi that is grimdark as fuck, Terminal 3 can be described as hopepunk, what the kids seem to prefer those days, so I’m optimistic about it. The pitch is:

An idealistic young man joins the callous security guard crew of Los Angeles Spaceport’s terminal 3 – the chaotic hub for travelers coming from and going to the fucked up side of the galaxy.

Next month I will be traveling to LA for the Nebula Conference. It will be my first time attending a big conference like that, so I’m quite nervous, especially because I got an email a few days ago saying that I was added to the list of speakers. I almost had a heart attack until I realized what was going on: I had seen on twitter a few months ago that they were looking for volunteers for what they call Office Hours, an event where people with a certain expertise share it with others that may be interested on that topic. For example: I would be very interested to talk to anyone who is an Astronomy buff (not necessarily an astronomer), in order to clarify some doubts I have for the project of short-stories and novelettes I mentioned in my last post. I told the person who’s been organizing the Office Hours that I would be willing to assist with the logistics of the venue, but after a while she asked if i would be interested in sharing my expertise and I said yes, why not. After all I have a degree in social sciences, worked in social services for years and I’m from Brazil. If anyone needs to talk to someone about those topics, I will be there. And that’s how I became a Nebula Conference speaker. 🙂

Now that I’m pretty much done with my novel I intend to write more short stuff. Today I wrote a vomit draft of a short-story. When done it will be in the range of 2000 words, what is not common for me since my ideas (the good ones at least) tend to require a certain length. We will see how it turns out, but if I’m satisfied with that one I will send it over to all the paying markets in Sci-Fi. In terms of content all I can say for now is that the title is Pandora 4 and it’s EXTREMELY dark, what may hurt my chances to sell it to a bigger market. We’ll see.

Constellations of Humanity

As I mentioned in my first post, I am currently writing an SF-comedy novel called Terminal 3. But I am not going to talk about Terminal 3. Instead, I will talk about the project I am planning to develop after I finish Terminal 3. It’s an anthology of 12 stories (lengths TBD, most will probably be novelettes, but it’s possible that a few end as short-stories or novellas). The work title: Constellations of Humanity. It takes place in a future where the different nations in our planet formed 12 major blocks that split the surrounding universe in 12 wedge-shaped quadrants in order to prevent a war on their expansion to the stars. Each story takes place in one of those dominions, which are named after the zodiacal constellations that is in the center of those (if they are seen through the perspective of Earth).

That kind of political arrangement was inspired by the Tordesillas Treaty between Spain and Portugal during the brief time they were both the two European only superpowers with Oceanic navigation capabilities. In order to avoid a war they decide to split the world in the 2: everything West of the Tordesillas line was to be exploited by Spain (most of the Americas except a strip of today’s Brazil and Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador), what gave both nations what they truly wanted: Spain’s unencumbered access to the riches of the Aztec and Inca Empire and non-competition with its immediate neighbor over the Indian Spice Trade to Portugal . Obviously that treaty did not include the other European nations that quickly rose up to the challenge of colonization of New World over the territories claimed by both Spain and Portugal. The Dutch also quickly became a major competitor for Portugal Spice Trade.

Anyway, in my project there will be none of that. Everybody is included, although sometimes involuntary (in the future I imagined, Japan went back to its imperialistic aspirations and annexed the Koreas). Another feature is in this reality is a major enterprise called Zodiac Corporation that is present is every one of the 12 quadrants as has its own set of laws for their economic projects, although those laws are limited by Terran law (i.e., the laws from Earth, which still exists as a capital at which the 12 quadrants convene in a Senate).

Now, if you are thinking that it will be a gritty political epic, you thought wrong. Most of the stories are supposed to be about individuals that live in those quadrants. Most of them will be common folks. The first and only novelette of that anthology I wrote so far, for example, is about a girl who survived a civil war in the Pleiades and has to join the father, who was stranded in the Aldebaran solar system during the whole war. I submitted this story (named Trial of the Bull) to several magazines. The big ones such as Clarkesworld rejected it based solely on the query letter, without reading the actual story. I’m still waiting for answers for some and there is an e-zine that informed me that they are keeping it in their shortlist and will tell me in April if they will buy it.


There is an outline for the Constellations of Humanity project. Obviously I removed the synopses.

I may write another post explaining what it all means, hopefully if I have the chance to announce that Trial of the Bull was sold. Crossing fingers!

The Journey Begins

I decided to create a website for my literary persona. Not sure if it’s a good idea to spend time writing about my writing instead of doing the actual writing, but here we are.

A brief introduction about me in case you landed on this website accidentally: I am a sci-fi writer currently submitting my sci-fi/mystery novel Serpentine to agents and publishers and my sci-fi novelette Trial of the Bull to magazines. I am currently working on my second novel, Terminal 3, which is a sci/fi comedy in the vein of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy.

That’s it, for now. Feel free to check me on twitter too and thanks for passing by!