The Non-Linear path to become a Science Fiction aficionado when you are born in a 3rd World Country (part 4)

The chapter of my life that will describe below was quite painful. It took me a while to sit down to write it for that reason, and I did so in a way that is very shallow on purpose, basically just vomiting facts and omitting emotional experiences. I’m just filling a gap in the narrative I’m trying to convey as I don’t want to go too deep in that part of my life. Feel free to skip this part if you are bored.

I was in senior year of high school when I wrote Vazão and my dad passed away. The following year I moved to Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, as a social sciences freshman at the University of Brasilia (UnB). Despite the fact that Brasilia had amazing libraries, including UnB’s, my interest for fiction drifted away for a while. That happened, in part because studying social sciences, especially sociology, make you and your sensibilities very grounded to reality – and our tools of escapism tended to be less intellectual (our ongoing joke in college was that you could tell the difference between an anthropology and sociology student because the former was a pothead and the latter was hooked to Prozac). Another factor was the fact that I developed a relatively big entourage of friends for the first time in my life, as I was very involved with my academic life including student representation within the University’s administration. Reading the translation of Douglas Adams’ novels (as mentioned in my last post) was the main exception to that moment as I would keep myself busy with my social life.

6 months after finishing college I applied to work in the now defunct Ministry of Cities, the federal government branch in charge of housing and urban infrastructure. That happened at the same time I had also been selected for UnB’s master program in anthropology. However, I couldn’t juggle working 40 hours/week while reading an average of 2 difficult ethnology books a week, attending classes, preparing my research project (which was going to be about reports of UFO sightings and contact with aliens, understood through the same frame that analyzed how Portuguese navigators in the 15th Century thought that blue whales were dragons). I remember that I was enrolled in a special class in the master’s program on colonialist perspectives. One of our assignments was to review one work of a list that featured a list of ethnographic studies and…. Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. We all know which book I picked.

I loved the financial autonomy having a salary gave me and hated my work with all my heart, especially the inherent stupidity and corruption of Brazilian bureaucracy, what was particularly hard as I was at the bottom of the food chain and honest. I was sick of Brasilia and decided that it was time to take risks. I applied for the equivalent of a Green Card for Canada as a skilled worker and got selected. I moved to Montreal after 3 years working in the Ministry of Cities, leaving behind a stable work and leaping into the unknown. It was a little challenging at first as I couldn’t find work quickly and had to work with weird stuff for a while like distributing flyers in the street to make do. After a few months I finally got a job in social services in a shelter for homeless people living with the HIV. I was replacing a worker who was in paternity leave (in Canada couples can decide who gets to take a one-year leave), covering for his 10 30pm-8am graveyard shifts.

My goal, when I moved to Canada, was to write again and although I had a series of tasks that kept me busy during my shifts in the shelter, it was quite lonely with lots of time to think about my stuff. In my day (actually night) offs I didn’t have much to do. I first tried to write a dystopian novel in French. Then I remembered that lots of people praised my novella Vazão “because it read like a movie”. I never took it as a compliment, but made me realize that I should give TV and film writing a shot. I tried my hand at screenwriting and I liked it a lot My favorite part of writing is dialogue and screenwriting gives you lots of room to play with that aspect of fiction. I decided to use my savings to move from Montreal to Vancouver to improve my English and attend film school there and it turned out to be a massive waste of time and money.

I had to move back to Brazil but kept writing screenplays that nobody cared about while working mostly with translations. Most of the screenplays and teleplays were comedies, although I tried to write in every genre.

One day I was arguing with an American guy on an LGBT internet forum about a certain issue related to current affairs. Our stances on the discussed matter couldn’t be more different. But we decided to keep discussing the issue on skype. Our skype conversations drifted to other subjects and started to last hours every day. We decided that we had to meet each other. I applied for the 3rd time in my life for a tourist visa to the US to visit him and for the 3rd time in my life the tourist visa was denied to me, without explanation (THANKS OBAMA!). Then my friend had to come all the way to Brazil to meet me. He proposed on the first day. I accepted. One year later I moved to the Southern suburbs of Pittsburgh, where my creative life went through a massive shift…

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

Moving back to Brazil was hard in so many ways. I had friends in France that I would never see again. My only good friend prior to moving to France who became my pen pal when I was there started attending a different school 6 months after I moved back.

As usual, I read a lot, although I didn’t have access to French libraries anymore, so I had to resort to my dad’s personal collection. Before we moved back my dad bought lots of ultra-cheap public domain classics of French literature which I devoured. Some where proper for my age like Mallot’s melodramatic “Sans Famille” (Without a Family, literal translation, not sure if that’s the title in English), about an orphan raised by a benevolent peasant spinster but then forced to become a minstrel who would perform across France as he grew up. It’s a novel that by all means, glamourizes poverty, an anti-Dickens/Zola sort of work, even though in my home we had a much more humanized vision of stray kids since my dad worked with the issue for a while.

Most books, however, were for adults, but I would read them anyway. Victor Hugo’s “Notre Dame de Paris” (I think it was translated as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) became my favorite novel until today for the way it conveyed my emotions and gave me a taste for beautiful prose (the segment that portrays Frollo’s death is maybe the most beautiful piece of description that I can remember). The list is long and I won’t mention every author and novel but, to keep it in track, as I’m talking how I became so passionate about science-fiction, there were also Jules Verne and Villiers de L’Isle-Adam. I don’t think I need to explain how Verne was influential, even people who never read him surely read about him and his huge contribution to the Science-Fiction and Adventure genres. L’Isle-Adam is way less-known, and somehow I don’t think we would have Adams, Pratchett and other masters of SFF satire without him. Most people know him mostly by his L’Ève Future (Future Eve), which is an important work in terms of concept (and how it was foundational to the concept of robots) but quite cringy considering the politics it conveys. His Contes Cruels (Cruel Tales/Short Stories, again, just guessing the titles in English), on the other hand, are a master piece that is still an engaging read today. It contains short stories that can go to Flaubert/Balzac’s realism (with an extra-pinch of hopelessness) to properly fantastic stories describing machines vowed to manipulate our consciousness, such as a giant spotlight that would project ads on the Moon’s surface or a theater filled with gadgets (like mechanic clapping hands) that would ensure that any play would be received with tremendous success no matter how shitty the performance was. Outside that personal French language library I would read a lot from my dad’s collection of horror novels (he was a big fan of the genre). He had every Stephen King book translated to Portuguese and was a big fan of Clive Barker (that he would read from Spanish editions). He had all the works of Lovecraft too, which he personally didn’t like and, for some reason, I liked it much more than Barker or King. Obviously I would read lots of Brazilian literature too, but I’m trying to stay on track here.

And then my uncle Luis Francisco (Desco) died of complications associated to AIDS, maybe one year before the big pharmaceutical revolution that made an HIV+ diagnostic no longer result in a death sentence. Tio Desco liked science-fiction and I wish my contact with him wasn’t only sporadic (he lived in a different city and we only saw him very eventually) before he passed away so early. We got maybe 30 science-fiction novels translated to French from his library (I think another uncle claimed the books in English). My memory of the short-stories anthologies were a blur when it’s up to authors but I’m sure I read all the golden age stories (I can tell the plot of many of them even if I can’t associate them to authors). For some reason he had lots of Ray Bradbury novels, and I read them all.

I would buy books too. It felt, to me, that Brazil was becoming more intellectualized in the late 90s. In the state of Goiás that happened mostly with the fall of a political oligarchy that was very averse to culture as Governor Perillo was elected in 1997. Governor Perillo became a a political oligarch on his own terms, but in his early years in power we saw a cultural boost as he was sincerely engaged in leaving his mark and shake things up in the state. That’s when Goiânia developed a symphonic orchestra that would perform in the spacious, new Rio Vermelho theater, and a literary contest offering publishing to local writers allowed me to release my literary novella Vazão, and I wouldn’t be able to release Vazão if, in the country as a whole, the editorial market was back in track, translating and releasing for affordable prices public domain classics that could go from early SFF like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula to high literature like Dostoevsky. I read them all.

But I never forgot that crazy ass book that gave me a literary high in the Massif Central. My memory of it was a blur, true. Couldn’t remember for sure the title, or even the author’s name for sure. Not that it mattered since Google was not a thing (and Altavista was shitty, let’s all agree on that). One thing I never forgot was the name of one character. The French have this tendency to translate English names, what wouldn’t be a problem if the translation was to make a joke that worked in French. If Zaphod Beeblebrox was named Monsieur Baguette Camembert I wouldn’t be mad. But no, the fucking French named him Zappy Bibici (pronounced Beebeecee), because you know, the translator thought he was funnier than Douglas Adams (they do that a lot to Hollywood movies too, giving different English names that are often corny and/or nonsensical). Knowing about the book wouldn’t have made a difference, though, as I don’t think it was ever translated to Portuguese. Until it was. I found it in a bookstore, just hanging in there, waiting for me in a super glossy cover with a fun art and a really cool font design: O Guia do Mochileiro das Galáxias. They released the first book. And then they would release another one of the new tomes every 3 months or so, which I would purchase and read and reread like a junkie.

The big issue with my SF passion was that it was a very lonely one. My dad was weirdly supportive, as he was not into Science Fiction but would eye me having an interest with satisfaction. For example, I fell in love with Babylon 5 (still my favorite SF TV show) when my family signed up for cable and the Warner Channel would broadcast (terribly) subtitled episodes. The problem was that after season 2 the show was moved to mornings, when I was at school, so my dad helped me set up the VCR to record it so I could play the tape after I came back from school. My dad was also a big advocate of my writing. I didn’t write SF back then. SF was my lonely, guilty pleasure, after all. I wanted to communicate with people, so I wrote literary stuff. My dad was my beta reader, the nicest one could have. He would return my typed drafts covered in red marks and notes. If something had potential he would say so. If something was shitty he would say that “it was a good exercise”. He helped me with a short story that won the biggest/only state-wide literary contest. I was 16 and the contest was for adults. The price was 500 reais (in a time when 1 real = 1 American dollar, I bought a Playstation console that cost me 250 reais). I never got to see my dad’s red marks and notes on an early draft of my novella Vazão though, since I finished it a few months after cancer took him away from me. He was my best and only advocate and I stopped writing for many years.

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…


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).


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


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, 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 (they made me remove all the F-bombs). If you want to know more about me, 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 


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

I bought something.

They delivered.


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

I bought something.

They delivered.


Then they offered free same-day deliveries.

I bought something.

They delivered.


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 , 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.