If Tom Wolfe created the New Journalism, mixing literary techniques with the traditional, dispassionate way of reporting, Tibor Moricz will go into history as the creator of the short story interview. To me it was very fun to answer the questions and imagine what kind of scenario the infamous quantum wristwatch would take us. It is nice innovation in the stagnate sea of web interviews and I look forward for the next guests in new, crazy worlds.
Jorge Luis Calife

In the few months that I’ve been aware of From Bar to Bar and its interviews of authors and critics of SF from across the globe, I have found myself looking forward to seeing what next adventure sets up the interview that follows.  It stands out in a crowded field with its nice mixture of humor, craziness, and interesting questions and it certainly has been one of the earlier pro-Squirrelist venues out there!
Larry Nolen

From Bar to Bar is a fascinating and novel idea for the cyberspace interview: don’t change a word of the material the interviewee provided, but set your imagination free and change everything else! It’s an effect of lighting, decor and staging, provided (as, essentially, in all virtual worlds) by the word alone. Any writer (or any arts professional) who volunteers can be certain of gaining new insight into their own work, and seeing themselves in a new light, in the glittering refractions of the Bar to Bar hall of mirrors.
Gwyneth Jones

It’s really encouraging to see the interviewed authors saying good things about From Bar to Bar, even though they have all faced great danger. Nothing like a little adrenaline to make life more exciting 🙂


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When I began thinking about releasing the De Bar em Bar internationally, I knew I would face a great deal of obstacles. Specially contacting and getting positive answers from those I wanted to interview.

It is no easy task finding e-mails and contacting well known authors, specially when we are completely unknown. It always feels like we’re boring ones asking for favors.

But that was only in the beginning.

Now I get help from the interviewees themselves. They indicate writers they are friends with and make my work a lot easier.

So, Ekaterina Sedia, Charles Stross and Jeff VanderMeer will be here in the next series of interviewees.

I’d like to thank all those who have helped me with courage, incentive and words of encouragement and also all who helped and are still helping this blog become a reference in the genre.

Last, but not least, I’d like to thank all those who say From Bar to Bar is a silly thing, where interviewees only make fools out  of themselves. For those, I’d like to send my best regards. 😀

 

Mark Charan Newton was born in 1981, and holds a degree in Environmental Science. After working in bookselling, he moved into editorial positions at imprints covering film and media tie-in fiction, and later, science fiction and fantasy. His major label debut was Nights of Villjamur, published by Tor UK (Pan Macmillan) and Spectra (Random House) in the US. Of the follow-up novel, City of Ruin, China Miéville said: "Newton combines strange and vivid creations with very real and pressing concerns with estimable commitment and passion." Mark currently lives and works in Nottingham. Visit his website http://www.markcnewton.com

 

When the swirl caused by the change of reality ceased, I found myself in a kind of clearing with short sparse vegetation, besides some distant trees which had twisted branches and no leaves. It was a dark misty cold night and sudden winds made a strong drizzle twirl.

I looked at myself and felt surprised. I was wearing a long coat, large worn out jeans, boots, a hat and the most surprising: A belt with two guns in its holsters.

I made a shell shape with my hands, took them to my mouth and blew them, trying to warm them up a little. To the side, there was a muddy road marked by deep furrows that made me think of cart wheels. I sighed and moved on, dodging the puddles, trying to find something; maybe a city, maybe a village.

I hadn’t walked more than fifty meters and then stopped surprised by what was before my eyes. There was a ravine and, moving my eyes down it, besides the drizzle and the mist, I saw what seemed like uncountable houses. The land full of hillocks displayed a bizarre city. There were houses of all types and sizes, buildings with few floors… all in spots which were at times higher, at times lower and zigzagged by streets and narrow lanes that went up and down accordingly to the rough terrain.

At the end of the ravine a steep promontory went up. In it, lighted caves, all connected by corridors built with logs that made a puzzly mosaic full of passages.

There were hundreds of lamps in the houses and buildings, streets and lanes. And in the steep as well. They were spread around the corridors and the caves. All of them together produced a dim glimmering light that discomposed to the slightest breeze.

I took my hands to my face to remove the excess of water a puff had thrown against me. Before moving on, I saw a boy. A short distance away, beside the muddy path, looking at me with a hollow face. I tried to make out who he was and what he was doing there and, mainly, if he could help me somehow, but before I could do anything he disappeared in thin air, leaving a sudden void where he once was, soon filled by the drizzle.

I tried not to worry about that. Maybe it was a vision, maybe a ghost, maybe a kind of distortion of the reality. I looked at the ravine once again and shouldered. If Mark Charan Newton was down there, then that was where I would head for.

Puddles were many and any attempt to avoid them was showing to be useless. I heard some muffled conversations. Among the muddy terraced buildings there was a saloon. In front of it, under the rain, two pairs of horses wagged their tails impatiently.

The streets were so narrow that I would have to drive the horses away or go under them if I wanted to pass through them. The houses were made of wood, were built so close together that they pressed against one another making its edges twist and its wood crack. Doors and windows were closed but cracks on the walls let their dim lighting out.

I went on the terrace of the Saloon, knocked my boots to get rid of some of the mud and pushed the doors coming in.

There weren’t more than twelve men inside. Two were on the counter and the others were sitting by the tables, either playing cards or drinking and talking. They turned as soon as I got in, they shut for a moment and studied me, quite surprised. Then they went back to their own business, ignoring me.

I came near the counter. The barman approached somehow diffident and asked me what I wanted to drink. I put one of my hands in the coat and found some coins amidst a bunch of bullets. I put one of them on the counter and ordered for a scotch. The barman shifted his gaze from the coin to me, and then to the coin again. I got the message. I put another coin together with the first and then he served me the drink. I took the glass and turned around to look for whom I was searching. But Mark wasn’t there.

I drank it all in one gulp as tough men do. I breathed fire, my very soul burning due to the low quality whiskey.

“D’you know where I can find Mark Charan Newton?” I asked the barman.

For the second time all the voices silenced in the saloon. The men turned my way perplexed and scared. The barman opened his eyes wide and almost let the glass he was holding fall down. Then he moved away nervously towards the other side of the bar. The man by my side approached and said in between teeth.

“No one looks for him, never. No one wants to see him. No one knows about him. Everyone fears him. He can never be found, but he always finds those he wants to, whenever he wants to.”

“There’s an interview scheduled. I need to find him.”

Laughter thundered in the room. Some men gagged with the drink. The barman gave me a furtive look and smiled disguisedly.

“An interview with the devil himself, huh?” asked the man, nudging me on my ribs. “You’re obviously a foreigner. Only a complete fool would go out there looking for him. He ain’t a man, you see? He ain’t a creature made of divine mud. It’s not about flesh and bones, but darkness and anguish. Do you get it?”

“I guess we’re not talking about the same person,” I said a bit confused with that talk. “Mark Charan Newton is a writer.”

“Hmmmm… for some he’s this, for others he’s that. He attracts flies to his web in many different ways. If he’s a writer to you, fine. Go and look for him. But you should pray and deliver your soul to God first so it won’t get lost and end up somewhere cursed.”

The man moved away. The others went back to their stuff. I saw myself with no other alternative but to go and look for whom I came to interview. Was it a man or any other thing. I knew the mechanism of my quantic watch well enough to know I would never leave that place before the last question was made. Already accustomed to the danger those encounters used to bring already, I took a deep breath and went into the misty night of intense drizzle and treacherous winds.

I paddled around some lanes. At some places I could touch opposite walls only by stretching my arms. Suddenly, I slipped on a slope skating on the mud. I careened to the left trying to keep my balance, but it was no good. Before falling down sitting on a puddle, I saw the same boy by the threshold of a door, leaning on it, staring at me with the same empty look.

When I stood up he had already vanished. I cursed my bad luck, feeling part of my bottom all wet. The other part had been protected by the coat. My hat sat crooked on my head. When I tried to fix it a shot made it fly away in swirls. I shouted in astonishment, my heart beating fast. I turned around and saw him.

There was a man about twenty meters away, protected by the shadow he himself seemed to produce. Not even the nearby sconces had enough strength to light him.

I stooped down cautiously to fetch my hat, not taking the man out of my sight. He was still armed, pointing his gun towards me. It couldn’t be Mark Charan Newton. Or could it?

“You’re looking for me?” he asked, his voice guttural.

“Are you Mark Charan Newton?” I asked, while putting my hat on.

The man seemed to reflect for a few seconds, then span his gun on his hand and put it away in the holster in a fast move.

“You’ve got questions and I’ve got a job to do. We can try to solve both things at a time can’t we?”

“As you wish,” I said, trying to figure out what he meant by “a job to do”.

“Then, ask the first question… and run!” His voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time, since he had just disappeared right before my eyes.

Apparently, the disappearing joke was common practice in that city. I cleared my throat, looking at all sides, especially up, as if he was hovering over me. I asked the first question.

‘In an old Interview I read, you said New Weird is dead. Define this affirmative better and explain us what the relation between your work and the weird universe is, since you recognize the influence that China Miéville has in your work’

I waited for an answer. But I only heard the cracking of the old wood and the wind that made the lamps sway. For a short while. Then I heard a shot. The peephole of a door to my right opened, the wood splintered. Then a second shot scratched the shoulder of my coat. A third one hit in between my boots and a fourth made my hat spin on my head.

I quickly understood what he meant by “ask and run”.

I dashed down the lanes, sticking my feet into loads of mud, I ran down many small streets, trying to find a place to hide. But wherever I went I heard the noise of bullets passing me by, so close that they didn’t take my skin off only for very little. It was a game and I soon noticed he hadn’t hit me yet because he wanted to have fun first. In a last endeavor I threw myself inside a house, diving through the window. I fell down rolling and retracted by the wall, near a fireplace which had no wood or burnt logs. I looked around the house and it felt as if no one had ever lived there before.

Mark’s voice echoed as if it transpired through the walls.

“The New Weird was – in publishing circles – a movement of a couple of authors. Perhaps it was used to define their work as notably different, but I believe it came to represent an aesthetic that only ever sold for those few authors several years ago. When you mention New Weird to publishers they’ll likely not want to buy such a manuscript – the worlds or techniques are just too outré. Publishers were/are looking for something more obviously commercial and therefore conservative. But it’s not to say that the New Weird had little impact – I think we’re starting to see a new generation of authors who were influenced heavily by writers such as Miéville.”

While he spoke, I drew my gun and checked for ammunition. I wasn’t going to give in without a fight. My pockets were full of bullets. The only thing I was concerned about was what to shoot, since I didn’t know where he was.

“I think what that movement helped do was define a darker and more surreal taxonomical branch of what is, by and large, a conservative genre – it’s a continuation of a line that stretches from William Hope Hodgson to Mervyn Peake to M John Harrison to China Miéville. I like to think that my work will sit on that side of the genre, which is something more obvious the further I get into my series, because those writers are the kinds who interest me the most.”

He stopped answering at the same time I heard hurried steps walking round the house down the terrace. I tried to guess the position of the unwary walker and, not giving a damn if it was about a citizen or Mark Charan Newton, pointed the gun towards where I judged he was and pulled the trigger, opening a whole of half an inch on the wall. I heard no moaning. I creeped down the window and looked. Nothing outside but bad weather.

I couldn’t hide all my life, so I went to the door and opened it rapidly, hiding behind the door post. After a few seconds I went out, holding my gun on the level of my eyes, both hands firm on it, pointing to a side and another, ready to shoot if necessary.

I then saw a shadow running on the roof, skipping parapets, making the wood tremble dangerously. Not thinking much, I pointed the gun towards the figure and pulled the trigger. I heard the stumps of the heavy steps moving away. I had missed the shot. Then I started chasing the figure, following the echoes that got to me. I penetrated more and more the forest of squeezed houses at every curve I made, feeling more and more lost and tired.

Some shots against me put me alert once more though. One of them took my hat off again, which this time, disappeared among the confusion of thresholds. Another shot took a piece of my left ear away. I screamed in pain and anger, throwing myself against a wall, protected by the roof of one of the many porches around.

“Damn you!” I yelled, feeling the blood run down my neck. “Miserable!”

“Questions! Ask the questions,” said Mark.

I pressed my teeth trying to ignore the great pain in my ear and endeavored to focus on the interview.

“Nights of Villjamur is a noir fantasy and is set in a time far away from ours. Where did you get the inspiration and how much time did you spend writing it? Explain to us, broadly, the philosophy – or the social denunciation, eventually – that is behind the trilogy – in case you use the literature as a means for political and social contemporary reality reflection.”

I sighed swallowing the pain and discomfort. Much more irritated with the quantic watch which was putting me into extremely dangerous situations than with Mark Charan Newton, who lived an adventure in a parallel reality that had apparently stolen his conscience.

“The real genesis of the series came from reading a little-known British SF author called Michael Coney. His novel, Hello Summer, Goodbye, ended more or less with a culture retreating into itself, and I thought “What if that was just the start of things?” That inspired me to create a city where people were fleeing to, in the face of extreme weather… “

I heard the answer trying to guess where it was coming from. From my left or from my right. Maybe from the other side of the street. Perhaps from the roofs. A light click behind me made me jump in a 180 degrees twist. Pointed gun, finger on the trigger, trembling, almost shooting. Luckily, I held myself. It was the boy. The same unexpressive eyes, same impaired look, arms fallen beside his body, head lightly bent to the side. Lips softly closed.

“God damned brat…” I started complaining when he just vanished in thin air.

“That was the starting point, but on top of that I wished it to be a reflection of our own cultures – albeit greatly exaggerated. As the series continues, it’s more obvious that I’m commenting on the real world. I wanted to write a fantasy that addressed minorities fairly – homosexual lead characters who are not simple accessories…”

A crack made me shoot against the roof above me. I heard a fun cry and hurried steps. Mark was moving atop the houses like a cat. I ran after him, trying to chase him, but it was difficult to trespass the infinity of obstacles that crappy village had. When I turned on a sudden corner, I found pieces of wood and loose joist. I tripped and fell on the garbage dump, spreading litter all around. I heard a not very distant laughter.

“I do this because I believe fantasy literature can be powerful – a writer can literally do anything he or she wishes to. To be honest, no matter how weird something is, I will nearly always have been inspired by a real world example. The real world can seem very strange when looked at closely.”

I had the impression I felt a certain ironic tone in the end of his answer. He was right. Writers could do anything. Even build imaginary scenarios and try to kill their peers in it. But he was not going to make it. I was smarter than I looked. I crawled out the trash and sat against a wall. I couldn’t even stretch my legs properly without hitting the opposite wall. I studied the barrel of the gun, threw away the empty cartridges and took some bullets from my pocket, filling it. I took a deep breath looking for the necessary balance, practicing the “Chi-Kung”. I soon felt rebalanced, with a conscience of the surroundings no human, post human or alien could have.

I stood up, totally focused. My muscles were tightened, my fingers firm on the handle of the gun. I then gave a quick step behind and Mark’s shot hit nothing but a loose piece of wood on the ground. I turned around and dodged another shot. The third was heading straight to my head, but I wasn’t there yet when the bullet passed.

“Well, look at that,” he cried in astonishment. “A worthy opponent, finally.”

I didn’t bother to answer, turned my wrist without changing my position and pulled the trigger making the bullet pass so near my healthy ear I could even feel its heat. The bullet went through wet boards and hit the target. I heard a cry of pain and surprise, followed by a hurried limp in flee.

“Your first novel was Reef. Before publishing it, what was your interaction inside the British fandom? Did you use to write and publish short-stories on the net or in anthologies? Who was, literally, Mark Charan Newton yesterday, and who will he be tomorrow?”

I asked the question retaking the path down the main street that was very little different from the vicinal ones. My perception went beyond the physical, pervading the metaphysical. I could hear him breathe. I could hear the dripping of the blood running down his hurt leg. I knew exactly where he was. It was just a matter of a few minutes before I told him myself what he would be tomorrow: A corpse.

“I worked as an editor for the publisher Solaris, and before that I worked in bookselling – I ran the SF and Fantasy section in my store! Those jobs were a lot of fun, and I got to go to conventions and chat with authors I greatly admired. I was a fan of the genre – I’m a geek – and it was a wonderful time… “

His words were forced, cut down by panting. He was more than hurt. He was scared. Very scared.

“I don’t tend to write much short fiction – I prefer the broad canvas of the novel – so I would simply go home from my editorial work each night and write my own thing. I got an agent when I was quite young, 23 years old, but it was a few years before I got the lucky break.”

I drew the other gun and walked with calculated steps, keeping them firm in my hands, as if I was just about to pull the trigger. I could hear him move away from me at the same measure I moved forward. He dragged one of his legs, the left one to be more precise, and couldn’t run the roofs as fast and accurately as he did before. I soon saw myself beside the Saloon which was mysteriously quiet. The horses tied in front of it weren’t there as well. I ignored Mark for a while and went down to the door. I peeped inside and was not surprised to find there were no tables or drinks. Nor people or anything indicating the place had been attended in the last 10 years.

It was a ghost city, of course. Inhabited by specters. Maybe Mark was one of them. No. Of course not. Specters don’t get hurt or bleed.

“One of the most common jokes in the editorial market – at least here in Brazil – says that editors are fed up with trilogies and that they ask the writers to bury any projects like these. We know very well that there is a bottom of truth in every joke. Despite having written and managed to publish one, don’t you think that there are trilogy projects in excess – Tolkien inheritance – and very few real quality works? Don’t you reckon new writers should worry only about smaller projects, and engage themselves in larger ones only after they obtain the experience needed to do so?”

I wasn’t expecting him to answer my question quickly. I thought he was going to keep silent in a useless attempt to prevent me from finding him through  the sound of his voice. But the practice of “Chi-Kung” allowed me to realize the world with such a clarity and perception that was beyond the comprehension of those not initiated. But he surprised me, giving me an almost immediate answer at the end of the question.

“It’s hard to say. Some of the most successful fantasies in the US and the UK are series fantasies. Steven Erikson is one of the most popular in the UK, and his series is ten books long! But I would not think that series are bad, though – it’s a very difficult art to write a number of connected novels, since there are so many plates to keep spinning, so many things to remember. And some stories do indeed require many novels to tell. I approached a series with a different attitude in mind: I wanted each novel to feel as though it could standalone, and the story – to some extent – be self-contained. I think I managed this with books two and three. That’s the challenge for me – I don’t want to feel as though I’ve short-changed readers. Each novel should leave the reader satisfied.”

I put myself in the middle of the street. At its end, after ups and downs, after a hillock the steep went up. In it the caves, countless, interconnected by corridors and lit by lamps which little light meant very little or nothing. Edging the street, houses and small one or two-storey constructions, huddled on each other, swished by the rain that started to get worse. The wind howled, making the village tremble.

I lifted both guns slowly, pointing them towards the same place to my left, about fourty meters away, on a bent roof; hidden behind an old cracked wooden rampart was Mark, his hurt leg pulsing in waves of pain.

“Short stories, small novels, large novels, series of novels – they are all very different art forms, and to my knowledge, writers all have different preferences. I’m not sure how good a short story writer I could be, though I do admire the discipline of the form. I don’t think one could state that any of these forms are better than the other. There are good and bad short stories, just as there are good and bad trilogies. Writing lots of short fiction can make you a very good short story writer – but it does not necessarily make you a good novelist, and vice versa.”

As soon as his last word was said, I pulled both triggers. The shots occurred simultaneously and met the target without the slightest chance of mistake. I heard a groan, a body roll and then fall from the roof, with his back against the muddy ground. He was stretched, still. I approached him and observed him carefully. His hat covered his face. After a while he moved. He turned his head, his mat eyes looked for me and mumbled something I couldn’t understand. I kneeled so I could hear him better. I approached my ear to his mouth.

‘”Chi-Kung”’ he whispered. “You find yourself smart, but this ain’t your territory… it’s mine. Die, you damned!”

I then heard a cock. I raised my head and saw the boy right in front of me. He had a teethy smile and a demoniac look of satisfaction. Mark Charan Newton still held my throat, with a prehensile hand, squeezing me with such strength that drove me stunned.

I ran one of my hands to the button on the watch, pushing it, at the same time I heard a shot. A tongue of fire hit me throwing me into the most absolute unconsciousness.

I woke up at home, fallen on my living room, hours later. I still suffer splintering headaches. It gives me the creeps to think I could have pressed the button a little second later. This time, I got away for very little.

 

Roberto de Sousa Causo has a degree in Letters from the University of São Paulo and is the author of A Dança das Sombras (Dance of the Shadows, 1999), A Sombra dos Homens (The Shadow of Men, 2004) and the novels A Corrida do Rinoceronte (Rhinoceros Race, 2006) and Anjo de Dor (Angel of Pain, 2009). His short stories, more than sixty, have been published in magazines in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Greece, Portugal, Czech Republic and Russia. He was one of three nominees for the Jeronimo Monteiro Award (Isaan Asimov Magazine Brazil) and in the III Festival Universitário de Literatura with the story Terra Verde (Green Land, 2001). He was the winner of Best Text at the Projeto Nascente 11 Award, with his novel O Par: Uma Novela Amazônica (The Pair: An Amazon Story) published in 2008. He has written for Jornal da Tarde and Gazeta Mercantil, two of the Brazilian most influential newspapers, as well as for different Brazilian magazines: Cult, Ciencia Hoje, Palavra and Dragao Brasil. He was the editor of the following anthologies: Dinossauria Tropicalia (1994), Estranhos Contatos (Strange Contacts, 1998), Histórias de Ficção Científica (Stories of Science Fiction, 2005), Os Melhores Contos Brasileiros de Ficção Científica (The Best Brazilian SF Short Stories, 2008) e Contos Imediatos (Immediate Short Stories, 2009). He writes on a biweekly basis about SF and Fantasy at Terra Magazine, an online magazine at Terra.com. His most recent book is Selva Brasil (Jungle Brazil, 2010). He currently lives in Sao Paulo with his wife and one son.

 

Dense, really dense. The Forest was closed as if it was a net of endless branches. And it was so stuffy that my thick linen shirt was soaked in sweat in a few minutes. I looked at the quantic watch, trying to make out what a pre-programming that specified a pub for officials in Oceania had to do with a jungle, insects and extreme humidity.

I took a better look at my clothes and saw myself exactly as a lettuce, but camouflaged. Milica uniform and boots. The buckle on my belt was dirty, scratched and creased. My trousers were  a little wrinkled. I was lying down with my back leaning on a fallen trunk, which was half putrid. A leaf rug covered the ground, amidst the depressions, bushes, vines, mosquitos and ants. My butt was leaning on a rock. I moved my hips cautiously, looking for a more comfortable position.

I was alone.

I looked at the watch one more time. The interviewee was supposed to be by my side, and I guessed he was really far, in the planned barrack, when I heard muttering not far away.

I analysed my situation and the history of previous interviews. Never had things ran normally. This one had already started wrong and I really wished the mistakes stopped there. I moved my body slowly trying to make as little noise as possible, and looked over the trunk that was hiding me. I didn’t notice anything important. But the muttering started again. I tried to see further, attempting to overcome the barrier imposed by the jungle, when I was surprised. From the other side of the trunk, which was reasonably thick, a head rose. A pair of eyes with a worried look met mine.

Recovered from the fright, I calmed down. It was Causo.

It wasn’t really difficult to go around the trunk. I don’t even know why I did it crawling since I could stand, but there was a regnant sensation of danger. When I got to him, I saw a face full of scratches, a muddy ragged uniform.

“You know how much I had to crawl till I got to this trunk?” He asked me, with a genuine irritation in his voice.

“But we have just arrived.”

“Maybe you, I have been here for over an hour!”

“I hope everything was all right meanwhile,” I answered, embarrassed.

That was when I analyzed him more thoroughly. Besides the worn out uniform, he had a fusil. The most disturbing thing was to see him bare footed. His feet were dirty and scratched, his nails mucky. I thought about asking why, but I feared the answer.

“Flip-flops!” He said in an angry whisper.

“What?”

“Flip-flops! You brought me here wearing sandals! SAN-DALS!”

Something became clearer in my mind.

“You told me a couple of months ago that buskins caused you chilblains…”

He didn’t answer. He limited himself to give me a killer look. His feet, besides scratched had red sore eruptions. Insect bites for sure.

“…The sandals are…”

He raised one of them, one of the strips was lose and torn. I guessed the other was lost in the jungle.

“And why did you crawl here? Why not wait where you were?”

“Because I only have five cartridges. It could be an AK105, or a FN Scar-L, or a FN 2000, modern weapons! But you brought me here with an old fashioned mosquefal! And a God-damned sling!”

He took the sling from his back pocket and threw it on me.

“I can’t face a contingent of smugglers, mercenaries, guerrillas… – who knows who the men following me through the woods were – with only five cartridges!’

I was mute, looking at him. What could I say? That after a long period when the fuckin’ quantic watch should have been repaired, nothing effective had been done? That the dangers faced in the previous interviews were still there as intense as before? I thought of guerrillas armed to the teeth, walking through the woods, maybe far from us, maybe near. I shivered.

“Where’s the bar?” Causo asked, full of reason.

“Dunno,” I moaned, bothered.

“Isn’t it From Bar to Bar? Where is the God-damned bar?” He asked again evidently unconsoled.

I pushed the buttons on my watch trying to abort the interview, but, obviously, they didn’t work. Why would they?

“You told me you don’t drink…”

“Not even orange juice? Nor lemonade? Sparkling water? Nothing?”

He shook his feet, trying to push away a cloud of gnats flying around them. I sat by his side, shoulder on shoulder. Complaining would do no good. It was better to get down to business. I cleared my throat, found a better position for my back against the trunk, deflected my legs and, taking a better look at the sling, I asked:

“Do you think the Brazilian genre literature market is mature enough to hold literary prizes?”

Causo scratched his nose, brought the mosquefal nearer, lightly caressing the hasp and closed his eyes for a moment.

“It’s not a matter of maturity,” he started. “It’s a matter of looking around, seeing what there is to be seen, recognizing the value of what there is to be recognized. A prize of the “Best of the year” type is like a big recognition patrol… It generates essential information so it’s possible to operate in the field of a theater of operations. It reveals who is acting, which individuals, which groups, in this field.”

He stopped, looked up streaky by the high foliage. He frowned.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

“No, nothing I reckon…”

He stretched a little and looked towards the other side of the trunk. He scanned the surroundings, testing the backside.

“Prizes like that allow us to organize and make acting plans. They generate information. It might be some that doesn’t match the expectations, but information is information; and information is essential. It is high time a prize like this is created.”

He lowered the gun and crouched, hiding behind the trunk once more; he put his feet together and scratched them strongly. One of his toenails seemed to be lose.

“Are my feet going to stay like this once I’m back home?”

“Not sure.”

“Crap. They look like two chacres. My wife, Finisia, will make me sleep on the couch for three days or more.”

“The rhythm of releases shows an ebullient market. More quantity than quality? Or is there any balance?

“You’re in a hurry to finish, aren’t ye?”

“You’re not?”

“Of course I am. I can’t see balance yet. But probably there never was or never will be. The Sturgeon law rules in the jungle: “90% of all SF is crap; but on a second thought, 90% of everything is crap”. What matters now is that never had so many small editors accepted works and looked for authors as now. From this side of the market, I would say that…

Causo stopped once again. More alert this time. He seemed to smell the air. I tried to pay attention, capture something that he had, evidently, already noticed. I felt a vibration, light, mellifluous, almost unperceivable. Life in the forest shut up. Not a peep, nor buzz, no croaking or cicadas singing. Absolute silence.  The intensity of the vibration didn’t change. We were still looking up. My eyes followed his even not knowing what was there to be seen, I was waiting for something. Soon the high trees of the jungle seemed to bend, as if something, really big, huge, was around and which strange emanation had a mysterious power over them. Causo sat. He was about to stand when a small explosion made fragments of wood fly all around. A second and a third one came next. A fourth went by buzzing and exploded in a fig trunk a dozen of meters ahead. He threw himself on the ground, frightened. I stayed there, holding tightly to the sling. Pushing the buttons on the watch with no result.

“The bastards!” He blustered, annoyed.

“I’d say,” he continued, to my most complete surprise, while holding the fusil, “that the market is really heated. On the tip of the side of the reader, maybe not that much. But each opportunity counts. Each author must make a stand in this battle, with quality work, more representative and less participative. The combatant must stay in action… Luckily, some will survive to see the final victory, in a near future.”

“Near future? Battle? Winner? Combatent? Dear God, you really embodied the exalted warrior spirit! Help!”

“We are at war. Hold your weapon soldier!”

I raised the sling, looking at it in perplexity. The bullets were still exploding against the trunk and fizzing over our heads. We heard command words being screamed somewhere far. They spoke in Spanish.

“It’s the FARC!” thundered Causo, while waiting for an opportunity to stand and give his first shot. “Come on, ask the other questions. Or is it over?”

Who has the spirits to ask questions under a shower of bullets? I took a deep breath trying to control the trembling and the gagging.

“The mainstream X genre discussion has still got wind. Do you think there is a possibility of both genres developing together?”

“This is the big literary question for SF and fantasy in the 21st century. It is incredible that Generals Luiz Bras and Nelson de Oliveira have had so much strategical bravery in this conflict, but they dared to say that the mainstream should approach the SF to renew itself and avoid stagnation in its ranks. Before that all that was said was that SF needed to approach the mainstream to leave the barricades of the gueto, to mature as literature. What is funny is that I, who was called the Guardian of the Gates of the Gueto by many people, was already foraying out of its bounds for some time. I won mainstream competitions such as the Festival Universitário de Literatura and the Projeto Nascente, and appeared in the mainstream Cult and Rascunho publications. I never needed to change the characteristics of my fiction for that. So this battle is complex, challenging, but the discussion put forward by Bras and Oliveira is more than welcome… it was also high time it was brought up, even considering the fact that it was launched by mainstream people like them is absolutely extraordinary. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, from the alliance between mainstream and SF, something little recognizable for those who know science fiction and have worked with it for some time emerged. In this alliance, the mainstream will always have more power.”

He seemed to finish. He was there holding to his fusil, looking at me. His look was of great determination. Genuine hatred was in his eyes – but not against me – that gave me the creeps.

“They stopped shooting. It’s our chance to show we’re not helpless. If we fire together one after the other, they’ll think we are many,” he explained. “They’ll be more careful.”

I tried to warn him he only had five cartridges and that I had a sling, but nothing seemed to divert him. He put himself on his knees, on a shooting position. He searched for any motion that could give our enemies’ position away. He urged me once more to get ready. I did what he said. What use was it to complain? He wanted to get us both killed. I searched the ground for a stone. I took a heavy round one. I placed it and pushed the surgery rubber to its maximum elasticity.

“Ready,” I said in panic.

“Shoot first. This might give their position away. Then I’ll shoot next as soon as one of them moves.”

I shot, seeing the stone fly in a perfect arch. Soon later, it opened up, stopped in the middle of its trajectory and went up, flipping its wings in a frenzied rythim. We stayed there in astonishment, while the beetle flew up.

A new volley of shots was made against us. Causo pulled the trigger on the mosquefal. Pure reflex. He shot without aiming or a target. One lost cartridge. We threw ourselves behind the trunk. I was hopeless, he was furious.

“Fuck!” He said through gritted teeth, while he was driving the hast, pulling the case away and arming the fusil once more.

“If I get shot, maybe I’ll stay six or seven days sleeping on the couch.”

“They’ll catch us,” I said. We could clearly hear the hurried steps coming towards us.

“They will. But I’m taking some with me. Oh yeah, I  am.”

Then the vibration increased. It was sudden and surprised us. A dark oblong mass as a long cigar went above the trees, making them shake frantically. I was astonished. Causo, exultant. The ground was shaking. The men running towards us stopped and yelled at each other in alarm.

“Utopia, dystopia…” I murmured. “Who are you? A preacher of utopias or dystopias?”

“The cavalry has arrived, Tibor. We’re safe!”

“Oh yeah”

“Nor  dystopias or utopias,” said he, “I don’t have a literary program I wish to impose. I’m not a preacher. I’m an infantry soldier trying to survive in this jungle. There are leaderships I oppose to in this fight. But I don’t question their right to be leaders. I don’t mean to depose or replace them. It is a jungle of literary politics of the most basic and violent ones, and most of the coreligionists and soldiers in action do not even admit they’re participating on a political dispute. They are just friends chatting in a pub… But actually, the dispute for a place in the publishers’ programming, for the right to nominate, include and exclude, dictate what has or has no literary value is at stake. And they frequently use a very circumstantial ruler. What matters the most for them is the power to aggregate or ostracize. That’s why they come to you and say you have transgressed the disciplinary regulations, when mentioning he-who-must-not-be-named. People who have said fandom is bullshit for ten years and now fight to create their own domain inside of it. I content in opposing alone, hoping that one or another realize how things are and take a position with any conscience of what is doing. In this war, I am no more than a sniper.’

The yelling afar were of horror. “Madre de Dios”, someone screamed, before letting a guttural roar. I took the fusil from Causo’s hands, ready, for the first time, for fight. Something really bad was coming.

“No!” He told me. “In this specific case, utopia, Tibor.”

“No way,” I interposed. “Dystopia.”

“First contact. Alien race. Utopia!”

“First contact. Alien race! Dystopia!”

We were digladiating, the fusil going from one hand to the other, when a bunch of smelly goo fell on us. We looked up and saw something big and strange, full of tentacles, laboring protuberances and concavities from where some pestilent goo oozed. Causo left the fusil on my hands, stood up on a leap, threw his sandal aside and started running yelling “dystopia” from the top of his lungs.

The buttons of the watch only unlocked when we were both evolved by tentacles, about to turn into flesh and bones spread.

Causo hasn’t told me until now whether his feet are ok or not, nor if he had to sleep at least one night on the couch. He won’t answer my e-mails and common friends say that he is not willing to see me, not even painted in gold. This quantic watch of mine will still put me into heap big trouble.

Gwyneth Jones, writer and critic of science fiction and fantasy, is the author of many novels for teenagers, mostly horror and thrillers, using the name Ann Halam, and several highly regarded sf novels for adults. Her critical essays and reviews are collected in Deconstructing The Starships, 1999 and Imagination/Space 2009. Among other honours, several of her novels have been nominated for the Arthur C Clarke award, the latest being Spirit, 2009. She lives in Brighton, UK, with her husband and son, some goldfish and two cats; likes old movies, practices yoga & has done some extreme tourism in her time. Hobbies include gardening and cooking, and playing with her websites. Email: gwyneth.jones@ntlworld.com Websites: http://www.boldaslove.co.uk http://homepage.ntlworld.com/gwynethann Blog: http://www.boldaslove.co.uk/blog/

I treated this interview with Gwyneth Jones with restrictions, for my bones were still hot and I had some scorched parts on my body as a result of the interview with Hal Duncan. There was a time when the risks were shared between the interviewer and the interviewee. But I have recently noticed that the interviewer has been running increasingly greater risks.

And that is not reasonable.

So I consulted the watchmaker who gave me the quantic watch. I’ve had a hard time finding him. When I finally had him in front of me, I asked him if there was no better way to control the sceneries, so that we wouldn’t take run that many risks. I asked him if it would be possible to make all the interviews at the serenity and comfort of a bar. No fights, no shooting, no monsters, no aliens, no demons or distorted angels.

He answered with a “Banzai!” and threw a shuriken at me. Having no other option, I pressed the button on the watch and got away from his rage.

I ended up in a forest. It was magnificent, leafy and verdant. The sunbeams, filtered by the tree canopies, broke through as swords of light, forming bright columns where tiny bugs flew, as if they were little prisms, their wings reflecting a wonderful color jugglery.

I stood still. My feet were covered by the underbrush. Lots of bushes rustled, moved by the fresh breeze, or by the presence of little inhabitants of the forest: caterpillars, agile rodents, flying or jumping insects.

The trees were tall, and had erect trunks which seemed exclamation marks. Smooth skin, stained in shades of green and brown. Some spots with lots of trees, others with wide clearings, opened, where dry leaves piled, whirling at the slightest wind.

I took a few steps, approaching one of the trees. I felt the trunk and looked up, until my sight got lost in the intertwined canopies that formed a large veil.

Then I heard a distant and indistinguishable buzz. It became louder and louder. I noticed something moving far away, outlining trunks, dodging bushes, climbing up and down, swerving fast and vertiginously, almost at right angles. I was stunned and amazed.

It was only when the object was close enough that I identified it as a helix, spinning wildly on its own axis.

I realized the danger only too late.

The helix would have chopped my head off. It came straight towards me, in an unerring flight. I stayed there, goggling as death approached, not having enough time to react.

But a delicate, feminine hand came out of nowhere and held the artifact before it reached my throat. It had three blades, twisted as a weird boomerang. Those were dramatic moments. I started trembling and, trying to avoid an imminent faint, breathed the air in deep gushes, in order to keep my balance.

“Don’t embarass me. Only the weak faint while facing danger,”said the character behind me, retreating her arm and the killer helix.

I turned around cautiously, trying to disguise my trembling. It was Gwyneth Jones, I assumed.

“Gwyneth…” I stuttered.

She frowned, looked at me from head to toe, twisted her lips in disapproval and shrugged. She turned around, giving her back to me. She was wearing a long white dress that ran over her body, covering it down to her feet. Long hair. Diaphanous look, as in a dream. She moved forward a little and then turned to me again.

“From Bar to Bar, isn’t it?”

“Yes!” I answered excitedly. “The interview, remember?”

“Hmmm…”

“Better in the woods than in hell,” I said, smiling and remembering the angels and demons, and the streams of sulphurous water.

But the smile died on my lips instantly. My remark seemed to infuriate her. She intensified the look, motioned one of the hands quickly and then I was lifted in the air and thrown back with violence. Inches before crashing against a trunk, I felt “held”. I was suspended in the air as if invisible ropes were sustaining me. Gwineth Jones overcame the dozens of meters separating us in a second sliding swiftly over the ground. With another move, I was released and fell violently, hitting my back against some roots. I moaned in pain.

“Woods? You said Woods?” She screamed as I tried to get back on my feet. “What you call woods is what I call home. Enchanted forest. Magical forest. Stronghold of the good, the pure, the paladin and the righteous at service of the truth. Look at what is around you, free yourself from this mean and limited vision you brought with you, and you will see that these “woods” are much more than you’ll be able to understand in your whole lifetime.

I finally stood up and tried to get myself together while I was rationalizing. That interview was crossing the line. The bloody Japanese guy who’d given me the quantic watch was pushing too hard. Gwyneth Jones opened up her arms, showing me the same forest I saw when I had arrived. Nothing new.

Then, as if a veil had been removed from my eyes, I saw for the first time what was there to be seen. I was amazed.

Those tiny flying insects were actually fairies. Tiny little women with tiny little wings on their backs. Wendies that tickled my nose and buzzed on my ears. The caterpillars I thought I had seen were actually gnomes or weird leprechauns. They ran in the woods, laughing at my ignorance. The colors of the forest got a new shape, becoming more vibrant, the sunbeams became more consistent, almost like shiny crystals. The wind became alive and seemed to blow in many directions at the same time, toying with the dry leaves and shaping them as a butterfly.

Needless to say I was numb.

Gwyneth pointed a finger at me. I felt the floor disappear from under my feet and was lifted up in the air. I floated higher and higher while she followed me with a bored look. We flew through some intermediate branches and stopped at a good distance from the ground. Next to us, also floating, there were a table and two chairs. There was a bottle with a golden liquid on the table. The glasses were shiny, almost transparent, as if they were made of steam and with a filigreed of gold.

Sit at a floating table? I thought fearfully. But there was nothing I would fear more than to annoy the gentle and powerful lady that had brought me up there.

“Ask your questions and leave,” she told me, not very politely, as we sat on the chairs. It was easy for her, but my butt kept sliding one way or the other. Any distraction would lead me to a terrible fall.

“How is it for you to develop stories for already established universes, like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Saving Tiamaat) and Conan (Red Sonja and Lessinghan in Dreamland)?”

Gwyneth Jones frowned puzzled. She gestured and then a window opened out of thin air, and in it Wikipedia sparkled. I was shocked, of course. She looked it up quickly and then closed it with another gesture.

“Ah, I see what you’re getting at. No, no, dear interviewer. I got the name Tiamaat straight from Ancient Sumerian mythology, where she features as the Primordial Goddess of the Ocean, the Abyss, Chaos; I presume the Dungeons and Dragons people drew on the same source, by some means or other, when naming their monster. Interestingly (if you’ve read my story), you’ll find that Tiamaat’s codename should have been a warning to Deborah the assassin, that gender-role assumptions can be deceptive. You might like to know that the “Ki” and the “An” also feature in Ancient Sumerian myth. I don’t know if they also have counterparts in D&D. The Established Universe in the case of my story Saving Tiamaat was the noble and immemorial Universe of Space Opera, one of the global commons of the SF genre; a welcoming and compendious Imagination Space, which at the time of writing (2006) was being re-branded as “The New Space Opera”. The case of Red Sonja and Lessingham is different, but similar. I didn’t come to the naming of a magnificent woman-warrior called “Red Sonja” through a “Conan Universe” but purely through admiration for the wonderfully trashy movie of that name (Richard Fleischer, 1985), a great favourite of mine. Lessingham, of course, is a character in E.R.Eddison’s fantasy novels, notably The Worm Ouroboros (1922). Scenes and descriptions from this venerable text are clearly recognizable in my story, but they’re put to other uses besides straightforward High Fantasy. Which all goes to show, riffing and reffing is a genre technique that’s much older than the 21st Century, and independent of established franchises.”

I waited for her to finish the answer, took a sip of that mysterious drink and liked it. It was sweet and slightly alcoholic. She noticed I had liked it and smiled, scratching the table with her index fingernail, long and sharp, red as blood.

“Do you know what this nectar is made of?” she asked me.

“I have no idea.”

“Camel spit, triton tears, boar urine and one drop per litre of unicorn blood. And also, fermented Komodo dragon feces, where you take the alcohol from. Sequoia sap and pure spring water from this forest. Everything is mixed in a ritual of fertility and kept for a hundred years in jars of clay that were sealed with stingless bee wax. They are buried thirty meters deep in peat soil. That is some fine ethylic treat.”

I moved the glass away from my mouth, feeling deep in my throat the taste of boar urine and the bitterness of Komodo dragon feces. My stomach was upset and I thought I’d better stop drinking. I tried to look as casual as possible, of course.

“What is your involvement with the RPG universe? Do you play it? Do you write or collaborate with RPG publishing houses?”

“Aren’t you drinking?” I felt a clear and present danger in her voice.

“Of course I am,” I answered without much enthusiasm. I brought the glass to my mouth and took a small sip. This time, it was the drop of unicorn blood that didn’t go well. A slight numbness at the tip of my tongue started to bother me.

“I wish I was involved with the writing, I think it would be great fun, but no. The nearest I ever came to the happy situation of writing for a Gaming publishing house was a story for a Warhammer anthology, called The Manchdor Affair which sadly never got published at the time. (It has recently reached print at last, in Danish, in a chapbook, further details on request). When it comes to playing, I’m anti-social. I play RPG games (Zelda, Final Fantasy), all by myself. Preferably alone in the room, so I can slog it out with my abysmal gameplay skills, without embarrassment. My professional interest in games and gaming is twofold: I’m fascinated by the technology, which seems to me a brilliant hot spot, one of the few true growing points in our current global culture/technology interface, and ridiculously neglected by cultural commentators. And I’m fascinated by the neurology of gaming, naturally: because it’s what I do all the time, always have done, as a creative artist. But the plots, characters, challenges etc happen between my two ears, rather than between a screen and the latest platfom.”

I simpered and got myself together. I shivered just to imagine how she would interpret my sudden happiness. I didn’t get it myself. I took a third sip, voluntarily this time. Triton tears and sequoia sap. My right foot swung from one side to the other. My left ear blushed. I felt my chin trembling. My teeth jumped in my mouth as if they were alive. My pupils are brown, but I’m sure they turned purple. I don’t know how, but they did. Gwyneth Jones looked at me with a scientific curiosity.

“Glllow… Blurb…. Which are the similarities…. Proftr…  of your prose with other socially engaged writers, like … Brumbr…. Ursula Le Guin?” After I asked the question, I leaned my forehead on the table and felt it careen from one side and the other. I started laughing not knowing why. I opened my eyes and saw through the wood. The ground down below waved like a huge and green ocean. My teeth were still moving. One of them bit my palate tickling. Another was under my tongue, asleep. I could hear it snoring insolently.

“Ursula Le Guin’s writing had a huge influence on me when I was starting out, especially the fusion of lyricism and sophisticated politics in The Left Hand Of Darkness. Her influence remains strong, and that’s something I have in common with very many others, whether or not they would like to be identified as literary, or socially engaged. The other thing I have in common with Ursula Le Guin is that I’ve attempted to be socially engaged, while swimming in the mainstream. I’ve tried to write for the general audience, not to preach to the converted.”

She finished and waited for me to raise my head from the table, ungluing the forehead from the translucent wood (don’t ask me what crazy thing that is). I managed to do so with a huge effort, as if all the muscles in my body were lethargic. I looked at her with some difficulty and saw a white blur. At the center of the blur, I saw a face. At the center of the face, a smile. I smiled then, trying to use my tongue to hold the teeth that were trying to jump out of my mouth.

“This … hmmm… drink is good…” I mentioned in a cramp. “Wonderful place,” I continued opening up my arms as if I was wanted to embrace the forest. The chair leaned back dangerously and I felt as if a long and sticky tongue had grabbed me by the neck and pulled me back in place. “The language used with adult readers is, obviously, different than that used with the younger ones. With which of these two do you identify the most and why do you use a pseudonym?”

I opened my eyes wide. Hadn’t I been able to ask without stammering, slobbering or grabbing my teeth so they wouldn’t flee? In celebration, I took a generous sip of the Komodo piss, drank the sequoia blood and absorbed the stingless bee shit. I clicked my tongue, pleased, slapped my forehead and felt my left ear fall off, rolling over my shoulder until it rested quietly on my lap.

“I enjoy writing for adults, and I enjoy writing for teenagers. The voices are both mine, I see no identity problem. The difference is hard to pin down, although simplicity and getting straight to the point are obviously vital for a younger audience. I think when I write an “Ann Halam” story I expect the story to flow, without halts, extensive revision, careful research. When I write a “Gwyneth Jones” story I expect to have to think and work hard, before I can transform my ideas into fiction. It doesn’t always work out that way, sometimes “Gwyneth” stories are easy, and “Ann” stories are hard. But I don’t mind. I like thinking, I like interesting work, and of course everybody loves the “flow state”.  The pseudonym wasn’t my idea. I was asked to provide a pseudonym for the teenage books by a former publisher, long ago. I didn’t see why not, so I complied, and became comfortable with the situation. It’s not a guarded secret, but I’m unlikely to drop either of the names now.”

Some fairies landed on the table, others flew around the bottle and the glasses. Gwyneth shook her hand, trying to scare them and one of them, in a dangerous flight, hit my nose.

“This is crazy,” I said, trying to force the little fairy out of my nostril, “a flying table way above the ground, almost touching the highest branches. Jumping teeth, sexy fairies, a white queen looking like The Chronicles of Narnia witch – and I said that looking straight at her eyes – and a drink that is probably one of the most hallucinogenic I’ve ever tried.”

I stared at her while I tried at all costs to attach my fallen ear. The intruder fairy had already left, covered in my snot.

“Are you through with the question?” Gwyneth asked me.

“There’s one more,” I answered quite pleased with my ear. It wasn’t at the right spot, but I could hear much better on that side.

Gwyneth approached me over the table. I swear I thought she was going to kiss me, but instead, she blew slowly on my face. A lot of my altered state vanished. With a good portion of my lucidity restored, I feared when I realized the table was way above where I thought it was. I saw the trees below us. Down there. I saw the outlines of the planet, I saw hilly valleys whipped by intense lightning, I saw waterfalls, rivers and bright lakes. I also saw flying horses, harpies, gargoyles, spectra, and I’m pretty sure I saw Dumbo.

“The last question,” Gwineth whispered, spinning the table in mid-air, as if it was a dancing cup just like in Alice’s story. I felt sick and was about to throw up when it stopped. But I didn’t stop. Dizzy as I was, I swung and almost fell. Once again, I felt a thick and sticky tongue grab me. This time, it was no dream or reverie. The tongue came from Gwyneth’s mouth and she retracted it as soon as I was secure.

“I’ve held you too many times already. I’m getting tired of this interview.”

“Tell us a bit about your critic studies and their importance in your literary life,” I asked at once, trembling and scared.

“I’m an intellectual. I can’t help it, I was born that way. This doesn’t mean, alas, that I’m highly qualified or highly intelligent, it just means when I see something made of words (or images, or ideas) I just have to take it apart, to see how it works, to see how it evolved; how the different parts are joined up. Exactly the same as some geeky kid who has to take the back off his or her toys; ruins watches, tinkers with the software and hardware of any hapless useful appliance. Ever since I’ve been a writer, I’ve been a critic, which is not the same as being a reviewer, because usually I’m not really interested in whether the book should sell or not. I just find the activity of dissecting all kinds of narratives (trashy or literary, I don’t care), completely fascinating. I keep trying to give it up, because it’s trouble. You take somebody’s treasured novel, some revered best-seller, apart, you put it back together not exactly the way it was before, naturally readers and writers are going to get annoyed. . . But somehow criticism keeps sneaking back into my life. I really must quit. The impact on my literary life (apart from the periods where I have to go into hiding, get into a witness protection scheme, etc) has been that I can’t help thinking about where my own narratives come from. I never believe I’m doing something original, only that it’s an original version. I always know I’m telling a story that’s been told before, but hopefully telling it in a new and intriguing way.”

She was done and that was clear. We both took a deep breath. I held firmly to the rim of the table, feeling it flutter. My feet were hanging in space, with no firm ground for at least three or four hundred meters. Now what? I thought. Is she going to wave her hand and we will land safely or what?

I found out at last. She snapped her fingers and the table, chairs, glasses and bottle disappeared. We were both suspended in thin air. She was gorgeous, with her long dress waving in the wind. She wore a triumphant smile, that of the “I can fly” type. And also of the “I know the interviewer can’t” type. Pale, I gulped and fell.

I saw the Sky spinning wildly. I saw Dumbo shaking its huge ears. I spun and saw the trees approaching quickly. I saw Komodo dragons marching far, I saw unicorns neighing and galloping on the prairies. And it all became a huge and green blur as I tried desperately to find the button on my quantic watch.

Gwyneth Jones emailed me threatening in case I revealed any of her secrets. Therefore, I’m taking extreme risks. I won’t allow the White Queen intimidate me. Nor Dumbo, or anyone. I’m publishing the interview, no matter what. Oh, Lord! Where are my teeth?

Delfin collaborated with this interview.

The rhythm and the frequency of the interviews on the From Bar to Bar depend on the amount of “yes” or “no” I receive from the contacted writers. Not everybody agrees on being the main character in a fantastic history. But I can’t complain. I have had great acceptance and good feedback. That shows me this format of interviews is in the right path.

I’m not against the traditional format of questions and answers, but I think that the readers have the right to enjoy themselves while they get to know the author and his ideas. And there is no better place than a fantastic scenery with real dangers (yes, the interviews are true; they don’t happen just in my imagination. Ask those who have risked their necks).

Gwyneth Jones, Roberto de Sousa Causo and Mark Charan Newton precede two other well-known authors who are already saying goodbye to friends and parents in a mix of sadness and excitement. Those names I’ll keep under lock and key. You’ll know them very soon. Just wait.

Hal Duncan is a writer of SF, fantasy and strange fiction in general, a member of the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle, and a monthly columnist at BSC Review. He has published two novels, VELLUM (which won the Spectrum and Tähtivaeltaja awards and was nominated for several others) and INK, a stand-alone novella, "Escape from Hell!", various short stories in magazines and anthologies, and a poetry collection, SONNETS FOR ORPHEUS. His work also includes the lyrics for Aereogramme's “If You Love Me, You'd Destroy Me,” on the Ballads of the Book album, and the musical, NOWHERE TOWN, which recently premiered in Chicago.

It was dark. I was surrounded by trees with exposed roots that twisted on the ground, covering most of it. The path was difficult because of them and of the darkness that forced me to walk slowly, with short and cautious steps.

When I pressed the button on my quantic watch, I assumed the interview was going to happen at a pub, with lots of beer or scotch. Maybe a good fight to warm up the muscles. Chairs being cast all around, fallen tables, splintered bottles. Screams, cursing and laughter. Because a good fight must have laughter. And then ice, to  ease the pain.

But as the swirl caused by the change of reality settled down, I saw myself at a desolate scene. The trees were so tall and tightened it was impossible to tell whether there was a sky above them or not. Thorny bushes fought for space with trunks and roots. And there were howls, snarls and roars not too far away.

I was looking for Hal Duncan, but I was afraid to call him. I feared my shouting would draw the attention of the savage animals that were fighting for space close by.

I rubbed my arms, trying to drive off the shivering. The air was heavy, hot and dense.   There was no smoke, but I could feel it, tenuous, in the air. I controlled the looming fear and moved on, trying not to stumble and fall.

I walked no more than three meters.

In the middle of a dense foliage I was trying to overcome, there was a man with a crazy look and bearing a club. He lifted it above his head and was about to strike a powerful blow on me when he froze. We stood there, static. Facing each other.

It was Hal Duncan, for  Heaven’s sake.

“Lower that club, man!” I asked in urgency, while he was still gazing at me with a haggard look on his face.

He listened to me, at last, and eased his moves, lowering his armed hand. He sighed and shook his head.

“That was close,” he said.

Then, he smiled and motioned his hand, showing me the surroundings.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” He asked.

“Indeed”, I answered in a grumpy way. “Where is the beauty of this place?” I asked, at last crossing the dense foliage and standing next to him.

“Not the beauty of the place, but of the situation,” he answered, leaving me without a clue.

“What situation?”

“Can’t you feel the air? Can’t you smell it? Can’t you hear the nervous animals? Can’t you see the trees, the roots…? We are at the doors of… you know. Oh, you do know!”

“My name is not Virgil,” I answered trembling.

“And mine isn’t Dante, but we are. And you know it.”

I looked around, trying to remember when I had last browsed through the Divine Comedy. It had been a long time ago. Years. I could still remember the Gustave Dore’s paintings and how those images had disturbed me.

“What’s that club for?” I asked, afraid of the answer.

“It’s just that things are a little different here.”

“I know this must sound cliche, but this is an interview. That’s the reason we are here, not for hunting wild animals.”

Hal raised the club and handled it with skill, spinning it in the air.

“This club is not for hunting animals. It’s for protection against angels.”

All I did was look at him. Nothing in his expression showed me he was joking or trying to scare me. I bit my lips, took a deep breath and, after a good look around, asked him the first question.

“According to a previous interview, it seems you have stylistic and esthetic concern with the histories you write. Tell me how you see the dilema between form and content in genre literature.”

Hal did not answer at once. He stopped spinning the club and narrowed his eyes, paying attencion to something. He motioned me to follow him and left, walking ahead of me, skipping roots and averting thorns. We ended up at a clearing. In its centre, there was a pit or a well with a bright light and a smell of burning meat coming from it. I heard moaning. Hal poked me on the shoulder, signaled me to stand still and readied the club, raising it up to his shoulder. To my surprise, an angel with white and coruscant wings came down, hovering over the pit. Hal jumped ahead, waved the club and smashed the angel’s skull. The angel crashed on the ground, in front of us.

“But… But… What have you done?” I asked in horror, going to him.

As Hal cleaned the club on a stone, wiping off blonde curly hair and brain goo, he ignored the last question, choosing to answer the one I had asked before.

“Heh, I'm going to start by being difficult and saying there is no genre 

literature. All literature is of a genre; it’s just that some genres get
a bad rep for their ties to big-ass commercial marketing categories,
while others — like contemporary realism — pass themselves off as
somehow non-genre by being sold in the marketing category of General
Fiction. Sure, you could lump the commercial categories together as
category fiction, but apart from a pressure towards formulation that
goes with the niche marketing, I don’t see any reason to treat the two
groups separately. Or you could lump the strange fiction genres together
— which would include magical realism and fantastique and all manner of
works that aren’t considered genre. Either way, I’m going to carry on being difficult by saying that there’s no dilemma between form and content either. Words are the only substance. Words don’t carry content; they pack import. They have denotations, yes, but each also hits you with its own unique set of connotations, so you change one word in a sentence and you change its import. You can’t have two sentences as different forms for the same basic content; you have two different articulations, two different constructs of import, two different meanings. Every narrative is an articulation of words wrought into sentences, paragraphs, passages, scenes, chapters. It’s a structure of words. Words are the only substance.”

I was still trembling, looking at the angel’s body shake in short spasms. The head was smashed, liquids leaking from it. We were next to the pit and I dared to look into it. I saw what looked like human figures moving amid fire.

“Angels… what are they for?” He asked me with a bored face.

“Angels and God”, I mumbled, “are divine”, my voice wasn’t more than a squeak.

Hal embraced me and led me bwyond the pit, to what looked like a clearing. It wasn’t. It was the edge of a cliff. The few trees still surviving on the pure rock cast their twisted branches into the void. It was possible to see the sky, scratched by vertiginously fast objects. I controlled the fear and got closer to the edge, taking a horrified look down.

Ravines and plateaus. Low ridges. Fires scaterred all around. Sudden blasts cast fire and magma upwards. I saw indistinguishable shadows moving randomly on the ground and flying figures, like sparks of light, swooping down.

Even though I was not able to identify anything clearly, I felt a deep sadness. I trembled more intensely, freed myself from Hal’s embrace and retreated a few steps back. He stared at me, the club on the floor. It was possible to see behind him, at the dark sky that vanished in the horizon, the flashes from down below.

I sttutered the second question. My hands were shaking. The cold had left. I was sweating.

“You say you are a militant with an anarchist tendency. Is there much politic debate among your equals or not?

“You must make uo your mind, Tibor”.

“About what?” I asked anxiously.

“There’s a war going on. You must decide what side you are on”, he than lifted the club, resting it on his shoulder.

“I’m not interested in wars. I’m a peaceful man. This is an interview.”

“I’ll not answer your question. You will ne a tray in these land of fire until I answer your question. I know that sure enough. You’ll have to make choices or you’ll spend eternity wandering in deep suffering.”

Bastard, I thought angrily. Hal swung the club inpatiently.

“Ok,” I said at last. “I’m with you.”

He smiled, gaping. His eyes shone in satisfaction. He came to me and took me back to the edge of the cliff.

“So, let’s have fun, man!”

It felt like jumping to death. I felt I was being grabbed by the shoulder and being lifted with extreme easiness. I looked up, trying to see what or who held me. I got pale immediately. I saw a huge creature with black wings. The infuriated face had p0inted teeth, torn and chatoyand eyes, pointed ears, scales and hair that moved in a weird way, as if they were millins of larvae hooked to the skull. Then, I looked down, trying to suppress the nausea caused by fear. Hal Duncan was a fez meters away from me, riding the back of one of those demons. He held the club like a knight, ready to smash other heads.

“I don't know if I'm radical enough to qualify as a militant really -- a bit bolshie, maybe -- but all of my politics are really tendencies -- anarchist, socialist, pacifist -- too at odds with each other, and too informed by pragmatism, to really settle on a recogniseable militancy. Although I might be getting more activist in terms of queer politics as I get older; I'm certainly getting mouthier when it comes to the politics of fiction as regards the Other -- abjection on the basis of sexuality, race, gender identity, ability, etc. Anyway, yes, political debate is a large part of the circles I move in, I'd say, both in terms of daily life and in terms of the writing.”

As we went down, I was able to identify the shadowed figures moving on the ground. And also the swooping sparks of light. They were men and women, confused, lost. The sparks were angels.

We were left on a highland, surrounded by quite deep valleys. Hal was agitated, urging me to follow him. He was running down a winding path that was taking us downwards. I didn’t want to be left behind, or alone for that matter. So I followed him.

“Scotland’s got a pub culture where politics and religion are constant topics. And I’ve grown up with that, to the extent that I find it weird when you come into contact with someone who thinks those subjects shouldn’t be on the table in social settings. Like, I had one correspondant from the midwest USA, a catholic theologian, who referred to that dinner table etiquette in relation to my blog, how where he came from people generally didn’t do the whole heated debate thing in case of causing offence. Bollocks to that, I say. This is what actually matters.”

He stopped in front of a rock. We saw a woman crawling, dirty, filthy, covered in waste. It seemed like she hadn’t seen us. Hal poked me and pointed to the sky, to a point in the horizon our sights could barely reach, blocked by the rough terrain and small middens. I saw a line of what looked like souls soaring. They moved upwards to what seemed to be a dimensional opening – it reminded me of The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman.

“They flee. Those aren’t the souls of redeemed humans, as you might think”, and then he smiled in delight. “Those are what is left of the angels we are killing.”

I trembled for the thousandth time.

“The online community of strange fiction writers and readers seems to be pretty fiery in those terms too. At least in the blogs and LiveJournals I follow, you’ll see politics come up quite a lot — which is good. Though it’s not always the most productive debate, I’d have to say. A lot of it, especially where it comes to the politics of race, seems to degenerate very quickly as moral panic and moral outrage smack heads. By moral panic I mean the irrational defensiveness and denials whenever you even suggest that a work is a bit… ethically dodgy. Some who like it will immediately react to as if you were wrongfully accusing them of raping kittens.”

We stopped once again. A hideous valley lay before us. Streams of sulfurous and bubbly water ran through it. There were people in and out of those waters. Flesh loose from the bones, hanging eyes, feet with broken toes that would get loose as they walked. Two of them carried their own heads, vacillating. Suddenly an angel came and, using a sword of fire, cut one of the sufferers in half.

I’d never felt more afflicted and tormented. Hal was effusive.

I looked up and saw a fight. Angels and demons flew, hitting each other, tridents and swords striking. Black and white feathers, shining, fell in a cascade. I saw some angels and demons falling, either crashing against the rocky ground or sinking in the waters.

I hurried to the third question.

“Do you consider yourself specifically a genre literature writer or do you consider the genre just a moment, just a phase? Do you intend to write realistic histories as well as you do with poetry or not?”

Hal looked at me as if I was a moron.

“There’s more to do than questions and answers, don’t you think?”

And he moved ahead, running through the narrow paths formed by the water streams. I went after him, afraid we could lose track of each other. I saw when he launched himself against the back of an angel who was fighting close to the ground, clearly outnumbered. Three demons attacked him, striking powerfully with their tridents. Hal held the angel’s neck and tried to bring him down.

He got it.

What I saw after that was a slaughter. They dismembered the celestial being, scattering his bowels over the terrain. They celebrated, full of glory, for the victory in one more battle. And then one of the demons fell, victim of a vivid lightning from the sky that crossed through him. The others took off and left quickly.

Hal returned, puffy.

“I guess my answer to that is already given, to some extent: all literature is in one genre or another. As far as moving away from a marketing category label, I’m not going to proclaim that my work isn’t Science Fiction / Fantasy even though I don’t, to be honest, consider those as particularly meaningful labels for the field of strange fiction. There’s a community there I’m happy to be a member of and have no intention of insulting — unless it’s as an insider kicking against tribalist nonsense, not wanting to see the definitions attached to those labels closed so as to exclude the crazy shit I grew up thinking of as SF. I mean, there are some tribes who insist on the narrowest of definitions, and if that mindset won the day in the end, yeah, I’d shrug and leave them to it, but I’d rather not. I could see my own brand of weird shit being sold without the label as a publisher decision, but I’d still be thinking — and talking — of it as sf.”

Hal took a deep breath, threw the club aside and sat down, leaning against a rock. I did the same. The rock was warm, the air almost impossible to breathe. A lonely heart beat a few meters away from us. No body, no blood, nothing. It just beat, at a rhythmic and apparently calm pace.

“Am I likely to change the actual kind of stuff I write, to do work that isn’t strange fiction? Well, I’ve got a screenplay that’s basically just a straight-up high school movie, without any of the weirdness you’d find in my novels or short stories, so who knows what idea might take my fancy down the line? I have eclectic tastes, and kind of like going off into the left-field in my own work — writing a musical here, a high school movie there, and of course the poetry. I kinda like the idea of working my way through as many genres as I have ideas for. So I don’t rule out the possibility that suddenly I’ll decide to do something purely realistic. I’m not sure it’s that likely though. Contemporary Realism is by definition limited, excluding the strange. It’s actively ruling out a whole toolkit of literary techniques, confining yourself to the mimetic. It’s kinda like taking all but one of the strings off your twelve-string guitar, and I can’t imagine why I’d want to restrict myself like that. I mean, as a one-off experiment in the minimalism of pure mimesis, sure; but as a committed approach for any period of time? Fuck that shit. You can be realistic without being purely realistic. And not being purely realistic means you can do a fuckload more than those Contemporary Realists are limiting themselves to.”

He silenced and so did I. I kept looking around, listening to the distant clank of the sparse battles that seemed to be never ending.

“Aren’t you going to kill any angels?” He asked me suddenly.

“No,” I answered trying to look calm. “I’m not in the mood for bursting brains.”

“It’s fun. You should try.”

“Another time, maybe.”

“I’ll let you use my club, if you want.”

“I appreciate the honor! I’ll keep that in mind in case I decide to make a swathe in Heaven.”

We were silent again. A feather of light came slowly down and fell before me, right in front of my feet. I was going to pick it up, but it vanished at the slightest touch.

“Not even a broken nose? A plucked leg?” Hal insisted.

“Later. I still have two more questions. Answer me the next one and we will kill whatever crosses our way, ok?”

“Way to go, Tibor! Ask!”

“Tell me about Vellum and Ink, unknown books here in Brasil. How did the idea to write them come up and how has the feedback been in the markets it was published?”

“The key spark was an incident in Glasgow University Library back when I was a student, primed with the notions of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon and Borges’s Book of Sand in my imagination. I’d done some time-wasting database search for Nostradamus and discovered the library had a copy in the “Ferguson Special Collection” which I knew was in the basement, but had never visited before. So I wandered down to find a clerk sitting alone in this shadowy room lined with glass-fronted wooden bookcases. She clearly didn’t get many visitors, so she was eager to help, and no sooner had I said what I was looking for than she was off into a back room… only to come back with this huge leatherbound tome. She’d given me a card to fill out, with a space for my tutor’s name and everything, so I was kind of shitting myself at this point, because I was only there out of idle curiosity. I mean, this thing had to be rested on foam cushions. She gave me kidskin gloves to handle it. And when I opened the pages of this priceless artifact, their parchment all brittle with age — and we’re talking hand-written here — I was acutely aware that I had no fucking valid reason to be messing about with it at all.”

Hal got the club and brought it closer to him, next to his hip. He stretched one of his legs, kicking a femur on the ground.

“All I could do was sit there for fifteen minutes or so, leafing through it and pretending to make notes on my pad — like I was actually studying it. But as I looked at this utterly inscrutable tome, I was sort of awed by the thing in and of itself, the mystery of its text, the leather of its binding, the texture of its pages. And somewhere from that came this idea that if fantasy fiction has Objects of Power — magic swords and suchlike — surely the ultimate Object of Power when it came to any fantasy was the book in which that fantasy was written. That spark caught and became an idea of the ultimate Book of Hours — those books of scriptures and sermons for dukes and princes, dividing the year up into months, days, hours of the day, with text appropriate to each period. That became The Book of All Hours, a fictive tome containing everything every written and everything never written — because it had to contain the text appropriate to every possible moment, right?”

Hal then ducked and made me do the same. Difficult task when you are sitting down. I kind of fell aside, hitting my shoulder on the ground and staining my shirt with blood. A lightning, probably rebound, skidded on a midden and hit the rock where we were. I have no idea how Hal saw or foresaw the accident, but I thanked the hells, for his quick reaction.

Even with an accelerated heart – mine, not the lonely one beating ahead of us – I straightened myself, as he did the same, keeping his line of thought.

“I spent ten years not realizing I was writing Vellum and Ink actually, working up all these short stories and novellas that riffed off each other in terms of themes and characters and tropes like this Book. It was only when I wrote what’s now the prologue of Vellum — which directly drew on that incident — that all this material began to click together into the two novels. In terms of the response, it’s been awesome. I don’t know how well they’ve gone down in some countries — I don’t have much contact with the publisher of the Spanish edition, for example — but in some of the markets I’ve just been blown away. Hell, I never really expected it to get picked up by publishers like Macmillan in the UK, Del Rey in the US, so when it started to take off, and translation rights started selling, it was fucking unreal. And where I have had contact with publishers or directly with readers, it’s been amazing to see it taking off. The launch of the Finnish edition at the Helsinki Book Fair was a highlight. The book sold out twice while I was there, and by the time I’d left the country it was already going to a second print run. And of course, Finnish fandom is awesome, so that whole week or so just rocked.”

He took a deep breath, releasing the air in a noisy blow and clapped, jumping up. He was radiant.

“That’s it! Now you will feel how wonderful it is to smash a head!”

I stood up, stretching the dirty pants. I looked at my quantic watch. Hal took the club and gave it to me. It was heavy, I could barely hold it, let alone hold it above my head.

“It’s your chance. The Angel is there, he is outnumbered.”

“Let’s go together,” I said, encouraging him. “I need my master to give me confidence.”

He smiled, understandingly. He tapped me on the shoulder and then released a war cry. I mimicked him. We ran insanely, dodging dying people and skipping sulphurous puddles. At a certain time, I dropped the club and pressed the button on my watch, throwing us back to our own reality.

There were no more questions. The interview was over.

“Hal Duncan won’t reply to my emails any longer. I understand he is mad at me, but I believe he will agree that I did the right thing. Tricking him was not nice at all, but you must agree… It was necessary!”

Delfim and Romeu Martins collaborated with this interview

"Larry Nolen is a history and English teacher who has taught for most of the past ten years in Tennessee and Florida, in both public and private school settings. Fascinated with languages from an early age, he devotes much of his spare time to reading and translating interviews and articles from Spanish into English, with his first published translation scheduled to be released in November 2010. Larry also has an unhealthy fascination with squirrels and dreams to one day edit an anthology of squirrel SF. His blog can be found at ofblog.blogspot.com. He was named series editor for Best American Fantasy in January, starting with BAF 4."

We were surrounded by woods.  Leafy trees, shrubs, grass. There were lots of butterflies. The blue sky was filtered by the high branches, letting interspersed rays of light in. And squirrels, lots of them. Climbing and coming down from trees, running around, twining in our legs. We were smiling. It was a lovely sight. The air smelled flowers. We saw wildlife, like deer and many birds, songbirds, watching us as we were watching them. No frights or unnecessary foolish fears.

I must stress I wasn’t expecting such a marvelous scene when I pushed the button on my quantic watch, ready for another interview. I knew of the worship Larry Nolen had for squirrels and even believed we would find them. I was only worried about how those rodents would present themselves. I was worried there would be zombie-like squirrels with long sharp teeth, hungry for brains.

I abandoned any expectations for peaceful, not risky interviews, quite some time ago.

We looked at each other in rapture. My interviewee was in a state of grace, almost living an epiphany. Squirrels are extremely lively little animals. He could never imagine lots of them climbing our legs, happily, as if we were equals.

And it was equal stupor that we saw one of them, as big as a grown cat risk himself a lot more. He went up Larry’s pants, held on to his shirt and roosted on his shoulders. The animal was smiling, with wide eyes and looked at us alternately. Then he opened his mouth and, to our surprise, he said:

“Don’t you think it’s time to wake up from this silly illusion and go back to reality?”

As in magic, we saw everything crumble and fall around us, in smaller and smaller parts, pixels falling apart until there was nothing but a room full of holographic projectors.

The squirrel on Larry’s shoulders was still there. He had an ironic expression. He waited until we were recovered from the shock and then came down, in a precise jump. He looked at us once again and signaled for us to follow him.

“Talking squirrels” I whispered, perplexed.

“Talking and technological squirrels,” Larry added with a scowl.

The squirrel ran towards a wall and disappeared through it right before our eyes. We moved forward and touched it. It was rigid, solid, metallic.

“What the hell…,” Larry started complaining.

Before he could finish, the squirrel came back with an angry face.

“I forgot you are as big as the tiny brains you have. It’s formless metal and we are small. If you used your mind a little more, you’d know you have to stoop down.”

I tried the wall with the tip of my toe wich, to my surprise, went through. Larry groped it, and found the exact height of the passage and in a fake smile, kneeled, crawling out of the room. I followed him.

We found ourselves in a corridor. Although the squirrels were small – but not as small as we could imagine – the places there were reasonably large.

“We were expecting you. We adapted some things,” said the rodent as if he could anticipate our concerns. “My name is Bel’n’tirk and this is the spaceship Derk’n’bork, category eight. Built to rescue and guide some chosen ones to a safe stoppage.”

Larry and I looked at each other in bewilderment.

“But where did this crazy watch bring us?”

“I haven’t got the slightest idea,” I answered while I saw the squirrel run down the corridor, leaving us behind.

“It’s an interview. Ask the first question.”

‘When you say – and rightfully so – that non-English audiences expect and possibly demand of their local authors that they follow more closely the unspoken standards of science fiction, would you then say that English science fiction – more able to subvert or challenge those same unspoken standards – has been evolving or has it just run its course to the end? In other terms, is it possible to be “evolving away” from itself?’ I put the paper I checked in search for the answers in my pocket back to where I had taken him from and increased my pace. We would soon lose track of Bel’n’tirk if we stayed there.

Other squirrels ran around the corridors. Many of them carrying notepads, communicators, pens and lots of stuff we couldn’t identify. They passed by us as if we weren’t even there.

“The problem, as I see it, with defining rigidly any term is that as soon as one does so, the usage changes.  Science fiction today, whether it be that written in the United States, Great Britain, or Brazil, for example, differs as a whole in certain trends, technological advancements, both real and imagined, and in how people and their societies are portrayed.  If I were pressed to define it at all, I would say that science fiction is a fluid narrative form that is very responsive to the conditions of its authors’ times and locales, mutating as necessary to reflect better the changing social, cultural, and technological landscapes.”

As soon as he finished answering, the spaceship was shaken. We heard a high crack as if the metal of the structures was breaking apart. The floor trembled and we had to lean on the walls. The squirrels around us startled and started to run even faster.

Bel’n’tirk went through another passage. We kneeled and went into what seemed to be an elevator. And it was. The controls were near the ground. The squirrel pressed two buttons and we were thrown against the ceiling due to the speed the vehicle went down. Bel’n’tirk laughed at our situation and pointed to his feet where magnetic little boots, which were recently activated, kept him firm on the ground.

“What’s going on?” Larry asked in dismay.

“We are a rescuing ship. Some blame us of kidnapping, but that’s not the case. We save people who are being followed. But we only do that when the cause interests us. And your cause is very interesting.”

“And what cause is that?” I asked, somewhere between curious and frightened.

Bel’n’tirk was about to answer when the elevator suddenly stopped. We were thrown against the ground and hit our bottoms groaning in constraint. The doors didn’t open because they just wouldn’t. We had to walk through them. We crawled out, already annoyed by this silly need (Doors which open and close are extremely comfortable). We stood up, but not entirely. Low ceiling. We were forced to bend. We found ourselves in the flagship. At least twelve squirrels were working in multi-colored panels from which indistinguishable holographic images were being projected. In the middle of the walkway, a squirrel which was quite bigger than the others, almost the size of a dog, looked at us in undisguiseable curiosity.

“My name’s Jorj’h’korg. You can’t imagine the great satisfaction I have in meeting you. And this magnificent quantic watch, which technology fascinates us deeply.”

“Fascinates us?” I asked, already protecting my watch.

The captain squirrel moved lazily on his rear legs, dragging his enormous belly towards us. He stopped in front of us, analyzing us entirely, as if he was analyzing products he was about to buy.

“Literary critics… Ah, it amazes me…” He suddenly said, lifting his hands theatrically. Then, he pointed his finger towards me and said: “…and also a writer…. Hmmmm… a critic with a glass roof… fascinating. They want to kill you,” he added, finally, while turning around and moving away.

“Kill us?” Larry Nolen asked, perplexed.

“They hate critics, all of them,” groaned the captain. “They hate anyone who lists their failures. They want compliments, just that, even if they’re not worthy of them.”

Larry Nolen looked at me. I looked back.

“I really kick asses, with no pity or mercy,” I joked.

“But I don’t criticize anyone… I mean… I don’t do that… I just comment or summarize the works I approve… I never…”

“And how do you think the others take your silence?” asked Jorj’h’korg, turning quickly and making his belly shake dangerously and frighteningly from one side to the other.

Larry Nolen gulped.

“But relax,” the captain continued. “You’re in a level eight rescue ship. The famous Derk’n’bork. Safe, you can trust that. Our followers can hit us as many times as they want and they won’t cause us much damage.”

As if trying to deny his words, the ship was shaken once again. We heard a nearby crack. Sparks and smoke flew from one of the panels. An electrical discharge made one of the squirrels in the bridge let a sharp scream and squeak while he floundered. He fell, apparently dead, with smoke coming out from his mouth. The captain came closer to him, kicked him casually and smiled, as if nothing had happened.

“You are in the middle of an interview, aren’t you? The questions and answers interest me greatly. Please, continue.”

Fearing our time in that ship would be short, I decided to do what the captain was asking. I gagged while I asked the second question. Larry Nolen gagged to answer.

“Would there be any real benefit from translating foreign works into English on a regular basis? I mean, apart from the odd, interesting author, and assuming for the sake of the argument that editors and the market would not be barriers to the translation and publishing of these stories, would SF really benefit from a constant flow of non-English SF that is, in its core, inspired in US/UK SF models?”

“Most certainly it would benefit.  Anytime there is a free and open exchange of ideas, particularly ideas that reflect different cultural and social values, the chances of innovations in the writing between say a US writer and an Argentine one, or a UK author and a Japanese one – these are going to increase exponentially.  Look at the current explosion in manga.  It is no longer a Japanese literary form nor something that Americans just casually adopted.  It is fast becoming a global literary form, one that seems to be spawning more and more hybrid literary stories.”

Larry Nolen took a deep breath, held on Jorj’h’korg’s seat and continued.

“The same holds true for SF.  I just recently finished reading a short anthology of Singaporean SF, called Happiness at the End of the World.  Although English, along with Mandarin Chinese, are the dominant languages in Singapore, the cultural values are very different and that has been an eye-opener, to say the least.  Staying in this part of the world, look at the explosion in popularity of SF in China, Taiwan, and Japan.  Although these markets have not yet produced many works that have been translated into English – although I should note that Haikasuru started up in 2009 and has produced several great translations of Japanese SF -, from what I have seen, these non-English markets are reimagining some of the core concepts of SF, including first contact – the Japanese seem to be at times even more xenophobic than Americans about this issue -, time travel – not much of a focus on paradoxes and altering the past in a negative fashion for the Japanese -, and technology – Americans seem to have more mixed feelings about technological advances, especially when it comes to modifying the human body, than do the Japanese or Chinese. SF readers exposed to this might in turn develop their own responses that are neither those of their prior generations’ SF nor that of the foreign nation whose SF they are reading.  It is, in many respects, similar to the plethora of cooking styles and “fusion dishes” that have developed over the past few decades in response to the growing globalization in all facets of our lives.”

Jorj’h’korg, who seemed to be absorbed by my watch, wagged his hands smiling.

“Intelligent question, intelligent answer,” he turned to one of his comandeers then and told him to pass to warp eight.

“Warp eight?” Larry and I asked almost in unison.

‘Duh! While you were having fun at the holodeck, we were already doing warp seven. Evasive maneuvers and accelerated evasion. The Derk’n’bork can’t go beyond the eighth warp. The enemies are close, very close.

With a slight of hand, a pannel came down from the ceiling, unfolding in several faces, all of them forming a single monitor. Eight luminous spots that seem to dance fluttered.

“They are five million kilometers behind us. Their weapons can hit us with half the power. But they’re getting closer. And each meter closer, the power of their discharges increase considerably.”

“They told us this spaceship was the best in its category. (You’ve just said that,” I complained.

“Ah, hurtless little lies, although it’s good. But it’s not the fastest. We have comfort, the holodeck, an enviable provision warehouse and some naughty little squirrel girls, if you know what I mean,” he said with a blink.

“And how do you intend to save us this way?” I asked nervously.

The captain looked at my watch with a frank smile. He put his hands together and fiddled his fingers.

“We can leave this reality and head to another. A spectacular escape through the multiverses. Of course this would force this watch to leave this wrist, yours, and come to this one here, mine. But life is always the most precious thing, isn’t it?”

I thought about his words and soon came to the conclusion that it couldn’t be done. The property transfer would prevent us from coming back to our own reality. And there was no guarantee that the fat squirrel would give it back to me.

”How is fiction, not necessarily science fiction, made in latin countries as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico noticed in the big centers of fiction literature? Are there really language barriers? ” I suddenly asked Larry Nolen.

The captain of the ship soon transfered his attention to Larry, leaving my watch away for a moment. I was trying, obviously, to make time and accelerate the interview so that we could hit the road safely.

“There are barriers, of course, but celebrity seems to abolish most of them.  Take for example Jorge Luis Borges.  I have spent all of July writing daily posts about his books – reading most of them in Spanish rather than English translation – or comments he has made about other writers.  It took fourteen years, from the appearance of his first story in English translation, in a mystery pulp magazine, in 1947 to a seemingly-sudden explosion of popularity in the US and elsewhere in 1961, on the heels of him sharing a major international fiction award with Samuel Beckett.  Within seven years, Borges is crossing the United States on lecture tours that draw thousands, he is a visiting Professor at Harvard and several other prestigious universities, and his stories appear in premier publications like The New Yorker within months of being published in Argentina.  Considering this was over forty years ago, it is a major accomplishment for a foreign writer.”

I glanced at Jorj’h’korg. He was hypnotized by the answer.

“But although the United States has had a long history of importing (and then “borrowing” ideas) fictions from Europe, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Latin American literature became popular in the US as it was throughout Mexico and South America in particular.  There seemed to be this magical period, lasting through the mid-1980s before dipping until the rise of writers like Roberto Bolaño in the last half of the previous decade, where a flood of talented writers from all across Latin America were finding receptive audiences in the US:  Juan Rulfo, Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Amado, Mario Vargas Llosa – each of these authors were translated into English between 1960 and 1975 and Latin America became viewed as a hotbed of literature.”

While Larry answered, I started moving backwards, trying not to raise suspicions. The captain wanted my watch and I was seriously distrusting his intention of escaping from persecutors. I could bet it was all a hoax. Larry, who was alert, followed my every move.

“There are still several critics who point to Latin America even today as being a place to find great books.  Time magazine selected Chilean writer Alberto Fuguet as one of its “50 Most Influential Latinos” back in 1999, for example.  The Mexican Crack Manifesto group, the Southern Cone McOndoist group, and the infrarealismo of Bolaño have each led to major translation projects in the US.  Although Fuguet, Edmuno Paz Soldán, Jorge Volpi, and Ignacio Padilla – just to name a few of the more prominent members of these groups – have yet to achieve the superstar levels of “El Boom,” they are visible and their works are generally well-received in American literary circles today.”

We moved closer to the entrance of the elevator. All the squirrels in the flagship were looking at us. Some had already stood up. The captain was approaching as well, half distrustful.

“So to return to the original question of whether or not the same types of barriers exist for Latin American writers:  for most genres, once a writer is perceived to have enough talent, his or her works generally do well here in the US.  But genre fiction, such as SF or fantasy, that is a tricky issue, since outside of Borges, whose fictions frequently touched, as he said explicitly in the introduction to El Aleph on the “fantastic,” there really hasn’t been a very visible Latin American writer whose works are explicitly genre in nature.  Note that I’m leaving aside the question of how to define “magic realism” for now, as the semantics behind that term has created some heated debates,” Larry finished with a hem.

There was a kind of tacit understanding. As if Larry and I could understand each other telepathically. Of course the fat captain and his crew weren’t there trying to save our poor, mortal lives. The interest in the watch was so intense, it was impossible not to see it.

In an instant we threw ourselves into the elevator. We dived into it and couldn’t avoid hitting our heads against the metal wall on the other side, as the internal space was not that big. Larry pressed the buttons not really knowing what he was doing. The elevator flew up and then to the side, making us shake inside it as if we were in a mixer.

“Where are we going?” he asked confusedly.

“Like I know,” I answered foolishly. “This box will have to drop us somewhere, sometime.”

“They want the watch, right?”

“It got too obvious.”

“Damn squirrels. There is another question, isn’t there?”

“Yes.”

“Ask away. I know that only once they are all answered can we leave the alternate reality we ended up in.”

I was about to ask the last question when the elevator suddenly stopped. Stay or leave? Cruel doubt. But we preferred to leave and that’s what we did. We were in a corridor. Some confused squirrels saw us while bells rang very loudly announcing our escape. We pushed some rodents aside and ran down the corridors, destination anywhere. We could hear the yelling behind us. Orders asking for our arrest. Ordering our execution. “But the watch cannot be damaged”, they said.

“Who are these squirrels?” I asked after a curve, trying to catch my breath.

“These are not regular squirrels,” Larry answered, stopping by my side, with his hands over his spleen. “These are not our squirrels. They can’t be.”

I stretched my neck on the corner near us to see where the God dammed rodents were. They came in a bunch, advancing resolutely and seemed to carry weapons in their hands.

“There is a room ahead,” Larry Nolen said.

“How do you know?” I asked, not seeing anything but a solid wall.

“There is a small, almost unperceivable luminosity that lines off the limit of the entrance. Can’t you see it? Pay attention.”

Then I saw it. He was right.

“It won’t work. They’re too close. We can’t run this distance without being hit by their shots.”

“Aha!” Larry said then taking a handful of nuts from his pockets. “Squirrels are squirrels anywhere in the world, be they scientifically and technologically advanced or not!”

“Where did those nuts come from?”

“Didn’t you tell me, some days before the interview, to prepare some? Here they are!”

He then threw them towards the squirrels which immediately went berserk, abandoning the hunt and fighting against each other for the food bouncing among them. We ran with what we had left of our breaths to the door ahead. Larry Nolen quickly bent and slid to the other side. I wasn’t that fast. I hit my head on the wall over the door and fell on my back, dazzled. Larry Nolen grabbed me by the feet and pulled me inside the holodeck. We were back to the beginning of it all.

I was still trying to regain conscience while he dragged a heavy fitment towards the door, placing it in such a way the squirrels couldn’t come in. He sighed relieved at the end of the operation and sat down, his back against the cupboard, cleaning the sweat away from his forehead.

“The last question,” he insisted while nudging my leg.

I groaned something, put my hand in the pocket and took the paper with the questions. I had forgotten the last. I was going to read, but noticing my effort and my clumsy look, Larry Nolen took the paper and read it himself aloud.

”The life of a summarizer is not always very easy, specially when the authors of the summarized books are more and more alive and connected. What is your criteria – including of evaluation – in order to keep faithful to the readers that chose to follow your critics and summaries ? Have you ever had problems with any summary or any specific writer ? How do you manage to read over 500 books a year ?’

He was about to answer when the fitment was shaken. We could hear yells from the other side. I sat against the furnishing as well, putting my weight and strength against it. I pulled my legs and crossed my arms around my knees. The quantic watch was right in front of my nose. Amisdt the screaming, we heard the captain speak.

”Friends, friends. That’s silly! Move away, take this obstacle from the way and let’s drink! Look, we’ve got Nictinian beer here!”

“Well, I try not to read more than three or four books that are similar in focus or genre classification.  That way, I do not burn out on the reading.  When selecting a book to review – which may be only ¼ or so of the books I read, I first decide if the book has anything interesting to say.  If it does, then I proceed to consider its context – when was it written?  For whom was it written?  Are there things that I might not know about that time/culture?.  Then I look at the mechanics of the story.”

A stronger shake frightened us. We heard a kind of sharp, insistent buzz. We looked at each other not understanding what they were doing. Suddenly, right before our eyes, between our faces which were facing each other, an intense blue ray emerged from inside the fitment and started to cut it upside down. We choked in shock. Larry, flustered, continued with the answer.

“What point-of-view is the narrative?  How strong is the prose?  Are there any discernable themes?  What type of characterization is displayed and does that characterization fit the story?  Is there a plot and if so, how easy did I comprehend it?  Do things move at a steady pace, or does it seem that the author has lost control of his or her story? After that, I consider how everything fit together and if the author appeared to accomplish what he or she set out to do.  Only then would I consider an essay on a book a review.”

The fitment was cracking in two.

“Have I had problems with authors or others over my reviews?  Not really.  In part because I tend to review only those stories that made a strong impression on me, I don’t tend to have as many negative reviews (at least in comparison to those works that were so “meh” that I just couldn’t find the energy to say anything about them).  I have had some email conversations with authors about stories, but oddly enough, it usually is not about their own works.  So no, I’ve never really had any conflicts to speak of with authors.  As for fans, only occasionally, but since I can be a bit acerbic with those who don’t provide intelligent counterpoints, I rarely have a problem with those as well.”

We put ourselves together, seeing the laser or whatever it was complete its precise cut. Soon the fitment would be cut in two.

“As for how I am able to read as many as 500 books in a year?  Well, I did say on my blog a couple of months ago that I employ a team of specially-trained Serbian squirrels to do most of my reading, reviewing, as well as the cooking and any needed massages. But the more boring answer is that I’ve always been able to read multiple lines at once with full comprehension.  I just process words like images and it seems I am able to process them about five to ten times faster than average.  That’s about as close as I can come to explaining the reading speed.  I should note that I rarely read more than three hours a day and that the majority of the books I read are under 350 pages.  So no, no reading 2-3 Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, or Steven Erikson books a day for weeks on end from me!”

The fitment finally broke apart, even if it still had its parts together. The strength of dozens or hundreds of super strong squirrels against two tired humans… Well, the result couldn’t be different. We moved away from the rodents that were dragging the parts deftly and quickly.

Moments before I pressed the button on my watch, taking us back to our reality, I could still see the entrance of the rodents. Fierce squirrels, including that one we judged to be dead with the electrical discharge and the paunchy captain. No Nictinian beer in his hands.

It wouldn’t be this time the quantic watch would fall into enemies’ hands.

Delfim, Romeu Martins and Luis Filipe Silva collaborated with this interview

Jorge Luiz Calife was born in Niterói, on the other side of the Guanabara Bay, on October 23rd, 1951. He got interested in space travels when he was seven and saw Sputnik take over the newspapers headlines. Then he was attracted to SF by the Flash Gordon comic books, illustrated by Dan Barry. He graduated in journalism from the Helio Afonso College and worked at Jornal do Brasil as a science reporter, covering the space shuttle program and the Mir space station. In 1982 he got to be recognized by the appreciation made by Arthur C. Clarke in the book 2010: Odyssey 2, where Clarke mentions him because of a letter that inspired the book. In 1985 he published his first novel, Padrões de Contato (Patterns of Contact), by Nova Fronteira publisher from Rio de Janeiro. The novel was the beginning of a trilogy that some critics classify as the precedent of the new space opera and comprises the books Horizonte de Eventos (Horizon of Events) and Linha Terminal (Terminal Line). He translated to Portuguese Frank Herbert's series Dune, and Arthur C. Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth. He also published "Manned Spaceships" with introduction by the astronaut Roger Crouch, of the ISS program and "How astronauts go to the bathroom and other questions about space travel". Back to SF, he is also the author of the Angela novel and the anthology of short stories As Sereias do Espaço (Mermaids from Space). He presently lives in Pinheiral.

I walked down the corridor being very careful not to trip on any of the old junk left along the way. I was especially careful about some aliens lying on the floor. There were stretched arms and legs. Some with their throats cut, others totally drunk, still stuttering, twisted and tangled in many arms and legs, some undistinguishable from the others.

The surrounding walls were circular and should be approximately 4 meters in diameter. They had openings here and there, corridors that led to unknown places and which extension was difficult to calculate due to the obscurity they led to after a few meters.

Some unfriendly looks followed me, coming from beings still not totally numb. There were many of them, of all species, of all races and physical shapes.

After about ten meters dodging from obstacles, I found myself against a watertight door, hermetically closed. I analyzed it trying to find out how to open it, when, in an instant, it buzzed and detached from the metal wall, sliding noisily until it was totally open. On the other side, two aliens about two meters high held to each other, shaky, trying to leave.

I gave them passage.

I moved forward and the door closed in another metal buzz, embedding itself to the wall in such a way it seemed to be digging slowly through it. It was a mess. There were plexiglass tables, a round counter from which some of the waiters slid carrying multicolored bottles. Aliens walked around coming and going, some quarreled, others cursed each other, and one of them was openly displaying a long sword, of narrow and apparently very sharp blade. He shook it angrily; ready to cut parts of anyone daring to face him out.

The opposite side of that wide room caught my attention. There was no wall, but a wide opening from where the wilderness of the space could be seen. Sitting with a glass in front of him, totally alien to any disturbance, there was Luis Calife. He was immersed in contemplation. I came closer to him, dribbling some contenders and sat in front of him, equally fascinated by the view.

Besides a myriad of distant suns, one, a little closer left a tail behind it, as if it was a comet. Near it, a black hole sucked him with all strength, voraciously draining its energy.

“Isn’t it amazing?” Calife muttered, not taking his eyes away from the scene.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I like it. Love it. There couldn’t be a better place for this interview,” he said, turning to me and drinking a little of what he had in his glass.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“It’s an old orbital station. When it reached the end of its lifetime, it was considered junk and thrown away into space. It wandered away until it was found by space pirates. They took it and made some necessary repairs. It ended up as a big warehouse for stolen cargo and smuggling. Ah, and they set up this bar. A good bar. It has weird comers but also has a wonderful view.”

“And a yet shorter lifetime, I assume,” I said pointing to the black hole with my chin.

“It gravitates around the hole, very near to the event horizon. It’s a difficult place to board and not everyone has the guts for that. So, it’s an almost inexpugnable pirate coven. But one day… It shall dive. And along with everyone in here.

A helpful waiter left a glass on the table. I hadn’t ordered and wasn’t planning on drinking anything, but a single look from Calife was enough to make me understand I should accept the drink with no further questioning.

“Nictinian beer. A compound of ingredients you don’t want to know, that’s for sure. But it has a very pleasant taste and alcoholic strength of 60%.

I observed the bubbling liquid of rather reddish color. I tried a small sip and felt, besides the alcohol that made my papillae burn, a light raspberry flavor. My eyes went red almost immediately, what made Calife let a fun laugh out.

“Is that the famous quantic watch?” He asked, looking at the mechanism in my wrist.

“The one and only,” I answered, taking my hand instinctively to it.

“It brought us to a scenery I know like the back of my hand.”

“Better this way,” I replied “, it gives us the impression that someone is in charge of the situation”.

“What are the questions? This beer has the exceptional gift of knocking down the most resistant of the drunkards. If we take too long, soon, we won’t be even able to stand.”

“Your work is praised, but there are critics – not few – that accuse you of accommodate eternally in the adventures of your female heroes, when you could diversify your approaches and themes. What is your view on that?”

One more sip, another long look at the spectacle offered by the Black hole and then Calife sighed.

“Look, the only book I wanted to write is called Angela between two worlds that hasn’t yet been published. The others came as a consequence of this one to abide by the contracts with the publishers. As to exploring other themes, I have done that in a bunch of short-stories, that are being released in this collection The best of SF edited by Causo. Anyone can check it out there.

Screams broke out behind us. Someone drew a gun; there were threats and only one shot. A body fell violently on the floor. The shooter went down to it and kicked it a couple of times. Then he sat again. He put down his gun carelessly in a worn holster and silenced, immersed in some drink other than the nictinian beer.

“How has the reception for the Patterns of Contact Trilogy been in the market? What’s the perspective on the release of Angela?” I asked when I got my voice back. (tirei o acento circunflexo de Angela.

“I was against the re-publishing of Patterns of Contact. The public of this kind of book is so small that I preferred to invest everything in an unreleased book. But Causo, who organizes the editions by Devir, insisted on republishing Patterns, and the unpublished book only after it. As a result, there is almost one year the book has been released and it still didn’t bring me a minimum wage in copyrights. To have this insignificant result, I would have preferred to do only Angela between two worlds. Now let’s see, if Angela comes out this year, it will have been worthy. Things would be much better if the editors ever heard the author’s opinions. “

“Is Calife better known for being Arthur’s Clarke motivator, or for his literary production? How did the relation with Clarke help him as a writer?”

He even tried to answer, but someone drunk sat with us by the table. He looked at us with despise and released his tongue, making it vibrate between his lips. Then he pointed at me and signaled in order to make me stand. I didn’t understand anything. Calife, with no ceremony, stood up and gave him a vigorous biff in the face. He spun on the chair he was sitting on and fell inert. The event provoked half a second of silence and then the uproar was back to its normal.

“A cotlerish. They are bullies by nature,” Calife said.

“What did he want from me?” I asked, worriedly.

“Not from you. The challenge was for me. He just wanted you to beat it. Look, Tibor, things here are solved by the fist or worse, as you must have noticed. Then, if someone comes closer to you and you feel that there are second intentions, attack him with no second thoughts. The faster the better.”

“I will try to remember that,” I whispered.

“I think I still am the guy that inspired Clarke on writing 2010. Apart from friendship, I guess I learned how to write SF by reading Clarke’s books. I ended up understanding more of his universe than he himself. When 2010 was released I realized he had made a mistake on his description of the Discovery. I know that ship as the back of my hand. I talked to him and Clarke sent an urgent message to Peter Hyams, who was shooting the film in Hollywood, saying that Calife had found a mistake in the description of the ship. Hyams corrected it in the film. This correspondence of him with the director, mentioning me, was out in the book The Odyssey File by Ballantine Books. There’s one thing I can assure you of, if I was there, Bowman would have disarmed the cognitive ring that made Hal a psycho with half a dozen words. And Frank wouldn’t have died.’

We were silent for a while. It’s not like our silence would make any difference in the noise of the saloon. We looked out, through what seemed to be glass, but wasn’t. Calife seemed to understand my curiosity and put his finger closer to the void, creating several concentric waves which broadened lightly before they disappeared.

“Pure energy. It is an energy shield. It seems mellifluous, capable of being beat by a little more strength. But not even a shot of a quantic pulse weapon would be able to open a hole in this shield. On the other hand, it is undone impressively fast once its metal frame is destroyed. Paradoxical, isn’t it? Why such a strong energy shield if the metal structure of this station is as fragile as an egg?”

“Why keep a logistical center like this, storing swag and booties, if the end is so imminent?’ I asked, reinforcing Calife’s questioning and referring, obviously, to the black hole.

“Questions… Questions…”

“How do you see the literary market at the moment? What are your thoughts on the fandom”’

“People keep saying that Brazilian SF is invisible; actually, all Brazilian literature is invisible. People only read religion and self-help books. Even the foreign SF books are only published if they turn into films. I translated Asimov’s I Robot for Ediouro, as fast as it can be done, because they made a film that only used Asimov’s book title. Brazilian culture nowadays is audiovisual. If it doesn’t become a game or a film, the book is ignored. The fandom is what maintains SF alive in Brazil. If there weren’t the fanzines, the conventions and meetings, everything would be lost. They do a priceless job.”

“Back to the first question, Calife, in these two recent selections – The best Brazilian Science Fiction short-stories -, are your stories recent? Because the criticism towards your work are not about your prior productions, but about the recent ones. They say you only write stories about Angela Duncan and other beauties and that you gave up venturing elsewhere, bringing new and surprising narratives to the readers. They complain about your passivity in establishing yourself in a single argument and not trying other slopes. “

Calife frowned. He looked at me irritably, grabbed his half full glass, drank the rest of the nictinian beer in one single gulp, stood up not taking his eyes away from me and in a fast and unexpected move, threw it over my head. It splintered into the face of an armed guy looming over me, in a promptly repelled trial of attack.

That was it. The skies fell down, the walls narrowed, hackles went up and everything happened in such a fast sequence I can barely describe what happened.

I was grabbed by the shoulder and thrown a few meters away. I fell on a table that, even firmly attached to the floor, had one of its legs broken and fell, dropping me onto the dirty greasy ground. Sticky aliens clang into a furious fight. I stood up under a pelt of blows, all given against me and those nearer. I saw Calife spin a two headed little man over his shoulders and throw him against a big guy, which although one headed, had four arms that were so thick they looked like sequoia trunks. I took a water blue bottle and brandished it frantically from one side to the other. It broke against the face of a waiter trying to get it back as if it was something sacred and precious. I was hit in my back, in the back of my neck and in my waist. Kicks or punches, I couldn’t be sure. I unleashed a cross punch and almost broke my hand in a bony shell that was the head of a nasty fellow that blasphemed and laughed at the same time he punched systematically the chest of another cotlerish.

The fight would have lasted much longer wasn’t it for the sudden appearance of a gorgeous perfectly built woman. Precise blows of a natural artist in martial arts and soon everyone was lying on the ground, except for me and Calife that flaunted some bruising, torn clothes and meaningless expressions.

The woman came closer to me and caressed my face softly.

“You’re an interesting man. But it’s not you we are looking for now. Perhaps another time.”

“Angela…” Calife muttered trying to put himself back together.

“Dear,” she replied, holding him in a more than affectionate hug, “Let’s leave this place. We’re throwing this carcass into the black hole and it’s better to be far.”

Calife turned to me. He had a vivid expression that showed both satisfaction and pride.

“I have no need of your watch to get out of here now. Angela Duncan will take care of me from now on.”

I saw them leaving. A little before the door closed, he turned to me and gave his last answer.

“The two tales released in The best Brazilian science fiction short stories are one from the 80’s and other from the 90’s. The one in the Gastronomia Phantástica (Fantastic Gastronomy – Draco – 2010) was written three years ago and I wrote the one in Imaginários (Imaginary – Draco – 2008). I have a series of novelettes Children of Medea about the colonization of a planet by tube babies raised by robots, that is still unpublished as well as other stories. I have a story about a terrorist attack in a Brazil of the future for a selection to be published by Devir. They asked me to improve it. One day, who knows. Then, don’t piss me off with this kind of demand. I write what I imagine; for people who don’t like it, read Causo, you, Gerson, Braulio. There are so many writers available, why do I have to write for all tastes? If only I made good money out of it for God sake!

Then, after disembosoming, he was smiling again. Angela Duncan held him on the waist, and carried him with her. I still could hear her say she would take good care of him.

All by myself, having a set of destruction around me and imagining that soon the orbital station would be finally diving into the black hole, I pushed the button on my quantic watch. I went back home to heal my wounds.

I have to say that the last interviews weren’t as good as they seemed to be. When I started them, in the De Bar em Bar, interviewing Brazilian authors and editors, the dangers were much more for the interviewees than for the interviewer.

Lately, I have noticed that I have been exposing myself to danger much more than in the past.

The interview with Kim Newman gave me some scratches and hematomas. With Jean-Claude Dunyach I got cut with glass pieces, twisted my ankle and for very little didn’t fall into a pneumonia. But the interview with Libby Ginway actually put me on target of allucinated soldiers.

Invading a military base in any country is a profound action of disrespect to life. Your own life. Even of it’s done for reasonable motives. The shots that destroyed the boxes that so weakly protected me were not innoxious. Two of them hit me, even if by graze. One in the right shoulder, the other in my left forearm. They could have been fatal if I wasn’t fast in pushing the button of my quantum watch.

The Insurance company that used to protect me cancelled the contract. Now you’re on your own, they said. All right. I’ll insist some more times. If the degree of danger increases I will consider the possibility of giving up these adventures. My life is too valuable to be risked like that, irresponsibily.

The quantum watch must be quite valuable in the black market.