Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 52

Fosfax_2002_205_Part1_052.tiff

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Title

Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 52

Subject

Science Fiction

Description

Fifty- Secondpage of Fosfax, Issue 205, Part One: A review of the horror genre in Brazil Cont. Also two articles written by Joseph T Major: Book Reviews.

Creator

Roberto de Sousa Causo, Joseph T Major

Source

Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, July 2002

Date

Jul-02

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Language

English

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(Conclusion of Brazilian Horror by Roberto de Sousa Causo)
In my first story collection, A Danga das Sombras (1999, through the Portuguese Caminho publishing house), are gathered most of my atmospheric pieces, with horror, contemporary fantasy, and uncharac-teristic science fiction (stories set in the past or in the present, with no strong technological elements). Among the stories one might call horror are "Trem de Conseqiiencias", a deal-with-the-devil story hav¬ing as protagonist a former Army officer who tortured and executed guerrillas during the guerrilla warfare in Central Brazil in the 70s; "Tale of Love and Retribution", about an alien shape-shifter that feeds from human loves and passions; "Parada 93," a ghost-story that might be read as a Spiritist parable; "Terra de Lobos", a werewolf tale that is more like a contemporary fantasy in the lightness of its tone; and "Os Fantasmas da Serra", set in 1969 and having as protagonist a runaway urban guerrilla who ends up witnessing the deeds of space travelers who enjoy mutilating human bodies (first published in Es- tranhos Contatos, a UFO anthology).
It is unlikely that we could talk about modern horror without hav¬ing dark fantasy placed firmly at its center. The process that I defend for Brazilian horror fiction to convert the traditions of "classic" hor¬ror or of contemporary Anglo-American horror to the fabric of the Brazilian society and culture is analogous to the process that authors such as Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Jack Finney, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Stephen Gallagher, and others performed to convert the old traditions of a horror literature full of "conventions of genre and arabesques of imagery" to the context of modern countries with whole new sets of fears and terrors that were there to be mapped and probed. Horror gains relevance by not just relying on the effect that gives it its name, but also for trying to understand the times and places of its production. One must have a sense of time and place, then. The time we all share, but the place is a different thing from country to country, from culture to culture indeed. Brazilian culture looks at the surface as another spin-off of the Western society that the North-American cultural industry has galvanized on the global mind. But only at the surface. We can say the same of the French, the British, the Italian, the Canadian.
Things start to seem even more different when we perceive Brazil as a syncretic, Third World country with many points in common with places as diverse as India, Angola, Bolivia. The cultural and social texture of such a nation is bound to be different and to allow distinct flavors and ap¬proaches. Dark fantasy is about that texture, how to make the feeling of reality imbedded in our minds by the things and discourses that weave the pattern of modern-day life bend, deform, rear¬range itself to expose the living flesh and the puls¬ing blood within.
As I tried to show here, the still incipient Bra¬zilian horror and dark fantasy tradition is finding its way around the trappings of cliche and cheap effects to meet the real flesh lying under. Authors such as Ivanir Calado, Tabajara Ruas, and Marcia Kupstas have revealed the potential for that revela¬tion. It is hard to say whether the market will al¬low them to keep investigating that potential. Genre fiction in Brazil isn’t well regarded by the literary intelligentsia or by the cultural journalism. When we think of it we think automatically of translated fiction, coming from the U.S. or the UK, and the only real market for it is confined inside the young-adult field or as cheap pulpish dime- novel variations that never reach the bookstores, restricted as they are to magazine-kiosks.
But this is something that we find all over, isn’t it? Dark fantasy, as high fantasy or science fiction, is frequently seen as a form of commercial literature which, save for its eventual mainstream inter-sections, fails to reach any cross-cultural flux around the globe. The same way that for most of you the names I mentioned here as Brazi¬lian dark fantasy authors were never heard before, I also never heard of French or Italian, Spanish, Greek, Peruvian, Japanese, Russian, or Polish dark fantasy writers. Yet we all hear about and read King, McCammon, Koontz, Straub, Simmons, Barker, Gallagher, and doz¬ens of others names that export their stories and novels from the An¬glo-American context to the rest of the world. The first thing to break this relation, I think, is to acknowledge dark fantasy and horror fiction as legitimate literary forms for the contemporary world, and not just as cheap entertainment and commercial fiction.

TU ES MORT, JEAN-LUC
Review by Joseph T Major of Ian Wilson's
PAST LIVES: Unlocking the Secrets of Our Ancestors
(Cassell & Co.; 2001; ISBN 0-304-35474-0; £20.00)
The forensic error in Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park was assum¬ing that only Professor Gerasimov and his crew could do facial recon-structions. A number of archaelogic types from all over the world have been doing this, though, reconstructing the famous and the ob¬scure. (In fact, reconstructions of the victims of the Green River Killer may be significant in the upcoming trial of the recently-arrested accused killer.)
Australian writer Ian Wilson has described the process and results of this unique look into the past, showing reconstructed faces ranging from Peking Man to one of LaSalle’s sailors, drowned off the coast of Texas in 1686, and high-lighting the work of several reconstructors from Katherine, Lady Wooley, to Richard Neave, the man who re¬constructed Lindow Man.
The subjects range across history. We have a Minoan priestess, interrupted at her sacrifice, and a Norseman from Jorvik (York), who fished for a living. For those we can put names to, we have the mel-ancholy Robert the Bruce, the overweight, but truly Dread, Ivan the Terrible, and the serenely smiling Francisco Pizarro (the bones identi¬fied by Clyde Snow, not those seen by Robert Heinlein as reported in Tramp Roy ale).
They reveal details of history. The lovely lady of Londinium, AD 300, lived in a secure empire with trade and wealth; the horse-queen of the Siberian Steppes lay with her steeds and her fine grave-goods.
Strange and eerie connections have been made, courtesy of DNA testing. Cheddar Man, from ca. 7150 BC, looks all too much like his several times removed cousin Adrian Targett — of Cheddar! (Some familes are old families.) Similarly, the reconstructed face of Otzi, the Austro-Italian Iceman, frozen to death five thousand years ago, can yet be beheld by his descendant living in Ireland.
The most famous, and most controversial, of these reconstructions is that of the man buried in the tomb at Vergina, and exhumed by Manolis Andronikos in 1977. Going by the reconstruction done by Richard Neave, this is none other than Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and his monocular visage stares out at us here, showing the determination that whipped the quarrelsome Hellenes into shape, that defeated Athens and Thebes at Chaeronea. (The dissent is that the body is of his son, Philip HI, the half-witted half-brother and nominal successor of Alexander. When one expert says a eye-orbit wound in a skull is healed and another says it isn't, what's to do?) Then of course there is the unknown soldier of the Wars of the Roses, who survived a wound that laid his face open from ear to chin. It says something about medieval medicine.
Wilson ends with a digression on the morality of opening graves. Is the knowledge to be gained worth the violation of what was meant to rest? There are also political controversies, as has been evinced over Kennewick Man (reconstructed to look too damn much like Pat¬rick Stewart).
By seeing those who have gone before, we can see that the past was people.
THE HAND OF MARY CONSTABLE
Review by Joseph T Major of Karl T. Pflock's
ROSWELL: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe
(Prometheus Books; 2001; ISBN 1-57392-894-1; Priceless)
Paul Gallico is now known mostly for upsetting cruise ships, but he produced a variety of works during his career. One of the first books by him I ever read was The Hand of Mary Constable (1964). Its protagonist was Alexander Hero, a psychic investigator, plunged into a spiritualism case that required many standard debunking tactics in order to uncover a clever spiritualist trick — in this case, an abso¬lute proof, a wax casting of the hand of a dead girl.
The interesting and relevant point was that Alexander Hero was, if not a full-bore believer, at least presuming that such phenomena actu¬ally existed. However, he felt the need to apply scientific techniques to his investigations, to demand extraordinary proofs for extraordi¬nary claims. In this he seemed to be, indeed, a character of fiction.
Perhaps not. I first heard of Karl T. Pflock from seeing him on James Moseley’s witty Flying Saucer magazine site, Saucer Smear (http://www.martiansgohome.com), where Pflock has a column titled "Pflock Ptalk". Moseley himself has been if not entirely skeptical at the very least dubious of the foibles of flying saucer people, and Pflock is much the same.

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