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1.  Brace yourself.

The first years will be lived in a kind of a cozy state of pleasure and shame. Pleasure because you know what you like; shame because you don't know if it's right, by the standards that your family and society imposed on you. There will come a time, though, when your desire will be stronger, and you'll want to live your life fully, with no self-restraint. It will be hard. A boyfriend (your first) will say very harsh words to you because you didn't come out. He will say, among other things, that you don't know what you want, that you're only experimenting an "exotic" thing, and therefore you can't be trusted, because you make people suffer. It's not as simple, you argue. But he's got a point. You will spent the next two decades of your life pondering on this.

2.  Know who you are.

At some point in your life earlier than that, however, you will be brave enough to look in the mirror and say to yourself: this is what I am, this is who I am. You will cry, you will laugh, you will feel like leaving the party early. You will try at least once. Don’t. Your story doesn’t end here.

3.  Write like there’s no tomorrow.

Even before you know who you are, you will know this: you write. You love to put words on paper. You love to read too, even more than writing, but you can’t stop writing. About anything.  Even your uncertainty, or rather, your few certainties. You'll find the absence of queer characters in science fiction very disturbing, and you will try to correct this situation creating your own queer characters. You'll do it carefully and thoughtfully, but the first attempts will fall very far from the mark, and you'll perceive yourself simply repeating old stereotypes. You'll hate yourself for this, but then you'll get back to the typewriter (yes, you're that old) and start it over. You will write until you get it. That’s what you will do for the rest of your life.

4.  Fight.

Before writing, you learn to fight. You will have to fight all along the way, your entire life. Nobody said it would be easy. On the contrary. That said,

5.  Don’t listen to anyone.

Every single thing you want to do will be second-guessed by many people close to you, who, in your best interest, will tell you “maybe you shouldn’t do this,” regarding your choices in life. Maybe you’ll feel safe listening to them; maybe you’ll feel loved – or rather, not loved if you don’t listen to them. But every now and then you’ll feel awful for not having done many things you wanted or felt right because others – even meaning well – said you shouldn’t.

6.  Listen to people dear to your heart.

Yes, I know, this is a bit of a contradiction regarding the last step. But we all contain multitudes – here’s looking at you, Uncle Walt – and you can listen to people you love. It will take a while for you to learn the difference between good, solid advice, and commonplace sayings that have nothing to do with you.

7.  Keep writing.

From time to time, you’ll have writer’s block. That’s okay, you are allowed to have it. Just don’t forget the things you love. If you love writing, then know the block will pass. You will write again.

8.  Finish the damn thing.

Ok, this is a rip-off from Neil Gaiman’s famed advice, which you was honored enough to hear personally from him as a Clarion West student in 2013. This and other useful info, but not only that: you'll learn to focus on the things that are really important to you, and to treat others kindly - this will happen in the same week you'll have a big fight with a classmate, to which you responded with harsh words. You will apologize later, but aside from a fleeting moment in a con, where you'll greet each other politely, you will never talk to each other again. Maybe it's not a coincidence that such a thing happened during Gaiman's stint, but you will make sure this sort of thing never happens again. So far you're succeeding.

9.  Love yourself.

For a time, the Clarion West Incident (this is how you're going to call it to yourself) will mean more to you than the lessons in writing you learn there. This will be a big mistake. You'll relive the situation over and over in your head, feeling sorry for yourself because both you and your classmate were from minorities  - you, a Latino queer man who is considered a white man in Brazil but not on most of the First World countries, where you are a Person of Color; you're not allowed to speak of your classmate, but the gap between both of you is huge, and both of you have big problems, so you must suck it up. And stop being sorry for yourself. You'll have, among other things, to fight the damn tendency you have to consider yourself a fraud. Fuck Impostor’s Syndrome all the way up its ass, paraphrasing your instructor and idol Samuel Delany, who asked you in your one-to-one what you really wanted to write, short stories or novels. Your heart’s desire is to write novels, all the novels you can write, but you froze on your seat and didn’t have the gumption to tell him (or yourself). Accept yourself. Forgive yourself. In the words of Aleister Crowley, that’s the whole of the Law.

10.  Keep writing.

Today, you're a fifty-year old queer SF writer. You're still struggling everyday with writing and publishing, particularly in Brazil, which is still a very harsh country regarding literature in general. There is no real queer literature in terms of quality. Heck, there's not even a single publishing house to publish queer books, except in academia, and even there the output is very modest. This is not the reason because you decided to stop wasting your time writing in Portuguese and looked instead to the English-language market, but it's a good reason to expand your audience and try your hand at something new. You don't think what you write is queer lit, but science fiction with queer characters, and you're witnessing a turning point in the genre, where this kind of SF is slowly becoming commonplace. It's a good time to be alive. You fully intend to continue here, on this world, and write as much and as best as you can. It's worth it.

 

 

 

 




Fabio Fernandes lives in São Paulo, Brazil. His short stories have been published online in Brazil, Portugal, Romania, the UK, New Zealand, and USA, and also in Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction, The Apex Book of World SF, Vol 2, Stories for Chip. Co-edited (with Djibril al-Ayad) the postcolonialist anthology We See a Different Frontier. Graduate of Clarion West, class of 2013.
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Current Issue
27 Jul 2020

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