Size / / /

"Recent Brazilian Science Fiction and Fantasy by Women" was first published in Foundation 2007;99(Spring):49-61, and is part of M. Elizabeth Ginway's extensive study of Brazilian science fiction and fantasy; you can read a recent interview with her at Europa SF. We are grateful to Professor Ginway and to Foundation for permission to reprint this essay.


  1. Introduction
  2. Using Male Voices: works by Finisia Fideli and Marcia Kupstas
  3. Women in Men's Roles: Martha Argel, Adriana Simon, and Carla Cristina Pereira
  4. Incipient Feminism in Fantasy and Horror Genres
  5. Conclusion
  6. Notes

Introduction [contents]

As I have demonstrated in my book, Brazilian Science Fiction [1], it is not until the 1980s that Brazilian science fiction authors begin to deconstruct myths of identity and undermine gender stereotypes. This decade is marked by "abertura" (political opening) by the ruling military regime, which officially gave up power in 1985. While not losing sight of the political legacy of twenty years of military rule, this generation of science fiction writers uses the traditional Anglo-American iconography of the genre in expanded and more sophisticated forms. Thus, we witness, in this decade, the flowering of subgenres in Brazil, including hard science fiction, cyberpunk, alternate histories, as well as medieval fantasy and horror. As we shall see, these writers are well versed in the conventions of global science fiction, and while they embrace aspects of American popular culture, they generally mold its conventions to reflect Brazilian reality.

During this period, Brazilian women writers of science fiction begin to enter the genre in increasing numbers, with the majority publishing in anthologies starting in the mid 1990s [2]. While several Brazilian thematic anthologies always include a few stories by women writers, the year 2000 saw the first thematic anthology publishing exclusively female authors, Lugar de mulher é na cozinha [3], whose title literally means "a woman's place is in the kitchen", but is equivalent to the English expression "a woman's place is in the home." In tracing gender roles in science fiction texts written by Brazilian women over the past twenty years, certain patterns begin to emerge. One group of women authors publishing during the 1980s and 1990s employs male protagonists who are transformed by women, while others use female heroines to satirise the traditional roles of women and men, often reversing their roles. Some of the most recent publications show the influence of feminist ideology in their use of female protagonists and heroines in the fantasy genre, while others use the related horror genre to explore the female experience of sexuality and vulnerability in society.

While my focus is mainly on contemporary science fiction written by women, it is also useful to compare them to works from the 1960s and 1970s with the same theme or genre [4], providing perspective on the transformation of gender roles in science fiction over the past forty years in Brazil.

Using Male Voices: works by Finisia Fideli and Marcia Kupstas [contents]

One of the first important texts written by a woman is Finisia Fideli's 1983 story, "Exercícios de silêncio" (Exercises of Silence) [5]. This is a problem story, i.e. a story whose plot involves a problem that can only be resolved through the application of scientific principles, a traditionally male approach to the genre. Stranded on a planet without advanced technology, the frustrated male hero eventually learns to see the world in a new way, through mediation and thought instead of action. This allows him to see that the kiln used by women could be used to make porcelain, a substance hard enough to fabricate a new piece to fix his ship's engine. Fideli gives it a female perspective when the protagonist learns from the principles of the yin, or passive state, in contrast with the yang, the active principle. While the story is not feminist per se, its main theme emphasizes realms traditionally undervalued in Western culture. Another, more ironic, use of the male perspective appears in Fideli's 1991 story, "Quando é precisa ser homem" (When you gotta be a man) [6]. This is a tongue-in-cheek tale about a journalist who saves the Earth from alien invasion before breakfast. With its macho tone and tough guy slang, the story parodies the male discourse of hard science fiction and its well-worn plots. An alien suddenly appears in the male protagonist's living room in the guise of a femme fatale of a noir novel. Before abducting him, she informs him that she is an image from his subconscious, produced by a race that lives off the fantasies and desires of other species. Once aboard the alien ship, the tough-talking protagonist calls up his childhood fantasies of Superman and other superheroes, with whose help he easily defeats his alien captors. This story is notable not only for its macho tone, but also for the fact that its protagonist has to resort to mostly American superheroes, since Brazil, as a developing world country, has no superheroes of its own. The only Brazilian comic book character to appear is Monica—a child's character—who fights off taunting boys with her stuffed animal, a blue rabbit named Samson. By summoning Monica as the only Brazilian (and female) superhero, the story takes aim at cultural colonialism and the fact that superheroes are necessarily the product of a super power with cultural and political hegemony. Ironically, the protagonist's tone rings hollow because he does not recognize he is culturally colonized, dominated by an imported popular culture. Notably, it is the only story written by a woman to be included in the joint 1993 Portuguese-Brazilian science fiction anthology O Atlântico tem duas margens (The Atlantic Has Two Shores).

Marcia Kupstas's 1987 ""Gepetto" [7], recently republished in Como era gostosa a minha alienígenia (How Tasty Was My Alien) (2002), is a story about sexual transgression told by a male first person narrator. In a clear allusion to "Pinocchio" it focuses on a mild-mannered male toy maker with a small shop who is too intimidated to ask two of his sexy female customers out on dates. Instead, he creates life-size female dolls that resemble them. Inspired by images from the pornographic magazines he bought to design the first doll's anatomy, he begins to lust after his own creations. In a fit of passion, he nibbles the first doll's breast, only to have the woman herself appear in the shop soon after, willing to have sex with him upstairs. To his horror, he sees her breast shows the same mark he inflicted on the doll. During a subsequent night of revelry with both dolls, a shard from a glass he drops flies into the eye of the first doll, then he accidentally trips and spills heated plastic glue on the belly and private parts of the second. Desperately hoping he has caused no real harm, he dismantles both dolls, and puts them out to be picked up by a garbage truck. The story ends with Gepetto's fear that he may have committed the same act in real life when the dolls' human counterparts appear.

In this sexually explicit story, Gepetto fears reprisal for crossing boundaries of sexual behavior. He fears his desires, imagining headlines about a double murder. That the story was written by a woman makes it more suggestive: is it to be read as a critique of pornography and violence against women and the dangers of the sado-masochism of unleashed sexual fantasies, or as a sexed-up doll story like Coppelia or Pygmalion, with Freudian overtones of repressed sexuality and the fear of castration? It is perhaps both of these, and as such can be profitably compared with a story by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, "O Carioca", published in 1960 [8]. Queiroz's story explores the relationship between a male robot, O Carioca, and a lonely widow. Left alone by her lover during the day, she plays sexual games with O Carioca, reveling in her power to make him fall down and follow her around in search of warmth and affection. Thus, both stories deal with the themes of sexuality, sado-masochism and robot-like lovers. The earlier story explores the repression of female sexuality by men, implying a double standard that needs to be redressed. Some forty years later, in an era characterized by more open sexual standards, Kupstas's story deals with the complex nature of human sexuality and sexual fantasies while exploring the dangers of objectifying women.

Another, perhaps more earnest, use of a male protagonist is seen in Marcia Kupstas's 1997 novel O Demônio do computador (The Computer Devil) [9], in which computers are employed as a way of commenting on issues of sexuality, class, and gender. In dealing with the problems created by his demonically possessed computer, the young male protagonist, Tadeu, confronts and overcomes the machismo so prevalent in his lower-middle-class surroundings in the outskirts of São Paulo. Aimed at a juvenile audience and narrated mainly in the first person, the story follows Tadeu as he plunges into a cybernetic world where a computer devil distorts his adolescent love stories with tales of domination and submission. It is not until he meets an older woman, Anastácia, a witch, that he is able to face the devil within, symbolically expelling it from his computer. During the course of these adventures, his younger sister-in-law, who mocks him with her sexuality, accidentally falls to her death, and Anastácia, a mother figure, dies when the computer devil electrocutes her during his exorcism. The death of these two female characters symbolizes that of the two pervasive female stereotypes: the prostitute and the overprotective mother. Once freed from these stereotypes and the unrestrained and perverted machismo of the devil, Tadeu is able to mature and marry the beautiful Bianca, who had been enslaved in the cybernetic hell of the computer.

As we can see, these works use male narrators to rework traditional gender roles, but do not re-imagine radical new roles for men or women. Their narrative technique shows that women are central to society, but in ways that are hidden behind the dominant male voice and presence. In other words, by mediating female energies through male narrator-protagonists, the narratives demonstrate the need for more active roles for women. Here their presence is restricted to the realm of dreams, the imagination, or magic, which must work through the psyche of the male protagonist.

Women in Men's Roles: Martha Argel, Adriana Simon, and Carla Cristina Pereira [contents]

More recent stories with female protagonists satirically portray women torn between traditional roles as wives and mothers and more modern roles. These younger women writers, who tend to be university trained and in their thirties, use their writing to explore the conflict they feel between their careers and society's expectations for them as women. These stories demonstrate that, for Brazilian women, the struggle is far from over.

The first is Martha Argel's 2000 hard science fiction story "Vidinha caseira" (Home Life) [10], in which a housewife who appears to spend all her time in the kitchen actually turns out to be a high-ranking officer in an all-female army fighting a war against alien invaders. She manages to hide her double life from her husband and friends through elaborate technology and time travel. However, she is wounded in space and is forced to remain in the ship hospital for eleven months after nearly being cut in half. During the same period, only fifteen minutes had passed on Earth. While her husband constantly encourages her to leave the kitchen to pursue other interests, she insists that she enjoys her simple wifely duties and has no real need to leave the home.

Although her mission is successful, she is promoted and has the support of her soldiers, the housewife retires and plans to have the children she longs for. She represents the wounded female, literally divided in two, showing how torn women feel about trying to fulfill both domestic and professional roles. The wife's eleven months of recuperation is a few minutes' worth of television for the husband. She lives life more intensely and actively, while her husband passively awaits her attentions on the couch. Here the author reverses sexual paradigms by portraying the male as the more passive partner. As Lisa Yaszek noticed in stories written by American women in the 1950s, tropes of domesticity and femininity can be used to critique social and sexual relations in the form of social satire [11]. It is no coincidence that the husband's name is Juvenal, an allusion to the famous Roman satirist of the late first and early second century, who specialized in diatribe and indignation. Within the conventions of hard science fiction, Argel is able to focus on domesticity and to comment on the problems Brazilian women face when they try to lead fulfilling lives both inside and outside the home.

Adriana Simon's "Lugar de ninguém" (Nobody's Place) [12] reworks the idea of traditional female activity and its contributions to society and personal satisfaction. The protagonist, Bruna, after having been insulted by a male co-worker who tells her that a woman's place is in the home, is able to have him fired on the spot. Bruna is thus empowered in the workplace, but ironically feels banished from the kitchen, since all cooking has been banned on Earth after the entire human population living on Mars has been wiped out by an alien microbe that spreads uncontrollably when warmed. By equating cooking with the pleasures of the home, the story becomes an elegy for simpler times and pleasures taken for granted. Given the importance of food in Brazilian society, it serves as a backdrop for social interaction and leisure. When the kitchen becomes "no one's place", life is robbed of sensual pleasure, subtlety, and the spice of life. Simon seems to by saying that although women have made progress in the workplace, they have been robbed of a female space, one where women's creativity and sensuality could be expressed in a private and independent way. Although the idealization of cooking could be seen as regressive if viewed in conventional feminist terms, it could be conceived as an attempt to reclaim the female space and cultural traditions lost to modernization.

Before exploring Carla Cristina Pereira's "Uma certa capitã Rodrigues" (A Certain Captain Rodrigues) in depth, I wish to mention her alternate history, "Xochiquetzal e a Esquadra da Vingança" (trans. "Xochiquetzal") [13], for its novel exploration of gender role in colonial history. The story explores how the Portuguese crown might have gained total hegemony in the New World if the Portuguese had sponsored voyages to Mexico. This change in historical fact leads to the conquest of the Aztec empire by the Portuguese rather than the Spanish crown. The female narrator is an Aztec princess, Xochiquetzal, whom explorer Vasco da Gama has taken as his second wife. However, as a legitimate princess, not a concubine, whose family rules in conjunction with the Portuguese in Mexico, she adopts the perspective of the colonizer, adding a twist to the traditional story of the Indian maiden as passive victim or traitor to her people. This story attempts to offer a strong female figure in colonial history without the anachronisms and values of modern society.

However, it is Pereira's "Uma certa capitã Rodrigues" (2002) [14] that is more in keeping with contemporary mores and feminist values, and the theme of women in male roles. The story's title is a transformation of a male character, Capitão Rodrigues from Erico Verissimo's famous multi-volume historical saga about the colonization of southern Brazil. Pereira's heroine is now a rugged female officer working in outer space (a previous version of the story was published under the title "Longa viagem para casa" (Long Journey Home) in 2000 [15]. The story involves the space explorer, Capitã Olympia Rodrigues, a married woman with two children, and her return to Earth some ten years after she was presumed dead following an alien attack on her ship. In the meantime her husband has remarried, and the new wife is plainly jealous of the feelings he still harbors for the dynamic Olympia. Via several flashbacks to the attack on the ship and the ordeal suffered by Capitã Rodriques, we learn that two of her male crewmen committed suicide at the prospect of being lost in space, while Rodrigues had the ingenuity and instinct to survive for ten years, living on the 600 calories a day she could obtain from scarce remaining supplies and hydroponic plants. After her debriefing and recuperation, she returns to Earth, where her husband begs her to live with him, his second wife, and their children. After a brief visit, she chooses to continue her career in space exploration.

This story proves an interesting comparison with Dinah Silveira de Queiroz's 1969 story "Os possessos de Núbia" (The Possessed of Nubia) [16], in which a husband abandons his wife and young family in order to go on a mission to a distant planet. There he rediscovers his fatherly instincts when he rescues an alien infant from certain death. His act is seen as redemptive since the technological culture of the future is portrayed as cold and unnatural. In Queiroz's story, the guilt felt by the father is so strong that he goes against orders to save the child, which later results in his death. In contrast, Capitã Rodrigues suffers no such guilt and plans to continue her career as before, affirming her own independence and ability to live on her own terms.

In all three stories, women's domesticity is at stake: in Argel's story, it is satirized, in Simon's, it is questioned and even longed for, and in Pereira's, it is rejected outright, in favor of a professional career. These stories recast domesticity and family, and explore the conflict that arises when there is no one to fill that traditional role at home, an essential role in a society where political and economic institutions have been traditionally unstable, and family and social networks have provided a sense of security and identity. These stories effectively capture that dilemma and show women as mothers who long for personal satisfaction and a sense of continuity embodied in the concept of domesticity.

Incipient Feminism in Fantasy and Horror Genres [contents]

Although these subgenres have often portrayed women as passive damsels in distress, or victims of human or supernatural predators, women authors have transformed these subgenres into powerful expressions of female power. In Brazil, the introduction of role-playing games, especially of the medieval sword and sorcery type, have proven to be fertile ground for a few women authors, notably Michelle Klautau and Mariana Albuquerque. The new film version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy has also contributed to the genre's prestige and popularity in Brazil. Although male authors tend to follow Tolkien's model, women authors tend to Brazilianise the fantasy genre, while creating innovative roles for female characters. This can be seen in Michelle Klauta's two fantasy novels: O crepúsculo da fé (The Twilight of Faith) (2001) and A ilha da lendária Hy Brasil (The Legendary Hy Brazil) (2005) [17], in which young women discover their inner psychic powers after a series of adventures that transform them into leaders of their people. According to Roberto Causo, Klautau's first novel incorporates "a knowledge of the genre and an awareness of feminism—both rare qualities in Brazilian speculative fiction" [18]. Mariana Albuquerque's story "A seu service, senhor" (At Your Service, Sir) [19], which includes tropes from the fantasy genre as well as Brazilian folklore and traditions is another example of the genre, while a more postmodern approach can be found in Helena Gomes's, A caverna de cristais: O arqueiro e a feiticeira (The Cavern of Crystals: the Archer and the Enchantress) (2003) [20], which couches a medieval fantasy in a post-apocalyptic science fiction story. Finally, Fernanda Bohm and Simone Saueressig transform the vampire and horror genres into stories of female empowerment, exploring issues of sexuality and sexual power, as they go against genre and gender expectations.

As one of the first stories in the fantasy vein to be published, Mariana Albuquerque's "A seu service, senhor" serves as a fitting point of departure, especially since it incorporates figures of Brazilian folklore of Indian and African origin within its medieval setting. As a barmaid, the protagonist, Catarina, faces constant harassment from male customers, but is offered the chance to meet powerful allies. After defeating an evil wizard, the revelry of a group of soldiers includes an attempt to rape Catarina, but one of her magical allies is able to save her. She decides to confront her assailants, and after pleading her case with the governor, he learns that she actually defeated the wizard when she broke his glass, not the men. As her reward for killing the wizard, she requests the death of all of them. By demanding that they all die, she assumes they will flee and not kill her. This strips them of their heroes' glory and solves the problem of revenge.

This generally lighthearted tale deals with serious issues and uses women and minorities to defeat conventional white male power figures of the medieval world: knights, soldiers, and wizards. Catarina is not a female version of a male hero, but is an ordinary woman who chooses to work over the leisure afforded by her prosperous family. She allies herself with men who have traditionally suffered a similar sense of disempowerment in the white world: an Amerindian, who is able to change himself into a dolphin (Boto), and Afro-Brazilians, the first of whom is a small fairy known as a "saci", and the second of whom is an older male figure known as "Pai Tomas"; both are associated with magic in Brazilian culture. In this story, these figures help Catarina, and by serving justice and upholding fairness before the king, they help her to confront the male violence that often passes for heroism. Like Catarina, none of these male figures deploy physical force but use their inner resources to resist and succeed in the culture traditionally dominated by white males.

Michelle Klautau's Crepúsculo de fé [21] is a tale of female empowerment through life experience. After witnessing the near loss of a sister in childbirth, her close friend executed as a witch, and experiencing her own limited options as a princess of a royal house, Tsara leaves her family in order to learn the secrets of the forbidden religion of the Temple of the Moon. Set in a medieval-like world, the monotheistic, male-dominated Temple of the Sun and its alliance with the nobility affirms a traditional social order based on conventional class and gender roles. Tsara later learns that she has been chosen by the goddess to restore the Moon Temple to its former glory, but must avoid causing a bloody civil war with the male-dominated Temple of the Sun, whose leaders are determined to hold on to power. Tsara and Magnus, a powerful magician, purge the corrupt leaders of the Temple of the Sun without destroying it completely. Tsara learns that the forces of the sun and the moon, the archetypes of male and female energies, must exist in balance.

Although this ending may seem like a compromise, it could be seen as characteristic of Brazilian culture, in which outright conflict and confrontation are often avoided. At the same time, Klautau admitted in an interview that she wrote the work with feminist issues in mind, especially when confronted by the physical abuse women confront in Brazilian society [22]. Despite the medieval setting, the novel explores issues such as the dangers of childbirth, female infanticide, the persecution of women as witches, and the duty of royal women to produce male heirs. Although Klautau confesses an affinity for Marion Zimmer Bradley, she admits that she deliberately refused to idealize childbirth as Bradley does, because the prevalence of machismo both in the fictional Emirim and in the actual Brazil often does not allow for female control of childbirth and sexuality. Although set in an imaginary world, elements of Brazilian culture can be found not only in the novel's male-female social relations, but also in the practice of hidden religions. Like Albuquerque, who uses Brazilian folklore, Klautau draws on traditional religious practices. The most striking feature of the novel, a goddess-centred religion in harmony with the natural world, recalls Afro-Brazilian religions, in which many of the deities are associated with forces of nature. In these religions, the use of dance, drumming and trance states recalls the magical connections between the spiritual and physical realms, connections not found in Christianity or Islam except in miracles and transfiguration. Historically, Afro-Brazilian religions were generally practiced in secret, and suffered persecution by religious and political authorities until the 1930s.

To assess how far fantasy novels written by Brazilian women have come, one could compare Klautau's novel with Ruth Bueno's 1979 Asilo nas torres (Asylum in the Towers) [23], which was written to protest the military regime, using magic, harpies, sorcery, and royalty—elements of the fantasy genre—to do so. The two main female characters of the novel, Assunta and Salomé, embody the traditional female archetypes separated into the bipolar elements of good and evil. While Assunta, whose name alludes to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, plays the role of virginal maiden and guardian of the people, Salomé is the demonic female harpy and protector of the evil king of the corrupt technological regime of the Towers. The harpy represents women as corrupt temptresses, viewed as partly to blame for the loss of traditional roles and values, while the heroine is sacrificed as a virgin to bring about a utopian order. Klautau's text, unlike Asilo nas torres, generally avoids stereotypes because it is told in a more naturalistic, less allegorical style, allowing for more depth of characterization.

Another recent work in the fantasy genre, Helene Gomes's 2003 novel A caverna de cristais: o arqueiro e a feiticeira (The Cavern of Crystals: The Archer and the Enchantress) was influenced by the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Babylon 5. In Gomes's novel, we find elements of both traditional Anglo-American fantasy and science fiction, yet like works by Albuquerque and Klautau, it also reveals peculiarly Brazilian and feminist concerns. Although Gomes does not acknowledge a specific agenda or message as Klautau does, she nonetheless conveys a feminist, post-colonial worldview. Gomes's novel draws on the globalized genres of Anglo-American science fiction and Tolkienesque Arthurian sources to comment on the dangers of cultural imperialism, racism, and environmental destruction.

O arqueiro e a feiticeira follows a plot central to most fantasy tales: a chosen one must be found in order to defeat the evil regime, aided by an "enchantress", who turns out to be a benevolent alien. Gomes's feminist message comes through in strong female characters, such as Hannah and other female aliens, and in Thomas's love interest, Erin, who wears pants, cuts her hair short and fights off unwanted advances with fencing skills learned from her father. She refuses to be a passive damsel awaiting her lover in the castle, and insists on accompanying Thomas on his adventures as he learns to control his psychic visions and travels to the future.

At this point, the text's affiliation with the science fiction genre becomes clear. Thomas sees a city with people wearing masks to protect themselves from the polluted air. The rain is so acidic that it burns the skin, and the streets are filled with garbage and pieces of old abandoned machinery. Determined to use the human and natural resources of the Earth to increase their power, the evil alien Nergals use their control over Earth's authoritarian leaders to keep the population ignorant, while pursuing their own plans to find and control the Chosen One, who will give them access to a hidden source of great power. In the final chapters, Thomas realizes that all humans must be prepared for a Great War between the two alien forces. In order to prepare for this struggle, all humans, not just the aristocracy and clergy, must be free. All classes must learn to free themselves from ignorance, violence, and misery. Thus, the nobles must free and educate their slaves and servants. The need for education and the elimination of class privilege can also be applied to Brazil's social situation, where a large number of people (many the descendants of slaves) are being raised in an environment of poverty, ignorance and violence, reflecting the consequences of class barriers in Brazilian society. Although Thomas refers to an alien war, one could also imagine an internal war between classes in Brazil, which is presaged by violence already present in Brazilian society in the form of kidnappings, drug wars, and high levels of crime.

Gomes's message appears to be class conscious, anti-colonial, and anti-racist, which comes across in a scene in which the alien Hannah explains to Thomas that if the Nergals emerge victorious in this struggle they will carry out genetic experimentation that will lead to the extinction of the darker races. It is implied that Thomas must struggle against this future, which would allow the disappearance of less powerful cultures and races. It will be interesting to see if or how Gomes can resolve this tension between her social criticism and her borrowings from Anglo-American culture in the subsequent books of her promised tetraology.

Finally, another fertile vein of contemporary Brazilian science fiction written by women lies in the overlap between horror and science fiction. The two stories analysed here explore the power of male and female sexuality. The first text, "Cozinhas são brancas" (Kitchens are White) (2000) by Fernanda Bohm [24], is a story in which the female vampire reverses the traditional roles played by men and women in dating. She views him as play, while he plays the role of cook, chiding her for not having the appropriate kitchen utensils. As often happens on dates, she gets overexcited, drinks too much, and finds herself digging a hole in the backyard in which to bury her would-be lover. While the premise and tone of the story are fairly obvious, it is one of the few Brazilian tales that overtly objectifies men and shows a powerful scorn for them, using a tone often associated with men when speaking about women. It does make amusing reading, however, as all the traditional comments and clichés of dating are inverted, with the confident male's hope of conquest completely foiled.

More complex and troubling is Simone Saueressig's story "Fotos antigas" (Old Photos) [25], which recalls the famous story by Argentine Julio Cortázar, "Las babas del diablo" (1959) [26], on which the 1967 Antonioni film Blow Up is based. Saueressig's story centres on a woman's dilemma brought forth by mysterious photographs. After deciding to buy her boyfriend an old Minolta camera, the unnamed female protagonist decides to test it and later picks up the developed film of the shots she took. While examining the photos at home, she hears a television report about a rape that occurred in her building, the fourth incident in the last five weeks in her neighbourhood. Strangely, the photos include shots that she did not recall taking, with hidden figures she did not see, plus others in which her boyfriend, Rodrigo, appears embracing a woman in the lobby of her building, or in an elevator, making love to a woman who is wearing the exact outfit she is. She begins to panic, wanting to cancel their date, but later, Rodrigo finds her ready to go out in a new outfit, with something burning in the ashtray; "old photos" she says, as they leave.

Like Cortázar's or Antonioni's works, the story questions the occurrence of a crime or coincidence through the medium of photography. However, these works play up narrative ambiguity and the inability of the protagonist to take action, constantly caught between appearance and reality. Saueressig's story plays on the horror genre and creates real suspense as the woman finds herself caught between the reports she hears, what she has read in the papers, and what she knows of Rodrigo. In the end, she has the ability to trust that she can change her fate, and takes action. Although the story offers a sense of closure, Saueressig has planted enough doubt to leave readers wondering about the ultimate fate of the narrator and Rodrigo's true character. In the stories by Bohm and Saueressig, the traditional roles of predator and victim are inverted or questioned, and the women characters exert control over their fate, overcoming the expected fate of victim.

Conclusion [contents]

In this overview of recent Brazilian science fiction written by women, I have traced several narrative strategies and trends. One trend consists of imitating male voices, and although women characters have transformed roles to play, they are portrayed mainly as seductresses, sex objects, and witches, parodying images of the male psyche. A second trend is more overtly satirical, portraying women in traditionally male roles, as executives or space explorers, where they feel divided between the domestic roles of wives and mothers and their new-found power in the work place. Finally, fantasy fiction and horror have afforded women writers new ways to imagine femininity and female heroes. Aliens, magic and non-technological settings allow both women writers and their characters to fuel their imagination and tap into their power, allowing them to have a sense of agency and creativity, espousing feminist views. The horror genre allows women to assert or fantasise openly about their sexual power, transforming them from victim into victor. The strides women are making in the genre are also reflected in the prizes that have been awarded for science fiction, which, since their inception in 1988, have been virtually dominated by male authors. In 2003, for the first time, women authors took the top three places in the competition for best short fiction [27]. Given these new successes, it seems that women writers will continue to find their voice and enrich the science fiction landscape of Brazil.

Notes [contents]

  1. See M. Elizabeth Ginway, Brazilian Science Fiction: Cultural Myths and Nationhood in the Land of the Future (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2004), pp. 205-09. [return]
  2. Beginning with the earliest thematic anthologies from the mid-1990s, we note the following contributions by women: the 1993 Transatlantic anthology, O Atlântico tem duas margens (The Atlantic Has Two Shores) ed. José Manuel Morais (Lisboa: Caminho, 1993), with Finisia Fideli's "Quando precisa ser homem"; the thematic collection on dinosaurs, Dinossauria Tropicalia, ed. Roberto de Sousa Causo (São Paulo: Caoiá, 1998), with Anna Creusa Zacharias's "Portas Induzidas" and Finisia Fideli's "A nós o Vosso Reino"; the World Cup anthology, Outras Copas, Outros Mundos (Other Cups, Other Worlds), ed. Marcello Simão Branco (São Caetano do Sul: Ano Luz, 1998), with Adriana Simon's "O rude esporte humano" and Carla Cristina Periera's "Se Cortez houvesse vencido a peleja de Cozumel"; the Portuguese-Brazilian bilingual thematic anthology on travel, with English translations, A Viagem/The Voyage, ed. Silvana Moreira, António de Macedo (Cascais, Potugal: Simetria, 2000), with Carla Cristina Pereira's "Longa viagem para casa" (Long Journey Home); the alternate history collection on the 500th anniversary of Brazil, Phantastica Brasiliana, ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro and Carlos Orsi Martinho (SãoCaetano do Sul: Ano Luz, 2000), with Carla Cristina Pereira's "Xochiquetzal e a esquadra da vingança" and Adriana Simon's "Kupe-Dyeb"; the anthology of erotic stories, Como era gostosa a minha alienigena (How Tasty Was My Alien) ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (São Caetano do Sul: Ano Luz, 2002), with Carla Cristina Pereira's "Uma certa Capitã Rodrigues", Maria de Menezes's "Boas-Vindas", Simone Saueressig's "O ano da lua", Marcia Kupstas's "Gepetto", Adriana Simon's "Dainara", and Portuguese author Sacho Ramos's "Shelob". [return]
  3. Lugar de mulher é na cozinha, ed. Martha Argel (São Paulo: Writers, 2000). [return]
  4. Among the works published during these early years are: Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, "O Carioca" and "Os possessos de Núbia", in Comba Malina (Rio de Janeiro: Laudes, 1969) and Ruth Bueno, Asilo nas torres (São Paulo: Ática, 1979).Queiroz's "O Carioca" originally appeared in Eles herdarão a terra (Rio de Janeiro: GRD, 1960). [return]
  5. Finisia Fideli. "Exercícios de silêncio", in Antologia de contos paulistas, ed. Wladyr Nader (São Paulo: Editora e Liraria Escrita, 1983), pp. 63-80. [return]
  6. Finisia Fideli, "Quando é preciso ser homem", O Atlântico tem duas margens, ed. JoséManuel Morias (Lisboa: Caminho, 1993), pp. 25-32. [return]
  7. Marcia Kupstas, "Gepetto", in Como era gostosa a minha alienigena ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (São Caetano do Sul: Ano Luz, 2002), pp.175-80. This story first appears in Kupstas's collection of erotic short stories, Casos de sedução (São Paulo: Brasiliensex, 1987), pp.20-29. [return]
  8. Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, "O Carioca" (1960), in Comba Malina (Rio de Janeiro: Laudes, 1969), pp.179-204. [return]
  9. Marcia Kupstas, O Demônio do computador (São Paulo: Moderna, 1997). [return]
  10. "Martha Argel, "Vidinha caseira", in Lugar de mulher é na cozinha, ed. Martha Argel (São Paulo: Writers, 2000), pp.121-33. [return]
  11. Lisa Yazsek, "Domestic Satire as Social Commentary in Mid-Century Women's Media Landscape SF", Foundation 95 (Autumn 2005), p.38. [return]
  12. Adriana Simon, "Lugar de ninguém", in Lugar de mulher é na cozinha, ed. Martha Argel (São Paulo: Writers, 2000), pp.99-103. [return]
  13. Carla Cristina Pereira, "Xochiquetzal e a Esquadra da Vingança", in Phantastica Brasiliana, ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro and Carlos Orsi Martinho (São Caetano do Sul: Ano Luz, 2000), pp.53-72. See the English version, "Xochiquetzal", trans. David Alan Prescott, in Altair (Australia), Special Issue 6&7 (2000), pp.70-81. [return]
  14. Carla Cristina Pereira, "Uma certa capitã Rodrigues", in Como era gostosa a minha alienígena, ed. Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (São Caetano do Sul: Ano Luz, 2002), pp. 77-104. [return]
  15. Carla Cristina Pereira, "Longa viagem para casa", in A viagem, ed. Silvana Moreira and António de Macedo (Cascais, Portugal: Simetria, 2000), pp.81-97. [return]
  16. Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, "Os possessos de Núbia", in Comba Malina (Rio de Janeiro: Laudes, 1969), pp.25-48. [return]
  17. Michelle Klautau, O crepúsculo da fé (São Paulo: Devir, 2001); A ilha da lendária Hy Brasil (São Paulo: Devir, 2005). [return]
  18. Roberto de Sousa Causo, "SF in Brazil", Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field (April 2002), p. 42. [return]
  19. Mariana Albuquerque, "A seu serviço, senhor" in Lugar de mulher é na cozinha, ed. Martha Argel (São Paulo: Writers, 2000), pp.49-66. [return]
  20. Helena Gomes, A caverna dos cristais: o arqueiro e a feiticeira (São Paulo: Devir, 2003). [return]
  21. Since A ilha da lendária Hy Brasil has strong female characters but not an explicitly feminist agenda, I will concentrate mainly on O Crepúsculo da fé here. [return]
  22. Interview: Michelle Klautau, Rio de Janeiro, 4 July 2004. [return]
  23. Ruth Bueno, Asilo nas torres (São Paulo: Ática, 1979). [return]
  24. Fernanda Bohm, "Cozinhas são brancas", in Lugar de mulher é na cozinha, ed. Martha Argel (São Paulo: Writers, 2000), pp.73-86. [return]
  25. Simone Saueressig, "Fotos antigas", Somnium 76 (junho 2000), pp.14-15. [return]
  26. Julio Cortázar, "Las babas del diablo", in Cinco maestros: Cuentos modernos de Hispanoamérica, ed. Alexander Coleman (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969), pp.98-112. [return]
  27. Women writers of science fiction do seem to be making considerable inroads. For example, one third of the stories in the thematic anthology Como era gostosa a minha alienígena (How Tasty Was My Alien), were written by women. Among those that ranked the highest for short fiction for the Argos award for Best Short Fiction 2003 were: Portuguese author Maria Meneses's "Boas-vindas" (Welcome), placed first, followed by Brazilian Carla Cristina Pereira's "Uma certa capitã Rodrigues" (A Certain Captain Rodrigues) and Marcia Kupstas's "Gepetto". [return]

M. Elizabeth Ginway is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Florida. She is author of Brazilian Science Fiction: Cultural Myths and Nationhood in the Land of the Future (Bucknell, 2004), which appeared in Portuguese translation in 2005 in Brazil.
Current Issue
17 Jun 2024

To fly is to deny death / as the body’s natural state
scrawled in the ashes of who I might have been
Ellie Mathieu can tell when the Big Easy arrives by the smell of its engine.
Wednesday: A Magical Girl Retires by Park Seolyeon, Translated by Anton Hur 
Issue 10 Jun 2024
Issue 9 Jun 2024
Phonetics of Draconic Languages 
A Tour of the Blue Palace 
A Tale of Moths and Home (of bones and breathing) (of extrinsic restrictive lung disease) 
By Salt, By Sea, By Light of Stars 
Critical Friends Episode 11: Boundaries in Genre 
Friday: The House that Horror Built by Christina Henry 
Friday: Utopia Beyond Capitalism in Contemporary Literature: A Commons Poetics by Raphael Kabo 
Issue 3 Jun 2024
Issue 27 May 2024
Issue 20 May 2024
Issue 13 May 2024
Issue 6 May 2024
Issue 29 Apr 2024
Issue 15 Apr 2024
By: Ana Hurtado
Art by: delila
Issue 8 Apr 2024
Load More