quinta-feira, 17 de julho de 2008

Heroes in the Mist: Interview with Robert Holdstock

He writes like a classic poet, but his subjects are high fantasy novels based in concepts once structured by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Heroes, legends and ancient poetry are the common ground for his books that join Greek mythology and Celtic folklore in one same detailled universe that is introduced to the readers by the well crafted personality of the men and demi-gods who once lived in Europe and Asia and now are part of our psyche.
For the first time, Robert Holdstock talks to the Brazilian readers about Greek theatre, literary universes and the night when he talk to his wife in a non-existant language.


OCTAVIO ARAGÃO – You wrote the novelization of a John Boorman movie called The Emerald Forest, which was an epic adventure ambiented in Brazil. What was your konowledge of the Brazilian folk or Indian culture and how (as if) it influenced your work?

ROBERT HOLDSTOCK -- The project to write a novel based on John Boorman’s film The Emerald Forest came along when I had just finished Mythago Wood. I grabbed the chance because it would give me an opportunity to read about a different folklore than that of Europe. I knew very little about the folklore and religious beliefs of the rainforest-living people of the Amazon when I started. I read about the ‘Wau-Wau’. Fascinating. By immersing myself imaginatively in the culture, I tried to create a feeling of how it would be to live in such a ‘wilderness’. That engagement certainly brought me very close in my mind to very ancient ways of thinking and interacting with nature, and some of that can be felt in my next novel, Lavondyss. So I was glad of the change of location, because it helped firm up my belief that all human races have deep psychological roots in common. I was particularly interested in the myth of the Great Anaconda, and in the myths reating to the jaguar. Snake and cat imagery in mythology is very common in Europe too.

OA – There is a whole new language created by yourself for the Mythago books, some kind of Ice Age language, and seems that your wife once woke up just to see you sitting in bed, apparently speaking it very well. What were the anthropologic basis for this new language? And how did you managed to actually “speak” it? Can you do it when awake?

RH – There is no real anthropologic basis for the ‘language’ I invented for Lavondyss. It began in 1978 when I wrote a story called ‘Earth and Stone’, about a time traveller returning to ancient Ireland in search of a lost colleague. I used the ‘sounds’ of the Celtic language Gaelic, combined with ‘sounds’ that were guttural and simple, to make a hybrid language that would sound feasible and fluid. I extended this phonetic exercise in the second of the Mythago books, but tried to make all the words meaningful, and the phrases consistent. It is certainly true that I concentrated so hard on this phonetic speech that I began to dream in it, and indeed did, on one occasion, talk in my sleep in this invented tongue. My wife (very amused) told me afterwards that – though the words were nonsensical – it sounded as if I knew what I was talking about! I was very, very deeply engaged with the Stone Age cultures I describe in Lavondyss, and in fact, to this day, I still have trouble remembering what was research and what was invention on my part!

OA – You seem to be a kind of “slow writer”, with lots of time dedicated to the research period and to the building of a very beautiful, strong prose. Please, talk a little about the whole proccess of writing novels like Celtika or The Iron Grail, books one and two of The Merlin Codex. You once told that the core idea came from watching an acting of Euripedes’s Medea, Would you consider this moment as the first step of the Merlin’s saga conception? If so, you always do that, I mean, go back to the classics to chase for inspiration?

RH – I work slowly, I agree. I try to write poetically, and without cliché. Thirty years ago a good friend, and fine writer a generation older than me, dissected one of my short stories, showing me just how much cliché I was using. It was the best lesson I ever had! After that, I decided to try and establish a strongly poetic prose, with deliberate use of
repetition of imagery, and phrases, and a certain ‘rhyming’ style. You will read this at its most deliberate in Lavondyss.

I don’t always refer to the classics for inspiration, though sometimes I find atheme there, or a reference point. Merlin’s Wood and the Merlin Codexx are inspired by our poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. Indeed, when I read his poem ‘Ulysses’, the last few lines* became the rock on which I could build the thematic structure of the Merlin Codex books. I had had the idea before that, though.

You ask me about the play Medea by Euripides. This was certainly inspirational in the Codex idea: the performance I saw showed Medea’s sons being brutally murdered by their mother. After their deaths, on stage, they lay in a glass coffin, covered with blood. The young actors were talking, squirming around, and giggling together, even as the rage and anger of the play unfolded on the main stage. The audience was amused.

And it occurred to me that Medea, a loving mother, might only have pretended to kill her sons by Jason. If so: where would she have hidden them? And what if their father Jason discovered they were still alive?

The rest came naturally: Jason rebuilds his ship, Argo, and recruits new Argonauts. And one Argonaut is Merlin, a semi-immortal man wandering the world. This Merlin is the same Merlin whom I had introduced in the mid 90s, in Merlin’s Wood.

So the new books became an extension of the old book, just as Merlin’s Wood itself was an extension of the Mythago Cycle of novels. And Jason, in the new work, is the same Jason who appears in The Hollowing, the third Mythago book. Thus do ideas connect across the years of imagination.

The research I did for Celtika was mainly into the legendary invasion of Greece by a massive army of Celtic tribes, drawn from all over the ancient world at the time. They raided the oracle at Delphi, but with little success. I tried to make a prose style that shifted between the ‘heroic’ style of our own Celtic literature and the ‘heroic’ style of ancient Greek literature. Of course, I can only refer to translations; but it was enormous fun to play with both traditions and styles of narrative. The Iron Grail is a conscious recreation of the narrative style of an early Irish epic, The Cattle Raid, one of the most brilliant accounts of warfare, combat, gods, spirits and Celtic royalty ever written; it is a miracle and a delight that the ancient text has survived into the modern age.

OA – One of the great concepts behind the Mythago series is that all stories, legends and folk songs created by humanity are true and do exists in a physical realm. What were the phylosophical basis to the books? Jung and Plato had something to do with it? Other authors like Michael Moorcock – who said a lot of good things about your series – and Alan Moore walked the same path in some of their works. Do you see any relation among your books and theirs?

RH – I created Mythago Wood in order to be able to explore the notion of ‘lost legends’ and ‘lost heroes’. It was my idea that for every King Arthur we remember, there are twenty wonderful heroes whose stories were lost. For every tale of a Greek hero, there are twenty tales of that heron that were never written down. Lost. During the writing of the book I decided to imply that our own ‘collective unconscious’ minds still carry memories of those great, forgotten heroes. And indeed, of those great, forgotten events. So I drew on Carl Jung, yes, and I researched the mythological past through the work of Joseph Campbell, and The Golden Bough, the massive work by James Frazier. I also drew heavily on Greek and Norse mythology. But the essential point is that all my work is fiction, and the whole point of my fantasy work is to try to illuminate and create in the readers’ minds the sense of how enormous the past of legend and myth has been; and of how very little remains.

In this way, yes, I am close to Mike Moorcock in that he writes robust tales of imaginary heroes, imaginary mythologies. And Alan Moore, too, draws inspiration from the source. We call it, here: ‘drawing water from the same well’. The late writer Keith Roberts said this to me first, and it is certainly the case that Keith Roberts and I were inspired by the same sense of the obscure and vanished past; heroes in the mist; heroism and the summoning of ancient forces, now forgotten and beyond our powers.

OA – Thank you very, very much for you attention.


*Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

terça-feira, 8 de julho de 2008

O clipe da nova HQ da Intempol

Com desenhos de Manoel Ricardo, tema musical de Adelmar Reis, cores de Fábio Birous e edição das irmãs Gerusa e Gabriela Maluf, este é o clipe que foi exibido em primeira mão na Fantasticon 2008.

segunda-feira, 7 de julho de 2008

Cheering people: Interview with Spider Robinson

He writes a rare mix of Science-Fiction and humour but with great concepts in the basis of the narrative. His wife and talented partner writer in the successful trilogy STARDANCE, STARSEED and STARMIND was in the NASA space program and his knowledge of the Brazilian music and culture is awesome.

One of the most talented writer of his generation, Spider Robinson talks about happy and depressing endings, the day Challenger exploded, the political side of Robert Heinlein and lots and lots of info about Science Fiction, literature and more.


OCTAVIO ARAGÃO: You said in an recent Locus interview that you have preference for “happy endings” instead of gritty, pessimistic ones. Don’t you think that this option could reduce the possibility of your work to be taken more seriously outside the SF genre? Or you are not interested in other markets that not the SF & Fantasy public like other authors such as Don De Lilo or William Gibson?

SPIDER ROBINSON: With respect, I must reject the premise of the question. People outside the SF genre aren't ALL depressed...and if they are, then they really NEED me.

The market I'm aiming for is anybody who can read English (or a good translation). I specifically intend my work for people who don't ordinarily read SF-- because there are a lot more of them, and I need the money. I don't see any conflict at all between that my liking for happy endings.

Quite the opposite. John Gardner once said, in a truly great book called ON MORAL FICTION, that art should be the light that beats back the darkness, and makes it possible for the people to get through another night. Art ought to make it EASIER to reconcile oneself to being alive, not harder. You can't accomplish that if the ONLY message you believe worthy of conveying is that life is a howling hell of pointless agony and doomed hopes.

We do not need artists to tell us Life Sucks. We knew that already. We came to them for surcease, for succor, for anodyne. If they insist on masturbatory nihilism, they rob us. Certainly, artists should express their inner pain--but if they cannot find some way to live with it, some trick to cope with it, some perspective from which to transcend it, then they should do so in private, with the door closed, and wash their hands afterwards.

There are enough--more than enough--unhappy endings in the newspaper; we don't need them in our fiction, too.

Once I was in a hospital, in a large ward with eight beds. All of us were in very poor shape. In Lord Buckley's memorable phrase, we were "sittin' at Death's door with our backs to the street." At 2 in the morning, the man across from me started to scream in pain. He needed some medication that could only be given on order of a certain doctor, who would not be back until 7 AM. That man screamed, nonstop, from 2 AM to 7 AM.

For the first half hour, the other 7 of us were very sympathetic. We tried to get the nurses to break rules and give the man his meds. No good. For the NEXT half hour, we were still sympathetic, but less so. After that, we just wanted him to stop. For about an hour--and then for the next three hours, we wanted him dead, with an intensity that grew until we wanted his whole family dead, and finally we wanted all his relatives and neighbors and anybody who had ever smiled at him all dead, in horrible ways. If any of the 7 of us had been capable of falling out of bed, crawling to his bed, and strangling him, we would have done so. The others would have covered for him.

I see no reason for Art to emulate that man. I say, if you're in pain, and you're eloquent and articulate, kindly shut the fuck up. Morale on this starship is rotten enough already, without some idiots demanding free food and beer in exchange for making everyone feel WORSE.

There is a certain kind of writer, too common nowadays, who genuinely believes, deep down in his sick wrinkled little raisin of a heart, that happy endings are something that we just don't deserve--that the human race does not deserve to exist, that Man is so vile, God should send another flood as quickly as possible, before we maim Mother Gaia. I believe such writers should be allowed to work, and publish...I believe nobody should ever be censored....but I'll never understand why anyone READS them. By publishing, they prove themselves to be hypocrites--for if they had the courage of their so-called convictions, they would kill themselves. If only they were that polite...

Anybody who wants to say happy endings are unrealistic has got to get past me. My whole life has been a series of happy endings so far--one after another. All it takes is luck. I KNOW that won't last forever--but so what? Every day I go to bed outside of jail is a happy ending.
I realize that thanks to this philosophy, I'm losing the clinically depressed as a market...but hey, they weren't paying attention anyway.

I think cheering people up is one of the kindest, bravest, most useful, HARDEST things one can do with one's life. I am privileged to have been given an opportunity to do so. The artists I love and cherish, in any genre, are the ones who've made me feel a little better about being alive. Like Heinlein, and Sturgeon, and Pohl, and Donald Westlake, and Lawrence Block. Like the Beatles, and James Taylor, and Louis Armstrong, and Dianne Reeves. Like Baryshnikov, and Margie Gillis, and Astaire, and Kelly. Like the immortal Tom Jobim. Like Joao--and Bebel--what the hell, and Astrud--Gilberto. (And Milton Nascimento, and Gilberto Gil, and Preta Gil, and Miucha, and Sônia Rosa and Tânia Maya and Zélia Duncan and Adriana Calcanhotto and Mamond and Erlon Chaves and a hundred others). I'm not saying I'm in the same league as any of these great artists. But I'm on the same side.

OA – Your wife, Jeannie, was once subscribed to the CIVILIANS IN SPACE NASA program before the Challenger accident. Since she is your partner in some literary SF works, how you two managed to work togheter in the trilogy STARDANCE, STARSEED and STARMIND and how, if it happened, her experience with NASA training helped in the project?

SR – So far, all Jeanne's zero-gee experience has been mental, I'm afraid. She never got as far as training with NASA. She was a finalist, on the short list of candidates, along with the late folksinger John Denver and several others--but before they got that far down the list, the Challenger lifted, with Christa McAuliffe aboard....and a few minutes later, the Civilian In Space Program was over.

(That day our phone rang nonstop: journalists around the world who had found Jeanne's name in the files, and wanted to know how she felt about going to space NOW? She spent all day saying over and over, "I'll get on the next one, if they let me. In terms of fatalities-per-billion-passenger/miles, it's safer than bicycles.")

She got on the list thanks to Ben Bova, former President of the National Space Society, former editor of Analog, and then editor of OMNI. At the 1980 World Science Fiction Convention, she performed an original dance called "Higher Ground," which was basically about the interior mental evolution she had gone through in writing STARDANCE. It ended with some simulated zero gee dance, thanks to a trompe l'oeil film backdrop and some lucite furniture that became transparent under the stage lights. A thousand SF fans gave her a twelve-minute standing ovation. Afterwards, Ben came up and asked if Jeanne would like to try that out for real, and she said sure.

It's a pity it didn't happen. Space could really use some good PR. Something more interesting to look at than jocks in spacesuits. Something beautiful, to make it clear to Joe Taxpayer how GREAT a place to go space is.

Interestingly enough, right now Jeanne is in the process of creating a short film involving zero gravity dance, intended as part of the commemoration of Robert A. Heinlein's centennial in 2007. Several people are supporting her with assistance of different kinds, and a few of them are scheming to get her aboard a Russian analog of NASA's famous Vomit Comet, so that she can log some actual hours in free fall, instead of just thinking hard about it. I hope it happens. For one thing, Jeanne is now retired as a dancer due to bad knees, and in free fall they wouldn't get in the way at all. If she somehow manages to come up with the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to get her film produced, it's going to knock people's eyes out. I've had a more financially successful career--but Jeanne is the real artist in this family.

OA – You’re a great fan of the Robert Heinlein’s work. How do deal with the fact that he wrote so different works such as STARSHIP TROOPERS, that we can consider a straight rightwing novel, and STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, a very liberal-flower power book? Don1t you consider them a little contradictory? Who was Heinlein after all, in your opinion, and which were his political affiliations?

SR – Here I must take refuge in quoting myself, because I addressed this question as well as I knew how, once, and there's no sense saying it over, worse. In a 1980 essay I wrote called "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!," I defended Robert against several sorts of then-common accusations, and here is the political section (copyright 1980):

“Heinlein is right wing.” This is not always a semantic confusion similar to the “fascist” babble cited above; occasionally the loud nit in question actually has some idea of what “right wing” means, and is able to stretch the definition to fit a man who bitterly opposes military conscription, supports consensual sexual freedom and women's ownership of their bellies, delights in unconventional marriage customs, champions massive expenditures for scientific research, suggests radical experiments in government; and; has written with apparent approval of anarchists, communists, socialists, technocrats, limited-franchise-republicans, emperors and empresses, capitalists, dictators, thieves, whores, charlatans and even career civil servants (Mr. Kiku in The Star Beast). If this indeed be conservatism, then Teddy Kennedy is a Liberal, and I am Marie of Romania.

And if there were anything to the allegation, when exactly was it that the conservative viewpoint was proven unfit for literary consumption? I missed it.

(5) “Heinlein is an authoritarian.” To be sure, respect for law and order is one of Lazarus Long's most noticeable characteristics. Likewise Jubal Harshaw, Deety Burroughs, Fader McGee, Noisy Rhysling, John Lyle, Jim Marlowe, Wyoming Knott, Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis, Prof de la Paz and Dak Broadbent. In his latest novel, “The Number of the Beast˜, “ Heinlein seems to reveal himself authoritarian to the extent that he suggests a lifeboat can have only one captain at a time. He also suggests that the captain be elected, by unanimous vote.

(6) “Heinlein is a libertarian.” Horrors, no! How dreadful. Myself, I'm a serf.

(7) “Heinlein is an elitist.” Well, now. If by that you mean that he believes some people are of more value to their species than others, I'm inclined to agree˜with you and with him. If you mean he believes a learned man's opinion is likely to be worth more than that of an ignoramus, again I'll go along. If by “elitist” you mean that Heinlein believes the strong should rule the weak, I strongly disagree. (Remember frail old Professor de la Paz, and Waldo, and recall that Heinlein himself was declared “permanently and totally disabled” in 1934.) If you mean he believes the wealthy should exploit the poor, I refer you to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and I Will Fear No Evil. If you mean he believes the wise should rule the foolish and the competent rule the incompetent, again I plead guilty to the same offense. Somebody's got to drive˜should it not be the best driver?

How do you pick the best driver? Well, Heinlein has given us a multiplicity of interesting and mutually exclusive suggestions; why not examine them?

(8) “Heinlein is a militarist.” Bearing in mind that he abhors the draft, this is indeed one of his proudest boasts. Can there really be people so naive as to think that their way of life would survive the magic disappearance of their armed forces by as much as a month? Evidently; I meet 'em all over.

(9) “Heinlein is a patriot.” (Actually, they always say “superpatriot.” To them there is no other kind of patriot.) Anyone who sneers at patriotism˜and continues to live in the society whose supporters he scorns˜is a parasite, a fraud, or a fool. Often all three.

Patriotism does not mean that you think your country is perfect, or blameless, or even particularly likeable on balance; nor does it mean that you serve it blindly, go where it tells you to go and kill whom it tells you to kill. It means that you are committed to keeping it alive and making it better, that you will do whatever seems necessary (up to and including dying) to protect it whenever you, personally, perceive a mortal threat to it, military or otherwise. This is something to be ashamed of? I think Heinlein has made it abundantly clear that in any hypothetical showdown between species patriotism and national patriotism the former, for him, would win hands down.

In sum, Robert was a man of many seeming contradictions--that's exactly why his work resonates for so many people. I disagree with several opinions he held dear, and he not only didn't mind, he approved. He said once arguing was the only means of learning that was nearly as good as experience. And he was always ready to drop any opinion, however cherished, the second that evidence proved it wrong.

OA – And what about you? Your work seems very light-hearted and full of fun. What’s your social-political options and how does it influence your work?

SR - I'm afraid I don't know how to answer, with anything shorter than a novel. I am not aware of ANY political party or school of thought that comes close to representing me. The best I can do is choose, year by year, the one I find the least offensive at the moment--which fluctuates so randomly that it's pointless to keep records. Heinlein's character Manuel Bernardo de la Paz in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS defined the position he called "rational anarchism." In those terms, I guess I'd say I am an irrational anarchist.

I will say this: I think that regardless of what political philosophy he claims to represent, George W. Bush has overseen the destruction of most of the things that made America great, the corruption of its most fundamental principles, and the greatest disgrace it has earned in three centuries--with the eager cooperation of an appalling HALF of the population. Half of America does not even know what it was supposed to be--or care. The America that Robert Heinlein loved and fought for no longer exists: in its place is a country of smug thugs that detains people indefinitely without charge, counsel, visitation or due process; tortures prisoners as policy; attacks nations that have offered it no offense, on grounds known to be lies; pisses on the very concept of an international community; and has the unlimited power to suspend its own Constitution and Bill of Rights internally, any time it feels like it. A country too cheap and mean to feed its hungry, to house its homeless, to heal and medicate its ill.

I did not move to Canada for political reasons. But if I were living in America now, I would move to Canada for political reasons. I believe in my heart that America will recover its soul one day, not too far in the future, and become again what it used to be. But as Paul McCartney said, in his great song "Tug of War," "It won't come soon enough, soon enough for me."

It needs great leaders. Right now, just about every one of its leaders and potential leaders is exactly what Sting called them in one of his better songs: game show hosts.

OA – Golden Age, New Wave, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Ribofunk, Science Fantasy, New Weird... What's the future for American Science Fiction? Is SF’s future a dark one?

SR – We're certainly going through dark times. At the moment the government and the media have everyone scared silly, and people who are scared silly don't much want to hear about the future. At the moment, most of the audience is looking at what they think was a rosy past, when they think things were better. Trust me: I was there, and things are much better now. And are going to be much much much better before too long.

Think about it: thirty years ago, when I started writing, the world faced thermonuclear apocalpyse--Nuclear Winter--the End of All Things. All thinking people expected it to come in our lifetime. Now our worst problem is a bunch of psychotic religious loonies, who got slightly lucky once, but haven't managed to kill a single American in the last three years.

Thirty years ago, the Population Bomb was going to kill us all: we were going to drown in people, if we didn't starve first. Today, world population is leveling off, and evil Frankenfood is feeding billions.

Thirty years ago we had an Iron Curtain, a Berlin Wall. Today we're basically down to spilling blood over which of three groups of nitwits has the most right to pray on a particular piece of dirt.

Thirty years ago NOBODY had the musical sound fidelity that can now be tucked into a shirt pocket. NOBODY had a laptop. Nobody had a DESKTOP. Only institutions had computers AT ALL--and no two of them were connected in any meaningful way.

When I got married thirty years ago, it happened to get videotaped. It took five guys to handle all the gear required. It never even occurred to me to ask for a copy of the videotape. Two years later the first VCR went on sale.

The future will be bright. Brighter than the present, at least. But until our governments and our "religious leaders" and the wise old men of our media stop devoting their considerable efforts to scaring the living shit out of us every second of the day, it will be hard to convince people of that bright future.

It is much easier to believe in doom. The ecosystem will collapse, the biosphere will bite us on the ass, we'll pollute ourselves to death. If you believe that, you are instantly, automatically, free of any possible responsibility. If you're on a sinking ship, you have no duties.

That's okay. The wheel always turns. The pendulum always swings back. And each time, progress is made. People will get tired of expecting doom. We did back in the 50s, and there was a great resurgence in science fiction. It will come again.

Just as soon as the elders have sense enough to quit frightening the children.

OA – Thank you very much, Mr Robinson! You are a true gentleman and I hope you like this small interview.

SR – I enjoyed it a great deal, Octavio. You ask interesting questions, and had me typing much longer than I planned to.

Figuratively yours,