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Luís Filipe Silva

Luís Filipe Silva was born on a winter afternoon 28 years ago in Lisbon, Portugal. After much mature thought, he decided to become a published writer, at the age of twelve; a certain book did it: Time Storm, by Gordon R Dickson. And since he always had humble goals, he began by starting to write, not a short story, but a full-length novel. The only astonishing fact in this tale is that he made it through to the end, though it took him more than a couple of years.

He'll never publish that novel, though.

Age brought him wisdom, and he turned his attention to short stories. Around that time he also found a certain magazine in the newsstands, Asimov's SF. After that, the world would never be the same again.

Portugal (or rather, Lisbon) had by then (the early 90s) a couple of bookstores that regularly imported English and American SF editions: novels, anthologies, magazines. There was also a small boom of translations and Portuguese SF labels, sometimes of new works, more often of forgotten novels of the '50s. There was absolutely no tradition or support to write and publish SF written in his native tongue. There were no magazines, no known fanzines, no fandom, no associations. There was no way to grow up in a SF-saturated medium as young writers in other countries do.

With an honourable exception...

Caminho Editions had been running, for a few years, a very popular SF label that focused on European non-English works. They somewhat supported the idea of Portuguese SF, and they even had a biannual award for original fiction. In 1990, it was again accepting manuscripts.

Luís, who by now had completely abandoned the translated works and was doing almost all of his reading in English, and who had for some years been learning his craft in the pages of a newspaper section devoted to young (mainstream) writers, decided to enter the contest. He took to the task of writing from scratch a dozen short stories and novelettes in a six-month time frame, so that he could meet both the deadline and the minimum number of words requested. The result was his first collection, The Future at the Window (Futuro Janela, for you, Portuguese readers), and he is pleased to announce that it won.

His next step was to finally write a novel he wouldn't be ashamed to see in print. It took him 18 months to complete it, but in 1993 Caminho published The Galxmind (A GalxMente); the novel had to be cut in half because of its length (100 000 words), resulting in Volume 1: City of The Flesh (Cidade da Carne), and Volume 2: Vengeances (Vingañas).

The novel(s) were well received and there was lots of critical attention. But then the enthusiasm slowed down: sales were not as they had been in the past, Caminho was not very happy with the label (mainly after its editor and main supporter had suffered a mild stroke that prevented him from working for two years), so they cut down the number of books to three per year. And there would be no more awards.

Luís had also spent that year furiously translating Greg Bear's Queen of Angels for another publisher. But that novel never came out because the label was cancelled due to small sales.

To make things worse, the Lisbon bookstores also became disenchanted with fiction imports, so the regular flow Luís was used to stopped. Fortunately, and with the help of João Barreiros, an avid fan and editor who had become his friend and with whom he was writing a new novel, Luís began to order his books from abroad.

A good thing to say about friendship is that it gets stronger during hard times. The same can be said of fandom. During three years, the bunch of five or six Portuguese writers that had done something that could be linked to the genre (and all of them published by Caminho) started meeting in a regular fashion, and making plans: to develop a magazine, to write associational stories, to build a convention.

It was the convention bit that gained most momentum. In late September 1996, after months of work and chaos, First Encounters of Science Fiction and Fantasy was taking place. Portugal had officially entered the international ring of fandom. People from all over Europe and the US were invited. National media took interest, along with critics and writers from other genres. The writers assembled some stories in a memorial anthology, in Portuguese and English. It was called Non-Events on the Edge of the Empire, and the translation is full of bad grammar and embarrassing typos.

At the same time, Luís and João published Terrarium: A Novel in Tiles, after a long and tiresome "struggle" with the editor that exhausted both writers. At this time Luís was also going through a personal crisis that took some time to solve; and his day-job started taking up a lot of his time.

For two years, Luís wrote almost nothing.

The stories that were appearing here and there, in newspapers and fanzines, were old and recycled material. There was nothing new. Besides, the newspaper section devoted to young writers (the only one in the whole country!) where he had made friends was cancelled overnight by a newly appointed management that was too eager to show results; the section had been going through twelve years of steady, weekly editions: they never thought about how much they were damaging the cultural generation that had been united by that link (it exists now only as an Internet site that nobody sees).

But in 1997 Luís was an active member of Second Encounters, based upon a theme familiar to him: side effects of SF on the post-modern cultural revolution. He contributed with a novelette called The Rodney King Global Mass Media Artwork, which featured some of his views on advertising, media and pop-culture. It was still old work, but had never been published before.

He began writing again.

His venture into the Internet started that same year. He has a home page that he's been trying to complete for some months now, participates in some forums about SF, and has some other projects he's working on. He discovered infinity plus through the Science Fiction Resource Guide site, and found it a very nice place to try to publish his first piece online. Keith Brooke gave him a very welcome hand, and that's the end of the story of how you're reading this.

Or almost. Because, on rereading this biography, Luís has come to a very distressing notion: of his obsessive recurrence of time references based upon his own age. It's true, he's getting old, we all are; he's almost thirty, and they say it's a turning point in your life. But maybe there's another reason behind the words. Humour only distracts us from it, and clichés don't really illuminate.

The fact is, a person he knew, the very one who was awarded the last Caminho prize, died of leukaemia a few years back. He was 27 and left behind a new-born daughter. He never lived long enough to become the writer everybody said he would be.

What's the point of fiction, anyway?

What's the point of science fiction? All thoughts will turn to ice. Words are just a way to make them shine for a long time afterwards.

But maybe that's the hidden answer of time. The answer to our inner doubt.

We write because of immortality.

Or rather: to escape mortality. It is as though the human mind knew it was the only way to escape the single certainty of every living being. To preserve the uniqueness of one's soul developed through a lifetime.

Words echo throughout the tunnels of time, centuries long. We all know it. And, I guess, we all, deep down, try to achieve that unspeakable, unattainable goal.

Elsewhere in infinity plus:

Elsewhere on the web:

  • Luís runs a home page, where you can find out more about his work, Portuguese sf and more.

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© Luís Filipe Silva 1 August 1998