There has never been a time as good as the present for horror, science fiction, and fantasy literature in Brazil. Foreign authors like JRR Tolkien and George R.R. Martin are gaining success, and Brazilian authors specializing in genre themes proliferate. This type of literature remains a niche although, as the writer Robeto Causo explains, horror literature, for example, has a long tradition in Brazil.
“R. F. Lucchetti, immensely prolific, is published since the 1940s and has also acted in the area of horror comics and has been the scriptwriter of many films by the recently deceased filmmaker José Mojica Marins, “Zé do Caixão” (Coffin Joe, in the United States and Europe), and by Ivan Cardoso, known for promoting the fusion of horror and comedy in his films, the ‘Terrir’ [joining terror, or horror, with rir, or laugh],” says Causo, adding that famous authors of Brazilian literature such as Machado de Assis or Lygia Fagundes Telles have also written horror tales—some were re-edited in the book Contos Clássicos de Terror [Classic Tales of Terror] (2018) and in Academia Sobrenatural Brasileira de Letras [Brazilian Supernatural Academy of Letters] (2019).
There are many reasons: From the Brazilian literary tradition, through prejudice against national authors and the genres in itself to the Brazilian people’s lack of habit of effectively reading and rampant illiteracy rates. Also, there are few publishers specialized in fantastic, science fiction and horror literature in Brazil, such as DarkSide, Estronho, Draco and Lendari (the last two publishing exclusively Brazilian authors) and, often, bigger publishing houses give preference to foreign authors.
“I can assure you that we are experiencing a sensational moment in the sphere of creation, with talented authors writing works of the highest level. However, this creative force is not finding support in publishers and readers. The prejudice against this literary genre is still dominant in Brazil. Medium and large publishers simply refuse to give prestige to Brazilian science fiction,” explains writer Nelson de Oliveira.
Writer and researcher in Transhumanism (with a PhD from Ca’ Foscari University and the University of São Paulo), Alexey Dodsworth Magnavita tells a story that summarizes the difficulties of Brazilian authors in this niche:
“By the time I released my first book, “18 de Escorpião” [18 Scorpii], I had won a prize. And a manager of a big bookstore in São Paulo called me saying ‘your books sell a lot and we wanted to make an event, a book launch party, and we saw that you are in São Paulo’.
So, I decided to go to the bookstore. When I arrived, he commented: ‘but you don’t have a foreign accent.’
To which I replied ‘no, I’m from Bahia’ [Bahia is a state in the northeast of Brazil].
‘But do you use a pseudonym?’ he asked.
I said ‘no, my name is really foreign, but I’m Brazilian’.
‘Ah, we thought you were a foreigner and we put your book in the international fiction and fantasy sector,’ he replied.
As a result, my book was changed from the foreign to the Brazilian book section and there was a drastic drop in sales”.
Tor asked Magnavita, Causo and Lidia Zuin, a futurologist, PhD candidate in Visual Arts and rising author of the genre what would be the most relevant Brazilian books in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, and horror which everyone should read and which should be urgently translated into English.
A Rainha do Ignoto [The Queen of Ignoto]—Emília Freitas (1899, Fantasy)
Considered the first book of the fantasy genre published in Brazil, it discusses themes related to what is to be a woman and her position in society formatted as a psychological novel. One night, a lawyer observes from his room’s window a mysterious and beautiful woman navigating the waters of the Jaguaribe River, in the state of Ceará, and tries at all costs to find her. Funesta (that could be translated as Grim) is part of a local legend, people see her but are afraid to find her as there could be consequences.
The story is an allegory of the situation of submission of women in Brazil at the turn of the century, Funesta, a legendary queen, takes women who have gone through great suffering to a utopian island. Ignoto, in Portuguese, means something that is ignored, unknown.
A Ordem Vermelha [The Red Order]—Felipe Castilho (2017, Fantasy)
An epic book where a small group of rebels led by a mysterious figure tries to defeat a goddess who forces everyone to serve her. They fight oppression in a world populated by humans, dwarves, giants and other fantastic races like the Gnolls and Kaorshs in an allegory of the social stratification of society in which the different classes with different power in the social pyramid are represented by fantastic races.
Castilho creates a universe of its own and mythology in which several species coexist, or rather, come under the yoke of a goddess, Una, who rules in a sovereign and autocratic way. Slavery and vassalage are what the different races of Untherak, the last city in the world, have in common.
Tired of living without freedom, a group of rebels decide to fight, but members of different races they also have to overcome internal conflicts.
Trilogia Padrões de Contato [Trilogy Patterns of Contact]—Jorge Luiz Calife (1985, Science Fiction)
In the 25th century, humanity lives in peace and tranquillity, mastering cutting-edge technologies and nature, but everything is about to end. In a history that spans 600 years amidst space exploration and colonization of planets, one group questions whether technological advances have really brought happiness to humanity, increasingly individualistic. The books debate the future of human society and the chaos of industrial society, besides space exploration and the possibilities of contact with alien races.
A classic of Brazilian science fiction, the books tell the story of a woman made immortal by the Triad, a powerful non-biological alien who has come into contact with mankind, and who spends the centuries following human evolution—and its destruction—needing to go back in time to find a way to save the universe.
Fábulas do Tempo e da Eternidade [Fables of Time and Eternity]—Cristina Lasaitis (2008, Science Fiction)
Lasaitis brings us 12 short stories that explore unusual characters around themes such as time and the mortal condition of humanity—dealing with themes as disparate as virtualization, artificial intelligence and Inca mythology. The first tale, “Beyond the Invisible”, reminds us of Blade Runner 2049 and the hologram Joi, played by Ana de Armas, in a short story with a cyberpunk feeling, while “The Parentheses of Eternity” brings us an exchange of letters through time and “Born in the Depths” brings a clear Frank Herbert’s Dune influence.
A Guardiã da Memória [The Guardian of Memory]—Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro (2011, Science Fiction)
A love story with erotic nuances and mixed with scientific fiction of a woman and a centaur, members of races that are mortal enemies in an alternative reality, a world where species and cultures among humanoids and other races coexist and humans are seen as a plague for defending the thesis that they went through evolution naturally—and were not evolved by alien beings.
In a world known as Ahapooka, different species coexist and mix over the millennia, but most cultures discriminate against humans. Clara, a human member of the Rhea nation, finds herself isolated in a boat with a centaur, one of the many races on the planet, during a quest to prove the evolutionary thesis of mankind, thus initiating a romantic—and erotic—relationship.
O Esplendor [The Splendor]—Alexey Dodsworth Magnavita (2016, Science Fiction)
Aphriké, a world located in a star system with six suns is inhabited by dark-skinned beings who feed on sunlight but live under a totalitarian political regime. Telepaths, the inhabitants of Aphriké were raised by a god obsessed with the idea of perfection. They don’t possess the notion of privacy or individuality—but they live under a strict caste system.Also, they don’t sleep, don’t dream.
30 years before the end of the world, a different individual is born—he is capable of sleeping and dreaming—and can save everyone from destruction. But, for the inhabitants of Aphriké, he’s an aberration.
Santa Clara Poltergeist—Fausto Fawcett (1990, Cyberpunk)
The first novel by a successful singer-songwriter in the 80s, the book is one of the main references of Brazilian cyberpunk. It tells the story of Verinha Blumenau, a sex worker, who suffers mutations in her body after falling into a mud puddle: She gains healing powers and becomes invulnerable to diseases. She joins Matthew, an “electroblack”, a black cyborg capable of fixing any electronic device in a mission to save humanity.
The book is a mix of “techno-porn” and the complete delirium and surreality amidst the stories of mediumship, magnetic failures and cyborg sex. A lysergic journey in which a “magnetic fault” in the heart of Copacabana (one of the most famous neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro) ended up releasing the most basic instincts of humanity and eliminating barriers between our reality and others that exist.
Os dias da Peste [Days of the Plague]—Fábio Fernandes (2009, Cyberpunk)
The book reproduces the accounts of Artur, a computer technician from Rio de Janeiro who cuts through his diary the events that predate the “awakening,” that is, the moment when computers become endowed with consciousness, debating our addiction to technology and how it would be if we disconnected—even by force. Curious fact, Fernandes is the Brazilian translator of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
Computers are going crazy, they no longer obey orders, they are trying to communicate with humans. The book seeks to answer the question “how would humanity behave if such an event happened?” and how would humanity reorganize itself after machines refuse to obey our commands.
Sétimo [Seventh]—André Vianco (2002, Horror)
Vianco is probably the most successful Brazilian author in the horror genre, in particular writing books about vampires, as in Seventh, who describes how a vampire awakens after 500 years in Brazil and decides to form an army to conquer his territory.
In this continuation of “Os Sete” [The Seven], the vampire Seventh awakens in Brazil, which for him is a new world. Technology, appliances, electric light, after 500 years of sleeping, he tries to blend in and go unnoticed—while he is detained to create an army of vampires that will dominate the world.
Dias Perfeitos [Perfect Days]—Raphael Montes (2014, Horror)
The author, who navigates between the detective novel and horror, describes the routine of Téo, a medical student who takes care of his paraplegic mother and examines corpses in class. He ends up obsessed with Clarice, whom he kidnaps and psychologically tortures in a sordid and sick relationship. Montes is one of the most successful authors of its kind in Brazil today.
Bile Negra [Black Bile]—Oscar Nestarez (2017, Horror)
Vex is a young translator who, after a family trauma and a suicide attempt, tries to return to normal life by going out with his friends in São Paulo and visiting a psychiatrist. After spending the night with San, whom he is in love with, he receives the news that she would be in a coma, in hospital, after having suffered an accident. When he visits her, he notices a black form or cloud coming out of her eyes which, little by little, takes his friends one by one—and they start doing things they would never do normally, as if they were possessed.
The black cloud begins to take hold of everyone in the city and in the country, while Vex and his friend Caio, the only one who had not been taken by the epidemic, make a car trip to the south of the country trying to escape the epidemic.
A book that is extremely current, Nestarez deals with a pandemic that spreads silently, caused by an unknown substance which takes over the host, awakening the darkest impulses, such as anger and aggressiveness. The book, whose story takes place in São Paulo and southern Brazil, causes not only terror, but also repulsion and, why not, fear. In the background, the isolation and loneliness of big cities and the ephemerality of social relations and the control we exercise over our emotions.
Mistério de Deus [Mysteries of God]—Roberto Causo (2017, Horror)
Causo has already been compared to Stephen King and in this book, set in 1991, in the midst of an immense economic crisis that has devastated Brazil, Causo describes the social evils set in a small town in the interior of São Paulo where three murderers in a black car terrorize vulnerable populations (prostitutes, homeless, etc.), killing with impunity and disappearing with their bodies.
In the book, Alexandre Agnelli has just got out of prison and, for his situation, became something of the murderers. He manages to escape and decides to have them eliminated. Alexandre joins three other friends, João (his best friend), Josué (an honest military policeman who has difficulties adapting to the corrupt environment of the police) and Soraia (his passion since his youth and medium), to investigate the murderers and try to stop them.
Raphael Tsavkko Garcia is a Brazilian journalist published by DW, Al Jazeera, PRI, The Washington Post, OneZero, among other news outlets. He also holds a PhD in Human Rights (University of Deusto).