„ What is needed for lesser-know SFs is something of a triple-pronged attack: promoting awareness of other science fiction traditions, making works available to readers in the original language of publication, and making those works accessible through translations into as many languages as possible.” – Interview with Prof. Rachel Haywood Ferreira, Iowa State University, U.S.A. – Cristian Tamas
Rachel Haywood Ferreira (Ph.D., Yale University) is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Iowa State University, US. She has worked with SF in a variety of media, from novels and short stories to comics, magazines and fanzines, and some film. Her articles have appeared in „Science Fiction Studies”, „Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts”, „Hispania”, and „Extrapolation”. Professor Haywood Ferreira’s current research focus is Latin American science fiction, with an emphasis on the SF produced in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico during the extended nineteenth century. She is also interested in the serialized Argentine science fiction of the 1950s (fanzines and comics) and the Latin American fantastic. Her book, “The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction”, had been published in 2011 by Wesleyan University Press.” Prof. Haywood Ferreira had contributed to „Latin American Science Fiction: Theory and Practice” (Palgrave MacMillan) that will come out at the very end of this year, and also she’s contributing a chapter to another book called `Parabolas of Science Fiction”, coming out with Wesleyan University Press in mid 2013.
Cristian Tamas : Prof. Haywood Ferreira, thank you very much for accepting this interview !
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : It is my pleasure…
Cristian Tamas : Please be so kind as to explain to European readers what IAFA is and why you decided to join this organization ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) is an organization that has as its stated purpose “to promote and recognize achievement in the study of the fantastic: in English and other literatures, in drama and film, in art and graphic design, and in related academic disciplines.” I would refer your readers to the IAFA website for further information. I began participating in the IAFA’s national conference, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in 2007 because it was an excellent forum for presenting my own work on Latin American science fiction and for hearing talks, panels, and author readings by some of the most important people in the field from all over the world. I found attending the conference to be such a rewarding experience that I have returned year after year since then, and I have worked as Division Head of the International Fantastic division of the conference since late 2010. I have also published in the journal associated with the conference, the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts.
Cristian Tamas : The US is the world leader in SF college teaching. Are you teaching science fiction (Latin American) courses at Iowa State University? How do you explain this particularity of US college SF teaching, is there a demand for such courses, what might the job market value for such courses be ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : I have taught courses on Latin American science fiction at Iowa State University, and I have also taught a course on the Latin American fantastic. Students from very diverse backgrounds have taken these courses as part of their major concentration in Spanish, to fulfill various university requirements, and out of interest in the topic. To speak for my own area of specialization, the study of Latin American sf is a relatively new but growing field, with articles and books appearing all the time. (I should be clear that I don’t teach creative writing, but rather courses in reading and literary and cultural analysis.) The second part of this question is somewhat confusing for someone from the U.S. Perhaps it stems from differences between the U.S. and the Romanian systems of higher education? That is, unlike the Latin American and Western European systems with which I’m acquainted in which students only take classes related to their course of study, in the U.S. students have a major area of concentration that comprises approximately one-fourth to one-third of their university coursework. Therefore whether or not a student takes upper-level coursework in science fiction in the U.S. is often not determined by their chosen career path.
Cristian Tamas : Your currently research focus is Latin American science fiction. How did you decide to concentrate on science fiction and especially on Latin American science fiction ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : I began as a Latin Americanist in my graduate studies at Yale University, where I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Latin American science fiction because of a long-standing interest in SF and out of a desire to study how Latin American writers have approached the genre.
Cristian Tamas : You’re the Division Head of the International Fantastic division of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA). Do you think that the non-Anglo science fiction has any real chance to be translated, read and appreciated in North America ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : As a professor of two world languages, I’d first of all hope my countrymen might learn to read in languages other than English, but with that said, I do understand the difficulty of breaking into the global sf market. What is needed is something of a triple-pronged attack: promoting awareness of other science fiction traditions, making works available to readers in the original language of publication, and making those works accessible through translations into as many languages as possible. To cite my own area, not only researching Latin American science fiction but teaching it in the U.S. has changed a great deal in the last ten or fifteen years. We now have resources such as the “Chronology of Latin American Science Fiction, 1775-2005” (published in Science Fiction Studies in 2007) to raise awareness of and help identify works, and efforts such as the anthology Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain (Wesleyan University Press 2003) to make some of them available in English translation. At the same time, the internet has made it possible for readers, writers, and scholars to find each other and read each other in ways unimagined not very long ago—this interview, for example !
Cristian Tamas : Have you ever participated in an SF convention? If so, have you participated on a panel ? If so, what is your opinion on SF conventions panels ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : I would like to participate in SF conventions in the future. I believe that discussions about the genre can and should be carried out in a variety of venues. In the end, whether one identifies primarily as writer, scholar, or fan, we are all first-and-foremost readers of science fiction.
Cristian Tamas : What is the specificity of Latin American science fiction? What are the differences (if any) between the Hispanic and Lusophone Latin American science fictions? Are the Mexican, Argentinian and Brazilian science fictions the strongest and most relevant in Latin America? Why should a non-Latin (American) read Latin American science fiction or fantasy?
Your book The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction has been launched by Wesleyan University Press. Why is it important to describe the origins of the Latin American Science Fiction ? To the discover the roots ? For example, Romanian science fiction has an early origin too (1873) but is internationally virtually unknown…
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : Let me address these questions jointly.
While the origins and the publishing impetus of the genre may lie in a few nations, sf is and has long been a global genre. As I discuss at greater length in my book, science fiction has been written in Latin America from at least the mid-nineteenth century in most Latin American countries. Knowing of the local as well as the international history of the genre strengthens our understanding that Latin Americans have been participants in and contributors to the entire range of the genre tradition. It helps to dispel stereotypes that countries in the technological periphery cannot or do not produce science fiction. Reading these works and reading about these works also sheds light on the larger topic of how Latin American perspectives on and approaches to SF add complexity to the genre … and makes one wonder what other facets might be revealed by other little-known works and traditions of science fiction.
As for my selection of Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil as the main Latin American countries to discuss in my book, they were chosen because of the relative strength of their SF traditions, yes, but also because as a group they are fairly representative of the diversity as well as the commonalities that are Latin America. As can be seen in the Chronology and Primary Bibliography at the end of the book, there are early contributions to the genre from most Latin American nations, and more are being uncovered all the time.
My book also discusses early Latin American science fiction in the context of contemporary works of sf written in the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere. I would be very interested to know more about works from other regions written during this time period such as the 1873 Romanian text you mention. Like this text, many of the Latin American works I examine are fairly unknown or are only becoming known in recent years (I trace the publication history of a number of these works in an article in the journal Hispania: “Back to the Future: The Expanding Field of Latin-American Science Fiction.” Hispania 91.2 (2008): 352-62.)
Cristian Tamas : Who are your favourite SF writers ? Why ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : I’ve enjoyed the works of writers of science fiction and fantasy in all of the languages I read and beyond, from Tolkien to Miéville to Villiers de l’Isle-Adam to Holmberg and Borges and Oesterheld… I enjoy a good story. I like reading things that make me think, that enrich and challenge my understanding of reality.
Cristian Tamas : As far as you know is there some cooperation between the IAFA and the SFWA ? Do any SFWA members attend the IAFA’s conference (the ICFA)? Do any IAFA members go to the Worldcons or Nebula Award Weekends ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : I would assume that some of the many writers of SF/F who attend the ICFA are also members of the SFWA and that any number of people who attend the ICFA also attend other events such as those you have mentioned as well as the Science Fiction Research Association conferences and others. I can only speak for myself and say that I’ve presented at other genre-centric conferences such as the Eaton Conference, and I hope to attend others in the future.
Cristian Tamas : What do you recommend for an increased international visibility of lesser-known science fiction traditions ?
Rachel Haywood Ferreira : As a scholar and a reader of science fiction I’d be interested to hear talks at conferences for example, on Romanian SF, to read more about it in academic journals and genre magazines, and to be able to read it myself. I am especially interested in what makes Romanian science fiction uniquely Romanian and in characteristics it shares with other SF traditions—some of the same things you have asked me about Latin American SF, in fact ! Your website have already begun to make this possible.
Thank you, Prof. Haywood Ferreira !
© Cristian Tamas & Rachel Haywood Ferreira
The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction – Rachel Haywood Ferreira
Wesleyan University Press, 2011
(“Early science fiction has often been associated almost exclusively with Northern industrialized nations. In this groundbreaking exploration of the science fiction written in Latin America prior to 1920, Rachel Haywood Ferreira argues that science fiction has always been a global genre. She traces how and why the genre quickly reached Latin America and analyzes how writers in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico adapted science fiction to reflect their own realities.”)
Paul Di Filippo’s review :
Cristian Tamas is a romanian essayist, translator and SF fan active within the speculative fiction domain since the 80s. He is a founding member of the Romanian Science Fiction&Fantasy Society (SRSFF = Societatea Română de Science Fiction& Fantasy, www.srsff.ro/) in January 2009, coordinates ProspectArt, the SRSFF’s SF club relaunched in April 2009 in Bucharest (Romania), and the yearly Ion Hobana Colloquium. He is a member of the Ion Hobana and a SRSFF’s Jury Awards. He is also editor of „Bella Proxima”, a trilingual croatian SF anthology (english-croatian-romanian), together with Antuza Genescu and Aleksandar Žiljak (Eagle Publishing House, Bucharest, 2012). He had interviewed David Brin, Prof. Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin College, USA; research focus : italian science fiction), Mariano Martín Rodríguez (SF scholar, Spain), Alexandre Babeanu (Prix Solaris awarded canadian SF author), Ugo Bellagamba (french SF author awarded with Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire & Prix Rosny ), and Judit Lörinczy, a hungarian SF author and artist.