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By Patrick (2007-06-26)
Q: Without giving anything away, what can you tell potential readers about Brasyl?
Oh, nothing except, that like the country, Brasyl sidles up to you, shakes its ass, gets you to buy it a drink and in the morning you wake up with an STD, your wallet gone and a kidney missing but the memory of a hell of a ride. A hell of a ride.
Q: India was the setting for River of Gods, and you used Brasil as a backdrop for your latest novel. What prompted you to set your story in that country?
Brasil is big, Brasil is sexy, Brasil is cool and scary and powerful and a major player and considers itself a superpower in waiting. Like India (which I used in River of Gods) it also fails to appear on the US mental radar, which endears it to me automatically. It has an alternative black culture to the US's, one that is as vibrant and significant but expresses itself in a different cultural language. It has an appalling history, yet somehow has built the most ethnically diverse nation on earth. The Brasilian attitude to skin colour interests me, because it seems like the reverse of ours in the North --if you're not white, you have to be black. In Brasil, if you're not black, you're white. 'One drop of milk...' as they say. I dislike the 'BRIC' expression (Brasil, Russia. India, China) because it sounds like econono-speak and I certainly don't give it any credence --it's already outdated and by and large I find popular economists lag pretty far behind the curve-- it struck me as the least likely one of that quartet of fast-track nations and the most interesting from a writing point of view. China doesn't interest me, it's too obvious and too well known. India, when I was researching it, was the short sharp shock, it was all there, out on display, take it or leave it or make of it what you will. Brasil charms, Brasil seduces and it creeps under your skin so that months later, impressions and people are still unpacking. For God's sake, it's got airports with cinemas in them! What's not to love?
Q: What extensive research did the writing of Brasyl entail?
A book seems to take me three years now. I'm filled with admiration at writers who can put out two books a year --I can't work that way. I'm slow --damn slow-- and lazy. I read a lot. I make my record collection tax deductible. I subscribe to online newspapers. I talk to people and try to learn a bit of the language and, in the course of this book, became a bit of an expert on Brasilian football (that's the real football, not the one where you throw rather than kick: futebol). That's two years or so. Then I start to write. Two pages a day. I've got a day job, (confession time: I'm a factual television developer and producer: I am Marcelina) that's enough, that works for me. That's another year or so, given human frailties. And of course, the being there...
Q: As was the case with River of Gods, how much of a challenge was it to get every little detail "right" in Brasyl?
No one gets every little detail right. In a sense, all knowledge is local, there are people five miles up the road know things I don't about the place they live. I hope I can get the voice and the feel and the way of thinking right. Eighty percent of your research is never used , thrown away, gone. You only use twenty percent at the very most, but you have to do it to know which twenty.
Q: What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write Brasyl in the first place?
I didn't want to do a River of Gods 2, and I wanted to steer clear of obvious places like China and Indonesia. And I'm a long-term Brasilophile. I liked the idea of SF in a country that thinks of itself as the Nation of the Future --Brasilia is one of the most SF-nal cities you can imagine --in the old-skool '2001: Space odyssey' sense: Sao Paulo is equally sfnal, in the Bladerunner sense. You can see how all this falls together in my head. The whole thing of shifting realities, which gave rise to the conceit of e-waste, the the next step in e-waste: q-waste: what spills over and gets put out in the trash when quantum computing becomes widely accessible. These things fall together.
SFFWorld reviews Brasyl HERE.