Between the Void and the Heart – Paul Jessup talks about Fabio Fernandes’ new story collection

Luna Press Publishing, posted with permission

(editor’s note: This is a reprint of Paul Jessup’s introduction to Fabio Fernandes’ new collection, Love, an Archaeology, from Luna Press Publishing. Purchase direct from them here.)

It is often said that science fiction is the literature of ideas, and more often than not most science fiction does not live up to this promise. The ideas are regurgitated, barely explored, or do not contain the imagination and sense of awe that great science fiction, nay, great literature itself is often meant to inspire towards. This collection is pure ideas, pure imagination, it not only lives up to that promise, but exceeds it exponentially.

Funny, I am writing this to you from the end of the book. What I mean by that is that I have finished this book, and now I am here, writing an introduction and speaking to you, dear reader, who has not read the book just yet. I am a time traveler of sorts, which is crazy fitting given the first story in this collection. Unlike that time traveler, however, I am not here to commit suicide, instead I am here to tell you that this book was worth your purchase and you should just skip to the end of this introduction and read on ahead.

Wait, you still want more? I’m being serious, whatever I tell you here will only be a pale shadow of the work beyond the introduction. Go on, read it, come back to me and we’ll speak as equals, one time traveler to another. You still aren’t ready to read it yet? Fine, fine, fine.

Let me say this, each story in this is an exploration of idea with depth. Each story is poetic, at times spiritual and transcendent. Each time you think you know where a story is going, there is a left turn, a pivot, and then the story opens up before you like a flower, blossoming. The language speaks directly to the bones, and like all good poetry it is the opposite of florid. Each word feels perfect, chosen exactly for the right kind of resonance within the reader.

Do you still want more? You still want to read on here, and not just jump into the book? Fine, fine, fine. As I said before, Fernandes explores ideas within this book, but the ideas are not just the usual science fiction ideas. There are those, too, but the stories here exist on so many other planes of existence. The title alone should tell you as such, Love and other Archeologies. Here is a book about digging into emotional resonance, going beyond the cold equations of gee whizz gizmos and really interesting (really interesting!) technology and turns on scifi staples. It is not just love that’s explored here, it goes beyond that and then some.

Fernandes investigates abstract ideas in a way most science fiction writers investigates scientific ideas, by looking at them from all sides and exploring every facet of them. It digs in deep, looking at it philosophically and spiritually, and he does not give easy answers at all. Instead, he gives the reader the tools for understanding, a way of thinking out the ideas for themselves by the way each story is presented.

On the one hand, you see the influence of Buddhism and a beat like appreciation of these concepts. On the other hand, you can see him looking at the flaws of such ideas of ego death, and looking at the beauty of human sorrow and suffering. And on the other-other hand there is a philosophical underpinning on what these all mean, and he explores them with aplomb. 

But, all of this exploration would not work, would not be so heartwrenching, if it were not for the characters. They are the underpinning of the story, and something science fiction rarely (if ever) gets right. Take the women in The Emptiness in the Heart of All Things, for example. The story could be just a rote story, giving you the usual beats and that’s all. But here Fernandes uses the plot and setting and everything else as an exploration of character, and who these characters are, and what they mean to us, the readers. Even the setting is a reflection of the characters as well, with Anita’s past life in the heat of the jungle influencing everything about her, creating an internal jungle by the edge of the Amazon inside herself.

There is a poignancy here, an undercurrent that carries with it so much that I still can’t stop thinking about the story now, days after I read it. I want to tell you all about it, but a huge part of the joys in these stories is the joy of surprise. As a jaded writer I see very few works of fiction where I can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen next. I never had that issue with the stories in this collection.

For example, take a look at The Remaker– the story itself starts in a way that echoes Moby Dick’s Call me Ishmael, combined with the second sentence which feels like a riff on Camus’ The Stranger’s Mother died today, or was it yesterday? And at first you think you know where the story might be going, and yet every single paragraph a new surprise is thrown at you. Something unseen moves the story along, and the setting is so interesting, letting you think oh hey, I’ve read stories like this before, and then something happens and you lose your footing yet again.

It is such a joy to read something so surprising. I haven’t felt this giddy reading anything in so long, so bored and tired I’ve become of monomyth’s and predictable patterns of stories pulled from Story Tropes and a million screen writing guides. This doesn’t feel like it’s breaking the rules, but rather instead that stories work on new rules, and for each story it is a different set of rules completely changing everything.

Some writers come to mind who did such things before, Gene Wolfe, Borges, Eunesco, Jeffery Ford, and many others. But really, Fernandes is absolutely unique. His combination of those authors mixed with the Buddhism of Beat poets, combined with philosophical inquiries that remind me of some of Ted Chaing’s best works all create something completely new and interesting. All told with a muscular, poetic prose that seems like it’s going to flex but instead does a pas de chat and pirouettes with grace.

Are you convinced now? Go, read this collection, be challenged, be enlightened, and find the joy and giddiness with the pages that I found. Trust me, this collection was a fantastic purchase. Dig into these pages and enjoy!

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