Updated: May 2, 2021
In the fourth of our Q&A features, we talk to short fiction contributor Illimani Ferreira about the horror found within new technologies, the woes of the current political climate, childhood memories of creating fiction and the individuality behind cathartic activities as we discover the inspiration behind Pandora 4 - Illimani's intelligent, poignant yet terrifying social science-fiction horror piece, found in The Needle Drops... Volume One.
Illimani Ferreira is a writer born in Brazil and is currently living in the United States with an academic background in social sciences and a professional background in social services. His writing can vary from a grimdark noir to the zaniest comedy, but always with a certain dose of bittersweetness. Although Illimani’s Latinx identity doesn’t steer his writing, it does illuminate his perspective. The same applies to the fact that he is a gay man. You can find him on Twitter (@IFSciFi) and contact him through his website (www.IFSciFi.com).
So, Illi - Pandora 4 evokes a dystopian future that plays on the established concept of nature vs. nurture. Another story of your own, Terminal 3, looks toward a future dominated by neoliberal performative politics. What current technological trend scares you the most?
I’m obsessed and terrified with the current progress in bioengineering towards direct genetic modification. Precisely because I tend to be very concerned about the social and economic framework that surrounds the production and application of technology, I feel that the fast and mostly corporate-driven progress in Crispr, for example, which could lead to the cure or attenuation of rare diseases, will instead be used mostly for vanity projects by those who control this technology, have the money to afford it before the population, or - more likely - both.
The pitfalls of technological development intertwined with - in my own thought - capitalism and neoliberalism paints an unsettling vision of the future. Do you think you’re hyper-aware of this due to your Latinx identity? For example, do you think this ‘illumination of perspective’ is at odds with Americanism in its current form?
I’m a Brazilian who lives in the US now, and it was very distressing to see the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of Brazilians volunteered during the lab trials and who knows how many sacrificed themselves in the process, and yet, the vaccination roll-out in Brazil is happening at a relatively slow pace. In part that’s due to the fact that the country is descending into science-denialist fascism with Bolsonaro, which was the case with the US back with Trump, but now Biden has the chance to allow third-world countries to break the patent of those vaccines, allowing a swift roll-out across the globe. We will see what he does, but I’m not optimistic. It feels like the authoritarian, eugenic project that Trump started is just on stand-by with Biden.
Tackling such themes is as exhaustive as it is important - what’s your go-to catharsis in the wide-verse of media?
I love comedy, and I believe gallows humor is the best way to cope with the feeling of impotence that has been assaulting us quite often those days. I think I got that from my dad. He was tortured by the military during the junta years in Brazil. They would cover his head with a cloth bag, make him lie on the ground and use exposed electrical wires, which, as you can imagine, would cause lots of squirming and shaking. When my father and the others with him in the same facility in the city of Campo Grande returned to the cells after the torture session, their clothes would be stained with the red wax polish from the torture room’s floor. So every time someone came back the inmates had this ritual of singing the jingle song from a wax polish brand’s commercials on the radio. That helped their mood and would drive the guards crazy. I’m not saying that you can defeat evil with laughs, but it helps you survive it. It sure helps me, while escapist narratives and hopepunk stuff usually have the opposite effect.
"I’m not saying that you can defeat evil with laughs, but it helps you survive it."
For many of us, the horror genre was quintessential in our upbringing - what was your first foray into the genre as a whole?
Full disclosure: I consider myself a dark science fiction writer, not a horror writer. That said, an ongoing contact with horror literature happened much earlier for me than with science fiction. We had a quite decent collection of horror at home. I was twelve when I started reading this Stephen King book; I’m not sure which one I read first, but my favourite is Needful Things. I love how he bounces between individual mindsets to society. It also feels much more tangible than any other of his novels, which seems to be associated with the fact that it was the first one he wrote after rehab. Honestly, I think it’s his swan song, nothing he wrote after Needful Things was as interesting.
You’ve mentioned previously that as a kid, you explored the mystery genre by creating booklets on your dad’s typewriter. Do you have any specific memories of this?
It could take me up to two hours to create a single book, because I had to find the letters one by one, as I learned to type only much later. My best seller was one called Open Window, and the story was pretty much like this:
“Maria went to the 100th floor of the building and someone pushed her through the open window. The detective started investigating what happened. He checked on José, who was a baker, but it was not José whom killed Maria. He checked on Solange, who was a secretary, but it was not Solange either.
(...10 names and trades later...)
He checked on Valéria, who was a teacher, and the detective discovered that Valéria killed Maria. Valéria was arrested.
I would sell those to the adults visiting my parents and buy candies with the money. I remember one day we travelled to São Paulo to visit an uncle. I made a copy of Open Window for him, as a gift. He started reading and after the thirty seconds necessary to read through the whole book he started laughing. He laughed for ten minutes. I think that’s when I realized that mystery was not my forte.
In your blog piece, Doomsday, you end on quite the poignant, bittersweet statement: “The beauty will remain preserved, inside your mind, away from the clubs of a society that is descending into barbarism”. Do you often find yourself at odds with the publishing world’s obsession with the cis-white heterosexual perspective?
So, just to make one thing clear: I use my blog mostly to vent, so there is lots of defeatism and towel-throwing in there that, sometimes, are only a manifestation of the frustration I go through in a moment. I try to shake it off and move on, although one of the things I mention there - that I don’t feel that I will ever find a space for what I want to write in long form - still stands true.
More specifically to your question, I think the publishing industry - specifically 'the Big 5' - acknowledged the need to offer a diversity of narratives, because they sell. But at the same time, I can see a certain deliberation towards offering only the most toothless, blandest of diversities. They gave space to diversity, but not room for true, undeterred exploration of themes that are not ruled by tropes unless you paid your dues either by successfully catering to mediocrity for a while, or by going to this or that workshop or MFA, or by simply sitting out and waiting for your turn as you kiss the right asses. I don’t have the patience nor the acting skills for that process.
"The publishing industry - specifically 'the Big 5' - acknowledged the need to offer a diversity of narratives, because they sell. But at the same time, I can see a certain deliberation towards offering only the most toothless, blandest of diversities"
Other than literature, do you have any aspirations to move into other formats in the media space? Considered a screenplay, or videogames, for example?
After my novel Terminal 3 didn’t do well I decided to pivot to screenwriting. I have these ideas for twelve dark science-fiction screenplays loosely connected to each other as they share the same universe, but each one working as a stand-alone. It might take five or six years to finish them, so in the worst case scenario I will have twelve outlines that I can use for something else. That will be my focus, although sometimes I will try to write stories here and there, but that’s not my priority at the moment.
As for games, I love to play them and would like to write for them, but as my perception goes, this particular industry demands you to be laser-focused on the field if you want to make a living out of it. And, as I said, my focus is on screenwriting at the moment, although, if someone reads something of mine, they like it and wants to hire me to convey that narrative style, voice and/or tone to their game project, I’d be happy to contribute.
In three words or less - what can our readers expect from Pandora 4?
Fucked up family.
Thank you, Illimani. We can’t wait to present the phenomenal Pandora 4 in The Needle Drops… Volume One.
Pandora 4 will be available in both print and digital formats within The Needle Drops... Volume One and you can pre-order directly from us here.