The 2019 edition of Forum Fantástico took place in Lisbon’s Orlando Ribeiro Library, nicely close to a bar-café though this closed on the Sunday. Still, mini bottles of national Sagres were on sale in the library and just round the corner there was a jolly good Italian restaurant specialising in the cuisine of Puglia, gastronomic heel of Italy, with Pugliese persons present to boot.
Damn it, tell them about Voll-Damm! These things matter to a traveller in a distant land! By which I mean that six years ago Lisbon was a mere hour and a half away directly from Asturias our home airport. This time it was TWENTY HOURS due to needing to fly in the wrong direction, use two planes, and suffer maddening delays. Yet fear not, O Portuguese people coming to our next Celsius 232 SFF festival Avilés in the north of Spain (from 15 to 18 July 2020 inclusive), travel will surely be smoother by then.
The name of the library honours a noted Portuguese geographer and historian (RIP 1997) whose “distinguished surname Ribeiro is a proud sign of a rich and ancient ancestry”—a name shared with Rogério Ribeiro, co-organiser of Forum Fantástico. Can this be a coincidence?
Maybe it was Rogério, or Miguel Jorge pictured here with Robério, who warned me that I would only find Sagres beer in most Portuguese cafés. Yet LO just next door to our hotel, which was strangely named 3K Barcelona, was a burger café serving no less than my favourite beer brewed double-malted in Barcelona—VOLL-DAMM! Damn true. Close by was a bull ring beneath which surreally in a sort of Morlock undercity of food arenas hundreds of people were eating pasta dedicatedly while up above ground the sun’s rays beat down upon deserted baking pavements. Near to the 3K Barcelona was the huge and wonderful Gulbenkian art museum, cultural star of Lisbon, cloaked in gardens of bamboos and streams.
We were also quite close to the museum home of 75 Portuguese poets, namely Fernando Pessoa. I suppose that having the neutral surname “Person” can have a strange effect. Hullo, Mr Person, will you sign a book? However, that place was being renovated. At the entrance to the FREE ENTRY! Gulbenkian, we were greeted gracefully:
Since we couldn’t follow programme items in Portuguese, we also went to Lisbon Zoo which is the cleanest zoo I ever saw. The zebras and giraffes especially looked as if they came into existence brand new that very same morning.
In Brexitland, drunken junior Boris Johnsons would finish off an evening of eight pints of glacial Heineken by going to an Indian restaurant (Bangladeshi, more likely) for a Vindaloo “gut blaster” before vomiting in the street. In my former homeland “Vindaloo” merely meant adding five or ten times as much chili powder as is sane except in Mexico. I had long yearned to experience an authentic Vindaloo curry caused by Portuguese colonisation of Goa. Vindaloo = carne de vinha d’alhos, meat in a marinade of garlic wine. Aware of our obsession, our valiant hosts drove us to a booked table in the tiny, technicolour-walled Jesus Comes From Goa restaurant. Jesus is the chef rather than this being a religious statement. Vindaloo happened not to be on the menu but other delights were, both spice-hot and spice-mild. Another day, just near the 3K Barcelona, we did find Vindaloo in a Nepalese Italian (eh?) restaurant, though it was difficult to see below the surface lava of the sauce.
But this is supposed to be a report about the Fantastic Forum of 2019, so we must highlight how very impressed we were by how beautifully designed Portuguese SFF books are. So many lovely covers!
Also, how gorgeous it was to meet a golden dragon iguana with wings which after a while shat slowly upon Cristina’s iPad, something which only happens every two or three days. Norman the dragon was the companion creature of, oh dear me, memory. We were very privileged.
We also sat in the courtyard of the library quite a lot, to talk to people, if people wanted to. People such as Cristina Alves whom I identified immediately without having encountered her before. And thanks be to Joao Barreiros (as well as to others) I signed my complete works in English; well, almost.
A memorable visit!
By Ian Watson and Cristina Macía
(right photo from Cabo Cinético, showing Cristina Macía and Ian Watson, in the pannel of Tendencies of Worldwide Science Fiction, alongside Rogério Ribeiro, Cristina Alves and Pedro Cipriano – from left to right).