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Festival Contacto – Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature in the Spotlight

Contrary to popular belief, Portugal is ripe with good sci-fi/fantasy events – as one of our collaborators already told you about. And from the bustling, week-long festivals to small meetings amongst enthusiasts of the genre, most of them are not without a great level of care, dedication and genuine professional quality to them.

Festival Contacto is, among those events, one of my favorites.

Disclaimer: I feel like I have to state for the sake of transparency that Contacto’s organizers, the publishers at Imaginauta, are friends and partners of my YouTube channel Cabo Cinético. That isn’t to say that my opinion of the festival is shaped by our projects’ proximity: quite the opposite, in fact. Cabo Cinético and Imaginauta, I’d like to believe, took an interest in each other some years ago precisely because we saw potential in each other’s projects – we didn’t know each other prior to meeting at an event and starting to chat out of complete chance. My support for Contacto is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way: when they first invited us to the first edition of Contacto, I remember thinking: “well, they know what they’re doing in the sci-fi/fantasy panorama. I feel like they can pull this off”. And they did.

That being said, let’s get to the gist of it.

Festival Contacto – a Brief History

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Contacto – Festival Literário de Ficção Científica e Fantasia (Contact – Literary Sci-Fi and Fantasy Festival) is an event centered around, as the name states, sci-fi/fantasy literature. It’s organized by Imaginauta, a Portuguese indie publisher specialized in speculative fiction.

It had its first edition in 2018, April 7th, at Palácio de Baldaya, Benfica. It presented itself as not only an event for enthusiasts of the genres, geek communities and literary showcasing, but also as an event for the whole family.

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Lisbon Steampunk League

Opening its doors from 3PM to 8PM, the visitors could choose among a wide array of activities: Harry Potter and Star Wars areas for the old school fans and Millennial audiences, a book fair with all kinds of publishers and books inside the sci-fi/f genres, boardgames, a steampunk area with Liga Steampunk de Lisboa (Lisbon Steampunk League), book launches from indie writers and publishers, indie artists tabling… the list goes on.

The event received, according to official numbers, 300 visitors in an afternoon. For the second edition, however, Imaginauta decided to kick it up a notch.

Festival Contacto 2019

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The second edition of Contacto took place in Biblioteca de Marvila on the 5th and 6th April 2019, from 10h30AM to 8PM. Almost four times the first edition’s duration, and in a venue with more than a dozen different spaces.

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Writer Talks: Henrique Gandum

2018’s activities kept on going – Harry Potter, Star Wars and Steampunk spaces as an universal constant, such as the book fair and board games space – but new activities were added. Authors were invited not only to present their new book releases, but to talk about their work in general in informal talks. Those talks were attended by the general public, but also by student classes, through a partnership with Marvila’s schools, creating a bridge between published authors and younger generations of potential writers.

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Writer Talks: João Ventura

The Main and Small Auditoriums were stage to yet more than a dozen activities: live roleplay sessions, film screenings, talks and debates about fantasy, sci-fi, tropes and subversions. And it featured, in a rather surprising yet appropriate move, talks with scientists and investigators about their research on imagination, the mind, artificial intelligence, and so on.

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Dungeons&Dragons Live Roleplay Session with Rola Iniciativa

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“Inteligence: Artificial vs human” Talk by Gautam Agarwal

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Amadis de Gaula book launch

Contacto’s second edition also introduced a concept that they want to keep dinamizing in the next editions: the Ad Hoc Room, where everyone can schedule a time and use the space for a project meeting, a launch, an informal talk, a debate… you name it. Ad Hoc’s first edition filled the room with writers, sci-fi/f enthusiasts and curious passerbys with these kinds of informal activities. And – little bit of trivia – this website’s preparatory reunion took place in Ad Hoc.

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The Portal’s meeting at Ad Hoc

Also worth noting, the venue choices thus far, Palácio de Baldaya and Biblioteca de Marvila, are very much deliberate: Lisbon’s central area, as any capital’s, is filled to the rim with things to do – to the point where more peripheric areas, many of them possessing great venues and an involved, interested local population, get a little bit forgotten. Contacto purposefully wants to take people out of their comfort zone, out of the central areas, and invites them to explore not only sci-fi/fantasy’s reaches, but also their own city’s less known spaces.

And, in my personal experience: if a South Portuguese 22 year-old who gets lost on straight avenues managed to get to the venues without a sweat, you all can do it too. Give it a try!

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Imaginauta’s mantra of making Contacto a place for everyone was especially visible on this second edition: it’s not an event just for beginners on the sci-fi world, nor just a place for just seasoned fans. It’s not limited to an age group or background. Given its ecletic programming, everyone can find something they’ll like.

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Board Game Room powered by Especulatório

And because of this, the family-oriented nature is more present than ever: perhaps your dad isn’t as keen as you on Harry Potter, but he knows Star Wars from his own teenagehood. Your mom doesn’t really get Dungeons and Dragons, but she does like to read, and there’s a big book fair just around the corner. Your aunts, uncles, grandparents sit down and listen to an author their age talk about their life experiences, and it resonates with them. It creates a bridge, it shows how vast this whole SF/F thing really is, how there’s not really a “face of the movement” but a diversity of voices and experiences.

And, who knows? Perhaps you do end up taking your mom to the LARP thing, which she enjoys. Or she recommends you some books you didn’t even know she liked. In the end, we’re more alike than we think we are.

Next year, give Contacto a visit – here at the Portal, we’ll be sure to tell you as soon as there’s news.

By Gazervici

Self-described as state-of-the-art idiocy, Gazervici is a 22-year-old communicologist, freelance content creator and jack of all trades living in South Portugal. Can be found working a day job as a Head of Communication, talking about books on the YouTube channel Cabo Cinético, writing about LGBT stuff, ranting on Twitter about anything at all or waiting for the next bus back home.

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