This question may seem like the drunken blabbering of someone who, incidentally, had a few too many glasses of our iconic red – but it is actually a real premise set by a group of Portuguese writers and enthusiasts who decided to make fiction out of Northern Portuguese history. And they did it in ways so creative, well constructed and downright fun (if not a bit disturbing at times) that it made us all reconsider: perhaps, we should take some creative freedoms in what comes to the Portuguese imaginary.
Winepunk: Beginning and Foundations
Winepunk Ano 1: A Guerra das Pipas (Winepunk Year 1: Cask War) is an anthology published by Editorial Divergência in 2019.
It features stories by Joel Puga, Carlos Silva, João Ventura, João Rogaciano, João Barreiros and Rhys Hughes, with the editorial coordination of AMP Rodrigues and Pedro Cipriano and cover art by Sandra Maria Teixeira. It was launched at Contacto 2019.
The stories are all set in the same universe, in the same time frame – as if they’re various accounts, by various points of view, of the same historical era. And the premise is as follows:
October 5, 1910: after overthrowing the Portuguese Monarchy, republicans establish the Primeira República, Portugal’s first democratic republic. This is a historical fact.
Nine years later, in January 19, 1919, after nearly a decade of tension between the republican leaders in Lisbon and the Northern monarchy supporters, a monarchical counter-revolution ignited that managed to establish a self-proclaimed Monarquia do Norte (Northern Monarchy). This Monarchy, however, due to a plethora of factors (one of which was, arguably, the lack of organization on the Northerners’ part) only lasted three weeks. These are also historical facts.
And what Winepunk proposes, given it is an alternative/alternate history book, is: what if the Northern Monarchy didn’t last three weeks, but three years?
Monarchies that almost were and wine-fuelled sci-fi
This was the seed that allowed the group of writers, named Invicta Imaginária, to worldbuild based on the questions that arose: what were the factors that allowed the Monarchy to last longer? What happened, in this alternate reality, according to real history, and what could’ve had happened differently to enable this time stretch? How was this Monarchy, during those three years? And finally: what happened for it to eventually collapse?
Of course, these questions are answered with a pinch of sci-fi – it’s called Winepunk, after all. Its steampunk roots are very much visible – only instead of the steam coming from combustion, it comes from grape fuel. No, I’m not kidding.
Winepunk proposes that if a Monarchy were to last in North Portugal, surely the Port Wine and Douro grapes had to have something to do with it. And things start slow: North Portugal becomes self-sufficient due to managing to turn grapes and wine into fuel – but then it succumbs into something more grotesque, ranging from allucinogenic wine to killer vines. And yet, in the midst of all this chaos, the human factor, the political intrigue, people becoming traitorous and merciless, is the most grotesque part of it all.
Keep in mind, this is an anthology: these were six stories written by six different people, and yet the book keeps its coherency all throughout. It’s a difficult task to achieve, in terms of collective storytelling; it’s one thing for an anthology to propose a genre, a theme, an idea, and let people create their own stories in their own universes. It’s something completely different to create an alternate path of history based on a very specific historical occurance, complete with a timeline of events, and have everyone write about that and keep on track.
Let’s be honest: most of us can’t even plan a dinner with friends without a full-blown argument about restaurants and someone cancelling last minute to take the dog to the vet. Invicta Imaginária did something very close to a miracle here.
Winepunk did something that I find not only impressive, but extremely important: it made sci-fi out of Portuguese history. If proved that Portuguese history is ripe with good tales that fiction could play around with (even to Portuguese people – not many people know about the three-week Northern Monarchy, especially not in South Portugal). And it proved that Portuguese writers are ingenious and, to be honest, positively chaotic when it comes to reimagining our roots.
And remember, folks: this is an annual event. Invicta Imaginária will be back next year with more Winepunk, so stay tuned. For a group that started their journey through Northern Portuguese alternative history with a grotesque monarchy fueled by wine and blood – well, who knows what they’ll come up with next.
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