On This Day: Tragedy in Brazil

The date: July 16, 1950

The place: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (specifically, the Maracaña stadium)

The event: the final match of the 1950 World Cup, Brazil vs Uruguay


Sport and science fiction don’t mix, certainly not if you buy into the stereotypes – on both sides. SF fans are all spotty, nerdy, anaemic weeds, living in their mothers’ basements avoiding exercise, members of the opposite sex and personal hygiene – not necessarily in that order. Sports fans are all drunken, loud-mouthed, reason-free knuckle-draggers who would have difficulty even identifying a book, let alone reading one. And, what’s more, never the twain . . .

Except . . . none of that is true, is it?  SF fans are no less likely to be healthy, well-groomed, confident fully-socialised human beings than any other arbitrarily-chosen subculture. Sports fans are as likely to be responsible, intelligent, literate, sympathetic people as any other group defined solely by their recreational interests. And as for the notion that sport and SF are mutually exclusive, there are any number of authors, agents, editors and critics we could point you at to disabuse you of this notion, but – given the day – there’s really only one writer to use as an exemplar.

Step forward multi-award-winner and life-long Manchester City fan, Ian McDonald, whose brilliant Brasyl (winner of the BSFA Award for best novel, and shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Awards) takes as one of its central plot strands, the national shame felt by all of Brazil after the national team’s 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the final match of the 1950 World Cup – the most traumatic event in the country’s sporting history**.

Of course, there are other, more straightforwardly science fictional sports to be found – from Brockian Ultra-Cricket to Rollerball to Quidditch – but for the most seamless insertion of a sporting element into modern SF, we think Ian McDonald‘s Brasyl deserves the prize. You should read it. Then come back here and let us know what your favourite SF sports book is.


** well, it was until about a week ago, anyway!