Monday, August 3, 2015
I was re-reading Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book to prepare myself for the escalating political weirdness that’s already kicked in as we approach the election year, when I came to the section on calling in to radio talk shows, and it came back to me: the time I hijacked a radio talk show in the name of self-promotion/guerrilla marketing/whateverthefuck . . .
It wasn’t completely for the hell of it. It was 1982. And I had my first published short story in Amazing Stories, making me high in a way I had never experienced. See? I really am a writer, not just some maladjusted collector of rejection slips!
An irresistible urge to tell the world had overtaken me. And this was before the Internet. I quickly learned that telling random strangers was next to useless – they either didn’t understand or got confused: “What? You mean somebody actually writes the stuff in magazines?
If only I could gain access to a legitimate media outlet that could convey the message . . .
Fortunately, there was program called Hour 25.
It was a different world back then. I need to explain a few things. Hour 25 was a talk show devoted to science fiction. Such things were not the usual fare on radio at that time. It was a creature of KPFK, part of the Pacifica Radio Network, which came out of the anti-war movements of the fifties. This was non-commercial, listener-sponsored radio. I discovered it way back when I started high school, while Nixon was in the White House and the war was still going on in Vietnam.
What a difference from the commercial stations! Almost as different as science fiction was from regular fiction. Free Speech Radio they called it. A doorway to alternate universes.
KPFK and Hour 25 were important in my development as a writer. KPFK gave me access to the counterculture and other weirdness; it was considered an “underground” station. Hour 25 provided incredible coverage of science fiction – an excellent education. Writers were interviewed, and when they opened up the phones, especially when someone like Harlan Ellison was on, and they had done the “sensitive language disclaimer” that allowed the use of dirty words, you were in for anarchic, freeform radio.
You younger folks should understand that sci-fi wasn't all slick franchises brought to you by respected corporations and designed for a global mass market the way it is today. This kind of literature – and media – was considered disreputable, barely a step above pornography. It was something sleazy that slithered out of the fringes of society, and the authorities weren’t sure if it should be legal.
Sigh – I kinda miss that . . .
It would been natural for a newly published writer to grab some air time and commit self-promotion with extreme prejudice.
But I didn’t. At least, not at first.
This was back in my youth. I wasn’t the jaded, confident sophisticate that I am now. I was a shy, quiet young intellectual – I believe they call them “nerds” these days – who had spent most of the last decade neglecting his social skills while honing his writing and drawing skills. And back in those days, the electronic media was intimidating.
I thought about it, put it off. Soon that issue of Amazing was off the stands, and I for the first time experienced the let-down that comes from seeing your story vanish from the market.
Some people thought that story, “The Rape of Things to Come” was great. It was a reaction to the predominate all-white nature of science fiction and the space activisim movements of the time. I was groping for what we now call Afrofuturism. It was a distortion of the world as I saw it as a young Chicano living on the edge of civilization. It could still be considered offensive, especially if you don't have a warped sense of humor.
Some people got it. There were some positive responses. Someone even recommended it for the Nebula.
Then there was a letter in Amazing that thought it was utter garbage and I that should be writing for Hustler instead.
I was expecting somebody to trash me, but it did hurt. And I was desperate to talk to someone about it.
That week Norman Spinrad was going to be on Hour 25.
Inspiration hit me. I could call in and ask Norman Spinrad's advice. It wouldn't help with the sales of that issue of Amazing, but I could let the Group Mind (the show's audience) know that I existed as a writer.
I braced myself, and nervously called when they opened the phones. I probably talked too fast, but I did mention my story, Amazing Stories under Elinor Mavor's editorship, and I asked what I should do in my situation.
Norman reminded me that Hustler paid better than Amazing.
Mike Hodel, advised me not to respond to such criticism, and said, “You never know what's waiting out there,” before going on to the next caller.
It may not have improved my career that night, but I put myself on the road to becoming a guy who gives interviews with alarming regularity. Some will be online soon. I'll let you know when.
I still tend to talk too fast, but I'm getting better.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Get a look at the art I sold, as I speculate about Chicanonautic Art in Chicanonautica, over at La Bloga:
Of course, in Mexico, art goes way, way back:
Later, in the 20th century:
Still later, the revolution spread to Aztlán:
And Cheech Marin is telling the world:
Thursday, July 16, 2015
The first encierro looked out of control. More like a riot than a staged event. Like the scenes in old monster movies where crowds are running through the streets, trying to escape a gigantic monster. Only wilder.
The encierros, or runs, during the the Fiesta de San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain are scored by Time (Duración), Corenados (Gorings), Tramatismos (Injuries) and Peligrosidad (Dangerousness). Oddly enough, Time isn't as important at the rest. Dangerousness is what makes a good, or great encierro.
This is not sport as practiced in Western Civilization. This ritual is more like religion. Like the pre-fiesta protests where PETA beauty contest winners wear plastic horns, take off their clothes, and smear themselves with fake blood. See Richard Wright's Pagan Spain: It is the conquering of fear, the making of religion of the conquering of fear.
Why not a Church of Tauromachy? Isn't America supposed to be all about freedom of religion?
In that first encierro, a woman, after making it to the corridor into the arena, stopped running, and covered her ears. She had reached a personal limit. I watch for people like her, who are facing their fears. Sometimes it reduces you to a pile of quivering jelly, but what you gain from it is the courage of self-knowledge. There is a heroism in it.
This is a truer thing than America's “horror” culture, where fake blood and gore are mass produced and celebrated. Sometimes you need to reach out of your artificial consumer environment and touch the gooey mess of reality. It will teach you about your place in the universe, and the food chain.
It does cause visions of alternate universes to dance in my head: What would Hemingway think of what San Fermín has become? How and when did bullfighting become illegal in Aztlán? What if the Spanish influence was stronger and bullfighting was part of the cowboy/beef culture? Where would the running of the bulls be held in America? Would MacDonald's and Burger King be sponsoring bulls?
There's a Burger King along the encierro route. And a space that is for rent . . .
I really need to find time to finish that science fiction bullfighting novel.
And even though I'm stuck barbecuing my brain in Phoenix, I can enjoy San Fermín at my computer thanks to SanFermin.com, SanFerminTV Online, and San Fermin Encierro's YouTube Channel.
How I enjoyed the high-Dangerousness – it got an 80! – encierro on Saturday! At one point, a bull named Finito had three men pinned to a wall. Finito charged into the arena with blood on his horn. Later, he threw Iván Fandiño, who had been gored in 2013. With blood on his face and no jacket, Fandiño killed Finito.
On the last day's encierro, the bulls from Miura made history for being the fastest in history. It set a new record at two minutes and five seconds. It also rated a 60 for Dangerousness. The real action was at Dead Man's Curve.
The bulls were muy bravo, and pretty badass, this year. A speed record, 10 gorings (8 were Americans, we're number one!), and 27 injuries. One bull even refused to run.
But it's all over now. Back to the alternate universes that are America and Arizona. Comic-Con? Really? And there's all this political turmoil, racist rhetoric, violence, and fighting over flags. So civilized.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Chicanonautica gets Arizona summer delirium over at La Bloga. Even politics is getting hallucinatory. Or maybe it's the heat.
In case any of you didn't believe this was possible:
But then, the sacred datura is in bloom:
The peyote, too:
There's even an old song about it:
Friday, June 26, 2015
Of course, this sort of things goes way back in America:
And Europe, too:
Young Nazis have been getting hip:
And look what's happening on the cutting edge of electronic pop culture:
Monday, June 22, 2015
I was reading a crazy book, when the craziness started spilling over into the real world:
Donald Trump annouced that he's running for president, and mentioned Mexicans: “They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
A young man named Dylann Roof told a group of black people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, most of whom were women, “You're raping our women and taking over the country,” and killed them.
On Facebook, Ishmael Reed said the The Turner Diaries were “Required reading. If you want to know what motivated this church killer read this book.”
The crazy book? The Turner Diaries, the infamous novel written by Nazi William Luther Pierce, under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. It inspired Timothey McVeigh to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
I had wanted to read it ever since I read Ishmael Reed's essay about it, in his book Another Day at the Front, and The Turner Diaries can be downloaded for free on Internet Archive.
I'm happy to report that it doesn't work as a manual for guerrilla warfare. Developments in communications, surveillence, and military technology have made the practical advice in the book obsolete. Whew.
The Turner Diaries is not a literary masterpiece. It's not even good fiction. Pierce tells more than he shows, avoiding drama for monologue. There isn't much dialogue. The one attempt to show “the negro dialect” is pathetic. And all the characters are one-dimensional.
The narrator/hero Earl Turner has no past, no family, no motivation. The mere existence of Jews, Blacks, and other non-Whites is presented as enough for his rage. As for plot, entire chapters could be cut without taking away from the “story.” This is partially due to the details that are gone into about making an ammonium-nitirate bomb (the book begins with all guns being confiscated by Black agents of the government after they are banned by the Cohen Act) and counterfeiting that is done to destroy the American economy (because apparently the efforts of the Jews and non-Whites to do so isn't working fast enough). There's also a Mansonesque/hippie counterculture that sells White girls to Jewish-run white slave rackets.
Dispite the racist agenda – Blacks are shown as criminals/rapists/cannibals, and are killed like vermin – “racism” is often put in quotes, a "lie" that the liberal media is spreading. And though at first the word “patriot” is used, later the U.S. Constitution is sneered at, and conservatives are mocked as weak. Hitler is mourned and defended.
As if all this wasn't enough to boggle the mind, when the Great Revoltuion finally starts, after the Organization gives up on winning over the public and decides that terrorism is the way to go, Jews and race-traitors hanging from every lampost in L.A. are just the beginning. It's a sadistic orgy of bloody vengence. Over and over, we are told that it's all “their” fault. After all, they aren't human, er, White . . .
Refusing to recognise the humanity in others is the core of The Turner Diaries. It's the most single-minded book I've ever read. There are no real characters. No one is human. Mass slaughter is reasonable, if it helps make Earth into the Planet of the White People.
So, what's the appeal? It's feel-good reading for racists.
And it is ridiculous. Like the White teenagers who happily take the place of Mexican migrant workers. (Would Dylann Roof take the job?) Like the very idea of an all-white planet.
Yet, we hear such ideas being taken seriously.
This book should not be banned, but brought out into the light. Let everyone see how absurd it is.
Chester Himes said, “Realism and absurdity are so similar in the lives of American blacks one cannot tell the difference.”
But if we don't try, we all become absurd, and the Dylann Roofs of the world win.
Friday, June 12, 2015
Estridentismo was started by Manuel Maples Arce:
It raised some hell:
¡30-30! took it's name from the rifle that was popular among the revoulutionaries:
And the tradition lives on:
Friday, May 29, 2015
Hollywood has givien us its version of the Yaquis:
They are used in action-packed westerns:
And sexy stars have played them:
It's so difficult to see the real thing:
Monday, May 25, 2015
Riots in the streets. Conflicts spreading like viruses. And a presidential election looming. Looks like it's time to go searching for America again.
It's not that we lose America. It's more like we lose track of it. It's especially easy in this days of social media, when you can fine tune your input according to your tastes – then, oh, the shocks when your step out of your comfort zone onto . . . the road.
That's where you find the real America, on the road. Huckleberry Finn knew it. So did Jack Kerouac. And Hunter Thompson.
And so does John Waters.
His latest book, Carsick, is another fine example of the Great American Road Book. He tells of hitchhiking across America, and more.
Carsick is another work of American literature that straddles the borders between fiction and nonfiction. After an introduction, he presents two outrageous novellas: one presenting the best case scenario, the other the worst. Waters' own twisted utopian and dystopian visions. Magnificently outrageous. The kind of stuff that makes you fall in love with America as the fantastic place where anything is possible, the way it should be, if only so many Americans weren't afraid of everything.
This gets into speculative fiction territory, crashing through alternative universes and all. Maybe John deserves a Hugo award for this.
Then, he goes on to document his real trip. Celebrity hitchhiking in the time of interwebs. Real people that are strange in ways his imagination didn't expect. The amazing, mind-blowing thing is – and I'm fighting the urge to commit spoilers here – it leaves you feeling good, and hopeful about this country.
It's the sort of book we need right now. And it makes me once again think of John Waters as a Great American.