Friday, September 4, 2015
Ponce de León searched for the Fountain of Youth:
Coronado was after Seven Cities of Gold:
Aguirre went mad over El Dorado:
And Cabeza de Vaca went on a different trip:
Thursday, August 27, 2015
After The Transhumanist Wager, and The Turner Diaries I continued my reading to get ready for election year madness with Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book. I didn't have to steal it, you can get if for free online, or download a free pdf. It's almost as good as stealing.
This is an oldie, from way back in the Nineteen Hundreds. I was in high school when it came out. The world was downright dystopian back then, America required all males over eighteen to sign up for a lottery, and if you were selected, you got sent over to fight in a real war.
Abbie Hoffman was part of a group called the Yippies that were protesting the war and struggling for other things that kids take for granted these days. He wrote Steal This Book in prison.
It's not science fiction, but could easily fit in on a shelf of New Wave sf (that's the way we wrote it back then, standing for either science fiction or speculative fiction, in lower case so people know you don't mean San Francisco). No plot. A lot of lists. This instruction manual for a do-it-yourself utopia kit, that takes the leap from nonfiction into spec fic in that it's about setting up an alternative reality, a new Nation. He had earlier tried to brand Woodstock Nation, but apparently some corporate entities had the rights to Woodstock . . .
Oh, that's right, these days corporations are people, too.
Hoffman and the Yippies were an experiment in living your science fiction instead of writing it. Or as artist Ron Cobb said, “Science fiction has always been a verb to me.”
In fiction, such things are the work of mad scientists, and it's dangerous. Look at what happens to the mad scientists in all those stories and movies. It's not surprising that Hoffman ended up in prision.
As the title indicated, the book is all about the virtues of stealing, and even suggest that it should be stolen. Big time publishing was repulsed. It had to be self-published.
As Hoffman said, “Sacred cows make the BEST hamburgers.”
And: “To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral.”
I never tried to live this way. My parents taught me that thievery was low. And because of my skin color I was harrassed from an early age by security agents in the comsumer zones.
From the book: “The first duity of a revolutionary is to get away with it.”
Some members of my generation tried to live according this book's advice. This usually lasted until they had an encounter with law enforcement. Also, running around, pulling scams takes a lot of time and energy; getting a straight job can actually be easier.
When I worked for Borders I found myself going mano a mano with later day Yipsters who didn't remember Hoffman's advice about respecting employees, and committed an error that isn't mentioned in the book: Don't get greedy. You can do a quick, subtle grab or run a customer service scam and get away with it now and then, but if you come back and try it every week, somebody's going to figure it out and shut you down. Of course, this makes it hard to pay your bills.
Borders hired a couple who were trying this lifestyle, and I worked with them. The male had blond dredlocks and mostly walked around with a beatific expression, waiting for someone to tell him he looked like Jesus. The female went on about how she was raised on dumpster diving, and was regurgitating Steal This Book-isms. They were attempting to work long enough to become eligible for unemployment. A nice scam, but you shouldn't go around telling your co-workers – and your boss . . .
They were fired, called us all fascists, and said that they were running off to Nicaragua because Bush was building concentration camps where he was going to put anybody who was against the war.
I wonder where they are now?
Technological advancements, and the arms race between the rip-off and the sellers, have made a lot of the book obsolete. I now read about print media, pay phones and coin-operated machines, and feel nostalgic. It would be an excellent reference for writing about the period.
What makes it still worth reading is the manic energy devoted to a utopian vision – we don't see much of that anymore.
Of course, the whole Steal This Book/Free Nation is totally dependent on an out-of-control, wasteful, planet-raping consumer society spewing out goods and services all over the polluted, overpopulated landscape. The Anti-Establishment needs the Establishment in order to exist. It's the yin/yang merry-go-round of doom.
It's also full of a lot of crazy (and some not-so-crazy) ideas, another alternate reality for sale – or maybe you should steal it – in the 21st century poitical marketplace. Want something other than what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are selling? Do you know what you want? Or have you just been conditioned that way?
Friday, August 21, 2015
LOM Book One, a novel by Frank S Lechuga is reviewed on Chicanonautica at La Bloga:
It's Xicano sci-fi that comes from this cultural tradition:
And this one:
Plus a technophilic lust for brave, new kinds of wheels:
And other techonmutations:
Monday, August 10, 2015
Amplified Tejano accordion riffs sprayed the neighborhood – unusual. I turned off the American-roots-music-with-an-attitude iTunes station and enjoyed. Then there was a frantic knock on the door. I quick saved the story I was working on and walked across the house, got a grip on a handy geological specimen, and squinted through the peephole.
Victor Theremin grinned on the other side. I recognized him by the crooked teeth.
I put down blunt object, opened the door.
“Victor! It's been ages! What's up!”
He looked around.
“Uh, can you go for a quick ride?”
He pointed to the source of the Tejano sonic attack. A huge lowrider modified from a Cadillac.
The back doors opened with a motorized whir. There was no driver, just a lot of LED-strewn gadgetry.
A plasma screen played recent performances female bullfighters.
Maybe there was something to his gags about being sponsored by AIs.
“Where did you get this, Victor?”
“I borrowed it from Doña Juana Colón – her underground garage in the Mojave is practically a Chicano space program.”
“So what do owe the pleasure of this experience?”
He twisted up his Pancho Villa mustache.
“I need some refocusing, Ernest.”
“Damn right. I can't tell where my life ends and the sci-fi begins anymore – which if fun, but it can get exhausting. I need to know, does science fiction even exist anymore? I mean besides, the puppy boys trying to take over the Hugos, Afrofuturism, and all those diverse young women, who will take over the world if we're lucky?”
My mind went blank. I stared at the screen, and young woman who was teasing a bull to charge.
“TFF!” I blurted.
“What's that? You've been getting into texting? Please, Ernest, speak English, Spanglish, or something I can understand.”
“TFF. The Future Fire. It's a science fiction magazine.”
He smiled. “I like science fiction magazines. Used to read 'em from cover to cover.” Then he frowned. “They just ain't what they used to be.”
“This one is different. It's subtitled Social Political & Speculative Cyber-Fiction.”
“Yeah, this is good ol' social science fiction back with a vengeance. The writers are young, from all over the planet, and they have all kinds of . . . issues. They also put out anthologies.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“Ten years. They're doing a ten year anniversary anthology, TFFX. With a Indiegogo campaign and everything.”
“Yes! Corporate publishing is no longer controlling science fiction!”
He was in the mood to go looking for trouble again.
He dropped me off back at my house. A drone buzzed around. Then the lowrider Cadillac took off into the sky. Soon that sky was full of helicopters, and jets zoomed across the upper atmosphere.
I reminded myself to check to see where my life ends and the science fiction begins.
Friday, August 7, 2015
Carl Lumhotlz's anthropological classic, Unknown Mexico is reviewed in Chicanonautica, over a La Bloga:
Some people have funny ideas about Mexico:
They have no idea of the reality:
Or the culture:
Once upon a time, it was thought of as a land of romance:
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: