WITH A PREFACE AND NEW STORY BY ME!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

ALMOST HALFWAY THROUGH 2023


I had no idea of where 2023 would take me. Now that I’m almost halfway through it, I’m in the middle of stuff I couldn’t have predicted, but then, science fiction writers have been traditionally lousy at predicting the future.



Emily has a new job. I'm eyeballs deep in all kinds of things that I’ve never done before. Most importantly, we’re happy.



My tendency to be at odds with my environment and do creative things to amuse myself out of the conflicts come in handy. I thank Xochiquetzal and Tezcatlipoca for my monstrous imagination.



There are monsters out there, all over. My warped inner child is ecstatic. I can’t tell if I’m making them or discovering them. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are there.



Meanwhile, the outside world (outside of what? who? where?) is in turmoil. The word “surreal” keeps being used by people who would never consider themselves surrealists. Found objects and situations have made imagination unnecessary for this mode of expression.



Just keep moving forward. The road, path, trail have much to teach you. They are god.



Be careful. Be aware. Pay attention. Exist defensively.



An era is ending. You don’t have to go far to see fresh ruins. What will replace all the abandoned shopping malls?



Ready to get up after being torn apart, and make the post-apocalyptic landscape into an outrageous utopia?


Friday, May 19, 2023

CHICANONAUTICA BABBLES ABOUT EDUCATION, LA RAZA, AND ME


Chicanonautica prepares for Papí Sci-Fi’s Ancient Chicano Sci-Fi Wisdom over at La Bloga.


Getting ready for a new frontier:



And education:



For La Raza:



And me:


Thursday, May 11, 2023

I WAS A HIGH SCHOOL SURREALIST CARTOONIST



This is all Lloyd Johnson and Gordon Hamachi’s fault. They started bugging me about going to the 50th anniversary of our graduation from Edgewood High School in West Covina, California. I can’t make it. My life is too complicated, my writing career keeps taking new turns, demanding more of me, and I’m trying to get my new novel published. Then these guys mention high school, and these memories come back . . .


I didn’t enjoy high school. 


I was told it would be better than grade and intermediate, but the first thing the art teacher did was recite a list of things that he didn’t allow, and one of them was cartooning. He didn’t mention science fiction, but disapproved whenever I would go in that direction. 


I decided to hell with their art classes and their white middle class Mother’s Day art show.



After reading in Analog that John W. Campbell thought that journalism was good experience for a science fiction writer, I took the intro class. I learned a few things and got my first taste of working on a publication, but the idea of spending the next four years writing inverted pyramid stories about the chosen few –AKA the “popular” kids–made me want to puke.


So, I decided to put up with it because I was required by law to be there. Like Ray Bradbury, Frank Zappa, and my dad, I went to the public library and to self-educate. By the time my senior year came around, I was into all kinds of weird, wonderful shit.


I needed another class. “Hey,” my counselor said, “you qualify to be on the school paper!” Since I could get an A with minimum effort, I went for it.


The guy who was a cartoonist had graduated, so I found myself in a position where I could commit shameless acts of surrealism and get them published. Nobody seemed to understand, or approve. 


Once a girl, impressed by my dimples and height, asked, “Are you on the football team?”


“No,” I said, “I’m the cartoonist on the newspaper.”




The spark left her eyes. “Uh. I suppose you have to do something.”


I’d also amuse myself by writing and drawing stuff on the chalkboard that was also used as a way for the staff to communicate, modems being just a rumor at the time. The teacher/supervisor, who I never saw much of, came up to me and said, “Please stop putting all that stuff on the chalkboard. All these weird people are coming to me and asking if they can be on the paper.”


We could have had the most far-out high school paper ever, but as usual society got in our way.


Then it came time for the Odyssey, an addendum to the yearbook, called so because the paper was the Iliad, our team was the Trojans, after, I assume, the inhabitants of Troy, not an endorsement of the brand of condoms. 


Students were encouraged/invited to contribute to the Odyssey. I did a bunch of skinny cartoons in the margins, inspired by Sergio Aragones in Mad Magazine, and a dumb science fiction story in which the narrator mentions, but does not say, a four-letter word. Being a smartass, in the manuscript I put an asterisk and a footnote saying, “The word was shit.”

 



There was supposed to be a centerfold of a panoramic photo of the entire class. They marched us out, lined us up, and this being 1973, the Vietnam War, the Nixon administration, and the counterculture were crashing and burning and we were all feeling rowdy. That and the photographer was mad because we weren’t being perfect ladies and gentlemen. Then, spontaneously, we did our one collective act: we raised our middle fingers and flipped him off. If he had any guts he would have taken that shot. I would have paid for that class picture!

 

With nothing for the centerfold, I was called upon to draw a cartoon. They asked me to do caricatures of the popular kids. Instead I drew a line up of blank, human shaped cut-outs, saying some silly stuff. They didn’t like it but used it because they had to go to print.


I overheard a teacher and a student complaining about a problem with the Odyssey. Something was going to have to be physically cut out. I thought nothing of it.


On the day of the graduation, they passed out the Odyssey. To my delight, the problem that had to be cut was my story. Someone–unbeknownst to me–had typed, and pasted the footnote in.  


And it got printed! And cut out! 


With scissors!


I ran around, waving a copy, shouting, “The word was shit!”


Society had broken down. I was free. I graduated, confident that I could do anything.



Friday, May 5, 2023

CHICANONAUTICA JAMS AT THE CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND THE IMAGINATION


Chicanonautica works with the Center for Science and the Imagination, at La Bloga:


Yes, I took the light rail:



To Arizona State University:



To the Center for Science and the Imagination:



Where we discussed the future of orchestras:


Thursday, April 27, 2023

HAIL, THE BLACK EMPIRE!


I consider this to be one of the major publishing events of 2023.  Black Empire, George S. Schuyler's long, lost proto-Afrofuturist/badass sci-fi classic is back in a new edition. It deserves to be an international bestseller, with a movie and graphic novel adaptations.


Why am I so impressed? When I read the original book publication from 1991 (my unending thanks to Paul Di Fillipo) it blew my mind, which I thought was impossible. Even back then I was a jaded veteran of wallowing in the weird. 


So, what about it makes it such a brain blaster? Uh-oh, here I go . . .


First, it is historically significant in being a rare example of science fiction written for a black audience. Back in the 1930s the black-owner Philadelphia Courier published a fiction supplement to attract readers Schuyler who worked for them as an investigative reporter, contributed stories under pseudonyms. Black Empire his final effort, published as two serials. 


It’s the story of Henry Belsidus, a Harlem doctor, treats rich white women, and uses his wealth to create the Black International, an organization of young black people he has cultivated dedicated to uplifting the race (“Black genius against the world”) by any means necessary—even if these means are fascistic and terroristic. They take revenge against “white world supremacy” in America, and then go on to reconquer Africa, and send Europe into a new Dark Age. He comes off as both a hero and a villain.


Schuyler didn’t take it–or any of the other fiction he wrote for the Courier–seriously, dismissing it all as “hokum,” but as a protégé of H.L. Menchen, a satirical attitude comes through. I probably should warn that there is something to disturb–or even offend–just about everybody.


And I would like to go on the record as saying that Black Empire is impressive science fiction. Notes in this edition track the sources of the ideas, showing that this is what happens when a brilliant mind, keeping track of what’s going on, is allowed to relax and play with it all, unleashing a powerful imagination. 


I think he had fun. He urged the Courier to provide illustrations to attract more readers, which they never did. Too bad. It is rich in imagery which would inspire an artist. Maybe they still can . . .


Both editions have a list of Shuyler’s Courier fiction–if only they could be found and republished!--and notes for more spec fic that, if written, would no doubt be as interesting.


You should get it and read it. I need to do the same with his more “serious” novel Black No More, in which a scientist finds a way to make black people white.


Friday, April 21, 2023

CHICANONAUTICA SEZ: “HEY, WRITERS WITH WILD, LATINOID IMAGINATIONS!”


Chicanonautica, at La Bloga, warns that the May 1st deadline to sign up for “Papí Sci-Fi’s Ancient Chicano Sci-Fi Wisdom” at the Palabras del Pueblo Writing workshop is coming soon.


We’re talking ancient:



Chicano:




Sci-fi:


 


Wisdom:


Thursday, April 13, 2023

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE’S POLICE?


Norman Spinrad has been a standout in the speculative fiction field since the New Wave days. I’m not talking the pop music trend of the late 1970s. This was earlier, going back to the antediluvian 1960s, around the same time as the French New Wave cinema movement, which was similar, but coming from a different place (remind me to discuss Jean Luc Godard some other time). His Bug Jack Barron is a classic in the spec fic subgenre of deconstructing contemporary reality in an attempt to discover a new kind of future. Keep your corporate escapism, kids, my idea of real fun is to see the big, scary world out there torn apart and made into something outrageous yet plausible.


Spinrad’s The People’s Police is that kind of novel.


It keeps on surprising and is outrageous in a way we just don't see enough these days when you’re not supposed to offend anybody. I was expecting a grim assessment of our world in the days of Defund the Police, but I should have known, after all, this is Norman Spinrad.


It’s set in a futuristic (and a different kind of futurism) post-Apocalyptic/Katrina New Orleans. Yeah, there's some dystopian social commentary, there's also . . . fun! Voodoo and Mardi Gras in the mix make a difference. 


I yearn for science fiction that makes you want to get up and dance. It doesn’t seem to be out there. I’ve come close in my writing, but still haven’t succeeded. The People’s Police comes pretty damn close to being this Holy Grail, not just the subject matter, but the style. The good old New Wave never rocked like this.


Did I say that it’s a whole lot of fun?


I was also impressed with the Voodoo. He did some research and came up with a fresh take on it. I won’t get into the details here, you should get the book and read it yourself.


Maybe the loas got in there, too. There's also good reason for the New York publishers to be afraid. It’s dangerous in a way some don’t think is possible in these times.


It is possible, and we need it. Keep it up, Norman.



Friday, April 7, 2023

CHICANONAUTICA MEETS JOAQUÍN MURRIETA IN THE STREAMOSPHERE


Chicanonautica reviews the new Joaquín Murrieta series, at La Bloga.


Yes, that’s the Joaquín Murrieta:



Streaming on Prime Video:



From Amazon:



A global village—or barrio—of sorts:


Thursday, March 30, 2023

WELCOME TO ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE


I’ve never been into what “everybody”—you know, the “cool” people like. You should have seen the looks I’d get in my Nixon administration high school years when someone one works ask what music I like, to size me up, and I’d say “Cab Calloway, Spike Jones, Frank Zappa . . .”


These days, I’d have to lead with Acid Mothers Temple.


I’d probably get the same looks, only more so. They would probably be accompanied by facial tics, twitching limbs, foaming at the mouth. Maybe they’ll just scream and run. And that's just in reaction to their name.



I like to describe their music as what the Establishment (remember them?) was afraid acid rock would be, only more so. There’s a definite psychedelic vibe, also electronic wailing that gets downright stark, raving sci-fi, complex structures that kick the guts out of the traditional rock’n’roll two and a half minute attention span, and on the rare incidents where there are vocals, they usually aren’t in English. Most of the time, there aren’t even words.



We’re talking music to write sci-fi by. A lot of my latest novel was written with it blasting away in the background.


They probably won’t become top 40 hits on anybody’s charts, win any awards, or even get played on the radio—as far as I know—but, oh baby, what they do to my brains and body! Language fails here. Invite the more adventurous to give them a listen. The rest of you can retreat to a safe place.


Friday, March 24, 2023

CHICANONAUTICA ON DONALD TRUMP, JOHN WAYNE, MEXICAN FOOD, AND THE IMPENDING ELECTION YEAR


Yup, all this in Chicanonautica, over at La Bloga:


Donald Trump:



John Wayne:



Mexican food:



And the impending election year: