Saturday, February 26, 2011


Here I go again, shooting my mouth off in Chicanonautica over at La Bloga about the latest developments in the conflict between my home state and my native land, hoping it doesn't turn into a shooting war.

To lighten things up over here at Mondo Ernesto, I'm reaching out to the Anglo community, and presenting some country music extras. Why not? My grandfather always said he loved, “shit-kicking music.” And to quote my dad, “I'm country – it doesn't matter which side of the border.”

Let's start with an oldie – singing cowboy Gene Autry doing buckaroo Cole Porter's classic of nostalgia for the days when Westerners didn't like the idea of fences ruining their wide-open spaces:

I'd love it if someone translated it into Spanish and recorded it ranchera-style.

Unfortunately, these days things are different along the frontier (it means “border” – somehow crossing a frontier is The American Way, but crossing a border is a crime). Kind of crazy, actually. Getting psycho, as Eddie Noack warned:

I just might end up like this, the way Porter Wagoner said, with an eloquent use of the echo chamber:

And I'll leave you with Johnny Paycheck and this touching tale of folks learning to get along in bar in Texas:

Thursday, February 24, 2011


For those of you younger folks out there, back in the Nineteen-Hundreds, “rip-off” was slang for “steal” . . .

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a successful writer. Even though I may look like just another Chicano with a baseball cap and a pickup truck driving back and forth across the Metro Phoenix Area, trying to scrape together a living, I've published novels and short stories. People have said that they liked them. Hell, some of them have gotten kinda, sorta famous.

Or maybe that should be “infamous.”

Especially, one called “The Frankenstein Penis.”

It was back in the Eighties. The Nineteen-Eighties. I had published a few things – art and writing -- but still couldn't make that into any kind of steady income. I still believed in that Holy Grail of making a money off my creative pursuits. As a result, I was broke and desperate.

Then I found out that Hustler was paying five thousand dollars for a short story. What was I doing wasting my time with these penny-ante science fiction magazines? I studied the magazine, and like a true professional, came up with “The Frankenstein Penis” – an exercise in crass commercialism as filtered through my twisted mind.

Hustler rejected it. So did every other sleazy men's mag I sent it to.

Later I found out that Rudy Rucker and Peter Lamborn Wilson were doing an anthology and were asking for, among other things, “All-Meat Science Fiction.” That seemed to describe my story so I submitted it, and it was published in Semiotext(e) SF along with William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Philip José Farmer, Robert Sheckley, Robert Anton Wilson, and many more writers who are still alive.

It instantly was recognized as the most outrageous of a collection of outrageous stories. Look, Ma! I'm avant garde! Factsheet Five, called it “William Burroughs on steroids.”

It was reprinted in Penthouse Hot Talk, illustrated with an H.R. Giger painting.

Fastforward to the late Nineteen-Nineties, when I first went online. I found an unauthorized translation posted that was also published in a Greek Cyberpunk anthology. The people responsible didn't answer my e-mail.

Later there was a Brazilian Portuguese version of Semiotext(e) SF called Futuro Prohibido. Nobody told me about or sent money for this either. So I just kept slaving away at Borders.

Then I found reviews of a student film called “Phal-O-Krat” that had the same plot my story. I e-mailed Nick Lyon, the director. He begged me not to sue him, and said that he was giving me half-ownership in the film. He did sent me a copy of the DVD, Hellchild: The World of Nick Lyon where it was a special feature . No money, but I could add a film to my résumé.

Recently, I mentioned the film to someone who was curious about it, so I looked it up online again and found yet another student film, this one from Brazil, called “Pênis Frankenstein.” It does not mention me in the credits, but the film is essentially a scene-by-scene (with some slight changes) telling of my story.

So not only has one of my stories been filmed, but there is remake!

I wonder if there are any other student films out here? I don't even want to think about porno versions . . .

And, while preparing this post, I found a link to the whole story in English.

Still no, money, but that's how they treat writers in Twenty-First Century. I guess the moral to this sad tale is, write about a monster penis, and the whole word will want to rip it off.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I can now say it. Yes, I was a Borders employee.

I've never admitted it here at Mondo Ernesto. I wasn't ashamed of it or anything. It's just that Borders -- on more than one occasion – had me sign a “document” promising that I would not reveal “confidential company information,” and they were especially concerned with this happening on blogs.

This is why I, and my wife Emily, have not mentioned where we worked, and have not evoked the name Borders.

However, as of quite recently, we are no longer Borders employees.

No, we didn't suddenly go insane and quit to pursue our personal interests full-time. The stores where we work were among those that Borders agreed to close as part of its bankruptcy.

It wasn't really a surprise. Working for Borders had become so Kafkaesque I was wondering if the folks at corporate were really giant cockroaches, madder than Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick. Corporate gobbledegook was more important than profits. They were merrily throwing away millions while harping at us over nickel and dime issues. It was just a matter of time before the train wreck happened. We had gone down to working part time, and were looking for other work.

I was obsessively following Borders on the stock market and reading news stories, looking for clues as to what was going on. It was the most horrifying cliff-hanger I ever got caught up in. First, I thought this was just the antics of a flakey bookstore chain run by ex-hippies and English majors who didn't know any better, but soon it became clear that this is the way a lot of businesses are run these days. And if it continues, the results will . . . well . . . the word “apocalyptic” comes to mind.

I knew the bankruptcy was coming. What I didn't see was how widespread its effect would be.

The morning of the bankruptcy, I woke up, reached for my iTouch, and got into the Stocks app, as had become my habit. There they were, several news stories saying that Borders had finally declared bankruptcy. I leapt over to the desktop and checked Google News, and stories about Borders were popping up faster than a raging virus.

We didn't think both our stores would be closed. Maybe only one of us would be left jobless. Certainly not both of us. I had once joked that maybe Borders would simply decide to pull out of Arizona completely – it seemed funny and unlikely at the time.

Then I found a list of stores to be closed. Both of ours were on it. And a lot of other Arizona stores, too.

I showed it to Em, saying, “I don't know how accurate this is.” You have to be careful in these situations. The first reports are usually wrong.

Other stories didn't match – as usual. An interactive map of the doomed stores had mine, but not Em's.

But eventually it became clear that both of our stores, and most of the Borders in the Metro Phoenix area, were not long for this world.

When Em called her store to ask what was happening, they hadn't even heard the news yet. Corporate didn't even bother to call them.

So – we are no longer Borders employees. For the time being we work for the liquidation company, manning the registers, doing customer service, and reshelving what is left of the merchandise. It's kind of like working in Hell after all the fires have been put out.

Our co-workers are shocked. No one thought that the “reorganization” would be so devastating.

Customers are shocked, too. They weren't plugged into the shitstorm. A chunk of their world – one that they enjoyed – has been torn away.

They keep asking me if I'm all right, and to tell the truth, I am. I have another job lined up. I have stories in Space Horrors and 2020 Visions and my contributors copies of Tales of the Talisman, with my story, “The Great Mars-A-Go-Go Mexican Standoff” and the galleys from Analog for “Death and Dancing in New Las Vegas” arrived this week. I lost track of the number of editors I am communicating with. I'll land on my feet, and go on in the brave new world.

But a lot of other people are hurting.

And now that I'm not a Borders employee, I am free to tell all. It'll make for some passionate blogging, and maybe an ebook.

Besides all the dirt on Borders, I have all these weird, funny adventures as a bookstore clerk that I can now share without fear of accidentally revealing any “confidential company information.” And I think we could all use some laughs.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


This just in! Tales of the Talisman, Volume 6, Issue 3, with my story "The Great Mars-A-Go-Go Mexican Standoff" is available to order! Thrill to this action-packed pulp sci-fi adventure, in which Spike Gershwin, operative of the Trans-Solar Detective Agency, and song-and-dance man, takes on a case gets him knocked around, but shifts the balance of power of the Solar System!

Here's how it begins:

My phone tickled my skull at exactly the wrong time.

My big break had come. I was all decked out in a fully articulated, interactive monster suit, ready to step in and play the lead in the classic musical comedy Gojira because the has-been soap-heart- throb that Cruzarama had cast in the role had actually—I kid you not—broken his leg in an extracurricular performance with a female passenger. Or maybe it had something to do with her husband walking in on them? Anyway, as the understudy, I was called upon to put on the suit and knock ‘em dead singing, dancing, and demolishing our autorebuildable scale-model twentieth-century Tokyo set.

Too bad working as an understudy in Cruzarama’s Mars-A-Go-Go was just my cover.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


My new Chicanonautica at La Bloga remembers my novel High Aztech, wonders if it was prophetic and what the hell’s going on this crazy world right now. Mondo Ernesto features examples of the sort of stuff that makes people say the world is becoming more and more like one of my stories -- which, if you think about it, is a terrifying concept.

But first, let me set the record straight. When I wrote High Aztech, I hadn’t heard of or seen the film México 2000 that predicted not only cell phones and ringtones, but people like the Huichols using them.

And who would have thought that, in the year 2011, the Tamalli Space Charros would be navigating their Tamalli Spaceship through the blizzard-blasted streets of Chicago and serving up piping-hot futuristic versions of preColumbian cuisine -- and stridentist performance art?

Or that out of Los Angeles de SoCal, since 1989, Aztlán Underground would be creating recombocultural music that offers spiritual advice for the new millennium?

Or that out of San Anto, Téjas, Alvaro Itzli Ramirez of Los Nahuatlatos would be getting down with the help of a tattooed Aztecoid princess?

And from Cuidad Méjico, D.F./ Tenochitlán, La Capital Azteca, the largest urban center on the planet, Xipe Totec -- named after the Aztec corn god to whom beautiful young men were flayed alive so priests could dance in their skins -- explodes with the power of a sonic weapon.

I leave you with an ancient precedent for all this: real Aztec sonic mind-control technology. Listen at your own risk, and hang onto your cerebral cortexes . . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


A video clip from an unidentified source:

Aerial view of mountains in a desert area much like that on both sides of the US/Mexican border. The camera flies over an area of thick vegetation. Zoom in. It is an illegal marijuana farm. Bombs are dropped. The plants burst into flames.

Still burning, they begin to walk.

* * * *

Helicopters still fill the sky as the sun sets on this Easter Sunday, near the border crossing in Nogales, Arizona. A smoky haze lingers. Tanks patrol debris-filled streets. Overturned, burned-out vehicles block the last of the post-Spring Break/Holy Week traffic that mysteriously erupted into violence yesterday. Bits and pieces of demolished piñatas are everywhere. . .”

Hijo de la chingada!” said Victor Theremin, science fiction writer and consultant to AI manifestations of the Singularity. He looked up from the screen of his Universal Mobile Interface, and focused on his latest intern.

Izzi practiced martial arts moves in front of one of the giant stone effigies on Rapa Nui, AKA Easter Island. She wore only green body paint. She looked like a giant praying mantis. The idea that she could kill him with her bare hands made their intimacies all the more ecstatic. “Me or whatever you’re watching?”

The above is the beginning of my story Radiation is Groovy, Kill the Pigs from the anthology 2020 Visions edited by Rick Novy. It made one sweet reviewer go “Yikes!” But isn't that what science fiction is supposed to do?

That was what it was for back in my Atomic Age youth. But in the Post-Star Wars world, I often heard people say things like, “I love sci-fi because I always know what's going to happen and it never disturbs me.”

Now we seem to be entering a third age, one that doesn't yet have a name, one that has us all looking over our shoulders and wondering when the next bombshell is going to hit. We're entering uncharted territory, folks -- and it's crashing down out of the sky.

Or as the conquistador Cabeza de Vaca said: “Such is the power of necessity that we should thus hazard a turbulent sea, none of us knowing anything about navigation.”

For me, science fiction has never been about escapism, but about helping you be ready to live in a world of rapid, unexpected change, to face the unknown on a daily basis. It is a survival tool for living in the future. And the future is always closer than you think.

That's how I felt when I was a kid. Godzilla and hordes of atomic monsters helped us grow up knowing that a nuclear war could vaporize us at any moment. Marvel comics taught us that radiation could be a groovy thing. That which blew our minds only served to make us stronger.

Though I do understand needing a break from the nerve-shredding stress-storm. As Victor Theremin said, later in the opening of Radiation is Groovy, Kill the Pigs:

Even I need quiet and solitude every now and then. It helps me sort through the chaos so I can reconstruct it into something even more amazing.”

Izzi walked over to one of the effigies and started to climb up to its chin. “Science fiction.”

For lack of a better term.”