Friday, May 25, 2012
In the latest Chicanonautica over at La Bloga, I review Emanuel Xavier's Pier Queen. Luckily, he's got some video that's perfect for this Mondo Ernesto extra session.
This first poem isn't in the book, but gives you a powerful taste:
Here Emanuel performs one of his poems from the book:
And finally, another poem from the book is taken into a new dimension:
at 8:50 AM
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Talk about a busy week! Between The Future Fire and We See a Different Frontier guest blogging, the new cover for Love Than Never Dies, and all the things I have to do stay afloat in this apocalyptic phantasmagoria of a world, I managed to miss that my guest post was up at Latinopia.
It's a Chicanonautica that first appeared at La Bloga last year, but I can't resist a chance to make fun of weird and wacky Arizona.
at 1:59 PM
Friday, May 18, 2012
I'm handing this one over to Djibril and Fábio to discuss We See a Different Frontier and speculative fiction in Brazil. There's also some of my artwork for the sheer sci-fi eye-fry.
Djibril is the general editor of The Future Fire an online magazine of social-political speculative fiction. In the past TFF published themed issues on Feminist SF and Queer SF, and two guest-edited, themed anthologies are currently in development: Outlaw Bodies, themed around trans, queer and disability issues with a cyberpunk flavor, edited by Lori Selk; and We See a Different Frontier, which will publish colonialism-themed stories from outside of the white, anglo, first-world perspective, edited by Fábio Fernandes.
Here Djibril asks Fábio to talk a little about his background and the colonial anthology.
D: When we advertised for a guest co-editor for a themed issue of The Future Fire last summer, you suggested an anthology of new stories on the theme of colonialism. Could you say a bit about what inspired you with this theme?
F: Strangely enough, I wasn’t planning particularly anything about this theme in advance. It was just something that occurred to me as I read the call for guest editors. Since I already had some knowledge of The Future Fire’s content and mission statement, I decided the magazine would be the perfect venue to talk about politics. It then occurred to me that, being a Brazilian writer trying to publish in the English-speaking world, I had lots of things to say that an American or a British writer, for instance, couldn’t—or at least would not say with the same knowledge. I was thinking particularly of Ian McDonald’s Brasyl, a novel I liked but at the same time upset me in a way I couldn’t explain at first. When I read it a second time, I promptly found out why: even though McDonald had succeeded in portraying Brazilian landscapes and a few characters, some particular things regarding their behavior just weren’t right. For instance, there is a scene in which a white girl and a black guy are playing capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that is mostly taught as a dance/performative art instead of a fighting technique today, and the scene, from the POV of the black character, turns the dance into a competition fueled by racism. This would seem be adequately put—in the US or in the UK, maybe, but things don’t usually happen this way in Brazil. There is plenty of racism here as well, unfortunately, but things are more subtle in a variety of ways. This scene doesn’t affect the novel as a whole, but I couldn’t avoid thinking, Damn, I should have written this novel. (Talk about being modest, huh?) The thing is, I still thought a Brazilian writer should and could have done better. But, as we say here in soccer, “quem não faz leva”, that is, if you won’t score, the other side will. I just happened to notice, when I saw the TFF ad, that I could be the other side now—inviting writers from other countries (non-Anglo speaking ones, in particular) to send their stories for a wider audience (the English-speaking world) to read. That way, we all could score.
Is there a strong tradition of speculative fiction in Brazil?
There is a steady flow of speculative fiction since the 19th Century, but always a closeted one. For instance, Machado de Assis, one of our most celebrated classic authors, wrote lots of stories that could be easily labeled Fantasy or Weird stories today, but scholars won’t even hear anything about it. This thing is happening ever since—the only writers that are considered speculative fiction authors de facto in Brazil are Murilo Rubião and José J. Veiga, our only “Magical Realism” representatives (even though I must stress out that Magical Realism neither originate from Brazil nor is popular among our writers. We love reading Latin American writers as Garcia Márquez, for instance, but our literary tradition (unfortunately, in my opinion) is much more deeply rooted in European literature than in Latin American tradition (more about that later).
As for spec fic proper, Brazil has a tradition and an ever growing number of writers. Since the early 1960s, according to some, we’ve had three “waves” of writers. The first was composed of writers published by Gumercindo Rocha Dórea, a famous publisher whose small press was the first to publish now modern classics like Rubem Fonseca and Nélida Piñon. (Fonseca writes mostly noir fiction, but he wrote a few SF short stories in the 60s). The second wave, in the 80s, was the Gen-Xrs wave, writers who started publishing in fanzines and anthologies with very small print runs. Only a handful had the chance of publish a novel or two at that time (one of them, Braulio Tavares, is one of our most celebrated writers and composers—he published a few stories in English then, among them “Stuntmind”, which is in the anthology Cosmos Latinos). Chronologically, I belong to the second wave but only published my first novel in 2009.
The third wave came circa 2007/8 and is more focused on Fantasy (though there is a lot of interest in Steampunk and there are now quite a few LGBT authors, an awesome thing here). There are lots of small presses now and most of these new writers have no hardships when it comes to publish their stories or novels.
How does Brazil differ in this regard from the rest of Latin America, for example?
To be completely honest with you, I don’t have the foggiest idea. To quote a recent tweet from Silvia Moreno-Garcia (I’m guessing she wrote it with irony, I’m using it seriously): “Brazil is not part of Latin America. You don't speak Spanish.” And she is absolutely right! For centuries Brazil was a country apart from the rest of Latin America. Only in the past decade, thanks to our last President’s (Lula) administration, we have been approaching Latin countries more and more. Once I read an article on Latin American SF written by an Argentine writer. It was a very good, all-encompassing article... but for one thing: it didn’t mention Brazil. Or rather, he did mention it—only to say he wouldn’t talk about Brazil because it was a sui generis country in Latin America, a Portuguese-speaking one with a very different culture and no connections with the rest of the continent. Sadly, he was also right.
Brazil has a very rich cultural tradition but its spec fic writers would rather write about European folklore (vampires, werewolves, and the like) instead of exploring this richness. I keep telling that to my Creative Writing students at the university, “You don’t need to write about rural lore; you can write about urban legends as well. We also have them a lot.” My latest story, “The Unexpected Geographies of Desire”, published in Kaleidotrope is about one of these popular urban legends of the 1970s in Brazil. We have a plethora of themes that are still begging to be explored. We have the technology. We can do it. ;)
We’ve been talking about “science fiction” and “speculative fiction”, but these are terms in Anglo-American genre thinking and publishing that are not always reflected in the literatures of other cultures. Are there Brazilian traditions such as magical realism that cross genre boundaries and are not easy to translate into Anglo genre terms?
Brazilian literature in general still has a strong link with Naturalism and Realism, with lots of Post-Modernism sprinkled in the middle, but when it comes to spec fic or science fiction, bot terms are still pretty much anathema. Fantasy is becoming more and more accepted, as long as its authors have the sense to keep to the YA section, where they should belong (according to the critics and most of the big publishers).
We definitely don’t do Magical Realism, even though we respect it and love it, but it’s not our cup of tea. What we do best is humor: two of the best Brazilian science fiction novels in the past twenty years are cyberpunk-ish narratives plenty of satire, parody, and acid humor: Piritas Siderais, by Guilherme Kujawski, is a near future dystopia in a Brazil where everyone has her own personal saint/entity due to implants and such. Kujawski approaches the reader in a way reminiscent of Cory Doctorow (but Piritas... is a 1994 novel) with heavy doses of Brazilian Modernist writer Oswald de Andrade. And Fausto Fawcett’s Santa Clara Poltergeist, a cyberpunk romp in Copacabana with plenty of hi-octane adventure, sex and weird creatures around an energetic nexus caused by a former exotic dancer-turned-miracle worker who can’t control her increasing magnetic powers. Both novels would be really hard to translate to anyone who doesn’t have a big experience of Brazil, but they are some of our best fiction and definitely challenge boundaries.
You have also worked as a translator, rendering some of the classics of modern science fiction for a Brazilian readership. How does this experience differ from writing scifi? Do you ever need to translate more than just language, for example cultural concepts, memes, pop-culture references or whatever?
The translator experience is a whole other realm of sensorial experience from writing. You don’t need to create from scratch, but re-create, and that makes all the difference. I love it, nonetheless, and thinking of ways to translate memes and references have helped me along the years to hone my linguistic skills and, I think, to make me become a better writer in English. I’m still far from being 100% proficient in this language, but I’m making a good, steady progress, and I am in no hurry.
What work of speculative fiction would you most like to see translated into Portuguese?
Speaking as a translator, I’m very fortunate because, in more than 25 years working as a translator, I did translate several of the works I wanted to. Neuromancer, for example. Clive Barker’s Weaveworld is another one that comes to mind. But a novel I really would like to translate because of its linguistic challenges is David Zindell’s Neverness. I love it. And EVERYTHING by Gene Wolfe, for that matter.
Regarding other languages I sadly can’t translate (I can only do English and Spanish—and a bit of French, but so far I have only translated non-fiction pieces), I would really like to see Arab world writers like Ahmed Khaled Towfik (Egypt, author of Utopia, recently translated to English) and Achmed Khammas (raised in Damascus but writes short stories in German, which seems to me a very interesting experience already). From Africa, Mohammed Dib (Algeria), who wrote in French a dystopian novel called Qui se souvient de la mer.
What Brazilian work would you most like to see translated into English, and why?
Both abovementioned works: Piritas Siderais and Santa Clara Poltergeist. I think the English-speaking readers would benefit a lot from reading these classics, and they would begin to understand Brazil is much more than beautiful women, beaches, capoeira, cachaça, and all that tourist-guide talk.
Finally, would you like to say anything else about what you’d like to see in the We See a Different Frontier anthology?
I would like to see in WE SEE A DIFFERENT FRONTIER a weirder-than-weird anthology. Not necessarily a weird fiction anthology, mind you—just a book where readers hopefully will be able to find really new, different, fresh voices from countries really underrepresented. The very fact that an American or European reader will read a story from a country she knows almost nothing about (or even a story that doesn’t take place in the country of origin of said author, but with her particular view on things) will likely provide for a cognitive estrangement experience (see Darko Suvin) very similar to the reading of a good weird narrative. And weird narratives tend to be eye-openers, a thing we are much in need of in the world today.
at 10:44 AM
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
This just in! There's a new, improved cover for the anthology that will return my deranged classic The Frankenstein Penis to print! It's a lot more romantic. There's also been a tweak o the title, which is now Love That Never Dies: Erotic Encounters with the Undead. And it will be available soon . . . really soon . . .
at 9:03 PM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Check out my guest post, I Didn't Know I Was an Alien, or: How I Became a Recombocultural Sci-Fi Guy at The Future Fire editor's blog. I recall what's it's been like to be a Chicano sf writer trying to sneak into Western Civilization. Come to think of it, I'm still trying . . .
The Future Fire features Social Political & Speculative Cyberfiction online and in ebook form.
They are also raising funds for We See a Different Frontier, "a professional, rate-paying colonial-themed anthology of new speculative fiction from outside the first world perspective."
See? The future out there, and coming at you fast, amigos. Better get with it!
at 11:01 AM
Friday, May 11, 2012
This week's Chicanonautica over at La Bloga celebrates the cinema of lucha libre, and recently, the WWE Hall of Fame, Mil Máscaras.
Here are three of my favorite Mil Máscaras movies, so you can do a triple-feature:
In El Robo de la Mumias de Guanajuato Hollywood and Mexican traditions collide as Dracula and a mad scientist steal the famed mummies of the city of Guanajuato, bring them back to life, and the mayhem begins:
Los Champeones Justicieros featres Mil Máscaras, Blue Demon, and four other luchadores, and a mad scientist with a crew of super-powered dwarves:
Misterio en las Bermudas gets into mondo weirdness: Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Máscaras face the end of the world, an Atlantean utopia, mysterious alien forces, and the Bermuda Triangle:
Monday, May 7, 2012
The palo brea blossoms were losing their day-glow intensity and settling to the ground like yellow snow drifts. Spring was feeling like summer, as it does in Phoenix. Em and I just had to get out, go north, observe wonders through a bug-spattered windshield, and enjoy air that was cooler than body temperature while we could.
Besides, we missed the Wupatki National Monument during our recent road trips, and I'd been feeling the need to check out the ball court. I've had this idea for a fantasy novel about the ancient ball game, gnawing away at the back of my psyche.
The gods must have approved. A Quetzalcoatl-shaped cloud appeared over I-17, as if to point the way. Soon were in volcano country, with the San Francisco Peaks looming.
Volcanoes. They should figure in the novel . . .
Soon we were stomping the lava fields around Sunset Crater. I love the sound of lava crunching under my boots. The shapes of twisted black shards looked like Max Ernst monsters. It was like exploring the Moon with Commando Cody, with Retik the Ruler and his Moonmen ready to melt the landscape with their heat rays. The black sand was sprinkled with yellow and red wild flowers – a preview of Martian terraforming.
I was seeing Wupatki with new eyes because of all the ideas for the ball game novel. The artistry of the rocks used as bricks to make a complex of buildings on rugged hills and incredible rocks impressed me more than ever – I would like to walk through there with an architect sometime.
Walking the ball court inspired me. I got the feel of the space, and overlayed what I'd seen of the game on videos. There was a sign with a map saying that ball courts were actually more common in southern Arizona, most of them in what is now the Metro Phoenix Area, along the Hohokam canal system around the Gila River, a long way from tropical rubber tree country.
Looks like I have a lot of research to do, but that's okay, I still have that bullfighting novel nagging at me. And those unfinished short stories.
Not far from the ball court was the blow hole – literally a hole blowing cool air from cavern created by a earthcrack. If there are earthcracks, then why not timecracks? And since space and time are connected . . .
There I go again.
But I wasn't the only one who was inspired. Big, fat lizards were everywhere – males flashing their psychedelic mating colors. Springtime, regeneration time, as traditions give birth to the future.
All day we saw gigantic ravens. Two of them welcomed us to the Citadel Pueblo Ruins. We must remember that we are like vampires at archaeological sites – we have to be invited to enter.
At one point, when we were in an ancient room overlooking a canyon, Em said, “I want to live here.” How I love her!
We returned to the Galaxy Diner, in Flagstaff, Route 66, to bask in its Retro/Futuro/Fifties-Rock&Roll/Hot Rod/Time Travel splendor. The clock there has no hands. Maybe a scene from my ball game novel should take place there? A weary spacetime traveler ordering Mom's Meatloaf Melt . . .
Later, in Oak Creek Canyon, we met a tiny frog who lived in dry river bed next to the ruins of a bridge that was destroyed back in the 20th century. In Sedona, we bought frozen mochas in the place behind the statue of the mountain man wizard. Then we headed home as the setting sun painted the red rocks.
There were a lot of bugs splattered all over our windshield, but the landscapes were fantastic and beautiful.
Friday, May 4, 2012
La Bloga has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication of Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima all this week. I did my part with a special Chicanonautica that discusses Anaya's recent young adult novels that deal with the monsters of Aztlán, and UFOs.
But first, here's Anaya's acceptance speech for the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Times:
And the Chupacabra is not only the subject of two of Anaya's novels, but a media phenomenon:
And, yes, we have UFOs over Aztlán, be they spaceships, brujas, or something else:
And in this Val Lewton classic, New Mexico gives Transylvania some serious competition. Watch for the penitentes:
at 5:28 PM