“The book American Gods wishes it was.” --Despina Durand

Thursday, April 15, 2021

SOUTH (ALMOST TO THE BORDER)


 

Emily said, “I’ve lived in Arizona for sixty years and never been down this way,” so we headed south on Highway 85. We passed a Circle K with an ORDER AT AMAZON, PICK UP HERE thing attached to it. Then we went through an Amazon complex as we left the Metro Phoenix Area.



Soon we were on a long drive through lots of largely unspoiled desert surrounded with jagged mountains. Now and then we saw something like the Lewis Prison, warnings not to pick up hitchhikers, and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range.

Rumor has it there are secret military bases. Will the real Area 51 please stand up?


Just the sort of thing to get you out of the urban mindstate.



In Ajo, a charming town whose major industry seems to be Mexican auto insurance, we spotted a mural with angry-looking giant rabbits. Turns out the classic schlock sci-fi flick Night of the Lepus was filmed there, and Roadrunner Inn bears a mural in its honor. They also sell donuts and espresso.


There are a lot of murals for a small town like Ajo. They must have artists, too.



Beyond the Why Not Travel Store in the town of Why, we reached Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.



It was well worth the drive. We’ll probably be going back.

 


It’s right on the border. I got a text welcoming me to Mexico and offering a deal on Mexican cell service.



After a fantastic hike, we were hungry, so we went back to Ajo and found Arriba Mexican Food. The people didn’t mind wearing masks and practiced social distancing. The tacos, beans and rice were good, too.



As we headed back north, there was roadside graffiti: FREE CHAVIZO . . . FREE MI HERO . . .



Further north, there was a Border Patrol checkpoint. They believed us when we said we were U.S. citizens.


Friday, April 9, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA UNPLUGS WITH GÓMEZ-PEÑA

 

Chicanonautica reviews Gómez-Peña Unplugged, over at La Bloga.


A new book from Guillermo Gómez-Peña:



He has an interesting take on things:



A man about la Cultura:



And master performer:


Thursday, April 1, 2021

MASKED YEAR

 

Been wearing masks for over a year now. It’ll probably be for a bit longer.



I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Accidentally rushing out with a naked face feels weird.



I’ve actually rather enjoyed it.



When it all started, I dug up bandanas that had been stuffed in a drawer since back in the days when Emily and I were janitors. This time it was different, tying ‘em over the face bandido style instead of around the forehead in the careful workingman’s manner that my grandfather taught me. Now I’m covering my mouth instead of soaking up sweat.



Since then, I’ve acquired a large array of colorful bandanas, and more conventional masks.



When you put something on your face you take on a new identity. Sometimes you feel different, other times it’s just other people are seeing you as somebody or something else. It’s a powerful magic that even works in modern, commercialized rituals.



It’s probably the real reason why the anti-mask folks object. They don’t like having to throw a monkey wrench into their fragile façades. Sketchy identities are easily warped, and sometimes the effects can be permanent.



I’ve enjoyed going from loyal worker to postmodern bandido to explorer of the stargate corridor to agent of the psychedelic bat squadron. I think it’s only made me more loco Ernesto than ever. But then I’ve always known who and what I am.



Others have undergone changes, some that they didn’t want, or aren’t even aware of. 



The world has changed. 



I think it’s a good thing.


Friday, March 26, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA FACES THE LIVING DEATH OF STEREOTYPES

 

Chicanonautica finally discusses stereotypes at La Bloga.


And what happens when cultures collide:


 

Cancellations happen:


 

What ever happened to this guy?



And what about when stereotypes get double reversed?


Thursday, March 18, 2021

STARFARING AGAIN


Starfaring, a role-playing game by Ken St. Andre has been republished, including the original art and cartoons by yours truly. It was my first paid publication. As usual, I let my imagination run wild.


These cartoons, and a comic strip that appeared in the zine, Supernova, inspired my first (sadly unpublished) novel Nwatta-Nwatta-Nwatta. Eventually, I extracted a short story out of it, “Love Nwatta-Nwatta-Nwatta Style” that was published by Kristine Kathryn Rusch in the second issue of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine.



Here’s the first paragraph:


After a while, Fredd figured he wasn’t going to vomit anymore, so he unwrapped himself from the toilet, got up and tried to walk around. His knees, like most of the rest of him, were wobbly. He staggered around the bridge, which was empty but still cramped. He was the only one left on the ship, left as a sort of hostage to that disgusting spider. He touched his neck, it was still a little swollen and bruised around the two mandible-holes.  It was horrible, would be even if he wasn’t afraid of spiders. The way she held him close, clamped on, and lapped up his blood with those horrid sucking noises, and she insisted making him rub her silky hair, her exoskeleton and sensitive areas, long after she was finished with the drinking, clinging to him, whispering things in his ear like: “Oh, my hot-blooded little sac of delight! My tasty mammalian morsel! I want to consume you! Absorb you! Suck you totally into my being!’


Ahead-of-its-time bestseller material if you ask me. I’m still sure I’ll find a publisher for it one of these days. Any of you publishers out there interested?


 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

¡VIVA LATINOPIA Y LOS SAN PATRICOS!


I was going to post a link to Latinopia's St. Patrick's Day tribute of Irish Mexicans, but Facebook thinks their URL is against their community standards. They once did this with La Bloga. Do they hate Mexicans? Or the Irish?


Anyway, use the above link to foil Facebook, and, oh yeah, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA ON OTHER ODYSSEYS IN 2021

 

Chicanonautica looks at 2021 and where Latinx lit is going, at La Bloga:


It’s been a strange year so far:



And we’ve come a long way:




And we’re getting hip:




So keep dancing pachucxs!


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

UFOs, the GOAT, and the NOI


I can always depend on Ishmael Reed to expand my mind. He does the job in these times when most stuff packaged as “science fiction” is really just comfort reading for nerds. His play, The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a perfect antidote for the corporate-produced, revisionist/feelgood vision of alternate history for a post-racial America that’s singing and dancing its way into your psyche. As powerful NeoHooDoo as ever.


It was also a very short book. Left me wanting more, so I ordered Reed’s The Complete Muhammad Ali, that I had been meaning to read for a long time. It took me to worlds I had never dreamed of: the bizarre place of black athletes in American society, politics, culture, Ali’s real life (presented in accounts from primary sources), contradicting the Ali Scribes' desire to make the Greatest of All Time into a saint instead of a complex, flawed man, even before we get into the influence of organized crime on it all.


I gobbled up this fat, dense book, and found some things that made me want to study further. Ali considered Elijah Muhammad to be deity. The Yacubian myth was mentioned. And the Mother Plane. I had heard of them, didn’t know much about them.


Turns out that the Yacubian myth tells that a black scientist named Yacub, who lived 6,600 years ago, created the white race. The Mother Plane is mile-wide, saucer-shaped vehicle that a man identifying himself at the Supreme Being showed Elijah Muhammad in 1930, in an experience that led him to found the Nation of Islam. Both are central to their beliefs. I didn’t really know much about the NOI, but this got me curious . . . 



I soon found myself ordering UFOs and the Nation of Islam by Ilia Rashad Muhammad, a scholarly researcher with extensive knowledge of UFOs, history, the Bible, the Holy Qur’an, and even science fiction.


I’m fairly well-read in ufology, so I can tell that this book challenged everything while referring to recognized sightings and encounters. Elijah Muhammad is said to be the person who introduced the whole concept of UFOs to the modern world, though he doesn’t call them that, he calls them “wheels.” They aren’t from other planets, though the word “interstellar” pops up, but were built on Earth on “the islands of Japan” in the 1920s. The pilots of the craft are human beings but have been trained to be “angelic scientists” from early childhood. They are also telepathic, telekinetic, and have the power to do other mind tricks that make Obi-Wan Kenobi look like an amateurish dabbler. Their mission is to help God’s chosen people—the black folks of America--which could be done with powerful bombs on wheel-shaped baby planes.


As a science fiction writer, I’m impressed. Nice world building, there. Lots of details weave into history and religion. We’re talking serious scholarship here.  


I’ve run into Christian versions of the angel/UFO theory, but like most UFO religious constructions are flimsy and depend on the “well, you just gotta believe” argument, using flying saucers as new delivery system for an ancient product.


The book brims over with more amazing stuff than I can mention here. I recommend it. It could inspire some powerful Afrofuturist visions. Maybe some religious conversions, too.


We have to consider all this in a world where Muhammad Ali’s sainthood could very well be amplified into godhood in a generation, and Disney is busy convincing young people that African culture was invented by Marvel and that Alexander Hamilton was a savior to black people. Plus, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump is being worshiped as a golden idol as Hiroaki “Jay” Aeba, leader of Happy Science, a Japanese cult that believes he is an alien from Venus, speaks.


So, is Elijah Muhammad alive and well on the Mother Plane?

 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

CHICANONAUTICA CREATES PABLO CORTEZ


Chicanonautica reveals the origin of the hero of Cortez on Jupiter, at La Bloga.


It started out as an experiment in abstract art:



Which is always more than it seems:



Crossing new borders:



Is it science or art?


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

PANDEMIC ODYSSEY: PART SIX


In the morning it was 18°F in Salina, Utah. Biden finally won Arizona. Trump was still in denial.


We got coffee at the Sevier Valley Coffee Co. It’s a one-man operation out of a trailer. The coffee is okay, but if you want a place with character, it’s got plenty.


As we left Salina to follow the Sevier River, the radio told us that COVID-19 was surging. 



I mused about how out in rural areas, redneck, New Age, Latinoid, and cyber are all colliding. New configurations are emerging along with the old conflicts. Recomboculture is the American Way.


There are also solar collectors all over the West. Energy farms are the coming thing. And still they vote for Trump.

 


We took the 89 to Kanab, through the town of Elsinore, that had flags on all its telephone poles. We saw a lot of American flags flying on this trip. The Stars&Stripes were also painted on murals. Patriotism was on public display. I wonder what version of the American Dream they were pledging allegiance to?



Maybe the dream of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. 



Or the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?



Was it all closed for the winter, or because of the pandemic?



At a Sinclair, a young clerk was getting a lecture about why she should wear a mask.


In Junction, there were some strange vehicles.



Panguitch was full of marvelous stuff. 



Signs with confusing political commentary, a radio station, a BUFFALO ELK VENISON ALLIGATOR sign (I still haven’t seen any live gators in Utah), and a coffee stand where Troy the barista worked.



We found it after asking his dad, Micah the cop, where to get coffee. 


There were some crazy hitchhikers.



By the time we got to Kanab--back in familiar territory--we needed a piss stop. Our favorite muraled gas station came in handy. My urine smelled like pure Cafe Americano.



Soon we were back in Arizona.  There’s a liquor store right across the state line from Utah. In Fredonia, nobody wears masks, even though “must wear” signs were up. An unmasked cowboy looked at us as if we were Martians, stared with disapproval, shook his head.



Passing through the Rez we saw something weird that Mike had told us about: poles--not quite totem--with faces on them. No idea what they are. Maybe some kind of magic going on.



I was reminded that Arizona, Aztlán, the Earth, the Universe, my life, was fantastic . . .


Vermillion Cliffs were spectacular, as usual.



We also stopped at Lees Ferry, which leaves me groping for a suitable adjective.



Back in Flagstaff, we stood in Mike’s studio again. It was a clear night. We could see the stars, and the Milky Way, which good science fiction writers need to do.


Margaret and Emily had a long, lively talk on the drive back to Glendale.



The streets were busy, despite the pandemic. You could almost fool yourself into thinking things were normal. I learned long ago that thinking things are normal is always a mistake.


As we arrived at home, Trump fans were marching on Washington D.C., protesting the election.