Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chicanonautica: What Do You Want to Know?



2014 just wants to keep on running me ragged. Things keep happening (besides the riots and the racial strife). Not only is the new Digital Parchment Services/Strange Particle Press ebook of Cortez on Jupiter orderable, but the press release is available, so you can read about the impending soft-cover edition, find out where to write about getting review copies, and read quotes of wild praise for the book.

If that isn’t enough, Digital Parchment has started a new Ernest Hogan blog so they can promote their editions of my books. They also started an Ernest Hogan Tumblr. I’ll be posting stuff on both of them, so check ‘em out!

Which brings me to the main subject of this post . . . the writer Nalo Hopkinson, who teaches at UC Riverside, sent me a direct message on Twitter (most of my sales and gigs these days come through the social media) asking if I would be willing to lead a workshop “on writing Latino-focused SF/F/H,” because “The community has been asking for it.” Ever the professional, I asked if it was a paying job, and it is, so it looks like in February 2015 I’ll be teaching a  master class (hey! I’m an expert in the field!) as part of their Writer’s Week. I will provide more details as I get them.

2015 and February are coming at us fast. I need to think about it, and take some notes . . . I could fill the time with funny stories about my weird career, but since this is a university thing, I should probably ask the community that Nalo was talking about what they want. I’m assuming that a lot of you aspiring Chicanonauts read La Bloga.


So, what would you like to know about writing Latino-focused speculative fiction/fantasy/horror? Are there specific questions you’d like answered? Just what can I do for you?

I’ll be waiting for your comments . . .

Ernest Hogan has accumulated a lot of ancient Chicano Sci-Fi wisdom over the years. He’s willing to share it. Especially for money. Or food. Or cerveza. Oh yeah, feliz Día de Los Guajolotes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ten Wonderful Years As A Published author

From the Macondo Newsletter

Reyna Grande

Macondista Rene Colato Lainez is celebrating his 10th year anniversary as a published author. Congratulations to Rene, and here's to many more years and many more books!

Ten Wonderful Years
By Rene Colato Lainez



At the end of 1999 many people were setting goals to accomplish in the new millennium. I was one of them. At the time, I was already an elementary teacher and had written several books to share with my students. I still remember those "classic books" that my students enjoyed reading such as, "Fabiola, Fabiola", "El número uno", "Un cuento de colores." 

My students enjoyed my books so much that I began to wonder what I had to do in order to publish my work. I wanted to see my name on the cover of a book. I met children's book authors Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy at the teacher's writing workshop "Teachers in the Classroom." They read some of my books and told me that yes, my work was publishable! Then I met the wonderful macondista, Amada Irma Pérez. She shared the submission guidelines of her publisher, Children's Book Press, and told me to give it a try. She told me that some day in the near future we could be signing books together. 

At that time, this was a sueño. After meeting Alma Flor, Isabel, and Amada, I set my own goal, to submit my manuscripts for publication. I started to submit my stories in March 2001. Soon, I received my first rejection letter. It was painful to read it but on the bottom of the letter someone had printed, "Your story has a big heart. We wish you luck." 

I did not give up and 2001 was a year of rejection letters. I joined SCBWI, took some creative writing classes and wrote new stories. In the summer of 2002, I received an email from Arte Público Press, asking me for revise my manuscript with the promise that they might publish it if they liked the revision. I made the changes and by October 2002, I had a contract for Waiting for Papá

I remembered the day, I had a flu and fell sleep holding the contract. When I woke up, I looked at 
my chest wondering if the contract was just a dream. But it was still there. I read it again and shouted "I will have a book! I am an author!". 

The book was published on October 31, 2004. Now 10 years later, I have written 9 children's books, a story in an anthology, 6 books for elementary reading programs and many poems and short stories for a children's magazine, Revista Iguana. I love writing children books and I have more coming out soon. 


I organized a celebration party for my anniversary. It was a costume party and many friends came wearing costumes from characters of my books. Of course, I was René, the boy!



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Philly Cop Is Monster. News 'n Notes.

Review: Sabrina Vourvoulias, "Skin In The Game," Tor.com


Michael Sedano

The first video of a black devil fish showed the creature flexing its huge jaws, the mouth gaping with needle-like teeth that cage-in a creature attracted by the phosphorescent lure dangling in the deep sea darkness from the black devil fish’s head.

In an idle flash, I thought the fish could be the model for some outer space monster only a science fiction writer could think up. Sure enough, someone has.

I don’t know if Sabrina Vourvoulias saw that marine footage, but the critter she has roaming the zombie ghetto of Philadelphia could be the devil fish’s terrestrial prima:

The taste of her fear-driven flop sweat, her death, washes over my tongue, takes the edge off the hunger that’s always nested inside me. Taste prompts image. I see the girl, face upturned as she waits for her fix, then something striking fast at her chest. Not a knife, but a mouth with scimitar teeth that pop out like double switchblades.

Monsters like that go around emptying out innards and leaving human carcasses in their wake. Blanca is a cop and her job is to identify and cleanse. Of course, things grow complicated and dangerous.

Vourvoulias’ story, “Skin In The Game” will hit the streets in the December 2 issue of Tor.com. It’s not to be missed. “Skin In the Game” holds the reader’s interest with a fast-moving first-person story and a collective of interesting personages. The author’s use of short thematic paragraphs sets the pace. Cultural materials inform the story's logic with linguistic, orthographic, nicknaming, and food datos that add richness but without complexity that could confuse exogenous readers.

The story’s notable for its raza characters and setting. Boricuas, Dominicans for instance. The central character is a Mexicana cop-of-sorts from South Philly. The City of Brotherly Love suffers a terminal case of advanced irony. Social services have all gone to hell. Cop uniforms include heavy-soled boots to guard against discarded hypodermic needles that pave the sidewalks of this barrio.

Vourvoulias writes an arresting story with an eye-opening surprise that adds dimensions to the character’s personality while confirming suspicions the author cleverly plants like a sneeze in a greek tragedy. The author passes along matter-of-fact information about cultura. Tamaleras use platano and maíz hojas. Mejor, the Tamágicos have herbal concoctions that help people make good decisions and love one another. That's soul food of the first order.

Without making a big deal of her characters' latinidad, Sabrina Vourvoulias shows how diversity in SpecFic should work. “Skin In the Game” is one of those subversive stories science-fiction is noted for, helping people see with new eyes, to notice diversity but not make a big deal of the natural order of things, even if things are all dystopic.


Mark Vallen Eulogy for Richard Duardo


QEPD Richard Duardo. Artist and serigraphy master, Duardo played a key role in the technology of art.

Mark Vallen's recent eulogy for his contemporary offers a critical appreciation for Duardo and his influence in United States arte. Click here for Vallen's essay.  Don't miss Vallen's essay on the 43 missing from Ayotzinapa.


Mail Bag
Before it Goes to Video
No one who's seen Water & Power has walked away from the motion picture disappointed. Disappointment comes from the paucity of gente who bought tickets during its premiere theatrical run.

In the best of all possible cinema worlds, word of mouth would have ignited a frenzy of ticket-buying that snowballed enthusiasm to a point a major exhibition chain would pick up the title and just like that, chicano film would earn a place as a filmic investment vehicle.

Instead, like the Cesar Chávez biopic earlier in the year, the film faded after a short burst of enthusiasm.

The producers are showcasing the film at select theaters, using an internet-based ticketing service, tugg. It's a method of assuring a seat for the audience while reassuring theater owners of a likelihood of selling tickets, popcorn, and candy. But there's much more.

Producer Richard Montoya reminds, via email that this Los Angeles-area showing "will be one of the final opportunities to see W&P the way it was meant to be seen and heard - big screen and projected from the DCP drives - not high-def or blue ray but deeply saturated picture ingested into the projection system - the purest form and great sound."

Montoya invites you to share news of this special program. Find the details and link to the tugg event in Monterey Park at this link.


Gifting Season: Books Always Reliably Welcome

Arte Publico Press makes buying holiday presents thirty-five percent easier with an offer every book-lover may want to consider, especially with Christmas a month away. Visit Arte Publico's website for their catalog. The offer via telephone ordering expires on the 19th.


Monday, November 24, 2014

An interview with Frederick Luis Aldama regarding his new book, “The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez”

 

Frederick Luis Aldama is Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English as well as University Distinguished Scholar at The Ohio State University. He is prolific: Aldama is the author and editor of more than twenty books. Aldama also founded and directs the award-winning LASER—a Latino focused academic mentor system from 9th through college.

His latest book is The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez recently published by the University of Texas Press. Aldama does more than hit his marks: he has created an exhilarating, accessible and much-needed study of one of the most inventive and multifaceted directors to come along during the last thirty years. It is a “must read” for anyone who wishes to become a filmmaker or who simply loves movies.

DANIEL OLIVAS: Can you remember the first Robert Rodriguez film you saw and your reaction to it?

FREDERICK LUIS ALDAMA: I was one of the many who sold out opening shows of El Mariachi in Berkeley. The UC Theatre double-billed it with his short, Bedhead. As an undergraduate at UC, I was finding my way to Latino popular culture. I was a grader for a Latino Cinema course with Dr. Mario Barrera. Both films blew me away. In only a few minutes Bedhead took me places only film could: a recognizable everyday but where things could happen that defied the logic of this everyday reality.

My eyes peeled wide with El Mariachi. I’d seen—and even studied—films like Born in East LA and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, but never seen a Latino film made in the spirit of a comic book, and yet that took me into the serious—deadly even—underworld of Mexican narcotraficantes. The intercut of a dream-like sequence with the little boy and the turtle stayed with me long after the film’s end.

DO: Rodriguez’s early filmmaking style was driven, in large part, by a lack of funding but a great deal of imagination. And you observe that his “independent” work ethic does not fit well with big studio production culture. Was Rodriguez destined to be an “indie” filmmaker?

FLA: Rodriguez seemed destined for the straight-to-VHS, B-flick Spanish-language market—all those films we used to pick up during our weekends at La Pulga/”Flea Market.” But it’s that same DIY approach (together with a huge amount of skill) that allows him to energize and make real (reel?) a vision that steps to a different beat.

To put it in your terms, then, I’d say he’s indie but with an imagination that fills to the edges super blockbuster screens. He’s a Latino director who pushes the envelope—constantly—both in terms of story and the way he gives cinematic shape to story. But he’s not the guy we go see at an art-house fest to then have polite tête-à-têtes over the Lacanian significance of a turtle crossing the road. His films entertain—and each superbly so with each of their respective audiences in mind: kids with Spy Kids and geeked-out Fangoria crowds with From Dusk Till Dawn, for instance. They make you think but never demean or belittle us as an audience. Mostly, and this from Spy Kids to Planet Terror to Machete to El Mariachi—they stay with us long after they’re over.

Frederick Luis Aldama

DO: If you were to choose one Rodriguez film for adults and one for children, which would they be and why?

FLA: Rodriguez hit the sweet spot with the Spy Kids films. With the exception of the third installment (Game Over) that’s creatively straightjacketed by the video-game conceit, everything about the films speaks to children, tweens, and young teens: from the gadgets, to the gags, to the concerns and anxieties—and the daydreams and unrestrained imagination.  In a sea of films ostensibly made for kids (Shrek, for instance) but where the humor bites with an adult-directed sarcasm, irony, and innuendo, there’s no outdoing the Spy Kids flicks as films for kids. 

Rodriguez managed to pull off an extraordinary feat with Machete. It’s over the top, and it’s meant to be in that comic book way where anything goes. This elastic container, if you will, allows Rodriguez to bring to light some serious issues: anti-immigration laws, racial profiling, and anti-Latino racist sentiment generally. Masterfully, he makes a film that simultaneously entertains—and sometimes with bellyaching laughter—and that has us churning in our minds a reality filled increasingly with barbarous acts.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Body With Diabetes: Interview with Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and for today’s La Bloga posting, I’m so happy to introduce you to Diabetes Activist, Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez.  Christina is a Chicago native, and is active with the Diabetes Online Community, has her own blog at kikisbetes.com, and is on twitter:  @kikisbetes.  Look her up!

Before we get started, I’m adding a few introductory facts regarding diabetes.
First, definitions:  there are four types of diabetes.  Click on each one for more information:  (1) Type I, (2) Type II, (3) gestational diabetes, (4) pre-diabetes.  
Second, technology:  The glucose meter is essential for individuals with any of these four types of diabetes, because it measures blood glucose levels.  With the meter, individuals know exactly what is happening in their body. Guessing glucose levels simply by how one feels can be dangerous, because assuming your glucose number is in no way accurate.  
Testing reveals how much glucose is present in your blood at that moment. The components of the meter are: (1) the meter, (2) glucose strips, (3) lancet.  To test, you take a glucose strip and insert it into the meter.  Then, you pierce one finger with a lancet, placing the drop of blood on the glucose strip. In a few seconds, the glucose number will appear on the meter. There are also continuous glucose monitoring systems and pumps. 
Third, what the meter says:  A normal blood sugar level is considered less that 100 mg/dL when fasting (morning numbers) and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating your first bite of a meal. 
Fourth, how to describe us:  We are "individuals with diabetes." We are not "diabetics," because we are not defined by this disease. 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez was diagnosed with diabetes Type I when she was 7 years old.  During her lifetime, she has been a passionate seeker of knowledge, wanting to understand her body in order to assist what is not working.  I found her on twitter and have been continually inspired by her passion, her commitment to understanding diabetes, and, in turn, assisting others in diabetes education.  She is a truth seeker!  I had the opportunity to speak with Christina recently and want to share with you our conversation: 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Thank you so much, Christina, for taking the time to talk with me about a chronic disease that greatly affects the Latina/Latino communities.  First, tell me about your tattoo.

Christina's tattoo
Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  It’s a blue circle to represent diabetes.  I took the Chicago flag and instead of two blue lines, I made it into one circle and then added the Chicago stars, the four stars across the middle of that circle.  I feel the empowerment with this tattoo.  People see the tattoo and say, “That’s cool, is that Chicago?”  I say, “Yes, BUT, it’s also representative of diabetes awareness” and then this gives me the opportunity to talk about diabetes with them. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  And you mentioned that you also wear a pump.

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  People see the pump and ask me if it’s a pager or ask if I’m a doctor.  And I think of responding with crazy answers, but then I think, where will that get me?  So I explain what it is, and what it means to me. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  So, in what creative ways do you educate people so they will remember details (because diabetes demands learning so much information)?  For example, how do you educate people about the differences between Type I and Type II Diabetes? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I call Type II a “Disorder,” and Type I a “Disease.”  I call Type II a “Disorder” because your body has a malfunction, whereas with Type I, diabetes is an autoimmune disease.

Amelia M.L. Montes:  You’ve had diabetes (Type I) since childhood. Does the disease limit you in any way? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I don’t want to let chronic illness limit me from doing anything, but there are days when I can’t physically do something due to exhaustion, hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia, and it can weigh on me as a psychological issue.  There are many studies that connect Type II diabetes to depression, but this doesn’t mean people with Type I don’t have depression. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Agreed.  It’s definitely false to think that depression only manifests itself in individuals with Type II.  Also, some people feel that Diabetes Type I and Diabetes Type II are two very different diseases.  In some of your articles, you have said there are similarities.  Where are the connections?

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  The cause—the causes are all different but the reasons they’re all called diabetes are because the symptoms and the ultimate effects are the same.  With Type I, I feel all the symptoms twice as fast as those with Type II.  With Type II, their blood sugars are elevated for so long, that they don’t know how normal feels.  With Type I, my moods and symptoms change multiple times [a day] and are so different every day. 

I remember the first time I was on a twitter chat and we were asked how we feel when we do everything right, and then you check your blood sugar, and it’s still high.  I saw answers like:  “I want to throw it [the glucose meter] out the window,” and “I get angry, and then my blood sugar goes higher.” Just reading that helped me feel I was not alone. 

Checking your blood sugar.  Placing a drop of blood on the glucose strip that has been inserted into the meter.  
Amelia M.L. Montes:  I get that—reading diabetes online community comments and feeling less isolated.  You’ve made sure to reach out, educate yourself, be involved with diabetes communities.  How can readers who have diabetes break through the stigma, the shame connected to this disease, which sometimes makes them hide?  How can we talk to each other? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  You have to talk about it, and let them know just what they’re doing to their bodies if they don’t take care of themselves.  I always said that if we taught Latino families together [those with and without diabetes] about the treatment of diabetes, the person that actually developed it would be better off.  It really takes a village to cure individuals.  If you get everyone to understand, make healthier choices, and even change their lifestyle, the entire family (or community) will be better off.

Amelia M.L. Montes: How do we do this with our various communities.  Also--do you belong to other communities and how do you navigate diabetes in all of these communities? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  Sometimes I feel I’m in three different communities.  The first community is the general every day.  I go to work, and I mingle with people who are not Latino and don’t have diabetes.  Total market experience.  You don’t care what color anyone is—you are just “being.”  The second community is the Latino community who has less resources.  I am very tied to that culture, from the art I have in my house, to the way that I say my name.  The third community is the Diabetes community.  Not only am I usually the only Latina with diabetes, but I also have Type I which is not as common as Type II among the Latino community.  And then I say, how are we going to get these different communities together?  What are we going to do to upkeep your health?  Diabetes isn’t racist, sexist, gender neutral.  When you have diabetes, you can get comments like, “pero no estas gorda” [“but you’re not fat”].  And there is where diabetes education is most needed. So I try to speak from a general diabetes perspective.  I may not know what medication you’re taking, but I know exactly how you feel.

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Was there a time where you were able to educate “on the street.”

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I was on the bus, and there was an older woman with a woman who seemed to me to be in her 40s.  I heard them talking, about the older woman’s husband who was going blind and how her eyesight was going as well because of diabetes.  And the younger woman also had diabetes and was talking about her A1C (a test that measures the amount of blood in one’s sugar over the period of three months), and I thought, “Holy cow—there really is someone who understands diabetes.”  The younger woman got off the bus and I was trying to figure out how to start a conversation with the older woman without seeming like I had been eavesdropping on their conversation.  So I ended up taking out my glucose meter on the bus, and she said, “Ahhh—tu tambien!  Pero tan jovencita!” [“Ahhh—you too!  But you’re so young!”] And we started talking.  I asked her about her family, and if they talked to their family about diabetes.  I said, “Talk to your kids about it, they may be able to help you.”  It was the most memorable diabetes experience I’ve had.  I ended up overshooting my bus stop by 20 blocks so I could keep talking to her. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  That is such an important story that, again, speaks to the need for education.  What kind of diabetes education do you feel should be in place for Latinas/Latinos? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  The one thing that we have realized is that fear does not educate anyone.  We’ve seen HIV campaigns in Mexico gone wrong, and now Ebola is another perfect example.  We need to put a positive spin on education.  What I’ve found completely useful is that I learned how the body is supposed to work and then I learned why my body is not working the way it’s supposed to. A health class shouldn’t be about just medication or carbohydrate counting.  It should be about how your body is supposed to function and how to get it back there.  I’ve always been interested in the science portion of diabetes. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  So what are some ways to talk to the public that may be helpful? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  Don’t say:  “If you don’t check your blood sugar, you’re going to lose your leg.”  That doesn’t educate.  In order to manage diabetes, it’s important to not let it take you over.  You have to be the one who is leading diabetes, and that’s where education comes in—not scaring people.  There has to be more positivity and empowerment. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Agreed!

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  For example, I was at Northwestern, and a doctor explained that if you check your blood sugar only three or four times a day, that’s like taking a thousand piece puzzle, and only having three pieces of it.  The more you know, the more you own the situation.  It’s in your power to do it. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Yes—so important.  And regarding checking one’s blood, I’ve become used to testing more often on days when I’m not feeling well.  So, Christina, where do you feel we are now with diabetes education?

A visual explanation of diabetes Type I
Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I feel like there’s a cure for this issue already.  World wide, diabetes costs over 240 billion dollars a year.  I volunteer with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and sit on the committee for the ADA EXPO that happens every year.  The Chicago ADA chapter is the biggest one in the country.  Everyone who sits on the committee wants to do something to further community education, but it seems that the funding is always for something big:  “The Walk,” or the EXPO that happens once a year draws about 14,000 people.  What I’ve noticed is that the most congested area of the EXPO is the screening section where they will check your feet, your eyes.  It’s a free screening, but without any education. But if you look at it that way, what does it tell you?  You learn that people clearly aren’t getting the attention they need outside of that EXPO.  That means that there needs to be more education, health services, and guidance and that’s just not happening.  There’s nothing in regards to community building.  Community building is about having the time, energy, and efficiency to do it. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Are hospital clinics different? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I didn’t have insurance for about a year, and I used this state-funded healthcare situation as a learning experience.  Throughout the experience, I had to ask the right questions and demand proper health care.  I had a nurse once who told me I didn’t have to check myself so often.  Why?  Because the state only gives you enough strips to test once a day.  They will not insure you for more than one strip a day.  How are people supposed to take care of themselves?  So if you can afford it, it comes out of your pocket.  But what happens when you can’t? 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  When you say that you “had to ask the right questions and demand proper health care,” I think about the average patient who will not at all think about asking questions, but instead, simply follows "doctors orders” without bringing a healthy dose of skepticism into the doctor’s office.  But that comes with empowerment.  Because you are active with the ADA and are familiar with medical corporations, what do you say to them? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I’ve been approached by pharmaceutical companies.  I tell them: “You have to teach people about themselves, and how they can manage this on their own.”  This is why, if I ever won the lottery, I would give donations to clinics – not to foundations.  You can donate and donate to foundations, but you don’t know where that money is going.  If there were more funding for community clinics where the underserved go for medical attention, they would have more resources for education and servicing the people who really need it. 

A visual explanation of diabetes Type II
Amelia M.L. Montes:  Your openness and forthright discussions are vital for the rest of us, Christina.  For example, here’s an excerpt from the “Discuss Diabetes” posting introducing you:  “Growing up with diabetes has given Christina a unique perspective.  ‘Ever since the beginning, I’ve always had this perception that I didn’t do anything to get Diabetes,’ she said.  ‘I didn’t choose to have this condition, and if people don’t like me because of it, it’s not my problem.  It’s theirs.  People often say, they’re sorry when they hear I have diabetes.  But I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have it.  I likely wouldn’t be such a good multi-tasker or as ambitious.  I want people to know that I believe I can still do everything I want to do.’”  Comments?

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I’ve grown extremely honest.  When I go to the endocrinologist, there are times when residents who are working with the doctors come in to see me first.  The last time I went, I gave her [the resident] a run for her money.  She asked how I was doing, and I told her I’m tired.  I’m exhausted from having to be my pancreas.  There’s this thing called a burnout, where having diabetes literally gets you down and you’re doing things just to get by.  So I gave her this scenario.  For me, a burnout happens about every six months.  When I told her how I felt, she didn’t know how to deal with it, which is fine.  She was just learning.  But sometimes doctors are also shocked at how open I can be.  I figure, the more they know, the more they can help me.  Being vocal and open and talking about it as much as possible is going to eventually make diabetes less of a stigma and more something that can be managed:  Talking about it and making it a lifestyle change. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Are there other challenges for you that are linked to diabetes? 

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez:  I developed vitiligo, which is skin discoloration.  There are no health repercussions.  It starts off as white patches.  This is another autoimmune disease, and when you have one, you can get more.  There are worse things than having your skin color go away—like diabetes. 

Amelia M.L. Montes:  Christina—thank you so much for your passionate and important words.  La Bloga honors November Diabetes Awareness with your interview today. Gracias! 










Saturday, November 22, 2014

Letras. Letters. Palabras. Words.



My author name, Rudy Ch. Garcia, contains the middle initial Ch., as if it were an abbreviation. It's not. I adopted it to focus Internet searches around me, instead of on the millions of latinos on the planet who also have my given name. Besides to "market" myself, the Ch. emphasizes both my bilingual elementary teacher career and my bilingualism. The Ch. Draws questions and remarks, but hasn't propelled my fame. People can imagine it stands for the famous Che--an association I don't mind--or Chicano, which is also bien.

not the prisoner's, but similar
I recently received three handwritten letters and one story, in the mail, from a man who's in prison for a non-violent crime. So few people write lettrs anymore. His intimidated me, which surprised me. Theoretically, I now had the obligation to answer, not necessarily with a pencil, but with a letter I'd have to send through the mail. I haven't gotten over that and neither have I responded. The story that the incarcerated Chicano wrote is at the bottom of this post. I think it's surprisingly good, detailing his last day before beginning his sentence.

His letters reminded me of some of mine, my half of an exchange of correspondence that went on for about a decade, between me and an English teacher from my junior and high school. In the mid-70s she presented me with a velo-bound, Xeroxed copy, what's called a self-published book, today, containing almost two hundred pages of our letters. To some extent, seeing my words in print influenced my writing mania.
what my teacher gave me
I still have the book but am leery of reading it again. Hearing your teenaged-to-20s self can be unnerving. What immaturity! What self-centeredness! What impassioned introspection about one little life. I intended to give excerpts from the introduction, but I can't do it. If I did, I'd be blushing, nearly shamefully, from what I feel was an over-kind assessment of my "vision, drive, sensitivities, and intellect," among other things. I haven't heard from my co-author teacher in decades. She may no longer be alive. But she left something--there's other copies!?--of herself, and me. The handwriting is gone, but the words between us are here.

Make up our own genres?

I'm going to borrow an artists' word and invent a new, genre term for my written works--fabulist mextasy. There, it's done. I might have to stop using it if the originator(s) feel it's counter to the intended meaning.
 
Hammond's new book, not fabulist mextasy
Why invent a new genre? At the end of this piece, are Warren Hammond's thoughts that initiated this. I've heard the same idea from Chicano authors. Would Mario Acevedo's books do better as Chicano thriller or paranormal vampire stories? Are Manuel Ramos's books crime or detective or Chicano or all of that or other combinations? Genre is what literary agents, publishers, and readers want. It can make or break.

From this point on, I consider much ofmy writing to be fabulist mextasy. The original definitions are below. I do write somewhat in a fable tradition. I believe the term mextasy applies to much of contemporary, Chicano stories, whether they are speculative or not. And its play on fantasy seems descriptive of some works.

where mextasy began?
From weekly posts, news and diatribes that I read, I've had it up to here (5'7.5") with exclusionary attitudes in the "American" publishing and writing world. It's a mostly white, mostly male, mostly oldsters dominated business. Getting our patas in the door, getting their conventions and organizations to include and welcome us is somebody else's lifetime task. Not mine.

So, I'd rather my unpublished works be true to themselves and my art--I call it--rather than be pigeonholed for the sake of marketability. If an agent or publisher insists on different, established genres, okay, I'll concede. Until then, welcome to the first author of fabulist mextasy. You have my unneeded permission to borrow, use, alter or propogate it, if you want.
my 1st fabulist mextasy, in Revista Iguana
Definition of fabulist: “For two decades, a small group of innovative writers rooted in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror have been simultaneously exploring and erasing the boundaries of those genres by creating fiction of remarkable depth and power”, thus extending the definition of “Fabulist,” which generally does not include fantasy, science fiction or horror. Fabulist, is generally taken to mean magic realism without geographical boundaries, in other words, not necessarily Latin American. New wave fabulist simply stretches that definition to include other more non-realistic forms."
Why mextasy: "Mextasy is more than a representation of ecstasy about or for Mexico; it is about the sensuous tracings Mexican culture leaves both sides of the border. More existential state than archive, Mextasy speaks to the living organism of Mexicanicity as it moves between the bodies of Mexico and the United States--an overt and covert delicious miasma that arouses as it excites, excites as it provokes. ¡Que viva Mexico!, within and without its borders . . . the image of Mexico in the United States."

"The human mind wants to categorize. When people go shopping, they want to be able to find things that they know they like. Categorization can be a double-edged sword. If you say, 'I am this,' and there's a whole audience out there that likes this, then it's good. But I think we as genre writers sometimes run the risk of categorizing ourselves too much.

"For instance, as I was writing my KOP books, I was thinking, this is great. Mystery readers will read them and science-fiction readers will read them. I'll appeal to two audiences.' What tend[ed] to happen instead, as I learned, was that mystery readers say, 'I don't read science fiction,' and science-fiction readers say, 'I don't read mystery.' So sometimes you actually end up marginalizing yourself. We geek ourselves out too much, and we become a little insular." I was excited that I won [the Colorado Book Award], and I do think KOP Killer is noir mystery first and science fiction second. I was pleased the science-fiction elements weren't held against me."

The letter from the prisoner
I left this story largely unedited. What I found intriguing was how it reveals the thoughts of a man on his way to prison. The minutiae somehow seem appropriate, however mundanely trivial the content might usually be. It's no literary masterpiece, but it made me wonder what I would write if I were on the bus. Or, what about if it was the day before my execution?

The Bus to Nowhere
On this particular morning I woke up early. I knew I would be taking the Metro to my court appointment. My intention was to meet a reporter outside the courthouse. Today I would turn myself in to do a ten-moth stretch in the state jail. 
     I showered and dressed in clothes I had preselected the evening before. I proceeded to prepare breakfast for my wife, as I normally did. By 6:00am she was in the shower. Her radiance made up for the sun yet to rise. I finished my morning tasks, then entered the bathroom. I handed her my wedding ring and asked her to hold it for me until my return. We kissed goodbye. I exited the back door. I drew the gate open and walked down the alley, six blocks to the bus stop.
     Almost immediately, the bus approached. I sat my able body in a handicapped seat. Four older women occupied the seats behind and across from me. They were either on their way to work or returning. Either direction didn't matter. The years of domestic labor was recorded by the callous texture of their motherly hands. Housekeepers, maids, janitors, that mattered, neither. Their American dreams long ago swept away and disposed of. 
     A stop forward, another woman entered and took a seat. It must have been here that the importance of me and my day exited. 
     As one of the four departed, another waved gently, saying goodbye. "Until tomorrow." The exiter replied, "Si Diós quiere," meaning, "If God wills it." 
     The newest rider thumbed through her purse. She withdrew a few dollars--fifteen would be my estimate. Unnoticed, she passed it to the woman behind her. Obscured by the roar of the moving bus, she thanked the other woman. In response, the loaner said it wasn't necessary that she pay her all of it. The borrower looked up, commenting, "No, no, money only brings trouble." In her purse were a couple of other bundles with paper notes attached, as she had sorted these out the night before, her pending debts
     Onward rode these women with lives as routine as the bus they rode. So, too, of the other six or eight passengers. A bunch of nobodies? For, after all, everyone knows--on these seats, unreserved, no one rides the bus.  --fin--

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG., man of letters, and cartas, and spec stories, and author with the Spanish ch in his name