by Ernest Hogan
At last, Alien Contact is available! No, I’m not starting a new sideline as a coyote/pimp. Alien Contact is the science fiction anthology edited by Marty Halpern with some great stories of encounters with aliens, including my story, “Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song.” Though, I know the word “alien” has a different meaning for the La Bloga audience.
It reminds me of when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Sedona, over twenty years ago . . . we overheard some people at the next table talking about how “you run into more aliens in Arizona than anywhere else.” Turns out they had just returned from a UFO conference in the Caribbean.
“Guerrilla Mural” is one of my earliest Chicano science fiction stories. It was the germ of my first novel Cortez on Jupiter, and set the tone for my writing career. Once I started down that path, there was no turning back.
Not long ago, Rudy Garcia asked me if I knew of any other Chicanos who had published science fiction about Chicanos. I couldn’t come up with any. Could I be the only sci-fi Chicano who keeps getting published? How could that happen?
There have been others who wanted to write this crazy stuff. I’ve met them, encouraged them, but they haven’t been in touch. And even Oscar Zeta Acosta in Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo said, “Maybe I’ll write science fiction.”
After all, like I keep saying, Chicano is a science fiction state of being.
But I must admit, it’s not a great career move. It hasn’t earned me much cash, and I still need a day job. I can understand how that would discourage most reasonable people, but I can’t help myself -- it’s like an addiction.
Because of my Irish surname, and what my grandmother called my “paddy” accent that developed when my parents moved us out of East L.A. to West Covina, people in the publishing world assumed I was an Anglo who had a lot of guts to write about minorities. “They get offended, you know,” I was told. I was also asked if I would be willing to use a “slightly Hispanic” pseudonym.
I had been publishing under the name Ernest Hogan already. Besides, I like the name, it has a good sound. And if it was good enough for the Father of Ragtime, it’s good enough for me.
There are a lot folks whose faces I would have loved to have seen when they found out I was a “minority.”
And to this day, I don’t know if it had anything to do with New York deciding that nothing I did was “commercial” enough for them. After all, this was the time when formulaic “military” space operas with no pesky weirdo ideas were thought to be what the postmodern sci-fi consumer wanted. I kept expecting to see books labeled 100% IDEA FREE.
I supposed I could have not written about Chicanos, kept my ancestry, skin color, and upbringing out of my work, and cranked out a forgettable novel for every trend that the publishers were convinced the readers wanted, but that’s not my style. Besides the writers who did that aren’t much better off financially than I am at this point in the Publishing Apocalypse.
I could have also forgotten about all the futurismo and wrote “mainstream” ethnic literature. Ah, the collection of rejection slips I have from courting the mainstream! And the ethnic agendas sometimes have problems with my quirky view of reality. I’m often told that my slices-of-life read like science fiction.
Maybe that’s why I have an easier time selling to science fiction magazines than literary journals.
I couldn’t be the only one who was disappointed that Acosta’s Revolt of the Cockroach People wasn’t a science fiction novel.
Ernest Hogan was born in East L.A., lives in Arizona, and has often wondered if he is on this planet legally.