Thursday, March 01, 2012

Chicanonautica: Cortez on Jupiter, Hogan vs. Nueva York

by Ernest Hogan

At long last, it’s here. My first novel, Cortez on Jupiter is once again available, this time as an ebook. You can get it for Kindle through Amazon, and other formats through Smashwords for just $.99!

And -- for a limited time, so do it now -- if you use the coupon code LH74B when ordering it from Smashwords, the price will be knocked down to $.00! So get it now, write a review, discuss, and otherwise get the buzz going.

It’s the historic first science fiction novel by a writer who calls himself a Chicano, and the first science fiction novel that “treats its Chicano protagonist the way a Chicano would write it,” as it was said here at La Bloga.

How Cortez on Jupiter got published and why it’s been hard to find is an interesting story. When I pitched it to Ben Bova for his Discoveries series, I concentrated on the science fiction elements. I wanted to write and publish a Chicano science fiction novel, but it was 1989, and I knew that suggesting such a thing would result in a quick, but polite, rejection. It wasn’t any kind of racial/cultural bias, everybody in Nueva York back then just knew that sci-fi was white people stuff.

I wasn’t trying to pass for white, but thanks to my name (seems none of these folks had heard of Ernest Hogan, Father of Ragtime) they figured I was a white guy who wasn’t afraid to write about minorities even though, “they get offended, you know.” They even asked if I would be willing to use a “slightly Hispanic” pseudonym.

Once they found out about my Chicanohood, the Nueva York publishing folks tended to act differently. Suddenly, they weren’t as relaxed, seemed to be careful about what they said to me (and in front of me).

When Cortez on Jupiter came out to great reviews -- including one in Locus that compared it to Neuromancer, I was told that it wasn’t selling well. It was merely a “success d’esprit.”

When High Aztech was published, it did not get any kind of push. There was no text about it in the ad in Locus. I kept hearing from people who had to call Tor and cuss them out to get review copies.

After my picture appeared in Science Fiction Age, I couldn’t sell anything anywhere for a few years.

They kept saying I wasn’t “commercial.” That was the same reasoning that the folks at Roc used when the black heroine of my wife’s novel, Larissa, appeared as a white girl on the cover. Marketing geniuses just knew that sci-fi was white bread.

Still, I kept hearing from people who loved Cortez on Jupiter. Even when it was out of print, it got good reviews, and mentions.

Now, Nueva York publishing is dying. The marketing geniuses don’t know what to do in the face of the Ebook Revolution. Which suits me just fine. Me and Nueva York never got along so good, anyway. I tend to appear in weird, far-flung markets, always keeping one foot in the underground, so I’ll have a place to stand.

Hopefully, this new kind of publishing will give Cortez on Jupiter the wider audience it always deserved, pointing the way from the barrio to the stars, and claiming the galaxy as El Barrio Nuevo.

And I look forward to telling the younger generation how loco things were in these primitive times.

Ernest Hogan plans on publishing three more ebooks in 2012.


Manuel Ramos said...

Man, so much of your story is familiar. The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz was published in 1993, a few years after Cortez - but I experienced some of the same attitude of NY publishers that you describe. Things have changed (?)


If things haven't changed -- we have to work on it!

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