Latino Sci-Fi Society? Charla 1
The La Bloga list of book authors in speculative lit is in the process of updating. Here's the latest, with more to come. We've gotten suggestions from many people and groups, including members of the Carl Brandon Society, a group of black spec authors. Eventually, the influx of more published books in these genres will bring up a question, even possibly this year at latino lit conferences:
Should latinos form their own Spec lit group, like black authors have with the Carl Brandon Society or The Black Science Fiction Society?
Should latino authors follow the pattern from the 60s, when Black Student Alliances and UMAS and MECHA student groups multiplied on campuses to join forces and advance and advocate their "special" interests?
My initial reaction is, "Maybe not." Por qué no? What's the matter con me, some might ask.
Latino spec authors as young as Amy Tintera and Matt de la Peña may not know, but viejos like Rudy Anaya and Armando Rendón haven't forgotten how the Chicano Movimiento developed. I won't go into it much, but it's worth studying. To remember the past so we're not condemned to repeat it, as Spanish-American George Santayana advised.
[Mi aviso: these thoughts are mine alone, though I've learned from other authors. They are not set in stone; I could be turned other directions. Nor are they THE best ideas. Those can only come out of a charla, a straightforward, modest conversation. Something that Chicano history teaches us is not necessarily fácil to achieve. And the collective dynamic of latino authorship, however well guided, can't be controlled. A hundred flowers might blossom, with some wilting into weeds.]
There are natural societal pressures on latin spec authors. Those wanting to become successful in U.S. markets could join the very influential Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). SFWA, largely white-male dominated from its inception, repeatedly goes through convulsions of privilege, attempting to recruit, absorb and appeal to women and non-Anglos into a more equitable, multicultural organization. That continues today. I can't speak to how well they appeal or respond to latinos. Based on Internet chatter and info, I await the time when they have a better understanding of themselves. At the bottom are some links describing recent turmoil in SFWA.
Should Latinos join CBS? - Latino spec authors have joined the Carl Brandon Society. Its mission is "to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction." From what I could discern, their awards and recommendations for published books do not seem to include any latinos; their Hispanic Heritage reading list might only list one U.S. latino. All of which may reflect low latino membership, or that few latinos have been nominated. Despite this, latinos could/might still join CBS. As an author, I'm in contact with them. There may other groups worth investigating.
The Chicano student and community organizations springing up in the 60s & 70s spread across the Southwest like prairie wildfires ignited by a lightning storm of nationalist self-identity and pure piss-offedness. Ya basta! Somos Chicanos! Viva Che y Zapata! It was exhilarating, dismal, chingón, scary and incredibly successful. La Revolución didn't arrive, but not all embers were tempered. What I describe happened with others, the mexicanos, the puertoriqueños, and similar lessons may apply from there. I use the Chicano Movement in this article, since I know most about it. Those movements had weaknesses, some cultural, some fatal.
An English alternative to caudillismo would be bossism, where one or a handful of leaders made decisions for their followers, with democratic input and voting, at times, severely absent. Our version had/has its cultural roots in feudal Spain, with an added indigenous spice of picante. Leaders competed for press, followers, money and reputation. Bodyguards, "muscle," beatings, shootings and other macho misbehavior sometimes followed. May our respect for revered latino authors never fall into that. Those aspiring to caudillo roles in latino lit are easily recognizable. Qué no? So, maybe this lesson has been learned.
If you don't know the stories, read Chicano History, assuming your state hasn't outlawed it and banned the texts. Few Chicano Movement groups genuinely allowed women's democratic participation and fewer deliberately developed women as leaders. I'm proud that the UMAS I belonged to trained and elected two female to be presidents of the group. This lesson seems to have been better learned, though more is needed.
What is undetermined is the portrayal of women in latino spec. From Reyes Cardenas's book cover to Junot Díaz's macho characters, I guess this will long remain the most contentious and possibly divisive questions. On one side is verisimilitude, free speech and poetic license and men's genetic flaw of being attracted by--well, you know. On the other, is the desexualizing, demystifying and respecting women as people first; plus there's more. As you can read below, the decades-old SFWA hasn't solved this among its membership. For a latino sci-fi society to not die at its inception, un chigón/chingona of a path about equality would need to be laid.
Nationalism may not be far-reaching and long lasting
Chicanismo, latinismo as an identity is correct within its own definition. What you describe yourselves, you are. Cultural nationalism when practiced by a group can also be great, however short and limited its lifespan. If a Chicano sci-fi society begins tomorrow, bet that its name alone will not appeal to the puertoriqueños. And what about the mexicanos, U.S. citizens and residents though they may be? Latino may not be the ultimate term, but one in that vein would work better if the group aimed beyond national identities.
The fact that Amy Tintera and Matt de la Peña have an agent and grossly better sales than some old latinos, doesn't mean los ancianos have no obligation to those younger. Envidia has no place in a flowering of literature, anymore than it did in the Chicano Movimiento's political wildfires, and leads to stagnation that serves no writer.
To some extent, the Chicano youth and college movements were suffocated by the older generations. The young rivaled the power of the caudillos. Threats, shootings, beatings, political maneuverings--these and more secured the old-people status quo. Bits of that dynamic may be what periodically erupts in SFWA.
In a sense, some of the raza youth were forced out, driven to seek guidance elsewhere--in the writings of Mao and Che, for instance. Eventually the young latinos mellowed, partly from the frustration of fewer successes and declining memberships.
Many established latino writers mentor younger writers, individually or through various writers' workshops. A latino spec society would need to expand on that work.
Expand it also into the public schools where our future Mario Acevedos and are dying to be discovered, guided, nurtured and applauded. Teachers go it alone every day in public schools, and any new lit society should buttress that work with its expertise. You would not believe how many teachers--latinos and otherwise--are crying to know how to teach fiction to little brown kids.
Such a group has no limits. It is a new mutant species that has never existed before. Assuming we avoid the major weakness of the Chicano, Puerto Rican, mexicanos, dominicano movements of the 60s-70s, we can make as many mistakes as needed. As alien as the gaseous creatures of Cortez on Jupiter, as innocent as freshman Chicano, latinos entering college in the late 60s.
Obviously, latinos of any label should be encouraged to join or participate in any manner they want and can. (Latinos who don't "advertise" their ethnicity nor write latino characters might prefer "observer" status.) Just as obviously, non-latino authors who support the aims and "atmosphere" of the group should be recruited, not simply allowed to participate. How else to build a strong base, if not with the participation of people-of-letters like Ilan Stavans?
Bottom line, this suggests a latino-initiated organization that from the onset actively intends to eventually fill a vacancy. That of a multinational, necessarily progressively oriented (anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-bullying of any nature) group. Why not? We are not required to go back to 1968-Go and only create a nationalist-rooted group.
Could latino authors benefit from working non-latinos who have experience, agents, connections and anthologies they're producing? Could non-latinos' art benefit from professional contact with latinos and become more inclusive to reflect U.S. society's peoples, increasing their audience? Could I learn anything from Sherman Alexie? Would you enjoying mentorship from a progressive Hugo, Nebula or Bram Stoker award winner? Even if they weren't latino.
If not now, when?
These are a few questions relating to the eventual establishment of some type of latino spec group. Mine are not the only possible answers, however much thought I've given to this and related matters.
|Author Guadalupe Garcia-McCall|
Nor are they a proposal to be presented at a conference. As the title states, they may be useful in helping to begin a discussion, in many places. Una charla.
Do leave comments here, but more, take the topics and begin the discussion with others.
[Samplings of the SFWA "debates" are here and here and here. And here's Silvia Moreno-Garcia's excellent take on criticisms one woman received about her attire, if you can believe!]
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Es suficiente, hoy,
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