by Ernest Hogan
The one-hour hop from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Ontario International Airport is always sci-fi. The landscape from Arizona to California is mostly naked desert with scattered signs of civilization, like a colonized Mars. Could my character, Paco Cohen, Mariachi of Mars, be down there? I really have to finish that novel . . .
The fabled Santa Ana winds were kicking up dust storms around the airport as we landed. Didn’t I just leave Arizona? Later I heard that the wind flipped a big-rig truck on the freeway.
Suddenly, I was in the Mission Inn in Riverside, a Mexicorama-looking hotel consisting of improvisations on Spanish colonial roots. It’s a cluster of ornate bell towers, festooned with flowers, ancient Mexican cannons, and squawking caged parrots. There are also supposed to be ghosts. I felt like I was in steampunk alternate universe, waiting for the next Zeppelin to Tenochtitlán.
All for a Day of Latino Science Fiction.
The hotel had cable, which I’ve been unplugged from for a few years. I channel surfed for signs of Nueva California Latina. The news looked like it was from another world -- Planet L.A. -- of and about Hollywood androids -- a lot of them still bleach-blondes, but more leaning toward a white-washed version of the Post-Racial America delusion. They reported the NBA firing Donald Sterling for racist comments as if it were a moon landing.
Reality is hard to grasp in California -- often folks have to settle for some kind of kinky sci-fi.
I was relieved when Rudy Ch. Garcia called. He and Mario Acevedo were in a bar down the street. Soon the cerveza and nachos rituals were running full blast, especially when Michael Sedano joined us. That, along with the breakfast the next morning with Jesús Treviño got us loosened up and ready for the panels.
The University of California Riverside is the fifth most diverse campus in the U.S.A. Lots of Latinos, blacks, Asians. This was the Nueva California I was expecting. The audience for the panels were just as diverse. They were also lively and responsive.
On young woman asked if there are any traditions for writing Latino science fiction. I told her that no, it was all too new. It’s up to you to create Latino science fiction, kids.
Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita, authors of Lunar Braceros 2125-2148 joined us, saving this from looking like an all-boys club. Once again, I’d love to hear from Latinas who are writing science fiction, fantasy, or just far-out fantastico stuff.
I met science fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson, and fellow Mothership:Tales from Afrofutuism and Beyond author Jaymee Goh, and had her sign my copy.
In the afternoon the subject was shifted to media in honor of Jesús Treviño donating his annotated scripts for episodes of Star Trek and Babylon 5 he directed to the university.
As with writing, Latino science fiction in the media is just beginning.
Trailers for two the web mini-series Lost Angeles Ward and Generation Last showed racial conflict in futuristic context and an ecological apocalypse that was shot in Mexico. Both took issues on directly rather than created escapist fantasies.
One difference between Anglo and Latino science fiction is that making it to the future is something that can’t be ignored. The future isn’t a given, it will have to be fought for. And if you don’t fight for it, you might not get there.
Science fiction can be a strategy for survival. When the going gets tough, release that incredible rasquache/mestizo imagination.
Even silly mid-century movies like Santo Contra Los Marcianos and El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras are about surviving in the Atomic Age. How are we going to survive in the Information Age?
A grad student mentioned “future-oriented cognitive estrangement” when dropped into a strange, new reality. We need more visions of more futures. That’s futures, plural. Let the Others in, see from their points-of-view.
Latino science fiction can lead us to this -- and beyond.
Yeah, this one-day event was more productive than a lot of three-day conventions that I’ve been to.
And it was well worth revisiting California, that is still like a surreal, artificial construct designed by Frank Zappa and Philip K. Dick, though now Tezcatlipoca seems to be directing.