Thursday, August 07, 2014

Chicanonautica: How I Became One of the Most Successful Chicano Writers of My Generation

A while back, the subject of why there aren’t more Latino science fiction/speculative ficton/fantasy writers came up, and I don’t think we found a clear reason. It’s probably the same reason that we don’t see more Latino writers in general -- it’s usually not profitable, and we tend to end up doing other things just to survive. My father wrote, even published a few articles, but he had to work, keeping Flying Tiger Airlines’ planes flying to get the money to support his family. I imagine all Latino families have stories like that.

Another reason is that being a writer is something you are doomed to, like bearing the Mark of the Beast. I disagree with the cottage industry that claims anyone can be a writer if you just take their classes, go to their seminars and workshops, follow their rules and instructions. I don’t think that everyone should be a writer any more than we should all be bullfighters or astronauts. You gotta have the right stuff, cabrónes! 

My idea of mentoring an aspiring writer is to say, “Okay! You wanna be a writer? Be a writer! Go do it!” Some of them do. Others need more help from me. If you need more help from me, you don’t have it. I feel like an old junkie listing to young hipsters saying, “I really want to get hooked, but I keep forgetting to take my shots . . .”

Encouraging people to be become writers is like helping them to become drug addicts -- a sort of Twelve-Step program in reverse.

I ended up a writer because I couldn’t quit. At age thirteen, I published a few letters in comic books, and I was hooked. From my typewriter to the world! What a thrill!

Lately I realize that I’m one of the most successful Chicano writers of my generation. If we narrow it down to science fiction, I’m number one! 

It’s a cheap thrill I chuckle at as I work at my day job.

If I hadn’t had that taste of publication, I probably would have just done my creative stuff in private, like most Latinos. I ain’t no humble campesino toiling away in dignified anonymity -- if too long goes by without my being published, I get really depressed. And without thinking about it, I’m scanning for opportunities.

And I feel bad about my unpublished novels and stories.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, my career has a life of its own. It does things out in the world without my supervision. And these days, I spend more time managing it than writing.

And to think, once I believed I was a failure, after not being published in Nueva York, and only getting into print a few times a year (and not making much dinero at it). I got a full time job and slowed down -- or at least thought I was slowing down. Turns out I kept on publishing at the same rate as when I was knocking myself out.
Also, it turned out that people actually read my novels and the weird, obscure magazines where my stories appeared. Some of them went on to become editors and publishers.

Now I’m working with a newfangled publisher in San Francisco, getting my novels ready for rerelease, and putting together a collection my short fiction.

All because I didn’t, and couldn’t, give up.

Still, I wish I was writing new stuff more of the time.

Ernest Hogan is going to have a lot of news to report in the upcoming months. Stay tuned here and to Mondo Ernesto.


Anonymous said...

I don't know that you're the "most successful," but you might be getting there. Okay, I said it.
But your stories/novels are damn sure worth reading. Mostly. There, I said it.
Good post, dude; didn't notice any typos.
Now, drop that managing BS and shred your own envelope. That's what I'd like to see.
RudyG, sort of an AWA


My definition of "success" has been changing, especially when I find out about how a lot writers that I though were well-off are struggling. I did qualify it with "one of" in the title. And the lack of typos may be because I'm in proofreading mode lately - I just got a copyedited version of Cortez on Jupiter that I have to go over. One of the reason I've got to do all this managing is because I have a large body of work, and it is getting published - there's a lot to be done. It would be nice if it paid more and faster, but I've learned that these things take time.

Eileen Gunn said...

There are many different kinds of writing success -- financial, artistic, celebrity-ish, etc. -- but the success of sticking with it, at whatever pace you can manage, is the one that is most in a writer's control and most indicative of character. Congratulations, Ernest, on your perseverance and your artistic success. I hope your new publisher takes you to a wider audience and brings in some financial rewards as well. - Best, Eileen


Thank you, Eileen. I keep being reminded of how lucky I am. And how subborn, too.