Saturday, October 04, 2014

Sasquan, and Milán with the accent

As a Chicano writer of fantasy and science fiction, in 2013 I was invited to participate on eight panels of the World Science Fiction Convention, also known as WorldCon, the biggest annual gathering for sci-fi/fantasy, including the prestigious Hugo Awards for best fantasy and sci-fi of the past year. I felt more overwhelmed by the number of panels than I felt honored, so I trimmed it down to five. You can read about my Con experience in the series Strange Chicano in a Stranger Con.

My panels were part of Lone Star Con's "Spanish Strand," the organizers' effort to diversify a normally very white-attended event. Honored to be involved in that, at the conference I turned out to be one of just a handful of Latino spec fans or writers. For WorldCon to improve Latinos', and other's, participation, I made a few recommendations in my report. Apparently, I should have made more, like, including some as special guests.        

The 2015 WorldCon, Sasquan, will be held in Spokane. According to their latest (Aug.) progress report, the line-up of guests of honor looks much like 2014 LondonCon and 2013 LoneStarCon, as well--a bunch of white people. You need to go back to 2011 for the last time a non-European, non-white person received such an invitation, Peruvian-born Boris Vallejo.

Vallejo invited because?
It's funny to see a Sasquan graphic of brown, green and purple aliens, wondering if that indicates a growing awareness of the need for the American sci-fi/fantasy too-white community to diversify itself more than it did at LoneStarCon. Or perhaps that was meant to be a one-time effort. Especially given that next year's con will be held in the Northwest, in a city named Spokane and for a con named Sasquan.

Spokane was named for a Salishan tribe, the Children of the Sun. Sasquatch, the Big Foot creature that's the take-off for the Con's title--was the original Halkomelem tribe's name for the creature. And here's a map of the tribes who were forcibly removed so that SF/F fans can enjoy next year's event without having to worry about "Indian raids" or paying anything to those tribes.

People like to say that I'm "frustrated" or "bitter" bringing up such history, so to pre-empt that, here's the short version. The city of Spokane's land wasn't settled in the 1800s; it had been lived on, in and with for thousands of years by Salish-speaking tribes, renamed the Flathead tribe. Beginning with the 1855 Hellgate (appropriate?) Treaty, the U.S. gov't, military, and illegal white squatters took over 20,000,000 acres of homelands, built railroads through their villages, forged signatures of their leaders and eventually ratified the "relocation" to the Jocko (Flathead) Reservation. The Salish practiced a belief in nonviolent resistance to meet the threats of bloodshed and starvation they faced if they didn't relocate. To keep tribes from exercising to at least hunt outside of the reservation, in 1908 the Swan Valley Massacre sealed the deal. Included in the desecration of a way of life were American heroes like U.S. Grant, James Garfield, and maybe some ancestors of those who'll attend Sasquan 2015.

Sherman Alexie, SF indio author
So, next year, instead of simply trying to diversify the Con's attendance as WorldCon did in San Antonio, organizers could consider INCLUSION of Native American SF/F authors as invited guests. Maybe Sherman Alexie, author of Flight will be available. If he's not, I don't doubt he could suggest other First Nations authors who've written spec lit. At the least, I could provide some names.

But I'm not done being "frustrated and bitter." Since the Con is on the West Coast, why don't organizers realize what was begun in LoneStarCon with the Spanish Strand should be continued by INCLUSION of Latino SF/F authors? Putting aside my own literary obscurity, there are many who could help increase Latino participation from populous California and the Northwest--for instance, Victor Milán or Junot Díaz (writing a new sci-fi) as Special Guests. Or how about some youth for Toastmaster, for a change, like Matt de la Peña or Amy Tintera? There are many more, but at the moment, none on the Con's agenda who would interest Latinos into attending. Chingau, what if they were interesting to Anglo attendees?

spec author Matt de la Peña
Here's two other points, adjusted, that I suggested to WorldCon organizers:
• If high school and college Latinos (add Native Americans) are desired, more day passes need to be made available to nearby communities. Attendance could turn significant and be a good investment where it is normally not available.
• Con organizers should allow for one very famous gringo author on every panel related to Latinos (add Native Americans) in order to attract sufficient, Anglo attendees. Small audiences for such issues can be interpreted as belittlement.

Amy Tinter SF novel
If you want to contact them, here's the word from Sasquan organizers: "Make Sasquan a truly unique convention. We're always looking for program suggestions. If you have any, drop by our Idea Forum. We'll be sending out invitations to be on programs, between this fall and next spring. Sasquan would like to hear from you if you're interested in being considered as a Program Panelist and/or Events Performer. Fill out our Panelist/Performer Volunteer form."

By the way, I hope Sasquan doesn't fall into minority-bloc mentality and use an Asian SF/F writer to fulfill a "quota." In 21st Century U.S., Asians are definitely in and easy, all over the screen and on the tube whenever the historically under-represented Others need to be assuaged. An Asian SF/F writer would be good diversity for WorldCon. What I've been talking about is INCLUSION of Latinos and Native Americans. They are different, even if not as accepted and respected.

To pre-empt another point, someone might suggest I volunteer to help diversify WorldCon's exclusion of us and the indios. Bastions of white privilege should fix themselves, not expect our free time and labor to divest themselves of what we point out to be exclusion-problems of their own making. I would help. As soon as WE saw more reasons for doing so. Like I did at LoneStarCon. And, if I have a new book coming out, as a Chicano spec writer I hope to attend Sasquan. I hope its program and speakers list gives me and others more reason than that for doing so.


The accent in Milán

I recently had an exchange with SF author Victor Milán where I pointed out that the accent in his last name didn't appear on the cover of his latest book, Dinosaur Lords. In La Bloga's Latino Spec Lit Directory, we hadn't established what he considered himself, but now that's settled. Here's how it went:

1st response: "Thanks, Rudy. Also thanks for including me in the Latino Spec Lit Directory. My father was puertorriqueño; I have considered (and characterized) myself as a Latino writer pretty much throughout my career. Also, thanks for reminding me about that accent mark...."
2nd response: "All done. Wrote to Editor Claire asking for the change. For them as don't know: that's not an affectation. Milán is my family name. It's not on my birth certificate, but they didn't do none o' that there furrin stuff in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1950s. But I've used it as my name pretty much everywhere the "ick" (as a long-ago lady friend amusingly termed it) was an option. Also, those who have followed my work know that Victor Milán is my professional name as well as my actual surname. And so appears on much if not most of my published writing.
"It shouldn't be hard to change. It's not as if it's incorporated into the swell painting or anything. And when the becomes a Bigassasaurus of a blockbuster movie, the accent's gonna be on my name in the credits, too. So there."
- Victor Milán

Es todo, hasta Sasquan(?),
RudyG, aka mestizo (part Latino, part-Native American) spec lit author Rudy Ch. Garcia

6 comments:

ERNEST HOGAN said...

What a long, extraño trip it's been . . . I remember my first WorldCon -- L.A., 1973 . . . it was like Woodstock indoors! Those were the Wild West days of fandom when you could hang with refugees from assorted countercultures in stairwells filled with stimulating smoke. Too bad, as sci-fi got spayed, neutered and otherwise made fix for consumption in the suburbs, fandom followed suit. They never got the whole mulitethnic global village thing, and the "World" was always a joke -- anything outside the English-speaking ghetto was always terra incognita. The last few WorldCons I've been to have dull affairs, reminding me of visiting a old friend in an intensive care unit. Can this subculture be saved? Can an infusion of fresh, Raza Cosmica blood help? Or will it be like Esetvanico leading an expedition to the headwaters of the Rio Grande, trying to razzle-dazzle the natives, only be killed and made into a new kachina?

Sandra Ramos O'Briant said...

Thanks, Rudy, you've been busy. Re. our conquering history here in the U.S., it's the human story. No race, region or religion is exempt. Denial is pervasive. Who's the worst? The English or the Spanish? The Muslims, the Jews (colluding w/the Romans), or the Christians (crusades)? Apparently, there are even violent Buddhists. Reading The Social Conquest of Earth. Author making a point that violence grew our brains, or our brains grew the violence.

Anonymous said...

Hogan, I never knew that! WorldCon use to be multicultural? Qué chingaus. Your portrayal and ICU metaphor are to the bone, Es. A new kachina? Algo de pensar.
Sandra, sí, the conquistadores did that, of all nationalities. But none of them were Chicano. We're fruit of the conquest, like the indios and the blacks. In that sense, we're not all equal. Glad you like my busy piece.

ERNEST HOGAN said...

I probably need to clarify on WorldCon -- and fandom's -- multiculturalism. Yeah, it was, though it was predominantly white. But the whole spec fic scene back then was cluster of strange little minority groups: people who read sf magazine & books, people who liked weird movies, comic books, the Haight-Ashbury crowd brought in underground comix (and other things). Pulp magazines had a whole culture of their own. You could talk to people who dropped acid, firewalked in the South Seas, worked on B-movies, and for "porno" paperback publishers. Back when Bill Crawford's Fantasy Faire was called the Witchcraft & Sorcery Convention, there were some really interesting people. Trekkies were a funny new thing that grew like sci-fi monster. After Star Wars it all exploded, but was mostly kids who spent their entire lives in the suburbs watching television. And these days, books are becoming rare. Now "science fiction" is for "nerds" and consists of franchises cooked up by corporations. Damn. It makes me want to go out and do something totally outrageous . . .

Anonymous said...

"...Damn. It makes me want to go out and do something totally outrageous . . .'

Like write, Ernie, like write. That's our true defense (outside of a few well-placed chingasos), and our totally outrageous outlet.

Low Writer

ERNEST HOGAN said...

Oh, so that's why I do all this . . .