by Ernest Hogan
When I first heard about Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction edited by Isaih Lavender III, I was interested. Then I found out that one of the essays was about my novel High Aztech, I figured I had to read it. Then I saw that it cost sixty bucks . . .
I figured it could wait.
Then, Matthew Goodwin, editor of the forthcoming Latino/a Rising anthology offered to scan and send me not only the essay about my book, but another that he wrote himself. And they say that the social media is waste of time!
In his essay, “Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor” Goodwin proves that he knows what's going on in the wide-ranging, multimedia field of Latino/a speculative ficion in a discussion of three works: “Reaching the Shore” (1994) a short story by Guillermo Lavin, El Naftazteca: Pirate Cyber-TV for A.D. 2000 (1994) a satellite television event by Guillermo Gómez-Peña (outtakes of it can be seen online), and Sleep Dealer (2008), the powerful film by Alex Rivera. Goodwin points out that The dystopian problems depicted in these narratives are not future fantasies but present-day realities and: The beauty of these artworks is that they imagine highly creative protagonists who use virtual reality for their own purposes and find some way to change reality.
Those things could also be said about my works.
In her “Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan's High Aztech” Lysa M. Rivera not only discusses my work, but gets it:
Reminiscent of Oscar Zeta Acosta's Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (1972) as well as Stephenson's Snow Crash, High Aztech is pure Chicano cyberpunk.
But what is Chicano cyberpunk?
At once an aesthetic and a survival mechanism, rasquache comes closest to describing Chicano/a cyberpunk production, which also transforms a found object (in this case, classic cyberpunk) by repurposing it to speak for a cultural underdog . . .
Creative protagonists again, changing reality!
High Aztech can be read as a science fictionalization of Vasconcelos's theories of mestizaje.
Yeah, I'm a proud mestizo, believer in mongrel power, and consider impurity a good thing. I consider myself to be a member of La Raza Cosmica, the race that encompasses all other races. I tried to express this in High Aztech.
As a Chicanafuturist text, then, High Aztech not only explores the effects of technology on people of color but also imagines alternatives to those impacts.
Protesting isn't enough. And I don't see – as some of my peers in decades past did – technology as the tool of the oppressors. Grab the tools, use them to build your world.
Hogan's text functions as a Chicanafuturist narrative not simiply because it is SF written by a Chicano but more specifically because it adopts a critical stance similar to an Afrofuturist.
I was doing postcyberpunk back when cyberpunk was just beginning. Afrofuturists have told me that High Aztech influenced them.
For Hogan and others like him, the motifs and metaphors of SF are best suited to counterdiscource, not escapist literature.
Escapsim is not enough. Contemporary, corporate-generated sci-fi tends to create escapist modules for oppressed consumers to retreat into. In books like High Aztech I hope to give people ideas as to how they can change their assigned realities.
Learning to survive in heterotopia requires a new way of being in the world, and what better genre is there than SF to make this happen?
Heterotopia means the modern, urban multi/recombocultural environment, NOT a utopia based on the philosophy of Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine . . . you really do need to exist in new ways there. And like I've said, Chicano is a science fiction state of being.
And a friend has offered to buy a copy of Black and Brown Planets for me. I will review it here.
The world may once again be in turmoil, but I'm feeling great, ready to take it on!