Saturday, March 07, 2015

Latino spec lit get noticed, but how well understood?

--> Maybe I should be excited, but I'm not as much as I could be. I noted that last year, U.S. scientist, sci-fi guru David Brin--winner of maybe every sci-fi lit award there is--commented on one of my 2014 La Bloga articles. 

To explain my tepid excitement, it would help to first read what Brin called, my "informative, wrangling" article, Latino Sci-Fi Society? Charla 1. Here are some of the points I raised:

1. I used the word "Hispanic" only once, in referring to the Carl Brandon Society's reading list for "Hispanic Heritage," as they termed it. Many U.S. Latinos don't use this Census Bureau term, since it emphasizes the European conquistadores, while downplaying our indigenous roots. Hispanic is Spain, Spanish, Euro, not our predominant half, nor necessarily most characteristic.

2. The La Bloga article posited--posed the possibility--of a sci-fi/fantasy Latino spec lit group being formed one day. Would that be a positive development? I answered: "My initial reaction is, maybe not."
Later in the article, I clarified the type of group that would better reflect lessons from history:

Chicano spec by Star Trek director
"Bottom line, this suggests a latino-initiated organization that from the onset actively intends to fill a vacancy 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."

"Latinos of any label should be encouraged to join or participate in any manner they want and can. 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?"

Thus, my emphasis was that an exclusively Latino spec group might be a stage we see develop, but it would be significantly better if it grew beyond that.

3. I mentioned one non-USican Latino, philosopher Santayana, and identified him as Spanish-American, because most of us consider him part of another culture. We're not sensitive; we're just culturally aware of Cervantes being a Spaniard, and Marquez being latinoamericano, however influential their writing legacy. Dumping every Spanish-surnamed together is not a melting pot most of us enjoy jumpig into.

4. I suggested that older writers who came out of the 60s political movements had an obligation to younger spec authors like Matt de la Peña and Amy Tintera, to mention only two. This point as well as others were intended to begin a conversation among interested writers, which is why the article was subtitled Charla 1, a word I defined. The article was not composed as a how-to, wise advice that should be followed. It proposed a conversation, democratic discussion that I thought should be initiated.

5. My article had a title and was signed, not that I would sue for lack of an attribution.

Maybe my favorite novel by Brin
Brin's piece, Science Fiction: the literary stuff - Hugos and China and a Latin Beat!, congratulated the Hugo Award nominees and went on to comment on 2014 publications. Here are his comments that mentioned La Bloga and me:


"In another welcome endeavor, there are moves to form a support group for Latino sci-fi writers. We should all enthusiastically back any endeavors that will draw more bright writers from the cultural background of Cervantes and Marquez! Not only will we benefit from horizon-expanding insight and art (and social criticism!), but there are so many parts of the world that will reciprocally benefit from the greatest gift of all… more science fiction!

"The posting at La Bloga is informative. Alas, it wrangled much too much about the politics of such a support org and speaks far too little about positive goals. Like how to get sci-fi excitement to latino youth and students. How to encourage the feed stock of sci-fi thinking so that more young writers emerge ... and how to spread the memes of future, change and exploration back into the grand Hispanic culture whose vibrancy is already a marvel to the world."

Classic USican Latino SF
I noted that no USican Latinos were included in the "grand culture." Having our identities subsumed seems to be a zit we can't get off our brown face. There are many USican Latino spec authors reflecting our literary culture.

I'm also uncertain about Brin's characterization of, "the greatest gift of all… more science fiction!" This country's speculative literature needs Latino writings in the same way it needs no more Fergusons. White privilege needs to be dumped as much as slave ownership needed outlawing. One White Guy to Save the World needs to be dumped. Yesterday. We need better science fiction, certainly not just more.

Inclusive Chicano SF
Our society needs "more" science fiction that's inclusive. I'm uncertain how Sr. Brin fully understands or completely accepts that. He states "Science Fiction [has] an absurd reputation for being "dominated by old white guys" [my emphasis], while at the same time admitting that "any field will exhibit noxious old habits that need cleansing or at least interrogation." I don't understand how SF can be "cleansed or interrogated," if the domination by old white guys is just considered "an absurd reputation." Perhaps another old white guy can explain the logic to me.

YA spec someone should recommend
Brin commented that I didn't propose more ideas on "how to get sci-fi excitement to latino youth and students, how to encourage the feed stock of sci-fi thinking so that more young writers emerge..."

My first suggestion would be for famous Anglo authors to examine the exclusivity of their suggested reading lists, e.g., Brin's "recommended reading list for Young Adults interested in Science Fiction." Kids relying on Brin's status might wonder why no Latino YA novels made the list. [I'd advise consulting with Larry Correia before using him to fill any Latino quota; he might resent that.]
In many respects, Brin's article is supportive and laudatory of Latino spec lit, so much so, that I got this strange sensation of Noble Literary Savage that may just be my hang-up. So let's ignore that.

As always, La Bloga would provide Mr. Brin, and others, space here to respond or comment. I'll forward this post in hopes that he uses it in one of his future articles, not only to clarify whatever he thinks I might have misrepresented, but to use his platforms to advance the "cleansing and interrogation" he agrees should be done. Who better to do that than a famous influential author who doesn't feel he's part of the "dominating old white guys?"

Es todo, hoy, of my "wrangling."
RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano spec-lit author Rudy Ch. Garcia



Early on I noticed that Western Civilization wasn't comfortable with me doing what I do. A Chicano wouldn't be allowed to write the Great American Novel. I had trouble proving my existence until the last few years -- and La Bloga had a lot to do with that. I was recently called "dadaistic," which in a lot of ways is true. To Americanos, I'm an anti-artist, and my visions threaten their world. I'm a bit of a savage, I don't know if I'm noble I am. The rumors of cannibalism and human sacrifice have been greatly exaggerated. I keep doing it anyway. I can't help it.

Anonymous said...

Check that, Nesto.

Jha said...

Somehow folks seem to fail to recognize that "wrangling with the politics" is an important task in order to properly determine how to approach more concrete goals.

Also, "get more [ethnic group] teens excited about scifi" isn't really that much more concrete a goal.

Anonymous said...

You got it, Jha. Continue the good (and the better, whatever that will be) fight.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post! Two immediate thoughts: Agree Spanish-American ≠ Latinoamericano/a and Latinoamericano/a ≠ Spanish-American (context: Angla who lived in Spain for 10 months as a kid and has lived in NorCal, SoCal, & Tucson for approaching 2 decades.)

White cis straight priviliged people like myself should really, really take a break from criticizing other people's tone when other people talk about themselves, their feelings, their experiences, etc. - CW