by Ernest Hogan
The U.S./ Mexican border is like a one-way mirror. Latin America sees in, Norteamericanos can't see out, or if we do, it's clouded and distorted. It certainly is the case with science fiction. I've always been impressed with how they know about what's going on up here, our history, and writers, and we aren't even sure if their writers exist.
Yeah, it's a language barrier. A lot of "them" read English. Americans would rather learn Klingon than Spanish.
I try to bridge the gap, even though I'm a pocho, with a relationship to Spanish like a reattached limb with nerve damage. I'm curious about what other people are doing. It's also fascinating.
Like Costa Rican Luis Chacón Ortiz's recent novel Cuidad Radiante. I read it in Spanish, and found the Span¡shD!ct app helpful – it brings up those verbs the way a print dictionary can't, and for the really hard words, it allows you to search the Web.
The book's epigrams are from Thomas de Quincey, Philip K. Dick, and China Mieville, all in English.
And Apple, Coca Cola, LED, Facebook, GPS, McDonalds, Internet, etc., etc., etc., need no translation, Techlish being the new universal language.
Cuidad Radiante reminds me of the experimental writing of the “new wave” period of speculative fiction, the kind we don't see from New York-centric/corporate-fueled publishing anymore. There's multiple streams of consciousness, that they say confuses the readers, even though a lot of them experience such thing every day on social media. It gives the book a very modern feel, like the surfing the edge of now into the emerging future.
It's all about L30 (I'm not sure how it should be pronounced, El Treinta? El Thirty?) a new media delivery system that goes inside your body. And it becomes more like a drug with new developments. Quite the postcyberpunk concept, there. Beyond the street finding its own uses for technology, is cyberspace the new street?
What street are we on anyway? Where does it go?
We should be concerned, but here in America, we're too busy entertaining ourselves 24/7. In one generation – maybe less now, things keep speeding up – an innovation is seen as a natural phenomenon. I saw television as an essential part of my environment. Kids today see the Internet that way. New, civilization-altering technologies are downloaded, and injected before you have a chance to think about it. Technological innovations are seen a new products. Groovy! Order yours now! You don't want people to think you're uncool, do you?
I think we need books like Ciuadad Radiante to make us stop and think, and maybe to have a bit of say in the brave new worlds we're going to end up living in before we know it. Once upon a time, spec fic used to do things like that.
The New York nerd franchises aren't going to make them available. They're too busy trying to sell mind-numbing “entertainment” to cover their fantastic overhead.
We need writers like Luis Chacón Ortiz, from places like Costa Rica.
We need to break that one-way mirror.
ErnestHogan struggles with new technologies; sometimes it becomes books like High Aztech and Cortez on Jupiter.