Thursday, October 13, 2016

Chicanonautica: Steal This Civilization

by Ernest Hogan

Is this the right time to bring this up? Why not? Maybe after the election will be too late . . . Anyway, I was answering some questions for some publicity I'll be doing with The Future Fire soon, when my coining the term recomboculture came up.

It was a long time ago, the early nineties. Cortez on Jupiter had come out, and I had published stories in Science Fiction Age. I was also finishing up HighAztech – check the intro to the Españahuatl glossary:

Adventurous readers should not refer to the glossary until after reading the novel, and take advantage of a chance to practice learning new words from context while exploring a new environment—a skill we’ll all need more and more as we enter the recombocultural twenty-​first century. —E.H.

Some people thought I was going too far with that . . .

I started talking about recomboculture (recombo as in recombinant DNA), because just about every time I was mentioned, the word multicultural was used to describe me. I agreed, but in the sense that Ishmael Reed used it in his essay, “The Multi-Cultural Artist” (note the hyphen), in which he described a trend of artists' bringing together elements from more than one culture in their work. I could dig it. Hell, I was it.

Then colleges started going crazy for political correctness, and multiculturalism soon meant bringing representatives from “other” cultures into an official forum using only bureaucratic language that was designed not to “offend” anybody, and by the way, none of this using things from anybody's culture but your own – that's cultural appropriation, they say.

What's a New Mexico Irish Chicano to do?

Also, here in Arizona, when I would start talking about what I was doing, right wing/libertarian science fiction fans would start screaming “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS!”

The term recomboculturism hasn't taken off, but I've learned that sometimes these things take a few decades.

And some folks read my work and assume that I'm a Chicano nationalist rather than a recombozoid.

I see the Chicano tradition, with its mestizaje and rasquache, as recomboculure. We tend to mix things from various cultures in ways that perplex monoculturalistas. I do it without thinking. It's just the way I am.

This tends to make people with rigid political agendas nervous. Creating Frankenstein monsters of assorted worlds does get close to the dreaded cultural appropriation. But to be honest, all cultures are appropriated. Think you're pure? Look back a few generations . . .

Also, the Aztec were master culture appropriators.

I keep dreaming of Wild West/mestizaje/rasquache/recombocultural free-fire zones where the civilizations of the future will be born. Ain't nobody gonna stop me, either.

Besides, for all we know there may be some intergalactic conquistadors closing in on our solar system, ready to appropriate us right now.

Ernest Hogan, of New Mexico Irish descent, is the result of recomboculture rather than its originator.

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