Saturday, September 18, 2010

Winning Cortez on Jupiter

[As always, winners of book give-aways on La Bloga are invited to submit guest posts, including reviews of the book they won. Below is a submission from one of the winners of an Ernest Hogan book. – La Bloga]

Over the years, I have become a fan of Ernesto's work and was disappointed to find out how hard it is to get copies of his "Ben Bova Presents" books. Through Facebook, I learned about Ernesto's interview on La Bloga.

The interview itself was fascinating and I really enjoyed learning how he brought his Chicano roots into his science fiction. Finding out that there was an opportunity to win one of Ernesto's books was a bonus. I entered the contest and was thrilled to learn that I'd won a copy of Cortez on Jupiter.

My great-grandparents were farmers in New Mexico. My grandparents and parents grew up there. Even though I grew up in San Bernardino, California, I always thought of New Mexico as my home turf.

Although I've long enjoyed science fiction, I always had a difficult time finding contemporary "literary" fiction I really enjoyed. About ten years ago, I shared executive director duties of the Border Book Festival in Las Cruces with Denise Chávez. Denise introduced me to such writers as Sandra Cisneros, Rudolfo Anaya, and Luis J. Rodriguez. These were contemporary writers I could relate to. I may not be Latino, but these writers spoke my language culturally.

What excited me about winning Cortez on Jupiter was the prospect that it blended the science fiction that I love with the culture that I live. What I most enjoy about science fiction is that it's intrinsically a hopeful literature, even when it paints portraits of a dark future. Science fiction usually imagines that humans will somehow manage to survive into the future. Sometimes science fiction is cautionary, imagining pitfalls to avoid. Sometimes it imagines a bright future. However, the key is that humans survive and learn something in the process.

I saw Ernesto most recently at Coppercon, a science fiction convention which was held over Labor Day weekend in Mesa, Ariz. He gave me the copy of Cortez on Jupiter that I won and signed it for me on the spot. Since then, I've had a chance to read the novel and it did not disappoint. Ernesto tells the story of Pablo Cortez, a guerrilla artist from Southern California who, through a variety of circumstances, ends up on a mission to Jupiter to attempt contact with lifeforms found there. The future Ernesto depicts is neither especially bright nor dark, but it is essentially hopeful.

However, what really makes Cortez on Jupiter a standout for me is less what it says about the future, but more what it says about the nature of art. Pablo's guerilla art reminded me of a mind-bending mural that has decorated a garage just around the corner from my house for nearly fifteen years.

The thing is, all of us who are artists face real challenges getting our work out in front of people. Whether we're writers, painters or musicians, there are people in the "establishment" who won't present our work because they don't think it's marketable. However, that's not the point of art. We make art because we have to, because we're compelled to. I write because I have no choice. I would write whether someone published me or not. In fact, I started my own magazine because I wasn't entirely satisfied with stories other magazines were publishing.

Ernesto captures the kind of artistic mentality I'm talking about, in Pablo Cortez. As Cortez himself says, "Well, I don't sit around in meetings talking about [art]. I just get an idea, decide where to do it, how to do it—then go out and do it!"

I have a wide range of favorite science fiction characters ranging from Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long to A. Bertram Chandler's John Grimes. I'm glad a vato like Pablo Cortez has joined their company.

I've known Ernest Hogan for a number of years. We first met at a science fiction convention called TusCon in Tucson, Arizona and I've enjoyed visiting with him whenever we've had a chance to see each other. Since I live in Las Cruces, NM and he lives in Phoenix, Ariz. we don't get to speak in person very often. Lately though, blogs and Facebook have allowed us to visit more often across the miles.

In fact, because of our conversations, he's sold two stories to me. One is called "Plan 9 in Outer Space" that he wrote with his wife Emily. That story will come out Oct. 1 in an anthology I edited for Flying Pen Press called Full-Throttle Space Tales 4: Space Horrors. The anthology may be ordered here.

The other story I bought, "The Great Mars-A-Go-Go Mexican Standoff", will appear in Tales of the Talisman, vol. 6, issue 3 available this winter. Once released, it can be ordered here.

Thank you, La Bloga, for giving me the opportunity to write a little about winning the book and sharing my thoughts.

by David Lee Summers


msedano said...

david lee, welcome to la bloga.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, MVS. Glad to be here.