Saturday, August 23, 2014

What future for Latino spec lit?

In a conversation this week, I was reminded again how mainstream academia doesn't consider speculative literature to be as respectable or of the same literary worth as what's called "literary fiction." U.S. culture traditionally looks down on us spec authors as not as refined and our works as not "worthy." Latino academics react much the same. [There's not one list of spec lit. I use: fantasy/sci-fi, magical realism, horror, alternate-world, paranormal and fables, at least.]

The argument goes like this. "Serious" book writers create literary sorts of books and are "better" writers. All of the most prestigious awards for fiction each year go to works of Literary Fiction. Genre Fiction, like spec lit, is "only for entertainment." Literary Fiction separates itself from Genre because it is not about escaping from reality, but provides a means to better understand the world and delivers real emotional responses. "Serious" works of literature are for highbrow, literary readers who believe genre fiction does not have much merit.

Of course, as a writer or reader, you don't need to choose between Latino spec or Latino literary works. You read and write what you want.

At the same time, out in the real world, Hollywood, cable and TV companies are on spec lit like moscas on mierda. You know that Hunger Games, Lord of Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy, and network TV shows like Extant and Touch--of my faves--proliferate, seemingly without end. Teen vampires, ghosts and zombies are everywhere on Netflix and cable, except in classrooms. Literary agents and publishers want to represent the next J.K. Rowling, maybe even a Latino one.

Mainstream, literary Latino lit is also still alive and has its audience and always will.

But what's new are the young people, our children and grandchildren, who drive many of the markets, including in movies, videogames, graphic novels and books in other forms. In videogames, 3 are  Lego, 1 pirate, 1 auto, 1 war, 1 NBA, and 3 are spec-related, including #1 (SF war) and #2 (ghosts and Predator). 9 of the top 10 comics sold in Jan. were spec genre. Spec and War shared the top 10 in graphic novels in March. Right now there's no end in sight for the most sought-after stories that could become the next blockbuster.

I myself never sold 4 stories in the space of two years. So far this year, I've gotten 4 requests to submit to anthologies, which definitely don't result from my book sales. Ernesto Hogan is doing at least twice as well as me.

But the U.S. markets can't keep putting out the same ole white-hero stories, because many of our young people were raised or have become true internationalists. They hang with, date and marry across racial, class and cultural borders that were harder to cross in the last century. Yes, racism and prejudice are being enflamed in this country by right-wing vestiges of previous times. But the old fogies will die out. Will new young internationalists outnumber the new young prejudiced who inherited their worldview from dead parents? Time will decide that.

In the meantime and foreseeable future, Latino, and other, spec literature is a largely untapped source of new voices, perspectives, legends and unique cultures that interest the Anglo commercial world. They might shoot us on the streets, but they love J-Lo and Calle 13 and Mexican indigenous ruins and suck in the money from consumers looking for the exotic, the entertaining. The screen, for theaters or monitors, needs new material. And a lot of it will first appear in print and E-book.

This makes Latino spec authors ripe for the pickings. Every author is a desperate creature, willing to grovel for attention, publication or even a chance to read their works. Latino spec authors, maybe more so, speaking only for myself.

In the eastern U.S., latino and black authors are meeting, joining together and somewhat coalescing as collective entities. The legacy of slavery and U.S. Caribbean history naturally reflects the latino-black cultural and social ties. This has been manifested in Spec Cons, the We Need Diverse Books and some anthologies.

On this side of the Mississippi, peoples' cultures developed differently, especially from our  heritage where Latinos link with our indio past, whether from here or Latin America. If Latino spec lit writers hang with their "better half," los indios, we may see something different develop than what has out East.

In the Southwest, our work, our specific peoples and cultures, we ourselves, are mestizo. It reminds me of José Vasconcelos vision of a raza cósmica that re-connects to its indio roots. Like Ernesto Hogan's Aztecofuturism stories.

Interest in Latino spec has  taken off. There's new markets for it. It may not give such authors the respectability that literary authors receive, but young people, including Anglos, are ready for it. It can be "good" writing; it can be "serious, refined and worthy."

Just ask the next under-40-year-old if they'd buy into a videogame, comic, movie, cable series or graphic novel that was based on a spec book, written by a Latino, that had Latino and other characters. They'd probably answer, "If it was good, fun and exciting." They wouldn't say, "If it had literary worth."

Es todo, hoy,
a.k.a. Chicano spec author Rudy Ch. Garcia


Anonymous said...

"...Every author is a desperate creature, willing to grovel for attention, publication or even a chance to read their works. Latino spec authors, maybe more so, speaking only for myself..."

Hey bro, you speak for me, too. I stop people at Walmart, asking if they would please read a page, even a paragraph, even a sentence of my stuff.

No takers, so I may have to begin offering literary incentives, like the writing on a five dollar bill. May have to reach for a 10 or twenty, but like you said, I'm desperate.

Giora said...

I don't think that U.S. culture is about what Academia is saying. Celebrities have much more influence. There are many styles to write books, and literary books are just one way and literray books are not better. Most readers prefer non-literary books and that's what count. Academia will trash mega-best sellers like Fifty Shades of Grey, but that book brought joy to millions of readers and that is great. Best wishes with your books reaching a large audience.

Anonymous said...

And best wishes to you Author Giora on your books, as well.