Saturday, November 22, 2014

Letras. Letters. Palabras. Words.

My author name, Rudy Ch. Garcia, contains the middle initial Ch., as if it were an abbreviation. It's not. I adopted it to focus Internet searches around me, instead of on the millions of latinos on the planet who also have my given name. Besides to "market" myself, the Ch. emphasizes both my bilingual elementary teacher career and my bilingualism. The Ch. Draws questions and remarks, but hasn't propelled my fame. People can imagine it stands for the famous Che--an association I don't mind--or Chicano, which is also bien.

not the prisoner's, but similar
I recently received three handwritten letters and one story, in the mail, from a man who's in prison for a non-violent crime. So few people write lettrs anymore. His intimidated me, which surprised me. Theoretically, I now had the obligation to answer, not necessarily with a pencil, but with a letter I'd have to send through the mail. I haven't gotten over that and neither have I responded. The story that the incarcerated Chicano wrote is at the bottom of this post. I think it's surprisingly good, detailing his last day before beginning his sentence.

His letters reminded me of some of mine, my half of an exchange of correspondence that went on for about a decade, between me and an English teacher from my junior and high school. In the mid-70s she presented me with a velo-bound, Xeroxed copy, what's called a self-published book, today, containing almost two hundred pages of our letters. To some extent, seeing my words in print influenced my writing mania.
what my teacher gave me
I still have the book but am leery of reading it again. Hearing your teenaged-to-20s self can be unnerving. What immaturity! What self-centeredness! What impassioned introspection about one little life. I intended to give excerpts from the introduction, but I can't do it. If I did, I'd be blushing, nearly shamefully, from what I feel was an over-kind assessment of my "vision, drive, sensitivities, and intellect," among other things. I haven't heard from my co-author teacher in decades. She may no longer be alive. But she left something--there's other copies!?--of herself, and me. The handwriting is gone, but the words between us are here.

Make up our own genres?

I'm going to borrow an artists' word and invent a new, genre term for my written works--fabulist mextasy. There, it's done. I might have to stop using it if the originator(s) feel it's counter to the intended meaning.
Hammond's new book, not fabulist mextasy
Why invent a new genre? At the end of this piece, are Warren Hammond's thoughts that initiated this. I've heard the same idea from Chicano authors. Would Mario Acevedo's books do better as Chicano thriller or paranormal vampire stories? Are Manuel Ramos's books crime or detective or Chicano or all of that or other combinations? Genre is what literary agents, publishers, and readers want. It can make or break.

From this point on, I consider much ofmy writing to be fabulist mextasy. The original definitions are below. I do write somewhat in a fable tradition. I believe the term mextasy applies to much of contemporary, Chicano stories, whether they are speculative or not. And its play on fantasy seems descriptive of some works.

where mextasy began?
From weekly posts, news and diatribes that I read, I've had it up to here (5'7.5") with exclusionary attitudes in the "American" publishing and writing world. It's a mostly white, mostly male, mostly oldsters dominated business. Getting our patas in the door, getting their conventions and organizations to include and welcome us is somebody else's lifetime task. Not mine.

So, I'd rather my unpublished works be true to themselves and my art--I call it--rather than be pigeonholed for the sake of marketability. If an agent or publisher insists on different, established genres, okay, I'll concede. Until then, welcome to the first author of fabulist mextasy. You have my unneeded permission to borrow, use, alter or propogate it, if you want.
my 1st fabulist mextasy, in Revista Iguana
Definition of fabulist: “For two decades, a small group of innovative writers rooted in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror have been simultaneously exploring and erasing the boundaries of those genres by creating fiction of remarkable depth and power”, thus extending the definition of “Fabulist,” which generally does not include fantasy, science fiction or horror. Fabulist, is generally taken to mean magic realism without geographical boundaries, in other words, not necessarily Latin American. New wave fabulist simply stretches that definition to include other more non-realistic forms."
Why mextasy: "Mextasy is more than a representation of ecstasy about or for Mexico; it is about the sensuous tracings Mexican culture leaves both sides of the border. More existential state than archive, Mextasy speaks to the living organism of Mexicanicity as it moves between the bodies of Mexico and the United States--an overt and covert delicious miasma that arouses as it excites, excites as it provokes. ¡Que viva Mexico!, within and without its borders . . . the image of Mexico in the United States."

"The human mind wants to categorize. When people go shopping, they want to be able to find things that they know they like. Categorization can be a double-edged sword. If you say, 'I am this,' and there's a whole audience out there that likes this, then it's good. But I think we as genre writers sometimes run the risk of categorizing ourselves too much.

"For instance, as I was writing my KOP books, I was thinking, this is great. Mystery readers will read them and science-fiction readers will read them. I'll appeal to two audiences.' What tend[ed] to happen instead, as I learned, was that mystery readers say, 'I don't read science fiction,' and science-fiction readers say, 'I don't read mystery.' So sometimes you actually end up marginalizing yourself. We geek ourselves out too much, and we become a little insular." I was excited that I won [the Colorado Book Award], and I do think KOP Killer is noir mystery first and science fiction second. I was pleased the science-fiction elements weren't held against me."

The letter from the prisoner
I left this story largely unedited. What I found intriguing was how it reveals the thoughts of a man on his way to prison. The minutiae somehow seem appropriate, however mundanely trivial the content might usually be. It's no literary masterpiece, but it made me wonder what I would write if I were on the bus. Or, what about if it was the day before my execution?

The Bus to Nowhere
On this particular morning I woke up early. I knew I would be taking the Metro to my court appointment. My intention was to meet a reporter outside the courthouse. Today I would turn myself in to do a ten-moth stretch in the state jail. 
     I showered and dressed in clothes I had preselected the evening before. I proceeded to prepare breakfast for my wife, as I normally did. By 6:00am she was in the shower. Her radiance made up for the sun yet to rise. I finished my morning tasks, then entered the bathroom. I handed her my wedding ring and asked her to hold it for me until my return. We kissed goodbye. I exited the back door. I drew the gate open and walked down the alley, six blocks to the bus stop.
     Almost immediately, the bus approached. I sat my able body in a handicapped seat. Four older women occupied the seats behind and across from me. They were either on their way to work or returning. Either direction didn't matter. The years of domestic labor was recorded by the callous texture of their motherly hands. Housekeepers, maids, janitors, that mattered, neither. Their American dreams long ago swept away and disposed of. 
     A stop forward, another woman entered and took a seat. It must have been here that the importance of me and my day exited. 
     As one of the four departed, another waved gently, saying goodbye. "Until tomorrow." The exiter replied, "Si Diós quiere," meaning, "If God wills it." 
     The newest rider thumbed through her purse. She withdrew a few dollars--fifteen would be my estimate. Unnoticed, she passed it to the woman behind her. Obscured by the roar of the moving bus, she thanked the other woman. In response, the loaner said it wasn't necessary that she pay her all of it. The borrower looked up, commenting, "No, no, money only brings trouble." In her purse were a couple of other bundles with paper notes attached, as she had sorted these out the night before, her pending debts
     Onward rode these women with lives as routine as the bus they rode. So, too, of the other six or eight passengers. A bunch of nobodies? For, after all, everyone knows--on these seats, unreserved, no one rides the bus.  --fin--

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG., man of letters, and cartas, and spec stories, and author with the Spanish ch in his name



Genres in our world are artificial things, mostly marketing gimmicks. When I worked at Borders, I found that most customers went directly to their favorite sections and ignored the rest of the superstore. As a customer, I like the cruise & scan the entire bookstore, but then I'm an explorer, a Chicanonaut at heart. In the 2000s I noticed what I called genre meltldown -- sci-fi horror & romance & all that. Also customers asking for vampires & werewolves, but cringing when you suggest the horror section: "I hate horror!" they would say. Most of what I published is in publications that have "science fiction" attached to them, because they were the only places who were open to the wacko stuff that I do. When I try to go mainstream, it's usually a disaster -- those people just don't get me. But now, the bookstore-as-we-know-it and the New York publishing house may not be long to this world, the genres they spawned may go too, or at least undergo some serious mutations. We may see new ones popping up to. I wouldn't take any of it very seriously, though.

Sylvia Riojas said...

Ernest, love the word Chicanonaut! Rudy, very interesting what you say about your new genres. Sometimes I wonder if it's in the DNA to include magical realism in writings! I know it's hard to find shelf space for a literary work if "they" can't figure out what section is "best." This happened to a friend who combined history with the paranormal -- she can't find any takers. Also, enjoyed the piece from the prisoner. -- I suppose it's the routine, little things he'll miss. Great post!

sramosobriant said...

How lucky you are to have exchanged letters with that teacher. What foresight she had in keeping them. Two of gfs sent me my letters they had kept from the time before marriage and children when we were wild in the streets, to the days of early marriage and parenthood. The responsibilities we had intensified and the letter exchanges diminished to be replaced by emails lacking insight and revelation. Don't be embarrassed by those narcissistic days of yore. That innocent is still inside you. Rejoice!

sramosobriant said...
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sramosobriant said...

I like Fabuist, Rudy, but is it wrong if mextasy sounds erotic to me?