Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sasquan. Latino Kids Lit List. Ask A Mexican. Política in kids lit.

WorldCon 2015 - How inclusive of Latinos & Native Americans?
The world's biggest SF/F convention will be held in Indian Country of Spokane, Wash., next August. Since I participated in many "Spanish strand" workshops/panels in WorldCon 2013 in San Antonio, I've suggested they should continue the Latino inclusion and involve some Native American speakers on panels and workshops. Officially, I've received no response. The one move they made at changing their all-white, very-old/male speakers list was to add Tananarive Due. Questions about Latino and Native American author-inclusion and workshops remain.

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) produces WorldCon. It's part of the long-running F/SF establishment that's dominated speculative lit for decades. Its old direction of good-old-boy club has changed somewhat to include women. Then blacks. Then Asians. But it's an uphill climb for them to change themselves into a group better reflecting 21st Century North American spec lit. How is it that Sci-Fi people are so retrograde conservative?

Another piece of that establishment is The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SFFWA. Here's recent posts about them

"In the early 90s, I applied and was first denied entrance (I'm from Mexico, but still live here) until I argued that America is the whole continent and that Mexico is in America and thus I should be admitted to SFWA (I had done everything asked for). They eventually relented, letting me in as the first Mexican in SFWA, and a few years later managed to drop me when I was late paying my annual dues (by no more than a week). I agree: let´s do something new and multinational about it."

"I decided not to join (not based on this update)."
"I am definitely ready for a multinational thing."

I don't know exactly what everyone might mean. But there's NO reason that Chicano, Latino, Native American, black and other historically underrepresented authors should have to worry about anything other than creating their art. PERIOD. Exclusion, privilege, bureaucracy, chauvinism of any form have no place in speculative literature. Or much of anywhere else.

If you're thinking of maybe attending Sasquan next year, here's what they say about being included in workshop/panels: "Sasquan would like to hear from you if you’re interested in being considered as a panelist and/or a performer. We don’t know everyone and Worldcons always find a few good panelists/performers by encouraging volunteers to apply."
You can add your ideas on their website. Maybe I'll see you there.

Remarkable Latino Children's Lit of 2014

Just in time for gift-giving season, here's one group's list of kid's books--some written by Latino First Voices--with Latinos as the main characters.

"Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) announces our annual "Best of the Best" children's literature titles written by or about Latinos. Selections include award-winning authors such as Duncan Tonatiuh and publishers ranging from household name New York presses to community-focused, independent companies.

"Why publish this list now? At the end of the year, "tastemakers" such as The New York Times and National Public Radio (NPR) publish their "best of" lists. Inevitably, their selections feature few, if any Hispanic authors. The L4LL Remarkable Latino Children's Literature of 2014 selections spotlight this glaring absence, rooted not in Hispanic authors' lack of talent. Rather, their exclusion reflects the tastemakers' significant professional blind spots and institutional flaws."

¡Ask a Mexican! Happy Birthday: Thoughts on 10 Years of Raising DESMADRE

History will decide the Chicano authors and their literature that should be called classic. But I don't know how history could omit Gustavo Arellano and his works. In the guise of humor and satire, el hombre has produced some of the tightest, most precise, chignón funny writing of our generation. Here's a message from him:

"This week marks the 10-year anniversary of this infernal columna—10 pinche years already! The Mexican is not much for retrospectives—that's a gabacho thing—but I do want to take a moment to offer thanks to a couple of cabrones: former OC Weekly editor Will Swaim for giving me the idea for the column; VICE Media chingón Daniel Hernández for writing the Los Angeles Times profile that changed my life; Scribner for printing ¡Ask a Mexican! in best-selling book form; mi chula esposa for all her support and pickling my peppers (and that is not a metaphor); Tom Leykis for hosting a call-in-version of ¡Ask a Mexican! all these years (subscribe to his podcast at; all the haters, whose vile words remind me why I started writing this in the primera place; my friends and familia for the obvious reasons; the Albuquerque Alibi for being the first newspaper besides my home periódico to have the huevos to run the column; and, lastly but not leastly, ustedes gentle readers, whose eternal curiosity about Mexicans makes this weekly rant an eternally rollicking bit of DESMADRE. To the next decade or 50!"

If you'd like to send him best wishes, or another windmill for him to use his lance on and dissect, do so.

Should Latino/a authors do YA lit with la política?

If you're a Latino/a writer who thinks the political has no place in Latino kid's lit, that it can't be engaging to young people, that it won't earn good reviews, that such novels won't be successful, here's a Sunday NYTimes book review of Paolo Bacigalupi's new YA, The Doubt Factory. He's no Chicano, but he's got otras sangres that spice up his prose. Here's a snapshot of what he did:

"Paolo Bacigalupi [and Alaya Dawn Johnson] are attempting a path in their latest books, thrillers that don’t just marry the personal to the political, but exploit the fantastical conventions of genre to make a head-on critique of the contemporary political landscape.

"To be a teenager is to be acutely aware of power, in all its forms — by virtue of having so frustratingly little of it. Which means adolescent protagonists impose a limiting factor on political fiction. They turn to science fiction and fantasy and play politics to their heart’s content: There’s no believability ceiling to how teenagers in futuristic societies can change their worlds. Following up award-winning Y.A. dystopian novel, Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, an impassioned astonishment of linguistic ingenuity and innovative world-building, but also an attack on the politics of poverty and oppression.

"Now, Bacigalupi uses conventions of genre to attack a thoroughly unconventional brand of evil: the public relations experts and scientists-for-sale who conspire to replace certainty with manufactured doubt, nicknamed The Doubt Factory: “The place where big companies go when they need the truth confused. . . . The place companies go when they need science to say what’s profitable, instead of what’s true.” Tobacco industry lobbying, pharmaceutical companies’ manipulation of the F.D.A. — Bacigalupi doesn’t shy from indicting real-world doubt merchants by name and deed.

"In our proudly post-postmodern world of antiheroes and shades of gray, the value of nuance, in fiction and beyond, is almost axiomatic. To see the world in black and white is to see it through a child’s eyes. Bacigalupi is challenging this conflation of simplicity with naïveté, which makes for a somewhat flat narrative, but a stirring cri de coeur. Compromise, complication, doubt: These are his enemies. Maybe there’s nothing childish about moral clarity; maybe to understand that some stories have only one defensible side is what it means to grow up.

a VERY Chicano-political fantasy novel
"In the end, this is the message for young readers: Wake up. Ask questions. Challenge authority. Form your own opinions. Fight injustice, no matter the cost. These days, suggesting that a book has an overt message is almost an insult, as if purpose is incommensurable with art. Maybe so: these are not perfect novels. But they’re bold and ambitious, unafraid to charge into territory too often avoided, their authors keenly aware: Some messages are too important not to deliver."

You can read the entire article and then decide whether you'd like your next kid's book to get a review like this. I wish it so.

Es todo, hoy,



Once upon a time I was a SFWA member. There was only one F back then -- that's how long it was. It was a cheap thrill. A few years went by and I realized that I wasn't get all their crap in the mail (this was before the Internet). I told my wife: "Honey, do you miss getting all that SFWA crap?" She didn't, neither did I. We were both selling without any help from SFWA. I see the organization as a failed experiment, a good idea, but in practice what does SFWA actually do? Oh yeah, there's the Nebula awards, but it's been decades since I saw a book promoted as a Nebula winner, nominee, or whatever. During my ten-year career as a bookstore clerk, not one customer came in asking for Nebula -- or Hugo -- winners. I can usually get into SFWA parties because someone who knows me will let me in, but frankly, it's been years. Like Marx said: " I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Anonymous said...

Karl or Groucho?

First, I've never been one for joining groups, writer or homie; Second, I don't have the gas (petro or intestinal) to attend meetings; Thoid, I rather be home with my thrice boiled coffee and peck away at my keyboard; Cuarto (and probably the real reason), my old lady says we don't have the money, she wants to go see her madre, I have to fix this or that (and the list is long), etc.

So, as quoted, let them go suck something or other.

Low Writer


I quote Groucho, and simply attribute it to Marx to confuse future generations for their own good.

Eileen Gunn said...

Rudy and everyone, especially readers in the Spokane area: The World SF Conventions are organized and run by local volunteer SF fans, with help from the World SF Organization and from other volunteers who have helped run coventions elsewhere. Basically, it's both local and international, and it's all volunteers. So there's an excellent opportunity for new volunteers to get involved, including helping create the panels and other program items and deciding what they will be about.

Yes, a lot of the organizers are middle-aged and white, but the ones I know truly want the convention to be inclusive. They can't do it themselves, however, and, to be honest, I don't think you'd be very happy with the results if they did.

I totally agree with your suggestion, Rudy, that people who are interested go to the website and volunteer. One thing that might be useful would be to organize some kind of a lounge area, maybe in the big concourse area that most Worldcons have, somewhere that Lantino and Chicano writers and fans can meet up AND be a visible part of the convention. Perhaps team up with Carl Brandon Society members? I personally don't do this kind of volunteering, but there are scores of people who love to do it, and are happy to share their experience as to what has or hasn't worked in the past.

Anyone who has tried to get in touch with the convention and not heard back: let me know here, and maybe I can put you in touch with someone who knows who's in charge of what.

Eileen Gunn


Eileen's idea about setting up a place for Latino/Chicanos to meet and get together at WorldCons -- in fact any conventions -- is a great idea. Often informal gatherings work better than official programming. Another idea could be throwing an after-hours room party. Also communicating with others and planning to get together in advance. As usual, one foot in the underground so you'll have a place to stand.

Anonymous said...

Intersting reading here. I don't write the stuff, but I've been a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy. In the last ten years, I've gone back to read the early days of the genre and have to say that I was surprised by just how conservative it's always been. It's next to impossible to find anything older than 50 years that predicted a world with greater equality in it. Rockets yes, non-white heterosexual males piloting rockets, no.

Sylvia Riojas said...

Hmmm, does the group include scriptwriters? Because Gene Roddenberry's franchise included female and African American captains. And Sulu piloted a starship. I know he wanted to be more extreme, but that was before premium cable. And yeah, only a show or two hinted at Gays.

Laurie Mann said...

Hi, thanks for posting this link on Twitter. I'm sending it along to Program staff for their feedback. We have a person who's looking into making connections with regional Native American writers and artists. We are looking for Program volunteers; let us know you're interested at

Laurie Mann
Sasquan Program

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Rudy, you're right on regarding the exclusivity of many of these organizations and, especially, of the "BEST OF---" anthologies/collections that come out each year: "BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES"; "BEST AMERICAN POEMS"; "BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS" etc. I make it a point to flip through the Table of Contents of these books each time they hit my local indie bookstore. I hardly ever, ever see any Latino names, or any Latino/a authors whom I know and respect. It truly oftentimes feels like there are none of us writing in America. Such a shame. But we can't give up. Gotta keep putting ourselves out there and pointing out this backward exclusion/discrimination to presses and other powers-that-be.