Saturday, April 04, 2015

The real Superhero. And Caravana 43 in Colo.

What's "better" than a sci-fi or fantasy or thriller about One White Guy to Save Us All? What about, One Chicano Hero to Save Us All? Or better than that, One Chicana Heroine? Or maybe a multinational superhero team of both sexes. We've come a long way, bebé. But is it enough?

In fact, new books, movies and network series seem to be coming out every week where the old White Guy won't be hoarding the hero role. This has been resisted by white male writers and fans complaining about how they're being "oppressed," if you can believe.

Unqualified white guy leader
A year ago, noir author Daniel José Older analyzed a sci-fi movie and exposed how white-male privilege works on the screen. His Al Día News article was called "Snowpiercer and 'the one white dude to rule them all'." When picking a new leader, the white guy gets chosen over the People of Color (PoC), even though he was a cannibal and of course saves humanity at the end. Because he's the guy. And white. And not even "oppressed."

Then, last month on thenerdsofcolor website, Walidah Imarisha wrote about sci-fo and social justice in the article "Rewriting the Future: Using Science Fiction to Re-envision Justice." Her article is worth reading in its entirety, and many of her points made me wonder about protagonists I've created in  speculative stories.

Some of the old [white-male] guard of speculative fiction haven't totally understood the achievements that new PoC--Chicano, Latino, black, Indian--authors have accomplished by reinvigorating the literature. Some of the old guard still maintain that science and technology just have to be re-imagined better to bring new life to spec-lit.

For instance, Project Hieroglyph emphasizes "technical innovation, techno-optimism and a forward-thinking approach to the intersection of art and technology that has the power to change our world." Not about changing the inequality of the social structure. Or about people organizing to stop fossil fuel production or neverending wars or the oligarchy of the 1%.

a book that promises hope
But the lessons of nonfictional history apply to the cycles of fiction. To forget the lessons--worse, to ignore them--is to be condemned to relive them. Or as Imarisha put it, "We forget to envision what could be. We forget to mine the past for solutions that show us how we can exist in other forms in the future."

The history in question is the exclusion not only of minorities of all types. What nearly all of spec-lit also ignored is that the changes in Earth history were not accomplished by lone heroes. Good leaders led, yes. But the strongest movements were those supported by the collective of humanity, carrying out to the best of their ability the desires of their peoples. That's history.

In creating fantasies, futuristic sci-fi tales, many historical lessons can be appropriated by today's new, rising and especially young authors. Latino, Chicano, black, red--it doesn't matter. Imarisha states, "The science fiction — or speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, etc. — we humans create doesn’t appear out of the ether." It comes from what we were, are and could become.

Writing about possible futures should inspire, not depress, the young people who will replace us and be reading our works for years to come. The dismal dystopias of vampires, Armageddons and Snowpiercers don't provide hope; they inculcate sheepish acceptance of bleak powers beyond anyone's control. Even if you're a young person, of any color.

Will this contain any hope?
The awe and magic and wonderment of speculative literature requires we look further than simply replacing the old White-Guy Hero with a multinational cast of Superheroes. What Imarisha called "decolonization of the imagination." To merge Daniel José Older's and Marisha's articles, that replacement is the people. Organized. Engaged. Democratically. Not blindly hero-worshipping another Big Hero Saves the Day. Hundreds, thousands, millions of people determining the revolutionary future as they've determined the past.

The youth and all PoC and all people deserve hope. Their literature should reflect that. In a world of Climate-Change-for-the-worse, assaults on all civil rights, and the gentrification of the U.S. that's driving poor, ethnic and working people out of the cities, speculative literature can spread seeds of how to save and rebuild society.

How do you write a thriller where the protagonist succeeds by keeping the peoples' interests at heart? How can a society be saved from Global Warming with masses of people as the prime movers? Will a successful blockbuster be written that shows young people, or even us, avenues whereby they can save their planet? That's up to speculative fiction writers.

No one novel, movie or series could accomplish all that, though we'd all love to experience such a work. In the meantime, many short stories and longer works, on-screen too, can chip away at the One or A Few Heroes myopic trope. Maybe an example will better explain my meaning.

Below, I took, and edited for this article, part of a chapter from my debut novel, the alternate-world of The Closet of Discarded Dreams. How the book's characters begin to face their own dystopia is one of my endeavors to get away from the One or A Few Heroes Save Us All. I'm not the first to put the lessons of how history has been changed into a novel's plot. And I am definitely not the last. I welcome comments about other stories that accomplish this better than mine has.

[extracted from the chapter entitled A Gathering of Souls]

People had covered over a stage constructed from ornate coffins, pirates' chests and inverted Jacuzzis, covered by scores of Oriental rugs and medieval tapestries. Someone in the audience yelled, “We’ll do anything that’ll keep us safe. But why are we here?”

I didn’t respond. Our plan or strategy couldn’t develop out of my ideas alone. It didn’t help that the reason many had come centered on their worries about losing their regular lives. Conservatism motivated those who wanted to maintain the routines. But the times called for the opposite.

People had shifted the flooring to form a shallow amphitheater. Several thousands sat around inside it, leaving aisles every hundred feet or so. Not everyone I knew had shown up, but most had. Apparently some mosquitoes too, given the slapping sounds.

A solution to save us had to spring from a new source. Even the nearly limitless knowledge I’d acquired didn’t meet our needs. Something was missing that was beyond me, likely beyond any one of us. From that we’d reasoned that everyone needed to pool their resources, put their heads together and close ranks if a solution were to be found. We had nowhere else to turn. Our first problem now was how to begin.

Brian presented the report covering logistics. "People can access the database through terminals here and at specific locations in other sectors, or search for info via the Grapevine. Ideas, questions, clarifications will be centralized in this area."

He withdrew, waved me forward. My turn had arrived, an honor I’d tried to decline. “I hope to make this short. We think the new, strange incidents indicate it may be the end of us all. We have no idea of how to stop the process, help it heal, fix itself. That’s why we’re all here or tied in via the systems.

“There’s nowhere else for us to go, nowhere to seek safety. Even
escaping the affected areas might only amount to a temporary reprieve for a handful of us. We need something more, to save us all. That’s how it is, as best as we can guess.” I gave them time to digest that before continuing.

“In reality, we have a greater task than that, a responsibility, if you will. We are not real. There is no us. We’re the dreams of Earth’s people. We’re not from Earth, because physically we never lived there. That's just a fact.

“We are the ethereal, what every human being ever aspired to, dreamed to one day be, or maybe even envisioned angels to be like. We’re not all angels and not all the dreams we live sound desirable, judicious or in some cases even humane. That’s not our concern at the moment. Something to discuss another time. What we do have to deal with, face up to is how to change our destiny, and not just for our own sake.

“We don’t know what the repercussions would be for people on Earth if we all disappeared. Whether humanity would survive. We have to assume, not!”

Close by a child giggled, which for no apparent reason irritated some listeners.

“Out there amongst you are ideas, questions, possibilities that no one has thought of before, some way of stopping the destruction. At least, that’s what we’ve got to come up with. If we don’t, so be it, but we’re here to make the attempt.

“As we come up with an idea, we’ll allocate resources to
implement it. We can't imagine what that may require, but we’ll
mobilize for it. For all our sakes.

“Whoever you are, whatever you come from, you can contribute.
There are no limits to what we should consider. Nothing is too silly or outrageous. Any idea may be the key. Open your minds, talk amongst yourselves. Share anything you've noticed or you once thought about or that just pops into your head … especially what pops into your head. That’s all we’re here to do.

“Despite whatever you heard about me, I don’t have the answers.
I need your help. We all need each other’s help, for our, for Earth’s survival. For all the living things in that beautiful blue place.”

I took my first full breaths since I’d started, wondering what had happened to my keeping it short and why they’d let me go on and on. Someone
handed me a liter of Knob Creek. I took two swigs and saw Stubby
pantomime a scissors cut with his one hand.

I took a last breath. “Until we’re forced to move, this is our headquarters. Facilitators will always be up here and regularly going through the aisles. If you have questions, direct them to us or relay them through the system. Ask, suggest, talk with your buddies alongside you. Anything you think of, however absurd it may sound, might provide a clue to our predicament.”

I hadn’t wanted an ovation, and I didn’t get one. People turned, formed circles and started talking with one another. I turned the podium over to Stumpy and headed down the aisle.
* * * *
What transpired next astonished more than me. There were the expected suggestions about physically dealing with the spreading erosion, like cementing up the cracks. Some people wanted to stack vehicles to create some sort of dam out of the larger, heavier machines to prevent the ground from shifting, just as a temporary solution. Nevertheless, people and equipment were mobilized. We had ample resources and little to lose.

We knew there’d be those who’d advocate mass, spiritual meditation or prayer marathons to gods they followed and we’d made preparations to channel the religious types into supervised areas.

We gazed at the Jumbotron, listening to Fedir who wielded a laser pointer.
“Dr. Martin Luther and Cesar Chavez’s marchers have encampments here, here and here. They’re doing what we’re doing and told us they’re ready whenever we need them, for whatever. They’ve got one zany idea: to link themselves all the way across, making themselves into a human dam. We’re letting them go with it even though the engineer types think the forces involved make that a moot effort.”

Fedir ignored some moans. “We’re still bringing the densest, heaviest material we can find along this line: lead, gold, platinum, tanks, tractors, etcetera. It’s our last line of defense, you might say, against draining away what’s under us. It won’t last long.”

Brian scooted in, touched computer keys and took over. “We’ve
put hundreds of psychics, magicians, prophets, sorcerers, levitationists,
shamans and all the Houdinis as close to the here as we can. There’s more juju, black magic and karma being thrown at it. So far, no response.”

Brian was giddy, nervous, stressed. “On the theoretical side, the cosmologists, the Einsteins, Hawkins, and Alcubierres can’t come up with a model to answer our questions. The physics here isn’t what they studied and has its own rules. Since we're in a box with walls, no matter how thick, there should be an outside, something out there. However, it’s also possible there’s nothing behind them, or something we couldn’t survive. They just can’t imagine with any certainty what’s…”

“…out there,” a bunch of people murmured.

Over the course of the next few days, what impressed me most were ideas that had little to do with saving our necks. A village of Quiché Maya proposed mystical methods to contact Earth, to inform them they needed to keep on dreaming. There was more. Some of it choked me up, from people’s unselfish hopes for the future, even if we all would soon cease to exist.

Whenever the committee deemed new plans were worth attempting, teams were organized to develop the details and carry them out. Thus, when a group came up with the idea of using the increasing abundance of Pink Stuff as glue, eight thousand people joined those already building dikes from Sectors 242 through 334.

We didn’t want to kill creativity, nor assume we could foretell what wouldn’t work. In some sense, almost anything was worth the effort, since it might give us additional breathing space till we came up with a real solution….

– – – –

Learn the cost of our drugs-&-guns addictions

On a more contemporary, historical note, family of the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico, who were tortured and disappeared by the Mexican state, will be in Colorado April 12th and 13th, as part of the national speaking tour, Caravana 43 (Caravan 43). The group will visit Denver, Greeley and Longmont.

The purpose of their visit is to provide to share their continued struggle for justice and to bring national attention to the systematic violence and impunity that continues to plague Mexico. The arrival of Caravana 43 in Colorado will mark over six months from the night of the attack that occurred in the city of Iguala on the evening of September 26, 2014, which left six people dead and 43 students forcibly disappeared.
Caravana 43 will be in other cities, listed here.

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano lit author, Rudy Ch. Garcia, hoping to help bring back some wonderment and promise, like in The Closet of Discarded Dreams

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