Thursday, August 03, 2017

Chicanonautica: Chimeric Mambo with Alex Hernandez

It has been my pleasure to interview Alex Hernandez, who has a story, “Caridad,” in Latin@Rising, and has been doing some rising of his own onto the Latinoid speculative scene:
What kind of reactions has TRANSHUMAN MAMBO received?

TranshumanMambo is a few years old now and has received very muted, but positive response. A big part of that was my fault. I had just published a few short stories and I wanted to experiment with self-publishing. I quickly realized that I didn’t know what I was doing and had zero marketing apparatus. Still, it has managed to make its way into the hands of some readers and their feedback is great. I have gotten a lot of love for the novella, “Agloolik”, about a bunch of robots trying—unsuccessfully—to build a human colony on an icy, super-Earth. Also I was contacted by a class that read “Beasts on the Shore of Light,” about elderly people having to remotely operate mining robots in order to pay for Healthcare. I love hearing that.
Do you know about the Transhumanist movement, and its leader Zoltan Istvan, or do you have any opinions about Transhumanism?
Well, I’ve researched him and his movement for my stories, but most of my exposure to Transhumanism has been through fiction. As far back as I can remember I’ve been enthralled by posthuman characters, because I feel those characters, the ones that are slightly off-human, are the best lenses to look at humanity. That’s what I took away as a young kid reading X-Men or as a teenager watching Lt. Commander Data.
Also, I do think a transhuman future is probably inevitable, if we aren’t living in one already. I don’t think it’s something that we can or should force, but something that will happen so gradually that we as a society won’t even notice. Heh, my nietos might have aquatic enhancements when Miami is underwater. 

What writers influenced you besides Isaac Asimov?
Too many to list. I’m a product of everything I’ve read, but I definitely have to mention Octavia Butler. She’s been a huge influence on my writing. I absolutely loved “Lilith’s Brood” (originally published separately as the Xenogenesis trilogy.) I’ve read that book so many times. It was also the first piece of science fiction that I read that had Latino characters! My novel, Tooth and Talon, is kind of my love letter to Octavia Butler.

What other science fiction venues have you published in?
My short stories have been published by Baen Books, The Colored Lens, Interstellar Fiction, Sybaritic Press and 3LBE. My novel was just released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.
"Caridad" features a technology that comes out of Cuban extended family relationships. Was it inspired by your family?
Oh yes. I have a huge, close-knit family and now with social media it does feel like we’re cybernetically linked. I’ll mention something to my mom in passing and five seconds later my brother or one of my cousins will casually bring it up on Instagram. “Caridad” is an exploration of the benefits and drawbacks of having such a network. On the one hand, we are stronger together, almost a superorganism. The level of support socially, financially and emotionally is incredible. It’s probably an adaptation to moving to a new world with only each other to rely on. But it can be restricting as well, you’re entangled by the safety net. My non-Latino friends who marvel at the eight tías and tíos and three abuelas who show up when I’m sick or have car troubles are also free to pick up and take that cool job in Austin. I got Hell just for moving one county over.
Do you have any other science fiction ideas that come out of the Cuban immigrant experience?
I think everything that I write is tinged with that experience.
I love space colonization stories, I love reading them and writing them. As a Latino, I’m the product of colonization, colonizer and the colonized. So I have a pretty interesting perspective, I think. The idea of starting over on a new, and maybe hostile, planet that’s brimming with potential really appeals to me. It’s basically the story of my parents and grandparents writ large. Plus, here in Miami, we’re kind of in a colony of Cuba—like Carthage birthed of Tyre. It’s an interesting dynamic I like to play with in my fiction.
Also, part of the reason I’m so fascinated by posthumans is their transitional state. I’m second generation so I’m not quite Cuban, but I’m also not quite American. I’m a cultural chimera. My short story, “The Jicotea Princess,” touches on this theme, although via urban fantasy.
What are you working on now?
Well, I just submitted a short story, about a single dad raising a kid (a teenager at this point) with a disease that’s made him aquatic. Think Zika or Rat Lungworm. Can you tell I’ve been thinking about this lately? I think it’s the encroaching sea.
Anything new coming out?
My novel, Tooth and Talon, came out this week. It’s the story of Oya Valette, as she embarks on a mission to colonize a world around another star, only to discover that it is populated by a previous wave of colonists—genetically altered creatures who have added feathered dinosaur genes into themselves in order to fly in the lighter gravity. It has lots of big, crazy ideas and it was a lot of fun to write.
Ernest Hogan also has a story in Latin@ Rising.

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