Thursday, April 26, 2018

Chicanonautica: From Mexico City to Mars

Prime Meridian, a novella by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is getting Hugo buzz, and will be in The Year’s Best Science Fiction. And I’m giving it the Chicanonautica Seal of Approval.

It’s about a young woman named Amelia, who dreams of moving to Mars, and struggles to survive a near future Mexico City that’s so real it causes flashbacks of El D.F. It deals with themes I’ve written about--Mexico City, Mars, Latinoids, future urban environments--but I’m a surrealistic slapstick comedian, and Silvia’s a more serious, realistic writer. Those of you who think I’m too wild and crazy may like her better. I certainly enjoy and admire her work.

Amelia one one of those characters who sticks in your memory, and reminds me of a lot of young women I know. Silvia is good with characters. In the supporting cast, I especially liked the ex-movie actress, who Amelia works for as a rent-a-friend for a social version of Uber--does something like this exist already? There’s also a character who never actually shows up, but left me wanting more, a Jodorowsky-wannabe director, making quickie movies back in the 1960s. Most writers need entire novels to develop characters that leave such an impressions.

The novella moves between different realities: Amelia’s very real and subtly futuristic everyday world, flashes of an imagined life on a Mars colony, and sci-fi/lowbudget movie version of Mars.

It was not at all confusing. I found it pretty damn wonderful.

It also could be easily adapted into a screenplay. A movie wouldn’t require a lot of expensive special effects. You filmmakers out there, please take note.

Funny, how Hollywood gives Oscars to Mexican directors as long as they don’t put Mexico or Mexicans in their movies. Maybe this will change in these tumultuous times. . .

Even though it's top-notch, Prime Meridian was turned down by the usual sff markets and had to be self-published. This is probably because it ends where a lot of sff readers would have liked it to begin, with Amelia deciding to go to Mars. They would have liked it better if it began with Amelia getting on the spaceship, or better yet, getting off, setting foot on Mars, and then having her  battling with space pirates and finding a lost Martian civilization . . .

But it’s better the way it is. Part of a writer’s job it to prove to the world that the audience doesn’t know what it wants, and can like subtle, sophisticated things if given a chance. Especially when, like Prime Meridian, they fill the gaps that the genre has been leaving out of its visions. After all, isn’t sff supposed to be all about the visions?

It’s not easy, but when you can make a breakthrough--Wow!

I also find myself wondering what happens to Amelia, on voyage, and on Mars?

Ernest Hogan’s novel Smoking Mirror Blues is available in a new ebook edition from Strange Particle Press. Thank Tezcatlipoca.

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