Monday, August 20, 2018

Interview of Ernest Hogan

Interview of Ernest Hogan
by Xánath Caraza

Ernest Hogan is the author of High Aztech, Smoking Mirror Blues, and Cortez on Jupiter. Those novels, along with his short fiction have won him the reputation of being the Father of Chicano Science Fiction. His mother’s maiden name is Garcia, he was born in East L.A., and has been called the n-word many, many times over the years. His work has appeared in Amazing Stories, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, and other magazines and anthologies.

Who is Ernest Hogan? 

Damn good question! I’m actually too busy to think much about it. Too busy being it, whatever it is. I’m not to be confused with Ernest Hogan, the Father of Ragtime, but since he’s been dead for over a century, it shouldn’t be hard. As for defining myself as a writer, I seem to be stuck in the science fiction category because most of the publications willing to run my work have that genre’s name as part of the title, and there isn’t really any viable market for the gonzoid surrealistic stuff I do when not playing sci-fiista. The literary and corporate worlds tend to cringe in horror at my vulgarity and rasquache. It hasn’t been lucrative, but I can’t seem to stop, and some people enjoy it.

As a child, who first introduced you to reading?  Who guided you through your first readings? 

It’s all my parents’ fault. Dad always was reading something. He and my mom had books and all kinds of magazines all over the house. They encouraged our reading. I found it a great alternative to most of dull stuff on television. They also didn’t mind when I found weird stuff and brought it home.

How did you first become a writer?  Where were your first short stories written?

Reading was actually difficult for me at first. Dyslexia. (Did I spell it right?) Then I discovered comic books, and there was no stopping me. Since I was lousy at math, becoming a mad scientist was out of the question, so I decided to take advantage of my grotesquely overactive imagination and write. Especially after a teacher showed The Story of a Writer, a documentary about Ray Bradbury. I thought, “Yeah, I could do that.” Then my parents got me a typewriter to do my homework on, and started writing. My first publication was a letter in a comic book—I was hooked. From my typewriter to comic book racks all more the country, and before the Internet! This was in West Covina, California.

Do you have any favorite short story by other authors?  Could you share some lines along with your reflection of what drew you toward that short story?

Lately (I keep changing my mind about these things) I’ve been telling people “I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair is Biting His Leg” by Robert Sheckley and Harlan Ellison. It was way ahead of its time—postcyberpunk back in the Sixties—and one of the first time I encountered what I like to do in my writing, which is throw around ideas, and create a volatile mix that seems to take on a life of its own before the reader’s eyes. It’s wild, crazy, fun, and gets you thinking about hey, what the hell’s the world coming to? It’s also a great example of a story that came from writers interacting with the world, and each other, which I believe is the way the imagination works best, rather than contemplating your navel in a dark, quiet room.

What is a day of creative writing like for you?

I’d love to just get up, and start plugging away on the latest project after breakfast/checking email/Facebook/Twitter, but my life is just too complicated. I’ve learned get used to being interrupted—the phone rings, the dog barks, email demands immediate attention, were those gunshots or firecrackers? Long hours at the computer don’t seem to happen, especially when you have a day job. I’ve also learned to write on the run. I used to use little notebooks, but in the last few years have been using an iTouch and Google Drive so I can work just about anywhere. Most of I’ve written recently was typed with one finger in the breakroom of the Cholla branch of the Phoenix Public Library. A real writer finds a way, no matter what the situation.

When do you know when a text is ready to be read? 

About the time I get tired of working on it. I also don’t consider a piece of writing to be finished until it’s been published and read, which of course can be a long, twisted road. Then after it’s published, you can see things that need changing, or you just plain changed your mind.

Could you describe your activities as writer?

Mostly, it the usual, writing, finding markets. I’m lucky in that since I have a reputation, they often come looking for me. Most of my short story sales from the last decade have come from answering email. I really should send things to more markets more often, but my career seems to do things on its own.


Could you comment on your life as a cultural activist?

Sometimes life forces you into the role of a cultural activist. What I started writing, I didn’t think my ethnicity would be an issue, but it turns out that the publishing industry, even though they won’t come out and admit it, believes that books, and culture in general, are a white people thing, and get nervous when people like me write about people that they don’t fit into their stereotypical visions of their audience. Yeah, times are changing, but it’s a slow and painful process. New York still won’t touch me with a ten-foot pole, but then that’s probably a good thing, because I’m writing what I want instead of beating myself bloody trying to create a “bestseller.” My showing up—or just existing—causes controversy. Since I’m not giving up, the world has no choice but to change.

What project/s are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on one of the novels I’d like to finish before I die (I’m getting old), Zyx, Or; Bring Me The Brain of Victor Theremin, a slapstick comedy about the Singularity starring my literary alter ego. And thinking about my first story collection. I’m also planning an art project, a temporary mural, for the library where I work (Did I mention that I’m also an artist?)

What advice do you have for other writers?

Way back in the Seventies, in a Creative Writing class, the teacher said, “If we’re lucky, one person in this room will get published.” Guess it was me. I didn’t give up. And I also probably wanted to be a writer more than the others. I have made sacrifices, as my Aztec ancestors have taught me. And don’t give up. Also, don’t be a snob. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be prepared to change your definition of success.

What else would you like to share?

Buy Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport, because a rich wife can come in handy. I will be judging the First Annual Somos en escrito Extra-Fiction Writing Contest 2018 for Somos en escrito: The Latino Literary Online Magazine (deadline for entries is September 30). And an anthology I contributed to, Altermundos: Latin@ Speculative Literature, Film, and Pop Culture has just won the American Book Award.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Chicana Returns To Nebraska From The Former Yugoslavia --

Saludos La Bloga readers.  For almost a year, I have been a Fulbright scholar living in the former Yugoslavia.  I have recently returned.  My flight to the U.S. took me from Belgrade, Serbia, to Frankfurt, Germany, and then on to Denver, Colorado.  I stayed with familia in Denver to acclimate a bit before driving the almost seven hours back to Lincoln, Nebraska where I live and teach. Just a few days ago, I completed the final trek. During those (almost) seven hours, I began writing a poem (in my head) because of the feeling of sudden familiarity about what I was seeing on this short I-80 Nebraska road trip. For almost a year, most everything I had been experiencing in the former Yugoslavia was new and different, demanding continual energy to make meaning. But here, suddenly, I was on land not completely unfamiliar.  And so this poem is all about what I saw on my trip to Lincoln, Nebraska.  A small explanation:  "Nebraska" is an Otoe Indian word.which translates to: "flat water," a literal description of the Platte River that runs alongside much of my I-80 journey (about 300 miles long) and cuts across the state.  

I see you, Nebraska

I see you, flat water
past the Colorado state line
the way you wind round this land about me:
these bluestem, bluegrass, buffalo grass lands
the gramas and indiangrass
that long prairie cordgrass 
“Yes, I remember you”

I see you, flat water 
running beside me, under me 
I-80 black top laid out miles ahead,
down to sea level, to river's bank
this Missouri tributary
while Joni sings,
“I’m traveling in some vehicle”

I see you, flat water, 
One great egret unfolding its wings from your shores
Its long black legs trailing, 
Cooper's hawks watching atop high mast light poles.
A quarter mile later,
farmers on their balers spit out 
their hay in round fat chunks 

I see you, flat water,
Even at the gas station
when the Harley Davidson women arrive,
their river patches on their leather chaps
her lace-up bodice, their straps and shiny boots
cool spangled braids
water reflecting off their shades

I see you, flat water
how you shape like a snake
almost coiled like Coatlalopeuh
your distant cousin
reminding me from where I come
where I’m going
taking you with me always

I see you, flat water
Your rows and rows of corn fields
you nourish
a crowded field of waving yellow tops
not quite yet ready in their glowing green
stalks mid-size, the maiz
wet from your pivot irrigation 

I see you, flat water
In between the trucks to my right
with showy lights, corroded steel plates
even a spanking red race car transport
But this one catches my attention--
the 18-wheeler with the “OM” symbol on the back
and “India” painted in calligraphic splendor on the driver’s door 

I see you, flat water
How the summer’s hazy sky
heavy with your vapors
opens up my pores, makes me think I can swim across the highway
You and “Canicula” or dog days, the Heliacal rising
Sirius warning us of possible worse days
unless, unless we heed

I see you, flat water
the lives you’ve taken and received.
How the loon mimics her grieving llantos, 
that echo across sandy borders, that filter into fog wisps
or simply hover at the in-between moment of dusk
your stratus clouds 
metallic silver snake patterns

I see you, flat water
After being swept up by many other rivers 
so very far away
with their histories, their secrets, a watercourse 
of torrents, floods, deluge, cascades of complexity
What they taught me, I see
in your reflection, what has always been.  

--Amelia M.L. Montes

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Musings on Planet Earth, Part II: The Mayan Prophesy and Quantum Phenomena by Antonio SolisGomez

President of Mexico Venustiano Carranza with the Mayan Calendar
I am not trained as a scientist so I delve into the topics of Time and Quantum phenomena with the understanding of a layperson and write about the implications for ordinary people.

Physicists, studying quantum phenomena have discovered that it is not possible for them to be an objective, independent observer, that they influence what they are seeing at that subatomic level. They have therefore discovered what Indigenous people have always known, namely that everything is connected, that we are part and parcel of the creation and that humanity is connected to the Earth and with the Flora and Fauna in some inexplicably mysterious way.

Wigner with Werner Heisenberg and Maria Goeppert-Mayer
"It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness." Eugene Wigner
The founding fathers of quantum theory “fell into stammering” when asked to discuss the implications of their own theories. There is not a veiled quantum reality that they were uncovering; they were beginning to realize that the very notion of an objectively existing independent reality no longer applied. The whole meaning of reality came into question. These pioneers in physics were beginning to realize that they had stumbled upon an epochal discovery that is unquestionably destined to change the course of history. Finding the quantum realm is like discovering the Holy Grail; its magic can change everything. (Paul Levy in 

A second aspect of quantum phenomena is that only the present moment exists, that there is no such thing as past or future.

In his book “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” Physicist Carlo Rovelli writes “If I observe the microscopic state of things then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ‘cause’ and ‘effect’.” 

The notion that there is no past or future is not so far fetched for we all experience such a state in our dreams where we can mix and match events and people heedless of time, putting together dead relatives with present day individuals that never co-existed, that never knew one another. And sages throughout history have always advised people to live in the moment.

Other aspects of a quantum state that most people experience are intuition, premonitions, hunches, misgivings, gut feelings, synchronistic occurrences. The work of two Russian scientists, Dr. Pjotr Garajajev & Vladimir Poponin, studying 90% of DNA that scientists have heretofore deemed ‘junk’, have discovered that it does indeed play a vital role, acting as a sort of internal Internet.

It has also been proven that our DNA can even affect space through hyper communication. Wormholes connect one part of space with another and pass information between the two. Our DNA attracts this information which is then stored in our consciousness. Hyper communication has been used by nature throughout history although up until now it has been presumed that the closest skill we possess to hyper communication is intuition. This study proves that we also possess this skill and with further investigations into the power of language the possibilities of the human body and mind are endless. 

In discussing the Mayan it is useful to expand the notion that they were just a primitive people that practiced ritual human sacrifice, to include the fact that they had built quite an advanced civilization that bequeathed humanity a body of knowledge in architecture, art, astronomy and mathematics. Their calendar tells of the five ages of the world. The first age when only mineral existed, the second world when plants came into being, the third world when animals joined, the fourth world when homo sapiens entered. The fifth world that we entered in 2012, is in its infancy.

The Prophecy of the Fifth World is yet to manifest. But when the ancients ones looked ahead, this is what they can share that we can understand at this time. The Four Worlds, that we are moving from, were all on the same level of time, space and dimension. The Fifth world is a step above previous worlds and marks an enormous transformation that we have ever experienced in the first four worlds. The Fifth World will be a blending and harmonization of all four worlds, but taken to a different level. These four worlds together, in a cosmic equality, will bring about a new kind of life. Mineral, plant, animal and human will be looked at as being equally alive. There will be a type of intelligent communication between each world. The ancient ones know that it is hard for us to imagine this right now. ( Aluna Joy and the Ancient Ones from San Bartolo) 

Why everyone should be interested with the topic at hand is best answered by a quote from Paul Levy, previously cited.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama tells a story of asking his friend and one of his “scientific gurus,” physicist David Bohm, what is wrong with the belief in the independent existence of things apart from that it does not accurately represent the true nature of our situation? His Holiness relates how Bohm answered as follows: “His response was telling. He said that if we examine the various ideologies that tend to divide humanity, such as racism, extreme nationalism, and the Marxist class struggle, one of the key factors of their origin is the tendency to perceive things as inherently divided and disconnected. From this misconception springs the belief that each of these divisions is essentially independent and self-existent.” [21] Bohm is pointing out that having a misconception of a situation leads to a mistaken belief that what we are seeing independently, objectively exists on its own. Thinking that our viewpoint is non-negotiably true─be it our point of view about a particular issue or about the entire universe─is at the root of so much rigid ideology and human-created destruction. Becoming entranced by our own mind, we can become self-righteously convinced that we are in possession of the truth, which can easily inspire crusades to convert the unenlightened, as has been tragically evidenced throughout history again and again. It should get our highest attention that the same underlying psychological dynamic that causes us to misconstrue the nature of the apparent physical universe also causes us to divide and polarize among ourselves. We then turn human society into different camps with irreconcilable differences that appear to be objectively real, thus creating the preconditions for endless internecine conflict and war. 

In New Age parlance this Fifth World, called the Shift or the Ascension, is one where new energies are being encountered that will lift the consciousness of humanity to a level where war will be a historical note, where unity will replace separation into groups, where tolerance for all religions, ethnic groups and nationalities is commonplace, where empathy and compassion erase poverty, and where the political process is transparent and devoid of corruption and manipulation by a few people and where there is respect for Mother Earth, leading to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Friday, August 17, 2018

New Stuff

This week brings us news of a trio of new books scheduled for October publication.  Two of La Bloga's favorite writers -- Reyna Grande and Martin Limón -- present their latest offerings to eager readers, while the third is from a rising political leader -- Julián Castro -- with an inspiring story of a tough childhood and an amazing mother.  As always, something for everyone.

Reyna Grande
Atria Books - October 2

[book summary from the publisher]

From bestselling author Reyna Grande --- whose remarkable memoir The Distance Between Us has become required reading in schools across the country --- comes an inspiring account of one woman’s quest to find her place in America as a first-generation Latina university student and aspiring writer determined to build a new life for her family one fearless word at a time.

When Reyna Grande was nine-years-old, she walked across the US–Mexico border in search of a home, desperate to be reunited with the parents who had left her behind years before for a better life in the City of Angels. What she found instead was an indifferent mother, an abusive, alcoholic father and a school system that belittled her heritage.

With so few resources at her disposal, Reyna finds refuge in words, and it is her love of reading and writing that propels her to rise above until she achieves the impossible and is accepted to the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Although her acceptance is a triumph, the actual experience of American college life is intimidating and unfamiliar for someone like Reyna, who is now once again estranged from her family and support system. Again, she finds solace in words, holding fast to her vision of becoming a writer, only to discover she knows nothing about what it takes to make a career out of a dream.

Through it all, Reyna is determined to make the impossible possible, going from undocumented immigrant of little means to “a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer” (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild); a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist “speak[ing] for millions of immigrants whose voices have gone unheard” (Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street); and a proud mother of two beautiful children who will never have to know the pain of poverty and neglect. 

Told in Reyna’s exquisite, heartfelt prose, A Dream Called Home demonstrates how, by daring to pursue her dreams, Reyna was able to build the one thing she had always longed for: a home that would endure.

Julián Castro
Little, Brown and Company - October 9
[book summary from the publisher]

The keynote speaker at the 2012 DNC, former San Antonio mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, tells his remarkable and inspiring life story.

In the spirit of a young Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father, comes a candid and compelling memoir about race and poverty in America. In many ways, there was no reason Julián Castro would have been expected to be a success. Born to unmarried parents in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of a struggling city, his prospects of escaping his circumstance seemed bleak.

But he and his twin brother Joaquín had something going for them: their mother. A former political activist, she provided the launch pad for what would become an astonishing ascent. Julián and Joaquín would go on to attend Stanford and Harvard before entering politics at the ripe age of 26.

Soon after, Joaquin become a state representative and Julián was elected mayor of San Antonio, a city he helped revitalize and transform into one of the country's leading economies. His success in Texas propelled him onto the national stage, where he was the keynote speaker at the 2012 DNC --- the same spot President Obama held three conventions prior --- and then to Washington D.C. where he served as the Obama Administration's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. After being shortlisted as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, he is now seen by many as a future presidential candidate. 

Julián Castro's story not only affirms the American dream, but also resonates with millions, who in an age of political cynicism and hardening hearts are searching for a new hero. No matter one's politics, this book is the transcendent story of a resilient family and the unlikely journey of an emerging 
national icon.

Martin Limón
Soho Pres - October 23
[book summary from the publisher]

George Sueño and Ernie Bascom return for their thirteenth outing, which takes them from Seoul to the DMZ in their most politically charged murder case yet.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone, 1970s: A battered corpse is found a few feet north of the line dividing North and South Korea. When 8th Army CID Agents George Sueño and Ernie Bascom pull the body to the South Korean side on orders from their superiors, they have no idea of the international conflict their small action will spark. Before war breaks out, they must discover who killed Corporal Noh Jong-bei, a young Korean soldier working with the US Army.
The murderer could be from either side of the DMZ. But without cooperation between the governments involved, how can two US military agents interrogate North Korean witnesses? What George and Ernie discover gets them pulled off the case, but fearing they’ve put the wrong man behind bars, they disobey orders in an attempt to discover the truth.
Manuel Ramos has three noir short stories in the literary pipeline: Night in Tunisia (Blood Business, Mario Acevedo and Joshua Viola, eds., Hex Publishing, 2017), Snake Farm (Culprits: The Heist Was Only the Beginning, Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips, eds., Polis Books, 2018), and Sitting Ducks (Blood and Gasoline, Mario Acevedo, ed., Hex Publishing, 2018). His next novel, The Golden Havana Night, is scheduled for publication in September, 2018.