Thursday, August 02, 2018

Chicanonautica: Advice for the Mexicanxes Going to WorldCon

by Ernest Hogan

Suddenly, weeks before it begins, the 76th Annual World Science Fiction Convention is in turmoil. Somehow, they neglected to schedule people of color who have been nominated for their Hugo Awards to take part in their panels. The usual excuses about natural phenomena that mimic the effects of racism, but are not racist, were dragged out. They're starting their programming over from scratch, just in case . . .

Meanwhile, the convention's Artist Guest of Honor, John Picacio (a Mexican American), has organized the Mexicanix Initiative, that will buy memberships for “Mexicanx artists, writers, filmmakers, culture shapers, and fans.”

I was one of first Mexicanxes John Picacio contacted. I was honored, but turned him down. A free membership would help, but having to fly to San Jose, and stay somewhere on my own dime, could seriously drain my funds, and I had other family and professional obligations. My wife and I have been to more conventions in the last few months than we had in the last several years. And WorldCons can make all your money disappear.

Also, I had been disappointed by the last few WorldCons I'd been to. The subculture that created them is getting old, withering up and dying. It felt more like visiting a sick friend in a hospice than a nexus for an exciting cultural phenomenon.

Now, I'm worried about the Mexicanxes. A lot of them probably aren't familiar with old school fandom. They don't know what they're getting into.

As a Chicano who's been going to sff conventions since the Seventies, and has been speaking on panels since the Eighties, I can offer some advice about being an outsider in Scifilandia.

First, not all of them are Sad Puppies, mourning the fall of white supremacy and the vision of an all-white future. Most of them consider themselves to be liberals, it's just that though they like galaxy-spanning entertainment, they are in many ways unsophisticated. Remember the stereotype attached to the world “nerd” before it became fashionable? A lot of them have led sheltered lives, and use sci-fi and fantasy to insulate themselves from a universe that is always threatening to blow their minds.

They're uncomfortable with alien things. I consider that to be the opposite of what science fiction is supposed to be, but I'm the guy who keeps wondering if he should start a Too Weird For Sci-Fi Club.

A lot of them have somehow managed to never get to know many people of color. They think sff, and culture in general, is a white people thing.

For years I was usually the darkest person in the room. Harlan Ellison thought I was black.

What has been happening in recent years causes anxiety, even panic-attack reactions. Be careful.

But also, don't be intimidated. As a Chicanonaut, I'm always going where no one of my ethnicity has gone before. I don't see any reason to stop.

Approach the WorldCon like a strange new world. Don't worry about the convention committee's scheduled events—if they suit you, go, if not, do your own thing!

Have our own convention. Meet each other. Party. Have fun. Clatter some plots and plans. Get stuff started. Don't let anybody stop you!

If there's one thing I've learned in my years as writer/artist it's that following the rules, and doing what you're supposed to do, doesn't work.

Once they see that what you're doing is fantastic, you will win them over.

Ernest Hogan, known as the Father of Chicano Science Fiction, just sold a story about a futuristic Aztlán to The Latinx Archive, and will be the final judge of First Annual Somos en Escrito Extra-Fiction Writing Contest 2018.


Frank S Lechuga said...

Tremendous advice from the Father...oops, that's too Patriarchal!

David said...

Thanks for the insight - I love Chicanonaut!
Maybe some people prefer to have their minds blown in a controlled, friendly way. Just sayn.

A. F. Waddell said...

Great post!
Be well. Be careful. Have fun!