Thursday, December 06, 2018

Chicanonautica: Talking High Aztech in San Diego

The plane took off from Phoenix and entered a white void. It cleared up as we reached San Diego. Once again California looked Martian, with a smoky haze creeping through the mountains from the north, where the Camp Fire blazed.

I hadn’t been to San Diego in decades. Back in the Eighties, when I crossed the burning desert for my love, I thought S.D. was cheesy, and laughed when Phoenix radio stations would offer all-expense paid trips there as prizes. Now I was going there, on an all-expense trip being paid for by San Diego State University.

William Nericcio had invited me to come talk to the students of his English 220 class, Robotic Erotic Electric, in which he was teaching my novel High Aztech, along with works by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Franz Kafka, Philip K. Dick, and Haruki Murakami. 

None of the doom-struck weirdness was visible when I arrived in the city where streets go right to the Pacific Ocean. The town had developed into a nice-looking place--hipsteroid with Latino accents--and hints of human recomboculture.

La Pensione Hotel was right next to their Little Italy, and interesting signage, street art, and murals were visible. India Street was crowded with Italian restaurants, and the air made my mouth water. Most of these places were quiet, fancy joints with white tablecloths, high prices, and menus I couldn’t decipher, but then I found Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, a noisy place that you entered through an old-fashioned Italian grocery store. I gobbled a heaping plate of spaghetti sausage and a fist-sized meatball under the gaze of the cornucopia-wielding woman painted over the busy kitchen.

The next morning, Good Morning San Diego told of the migrant caravans arriving in Tijuana, and incidents of violence and unrest, making it seem like all hell was about break loose, but the big worry was who to pay for it all.

We had some time before the class, so William Nericcio took me to Chicano Park--I was hoping that would be possible, Tezcatlipoca willing and the ocean don’t rise. I took photos of a lot, but not all, of the murals--guess I’ll have go back sometime. Nericcio got shots of me in the park, that would make great author photos. 

Photo: William Nericcio

People in military uniforms were on the SDSU campus. Its was either another event, or they were there to protect the university from the fires/approaching migrant caravans. They were unarmed, so it was probably the former. I think.

The poster for the class called me a “Science Fiction Author Legend.” All I had to do was live up to that.

Finally, I was in front of a room filled with over two hundred students. Mostly youngsters, but there was the obligatory, white-haired, old-school, science fiction fan in the front row. I started by introducing myself, and reading the humanoid tacos scene from the novel, then threw it open to questions. That ate up most of the seventy minutes. They had plenty of questions, and afterwards, there was a long line of folks who wanted me to autograph their copies. A lot of them told how much they enjoyed it.

That was such a relief after those years of being told that no one was buying or understanding it.

I think it’s made it from obscure cult novel to classic. Why not? In our times, a novel that anyone still gives a damn about twenty years after its first publication is a classic.

Maybe someday, I’ll be wearing a baseball cap, driving my peekop across Phoenix, and hear El Corrido del Padre de la Ciencia Ficción Chicana on Radio Campesina . . .

Ernest Hogan is trying to relax and make plans to astound the world in 2019.

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