Thursday, March 14, 2019

Chicanonautica: Here Comes Kaiju Mexicana

by Ernest Hogan
Monsters are global, even universal. All human beings make their fears into something tangible, visible. No wonder they are a staple part of entertainment.

At first I was horrified of monsters, but it wasn’t far into my childhood that I became obsessed with and even identified with them, and became a big fan of monsters movies, that back then were shown on Saturday afternoon programs like L.A.’s KHJ-TV 9’s Strange Tales of Science Fiction.

Though these shows mainly showed low-budget Hollywood productions, they included movies from other countries. Monsters and other strangeness from England (which I’ve always considered strange and exotic), Italy, Russia, Mexico, and especially Japan. Godzilla and the other kaiju we a driving force in monster kid culture.

Years later, I grew up into a speculative fiction sophisticate, but deep down I’ve always been that kid who loved monster movies.

Which brings us to David Bowles’ novel Lords of the Earth.

This one hit me with both barrels, totally satisfying my inner monster movie fan, and the venerable Father of Chicano Science Fiction.

In Lords of the Earth, author, translator, scholar and translator of pre-Columbian languages, David Bowles brings kaiju-style giant monsters to Mexico. He doesn’t just throw some arbitrary guys in rubber suits into miniature, stereotypical sets studded with adobe buildings and cactus, Bowels digs into pre-Columbian mythology, and geology, makes connections to Mexican cultures, dovetailing the myth with science.

There are also heroic, educated, successful Mexican/Latinx characters, (when I was kid, the heroes were always white, except in the Japanese and Mexican movies) and contemporary situations, drug gangs, the border, and bring a feeling of reality of the latest news broadcasts to the fantastic vision.

It brings back the fun of old monster movies, but brings the genre up to date, making it suitable reading for adults, though this would also be a great book to give young guys who aren’t interested in reading.

Not only a fabulous tribute to the art of the monster movie, Lords of the Earth, would make a great movie. With Mexico dominating the film industry, it would be a natural. Especially since the taboo that kept the Academy from recognizing the work of Mexican directors if they put anything Mexican in their films has just been broken.

I have a feeling that this is beginning of a monster renaissance. Which wound also satisfy the Father of Chicano Science Fiction and his monster kid inner child.

Ernest Hogan is currently working on a story about the monsters of Aztlán starring a female masked wrestler.


Frank S Lechuga said...

Kudos to the Father of Chicano science fiction. With all the Chicano and Latino Studies departments out there, I would expect that instructors would be using more Chicano/Latino sci-fi literature to motivate their students to read. Youth love sci-fi movies, without a doubt. Come on, professores, time to get past frijoles de mi tia and "I was a teenage gang leader."

Anonymous said...

My name is Joe Steve Vera. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and love Mexican culture. Finally we are creating exciting cultural blends! So cool! Qué Chido! Tre mojosa!