Thursday, May 21, 2020

Chicanonautica: Zooming into Susto Futuro

Along with COVID-19, there is another pandemic sweeping across the planet. A new technology is coming for us, sneaking into our lives. Maybe it'll take over if we don't watch out.

I'm talking about the internet video meeting. I know, a lot of you have been doing it for a while. I'm old and don't keep up with all the latest chingaderas, like computers, the interwebs, smart phones. I tend to get into them after it's become impossible to live in the latest version of society without them.

Somehow I never get consulted when a new version of society is installed. It's usually—BLAM!--your life is different now, get used to it. I keep getting future shock, or maybe these days we should call it Susto Futuro.

So there I was, minding my own business, sheltering in place, staying home, trying to finish my novel, when I hear from Balitronica Gomez, wife of the performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña. He was going to do a “Creative Conversation to Save America” for something called Dreamocracy in America, “a take-no-prisoners time-traveling transdisciplinary tour of America that picks up Alexis de Tocqueville’s journey into the American character where he left off” led by Victor Payan and Pocha Peña. I would have to download something called Zoom.

I had heard about Zoom. Schools were using it, along with business people in the lockdown. I didn't think I needed it, but in this case, I was willing to do the download and registering thing.

Even though I'm a sci-fi dude, me and technology have an uneasy relationship. Sometimes all I have to do is touch some newfangled gizmos to release a new kind of chaos into the ecosystem.

It seemed okay, but there was some snafu stuff when I tried to log on. I shot some panicky messages to Balitronica, and somehow I was able to experience Guillermo's performance.

Guillermo was his usual, wild, brilliant self. I was also impressed by the way he has managed to make himself comfortable in this brave new environment.

Not only was he on the screen doing his thing, but we—the audience—were there. It's not like a live performance. He could see us, we could see him, but no eye contact could be made. At the same time, we became part of the performance. We could see each other and see into everybody's home. Things happened in the background. At one point my wife came in . . .

I see how we may be doing more of this in the future.

A couple of weeks later, another performance artist, José Torres-Tama was doing one. Since I was already an experienced Zoomer, I signed up for that one, too.

Unfortunately, my talent for attracting technical difficulties reared its ugly head. I kept getting messages telling me about a Password Error, and  nothing I could do fixed it. I couldn't get on.

I sent a message to José, apologizing for incompetence.

He said there was no problem. I could watch the recording the next day. Which I did. Again, step into the future. I did feel that I missed out on something by not being one of the tiny people on the screen.

José then texted me, an electronic conversation that resulted in an interview that he and I have been trying to arrange since 2012. I will translate that into a Chicanonautica post very soon.

Meanwhile, Scott Duncan Fernandez of Somos en escrito: The Latino Literary Online Magazine asked me if I would like to be on an panel for Weekend of Words, a virtual literary festival. It would be put on by something called the Shuffle Collective. The subject would be, “Chicano Scifi: Speculative Existence.” It would also happen through Zoom.

Yeah, some glitches made me a few minutes late, but I managed to stumble my way on to join my fellow Latino writers Kathleen Alcalá, David Bowles, Rudy Ch. Garcia, Rios de la Luz, and Armando and Scott Duncan Fernandez from Somos in a grid of tiny screens.

It was a blast. Even though we were a diverse group (the Latinoid continuum is vast), we had a lot in common. Even though a lot of us had corresponded, and knew each other through Facebook and Twitter, this felt more direct.

We all agreed that we are not magic realists. I got a chance to say, “Any magic realism from a sufficiently technologically advanced culture becomes indistinguishable from science fiction.”

I must have done well, because Scott from Somos wants to interview me—on Zoom.

Maybe I'll eventually get the hang of it, and shake my susto futuro.

Ernest Hogan's “Flying Under the Texas Radar with Paco and Los Freetails,” the origin story of Paco Cohen, Mariachi of Mars, will be in Latinx Rising, coming out in June, pre-order now!

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