Thursday, August 13, 2020

Chicanonautica: The Secret Origin of My Flux Story

 by Ernest Hogan

In the middle of the Great Pandemic, as 2020 rages, I have managed to sell and publish another story. It’s called “Tomorrow is Another Daze,” and you can read it free, online. Technology has saved us again. Better make those offerings to Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca . . .

It’s part of Us in Flux, “a new series of short stories and virtual gatherings to explore themes of community, collaboration, and collective imagination as a response to transformative events,” presented by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, as a reaction to the virus, quarantine/isolation/conflict/transmogrification that’s been going on.

“What the hell’s the world coming to?” has always been my favorite sci-fi subgenre.

It started with an email (most of my publications in the last decade have happened that way) from Joey Eschrich and Bob Beard of the Center with the fabulous name. Eileen Gunn had recommended me (a big thanks to her). They were looking for science fiction writers to take part in the series. It also pays better than most science fiction magazines. I said yes.

All I needed now was story.

The fluxed-up nature of the world in the last few months had left a lot of fragments of ideas rattling around in my brain. All I needed was to assemble them into a story. Luckily, for me this was easy. I have a grotesquely large and unnaturally overactive imagination. For as long as I could remember I’ve been entertaining myself in my head. It’s mostly me making up stories out of what I see and experience. And no, it’s not realistic slices of life that do. I take the raw material and rasquache it up, shake well, don't be afraid to break something . . .

I had to hold back, just noodle around with some ideas I discussed in a phone call while setting up a Zoom meeting (you can’t seem to do anything without Zoom these days), but soon Joey, Bob, and I were brainstorming on little screens.

They had done their online research, which was great, because explaining myself gets tedious. I told them some of my ideas about how the future can come prepackaged and one size doesn’t fit all, my neighborhood, the Chicano tendency to take technology and rearrange it into something we can use . . .

The story was kicking to life before the meeting was over. We never see neighborhoods like mine, mostly Latinoid, with roosters, mariachis, and lowriders, in science fiction, and I believe in doing things that I’ve never seen done before. (Advice to writers: If you know about something you’ve never seen in books, write it!) I came up with characters based on my wife and myself, but different, because characters should take on a life of their own.

It’s what I’ve been doing all these years. Making stories, almost out of thin air. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. It’s a skill that comes in handy.

And not just for churning out art and culture. Creativity is a survival tool. It’s what you use on those terrible days when you try to go about your routine, but find that the universe had changed, so that’s impossible. You’re going to have use your imagination figure out what to do.

It’s how we’re going to get though the flux we’re going through.

Meanwhile, this isn’t the end! Not only is the story published, but we did a video event on Zoom.

I’ll tell you about it next time.

Ernest Hogan will once again be judging Somo en escritos’ Extra-Fiction contest. Are there any Latinoids out there who can blow my mind?

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