Thursday, October 08, 2020

Chicanonautica: Mexican Gothic Rising

by Ernest Hogan

Let’s take some time to praise the most successful Latin (let’s also leave out any controversial suffixes for the moment) writer of the current generation. Her name is Silvia Moreno-Garcia, she was born in Mexico, and lives in Canada, and Mexican Gothic, her latest novel is a New York Times Best Seller is being developed into an original Hulu series by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos.

It is not her first novel. She has been publishing for years, so often I’ve had a hard time keeping up. And what I’ve read is wonderful. Yeah, I’m a fan.

The secret to her success is that she’s one of the hardest working writers in the business. She also, along with having a day job, works in publishing as an editor (she’s published me), and is a curator of ebook bundles (which brought me some money) and other writing-related activities. This is all despite that struggling in Anglo-dominated publishing has been frustrating.

She has written all kinds of fiction from Latin points of view. With Mexican Gothic she has come up with something that has broken an important barrier. It’s surprising that we haven’t seen a Mexican gothic romance before. Mexico is a very “gothic” country, as viewing scenes from a from Mexican horror movies would prove. The sensibility was probably created about two thousand years ago in Teotihuacán.

The problem is that until very recently, the romance novel industry was so white-oriented that accusations of white supremacism may be justified. They are just getting used to the fact that black people exist; it may take them longer to get used to the rest of the human race. Mexican Gothic is great leap forward.

Wisely, it has been published not as a romance but as a mainstream novel, further breaking down barriers, crossing borders, tearing down walls.

The novel nods to the genre by presenting us with a nice heroine from a good family, that fits in the whole girl-in-a-spooky-castle format. Mexico in the Nineteen-Fifties is far enough away from the Norteamericano reading public’s stereotypical expectations about Mexico that it might as well be another planet. That pale-faced readers that Anglo publishers lust after will be lulled into a feeling of security.

But then there’s a lot of knowledge of Mexican—and Latin--realities in there. It gets weird, not just typical gothic. Race and eugenics are essential parts of the story. And then . . . well, let me say that fans of horror and science fiction will not be disappointed. The boy in me who enjoyed watching Caltiki, the Immortal Monster on a black and white TV set back in the Nineteen-Sixties was delighted.

There are some diabolical possibilities for the TV series.

I’m hoping that we can get enough people talking about Silvia Moreno-Garcia that people start buying her other works. It could happen. Her previous novel, Gods of Jade and Shadow, has been in demand at the library where I work.

And who knows? Maybe some of other Latinoid writers will get a chance.

Ernest Hogan will be involved in two Zoom events in October. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter for details.

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