Thursday, November 05, 2020

Chicanonautica: A Sunday Live in Virtualandia

by Ernest Hogan

Sunday, October 18, in the wretched year 2020, I was on video, online, live twice. It was the latest manifestation of my writing career, that keeps coming to life and dragging me into new worlds. 

It's also a hint at what post-COVID-19 civilization will be like.

The first one was part of a Literary Arts Residency organized by the Shuffle Collective in the NoCal Bay Area focusing on "underrepresented writers," fifteen residents "reflecting the breadth of the discipline and all of whom are writers of color, women writers, or identify as LGBTQIA. Our goal with the program is to equip them with the creative and professional skills needed to move their careers to the next level."

They also had sessions with Ytasha Womack, David Bowles, and Kathleen Alcala.

It was on Zoom, that seems to be taking over the quarantined world.

So Tío Nesto, with over forty years experience in the writing life, offered his throbbing brain to be picked.

They were impressed when I rattled off some of my publishing credits, and kept calling me "prolific." Maybe they're right. Even when I think I'm slacking, I crank out new material, and some of it even gets published, but then I'm a writer--that's what I do.

I gave practical advice about writing on the run and on my phone, dealing with being interrupted, and establishing writer's office hours. They asked if I'd read some of my work, so I read the first chapter of my novel-in-progress Zyx, Or; Bring Me the Brain of Victor Theremin. I also discussed my novels, published, unpublished, and the ones I want to write before I die. Then snippets from my writing life.

I described writing as a bad habit, but in retrospect, with me it's more of a lifestyle, and lately it's been taking over.

They seemed to appreciate what I had to say.

While waiting for the Shuffle Collective event I watched the first half of Santo y Blue Demon en el Mundo de los Muertos, one of the more unusual lucha libre movies. The first third of it takes place in the 17th century. There are also scenes stolen from Mario Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World. I watched the second half while eating lunch and waiting for my next event. It kept me in the mood.

This next one was different, a live Facebook reading to promote the Kickstarter campaign for Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology. Editors Matthew David Goodwin and Alex Hernandez hosted Stepanie Nina Pitsirilos, Scott Russell Duncan, and myself who read from our contributions, and the audience in Virtualandia invited to ask questions. The whole thing was immediately available on Facebook.

Someone mentioned that there were other Latinx writing events that weekend. Stephanie Nina Pitsirilos knew about one with a virtual reality room where the participants could “mingle.”

How different it is from the conventions I attended back in the Seventies, when “fandom” was mostly outsiders creating their own culture. Now comic-cons are part of a looming corporate takeover of imaginative fiction and media. Academia is involved. But still, these smaller gatherings are opening up new possibilities.

Academia, entertainment, and the corporate worlds are coming together. New cultures are being born in new venues that are part convention, part school, part cyberworkspace. 

The writer George Clayton Johnson (hearing him talk, and hanging out with him in the old days helped shape me as a writer) once said that conventions were his university. It was the same for me.

Welcome to the University of Virtualandia.

Ernest Hogan will be on the road in California when this goes up. Watch for the travelogues at Mondo Ernesto. 

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