Thursday, April 08, 2021

Chicanonautica: Unplugged Con Gómez-Peña

by Ernest Hogan

El Maestro Guillermo Gómez-Peña needs no introduction in the Latinoid Continuum, but I have to do some explaining when discussing him with my colleagues in “science fiction” that includes fantasy, and often intersects with other realities. Funny how people who consider themselves connoisseurs of other worlds have problems with things outside this planet's Anglo/Caucasian ghetto. I’ve spent a lot of my career explaining myself to them, even though I’ve been involved in the genre since I was a snot-nosed punk.

My standard line is that he does on performance what I do in science fiction.

Then I usually have to explain what performance art is . . .

A better tactic would be to show some of his work. Flipping through Gomez-Pena Unplugged: Texts on Live Art, Social Practice and Imaginary Activism (2008-2020) by Guillermo Gómez-Peña, edited by Emma Tramposch & Balitrónica Gomez, guest editors: Elaine A. Peña & William Stark, would provide a clue of why I think GP's work is something that those who enjoy the outer reaches of global cultural phenomenon known as science fiction should be following. Too bad a copy won't just materialize when I need it.

The first noticeable thing is visuals. The art is packed with the complex language of symbolism that is the dominant trait of la Cultura. They say instantly in images what a writer has to say with a lot of words--or at least use them with like as master. Here it is. Who we are. What we are. How we live. They would make great covers and illustrations for my work.

Some people from outside of the Latinoid Continuum raise eyebrows at this point. What? Why is it all so weird and threatening? Where are the nice Latinos that will fit into our neoliberal infrastructure and get wealthy patrons to want to invest in us?

Like I’ve said before: Chicano (and its mutating variants) is a science fiction state of being. I use the term “science fiction” loosely, the way “ordinary” folks do, as a name for things they don’t understand. It could easily be surrealism, magic realism, or some new term being cooked up in a university Zoom meeting as you read this.

Speaking of reading, it just gets better as you read Gómez-Peña. These performance texts, poems, and “philosophical tantrums” (sometimes they’re all of the above all at once) are as much a joy to read as they are to experience as part of a performance. Watch out, they inflame the imagination and are powerful Chicano sci-fi, and I say this as the recognized Father of Chicano Science Fiction.

I caught a lot of these through the miracle of the interwebs, but when reading them assembled in a book (my compliments to the editors) they take on a larger dimension, form an epic panoramic vision of what's happening on this planet, this civilization, these strange rumblings in the Global Barrio . . . 

I find myself drifting into a fantasy where I go back in time and show this book to myself back in 1971. His adolescent mind is blown. He’s reminded of the “new wave” speculative fiction he was reading at the time, but has questions:

“It’s like the great new wave novel, but you say it’s also real? You mean the future will be that . . . bizarre?”

“What the last several decades have taught me is that the fatal flaw of science fiction is that it all tends to be too conservative.”

He’s obviously shocked, I show him the references to “Ernest Hogan” in the book.

“He really thinks that the world is becoming more like your . . . my work?”

“Well, yes.”

My younger self’s eyes twitch. Beads of sweat appear on his forehead. Foam leaks out of his mouth . . .

But seriously, if you want a handle on the way the world is going, Gómez-Peña Unplugged will give you a good start.

Ernest Hogan is adjusting to changes that haven’t happened yet, and working on that novel. 

No comments: