Thursday, July 01, 2021

Chicanonautica: Can a Chicano Be Mainstream?

by Ernest Hogan

Intercepted conversation from an unidentified source:

Ernest Hogan: Victor? What the fuck? It's 4:24 AM, for Tezcatlipoca’s sake! 

Victor Theremin: I'm feeling restless. Could use some writer talk. 

EH: I thought I turned my phone off . . .

VT: You know I have access to outlaw technology.

EH: What? There's video, too? I haven't downloaded any apps for that.

VT: I’ve had my hacker friends download stuff to your phone.

EH: I wish you wouldn’t do that. It’s an invasion of my privacy.

VT: Is there any such thing as privacy anymore?

EH: Uh-oh. I nearly woke up my wife. I better go to the living room . . .

(The sound of footsteps, soft impacts, profanity.)

VT: There is so much to think about right now.

EH: As usual.

VT: Actually, cabrón, there's a helluva lot more than usual.

EH: Yeah, I guess you're right, with COVID, and all that political and other pendajas going on.

VT: Precisely! This is the end/beginning of new eras! And you know what that means?

EH: What? You on a beach somewhere? Why is the sky purple?

VT: It means that us Chicano science fiction writers are gonna have to rethink everything, and reconsider what we've been working on! 

EH: I know it happened to Emily.

VT: How is your wife?

EH: Restless. Eager to get on with a new phase in her life.

VT: See? There a helluvalota that going around.

EH: Just what is a helluvalota?

VT: Quit trying to change the subject.

EH: Can't help it. You knocked me out of some heavy REM sleep.

VT: I tell you, something is happening. Something planetwide. More than the pandemic, or politics, something affecting everybody’s brains . . .

EH: There you go again, losing track of where the sci-fi ends and the reality begins.

VT: I keep telling ya, it doesn’t matter these days. 

EH: Could be. I’m thinking about pitching my next novel as mainstream.

VT: What? The one with the AIs, aliens, and a character based on me?

EH: Yeah.

VT: Uh-oh, looks like you’ve gone over the bend.

EH: I don’t know. I just realized that it’s actually a modern day retelling of Don Quijote, and what could be more mainstream than that?

VT: I always considered it to be the first psychological sci-fi novel.

EH: About senile dementia?

VT: The final frontier.

EH: The problem is when I try to come up with things to compare my stuff to in the pitch, I have a hard time coming up with recent, popular sci-fi. 

VT: You’re solidly in the tradition of Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick . . .

EH: Today’s sci-fi audience doesn’t remember them.

VT: Stick with sci-fi, Ernie. The truth will out!

EH: It might work better if I said I was like Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ishmael Reed.

VT: Like the modern reader remembers them.

EH: I know the post-Twilight/Fifty Shades of Gray audience doesn’t like to think when they read, but I keep hearing that the mainstream audience is bigger than genre. And I really would like to take the chance to actually make it big before I go back to tin-cupping it in the underground.

VT: What, you think you can be the Chicano Vonnegut?

EH: Better than being the Chicano Kilgore Trout.

VT: I thought I was the Chicano Kilgore Trout!

EH: I’ve been busting my ass as a Chicanonaut in Scifiilandia, where I’m treated like the most talented leper they've ever met, and I’d like it all to amount to something.

VT: And how has the mainstream world treated you?

EH: I still have trouble convincing them I exist. And they still give me the bum’s rush. Or take off running when they see me. And this is all before the realize I’m a Chicano.

VT: Ever thought about where sci-fi ends and the mainstream begins?

EH: A lot lately. When I shelve books at the library, I keep running into books that look interesting in the General Fiction section, and when I take a look they have science fictional plots, only they don’t have the entire universe, or even multiverse in danger, like they insist on in commercial sci-fi these days.

VT: This is the age of genre meltdown, besides, genres are just marketing gimmicks, and high-brow conceits like magic realism and speculative fiction are just pretensions for readers who want to feel intellectual.

EH: In my ten years as a bookseller, not one customer ever came in asking for magic realism or speculative fiction.

VT: So, whatcha gonna do, ese?

EH: Think I’ll keep all my options open. When trying to sell the book, I’ll start at the top, go for the dough, and if that doesn’t work out, I still have one foot stuck back in the underground.

VT: Sounds quixotic as all hell. Good boy! Uh-oh, there’s an unidentified phenomenon in the sky that I need to investigate, gotta go, bro!

Ernest Hogan is the Father of Chicano Science Fiction, and Victor Theremin is a fictional character, at least in this universe.

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