ROBERT RODRIGUEZ’S FEVER-DREAM: ‘ALITA’ AND THE BUILDING OF LATINX SCI-FI WORLDS

Incredible write up by Frederick Luis Aldama, which you can read here: https://www.latinxspaces.com/latinx-film/robert-rodriguez-fever-dream-alita-and-the-building-of-latinx-sci-fi-worlds?fbclid=IwAR0DFJIWW3WWZQFLEsAmubBSzCqLr5HAYwQCS1OfLeDK2_zAyRfr8Tvjy9g

 

Most sci-fi films focus time and attention to building new worlds for us to experience. From Georges Méliès 1902 Trip to the Moon through Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel today, filmmakers have used their cinematographic storytelling skills to build new worlds for us to inhabit.

 

To different degrees, however, such sci-fi storyworlds have either erased or exoticized Latinxs—and people of color generally. Take Ridley Scott’s world-building in the utterly mind-blowing Blade Runner (1982)Its slow, magisterial sweep and camera push-in gave us the time to absorb and relish this vanguard vision of a future-set L.A. (November 2019, actually). Scott’s exquisite crafting of a total vision of an earthbound future-set world continues to marvel.

However, once Scott (with DP Jordan Cronenweth and the team of modeling designers) spiral us down into the LA streets, it’s business as usual: Latinx, Middle Eastern, and Asians function as ornament. The Anglo characters (Replicants included) are infused with complex of mind and action. Giant pixelated billboards advertise Japanese Geishas. Amalgamated Asian logographics scrawl across dilapidated edifices. Throngs of figures in rice-field sartorial wear (bamboo hats included) and low-tech rickshaws fill backdrop street scenes. Cinemas showing Mexican films, stands selling sushi, and Turkish-style bazaars feature exotic (robotic) snakes. Cultural artifacts and bodies of the Other adorn. They add cultural texture to Scott’s sci-fi cyberpunk Look.

Courtesy Warner Bros.Courtesy Warner Bros.

The impulse to reduce Asian (and cultures of the Other generally) to exotic ornament is not new, nor the exclusive domain of sci-fi. The late Edward Said threw this in the spotlight when he carefully excavated 19th-century European literature, travelogues, and scholarship that crystallized into an ideology of appropriation and oppression. European systems of writing and “knowing” Asia spun an Us vs. Them Manichean allegory: Europeans as good and civilized vs. Asians as evil and uncivilized. This system known as “orientalism” helped bolster and justify real, barbarous European colonial and empire building practices in the Middle East and Asia. Threaded through this Us vs. Them orientalist ideology appeared various iterations of the beneficent paternalist and white savior attitude. The upshot: the spinning of propaganda as knowledge that sanctified cultural appropriation and obliteration of racialized Others.

Orientalism is the backbone to mainstream sci-fi flicks, and not just in the world building strategies already identified with Blade Runner. It’s prevalent, too, in casting choices. Think Anglo-Brit actor Tilda Swinton cast as the Tibetan mystic (in the comic book), The Ancient One, in Scott Derrickson’s Dr. Strange (2016). Think Anglo-US actor Scarlet Johansson cast as Major (Asian cyborg supersoldier in the comic book) in Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell (2017). We are seeing more sci-fi characters played by actors of color, including Latinxs. However, they continue to be relegated to secondary or even tertiary roles in plots, often appearing for just enough time to throw a dash of spice and color into the storyworld.

cinema of rr.jpg

This is the contextual backdrop needed to understand the significance of Latinxs in Robert Rodriguez’s sci-fi world building of Alita. Robert’s always been about putting Latinxs in front of the film camera. As he mentioned to me in an interview for The Cinema of Robert Rodriguez, his dedication to and prodigious output quickly grew a Latinx star system—within and outside the Hollywood system. Even as recent as the 1990s, he reminds us that there were no Latinxs working in Hollywood—a very conservative and “reactive business” (141).  Latinxs like Danny Trejo, Benicio del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Alexis Bledel, Michelle Rodriguez, Demi Lovato, and Rosa Bianca Salazar are the drivers of plots. They are the figures audiences engage with. From Desperado and Spy Kids to Machete, Planet Terror to today’s Alita, Robert builds worlds that feature Latinxs as more than a spiced-up, exotic ornament. They are the complexly rendered agents of the action. Latinxs are the saviors of community, the planet—the universe.

With Alita Robert does this—and more. He builds his sci-fi world in and through all facets of Latinx life and culture as it reaches across an Américas in time and space. Robert’s make-over of Yukito Kishiro’s runaway bestselling cyberpunk manga Gunnm (1990-1995) relocates the temporal-spatial setting from the US to a hemispheric Américas. When building out the massive set for Iron City (60,000 square feet of Trouble Maker Studios lot in Austin), Robert and his set designers studied carefully the built spaces of Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, Cuba’s Havana, and Panama’s Panama City.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

In each case, they were especially attentive to the way architecture in the Américas is a palimpsest of pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial histories. Where, for instance, pre-Colombian designs co-exist with Spanish colonial edifices. So, with Robert’s building of the Iron City world we see these hybrid blends—including those cuartos de azotea that appeared atop colonial-era vecindades—that remind of how layers of time and space reverberate in and through the built spaces of the Américas.

Of course, Robert and his design team also want to transport us into the future—300 years in the future.So, they overlay this spatiotemporally layered architecture of the Américas with an industrial, steam-punk low-tech look; retrofitted tubes and exoskeletal wires remind us that we are in a future—but a future that continues to recall the wounds of the brutalities of colonization.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Robert and his crew stamp and sign-post (literally) Latinx culture all over Iron City. Street and shop signs are in Spanish (“Clinica” and “Ciggaros”, for instance). Food and drink are recognizably Latinx. Latinx rhythms fill Iron City’s airwaves; on a street corner we see and hear a Blatinx musician strumming multineck guitar. Braided chili and garlic ristras hang from eaves. Robert’s (and DP Bill Pope) camera-eye lingers over Hugo and Alita bonding while nibbling some chocolate; Robert wants us to soak up the scenes’ importance: the highlighting of xocolatl (Aztec)/ kawkaw/cacao (Mayan) to celebrate our pre-Columbian, indigenous way of life. Robert provides a similar pre-Colombian palimpsest with the bounty-hunter, McTeague (Jeff Fahey). When the camera first introduces McTeague in the cantina-styled bar, “Kansas”, he’s surrounded with a pack of cyborg dogs. Think: canine deity, Xolotl, the twin brother to Quetzalcoatl, and guardian of sun as it travels to the underworld every night. This same camera-eye lingers over Alita’s writing the number 99 on her shoulder. Not only is this an important moment when she writes on and claims her cybernetic body, but, given all of Robert’s deliberate Latinx signposting throughout the film, this act also resonates with the number 9 in Aztec and Mayan cosmologies: in the former, the underworld Mictlan consists of 9 levels and in the latter, there exists earth, with 4 spaces above and 4 below.

In Alita there’s a deliberate, deep infusion of Latinx culture in all its multilayered spatio-temporal hemispheric reach. This continues even when the story briefly steps outside of Iron City. When Alita and her multiethnic crew (Hugo, Tanji, and Koyomi) leave the city, they pass through a giant wall—a wall that surrounds the city and that controls the flow of people in and out. Once outside of the city, Robert fills the landscape with an amalgam of tropical flora and Central Texas flora. They walk through rubber trees and cedar elms. It’s a deliberately reconstructed hybrid equatorial/north American flora used to further conveys the film’s placing us deliberately within a hemispheric Latinx sensibility.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Robert doesn’t stop here. This hybrid weaving of hemispheric Latinoness informs Iron City’s economic system and infuses the ontology of its people. It’s a barter system where people trade repurposed objects (waste) for repurposed objects. It’s an economy of rasquachismo. In his 1988 essay “Rasquachismo, a Chicano Sensibility” Tomás Ybarra-Frausto used the term rasquachismo to describe a process that grows from “visceral response to lived reality” and that identified an “aesthetic sensibility of los de abajo, of the underdog” (155–162). It’s also rasquachismo of ontology. Indeed, Dr. Ido uses repurposed robotic parts to create differently abled, hybrid human-machine beings. He’s a doctor of rasquachismo. Alita is reborn (twice) under Dr. Ido’s rasquache surgical skills.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Robert builds this Latinx sci-fi world with Latinxs front and center. Indeed, with his casting of Latinx (Peruvian ancestry), Rosa Bianca Salazar he gave her a platform to embrace her Latinidad; up till this moment, Rosa’s Latinoness had gone unmarked and unremarked in and around films such as Bird Box and the Divergent and Maze Runner series. With the release of Alita, Rosa’s out and proud as Latina, giving special attention to her Quechua-speaking abuelita, for instance. Robert and his casting team’s choice to bring onboard Anglo/Latinx (Chilean/Mexican) actor Keean Johnson as Hugo along with Dominican-born Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Tanji, and Michelle Rodriguez as Gelda (seen in flashback sequences) importantly builds out a cast of phenotypically varied Latinxs.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

The heroes stand in sharp contrast the casting of white, male actors as the sociopathic villains: the British actor and rapper Ed Skrein as Zapan and a whiter-than-white Edward Norton as Nova. By reversing the Manichean silver-screen scripts (white/good vs. brown/bad), Robert vitally reframes expectation and engagement of sci-fi storyworlds.

With Robert’s films, we know that there’s always more happening than meets the eye. It’s certainly the case that he’s flipped the mainstream business-as-usual with sci-fi film stories. Latinxs are not the exotic and ornamental; they are not the helpless and hapless.  But there’s more that Robert does with Alita. He affirms. He empowers. He throws us existential conundrums.

This isn’t new for Robert. In all of his films he smuggles into the genres he uses (and abuses)—from Western and Mexploitation to Teen, Horror, Sci-Fi, even music videos—doppelgängers, existential crises, political critique, patriarchal corporatocracy, mestiza affirmation and empowerment, and much more. With Alita he smuggles into the mainstream imaginary the question of what makes us human in and around hybrid (Latinx) subjectivities that exist in a hemispheric Américas. He smuggles into the mainstream imaginary the deep affirmation of mestizo selves that resonates beyond the silver screen; they reverberate in our minds as allegories of the birth and rebirth of an empowered mestizas: it’s only once the body and mind meld that Alita comes to know her self—a warrior self informed by a 300-year-memory of her armed resistance to colonization.

It would be remis of me not to mention a couple of nit-picks before I wrap up this thought piece on Robert’s Latinx sci-fi world building. As some have, I’m not going to take issue with Alita’s second rebirth into a full-bosomed cyborg body; there’s nothing about the costuming, lighting, or lensing that raise those fanboy wish-fulfillment sexual fantasy flags. I do think Robert, the screenplay, and his casting crew slip hard when it comes to Nurse Gerhard; and, not because of the choice to cast a woman of color (African American actor, Idara Victor) in the role. It’s that by having her play the role of a silent, ready-to-please appendage to the white scientist, Dr. Ido, the film takes us twenty steps back in terms of representational politics. And while we might argue that costuming of and pig-tail hair design for Vietnamese American Lana Condor as Koyomi is the film’s way of gesturing toward its manga source material, this stands-out like the fetishistic, orientalist sore thumb that it is.

Finally, and this is more of a personal preference, Robert has skillfully used 2D cinematographic storytelling to excellent use in most of his films; he knows well how to lens and light a shot to guide our brains to create dynamic depths of field. His use of 3D doesn’t work here. It doesn’t distract like yesteryear’s 3D. It’s just that its constant presence of 3 depth planes assign importance simultaneously to objects and characters in the foreground, middle-ground, and background. This overloads our perception system, unnecessarily.

Robert Rodriguez’s Alita might not be exactly the Latinx Wakanda we’ve been waiting for. It is, however, a world building that powerfully reminds us that we can make thrilling sci-fi stories that include Latinxs as more than just ornament. In an interview, Robert told me that with his films he wants to pull us into his “fever dreams” (139).  Alita is a fever-dream that proactively welcomes all—and Latinxs especially.

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‘Border Town’ is a comic about immigration and Latino identity. But it’s mainly about monsters.

Michael Betancourt wrote this amazing piece for the Washington Press. Check it out here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2018/10/03/border-town-is-a-comic-about-immigration-and-latino-identity-but-its-mainly-about-monsters/?utm_term=.391a99cfbd3b

A Mexican American bond led the way to DC Vertigo’s new hit series “Border Town.”

Part of Vertigo’s fall relaunch of new titles, “Border Town” (the second issue is available Wednesday in print and digitally) is the creation of writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos.

During their initial plotting conversations over the phone, Esquivel and Villalobos realized their experiences growing up Mexican in the United States could be used as fuel for the flames of “Border Town.” Esquivel, who is Irish Mexican, grew up without his Mexican father (like the lead character of “Border Town”). Villalobos says that both of his grandfathers came to the United States from Mexico and that he considers himself “fully” Mexican. Like Esquivel, Villalobos struggled with identity at times — he would be called out for not speaking Spanish despite being Mexican (a branding that afflicts characters in “Border Town” as well).


“Border Town” writer Eric M. Esquivel. (DC Vertigo)

Esquivel always assumed “Border Town” wouldn’t work at a major publisher, because it leans so heavily on Chicano identity and Mexican folklore. He acknowledges feeling a little angry when pitching the idea to Vertigo, because the publisher (an imprint of DC Comics) had already turned down prior ideas of his for a new series. But Esquivel says those initial ideas were more tributes to Vertigo tales of the past such as “Sandman” and “Y: The Last Man.” He was shocked when Vertigo gave him the green light for “Border Town,” but it stood out because it was so original.

“I never thought in a million years that a company like DC/Vertigo would gamble on a story like that, because it’s controversial just being [a] Mexican [story] in America, and especially in comics,” Esquivel said. “I thought [‘Border Town’] was going to be a black-and-white self-published thing that I was going to do someday.”

The story takes place in the fictional town of Devil’s Fork, Ariz., on the border between the United States and Mexico while also serving as the border between reality and Mictlan, the Aztec underworld, home to various demons and monsters of legend that frequent the pages of “Border Town.”

The protagonist, Frank, a teenage newcomer to town, is loosely based on Esquivel and his experiences moving from Illinois to Arizona as a sophomore in high school. It was an experience that Esquivel says took him from an area that was suburban and “aggressively white” to a setting that felt like “jail in an ’80s movie” because of cliques that were so clearly defined by race. In “Border Town,” Frank quickly discovers that blending in on both sides of a town split by racial makeup is difficult, but he quickly forms a bond with other Latino outcasts at his school.


“Border Town” No. 1 cover art by Ramon Villalobos. Colors by Tamra Bonvillain. (DC Vertigo)

“Arizona is a big part of me,” Esquivel said. “The elements of the book that are based on my actual life read as the most over-the-top, and the ones with the monsters and stuff don’t.”

The literary border of “Border Town” is between horror and the supernatural. When the monsters of Mictlan cross over to Arizona, they have a spellbinding effect on a town that is already defined by division. Whatever the locals fear, that’s what they’ll see when one of those monsters approaches them. An undocumented immigrant might see an ICE agent. An American minority could visualize a tiki-torch rally. But in the first issue of “Border Town,” when a child is approached by a monster, he sees the Batman villain Bane. Esquivel and Villalobos were looking to prove a point with that image.

“That was sort of our commentary that you have to be taught to hate,” Esquivel said. “Everyone else sees all these stereotypes, but the kid sees only [things from Batman.]”


“Border Town” No. 2 is available Wednesday. (DC Vertigo)

Guiding the visual adventure of “Border Town” is the Frank Quitely-inspired art of Villalobos, known recently for work on superhero titles at Marvel. Villalobos has embraced drawing a different type of comic-book tale, one leaning more on horror and teen angst than capes and masks.


“Border Town” artist Ramon Villalobos. (DC Vertigo)

“I love superhero comics, and that’s mostly what my career has been, is just drawing people in tights punching each other,” Villalobos said. “And that’s really fun, but personally, media that I like to intake is not superhero stuff at all. It’s usually romantic comedies and teenage dramas and stuff like that, just because I spend my whole day doing superhero stuff. So it’s refreshing to be able to do [something different].”

When “Border Town” came out last month, many readers focused on how it applied to Latino identity and border politics. At times, lost in the hype was the main story Esquivel and Villalobos are trying to tell, which is more about underworlds than political worlds.

“I don’t want people to feel like we’re doing this in opposition to anything,” Esquivel said. “I’m not putting out this book because Trump is president. I’m putting out this book because it’s a story I want to tell. Because Mexicans exist. We should have always had these stories coming out through all of these companies, and we didn’t.”

“To me [“Border Town” is] a horror story and the fact that it’s being so politicized is a little bit unfortunate,” he said. “I think our readers feel that way, too. But maybe that’s why [this story is] so powerful, because other people are getting to see what our life is like.”


(DC Vertigo)

(DC Vertigo)

(DC Vertigo)

If You Are Looking To Grow Culturally, Here Are 23 Books Worth A Good Read

credit: “Corazón.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018. / epicreads / Instagram

When powerful, influential people try to write Latino stories for us, we rise up. Not only is it important to support Latino writers, but reading the words and alchemy they put down is truly a gift for us. There is nothing more profound that being able to deeply relate to the struggle to be seen, to feel different, to celebrate our curves, to unlearn religious-driven lessons of shame around sex, and to fill in the gaps of our white-washed history, told in full-color by Latinos, for Latinos.

Por favor, disfrute our round up of Latino authored books to feed your soul throughout 2018.

1. “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo

CREDIT: @epicreads / Instagram

This young adult fiction book has only been on the shelves since March 6th and it’s topping chart. Renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo tells the story of a young Afro-Latina girl growing up in Harlem and discovering her world and voice through slam poetry.

Follow @acevedowritesis on Instagram to see her actually perform!

2. “Getting Off” by Erica Garza

CREDIT: @ericadgarza / Instagram

Erica Garza’s memoir is at the top of my list. This Mexican-American author shares her candid experience of understanding how girls are disproportionately taught shame around sex from a young age and how it led her down a path of porn addiction. This one seems like a life-changer.

3. “You Have the Right to Remain Fat,” by Virgie Tovar

CREDIT: “You Have The Right To Be Fat.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Preach. Set your countdown for August 2018, when #bopo activist Virgie Tovar will be feeding brown round girls’ souls with her Mexicana guide to unlearn fatphobia, dismantle sexist fashion and reject diet culture. Because we’re more than our friggin bodies (and our bodies are fine as hell as is).

4. “Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical,” by Jacqueline Jones

CREDIT: “Goddess of Anarchy.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

When white male property-owners write most of the history we learn about in school, we don’t hear our ancestors stories.

That’s why award-winning Jacqueline Jones does some digging to uncover the stories of Texas’ most mysterious activsts: Lucy Parsons. She was African American, Native American and Mexican and she made waves for labor, women’s, racial and prison movements.

5. “The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary,” by NoNieqa Ramos

CREDIT: “The Disturbed Girls Dictionary”. Digital Image. ReadDisruptRepeat.com. 4 April 2018.

Another YA fiction to add to your list (no me importa how old you are, k?). The Puerto Rican writer follows Macy, a normal Bronx girl dealing with your not-so-average incarcerated father issues, your brother being kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and all the other joys of being a teenager in America. Spoiler alert: you’ll want to beg her school to stop calling her “disturbed” already.

6. “Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World,” The Women’s March Organizers and Condé Nast

CREDIT: “Together We Rise.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

On it’s one year anniversary, Chicana Carmen Perez and Colombian Paola Mendoza teamed up with Condé Nast to publish never-before-seen images of the largest protest in U.S. History: The Women’s March. And yes, you’ll find essays from activists America Ferrera, Roxane Gay, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and more. Let this baby carry you through 2019.

7. “Bruja Born,” by Zoraida Cordova

CREDIT: “Bruja Born.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

If you haven’t read the first YA installment, “Brooklyn Brujas,” you have until June 5, 2018 until “Brujas Born” comes out. Ecuadorian author focuses on two teen bruja sisters living in the Bronx.

I swear this sounds like all our tias own memoirs.

8. “Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century,” by Iris Morales

CREDIT: “Latinas: Struggles & Protests in the 21st Century.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Edited by Puerto Rican activist, Iris Morales, “Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century” aims to collect the voices and experiences of today’s leading Latina voices, including Aurora Levins Morales, Jennicet Gutíerrez, Ariana Brown and mitú’s very own Raquel Reichard.

Get this anthology of poetry and prose and prepare to feel rooted in this bat-shit crazy world.

9. “The Line Becomes the River” by Francisco Cantú

CREDIT: “The Line Becomes a River.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

The true life story and memoir of Francisco Cantú’s employment with Border Control and ethical dilemma of when doing his job causes so much personal harm.

You can also listen to an excerpt on This American Life’s “OK, I’ll Do It” Act One: “Line in the Sand.”

10. “Blanca & Roja,” By Anna-Marie McLemore

CREDIT: “Blanca Roja.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Prepare yourselves: this is the dark Latina retelling of the classic fairytale “Swan Lake” and it’s coming out October 9, 2018. Mexican-American award winner Anna-Marie McLemore shares your classic story of two sisters haunted by a curse that will force one of them to live as a swan if they can’t break the hex. Bless.

11. “Broken Beautiful Hearts,” by Kami Garcia

CREDIT: “Broken Beautiful Hearts.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

She’s a New York Times-bestselling author whose latest novel is a mix of romance and mystery when a high school senior athlete learns her boyfriend’s dark secret and coincidentally falls down a flight of stairs, ruining her pro career and begging the question: who pushed her?

12. Corazón by Yesika Salgado

CREDIT: “Corazón.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Description: “Corazón is a love story. It is about the constant hunger for love. It is about feeding that hunger with another person and finding that sometimes it isn’t enough. Salgado creates a world in which the heart can live anywhere; her fat brown body, her parents home country, a lover, a toothbrush, a mango, or a song. It is a celebration of heartache, of how it can ruin us, but most importantly how we always survive it and return to ourselves whole.”

13. “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided” by Diane Guerrero

CREDIT: “In The Country We Love.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

You know Diane Guerrero from “Jane the Virgin” and “Orange is the New Black,” and her new addition to her activism for immigration reform. She was just fourteen years old when she came home from school to find her parents suddenly vanished…deported while she was in school.

14. “Empty Set” by Verónica Gerber Bicecci

CREDIT: “Empty Set.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

A self described “visual artist that writes,” Bicecci writes a beautiful, fragmented story, told with black and white drawings, diagrams and text about loneliness in breakups and families.

15. “The Friend” by Sigrid Nunez

CREDIT: “The Friend.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Your heart will break and fill back up again with this book. Chinese-Panamanian author, Sigrid Nunez, shares the story of a woman mourning her close friend’s suicide and the aftermath of taking in his grieving, massive Great Dane.

16. “Honor Among Thieves,” by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine

CREDIT: “Honor Among Thieves.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

If you like sci-fi YA fiction thrillers, then new release “Honor Among Thieves” is for you. The story is about Zara Cole, a petty criminal selected by aliens to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passenger. Difrute!

 17.“Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t,” by Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz

CREDIT: “Just Sit.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

It’s 2018. We all need to work a little extra to find zen this year and Boricua Sukey Novogratz tell us in the lamest terms how to make it happen in our day to day.

18. “Love Poems” by Pablo Neruda

CREDIT: “Love Poems.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

If you weren’t forced to recite Pablo Neruda poetry in front of your class, then I wish I went to your school. This sweet, pocket sized book gives you both the English and Spanish versions of his best love poems.

Life hack: be like my girlfriend and give this to yours so they can hear how much you love them in all the ways. I know, I’m crying.

19. “The First Rule of Punk” by Celia C. Pérez

CREDIT: @girlsreadtheworld / Instagram

Mexican-Cuban author, Celia C. Pérez, shares the untold, yet ubiquitous, story of young punk Latinos in America. Follow the story of 12-year-old María Luia O’Neill-Morales, or as she prefers to be called, Malú. She’s half-Mexican, half-white and she’s angsty af, partly because her mother wants her to be “less punk rocker and more señorita” and partly because…why tf not?

20. “Sabers and Utopias: Visions of Latin America” by Mario Vargas Llosa

CREDIT: “Sabers and Utopias”. Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Ok, so you’ve read through 19 books, and have found another Nobel Prize winning author. This one is a deep dive into Latin American history told by one of the most talented, brilliant Latino minds alive today.

21. “Sidewalks” by Valeria Luiselli

CREDIT: “Sidewalks.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Born in Mexico City, Luiselli, “Sidewalks” is the translation of “Papeles Falsos” and a collection of essays about Mexico City, Manhattan, and a dizzying array of graveyard-esque stories in between. Read it to see what I mean.

22. “A Psalm for Us” by Reyna Biddy

CREDIT: “a psalm for us.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Twenty two-year-old Reyna “Biddy” Mays is mitad Mexicana and is gifting us this collection of prose, self-affirmations, spoken word poems, and short stories that question faith, marrying the intellect’s acceptance of feminist principles and dragging her heart to the fullest expression of self worth.

This book will opens your soul up.

23. “Islandborn” by Junot Díaz

CREDIT: “Islandborn | Lola.” Digital Image. JunotDiaz.com. 4 April 2018.

Dominican writer, Junot Díaz, has gifted us all vivid stories intermingled with our own childhood memories. Today, he’s gifting our world’s youngest story-lovers a tale of Lola, a Dominican girl living in the Bronx, asked to share her family’s story. As her imagination and memories swirl together around serious topics (i.e. dictator Rafael Trujillo), she learns about the heroes of her island, and the story of her family.

I’m 100 percent gifting this to my nietos.

New Book: Lowriders to the Center of the Earth

Written by Cathy Camper

Illustrated by Raul the Third

  • Age Range: 9 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Series: Lowriders in Space
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452138362

2017 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner

The lovable trio from the acclaimed Lowriders in Space are back! Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and El Chavo Octopus are living their dream at last. They’re the proud owners of their very own garage. But when their beloved cat Genie goes missing, they need to do everything they can to find him. Little do they know the trail will lead them to the realm of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the Underworld, who is keeping Genie prisoner! With cool Spanish phrases on every page, a glossary of terms, and an action-packed plot that sneaks in science as well as Aztec lore, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is a linguistic and visual delight. ¡Que suave!

Review

“The wild antics, exuberant illustrations, and frequent Spanish will launch the Lowriders straight into many hearts.”-Booklist

“The storytelling is inventive, juggling cultural references, surreal circumstances, and educational impulses.”-School Library Journal

“Solidly uplifting graphic novel that offer plenty of comedy, adventure, information, and magnificent art.”-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Lowriders in Space (Book 1)

Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team’s favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.

 

Original post found here: http://labloga.blogspot.com/2017/07/lowriders-to-center-of-earth.html

Chicanonautica: Altermundos: Latinoid Culture Goes Speculative

Original post by Ernest Hogan found here: http://labloga.blogspot.com/2017/04/chicanonautica-altermundos-latinoid.html

Look out, world! Here’s a manifestation of La Cultura that will give the President’s absurd performance art, the design contest for the Border Wall, and the Mother of All Bombs some serious competition: Altermundos: Latin@ Speculative Literature, Film, and PopularCulture edited by Cathryn Josefina Merla-Watson and B.V. Olguín. It’s got a cover that riffs on a classic Jesús Helguera painting, making it into sexy space opera. The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center calls it “The first collection engaging Chicana/o and Latina/o speculative cultural production.” And it’s over 500 pages.

 

You can even order it from Target for a 32% discount.

 

It includes my “Chicanonautica Manifesto” where I say things like: “I’m not interested in being puro Mexicano and only reaching the gente in the barrio. My roots embrace the planet, and reach out for the universe—the Intergalactic Barrio.”

 

There’s also Daoine S. Bachran’s “From Code to Codex: Tricksterizing the Digital Divide in Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues” and other essays that discuss and mention my work. Makes me look like some kind of Latinoid literary chingón. Hmm, maybe there’s something to this Father of Chicano science fiction stuff, after all?

 

And it’s not all about me. Other essays discuss Gloria Anzaldúa’s sci-fi roots, Jamie Hernandez’s comics, Latin@ science fiction, Latin@ speculative fiction, Chicanafuturism, Chican@futurism, Sexy cyborg cholo clownz, a post-apocalyptic anarcha-feminist revolutionary punk rock musical, Matthew David Goodwin’s notes on editing Latin@ Rising and mucho, mucho más, all reprinted from Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies.

 

This ain’t no dull, academic tome. This is what’s been going on as Latinoid culture rides the waves of future shock, sending fractures through Latinoid/Chicano art and science/speculative fiction. It’s also the way the world is going, the culture of the 21st century and beyond. Civilization as we know it will not be the same. And it’s good non-fiction companion to the other fiction anthologies that have been coming out lately.

 

 
Ernest Hogan has been published a lot in 2017. So far his work has appeared in Mithila Review, The Jewish Mexican Literary Review, Latin@ Rising, and Five to the Future. And a new edition of his novel Smoking Mirror Blues is in the works. Political turmoil seems to be good for Chicano science fiction. And the year just keeps getting weirder.

Chicanonautica: Cyber Beyond Punk–Latinoids Included

Original post by Ernest Hogan found here: http://labloga.blogspot.com

I am not now, nor have I ever been a card-carrying cyberpunk. However, if you look me up online, you find the word used, over and over again, to define me. So I’m stuck with the Chicano cyberpunk label, even though Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes should be credited with creating it.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Cyber World: Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow. A back cover blurb from Chuck Windig says it “gives the cyberpunk genre a much-needed reboot.” Then Richard Kadrey explains in his forward that “Cyberpunk isn’t cool anymore because it doesn’t have to be.” Editor Joshua Viola declares that “Cyberpunk is dead,” while the other editor Jason Heller says,“Don’t call this a cyberpunk book.” Yet, the book trailer labels it, “A Cyberpunk anthology.”

Pardon my WTF . . .

The book is a slick production from Hex Publishers, out of Colorado (once again, look out Nueva York). A great cover with a pink-hair/plugged-in girl (is pink hair rebellious or nostalgic these days?) does project a certain amount of punk angst. There’s eye-catching art and very modernistic layout. If you flip the pages, the globe in the circuitry rotates. Plus, there’s a bonus CD soundtrack.

Also, the names of writers I know and respect are in the table of contents. So I started reading.
Despite an overall leaning toward angst and pessimism–there weren’t any laughs, which was one of my complaints about the original wave of cyberpunk–there is a connection to the whole “street finding its own uses for technology” concept. The technology has been updated, totally twenty-first century, generations after 1984 when Neuromancer was published and the idea of carrying around computers with more memory that NASA’s lunar landing module was far-fetched. The streets using technology are outside of the Bladerunner future noir safe zone.Transhumanism defines humanity, and provides it with a vehicle to zoom across new fronteras/borders . . .
When cyberpunk first started it was mostly white male, but back then science fiction was considered to be a white male thing. Yeah, they sometimes liked to fantasize about being Asian, but black or brown was getting too far out. And there weren’t many girls around. Later, when summing up cyberpunk, writers would dutifully mention Misha Nogah (what? You haven’t read here Red Spider White Web yet?), and me as Native American and Chicano tokens.
My, have times changed.
Which brings me to why I’m reviewing it for La Bloga: I’m happy to say that Cyber World, without making an issue out of it, is diverse in both the characters presented and the writers, who are all experienced professionals. Yes, there are Latinoids, of various kinds, some of them new.
All the stories are good. My favorites were from Mario Acevedo, Saladin Ahmed, Paolo Bacigalupi, Minister Faust, Chinelo Onwaulu, Sarah Pinsker, Nisi Shawl, Alyssa Wong, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro. I found myself reading the anthology as if it were a page-turner novel, going on to the next story, anxious for more.
I also found myself updating my thinking about what I’m currently writing–always a sign of being near the cutting edge.
No matter what label you put on it, Cyber World not only is about humanity’s tomorrow, but the future of speculative fiction.