Saturday, June 28, 2014

My schedule at Readercon 25

Thursday, July 10

8 PM 

East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction

Panel: Matthew Goodwin, Carlos Hernández, Daniel José Older, Julia Rios and Sabrina Vourvoulias 

This freeform conversation will look at where we've been, where we're going, the challenges of representing our own particular cultures within the umbrella term "Latin@," and the challenges of being Latin@ within a overwhelmingly Anglo genre. Are there insurmountable differences in regional Latinidad? Do we have to choose between being “vendidos” (sell-outs) or “pelados” (surviving—barely—by our wits)? Can we build platform in two languages (and if so, how)? How are we combatting the “Latinos don't read/Latinos don't write” fallacy?

Friday, July 11

1 PM 

Latin@ Writers Read 

Reading: Carlos Hernández, Daniel José Older, Julia Rios and Sabrina Vourvoulias 

In concert with the 'East, West, and Everything Between' roundtable about Latin@ SFF, panel participants will read from their own work and/or work of other Latin@ writers.

• I'll be reading from my story, Skin in the Game, which is slated to be published by in late 2014 or early 2015.

3 PM 

Long Hidden Group Reading 

Rose Fox, Claire Humphrey, Michael Janairo, Ken Liu, Sunny Moraine, Daniel José Older, Sarah Pinsker, Sofia Samatar and Sabrina Vourvoulias
Long Hidden (edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older) is an anthology of speculative stories from the margins of history. Our participants will read from their stories, which dive deep into the hidden truths of marginalized people throughout history and around the world.

• I'll be reading from my story, The Dance of the White Demons, which closes out the book. Look for it for purchase as ebook or in print at the Crossed Genres table in the bookshop.

4 PM 

Rape, Race & Speculative Fiction 

Panelists: Chesya Burke, Mikki Kendall (leader), Rose Mambert and Sabrina Vourvoulias. 

Rape as a plot device can be highly problematic. We've certainly seen it used as the only trauma or the worst trauma that can happen to a woman in fiction. But what happens when writers from marginalized communities include it in their fiction as a way of exploring painful history that has gone unacknowledged? We will discuss Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death, Andrea Hairston's Redwood and Wildfire, and other examples. This panel will cover some very sensitive topics, so please be respectful of yourself and others.

7 PM 

Tabula Rasa Group Reading

Reading: Jennifer Marie Brissett, Justin Key, Barbara Krasnoff and Sabrina Vourvoulias. 

Tabula Rasa is an NYC-based writers group made up of experienced, published science fiction/fantasy/horror writers. Each member will be reading a portion of a story, published or not yet published.

• I'll be reading from my story, The Bar at the End of the World, from the anthology The Many Tortures of Anthony Cardno (fresh off the press at Readercon!) which benefits the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Look for it for purchase as ebook or in print at the Lethe Press and/or Crossed Genres tables in the bookshop. 

Saturday, July 12

10 AM 

When the Other Is You 

Panelists: Chesya Burke, Samuel Delany, Peter Dubé, Mikki Kendall, Vandana Singh and Sabrina Vourvoulias. 

Being part of an underrepresented group and trying to write our experience into our work can be tricky. We might have internalized some prejudice about ourselves, we might not have the craft to get our meaning across perfectly, and even if we depict our own experience totally accurately (as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie observed in her TED Talk "The Danger of a Single Story"), we do so while struggling against the expectation that our experience is or isn't "representative" or "authentic." How do we navigate the pitfalls and responsibilities of being perceived as spokespeople? What potentially pernicious dynamics allow us that dubious privilege in the first place? Which works make us cringe with their representations of us, and which make us sigh with relief and recognition?

7 PM 

Solo reading 

• I haven't decided yet whether I'll read from my novel, Ink (Crossed Genres); or another story that will be published in 2015 by Tor.comThe Way of Walls and Words; or one of the stories or novellas for my planned collection of short stories, Sin Embargo; or perhaps even a section of my work in progress, a Sci Fi space opera, tentatively titled Tierras Huerfanas/Orphan Lands

You can, of course,  purchase Ink as ebook or in print at the  Crossed Genres table in the bookshop, but for the other, you'll just have to wait.

Anyway, help me make the decision about which to read. Let me know in comments which sounds most interesting to you. You'll have my eternal gratitude, because I really, really, really can't seem to decide on my own.

And if you've never been to Readercon, what are you waiting for? I'd love to see/meet you there!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Competing fandoms: Philadelpha Comic Con vs. the World Cup

RB Silva & company at Philly Comic Con

Sometimes fate conspires to pit two interests against each other. Since June 13 I’ve been watching every soccer match in the undisputed king of world soccer tournaments — the World Cup. But even beyond the matches and surprises (Ghana matching Germany? Costa Rica beating Uruguay and Italy?) is the spectacle of fandom, and the creative ways it shows its love and support for the national teams. There’s been everything from face-paint to full-on costume, and I love it.

On Saturday, June 21 there were three World Cup matches: Argentina vs. Iran (1-0); Nigeria vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (1-0); and the aforementioned Germany vs. Ghana stunner (2-2), and I didn’t see even one match. That’s because I was at another event that is all about the spectacle of fandom and creative ways to show love and support for  the world of comics, sci fi/fantasy/horror and gaming — Philadelphia Comic Con.

It’s funny, because there is probably not a whole lot of overlap between the two fandoms. In fact, the individuals involved in each often hold deprecating views of each other — the antagonism between geeks and jocks is standard in television shows and coming-of-age literature and films. And yet, the expression of fandom is indisputably the same.

Marvel’s Ironman fan vs.  Spain’s La Furia Roja fans
Ironman at Philadelphia Comic Con
La Furia Roja fans before Spain's second match
Nintendo’s Attack on Titan fans vs. Japan’s Samurai Blue fans

Attack on Titan cosplayers at Philly Comic Con
Japanese national team fans at the first match
Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier fans vs. Chile’s La Roja fans

Two sets of Captain America: The Winter Soldier cosplayers
Chile's La Roja fans before the second match
Dr. Who fan vs. Costa Rica’s Tico fan
Dr. Who cosplayer at Philly's Market East station.
Tico fan at a friendly preceding World Cup play
Marvel’s Captain America fan vs. United States’ Stars & Stripes fan

Captain America cosplayer at the PA Convention Center
U.S. national team fan in face paint
Sometimes, of course, the twain do meet in more ways than costume amd custom.

At the Philly Comic Con booth of artist R.B. Silva, who draws DC’s comic book Superman, we talked about the stunning Brazil and Mexico draw of last week. Silva is from Santos, Brazil, and we did a little trash-talking — me extolling El Tri’s vigor, Silva and his cohort minimizing everything but Mexican keeper Memo Ochoa’s ability to shut down Brazil’s prodigious striker Neymar.

And, on the way home from Comic Con — on a train with tired fans full of Dr. Who and Captain America: The Winter Soldier cosplayers — the first thing I checked? The scores of the fantastic three games of the day.

We are all part of communities within communities within even larger communities.

For me, much of the joy of attending an event like the Philadelphia Comic Con or following the World Cup, comes from the unpredictable and the wonderfully predictable. No matter who we are rooting for every four years, or dressing in tribute to every year, we come to celebrate our affections — creatively and unabashedly — together.

Cosplayers at Philadelphia Comic Con

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dream cast and playlist (sort of) for my novel INK

I took a page from mystery writer Carmen Amato, who recently posted the dream cast for her book Hidden Light of Mexico (along with a playlist of songs to read by) and decided to do the same for  INK.  Not that the novel is imminent danger of being filmed — can you see Hollywood optioning a book that has been described as "a call for justice;" an immigration dystopia set in the near future, with significant Latino roles? But it is fun to imagine anyway. So here goes ...

Character: Mari
"I am their storyteller.
Others try: Francine retelling myths, Abbie turning tweet to story. But the children always come back to me. Satchel only hears my stories once a month, when he comes up to the woods to visit his father, but he's got the kind of mind that holds forever. Even as the years pass and Gus gets tall, Lucero fills out, Satchel turns contemplative, they come for the stories.
I tell them the one about the boy shapeshifter, and the star girl, and the child who bridges worlds. I tell them other tales, too, so they will know that everyone is made of stories. 
Each of them at a different time obsesses about my tattoo."

Actor: Dalia Hernández
29. Mexican. Film credits include Apocalypto, Miracle Underground and Soho Square. She has Mari's quiet intensity.

Character: Finn
"I can't remember when we started calling them inks. After all, it isn't until know it's certain they'll be tattooed when they enter the country. Actually, unless I'm misreading the soon-to-be-law even the permanent resident and citizen inks will end up with tattoos, with a color scheme to indicate terminal status.
I lean back a moment and stare across the newsroom while I consider how to best shape the lede. There isn't a single ink in the Gazette's newsroom, never was. Even at the big papers there hadn't been a glut of them. Melinda catches me looking around and glares at me. They must teach that look in journalism school because all my cohorts go silent and lean into their monitors as if to convince her they haven't been goofing off.
Me, well, I keep smiling. I'm her favorite reporter even though I haven't seen a day of j-school. 
I file the story a full five minutes before she expects it. She edits it in two. A minute after the new media dude gives us the thumbs up, we watch as my lede floods the fall."

Actor: Ryan Reynolds
38. Canadian. Film credits include R.I.P.D., Green Lantern, The Proposal, Harold & Kumar go to White Castle, among many others. Reynolds isn't as stocky as I'd imagined Finn, nor at 6' 2" quite as tall — but  almost...

Character: Meche
"Cuban. A former chemist. Well, I guess she's still a chemist, just no longer employed by the pharmaceutical company that holds her patents. On her own she's developed this absolutely dead-on synthetic skin. All you need is a small jar of the compound, one of the powdered catalyst, and water to activate it. Sets up quickly. Can ve dyed to match different skin tones so it's perfect to cover tattoos. And it's undetectable. For a few weeks at least, until it starts degrading. Some of the Cuban inks have been paying through the nose to get it at her peña. As long as you have money and don't have an accent it's the way to go."

Actor: Jessica Alba
33. U.S. Latina. Film credits include Sin City, Machete, Valentine's Day, Fantastic Four, among many others. Meche is almost a goddess — all gold surface and grit beneath — so is Alba.

Character: Del
"I cross behind the cabin, down to where the stream has nearly iced over. Up the steep bank roughly parallel to the cabin's south window I start scanning the ground looking for the tracks I spotted earlier.
Moonlight pools in the glade as I squat down to them. I put one hand on the footprint, digging into it until my fingers hit ground, and close my eyes.
It is a slide I take, down to the chambers of my heart. I can count the seeds slumbering in this piece of land, and the fiddleheads curled under snow waiting for a distant wake-up call. My blood can course along the sappy viaducts of birch and oak, the resinous gullies of hemlocks. And deeper still, I can hear the molten buzz of a mantle perpetually in motion. 
And the footstep? The land lets me know where its owner headed from here, and how long ago."

Actor: Freddie Prinze Jr.
38. U.S. Latino. Film credits include To Gillian on her 37th Birthday, Scooby Do, I Know What You Did Last Summer, along with many TV roles. Since Del isn't Latino, it would be a nice switch on the more commonplace non-Latino playing Latino role (I'm looking at you, Ben Affleck).

Character: Abbie
"I convince my mother to put me on computer work for the duration of my community service so I don't have to grapple with what the inkatorium is, and my part in it. I particularly don't want to run into Pete.
I do some of the work I'm supposed to, but mostly I try my hand at sabotage. First I hack into the state public health consortium's system, into the human resources department server. 
They've got dirt on all the inkatorium's administrators. My father's DUI is in my mom's file, along with her terrible credit rating and the lien on property taxes she hasn't been able to pay in full yet. Also the number of inks who have escaped the inkatorium under her watch."

Actor: Adelaide Kane
24. Australian. Film credits include Donner Pass, The Purge, Louder than Words, along with TV roles. She plays a credible teenager and the camera loves her without making her look too perfect.

Character: Toño
"Each line is really a number," he says, then recites them as he glides his finger across the tattoo.
"It tracks everything the government cares to know about me. From who I was born to and where, to whether I get the full rights of citizenship or not. Their measure of who I am."
"Someday it won't be that way," I say.
"They'll still see me as they want to see me," he says. "That's really the mark inks bear that you'll never understand, America."

Actor: Alex Meraz
29. U.S. Latino. Film credits include The New World and four of the films in the Twilight Saga, along with TV roles. Let's see what he really can do as actor, shall we?

There was only one secondary character I wrote with a film actor in mind — I pictured  Chato as veteran Chicano actor, Danny Trejo.

To my utter delight I was able to meet him and be part of an AL DÍA interview with him in advance of the release of the movie Machete Kills.

And, no, I didn't manage to screw up my courage and tell him he had been the inspiration for one of the characters in my novel. But I did get him to autograph one of my INK book cards, and that makes me unaccountably happy.

Unlike Amato in the post that inspired this one, I'm not going to include a playlist fitted to different scenes in the book (I'm far too lazy). But I did write the book to music (I dance around while I type) and Los Lobos, Chris Isaak and Three Days Grace are all mentioned in the book.

If I were to include a playlist La Santa Cecilia's El Hielo/ICE ; Aloe Blacc's cover of Avicii's Wake Me Up, and Las Cafeteras' wonderful La Bamba Rebelde would be on it. All of which draw attention to our current broken immigration policy which separates families and loved ones from each other, which detains without due process, and which is considering electronic monitoring of immigrants ...

One of the minor characters in my novel says this near the end of the book: "Don't let the future be written for you." The time to prevent the dystopia outlined in my novel is now. Urge your congress person to support just and humane immigration reform that:

• Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country
• Restores due process protections to immigration enforcement policies
• Preserves family unity as a cornerstone of the national immigration policy
• Provides legal paths for low-skill immigrant workers to come and work in the United States
• Addresses the root causes (push factor) of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Let's talk about the price tag - the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Latino Catholics

At Our Lady of Fatima Church in Bensalem, Pa., where the Latino population increased 102% from 2000 to 2010.

Last weekend the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced another round of parish closures and mergers, the latest in their cost-cutting efforts that have reduced the total number of parishes in the five-county region to 219. One of the churches affected is Our Lady of Fatima in Bensalem, a church with a large and thriving Latino community. (You can read more about the impact on Latino Catholics in AL DÍA's editorial.)

It is the latest in a number of closures of ministries and structures — or their disposition as parish concerns rather than archdiocesan ones — that were significant to Latino Catholics in the Philadelphia area: La Milagrosa on Spring Garden Street; the Catholic Institute for Evangelization, and the Cardinal Bevilacqua Center, both in the Kensington section of the city. Staffing reduction decisions have also had tangible and symbolic effect on the Latino Catholic community. There once was a vicar for Hispanic Catholics; an archdiocesan office for youth and young adults with a staff member dedicated to Latino youth specifically; a ministry team led by the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima led by the dynamic Sor Alba Bonilla — none of these are in place anymore.

The Archdiocese denies it is reducing outreach and services to Latinos, saying instead that it is shifting from archdiocesan-centric to parish-centric ministries and services.

But if it is effectively shuttering the strongly Latino parishes like La Milagrosa or Our Lady of Fatima, doesn’t it amount to the same thing?

Moreover, members of the Latino Catholic community have been openly critical of the archdiocesan administration, alleging that it has consistently refused to meet with them and that it hasn’t been transparent or open with the Latino community in the matter of the sale of La Milagrosa.

While the Archdiocese would like to believe it is just a small group of vocal and disgruntled Latino Catholics who are disenfranchised by its actions of the last few years, it simply isn’t the case. In fact, they might be surprised to learn that even those who have not openly expressed their opinions about this, nevertheless, have some very strong ones. Take, for example, this assessment — from an active non-Latino Catholic (who prefers not to be named):

“There is a pattern of combining parishes with Spanish-speaking congregations with primarily English-speaking ones. It is (a little) like the Catholic Indian boarding schools of the early 1900s that stripped the American Indians of their ways and got them to assimilate to the white man’s ways. They were not allowed to speak their native language, wear native clothing and would be be punished if they did. It may be a bold comparison but when you think about it, is it so far off? The Church is prohibiting the Latinos from practicing the faith the way they want and are accustomed to. They are forcing them to assimilate to the Anglo way and hoping they will leave their deep-rooted rituals and practices. Pretty soon there will be no Spanish-language Masses in these churches — but only after they recruit all the young Latinos to fill the religious leadership vacancies, because the Church is hurting and realizes it needs young Latinos to fill those. Mixing cultures is a beautiful thing, as long as it does not involve having to give up one's cultural identity.”

A mariachi plays at a Mass at Our Lady of Fatima.
Mergers of parishes with distinct demographic compositions intrinsically prioritize the parish designated to remain open and receive the parishioners from the other. In the case of Our Lady of Fatima’s Latino parishioners, it means coming into a St. Charles Borromeo parish that is neither attuned to Latino concerns and needs, nor necessarily receptive to them. A longtime immigration reform advocate recounts an experience at St. Charles:

“In 2012 I was organizing a panel discussion in Bensalem with Reform Immigration for America. I went to Monsignor Duncan at St. Charles and asked if I could put out flyers about the event in the church. He agreed. So before Mass I went into the church and was placing flyers around and saw an older parishioner, who was there early, pick up the flyer to see what it was. He mumbled under his breath and proceeded to take the whole pile to the trash can to throw them out.”

As noted in the AL DÍA editorial, the closures and mergers affect many communities. There is generalized sense among those Catholics affected that the Archdiocese favors wealthy showcase parishes over those that, however fervent and devoted the congregation, are economically disadvantaged.

“It seems as if they are choosing mergers of parishes that are economically weak with those that are more affluent,” says the non Latino quoted earlier. “It is all about the money.”

Perhaps sensible for an Archdiocese mired in a financial mess of its own making. But if it wasn’t crystal clear before, Pope Francis has made it so: money isn’t supposed to determine who the Church serves or how well or grudgingly those services are rendered. After all, what the Church — any religion — sells us isn’t supposed to be about the price tag, is it?