Cinco de Mayo was originally a celebration held to celebrate the victory of Battle of Puebla, but it’s taken on a slightly different meaning in the United States. It is now a day that we use to celebrate Mexican-American culture. And to be honest, I couldn’t have even told you that until recently. A few days ago, my daughter asked me “What does Cinco de Mayo mean?” and beyond “Fifth of May” I had no clue. A bit of Googling later, I had enough of an answer to satisfy her. However, it’s a bit ridiculous that I’ve known of the holiday for years, but had no clue what it meant. From there it was a hop, skip, and a jump until I was thinking about Mexican science fiction. (Everything comes back to books for me.)
I thought it was interesting when I started reading up on Mexican science fiction to recognize my own inherent …hm… bias? I don’t know what is the right word is to use here, honestly. I think of science fiction as being an inherently English/American genre. While I was cognizant of the fact that other countries probably did produce it, I guess I thought it was more just the translation of works written elsewhere. And Sweet Baby Cthulhu, that is really, really racist (Still doesn’t feel like the right word?) of me, isn’t it?! Ugh. The only possible defense of this that pops into my mind is I equate Latino/Latina with passion, and science fiction is…well, it’s almost the opposite of passion in my head. But I know that’s still wrong.
Look, I’m just going to skim the surface on this post, but at the bottom of it, I’m going to link you to every place I got my information from, so you can read up on it in depth yourself. All of the credit for anything I talk about goes to the sources listed at the bottom. However, for those of you interested in experiencing science fiction from other cultures, hopefully, this will give you a place to start.
It would seem that there is not that much Mexican-authored science fiction out there right now, and finding English translations of the works may be interesting if not impossible. There was a bit of a boom in the 90s, but due to various reasons, that balloon popped before it could ever really get going. There aren’t even any major science fiction awards given in Mexico, though previous awards included the Puebla and the Kapla (given in the 90s.). There are also no Mexican science fiction magazines in print that I could find (though there are apparently some e-zines). It’s disappointing, because the descriptions of some of the science fiction that I did find looked very interesting.
The first person that science fiction is attributed to in Mexico was… a priest. In the 18th century. He wrote a short story about what it would be like to travel to the moon. (The fact that it was a priest really shouldn’t be that big of a surprise, right? I mean writing and reading wasn’t exactly for the common man for the longest time.) Still, that a priest would write science fiction of all things just kind of boggles my mind.
Another thing that surprised me was finding out that one of the founding fathers of Latin-American was also Mexico’s most famous poet, Amado Nervo. That one caused me to do a double-take too. Poetry is passion and feeling and …and..and.. science fiction is …not? Talk about forcing me to take another look at how I define science fiction and what attracts me to it. I’ve said frequently that I think science fiction is about hope and looking to the future, but obviously, I need to think about this a bit more. Further reading did reveal that a lot of Mexico’s science fiction does focus more on the ‘soft’ side, which kind of makes it work a little bit better in my head.
Though I could not find a dearth of science fiction authors, I did find more than a few. To keep this from turning into a wall of names, I’m only going to talk about a handful of the authors. Some older science fiction authors that I’ve found during my research were: Alfredo Cardona Peña (d. 1995), Gerardo Horacio Porcayo Villalobos, Sebastián Camacho y Zulueta (d. 1915), Mario Trejo González (Gonzalo Martre), and Edmundo Dominguez Aragones. Newer authors included Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz (Espantapajaros), José Luis Zárate (Xanto), Bernardo Fernández (Gel Azul), and Alberto Chimal (normally writes fantasy, but won an award for Se Ha Perdido Una Niña ),
In terms of specific book recommendations: One of the more recent works of Mexican-authored science fiction would be Gel Azul (Blue Gel) by Bernardo Fernández “Bef” . This was written in 2007, and has a premise of a world where all people live permanently in virtual reality. To make this happen live most of their lives in protein gel tanks which sustain life. Bad guys take advantage of those living the VR-existence to do rather horrible things to their bodies, and there’s a massive organ –trafficking war going on as a result. Gel Azul is a science fiction mystery where the hero is a hacker. It is a novelette and can be found paired with The Rumble of Silence, another science fiction novel with a more familiar theme. The Rumble of Silence is about a spaceship going to Epsilon Eridani, controlled by a praying mantis like robot that awakens once every hundred years just to make sure everything is going okay, while his human charges rest in cryosleep until arrival. Things go fine until the robot suddenly begins to dream.
If you like science fiction romance, you may want to try out Oniria by Alberto Fausto. Oniria is a trilogy set in a world where there is no consequence to one’s actions. Where dreams are life and lifes are dreams (similar to Gel Azul in some ways, it would seem).
If you like comic books, you could check out Quince from Fanbase Press. Quince is published in both English and Spanish. It’s about a teenage girl who discovers she has superpowers at her quinceañera. However, her powers only last until she turns sixteen.
If you’re interested in getting a sampling of science fiction from around the world, I’d suggest the Apex Book of World SF, of which the first three volumes were edited by Lavie Tidhar. I have the first and second volumes coming soon, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.
If you have any information the subject that you would like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below. Sadly, I just don’t read Spanish wellenough yet to dive into any of the books I’ve mentioned. But I do intend on it eventually. What I’m doing at the moment is trying to read the Spanish translation of The Martian. Its my favorite book, and I’ve listened/read it countless times, so hopefully it’ll go well.
We do plan on revisiting Mexican science fiction again in the future, with an emphasis on film at that point.
- Strange Horizons: Terra Incognita- A brief history of Mexican science fiction
- SFF: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
- Enciclopedia de la literatura en Mexico
- Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary Mexican Science Fiction by Samuel Manickam
- What Happened When I Set Out to Celebrate Science Fiction From Around the World by Lavie Tidhar
- Latin American Science Fiction Writers: An A-to-Z Guide edited by Darrell B. Lockhart