I want this blog to be a place to share my ideas on the world, publishing, art, writing, literature, history, Chicanismo, Nativismo, half-breedery, laser guns and zombies, all the bright things of the world rather than as with the blogs of many others that attempt to claw at your eyes with their branding and self-aggrandizing announcements of publications and awards or mouth-gaped following of the workshop advice to write on how to write a book, though as with most of them, they haven't written one or published one. (Drop this sad sack in the latter).
Well that day, that blog, isn't here yet!
I got a story published!
Always make inquiries kids
Editors are overworked and busy. (Don't I know.) Stories fall between the cracks. A couple weeks ago I sat in my Captain Kirk chair in the living room/office/plague bunker of my life, watching multiple shows and reading websites like Elvis did televisions and I saw the Unity acceptances were being sent out. I assumed my story was rejected and asked if they could send me comments. I mean, I've heard all the comments on the story, not given half a chance since it's second person and some box wine drinking wannabe snob high school teacher told everyone that second person is weird, a crutch, gimmicky. And unfortunately most people need to be told something is good by someone else, so that kinda killed most of the chance for this story to be published. Most comments I've heard start with, "First off second person..." rather than seeing it was used pretty much for the same reason the only second person novel people know used it (Bright Lights Big City), to show dissonance of self. Unity replied the story, indeed fell through the cracks and sent me this lil' announcement image. So thanks to Unity editors for giving "Moms" a shot.
I wrote "Moms" a long time ago. At the time I was working on a flash novel Black Button, to get my feet wet in the genre. Second person gave an idea of the dissonance of self and an expression of alienation. I thought about the elements of the novel, the usual workshop bs of knowing everything about your character (Nabokov has a great saying about how characters were just means to an end, they don't take over as most with sensitive artistic sensibilities say). My character, You, in Black Button already had mutations, was ripped to shreds, stopped time, and had a literal mystery box that seemed it was part of a jet or spacecraft or an arcade cabinet. A bit of a weird cat, You.
I was about to head to grad school, but was deep in the woods of Washington State in a creepy ranger station to help my girlfriend at the time set up meteorological stations in the woods. I thought of presenting the flash novel to a class and what the usual platitudes one hears about writing. "What is their favorite food?" "What drives this character?" "Who were their parents?" My experience with workshops, school, college, etc. was for white professors to encourage me to include their east coast notion of the barrio STREET into my stories for their elucidation and entertainment. Add in my own opinions about the Latinx minstrel show many authors put on in their work to make it in the mainstream publishing world and this all caused me to think, "Yo, this story is about his moms!" Thus, You solves the arcade mystery box and finds it leads to his parentage, not his mother, but his many moms.
It's not been well received. The reason I share that, this, yes, this story, has been one the favorite thing I've written. It's succinct. Experimental. Goes to the Chicano experience though I didn't know it when I wrote it. Expresses alienation and confusion this special sausage has dealt with his entire life. A little darkly ridiculous and fun. And (almost) impossible to publish for said reasons.
This isn't a blog post about endurance, because it takes a ridiculous amount of effort, fees, and spirit crushing perseverance to just to get a few stories published, the ones you believe in and don't find embarrassing juenvelia or means to write other stories. The line from "Speedway" by Morrissey about nothing left to break anymore comes to mind. What it really takes to keep going, to satisfy some of my former STREET loving professors a bit, is love of the game. Even if it destroys you.
Dreamer anthology out!
I have four stories in it, "Beacon", "Bad Sun", "Old Folks", and "Her Number". I might describe them as speculative flash fiction dark folktales. I'm including a couple of them in the collection I'm working on called Mexpocalyptic Tales, hopefully done baking this year.
The Dreamers book has been a long time coming, I sent in the last edits when I was camping at Chaco Canyon years ago, running around trying to get a data connection and not getting one until we had driven well outside the park, fences, houses, nonexistent and nothing but desert.
I've mentioned a bit on social media that the idea for "Old Folks" came from my dad who asked me to write it a bit before he passed. The original version I was going to show him was much like what is published. The night before I was going to give him the printed off story, he told me, "Buddy I'm sorry I took you to the Hill when you were a boy. I imagine you heard lots of racism." The Hill was a den of inequity where my extended family had a liquor store, now a bunch of yuppie apartments. I told dad, yeah, I learned what a wetback was and that it applied to people like me when I was three years old. He said sorry again, and looked away. Inside, I was like it took you that long to realize?
Our relatives at the Hill said the nword around customers, treated Mexicans workers like slaves, made racist jokes. Said I must get lots of sun. Dad had seen mom's relatives in LA and New Mexico, many Spanglish speaking and brown. His own father told him not to marry her, to stay in his race. To me the apology was nice, but a bit useless, and I don't mean that in an ungrateful way. His white father of a brown person tactic was to tell us we were Heinz 57, mixed, a more palatable word for Anglos to call us. Not the double colonized to not knowing themselves Mission Indians we came from, aka Mexicans, the dirty word. The racism around us growing up was very forward, and little was done to protect me from it, though my own parents were confused and class climbing and tried to erase what they were to fit in places that wouldn't have us, rednecks, Mexicans or Indians. I literally wasn't allowed in 80 to 90 percent in my friends houses as a kid, a statement that caused a bunch of white fragility and accusations on Facebook.
After the conversation, I thought dad felt bad, a little awkward. I know the police never put a gun to his head for no reason, that teachers might have answered his raised hand, that admins, clerks, the world didn't sneer at him or purposefully misinform and huskily demand of him if he spoke English or when did he come to this country. Things he often didn't believe when I told him.
So I cleared up the story for dad. Took out the overt predatory Anglo exploitation. Made it just about the old and the young. Added in some allusions to a classic short story about a doctor and eternal youth that I can't remember now (thanks TV pandemic wasteland).
Years later, when the nice editors sent me the edits, I remembered how I wrote the story in the first place. Now, a young Chicano boy visits the old folks and gets called amigo before being lead to his dark fate.
If you made it this far, check Speculative Fiction for Dreamers out or ask your local bookstore to order. I asked, wondering if my local carried it, they said no. I went back, bam, they had it. Little questions are powerful.
Like the pic shows, my story "Wake Up Gringo" won honorary mention at The Ghost Story 2021 Contest.
I wrote this story in a collection I had planned then nixed involving two characters, The Kid and El Viejo, living in a rural house surrounded by a howling, screeching border as they try to live out a mundane life that mutates and causes them to question the veracity of their existence, that is, are they real folks or trapped in someone's weird narrative which they didn't choose. Such is life for a half-breed quasi-vato in the USA. I may complete it at some point, but for now, this story is a part of Mexpocalyptic Tales, a slipstream and speculative collection anticipating and reveling in the Mexpocalypse, the nuclear blast of Xicano formation and ascendancy. A collection closer and closer to launching.
I wrote "Wake Up Gringo" years ago, as often happens with a story's inception to actual publication. Most writers back in the day would say they wrote it in a lazy day and did no editing and it got published that afternoon. I respected Julio Cortázar who would say he wrote a draft 20 years ago and then rewrote it for years.
I recall wanting this story to give the same sense of an early Chicano collection from the 70s where work was rawish, pithy but searching and new.
It's great to win honorary mention, this is the first time I've placed in a contest and the winner was an Indigenous person. Now to get some books published...
The year has gotten away from me or rather grew so large, weird and terrible I got away from it. My next post, months ago was going to be on the history of Zorro since I researched Zorro as his fanboy is the villain in my novel. Then a post on mental health and writing a fantastic memoir (fantastic as in with fableistic or fantasy elements). Well the plague hit.
And Somos en escrito hit. The press has had project after project, at least behind the scenes. A book called Postcards from a PostMexican, an upcoming fantasy book from Rudy Ch. Garcia, now R. Ch. Garcia, a nonfiction Latina(o/x) anthology and a few unmentioned projects and the magazine in general. Also I'm a member of MeXicanos2070 trying to help out with the Colegio Chicano del Pueblo in my limited capacity.
Added to the stress, my cat is dying.
The Zorro post is also put off by the publication of a book I'm working through, Zorro's Shadow, so I may recall some of the facts (and I'm very curious to the author's conclusions). He himself is describing the journey of discovering of learning of the past and Zorro. I'm liking it so far, the author is no villain. I'm even taken in by Zorro's Victorian style adventuring, though not his pro-colonial depictions.
The lockdown has come with red skies, protests, masses of unmasked idiots in parks, and my pavo loco friend getting put into the clink. I'm already a shut in recluse, my job in the city got axed, I have little reason to go outside and see the crowded yuppie joggers and knuckleheads at the lake, it won't be the young dying, but spreading death...
But this is a magic update!
Magic, which is sorely needed by everyone, especially me. The isolation, what passes for reality pushed through doomy media, the too much TV, the worry, the what the hell am I doing, and the few friends and too many dead relatives that age brings have crunched down to form a shell and a hollowness inside. Well, the mopey hollowness I've always had is now vacuumed and pressure sealed.
Give me some magic, some glasses that can see beyond the screen for a moment. Just going to the corner, seeing the old Grand Lake movie sign and the lake feels like a festival, the magic of the suspension of the isolation norm. Unfortunately, a festival of death with the plague and the careless as I said, but human contact, stretching of limbs and even heading to the city for a horrid work space is sorely missed. "People watching" as someone had commented to me.
I, the introvert avoider, miss people.
And some magic people put my story "How I Drove the New Mexican Deathcart" in a Magic Realism anthology. Unity, Volume 1: A Magical Realism Anthology. (How is that for a segue?)
Despite appearances, I wouldn't say I go out of the way to write Magic Realism. I try to explain something, discover something in metaphor. Here I wanted to reconnect to a tale and an image I had seen as a kid and later in college in a book...Santa Muerte, or in New Mexico Santa Sebastiana who drives the New Mexican death cart. I get night terrors, particularly so in my 20s and I've always been afraid of heights, which boils down to fear of the end and poor eyesight.
Santa Sebastiana, who I connect with poetically, is a vehicle to help me confront the fear. Along with some other post-colonial trying to exist in the land as brown person aspects. You might even say dealing with gringo death vs. Xicano death.
Be a magic person and check out the book and tell folks how much you like lil' Scotty's story.
Next time...Zorro, once more.
The fantasy that transformed California
Scott Russell Duncan