El Porvenir, ¡Ya!: Citlalzazanilli Mexicatl, a Chicano Sci-fi Anthology, Scott Russell Duncan, Armando Rendón, Jenny Irizary, eds. (Somos en escrito Literary Foundation Press 979-8-409-93671-6, $10.00, 220pp, pb) May 2022. Cover by Polaris Castillo.
El Porvenir, ¡Ya!: Citlalzazanilli Mexicatl offers readers a surprisingly comprehensive look at what contemporary Mexican-American science fiction has to offer. With a mix of up-and-coming writers and seasoned veterans of the genre, this anthology celebrates diversity while also showing that Mexican-American science fiction is exactly what people think it, the complete opposite of that, and everything in between.
Author Ernest Hogan wrote a short but powerful preface to this anthology. In it, he states: “Some of our problems will only be able to be solved with a time machine, which means that we have to resort to science fiction. Which is fitting, since we are science fiction. I keep saying it: Chicano is a science fiction state of being.” His words center Chicano identity, and that’s one of the unifying themes in this book. This is crucial because readers need to understand that this anthology is unique. This isn’t a collection of tales from South American or Mexican writers; this is a book packed with stories written solely by Mexican Americans, and being both things, inhabiting the interstitial space between languages and cultures, is, as Hogan mentions, a state of being, and that positionality fosters the creation of narratives with a distinctive perspective.
I mentioned that this anthology is exactly what people might expect and also the opposite, and that comes from the variety of voices and stories in contains. Hogan also has a story here, the opening tale, titled “Incident in the Global Barrio.” A short story about a monolingual white American suddenly being exposed to the richness of Mexican heritage, this one imagines a future in which some of the problems of the present are still around: “But, er – you know – this is America. Shouldn’t you be using Am – I mean English words?”
While Hogan’s and a few others – Mario Acevedo and Rios de la Luz, for example – center identity in the way the anthology’s title would suggest, others focus on different elements, and the Mexican-American identity is nothing more than either a small element or simply what the writers are. A good example, and one of the book’s most entertaining stories, is “The Facsimile War” by Pedro Iniguez. Like many other stories here, is has humanity out in space, conquering – or at least trying to conquer – other planets as humanity expands across galaxies known and unknown. The story features people who are killed and travel across space as data only to be “rebirthed” somewhere else just so they can fight a war with the creatures that already inhabit the place (reverse colonialism, anyone?). It has the feeling of a classic science fiction story – “Ages ago, six generation ships departed Earth, dispersing across the galaxy on a mission to discover and colonize new worlds – but Iniguez focuses on celebrating the genre’s possibilities, its emphasis on imagination, and how fun it can be when allowed to be pulpy.
If Hogan is the perfect identity-centered example and Iniguez the perfect opposite, “Ap-Hell” by Martin Hill Ortiz is the “everything in between.” One of the shortest stories in the book, this one engages with hard science fiction elements while also delivering some of the best critiques in the anthology: “Earth-dwellers cling to their planet with such arrogance. They believe it is so precious that they are willing to destroy it just to hold on to a piece.”
The great surprise here was that most of these stories used very little Spanish. Sure, there are plenty of names, places, and words in Spanish scattered throughout the anthology, but it was much less than I expected (or maybe hoped is a better word?). This was welcome because it helps to emphasize that these writers are outstanding writers of science fiction, not just great Mexican-American writers of the genre.
Between the diversity of stories, the amazing art featured (the two illustrations from Emmanuel Valtierra’s Obsidian and Feathers are incredible), the mix of new voices and some of the founders of Chicano science fiction, and attention that went into selecting and organizing the stories, El Porvenir, ¡Ya!: Citlalzazanilli Mexicatl is a great anthology that hopefully opens the door to many more like it.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, professor, and book reviewer living in Austin TX. He is the author of Zero Saints and Coyote Songs and the editor of Both Sides. His work has been nominated to the Bram Stoker and Locus Awards and won the Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel in 2019. His short stories have appeared in a plethora of anthologies and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and CrimeReads. His work has been published in five languages, optioned for film, and praised by authors as diverse as Roxane Gay, David Joy, Jerry Stahl, and Meg Gardiner. His reviews appear regularly in places like NPR, Publishers Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Criminal Element, Mystery Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other print and online venues. He’s been a juror for the Shirley Jackson Awards twice and has judged the PANK Big Book Contest, the Splatterpunk Awards, and the Newfound Prose Prize. He teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University’s online MFA program. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.
This review and more like it in the June 2022 issue of Locus.
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