Science fiction is a genre of imaginative literature in which the events of the narrative are scientifically possible, as opposed to events that are magical, supernatural, or fantastical. Though not the most common genre used by US Latino writers, it has still had a strong presence. It has generally been overshadowed though by magical realism, a type of fantastic story in which magical events are seamlessly intertwined with a realistic narrative. The 21st century has, nevertheless, brought with it a burgeoning interest in Latino science fiction, as the creation of Latino science fiction has increased along with a body of scholarship that is recovering past science fiction works. Science fiction is a large field and contains multiple subgenres (alien encounters, outer space voyages, dystopian fiction, and so on) and Latino writers have made use of them all. Furthermore, despite its designation as a “fiction,” science fiction is a multimedia field, and Latinos have been engaged in creating not only science fiction literature, but also comics, film, and television. Latino science fiction, as does much of science fiction, often takes current trends and extrapolates them into the future, and the themes that appear are of particular interest to Latino communities including immigration, colonialism, racism, Spanglish and code-switching, and encounters between Latinos and other ethnic groups. Latino writers are finding that science fiction is one of the most dynamic ways to imagine a Latino future.
The study of Latino science fiction joins a more general turn in science fiction studies toward the study of science fiction written by specific ethnic groups and nationalities. At the same time, the study of Latino science fiction is part of a growing movement in Latino studies to give closer attention to genres such as detective fiction, young-adult fiction, and comics. While there are no anthologies of scholarship on the topic or anthologies of US Latino science fiction itself, the field is garnering a good deal of interest. The scholarly essays that directly deal with the subject of Latino science fiction are to some degree concerned with the question of recovering and/or reconstructing a tradition of Latino science fiction. At issue are the history and scope of Latino science fiction and the recovery of works that may have been read as magical realism or fantasy when they were published (“retrolabeling” in the terms of Rachel Haywood Ferreira). A good place for a researcher to start is Maguirre 2013, an introduction to the field which charts the genre up to Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in which science fiction plays a central role (see Díaz 2007 under Science Fiction as Metaphor). Goodwin 2013, the dissertation The Fusion of Migration and Science Fiction in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States, gives close readings of a number of key works of Latino science fiction. Catherine S. Ramírez has written a number of essays on the subject. Influenced by Afrofuturist scholarship, Ramírez coined the term “Chicanafuturism” in Ramírez 2004 in order to frame her study of Marion C. Martinez’s religious sculptures, which are constructed of old computer parts. Both this essay and Ramírez 2008 have begun to create a thread of a tradition, citing examples such as Luis Valdez’s 1967 play Los Vendidos, which she describes as “one of the earliest examples of Chicanafuturism” (p. 189). What is clear is that the task of recovering the tradition of Latino science fiction is still in progress. Meanwhile, González 2010 predicts that science fiction will be vital to Latino letters in the coming years, and a variety of online resources such as Flores (SciFi Latino), Garcia (La Bloga’s Latino Speculative Literature Directory), and Vourvoulias (Putting the I in Speculative) provide useful lists of present and past Latino science fiction.
Flores, Sophia. SciFi Latino.
A blog by a Puerto Rican fan of fantasy and science fiction. Begun in 1999, the blog continues to provide up-to-date information about US Latino and Latin American sci-fi and makes regular notes on Latino characters appearing in mainstream sci-fi television and film.
Garcia, Rudy Ch. La Bloga’s Latino Speculative Literature Directory.
A solid and ongoing directory of Latino speculative fiction which includes science fiction.
González, John Morán. “Aztlán @ 50: Chican@ Literary Studies for the Next Decade.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 35.2 (Fall 2010): 173–176.
A review of some of the directions that Chicano studies have recently taken, including queer, feminist, and hemispheric approaches. The author notes that while the future of the nation has been whitewashed in the science fiction imagination, there are nevertheless a number of new Chicano writers working in science fiction.
Goodwin, Matthew David. “The Fusion of Migration and Science Fiction in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States.” PhD diss., University of Massachusetts–Amherst, 2013.
A dissertation which explores how Latino science fiction has responded to the colonial history of science fiction and to the immigration debates in the United States. Not only examines literature, but also photography, performance art, and film.
Maguirre, Emily A. “Science Fiction.” In The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature. Edited by Suzanne Bostand and Frances R. Aparicio, 351–360. London: Routledge, 2013.
This essay contests the notion that there is no tradition of Latino science fiction by offering brief descriptions of a number of works from the 1970s to the present. Maquirre not only looks at Chicano science fiction, which is abundant, but also fiction by non-Chicano Latinos such as Alex Rivera.
Ramírez, Catherine S. “Deus ex Machina: Tradition, Technology, and the Chicanafuturist Art of Marion C. Martinez.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 29.2 (Fall 2004): 55–92.
Ramírez argues in this essay that Marion C. Martinez’s retablos, which were created from computer parts, critique the stereotype of the New Mexican as a “primitive hispano” by melding the low tech and the high tech.
Ramírez, Catherine S. “Afrofuturism/Chicanafuturism: Fictive Kin.” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 33.1 (Spring 2008): 185–194.
In this partly autobiographical essay, Ramírez discusses her own interest in science fiction both as a fan and as a teacher, and gives brief overviews of her previous two essays on Chicanafuturism.
Vourvoulias, Sabrina. Putting the I in Speculative: Looking at U.S. Latino/a Writers and Stories.
An essay included on the popular website Tor.com which gives some of the history of Latino science fiction and fantasy and then points to the many contemporary authors in the field.
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