I’m headed to Readercon 28 next week and I just got my schedule.
Wednesday, July 12
Reading, etc. 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
With Max Gladstone and Yoon Ha Lee at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, MA (4 Pleasant St.). This event is free and open to public. Click here to get more info.
Friday, July 14
Our Dystopia – 1 p.m.
Since the election, many on the left have been calling attention to George Orwell’s 1984 as a missed warning. Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor said in a radio interview that she believes Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower is a more appropriate dystopia for our current climate. Orwell’s Animal Farm, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and other books have also warned of surreal authoritarianism. Do they map to our current world or are we projecting? What other books have warnings for us that we might heed?
I’ll be reading my short story “Sin Embargo” which was published in the anthology Latin@ Rising in early 2017.
“In ‘Sin Embargo,’ Sabrina Vourvoulias plays with translation and transformation in interesting ways.” — Publishers Weekly
Come hear me play with language(s), live and loud … 😜
Saturday, July 15
The Long Tail of the Tall Tale – 1 p.m.
Tall tales, like their fairy tale cousins, are reinvented in every culture around the world. These tales, handed down through generations, provide context for how humans relate to one another and to storytelling, as well as giving an intriguing look into cultural history. Panelists will discuss the ways tall tales and oral storytelling traditions have influenced the work of present-day speculative authors such as Andy Duncan, Andrea Hairston, Catherynne M. Valente, and Daniel José Older, and explore what helps a tall tale hit the sweet spot of both exaggerated and believable.
SF writers have often written deeply political books and stories; some stand the test of time, while others become dated very quickly. John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The New Atlantis,” to name just a few, directly addressed major issues of their day and are still relevant now—but differently. What affects how political SF ages and is read decades after its publication? What are today’s explicitly political books, and how do we expect them to resonate decades in the future?
There is a registration fee for Readercon weekend, except for Thursday programs which are free. There are day passes are available ($55 each for Friday and Saturday programs, $25 for Sunday programs). The schedule of programs is pretty spectacular, even on Sunday. The full schedule (except for individual readings) is here.
It looks at the deportation stories of two men: Mout Iv, who was deported to Cambodia, and César, who was deported to Mexico, after a lifetime in the United States. It also looks at the changing definition of criminal deportations over the years…
I will be on three panels at the upcoming Arisia convention (Jan. 13-16 at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel), all of them on Saturday, Jan. 14:
Hold the Door: Game of Thrones Season 6 and More
Media, Panel – 1hr 15min – Douglas (3W)
Game of Thrones continues to move the plot well past the novels, and continues to introduce and kill characters in ways that are surprising and occasionally heartbreaking. We’ll discuss the ever-complicated handling of the show’s core female characters (and the pivot in handling most of them compared to Season 5), the rushed Dorn plotline, the deaths of characters we’ve loved and hated from day one, and more.
Authors create memorable works from personal trauma, but the political is also personal. N. K. Jemisin has been quoted as saying that her series The Broken Earth stems from her own processing of systematic racism in America through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement. We’ll discuss The Broken Earth and other works that come forth when societal trauma enters the author’s sphere and how awful truth inspires fiction.
The recently released Latin@ Rising anthology has raised the profile of stories from Latinx authors writing in English. We’ll talk about the anthology and other works, new and old, of SFF from Latinx authors. What perspectives and themes are important to these stories and their authors, and how do they explore the speculative world?
So in an unexpected turn of events, last Thursday night, I won the Philadelphia News Awards 2016 Editor of the Year for my work at Al Día before I left that organization.
Max Marin, one of the reporters whose work I edited in that position, also won an award for his freelance writing since leaving Al Día earlier this year. Emma Restrepo, a freelancer at Al Día who I also had the honor to work with during my stint there, was also nominated for the freelancer of the year award.
While the other reporters I edited and worked with during my four years at Al Día haven’t gotten this particular recognition, they are wonderful journos who deserve many kudos: Ana Gamboa, Arturo Varela, Christine Killion, Samantha Madera, Peak Johnson, Pilar Casi, Lucia Tejo, Martin Martinez, Roberto Luzardo … I expect grand things from them in their assorted post-Al Día ventures.
In any case, my gratitude for this professional recognition goes to the Pen & Pencil Club; to the peers who nominated me and, of course, to the people who voted for me! I am honored and humbled — especially given the caliber of my fellow nominees: Jessica Griffin, Philadelphia Daily News; Sheila Simmons, Philadelphia Tribune; Chris Hepp, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Patrick Kerkstra, for his work at Philadelphia Magazine before his departure this year.
I’m hoping that the Philadelphia Reentry Reporting Collaborative, of which I am project editor now, will — through the extraordinary work of the media organizations and journalists who are taking part — earn a spot in the nominations for investigative reporting in the 2017 iteration of the awards.
So this is the time of year many SFF writers compose posts outlining what short stories (etc.) are eligible for nomination for awards. While more prolific writers than me usually have a long list for you to choose from, most years I only have two or three pieces you might consider. This year it is only one:
It is an unusual piece —a riff on epic narrative poems that follow the protagonist’s trajectory from birth to death with countless journeys and battles between … Only this epic takes place on Philly streets in 2014, and at its heart is a very distinct set of journeys and battles.
A fast-moving, dizzying, tragic tale with magic tattoos, rhymes, love, friendship, and death. The language is powerfully alive, swaggering and moving to its own rhythm and its own beat. Original and skillfully crafted.
The World Series winner this year — improbably, against the odds and in defiance of a 108-year curse — is the Chicago Cubs.
My father, a lifelong Cubs fan, would have been stunned by the win. And elated. And stunned. All his wildest, most stubborn hopes were vindicated … this year.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately, and not only because of the Cubs. In his latter years my dad had become a political wonk, and he would have been riveted by this electoral season.
My father spent most of his adult life as part of multinational, corporate America. He rose through the ranks of Ray-O-Vac Company (at that time part of the multinational ESB), first in Mexico, then in Madison, and onto Thailand and Guatemala. He came to Philadelphia (where the international division had its offices in one of the Penn Towers) in 1975, to work as a vice president in charge of Latin American operations. Ultimately he led a management buyout of the international division and became CEO and chairman of the board of the resulting corporation.
My dad believed in corporate America, and he was loyal to it. He also believed in the Republican Party. He was a fiscal and social conservative — the quintessential first-generation American who had “bootstrapped” himself into success. And though he lived most of the first 48 years of his life “overseas,” he made sure to vote in every election. Most notably (at least for his liberal kids who never let him forget it), he voted for Nixon rather than JFK.
He loved being an American citizen in the way so many first-generation folks do — exuberantly and unabashedly.
My brothers and I were all born outside of the U.S. (Mexico, Thailand and Guatemala) but my dad made sure we were all American citizensfrom birth (by jus sanguinis which accords nationality on the basis of a parent’s citizenship rather than birth place) because, he believed, why would anyone NOT want to be a citizen of this great nation?
So you are thinking right about now that my father, were he still alive, would be a Donald Trump supporter.
Not so fast.
“My father was a refugee’s son,” wrote my brother Alberto, in a brilliant and beautiful column published in June of this year at Fox News Latino. “Born in the U.S., he was proud to serve his country. […] in a frontline regiment with blacks and whites, Latinos and Asians, children of immigrants and children of the native-born.For him, this mosaic was the strength and promise of America.”
A mosaic which Trump has sought to pull apart at every turn of this campaign. Mexican Americans, Muslim Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, immigrants and refugees — time and again Trump has contrived (in word and proposed policy) to diminish and “otherize” the manifold greatness of America.
My father would have agreed with those who say that Trump knows nothing of real sacrifice: Refugees trying any way they can to keep their children alive; folks who have lost loved ones serving in the armed forces; he doesn’t even understand the sacrifice of veterans who have withstood torture and lived years as P.O.W.s… All of them have been fodder for hateful characterization and derision from Trump.
Trump knows nothing of the kind of hope that draws from the wellspring of love rather than hate.
He certainly knows nothing of the hope and promise of America that prompted a young man to serve his nation in two wars; that gave him the drive to go to college on the G.I. bill; that got him through jobs so ill-paid some weeks he could only afford to eat bread; that taught him to scrimp and save so someday he might be able to afford a radio on which to listen to a ballgame …
My father was targeted as an American while he was working for Ray-O-Vac in Guatemala, and was kidnapped. The details are terrifying, and throughout the time he was held his kidnappers made clear to him that my mother (a fierce and amazing Mexican-Guatemalan who would have been especially infuriated by Trump’s vitriol against immigrants and his entitled attitude toward women) and my brothers and I were next.
My father told me years later that he didn’t have time to despair while he was held, he was too busy trying to figure out what he needed to do to negotiate his release so he could whisk us all to safety. My father’s hope was as stubborn and resilient as he was — no kidnapped American had been released alive during that time in Guatemala — and, remarkably, he eventually succeeded. He managed to convince his kidnappers to release him and for the ransom to be paid over a 12-month period. He also talked them into cutting the ransom by a third. (When I hear Trump describe himself as a wonderful businessman, I can’t help but think his negotiation skills have never truly been tested.)
Despite the ordeal I never heard my father speak of his kidnappers in the foul and hateful terms Trump has used to describe citizen and non-citizen, public figure and private, colleague and ally, during this electoral season.
Later in life, when board upheaval ousted my father as CEO of the company he had bought out and an equivalent position was slow to emerge, my father took on jobs at Wawa and Target to be able to pay bills and to fulfill his financial responsibilities to the country he loved and believed in.
Others were embarrassed for him, but he was not. He believed there was dignity in all work, and he witnessed that his coworkers labored as hard and as loyally at their low-income jobs as his executive colleagues did in their more exalted positions. By the time he returned to his next CEO position, he had reluctantly become a Democrat — because his beloved Republicans seemed out of touch with the economic challenges and realities of so many Americans.
My father would have been horrified that Trump has not only deliberately avoided paying income taxes that sustain everything from our nation’s armed forces to education to a fraying safety net, but that the billionaire business magnate has repeatedly welched on paying hard-working, ordinary people for the work they’ve performed for him.
I think most people are more like my father than like Trump.
I believe most of us will choose to act honorably rather than dishonorably when it comes to our obligations to our fellow citizens, and to the America we love.
And during those moments when I panic that the upcoming election may be as much of a nailbiter as the final game of the World Series was, I imagine my father as a young man in Chicago, listening to the Cubs game on his precious radio.
He never gave up on his wild, stubborn hope for the best.
When my parents moved us from Guatemala City to Chester County in the mid-1970s, we were the first Latino family to move into our neighborhood – and, undoubtedly, the first people to chatter with each other in Spanish at the annual oxtail roast at the local firehouse.
The area we moved to was rural, within hailing distance of the towns of Downingtown, Coatesville and Exton, and my mother haunted the supermarkets in each of them, searching for a way to make frijoles volteados, the refried black beans that are part of every Guatemalan meal. It is hard to imagine now, but those stores didn’t stock black beans back then. My mother resorted to scouring the canned soups, looking for Campbell’s black bean soup, with which she could (ingeniously and magically) replicate a passable version of the bean dish she used to call “the Guatemalan caviar.”
But had my mother lived long enough, she would have witnessed a sea change on those Chesco supermarket shelves. Because even more than the sudden (and gratifying) proliferation of small ethnic food shops, there is no easier way to mark demographic changes than by walking into a “general interest” supermarket and noting what is offered in its produce section.