Because we can, will, and do, write the most extraordinary stories.
Check out #FantasticLatinas on Twitter to get links to the websites of the Latina writers (many of them speculative fiction writers, of course 😉) who are quoted here. Some are big names, some just starting out — but they are all really quite remarkable.
Read their work, buy their books and stories (and essays and critical theory), and amplify their voices!
There is a particular smell to corn that has been soaked in wood ash lye, then washed and hulled and ground into a fine meal.
It is the aroma of freshly made tortillas, of tamales as they steam, of my mother’s huipiles.
Really. No matter how freshly laundered, no matter how many cedar balls or lavender sachets have been thrown in the drawer to keep the moths away, the distinctive hand-woven Guatemalan blouses my mother wore retain the smell of a grain turned more aromatic, more flavorful, more nutritious by the nixtamalation process.
This is the time of year when the timelines of speculative fiction writers and reviewers fill with awards eligibility posts listing stories and novels readers might consider nominating for upcoming Nebula and Hugo awards.
It can be a humbling time for those of us who are slow to write and slow to submit. Many of my colleagues in the field have four or five eligible short stories, and at least one eligible longer piece (novelette, novella or novel); I have only one. And while it is true that I’m not a fantastically prolific fiction writer even in the best years, I know my creative output took a real hit in 2017.
From chatting with and hearing the comments of other Latinx writers, I’m not the only one. The profound and recurring political threats to our local and national communities, as well as the catastrophic natural events that have impacted us, our friends and loved ones, have taken a toll. Understand — none of us are laying down or laying off, none of us are willingly muting our voices at a time when it becomes more and more urgent to speak out — but writing can feel like slogging through particularly thick and bitter molasses these days.
Still, you know what they say.
One. Story. At. A. Time.
My award nomination eligible short story this year — “Sin Embargo,” published in the anthology Latin@ Rising in January — is among my favorites. It plays across languages. It looks at tough issues of displacement and migration and politically motivated brutality, and still finds a way to speak of love, of hope, and of the radically transformative magic of interpersonal solidarity. It is a bear to read aloud because of all the bilingual homographs, and yet I insist on doing just that at public readings because … well, there is delight to be had in noting difference and similarity and the possibility of wholeheartedly embracing both.
In “Sin Embargo,” by Sabrina Vourvoulias, the psychology of immigration and asylum collides with inhuman transformation. — Kirkus Reviews
“Sin Embargo” is not, unfortunately, available to read online for those who might want to read it for nomination consideration. But the whole anthology is top-notch and well worth purchasing in print or eBook; it deserves a a much wider SFF readership than it has had so far.
Latin@ Rising includes wonderful reprint stories from writers celebrated by the SFF community (Junot Díaz, Carlos Hernández, Daniel José Older and Carmen María Machado), along with remarkable original stories by Latinx literary luminaries that are perhaps less known to SFF-only audiences, like the superb Kathleen Alcalá and Ana Castillo. It also includes the first English-language translation of a short story, “Accursed Lineage,” by Daína Chaviano, who is considered one of the three most important SFF authors writing in Spanish (Argentina’s Angélica Gorodischer and Spain’s Elia Barceló are the other two).
I honestly believe that if Latin@ Rising had been reviewed by SFF-focused review sites, or if it had gotten the attention other, more mainstream SFF anthologies have received this year, many of its stories would already be on people’s Nebula and Hugo nominating lists. I’m particularly fond of “Caridad” by Alex Hernández, “The Drain” by Alejandra Sánchez,”Room for Rent” by Richie Narvaez, and “Flying Under the Texas Radar With Paco and Los Freetails” by Ernest Hogan. (I wish there were an award somewhere for ingenious story titles because Hogan would be a repeat winner. “Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus” in the anthology We See a Different Frontier is another evocative one.)
Beyond Latin@ Rising
I read a lot of other great short stories this year and no way can I remember them all, but among those that live most vividly in my memory are:
“The Obsidian Codex“ by David Bowles (from his2017collection of short stories Chupacabra Vengeance). I think this story is longer than a short story, possibly novelette length? A further word about this collection (which contains my favorite Bowles story, “Wildcat,” originally published by Apex Magazine in 2015): Many of the stories in the collection are very dark and contain horrors beyond the commonplace … a number of them really should be under consideration for a Shirley Jackson award.
“The Corporal” by Ali Bader. All right, this short story isn’t actually eligible for nomination since it appeared (translated) in the 2016 anthology Iraq +100, but I only read it this year so, for me, it is identified with this year’s great pieces. I urge you to seek it out simply for the pleasure of reading a beautifully written fantasy with sci fi elements.
As far as 2017 novels are concerned, I haven’t yet read most of the ones that have been mentioned in the overlapping “Best of” lists are being published now. Still, I am hoping that the exceptional “American Street” by Ibi Zoboi is on lots of folks’ award-nominating lists in either the novel or YA categories. And, yes, it is good enough to deserve to be on both at once.
If I can dredge up more recommended reads from my memory banks during this nominating period, I’ll update this post. Stay tuned.
And don’t forget to nominate!
UPDATE (#1 of what I think are going to be multiple updates):