kw: book reviews, science fiction, anthologies, spanish literature
Ask a fan of science fiction to name a non-English-language SF author, and most can recall Jules Verne, who wrote in French. A few may know of Cyrano (Italian), but I wonder if any know of Juan Nepomuceno Adorno or Nilo Maria Fabra, who wrote in Spanish in the 1860s and 1890s, respectively. In keeping with the level of SF development of the times, their stories explore technological or social developments from an external viewpoint, with the humans involved simply recipients or spectators.
These two Spanish authors open the festivities in the amazing volume Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain, edited, and in part translated, by Andrea L. Bell and Yolanda Molina-Gavilán. The volume makes the rich Hispanic SF oeuvre accessible to the English public.
Usually when I read an anthology, it contains a story or two I have read before, or work by at least one or two familiar authors. Everything in this volume was totally new to me (and I have read a few Spanish-language SF works, in translation).
The book's four sections could be used as an outline for the genre in general: "In the Beginning: The Visionaries", "Speculating on a New Genre: SF from 1900 through the 1950s", "The First Wave: The 1960s to the Mid-1980s", and "Riding the Crest: The Late 1980s into the New Millennium". This is largely because writers in all languages were reading one another, and an innovation anywhere quickly spread.
The Spanish literature has one area that differs from most language traditions: the literature of oppression, or rather, counter-oppression. Writers everywhere write dystopic or subversive literature, but the large number of Spanish-language dictatorships has resulted in a Spanish language literature of the oppressed that is more keenly felt. I find few similarly touching stories in this line outside Soviet Russia. Writers from Cuba, Chile, and Franco-era Spain, in particular, had to hew to a fine line, to write their hatred of oppression without triggering arrest and disappearance.
As there are nearly thirty pieces in this volume, I decided to pick just two to discuss, from the fourth era. Firstly, "Stuntmind" by Braulio Tavares of Brazil, stunningly evokes the aftermath of the mind-shattering ordeal of melding with a truly alien mind. People with a special, and rare, affinity are able to meld mind-to-mind with Outsiders, in which process they gain incredible gifts of technology and social progress from them, but largely lose their humanness. The Outsiders are not just being altruistic, however. They crave the experience of human feelings and emotions. They are so advanced they have evolved beyond the semi-reptilian state we dwell in.
Secondly, in "The Day We Went Through the Transition", authors Ricard de la Casa and Pedro Jorge Romero produce a truly unique time-travel story. The setup of time police keeping "reality" from being subverted is just the setting. It is coupled with a many-worlds milieu. Upon this backdrop, two people, occasional lovers, reconnect again and again across the timelines, in which each creates the other but no paradox is involved. A masterpiece.
These ideas, along with powerful evocations of overdone technological "enhancement", or coming-of-age rituals, or private-eye romances (with a twist), demonstrate the richness of the Hispanic gift to all SF readers.