Saturday, August 15, 2015


Peru’s Conga Mine Conflict: Cajamarca Won’t Capitulate
Written by Lynda Sullivan   
The fight over the Conga mining project is one of Peru’s largest current social conflicts. Today, the local population continues resisting the imposition of one of Latin America`s largest gold mining projects – Minas Conga. The situation remains tense, and the resistance continues, but with an intensified sense of urgency because as the battles are won and lost, many feel that the conflict is nearing its conclusion.

The struggle against the Conga project has been a long and arduous one already (1). To summarize, Conga is a 4.8 billion dollar project of Yanacocha – a company which combines the interests of Newmont mining corporation (US-based), Buenaventura (Peru) and the IFC of the World Bank. It aims to destroy the head of the water basin for the province of Celendin, and in part that of neighboring Cajamarca and Hualgayoc, leaving severe water shortage and contamination. This would prove disastrous for the mainly rural provinces of the region of Cajamarca, in the northern highlands of Peru, where the majority of dwellers live by agriculture and cattle rearing.  It would be an aggressive open pit mining project, an Earth-destroying technique that Newmont itself initiated in the early 1960s (2), and similar but more expansive than Yanacocha`s previous work in Cajamarca. For this the population rejecting the project have a fair idea of what is in store – all they need to do is look next door to the devastation that 20 years of open pit mining has left in its wake (to see more about the particulars of this devastation please see the aforementioned article).

The campaign against the project is growing stronger, constantly renewing itself as the pressure crushes the spirits of some and makes space for others. The struggle doesn`t belong to any one person, or any particular high-profile figure, as the mass media would have you believe, rather the struggle is of the people, and for this it remains strong. Though it is this very fact that has led to an intensification of the repression and criminalization of the resistance – as the government and Yanacocha become ever more desperate to push the project through 'by blood and by fire' (3).


(My translation of Cossio's comic appears in Revista Hiedra - Spring 2015)

International Uchronia

Alternate Pasts: An Introduction to International Uchronia

In 1995, Stanley Asimov compiled excerpts of his older brother’s correspondence in a collection titled Yours, Isaac Asimov. This assortment of more than a thousand fragments of letters not only spans several decades, but also, as one can imagine, covers a wide array of topics ranging from personal relationships with prominent people such as Carl Sagan, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur C. Clarke and a host of others, to the inner workings of the publishing world, science fiction fandom, and meditations on decidedly more metaphysical themes. Among the many fascinating missives is an exchange between Asimov and one Martin H. Greenberg in which the writer wonders if his correspondent was the same person who he claimed had stiffed him after the publication of the Foundation Trilogy and I, Robot. The response from Greenberg reads in part:
I am not what I appear to be! I am (in no particular order), 32 years of age, male, overweight, a college professor, a science fiction fan and editor of science fiction anthologies. We met at the Nebula Award banquet in New York in April, but only for a few minutes. I am, definitely, not the Martin Greenberg of Gnome Press, but rather Martin Harry Greenberg, son of Max Isador Greenberg of Miami Beach. Could you supply me with any estimates of the odds involved in there being two people named Martin Greenberg who edited, but did not write, science fiction?
The pair wound up getting along famously after that initial correspondence—Asimov would subsequently refer to Greenberg as “Marty the Other,” and they would chat on the phone almost on a nightly basis for the next nineteen years. Asimov even went on to make the following laudatory remark about his friend, “Marty Greenberg, for my money, is the best judge in the world where science fiction is concerned.”

It goes without saying that Marty the Other could be considered a rock star in the world of speculative fiction, especially for his work as an editor and publisher of more than 2,000 books and one of the founders of the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as SyFy). He is the kind of figure that every sci-fi enthusiast should know about, which is why I was so utterly mortified the time I was asked if I had heard of him and had to respond negatively. It happened roughly five years ago on my campus at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay while giving a faculty forum presentation on the works of Peruvian playwright and short story writer Juan Rivera Saavedra. During my talk I briefly summarized Rivera Saavedra’s major works, which included Cuentos sociales de ciencia-ficción, one of the seminal collections of Latin American sci-fi microfiction. Spurred on by my mention of this anthology, my colleague, historian Clifton Ganyard, approached me at the end of the Q&A session. After geeking out on our favorite novels and films and our shared fondness of Salman Rushdie’s story “Chekov and Zulu,” I told him that one of my goals was to publish an anthology of Latin American fantasy, sci-fi and weird fiction in translation. He responded, “Have you heard of Martin Greenberg? I’m sure he owns the Guinness Book of World Records title for editing the most books! He’s a huge sci-fi buff and also used to be a professor at UW-Green Bay, but retired a few years back. You should contact him.” The name rang a bell, but I truly couldn’t place this “anthologist extraordinaire.” “Take a look at your bookshelf when you get home. You’re bound to have something Martin has published,” Clif concluded as we left the conference room of the University Union.

That weekend I opened a few boxes of books that had remained sealed from our recent move and sure enough, there were six anthologies that bore the fingerprints and curating of Marty the Other. To be fair, as a grad student I was a stereotypical habitué of secondhand bookstores and amassed quite a library of choice genre collections. And yet I was still embarrassed about not recognizing Greenberg’s name having recently devoured his co-edited anthology Future Americas. Here was this big-time publisher that lived just a few miles from me! I then determined my next step would be to reach out to him and pitch the idea of a sci-fi in translation compendium, but first I needed to decide on a unifying theme for my project. This decision came rather quickly as I had always been a voracious reader of one subgenre of speculative fiction in particular: uchronia—otherwise known as alternate history, allohistory, counterfactual or what-if. These types of stories present the reader with divergent timelines and imagined variations of key moments in the past which lead to intriguing conclusions about our historical beliefs and practices. Uchronia is a narrative mode that has enjoyed both critical recognition and popular acceptance throughout literary history. Notable examples include works such as the Hugo Award-winning The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, a story set in an alternate post-Second World War era in which the Axis had been victorious; Farthing by Jo Walton, a Nebula Award-nominated novel that imagines a world in which the United Kingdom had ceased fighting against Nazi Germany and negotiated peace prior to American involvement in the war; Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which also won the Hugo Award, takes us to a world in which the State of Israel collapsed after a few months of existence; and even the great master of horror, Stephen King, has dabbled in uchronia with his novel 11/23/63, an alternate history that involves time travel to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I soon found out that among Greenberg’s vast catalog, he had also published several anthologies of uchronia, including his collaboration with Harry Turtledove, The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century.

Excited at the prospect of potentially working with Marty the Other, I drafted an email sketching out my vision for Cosmos Latinos 2.0, my working title for the project, which was a nod to the spectacular Spanish and Latin American sci-fi anthology edited by Andrea Bell and Yolanda Molina Gavilán. The proposal featured an ambitious mix of excerpts from novels and/or short stories by Bernardo Fernández (Bef), Jorge Baradit, Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, Jorge Eduardo Benavides, and a rather lengthy etc., etc., etc.

Unfortunately, I postponed sending the message to Greenberg. I was a newly minted PhD on the tenure clock, and was advised by several colleagues both at my institution and at other universities to focus on “more scholarly pursuits” if I wanted to get promoted. Semesters passed, I published a few articles and a book on contemporary Peruvian narrative and political violence, and yet I kept adding to my burgeoning list of Latin American uchronias. I thought I’d eventually get the chance to discuss my ideas with Marty, but sadly that would never be the case. Greenberg passed away in Green Bay in the summer of 2011 after a long battle with cancer. As I read articles in the local press and sci-fi blogs celebrating Greenberg’s life, his generosity and constant mentoring, and of course, his valuable contributions to the publishing world, I couldn’t help but lament the mistake I had made by not connecting with him when I had the chance.

A couple of years later, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pitch a Uchronia-themed issue for Words Without Borders: the text you are now reading on your computer, tablet, smartphone or paper (printed on recycled paper, bien entendu). It is a project that was greenlighted seven months ago and ended up involving countless hours of reading (including multiple visits to Robert. B. Schmunk’s invaluable and exhaustive database,, hundreds of emails, and considerable energy and effort stalking writers and translators on Facebook. In this issue, you will explore alternate histories that deal with a string of famines and other catastrophes in mid-nineteenth-century Sweden that could have obliterated the Scandinavian peninsula in Karin Tidbeck’s “Mine-Wife” (translated from the Swedish by Silvester Mazzarella); how a matinee idol’s accident changes the face of international cinema in Xavier Mauméjean’s “Cinépanorama” (translated from the French by Edward Gauvin); the subsequent transformation of Mexican society after Emperor Maximilian I is not executed in 1867 and Benito Juárez’s brain is digitized by a European psychocyberneticist in Bef’s “The Beast has Died” (translated from the Spanish by Brian L. Price); the picaresque underworld of a female soccer hooligan gang who has been entrusted to transport a reanimated cyborg of history’s greatest soccer star, Lionel Messi in Hernán Vanoli’s “Saint Lionel” (translated from the Spanish by Juan Caballero); how Portugal’s King Dom Luís II escaped to Brazil after the invasion of his country by Franco’s fascist troops in Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro’s “Cousins from Overseas” (translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Ann Wells); St. Francis of Assisi’s peculiar life story as told from the perspective of his nephew Piccardo in Aldo Nove’s “Scandal” (translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris); the way Allende thwarted the coup attempt of 1973 and resisted US meddling in Chilean affairs in Jorge Baradit’s “Contreras’s Dream” and an allohistorical Peru in which Shining Path had defeated the armed forces in Jorge Eduardo Benavides’s “Distinguishing Marks: None” (both translated from the Spanish by yours truly, Gabriel T. Saxton-Ruiz).

While some may quibble that not all of the stories in this collection adhere to the strict generic classification of alternate history, they all offer us a new way of perceiving history. Besides, as Chabon once declared:
genre [. . .] is—in a fundamental and perhaps ineradicable way—a marketing tool, a standard maintained most doggedly by publishing and booksellers. […] The most useful way to think of the various literary genres is not as discrete rooms in a house or red-lined sections in a bookstore, but as regions on a map, the map of fiction. [. . .] And as with the regions on a map, on the map of fiction there is overlap: sometimes it can be hard to say where science fiction shades unambiguously into fantasy, or horror into gothic romance, or mainstream literary fiction into any of its neighboring genres.
Or as the familiar saying goes, “good writing is good writing, regardless of genre,” which is certainly the case in this issue. In any event, I believe wholeheartedly that the works assembled in this collection truly constitute a worthy tribute to Marty the Other and his tireless advocacy and promotion of speculative fiction. May these stories transport you to different epochs and places while opening new imaginative possibilities and disparate historical realities. Enjoy and safe travels in time!

Gabriel T. Saxton-Ruiz
Green Bay, Wisconsin
January 1, 2015
© 2015 Gabriel T. Saxton-Ruiz. All rights reserved. 

Read more:

Summer Readings - Lecturas de verano (2015 Edition)

-Augustín de Rojas – A Legend of the Future
-Carlos Fonseca – Coronel Lágrimas
-Jack Martínez Arias – Bajo la sombra
-David Roas – Bienvenidos a Incaland
-Gunter Silva – Crónicas de Londres
-Claudia Salazar Jiménez – Escribir en Nueva York
-Carlos Torres Rotondo & Jose Carlos Yrigoyen – Crimen, sicodelia y minifaldas
-Lori Celaya & Rossy Toledo – Nos pasamos de la raya
-Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez – One Day I’ll Tell You the Things I’ve Seen
-Casa de Locos
-Jorge Luis Cáceres – No entren al 1408 / Antología en español tributo a Stephen King
-Daniel Titinger – Un hombre flaco
-12 grados de latitud norte – Antología de ciencia ficción venezolana
-Yoss – A Planet for Rent

Reviews will be coming soon!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Conflict Resolution? Conflict Prevention...a la peruana!

Conflicts arising from corporate vs community interests are nothing new, yet even today en pleno siglo XXI, we still have not figured out how to address these issues properly.  This short and simple video gets to the crux of the problem: the lack of dialogue and the sensationalized-style of "reporting" from our traditional media sources.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

La fuerza de lo cotidiano

When Santiago Roncagliolo published a book on Shining Path's leader Abimael Guzmán (La cuarta espada) several critics pounced on the perceived light treatment of such an infamous figure in recent Latin American history – many were especially critical of the use of quotes from Wikipedia and the Star Wars references.
Rodrigo Orihuela sums up the negative opinions regarding Roncagliolo’s work in a review for Argentine newspaper Página/12:
La crítica más fuerte que ha recibido La cuarta espada, sobre todo en Perú, está vinculada a este intento de retratar a Guzmán, ya que Roncagliolo banaliza la figura e importancia del guerrillero. Una frase del libro sobresale como disparador de las críticas, cuando hace referencia a la ideología de los militantes comunistas, y de los senderistas en especial: “El valor casi místico que se atribuye a la ideología recuerda la Fuerza de Luke Skywalker, una herramienta espiritual y trascendente que le da a su usuario poder ilimitado”. La guerra sucia peruana dejó más de 69.000 muertos y desaparecidos y muchos peruanos creen que comparar la ideología de los senderistas con La guerra de las galaxias es una frivolidad. Roncagliolo dice que esas comparaciones son necesarias para que lectores foráneos comprendan mejor el tema. Pero La cuarta espada no es un libro académico y seguramente no será utilizado como tal. Gracias en parte a que está escrita con ritmo de novela sirve, en cambio, como un acercamiento para quien desea tener un contacto más bien superficial con las ideas de quien fuera alguna vez definido por un diario europeo como “el loco más peligroso de América”.
La cuarta espada was never intended to be an academic book, but rather one that would reach a large readership.  Is that so bad?  The book not only introduced Guzmán and his bloodthirsty guerillas to an amnesia-prone foreign public, but also to a younger generation of Peruvians…who like (and excuse the harsh generalization) their European and North American counterparts have been defrauded by their academic system’s lack of instruction of history and cultural studies.  Don’t believe me?

Roncagliolo’s book should be commended for reaching out to the Wikipedia generation and presenting an alternative take on Shining Path that opposes the romantic view once held by Tom Morello and his Rage Against the Machine.
Along those same lines, isn’t it great that The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Díaz) introduced a new generation to the brutal dictatorship of Trujillo through the almost dizzying pop culture and sci-fi references?

Here’s a recent short story by Roncagliolo – Darth Vader as an enfeebled Social Security benefits recipient…enjoy!

La vejez de Darth Vader

Por Santiago Roncagliolo

En algún lugar en el interior de ese casco oscuro brilló un fogonazo de melancolía. Pero no se dejó vencer. Había ganado batallas más difíciles, aunque fuese en la época en que su próstata funcionaba.

EL CABALLERO del gracioso traje negro se acercó al mostrador llevando su ticket con el número 347. Cojeaba ligeramente, y le faltaba una mano:
—Perdone… creo que es mi turno.
La funcionaria levantó la cabeza. Parecía furiosa con el mundo en general, pero sobre todo en ese preciso momento, con ese hombre, o robot, o lo que fuera:
—¿Cómo que “creo”? —refunfuñó—. ¿Es su turno o no es su turno? ¿No sabe ver el panel electrónico?
—Usted disculpe… Es mi turno. Positivamente.
—Pues siéntese y hable —dijo ella, clavando el ticket en un punzón de su escritorio, como si quisiera atravesarle los riñones—. No tengo todo el día.
—Yo… he reclamado una pensión de jubilación…

—Pero no he recibido respuesta, y quisiera saber si…
—¿Nombre? —repitió ella, exasperada.
—Vader. Darth.
La funcionaria tecleó rabiosamente en su computadora. Y esta vez, ni siquiera levantó la cabeza para responder:
—No figura en los registros.
—¿Cómo que…
No puede ser.
Ella se limitó a mirarlo. Ya decidiría su computadora lo que podía o no podía ser. Él dejó escapar un suspiro, que bajo su máscara sonó como una locomotora en marcha. E hizo otro intento:
—Pruebe con Skywalker. Anakin.
Ella ingresó la información en el sistema:
—Tenemos un Skywalker. Pero se llama Luke.
—Es una larga historia.
—Caballero Jedi. Detentor de la Fuerza. Comandante en Jefe de los Ejércitos Imperiales.
La mujer parecía a cada segundo más impaciente:
—¿Ocupación? —repitió.
—Empleado público.
Como llegado de las profundidades de Andrómeda, un polvoriento recuerdo aterrizó sobre la mente de esa mujer. Dijo:
—Aaah… sí… Perdimos muchos registros cuando explotó la Estrella de la Muerte. Es posible que el suyo se encuentre ahí.
En algún lugar en el interior de ese casco oscuro brilló un fogonazo de melancolía. Pero no se dejó vencer. Había ganado batallas más difíciles, aunque fuese en la época en que su próstata funcionaba. Miró fijamente a los ojos de la mujer, concentrando en su mirada la fuerza hipnótica del Mal, y estiró la mano hacia adelante, con los dedos extendidos.
—Siente el dolor… —murmuró.
Pero ella ni se inmutó:
—No se retuerza acá. El baño está al fondo a la derecha.
El caballero bajó la mano. Carraspeó:
—Debe haber una manera de resolver… mi solicitud.
—Tiene que conseguir un testigo –respondió ella, y comenzó a tamborilear con los dedos sobre la mesa.
—¿Un qué ?
—Alguien que certifique por escrito que usted cumplió funciones en la administración imperial.
—¿Está bromeando? Lo vieron en el cine cincuenta millones de personas.
—Pues llame a uno. Pero debe ser un testigo con credibilidad. Alguien que haya estado ahí, y pueda probarlo. Le aconsejo que no nos traiga a un freak con acné. Eso es todo. ¡Siguiente!

Como todas las noches de los jueves, el caballero del gracioso traje negro asistió al club de la tercera edad. Su partida de dominó con los viejos amigos quizá era una costumbre patética, pero no le sobraban distracciones. Además, el médico del seguro le había recomendado hacer vida social.
—Así que ahí estaba yo —decía uno de sus compañeros cuando llegó él—, después de recorrer todo Tatooine, solo frente al todopoderoso Sarlacc. Una lucha mucho peor que la que tuve con Jaden Korr…
El jugador que tenía al frente puso los ojos en blanco:
—Hemos escuchado esa historia cuatrocientas veces, Boba Fett. Y estoy seguro de que es mentira. Todo el mundo dice que saliste corriendo.?—Ya empezamos —protestó Boba Fett, y luego remedó con voz pituda—, “Jabba el Hutt nunca corre”, “Jabba el Hutt no se escapa”. Me envidias porque tengo piernas. ?—Ya cállense —interrumpió el tercero, el de la capucha—. Ahórrenle sus monsergas al recién llegado. ¿Cómo va todo, Darth?
El caballero del gracioso traje negro se sentó. Resoplaba como un caballo cansado, o en su caso, como una tostadora estropeada.
—Alguien debería poner un ascensor en este club.
Los ojos de Boba Fett brillaron, pero nadie los vio, porque llevaba puesto el casco:
—Eso me recuerda la vez que perseguí a Gilramos Libkath. Un bicho de cuidado. ¿Sabían que…
—¡Oh, cállate ya! —dijo Jabba el Hutt—. ¿Estás bien, Darth? Te ves un poco decaído.
Al caballero del gracioso traje negro no se le daban bien las confidencias, pero qué demonios, si no lo escuchaban estos ancianos, no lo escucharía nadie. Admitió:
—Necesito un testigo que certifique mi trabajo. Por lo de la pensión y eso.
—Bueno —dijo el encapuchado—, yo puedo dar fe de que tus servicios en el lado oscuro de la fuerza fueron de primera calidad.
—Ese es el problema, Emperador —replicó el caballero del gracioso traje negro—. Necesito un testigo que no sea responsable de crímenes masivos ni sabotaje industrial.
Jabba el Hutt levantó su manito con entusiasmo, pero el caballero se apresuró a añadir:
—Ni de trata de blancas.
—No fue trata de blancas. La princesa Leia estaba enamorada de mí. No todos los días se encuentra un cuerpo como este.
Pero no lo dijo con convicción. Al contrario. Como siempre que hablaban del pasado, un halo de nostalgia se cernió sobre la mesa, y terminaron sumidos en un triste silencio. Al menos, esta vez, Boba Fett interrumpió el momento con una nota de esperanza:
—Bueno, hay alguien a quien puedes llamar.
Los demás levantaron la cabeza e intercambiaron miradas. Nadie había querido pronunciar ese nombre. El propio caballero del gracioso traje negro movió lentamente su casco a un lado y otro:
—¿A él? No, no podría hacerlo.
—¿Por qué no? Dicen que está muy bien situado ahora.
—Ya, pero…?El Emperador lo interrumpió:
—No es tan mala idea. Después de todo, ¿qué puedes perder?
—El orgullo. La dignidad. El amor propio.
Jabba el Hutt miró a su alrededor, hacia todos los ancianos verdes con múltiples cabezas que un día habían sido sus siervos y ahora los acompañaban en las clases de fisioterapia.
—Bueno —dijo—, a estas alturas, no creo que debas preocuparte por esas cosas.

De vuelta en casa, el caballero del gracioso traje negro se colocó su mantita sobre las piernas e intentó distraerse con algún reality show: casi llama su atención uno sobre 14 mandalorianos que sobrevivían juntos en una nave espacial, pero en realidad, no duró mucho viéndolo. Su cabeza solo podía pensar en su encuentro con la funcionaria y en la conversación con sus compañeros de dominó.
Se pasó un par de horas rumiando la idea hasta que comprendió lo inevitable: tendría que hacer esa llamada. Se levantó y buscó el teléfono en sus agendas viejas. Llevaba mucho tiempo sin hablar con según quién.
Encontró el número en la agenda negra, la que decía “enemigos a muerte y rebeldes infectos”. La lista de nombres de la agenda volvió a traerle recuerdos, pero los reprimió. Era hora de vivir en el presente. Sacando fuerzas de flaqueza, marcó el número. Del otro lado, una voz familiar le contestó:
A su alrededor se oía música, ruido de vasos chocando, voces de chicas:
—¿Hola? —repitió la voz.
El caballero del gracioso traje negro estuvo a punto de colgar, pero se sobrepuso. No tenía más alternativa. Al final, las palabras salieron de su boca por sí mismas, como si estuvieran escritas en un guion:
—Luke, soy tu padre.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 to me...and me likey!!

Back from Spain...pilas recargadas...hope to post on a more regular basis! Here's a video from Plasma, a Spanish indie rock band recommended by the all-knowing folks at Señor Pollo. Enjoy!