cafenowhere: close-up photo of champagne cork (champagne)
Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Edited by Phoebe Wagner and Bronté Christopher Wieland, published by Upper Rubber Boot Books, Sunvault promises "a revolution against despair. Focusing on solutions to environmental disasters, solarpunk envisions a future of green, sustainable energy used by societies that value inclusiveness, cooperation, and personal freedom."

I'm proud that my poem "Strandbeest Dreams," cowritten with my husband, José Jimenez, is included in Sunvault, alongside work by Nisi Shawl, Daniel José Older, Bogi Takács, Jaymee Goh, and so many talented folks.


cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
Poetry Notes for "Aboard the Transport Tesoro"

In November, my poem "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" appeared in Issue 7 of Uncanny Magazine. Now it's available to read for free online or listen to in a podcast.

The idea for the poem came to me on one of the many nights I lay awake in bed, in pain. I'd tried ignoring it, then meditating through it. I'd taken various medicines. I had my heating pad. I'd tried stretching out, scrunching up, lying on my back, belly, side. Nothing helped. To think of something other than hurting, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could've done that day to trigger the pain. Nothing stood out. Eventually, I started to wonder what I had done, ever, in my life, to bring on this pain. Had emotion metastasized into physical ailment? Had I committed some sin or transgression? Was I being punished?

Pain makes me weird and illogical. (Or maybe that's my Catholic upbringing?)

These addled thoughts intersected with a conversation I'd seen on Twitter, about the difficulty of venerating elders (or ancestor worship) when your family is problematic. How do you overcome (or maybe just put aside) a history of conflict, or even abuse, for a continued relationship with the deceased? Can you ever trust them, let alone honor or respect them?

I wondered which of my ancestors might be inducing my suffering, and what they were trying to convey through the punishment. Only my grandmother seemed vindictive enough, but what had I done to piss her off this time? She held a grudge like a tick with lockjaw, so I supposed it could've been something I'd done in the past. But surely she knew my heart had changed over the years. I actually felt closer and more sympathetic to her than ever before. Maybe she was only acting out? Maybe she was hurting too?

And if I was so adrift, I wondered, how much more complicated could ancestor worship get in the future? With life-extending medicines and procedures, we might know our great-greats much more intimately, for better or worse. I imagined what it'd be like to have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with a great-great, and what I'd be willing to do for her when she finally passed.

Though I was still in excruciating pain, the poem came together very quickly after that. I got out of bed and wrote it down. I don't know how long it was before the pain subsided enough that I could sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I moved a couple of lines and typed it up, and it was done.

I don't see anything romantic about pain or suffering. If it were up to me, I'd have slept pain-free and never written the poem. But I do feel a grudging awe for the alchemy of poetry, which can take something as stupid and pointless as my pain and transfigure a bit of it. From lead to gold seems too self-congratulatory. So...shit to Shinola, maybe.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)
This weekend Tweetie went to a sleepover, so JJ and I had some ultra-rare adult time in which we spoke in complete, uninterrupted sentences in satisfyingly thorough conversations not suited to little pitchers with big ears. We figured out some stuff and got on the same page about other stuff and I surprised both of us by telling him something about me that he didn't know, which is difficult considering we met when I was 14.

We watched Seven Psychopaths, which was entertainingly meta about the limitations of American action films. Great dialogue, charming psychopaths, stunning scenery. As is often the case, however, lampshading the problems is no substitute for fixing the problems. Consider the poster for the movie, which features 7 white people, two women. Now, there is one female psychopath in the story, but she's black. And I don't think she has any lines. Her story is told by her male lover. So the marketing department clearly wanted to tell potential audiences that there were women in the movie, but we couldn't have *gasp* black women on the posters. (The most admirable, bravest character in the film is, in fact, an older black woman. But she dies. And Gabourey Sidibe, of Precious fame, is totally wasted as a sobbing object of fat-phobic verbal abuse.) Even  though one character tells the main character, a screenwriter, that he writes crappy women characters, the movie itself is no better. In fact, the movie's actual director/screenwriter admits he wrote that chiding scene just to let himself off the hook. Knowing that kinda defuses the truth bomb delivered by his most charming psychopath: "You can't let the animals die in a movie...only the women."

We also watched Robot and Frank. I found it sweet and visually appealing, often funny. Frank Langella has marvelous gravitas, making him believable as both a grandpa and a still-sexual person. But the threat posed by the police in the movie seemed unrealistic to me. Surely they wouldn't be allowed to access a person's medical records without a warrant, maybe not even then. Also, I'm not sure what the message of the movie is supposed to be except that, we can't always mind the gaps, because we can't always foresee what the gaps will be. And sometimes people will get hurt.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I'd heard good things about the science fiction movie Monsters--mostly that it was a good effort on a small budget (small being relative: $800K in this case), and unusual for being set in Mexico. The premise is that a NASA probe carrying alien-life samples crashed over Central America and when the extraterrestrials started breeding, a section of Mexico was quarantined to try to keep the aliens from entering the United States.

The aliens are amazing: both potentially terrifying and beautiful; familiar and uncanny. I loved them and the explanation of their life cycle and habits. The on-location cinematography is often beautiful too, but so geographically incorrect as to be painful. Northern Mexico is portrayed as jungle, with no explanation as to how that currently arid region was so transformed in a matter of years. A Mayan pyramid is supposedly within sight of the enormous wall the USA has built to keep the aliens out. And the South Texas scenes seem to have been filmed in Galveston (a coastal city), so we see all these houses on stilts in what would, in fact, be a desert environment. To fuss over such details, I've read in other reviews, is to miss the point of the allegory.

Okay, so let's look at this allegory. The US builds a wall to keep out the aliens. The aliens, we are told by some of the Mexican citizens, don't mean any harm and will leave you alone if you leave them alone. The problem is that the Americans are bombing the region and using chemical warfare to try and eradicate the aliens, thus killing aliens and Mexicans alike. (We are, I think, supposed to be surprised and horrified that the US would do such a thing. Well, one out of two ain't bad...) The aliens tend to stomp around and destroy things at the best of times, but when angry, they can decimate cities. A young American woman asks her taxi driver if he feels safe living in one of those cities and he admits to being frightened, but asks what are he and his family supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go?

So...undocumented immigrants are like Giant Space Squids? Strangely beautiful during mating rituals but likely to destroy cities? Unable to tell the difference between true aggressors and noncombatants? Fearsome to both compatriots and Americans? Mysterious and clumsy, like this allegory?

I don't think it's okay to rearrange another country's geography and landmarks for the sake of putting forth our allegories. (springboarding from real geography to imaginary world geographies is different, imo.) And aren't we done with the tedious substitution of "alien" for other races? But even if I were to accept all that, the plot pacing is off. We spend too much time watching our two American protags trying to negotiate their way back to the States and then embarking on the perilous journey through the infected zone. (Which seems mostly to be footage of Costa Rica and Guatemala, rather than Mexico.) The movie handwaves what could've been the hardest part of the journey. At one point we're at the crest of a mountain, looking down from a pyramid at the Rio Grande and the great Wall (visible from space, we're told). Next thing, the protags have somehow scaled the wall and walked right through the open gate into the States. ("One does not simply walk into..." But apparently, two can and do.) 

Worse, the characters aren't very interesting. Sam is the stereotypical poor little rich girl touring Mexico, and her father has sent one of his minions to fetch her from that foreign battle zone. Andrew is said minion, a cynical photojournalist looking for his money shot. Why we should care about two underdeveloped American characters rather than the Mexican characters also trying to circumnavigate the infected zone...I don't know. And why they fall in love is beyond me, too.

J and I are accustomed to compartmentalizing, so we sat through the whole movie without complaining too much, but we won't watch it again, and we don't recommend you pay to see it.



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