Some notes on Costa Rican Science Fiction
Daniel W. Koon
August, 2006; last revised March 12, 2010

      Costa Rica is not a country noted for its science fiction. My own experience living in and returning to CR is that few Costa Ricans can name a single native author of the genre. In fact, in my professional interactions with Costa Ricans (“Ticos” or “Ticas” as they call themselves), the question arose: is there such a thing as Costa Rican Science Fiction? The answer seems to be yes, but not much. On the other hand, there have been a number of writers who are just beginning to make waves, so things are looking up.

Good news! Cuentos futuros: cuentos de ciencia ficción, an anthology of Costa Rican SF stories, is now available, in Spanish. Stories include:
  • “Los túneles de la memoria”, de Laura Casasa Nuñez
  • “La onceava generación”, de Antonio Chamu
  • “Frente frío”, Jessica Clark
  • “La tropa”, David Díaz Arias
  • “Sputnik”, Iván Molina Jiménez
  • “Flor de crepúsculo”, Laura Quijano Vincenzi
PREHISTORY
      As is the case for Latin America in general, one can find instances of science fiction in Costa Rican literature stretching back at least a century. Interestingly enough, in a country whose mythic national hero, Juan Santamaria was a 24 year-old who burned down the headquarters of American adventurer William Walker, the first two notable science fiction novels from this country are works with a strong anti-imperialist streak.
  1. “El problema” (1899) -- Maximo Soto Hall (1871 - 1944), a Guatemalan who moved to Costa Rica, died in Buenos Aires. A story placed 30 years in the future (i.e. 1928), it can be considered the first Hispanoamerican anti-imperialist novel. [1,2,3]
  2. “La caída de águila” (1920) -- Carlos Gagini (1865-1925), of the so-called “Generation of 1900”. His first novel, it is a story of an alliance among the nations of Central America against the US.
RECENT WRITERS
There are miscellaneous SF stories since these beginnings, but certainly no science fiction "tradition". Writers of note include Fernando Duran Ayanegui (born 1939) and Alberto Cañas (born 1920), and Alfredo Cardona Peña [1917-1995].

      More recent SF works coming out of CR have included
  1. C.R. 2040” (1996: San José : Editorial de la Universidad Estatal a Distancia), apparently a collection of stories from a local SF-writing competition, edited by Roberto Sasso.
  2. the novel “Azor y Luna” (Lumen, Argentina, 2003) by Alberto Ortiz is set in the post-apocalyptic Caribbean Basin, the birthplace of a “New Civilization”. It combines elements of SF, magical realism and self-help. [6]

CURRENT WRITERS
As near as I can tell, as of June, 2009 (enough qualifiers?), the three most active writers in SF in CR are:
  1. One of the most successful writers of science fiction today (or a writer who has ventured into the waters of sf) is Iván Molina Jiménez -- Professor in the Department of History and researcher in CIICLA, the Center for Research in Latin American Identity and Culture at the University of Costa Rica -- who has published three collections of his own science fiction short stories, in addition to various books outside the genre, and is almost undoubtably the first Costa Rican author to include the phrase “ciencia ficción” in the title of his works.
    • Cundila” (San José: Varitec, 2002) -- a novel with science fiction elements, but, according to the author, not an SF work itself.
    • La miel de los mudos - y otros cuentos ticos de ciencia ficción” (The honey of the mutes -- and other Costa Rican science fiction stories) (San José: Editorama, 2003). A collection of short SF stories, most having a distinctly Costa Rican flavor, whether from location, characters, or issues of current interest in the country. The book is mentioned in an article in the New York Review of Books [4].
    • El alivio de las nubes y más cuentos ticos de ciencia ficción” (The relief of the clouds and more Costa Rican science fiction stories) (San José, ICAR, 2005).
    • "La conspiración de las Zurdas" (The conspiracy of the left-handed) (review) (San José, UCR Press, 2007). Includes the short story, “Bicentenario”, (Bicentennial) which first appeared June 2006, in issue 25 of Velero, a Peruvian SF ezine. http://www.velero25.net/2006/jun2006/jun06pg01.htm, a story about the future privatization of national patrimony and national holidays, in particular the upcoming (2056) bicentennial of Juan Santamaría’s arson of the headquarters of the invading Yankee imperialists. (The rights to the patrimony, not surprisingly, having been purchased by the Yanks)
          Just as a personal aside to my North American friends: Despite what I’ve written above, Costa Ricans really do like us. I never felt when interviewing Sr. Molina that he was plotting to burn my house down.

          Molina counts among his influences the American ABCs -- Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke -- as well as Ben Bova, Philip K. Dick, and the Argentine Adolfo Bioy Casares. He cites the following as reasons for the lack of a science fiction tradition in Costa Rica.
    1. Costa Rican literature is very “provincial”.
    2. Science fiction is not held in high respect as a literature in Costa Rica
    3. There is a prejudice among readers against Latin science fiction.
          To these one would have to add a less subtle reason, given by Argenine SF writer Sergio Gaut vel Hartman [5], namely the small, fragmented Central American literary market. There are only 4 million Costa Ricans, 40 million Central Americans in all, divided into seven countries.


  2. My introduction to the work of Laura P. Quijano Vincenzi came one day when I stumbled across her book “Una sombra en el hielo” (A shadow on the ice), one of the few books of CR SF I've ever found that way.
    • Una sombra en el hielo” (A shadow on the ice) (1995: San José, La Imprenta Nacional) was the winner of the “Joven Creación” (Young Creation) Prize presented by Editorial Costa Rica, 1994. It describes the mystery, in 2195, surrounding an abandoned underground polar research station and an enigmatic figure who disappeared with that station.
    • A more recent book from Ms. Quijano Vincenzi, “A través del Portal: Magia”, is a trilogy of which the first part is available in either “print-on-demand” or PDF format through Lulu Press.
    • Part II of the series: "A través del Portal: Visiones" is now available as well through both LuLu and amazon.com (April 2008)
    • "Por siempre otro y otros relatos", an anthology of her stories is avaiable as an ebook The short story "Por siempre otro" from this collection was selected for the anthology "Fabricantes de Sueños 2008", published by the Spanish Association for Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror (AEFCFT), slated to appear in 2009.
    • Her story "Misón inconclusa" (Mission Inconclusive) is included in the collection "Jodido Lunes (Antología del Rechazo)", a collection of non-finalist stories from the competition Domingo Santos 2008!.
    • Her story "El último pozo" will appear in the anthology "Visiones 2008", also from the AEFCFT, slated for publication near the end of 2009.

    Check out Laura's website and blog for the latest news from her.


  3. Editorial Costa Rica published Jessica Clark Cohen's SF novel Telémaco in 2007, the first of a trilogy she has planned with future novels Beowulf and Gilgamesh. She is also working on translating the work into comic book format. This publisher has already published her short story collection Los salvajes (The savages) in 2006: neither sf nor fantasy, but influenced by both. Plus a number of short stories in anthologies. Add to that a science fiction short story Note to self and a script for a short movie, Mandelbrot, and I might soon be eating my own words about there not being much Costa Rican SF to read.
    • "Los salvajes" (The savages: 2006) -- collection of short stories: neither sf nor fantasy, but influenced by both.
    • "Telémaco" (Telemachus: 2007) -- SF novel, may be appearing in the author's own English translation.
    • Six stories in anthologies
    • Three unpublished collections of stories -- "Cuentos rebeldes" (rebel stories), a science fiction anthology, and an anthology of stories based on "Lazán", one of her anthologized stories.
    • "Paranormal.org" -- fantasy (ghosts, possession) short story to be published in the anthology "San José oculto #3".
    • "Diagonal" -- a dark novel (ghosts, possession) submitted in the Carmen Lyra Contest of the Editorial Costa Rica Publishing House.
    • "Expertos en Todo" -- SF anthology in progress (as of June 2009)


BIBLIOGRAPHY:
  1. Adriano Corrales Arias, La Nueva Novela Costarricense: Los Orígenes, Revista Comunicación, Instituto Tecnológica Costa Rica (ITCR), http://www.itcr.ac.cr/revistacomunicacion/2_2001/la_nueva_novela_costarricense.htm, Accessed 8/24/2006.
  2. Veronica Rios Quesada, "El impacto de la novela El problema de Maximo Soto Hall en 1899. Primera aproximacion", Káñina, July 1, 2002. Summary: http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-844492_ITM
  3. Iván Molina Jiménez, Verónica Ríos Quesada, La primera polémica que provocó El problema, novela del escritor guatemalteco Máximo Soto Hall. Una contribución documental Universidad de Costa Rica, San José http://www.denison.edu/collaborations/istmo/n03/proyectos/problema.html, Accessed 8/24/2006
  4. Stephen Kinzer, “The Trouble with Costa Rica”, New York Review of Books, 53 (10), June 8, 2006.
  5. Sergio Gaut vel Hartman, “La escena continental”, Asimov 20 (Sept/Oct 2005) .
  6. Bibliomanía, El Universal Online, 15 April 2003. http://www2.eluniversal.com.mx/pls/impreso/web_histo_cultura.despliega?var=27685&var_sub_actual=a&var_fecha=15-ABR-03

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