CUBAN SCIENCE FICTION INTERVIEWS:
PART I: SF IN CUBA


Vladimir Hernández
F. Mond
Ariel Cruz Vega
Yoss
Michel Encinosa Fú
Bruno Henríquez
Ángel Arango
Roberto Estrada Bourgeois


VLADIMIR HERNÁNDEZ
Original interview in Spanish

What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

I think there are two parts to the question: The state of the writers’ preparation and the current state of Cuban SF publishing. Right now the publishers are trying to extract the ore from the genre’s writers, which I believe is good. In particular Extramuros seems to me to be very interested in working the mines of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Mines which have been underworked over the last forty years and from which there has been absolute silence for the last ten years. The present state of SF writing worries me, because I believe that the writers have not read enough in the field. This is not their fault. There really is not a library where they can accomplish it. The books which are out there are very expensive. We lack the bridges, the canals, to have contacts with the organizations which could help us with this. This worries me, because I see the genre growing impoverished.
It is true that some of us are keeping current, because we are reading a lot and in different languages, so that we are learning to write well, penetrating into all the types of SF which are being written. But not everyone can do this. I would like it if, instead of only five or six of us being able to do this, everyone could.
I am afraid that even if publishers like Extramuros and Letras Cubanas should decide to publish, we would still not have enough quality material to give them. It seems to me that we are still not yet prepared for an avalanche of good publications in the country.
I think that on the one hand the publishing market is expanding and on the other hand the team of creators is getting weaker. On the one hand there are writers who have talent but remain unknown, and the other hand we see our most respected authors falling into total stagnation.

In Havana and in the countryside there is a large crop of new writers in the genre, but they have little chance of getting published. What do you think of this conflict?

Right now José Miguel [Sánchez Gómez, aka "Yoss"] is applying through UNEAC (The Cuban Union of Writers and Artists), to create a weekly workshop for those who wish to attend. It would encompass not only literary issues, but also graphic design, comics, computer design and cartoons. We would like to see all who have interest in SF, fantasy, and horror gather there. The idea is to create what we would call a breeding ground. In this workshop we could improve how we promote the output of these genres. Maybe we don't need to teach how to write, but we could provide some constructive, interesting criticism. We could also share media contacts and access to publishers, and this would help us. I believe that what Bruno Henríquez has accomplished, selling an anthology of Cuban writers in Argentina, and what I will accomplish selling an anthology of Cuban writers in Mexico, is helping Cuban SF: these are results that we can present to UNEAC and in other places to demonstrate that we are earning publishing space, so that I believe the Cuban publishers will notice that our writers are making literature that is commercially viable in strong, tremendously competitive markets. Even better, we could market our works here in our own country, using our country as a space for speculating on and extrapolating new and interesting ideas. It would be an honor for us to be able to premiere new works in our country. I believe we need to force ourselves to demonstrate that Cuban SF is arriving at its age of maturity: some of us are working hard to do this. Agustín de Rojas, for example, has had the opportunity to publish in Havana and of course in Santa Clara. But all of the buried treasures have to be unearthed. It would be important to create a prize, to create a workshop, to forge a connection.

In Spanish-speaking countries and particularly in Latin America, the writers and fans of SF&F are organized. What do you think of the creation of a national organization for SF&F in Cuba?

It seems, from Bruno Henríquez’ experience, that creating an association of this type is really very difficult, because it seems that the bureaucratic structures are not flexible enough to handle it. I believe that we need to create some sort of nominal association, something which could not presently find a home, but something which would serve to bring us together. The workshop that I told you about before might be able to accomplish this. It would be called "Spiral Workshop" ["Taller Espiral", after the novel by de Rojas], and it would sponsor a prize to be awarded during Fantasy Week in Havana. I think that these prizes will serve to get the publishers interested. There is a sort of feedback between the publishers and what they hear from the literary circles. I believe that the creation of this workshop would be indispensable in bringing us closer to a future SF Writers Association. But until now we haven't managed to accomplish it, despite Bruno’s hard work.

It has been said that Cuban SF writers tend not to reflect a Cuban ambience in their writings. What do you think of this?

I don't believe it. This is a misconception. My stories in particular are super-techno, and I introduce the most baroque technologies which could not have been made yet, and still my locations are undeniably Cuban. In fact, I place them in a city called CH, which is Havana in the next 40 or 50 years, although unrecognizable for many people today.
Yoss on the other hand has an unpublished anthology [subsequently published in 2002] called "Planet for rent" [Se alquila un planeta], in which he writes about Earth, but with obvious parallels to Cuba, so that any Cuban who reads it will immediately recognize it. It is part joke, part serious, a collection of stories memorable and impressive for their social acuity and their manner of metaphorically extrapolating the events that we experience today. I expect that this book could be published very soon. Earlier one mentioned Cuba a lot in SF stories, but always from a folkloric perspective, which strikes me as harmful, because the folkloric and the humorous can sometimes remain at a simplistic level. When I write my stories about CH, many people tell me, "But this Havana is unrecognizable." But these are good stories and they reflect something Cuban without using local colloquialisms, nor speaking of palm trees and chickens. It couldn't be Moscow, or New York, it definitely couldn't be Tokyo. It is Havana. And that is because of the feel, the settings, the use of language. We are not against folklore, but we are against the simplistic levels of folklore and humor.

At this moment in Cuba, would you say that there are SF writers whom we could label as classics?

I tend to label things a bit. I like, and enjoy, seeing my friends as representatives of currents and tendencies. I would like to see myself as a cyberpunk writer, but Yoss is correct when he tells me that my perspective is post-cyberpunk, although he is largely talking about the technological emphasis I give to what I am doing. In fact, I am very interested in the sociological problems which stem from technological developments. In that sense I am more identified with the cyberpunk movement, because among other things I am exploring marginal ambients, something which we did not do in SF before. In the Cuban SF of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, they never explored the marginal areas of society. There might be individual cases, but going to those marginal settings was not the norm.
Yoss is an interesting writer because he is postmodern in many senses. He combines many subgenres and technological concepts. On occasion one notes that his stylistic work is experimental, but, deep down, the treatment he uses in each of his stories makes him a classical writer. Very much rooted in the classical writers. He brings in everything which is current in SF, from the technological to the philosophical, but he re-elaborates and re-contextualizes them into his own peculiar format, maintaining the structure which I see in the classical writers.
Fabricio González Neira, on the other hand, even though he is from the same generation and has read the same books as we have, prefers to harvest the nearly fantastical borderlands of the genre rather than my own baroque techno elements, or the epic style which José Manuel uses in his work.
We also have the case of Michel Encinosa [Fú Encinosa] who writes equally well both in a very proper cyberpunk and in a stylized fantasy that is very reflexive and sophisticated. His stories are almost always a roller coaster ride of action, of conjuring, slang, tomfoolery and of characters.
Then there is Ariel Cruz, who is still looking for his own voice. He has tried his hand at cyberpunk and classical stories and now wishes to make a kind of SF that is considered retro. I think he is preparing to concoct his own blend of SF with a pre-classical flavor -- pulp -- the SF that they made in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
These are the writers closest to me about whom I can talk. But I worry a lot about the sheer number of writers who want to write short stories. This is the hardest format, because it requires a great power of synthesis, an extreme acuity. But these writers don't realize this, and still continue to write their short stories.

Do you believe that there is some common thread running through Cuban SF?

I believe that there is no such thing in the SF which arose during the decade of the 90s. I do believe that we do wish to write better, become stylists, raise the literary level; we wish to transmit ideas which have a wider spectrum than that of our predecessors. What exists is a voice. The voice of a series of writers whom I consider "rupturists" [rupturistas]. This is what exists today, but not a common thread.

How do you feel about the literary SF prizes in our country?

It has been announced that the David Prize will be awarded next year, but this does not make me entirely happy, particularly if once again they lump detective stories, fantasy and science fiction together in the same bag, with a 400 page novel, a novela of 120 pages, and a collection of 80 or 100 pages all thrown together. That simply does not convince me. It seems to me that we have to create specific competitions which could aim at a national level. We do not currently have those. That's why we are very interested in creating that prize I told you about earlier.

[Interview conducted by Gerardo Chávez Spínola]. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

F. MOND
Original interview in Spanish

1. What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

Very black. First, because the publishers are partisans disposed to publish their sacred cows before they publish SF&F writers. Secondly, because the two genres require high standards. As you know, the limit is the same for all genres: 2000 copies. This causes some genres directed at a specialized public to languish in the bookstore shelves, while the few titles of SF&F which are published sell out with an incredible speed. And it is often painful for the author to reply to readers’ questions "But why don’t you publish more?" And because this is a matter that is out of the writer’s hands...There is never a satisfactory response to give.

2. Do you believe that there is a considerable number of followers of the genre in this country?

Obviously. Try to find a single title of SF&F in any bookstore, let alone in the used bookstores.

3. Do you believe that there is some common thread running through Cuban SF?

I believe that every one has his own style and his own tendencies and it is better that way. Pigeonholing is always boring.

4. In your opinion, what is the reason for the scarcity of writers of horror and mystery in Cuba?

The lack of opportunities to publish, for the reasons I explained in my answer to question #1.

5. There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

Began to change? Before ’99 almost nothing was published because of lack of resources. Remember that one had to resort to publishing those editions in leaflet form, "the name of which I don’t recall nor do I wish to recall..."

6. How do you feel about the SF literary competitions in our country?

There are such competitions?

7. What possibilities do Cuban authors have to publish and how can they do it?

How does one square the circle and how does one carry water in a basket?

8. Is there anything typical that you find characterizes Cuban SF?

The variety of styles, themes and tendencies, as I mentioned before.

9. Is it true what they say that there are few Cuban writers who develop the plots of their stories inside Cuba?

It is possible to do it: I think that I am among those few who do. I enjoy doing it and I think there are enough storylines to not have to leave our backyard. But everyone has the right to write however they feel is best and to write about the subjects that interest them, Cuban or not. I prefer Cuban themes. "Mine first". ["Lo mío primero"]

10. Do you believe that one can speak of classic and contemporary writers within Cuban SF?

I believe so. And I would place among the classics Oscar Hurtado, Ángel Hurtado, Collazo, and I don’t recall many others.

11. Do you believe that we now need an association of SF&F in Cuba?

It would be boring. It would only serve to waste a few hours a month in meetings that are not going to resolve the fundamental problem for writers: how to publish their books. Paraphrasing [Anton] Arrufat: "The in-box [for publications] is filled".

12. In your opinion, how do you believe such an entity would function in our country?

I haven’t the slightest idea, but I suppose that it could be in the same way that any such association would behave, an association for the prevention of cruelty to dogs, for example.

13. Can you tell us anything about SF events in Cuba?

Very little. I hardly ever attend. They bore me. I am not a theorist in the subject and it seems to me that they do no more than dabble in what people are writing "outside" [overseas]; that’s not worth the effort for me if I have no access to those publications. It seems that those works are smuggled into the country.

14. In your understanding, what are the challenges and prospects for Cuban SF&F for the future?

More like "broken parts" [rotos] than "challenges" [retos]. The fundamental one is for everyone to continue writing what they feel like and to ignore the pretty colored fishes and the byzantine rhetoric....

Interview conducted April 11, 2002 by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.

ARIEL CRUZ VEGA
Original interview in Spanish

1. What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

Cuba, Mexico, Argentina and Spain are the four pillars which sustain these genres in the Hispanic world. We have writers with a distinctly sf sensibility (something which is not the case for many other Latin American countries). I don’t know about the other cases, but in Cuba it seems obvious to me that there is no systematic effort to stimulate creative output. If we do not remedy that situation immediately, our siblings will pull ahead of us.

2. Do you believe that there are considerable numbers of followers of the genre in this country?

Yes, I believe so. Nobody knows how many because there is not an organization that allows us to quantify it: not a specialized cinema, not a club, not a magazine, not a gathering place, not an association. But I trust that if one were created tomorrow, the response would exceed the most optimistic expectations. The bottom line is that the Cuban reader is qualified like no other to understand and enjoy that which distinguishes science fiction from other genres.

3. Do you believe that there is some common thread running through Cuban SF?

During the 90’s, the era in which Soviet SF abruptly lost its influence, there was a current defined as "cyberpunk" (in which I myself wrote), and in Fantasy also a "dark" strain. Today I think other tendencies have been added to these, which is a good thing, I would say.

4. In your opinion, what is the reason for the scarcity of writers of horror and mystery in Cuba?

One cannot write within the mark of a genre without keeping up with its practice and development; the result would be a caricature. In this aspect, with Horror and Mystery the same thing occurs as in the other areas of "entertainment". In Cuba there is no public "entertainment", only "serious" narrative directed at a small audience of writers, students of letters, researchers, professors and critics. Any purple prose [novela rosa], detective story, suspense, adventure, light fantasy, horror of science fiction, on which you can get your hands in the bookstore, invariably dates from 50 years ago or longer. I do not know why this is; I have heard that writers’ royalties are very expensive.

5. There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

Like I just said, perhaps we are entering into a period of readjustment. The truth is that we missed everything that happened in the world of science fiction during the last four decades. Until now, I have seen quantitative changes, but not qualitative ones. That is, I have not seen new titles, simply new versions of Verne, Salgari, Bradbury, Pohl, etc. Let’s keep our fingers crossed...

6. How do you feel about the SF literary competitions in our country?

The David Prize bore splendid fruits. Daína Chaviano, José Miguel Sánchez and Agustín de Rojas became known through it. Hopefully it will return. When an entity of prestige and publishing muscle like UNEAC backs a competition, it has a notable cultural impact. The writers I’ve cited define, practically by themselves, an entire generation.

7. What possibilities do Cuban authors have to publish and how can they do it?

Pinos Nuevos was a great help during the Island-wide paper shortage. I believe that today Extramuros has upheld its goal of publishing science fiction and fantasy. However, it is limited to short works. Letras Cubanas and Editorial Abril publish one or two anthologies every once in a while. As far as I know, the collections which re-publish "classic" (that is, old) SF are not open to current Cuban authors, which is a shame. On the other hand, The Latin American Literary Agency is doing excellent work in representing and popularizing Cuban writers. I suggest that all young writers send them their works.

8. Is there anything typical that you find characterizes Cuban SF?

Not really. And I am glad, because to insist too much in finding a national voice within an international genre like SF can limit creative fantasy, rather than help it. Still, perhaps tomorrow a national subgenre will develop, spontaneous and fresh… something similar to what happened to rock in Argentina. Something like that would be welcome. But obviously, formulaically dropping Cuban slang and images into one’s work, with guayaberas and rumba-dancing mulattas, is not the way to go.

9. Is it true what they say that there are few Cuban writers who develop the plots of their stories inside Cuba?

Yes, we certainly have a provincial complex. And in reality it is not written anywhere in stone that a good SF story could not unfold in Quemado de Güines or Mayarí or in Viñales. I would refer the reader to Vladimir Hernández’ stories in "Quartz Nova " [Nova de Cuarzo]. His Havana of the future, although a bit dark, remains recognizable, three-dimensional and Cuban.

10. Do you believe that one can speak of classic and contemporary writers within Cuban SF?

If classics are defined by a staying power, we have Ángel Arango. If they are defined as being precursors of a sensibility, we could mention Oscar Hurtado. If we are talking about constancy and popular impact, one needs to mention Agustín de Rojas, Daína Chaviano, Bruno Henríquez, Roberto Estrada, and Jose Miguel Sánchez. Yes, I think that we Cubans have earned the right to a few minor gods in the SF pantheon.

11. Do you believe that we now need an association of SF&F in Cuba?

Definitely. It is more than necessary; it is indispensable. A library, systematic workshops and… a magazine would suffice. For years the lovers of the genre have dreamed of a Cuban science fiction magazine which would make the most of the advantages of our publishing system – low prices, high quality, distribution in all the land, presence in libraries, halls and mountain communities. Something like that could galvanize the genre overnight, and would quickly bring us to the place where Cuba belongs in the Hispanic science fiction community.

12. In your opinion, how do you believe such an entity would function in our country?

The ideal would be some entity with UNEAC’s prestige supporting it, but that wouldn’t be necessary. It could even function attached to some House of Culture, using its meeting places and equipment – something like the legendary Patio de María. Cuban SF fans are notably frugal: all they need is a pot to sit on. As for the membership, I repeat, I am certain that it will not be difficult to find legions of potential fans.

13. Can you tell us anything about SF events in Cuba?

Science fiction events in Cuba are very distinctive. They fill the important social function of speeding up the interchange of SF books, comics and videos – but they also attract topics only peripherally related to SF: Ufology, the occult, touch-healing, vampirism, Japanese anime, scientific popularization, fractals, holograms, hypnosis. The stranger, the better. Cubaficción, founded by Bruno Henríquez, is the most important and most eclectic of all these events. It is celebrated every year, and I recommend it to interested parties, with the promise that they will not be bored.

14. In your understanding, what are the challenges and prospects for Cuban SF&F for the future?

The prospects are many, especially considering the priority which this country has given to education, culture, and the democratization of art and knowledge. The challenges are making up for lost time, and recognizing that the genre, for good or ill, has an irreplaceable niche within the culture of the 21st Century… and working!

Interview conducted September 29, 2002 by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

JOSE MIGUEL SÁNCHEZ GÓMEZ (YOSS)
Original interview in Spanish

What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

The present state of Cuban SF, one could say, is the same as for the past thirty years: critical. The only difference is that in the last few years more possibilities are opening up.
I do not want to say that everything is rosy and that the grand boulevards are opening up in front of us, but anthologies are appearing, put together by the representatives of the younger generations of Cubans, in Cuba and abroad. We could name Bruno Henríquez’ "Dust in the wind" [Polvo en el viento] in Argentina, Vladimir Hernández’ "Probable horizons" [Horizontes probables] in Mexico, "Eternal kingdom" [Reino eterno] an SF&F anthology of mine. Soon two more will appear: "Pórtico 21" by me and "Shockwave" [Onda de choque] by Vladimir. Interest in SF seems to be building, at least from the publishers. And we don’t think the readers will ever lose their interest.
On the other hand, let’s not fool ourselves. The crowd of people writing are pretty much the same as before. I would tell you that the number of people who are making worthwhile SF in Cuba is no more than 25 or 30 writers. Perhaps that represents a significant number for a small Latin American country. Here I am including people who write sporadically or who occasionally touch tangentially on the genre. Of these, five or six that I think are the vanguard, for the persistence of their production and the quality and the interest they are seeking, in new themes and in approaching themes already touched on by others.
On one hand I could tell you about Vladimir Hernández, who despite his insistence in labeling his effort as cyberpunk, a genre which to me appears in a certain sense, if not exhausted, at least already incorporated into what we would call the mainstream of SF. The same writer who through his personal vision is gradually including all the other aspects of SF in his work. I could tell you about his latest novella, "Signs of war" [Signos de Guerra], in which, despite continuing to have much of a cyberpunk view, he now takes on themes of psychological depth: mankind, technology and war.
There is also Michel Encinosa Fú, who defines himself much more as a writer of heroic fantasy. His "Reptilian Universe" [Universo de Ofidia], is a cyberpunk universe of the near future, in which adventures occur which have a SF flavor, although the SF is incidental. This Universe of his has become more rich and it has intruded itself into others of his stories like "The angel of immobility" [El Ángel de la inmovilidad], which although I do not believe contributes to conceptual questions of Cuban SF, already show what seems to me a very significant style and control of language.
There are other writers, like Ariel Cruz Vega, who, having those two last names, was fated to become an SF writer. He appears to me to be still searching for his personal voice, navigating through parody and cyberpunk. (He has told me lately that he wants to return to the pulp style of the 40s) He has a simple, purged prose. He has a manner of getting to the anecdote and the surprise, a form of sketching the characters that I believe is very promising.
Other writers who write exceptionally are: Fabricio González Neira, who prefers to dedicate his time to criticism. I recently heard that he had submitted two reviews to La Gaceta -- on the novel "2084" by F. Mond and on my novel "The shipwrecks and the shipwrecked" [Los pecios y los náufragos] -- in which he wields a very incisive critical pen. Fabricio, however, has published a story of his, "On the strange death of Mateos Habbass" [Sobre la extraña muerte de Mateos Habbass], in the recent Spanish anthology "Artifex #3", which approaches a cyberpunk theme, but from a truly Borgian ethic and style.
There are other writers who are distinguishing themselves today. Above all we have a worrying avalanche of writers of the ultrashort story. Those who assume, simply from the minimal length of these works that they should be easy to write, when in reality one quickly notices that it is more difficult than writing a novel. Among them, I think if he dedicates himself seriously to it, like Albán Henríquez (the son of Bruno Henríquez), Alberto Meas, who has published a story in my anthology "El reino eterno", who I think should read more and avoid a certain catastrophic tone and didactic whiff and trotting out morals in his stories, which I think is hurting him.

There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

Obviously. The abrupt tranistion at the end of the 80s -- from publishing four or five, perhaps as many as seven titles a year, to publishing a single novel, like Ángel Arango’s "Sider" in 1994 -- was due to the "special period", when there was a general decline in all publishing houses, including Letras Cubanas, due to the scarcity of paper. Also to the fact that now books are sold on the dollar [rather than peso] market and that Cuban SF has always been viewed suspiciously by the national publishing houses. I believe that whenever there was the possibility to publish a book, they preferred to give priority to one dealing with realist themes, to phenomena which were actually occurring. Because SF has always been considered a precarious genre, one which does not enjoy a grand tradition in Cuba, when in reality, one should not forget that at the start of the Revolution, until approximately the 70s, the genre had notable contributors. Great milestones as in the novels of Miguel Collazo, the stories of Ángel Arango, Arturo Corra, Oscar Hurtado, and how later, in the 80s when Daína Chaviano won the David Prize, works of notable quality arose.
I believe that now, in the midst of a certain publishing bonanza, for the first time, people are fixing on SF with the goal of marketing. Cuban readers love to read SF. I believe that one symptom of this is also that they have republished works such as "The Space Merchants" [Pohl] and "The Factory of the Absolute" [Capek], which has already been republished various times. Many times the publishers don’t realize that they have within their grasp works by Cuban authors that are nearly as valuable as the classics of global literature. But they are afraid of publishing new writers. Still, the fact that so many anthologies have appeared so quickly shows that SF is not a stranger to the anthology fever which has affected the Cuban narrative.

Do you find anything that characterizes Cuban SF, some common trait among the writers in our backyard?

I believe that I would begin by referring first to the antecedents and the fountains from which we have all drunk. One has to remember that here we had access to something that was completely unknown to the readers and writers from a large part of the world. I refer here to the riches of SF from the socialist camp, primarily Soviet, but also Bulgarian and German: an SF which although not always well written, and lacked the surprises, the claws, the adventure of North American SF; still expressed a great concern for ethics and for the psychology of the characters.
In my case, I have read not only all the works of North American SF, not only all those that were published here, but whatever else I could find, a great quantity of the classics like Heinlein, Clark, Asimov, Leinster, Bradbury, who taught us, not only what to write, but how to write.
On the other hand I believe that if there is some characteristic trait within Cuban SF, beyond this amalgam of currents between capitalistic and socialistic SF, it is humor: a quality which has sometimes been abused. I believe, for example, that F. Mond, who in the beginning had exploited a rich vein of humor in his works with great mastery, has each time written with more humor and less SF, so that each new novel appears less likeable and unfortunately funnier and yet more "pujonas". One must be very careful in using humor. Contrary to what most people think, it is never as easy as it appears. However difficult it is to elicit a guffaw, it is much more difficult to produce an intelligent smile. I think it is truly difficult to make humor in SF, to be a Lenz, to be a Frederic Brown. Although Cubans have quite a few cards up our sleeves to pull this off.

Do you believe that there is some common representative feature within Cuban SF?

I believe that Cuban SF has moved in cycles of boom and bust. I spoke to you earlier about three great moments: at the beginning of the Revolution, when constructing the new society required a heroic literature, SF was chosen. But I believe that later, with the arrival of the Grey Five-Year Plan [el quinquennio gris: 1967-72], when doubts began to arise about SF, because it proposed conflicts in the distant future and this was not ideal, that role passed to the detective story. This was the end of the first golden age of Cuban SF literature.
The second SF boom came later, when Daína Chaviano won the first David in the 80s, and many authors appeared, like Alberto Serret, Cheli Lima, and above all Agustín de Rojas, who for me is the best SF writer of this epoch. Storytellers like Leonel Lejardi, Bruno Henríquez; narrators with very specialized styles, like Rafael Morante. Later came the publishing crisis, the fall of the socialist bloc, the arrival of the Special Period, and SF did not return until the end of the 90s. But now we have these anthologies published, three books within two years. Two of those from F. Mond, "Life, passion and luck" [Vida passion y suerte] and "Holocaust 2084" [Holocausto 2084] and my novel "Los pecios y los náufragos". Other SF books are coming out soon, due above all to the fortunate idea of the Provincial Center for the Book [Centro Provincial del Libro] of convoking the annual "Luis Rogelio Nogeras" Prize in narrative fantasy, detective story and SF in 1998. All these prizes were awarded to SF&F works, which showed that there was a movement, that there are people who are writing. Maybe we are 10 or 12, maybe with much optimism as I said before we will reach 30, but a lot is really being written.

In Havana and in the countryside there is a large crop of new writers in the genre, but they have little chance of getting published. What do you think of this conflict?

It is due above all to the low esteem which our critics have for SF. However good a novel may be, if it is SF it is sold short, first of all because many critics do not wish to admit that they do not read SF, and that SF has its particular conventions. It is almost impossible to critique SF without being conversant in it. And rather than admit that they do not know the genre, they prefer simply to undervalue it. They always prefer a mediocre work of realism to a good work of SF because it is better known to them and they know its conventions. It also happens that many writers from the provinces have very good intentions and write a lot, but have little access to the masterworks of the genre. This is a genre in which it is not enough simply to write, you have to read a lot in order to continue to improve your writing.
Unfortunately, in Cuba very little SF has been published, compared to countries like the US, where new titles are published every day, more than 300, of which 50 genuinely contribute to the genre. Even authors like Vladimir, Fabricio and I, who try to keep current, buying many books abroad, and reading a lot, cannot really consider ourselves to be keeping current. We have at best a lag of two or three years. Without reading SF, without publishing more SF abroad, without losing the fear of publishing SF whatever the future may show -- even a future in which socialism is not the only alternative -- without fulfilling these conditions, it is not going to be possible for these writers from the countryside, or any writers from our country in general, to create works of the highest quality, to break the barriers with which the critics try to maintain them in their ghetto.

Cuban writers of Fantasy, Horror and Mystery are poorly published in our land. Why do you believe this is? Are there any of them out there?

I tell you that if SF is undervalued and access to the global SF literature is difficult, it is even worse for horror and fantasy. The Lord of the Rings was only first published in Cuba a few years ago. A classic of more than forty years. The great writers of fantasy have not been published. In Cuba not a single work of Stephen King has been published, even though they sell his works for dollars in the Grijalbo Mondadori bookstore. The important writers of this genre are simply not published. Thus it is very difficult for cultivators of these genres to read up to date works and sometimes the only points of reference they possess are the low quality films that appear on TV or in videos. So they are in the same miserable boat, but multiplied by ten.

[Interview conducted by Gerardo Chávez Spínola]. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

MICHEL ENCINOSA FÚ
Original interview in Spanish

1. What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

At present, such genres can be qualified as nonexistent within the national book market. Sure, they have published a few books this year, but one bean does not make a stew. These are isolated cases, and now we can no longer walk around saying that the publishers have closed their doors to us. Letras Cubanas has offered us space, and Ediciones Extramuros, in the capital, has even inserted a new collection into its editorial profile, the Collección Impacto, destined exclusively for the literature of science fiction, fantasy, and detective stories. Right now the lack of a scene falls on our own shoulders. We simply do not possess a group of writers of sufficient quantity and quality to fill these blank spaces. Such an ensemble would justify the notion of a Cuban SF&F movement. And such an ensemble does not yet exist. All we have are isolated Cuban authors, publishing successfully at an international level, but not a movement.

2. Do you believe that there is a considerable number of followers of the genre in this country?

The number of followers (which is what we call our fandom) has not diminished. The public has always devoured the literary works of this genre published in this country and chased behind the books of foreign publications. But in recent times the public has become a more passive hunter, given that there are more choices. And I must say that this is a dangerous moment, very dangerous, and it has nothing to do with losing the public, but that the public may wander off, led astray by the prospects of new options in genre reading, and lower its expectations in quality, latching onto works of inferior content or narrative technique. Luckily the publishers who have opened their spaces maintain a sufficiently strict criteria. Still, there is always the risk.

3. Do you believe that there is some common thread running through Cuban SF?

I don’t think so. For such a thread to exist, there has to exist at least an ensemble within which some particular element stands out.

4. In your opinion, what is the reason for the scarcity of writers of horror and mystery in Cuba?

Well, I tell you, in my opinion, I do not find it justifiable to describe them as a separate genre. In speaking of the few existing works which I consider strong, I prefer to refer to them as literary works of a universal character which employ techniques of horror and mystery in order to develop their themes.
With respect to the national scene, I think that the pigeonholing of a genre provokes a closing, a vicious cycle with respect to freedom of imagination, whether at the level of scene and setting, argument, style or themes. This can be one of the causes. In Cuba there has been little literature of this type published, and all of it what would be considered classic, worthy only of certain periods in the past. The transformation of the individual and collective psyche has made the traditional horrors (monsters, rivers of blood, crypts, specters arriving from astral dimensions) obsolete and has replaced them with new horrors (identity loss, emotional instability, the reflection of society in the individual and vice versa, conspiracy theories...) which writers without preparation in the sociological and psychological terrain cannot manage for lack of a proper training in the genre. The horrors of today are not palpable, as the old ones were. Today’s horrors are in the mind. One needs only to read some contemporary international works, or watch some European, even Hollywood, films to verify this. They have already noticed, and they already exploit this new thematic source, employing entirely distinct forms as well. Horror and mystery do not cease to be vehicles for expressing a theme, and any work which uses such vehicles will be successful to the extent that it learns to dig up a theme (a fear) corresponding to a heterogeneous cohort of readers. The fear of fear itself simply does not function anymore. Life itself is scarier than a story about walking skeletons and pacts with the devil.

5. There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

I think that if they give you the opportunity, well then, you take advantage of it. Sure, the publishers do not plan to publish fifty titles in the genre per year: let’s be realists. But if the five or six titles that say Extramuros offers each year remain blank, it is not their fault. They provide the space. But they cannot publish work without quality: that affects the publisher’s prestige within the genre.
On the other hand, it is also necessary that the publishers convoke evaluation committees having a minimum of familiarity with the characteristics and history of these genres. Such a detail is fundamental.

6. How do you feel about the SF literary competitions in our country?

WHAT COMPETITIONS?

7. What possibilities do Cuban authors have to publish and how can they do it?

There are seven steps. 1. Write. 2. Write well. 3. Write better. 4. Present your works to the publishers. 5. Wait. 6. Wait a little longer. 7. Keep waiting. At the end of the day, the works of this genre are not the only ones affected by editorial delays, whether mechanical or financial. A very few chosen see their works published in the wink of an eye. But, as there is no more painful exertion than the one you did not make, and since the blank spaces are there, well... back to writing.

8. Is there anything typical that you find characterizes Cuban SF?

SF themes appropriate to the 30s of the previous century, the cosmic transcendence of the campesino [guajiro] captured by Martians, supercomputers containing billions of vacuum tubes, alien races which use their own planet as a platform for intergalactic transport, touch-healing, extraterrestrials taking a holiday next to Lake Titicaca.
On the other hand, we have to thank the presence of an Agustín de Rojas, an F. Mond (with kidnapped campesinos, yes, but at least not taking himself too seriously), an Ángel Arango, as well as the incursions of figures like Miguel Collazo. For the rest, I’d direct you to my answer to question 4.

9. Is it true what they say that there are few Cuban writers who develop the plots of their stories inside Cuba?

The best storylines written so far have been developed outside of Cuba.

10. Do you believe that one can speak of classic and contemporary writers within Cuban SF?

In the next two hundred years we may be able to begin to talk about canonizing certain writers. That’s how that is done. Still, if you want a prediction, I see Saint Agustín de Rojas as Patron Saint and Provider in our diocese.

11. Do you believe that we now need an association of SF&F in Cuba?

You need wood and nails to make a house. That is, the writers and works do not yet exist.

12. In your opinion, how do you believe such an entity would function in our country?

If there really were a broad movement of creators of quality that could create such an association, the Ministry of Culture would have already expressed interest and offered its help, since there is a profitable market for this genre.

13. Can you tell us anything about SF events in Cuba?

I have seen nothing new in the last ten years.

14. In your understanding, what are the challenges and prospects of Cuban SF&F for the future?

Challenges: That good, new creators appear. Prospects: None until that has happened.

Interview conducted April 11, 2002 by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

BRUNO HENRÍQUEZ
Original interview in Spanish

1. What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

The present panorama of Cuban SF presents a diverse landscape in which various nomadic tribes roam and try to settle. Occasionally the group i+Real sounds the trumpet and gathers around the campfire before teletransporting or boarding their ships and leaving tracks here and there, but not receiving the notice that they merit.

2. Do you believe that there is a considerable number of followers of the genre in this country?

Yes. The participation in the various competitions shows this, as does the fact that works of science fiction sell out instantly in the bookstores, and that participation in the conferences, festivals, and meetings of the genre are always very competitive.

3. Do you believe that there is some common thread running through Cuban SF?

I do not believe that there is a single thread in our country. Each writer has his/her own, and although there are groups who dwell in heroic fantasy which is today classified as SF, or by cyberpunk, there continue to be styles within which some authors locate their own works, like time travel or parallel and imaginary universes. There is also the humorous thread of F. Mond, who toys with the history of Cuba and mixes into it other more traditional SF themes, or Ángel Arango’s thread of his spatial universe of his last novels which distinguish him from his earlier novels. There is also the eroticism of R. E. Bourgeois.

4. In your opinion, what is the reason for the scarcity of writers of horror and mystery in Cuba?

The lack of publishing stimulus. Those were, and still are, prohibited genres which can not be conceived of as compatible with our society. The prohibition of any cultural manifestation only demonstrates the censors’ lack of culture.

5. There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

I do not agree with that assertion. Until 1998 there were many different epochs for SF publications. You should read the works in this vein by Nelson Román and talks on this subject by Yoss, Fabricio [Neira] and myself.
Last year money was given to the publishers to publish and many things came out which had been stored up, but no more than what had been published every year between 1980 and 1988, for example.
Furthermore, part of what was published last year was abroad and is not for sale inside Cuba.
Some SF writers have also published much non-SF abroad.

6. How do you feel about the SF literary competitions in our country?

There should be more, but there are no funds to finance them, nor possibilities to publish the contestants (on paper at least). When SF works compete in one of this country’s well-known literary competitions, they are at a disadvantage since the juries typically undervalue the genre. When a competition looks at just the quality of the work then SF has a level playing field, as in for example the Luis Rogelio competition.

7. What possibilities do Cuban authors have to publish and how can they do it?

As long as there is no publishing policy favorable to publication and competitions, they are very few.
There is an Argentine Hispano-American SF collection and there are publishers in Mexico as well as Extramuros in Cuba that have reevaluated SF and offer the opportunity to publish. One needs to alert the writers that these opportunities exist.

8. Is there anything typical that you find characterizes Cuban SF?

Humor and local language, although they are abundant, do not characterize Cuban SF...

9. Is it true what they say that there are few Cuban writers who develop the plots of their stories inside Cuba?

It is not. The same happens as happens in any other country. In SF the world is small and Cuba is sometimes used and I would say many times. I don’t believe that Cuban writers refuse to write about Cuba. I think you have to read more of what has been written. The other extreme is to use only one’s country or one’s race. That path leads to Russian superpatriotism or American arrogance.
Neither is it advisable to play the games with history that Mond, Estrada, or Morante get away with in their SF only by situating the time so far away that there is no resentment from politicians or from historical purists, since if someone decided to choose some more famous historical figure, I don’t believe it would be well received.

10. Do you believe that one can speak of classic and contemporary writers within Cuban SF?

All or nearly all of the Cuban writers of SF are contemporaries, not only by chronology but also through their style or the styles and tendencies which are in the world.
As for classics, that is a very relative term. One could say for example that Arango with his stories "Inesperado visitante" [Unexpected visitor], "El planeta negra" [The black planet] or "Adonde van los cefalomos" [Whither go the cephalomos] have become classics, on the other hand, Agustín de Rojas' publication of "Espiral" [Spiral] as the first SF novel to be published after the Triumph of the Revolution was a milestone.

11. The creators and followers of the genre in Hispanic countries now have almost all organized into national organizations, or are in the process of organizing. Do you believe that we now need an association of SF&F in Cuba?

Cuba was one of the first countries to organize and you know that i+Real exists, and that it does the same or more than that which some of the so-called national SF associations in other countries do.
i+Real already exists and functions, even receiving this year the Goliardos International prize for its work over the past ten years. The prize was awarded in Mexico City in October in one of the events sponsored by the Mexican "cienciaficcioñeros".
i+Real has organized all the international SF events held in Cuba, the first of which were Ibeficción 94, and the following years: Cuasar Dragón 95, Cubaficción 96, 97, 98, Ciencia Ficción Habana 99 and currently Fantasy week 2000 [La semana Fantástica 2000]. This institution does not direct science fiction in Cuba, but brings together everyone interested in SF, and is recognized by the Book Institute, the Ministry of Culture, the Academy of Sciences, the National Committee of Communist Youth. It has not been officially recognized as an organization by the Ministry of Justice for bureaucratic reasons, but functionally it has existed since 1991.
Almost all the SF writers of the country belong to this group. And aside from organizing events and cycles of conferences in the Palace of the Sciences as well as debates and the exhibition of public films, publishes the magazine i+Real and chooses the juries for the SF sculpture competitions and the Technical Youth [magazine: Juventud Technica] competitions. Furthermore, it has participated in events in Hungary (3 times), Argentina (twice), and the US (twice).

12. In your opinion, how do you believe such an entity would function in our country?

It already exists, all that is lacking is to promote it.

13. Can you tell us anything about SF events in Cuba?

I have already mentioned what has been accomplished, above all by i+Real. I think that we need to be more complete, with more artistic displays. It needs to enter the Casa de Las Américas, as the Latin American fantasy literature colloquium has done.

14. In your understanding, what are the challenges and prospects of Cuban SF&F for the future?

Promotion and recognition. To bring together the film fans and those who work in other media. To convince the latter that one can make SF in Cuba without having to invest millions, and without being limited by special effects.
There are very good writers who have not yet been published or who are just beginning to publish. There are also many works that have grown musty waiting to be published.
We need to create SF magazines and we need space to be set aside for SF without prejudice in the cultural and literary magazines.

[Interview conducted by Gerardo Chávez Spínola]. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

ÁNGEL ARANGO
Original interview in Spanish

1. What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

Between last year and today, there has been something of an attempt to revive Cuban SF, which years ago, before the Special Period, had undergone important development. Still, what we are seeing has been favored with the seal of approval of UNEAC, and there are some promoters of the genre who have been working on this for some years. Through the literary workshops and as writers, by writing their own works. I am confident that this improvement will continue, because it wasn’t lack of interest, but external, material circumstances that led to our earlier condition.

2. Do you believe that there is a considerable number of followers of the genre in this country?

Well, I don’t believe that the genre has a considerable number of followers in any part of the world. If we compare it to literature in general and to the other arts, SF is a minority, reaching less than 50% of all writers and readers. Still it is very important, even if only a minority practices it. It is unrelenting: it demands that the writers bring new solutions and possibilities to the literary endeavor, something not required of the other literatures, least of all classical literature. And a part of the public demands it and enjoys reading this type of literature. Similarly, its writers are not very numerous, but qualitatively, they are very tireless people who are seeking to express something which the classical literature does not allow them to. The SF writer one day finds this genre and remains here because of its possibilities for saying things that cannot be said in other media.

3. Do you believe that there is some common thread running through Cuban SF?

The crop has not been bountiful enough to talk about a group of schools or of its characteristics. This happens when there is an important development within a genre which generates divisions or confrontations. In our case I have always said, that so far the thing that one notices, among the veterans as well as among the youngest writers, is its humorous foundation. This does not mean that the Cuban writer necessarily has to include humor in his writings. But there is a humorous base in what they write, sometimes near, sometimes far. This humor sometimes contains irony and the like. But a thread running through the genre? At present I would say that there is none.

4. In your opinion, what is the reason for the scarcity of writers of horror and mystery in Cuba?

Horror and mystery have developed according to market forces, for a public which is accustomed to this kind of literature. Even in countries that have crime sheets in their newspapers. In the US, crime is exploited: there is a market niche. I don’t think we need to develop these genres. We don’t have the same conditions as other countries, where the communication media exploit these violent situations, where even the President of the US has called attention to the mass media’s glorification of violence. Because it encourages and teaches the criminal, stimulating further violence.

5. There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

Before the Special Period, until 1980, UNEAC and the Saíz Brothers Brigade brought great energy to the SF competitions. There was the David Prize and I remember that it stimulated the emergence of new writers. They published many works of Cuban writers, like my own, those of Agustín de Rojas, Luís Alberto Soto, Yoss, and others. There were rather good books. Without doubt what stopped it was the Special Period, the physical limitations on the publishers. Certainly a respect for SF and a public that demanded it already existed here. That seems to be what we are recovering now. The value of SF is being reevaluated.

6. How do you feel about the SF literary competitions in our country?

I think that the competitions need to be reinstituted. The competition is always good because it gets the writers involved. Furthermore, the results of the competition are always good. Having participated lately as a contestant, and earlier as a juror, I see that the books that are sent in are pretty good.

7. What possibilities do Cuban writers have to publish and how can they do it?

A writer can get published through the competitions. Or make a name for himself. Or the competitions can alert the communications media to the writer and open up opportunities that way. Such a debut can serve as a kind of motivation, as a sample so that someone unacquainted with the work can at least learn from it, at least for some aspects of SF. The large majority of the population knows SF only through film and the films, being market products, have lost the lyricism and poetry of the original from which they come. So that they create nothing and support nothing. Creation comes from the literary sphere, from someone who puts some idea in his language which conflicts with the pre-existing assumptions of that moment.

8. Is there anything typical that you find characterizes Cuban SF?

I have sometimes said that a writer becomes part of his country when he writes. The writer’s country is where he was born and developed into a writer. Cuban SF is Cuban because it was produced by Cuban writers and because it was produced here. I don’t think that we need to look for bells and whistles to dress it up with and make it Cuban. It is Cuban SF simply because Cuban writers write it sincerely, focusing on the philosophical situation with which they confront the truth.

9. Is it true what they say that there are few Cuban writers who develop the plots of their stories inside Cuba?

There was a time, back when the competitions existed, in which a large number of works reflected the Cuban condition. They were not awarded prizes for that. I tell you that because I was a juror. They were rewarded for their literary merit. Or perhaps that was not a requirement. I don’t think that it either favored them or hindered them. You can write and project yourself outside of Cuba, as long as you do your homework first. Each person writes with a distinctive style which like one’s set of fingerprints is distinct from any other person’s. Each one has his own distinct personality and therefore each writer can and should offer his own version of the world. No two are alike. So we don’t have to worry that the scenery we use represents some point outside our country, and we can develop our ideas based on universal aspirations, because the SF writer chooses this genre for the very reason that it permits him this extrapolation.

10. Do you believe that one can speak of classic and contemporary writers within Cuban SF?

I think that we can only do this once the genre has been around longer. In our case it has not been around long enough for us to have witnessed such internal confrontations, the product of development, that would allow us to say that there have been classical and contemporary movements and thus make such a distinction. Such is the product of a more developed literature than we presently have. I believe rather that we have a continuity. So that many writers of today refer to stories of mine and, having sat on the jury where their stories have been celebrated, I identify with them. I have seen this continuity. It is natural, given that we love the same things. There is no confrontation.

11. Do you believe that we now need an association of SF&F in Cuba?

There needs to be an SF association in order to publicize it better, with the goal of instilling a love and understanding of SF. Because there have been literary SF workshops, but those are for the writers only. This would be the idea for creating a sort of club, where the fans enjoy the genre and promote an understanding of it.

12. In your opinion, how do you believe such an entity would function in our country?

As I said, by creating this kind of cultural activity: clubs or SF fan associations. It seems to me that there are zones of recognition and intelligence in our population which we have not adequately developed because of all of the problems we have had to face.

13. In your understanding, what are the challenges and prospects of Cuban SF&F for the future?

I can’t talk about Fantasy because I have not worked in it except in a very limited sense. I like all SF because it values mankind’s exercise of imagination and intelligence above all other things. I believe that everything that mankind has made has been made by imagining things that did not exist at that moment. I think it is in our interest both to keep the literary workshops alive to maintain the development of the writers, and to create clubs or associations of fans to offer information and knowledge to the public, as a cultural activity which provides these levels of knowledge that are missing today at these levels. We need to approach the genre from an intellectual point of view. It exists; now what are its rules?

[Interview conducted by Gerardo Chávez Spínola]. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

ROBERTO ESTRADA BOURGEOIS [aka R. E. BOURGEOIS]
Original interview in Spanish

1. What do you think of the present Cuban SF&F scene?

I don’t think it is flourishing right now, even though several works have been published. I see Cuban SF as being in hibernation. Some of its long-time friends have stopped writing, others have passed on to detective stories or to "el mainstream", to borrow a foreign term, and others are trying to publish abroad, which by the way is also very difficult.

2. Do you believe that there is a considerable number of followers of the genre in this country?

If by followers you mean those who are called "fans" in other countries, I think that there are enough, and enough readers as well, although I would say that some of these followers have a rather unusual idea of what SF is, thanks to the bad films that are tarnishing the genre’s image. The readers are always there. The only thing missing is to give them something to read.

3. Do you believe that there is some common thread running within Cuban SF?

In the days of the Oscar Hurtado workshop (Oh glorious memory!) there was a thread that alternated between socialist realism and a vague willingness to insert anything Cuban into the science fiction. I myself wrote the first story that resisted the devastating criticism of my friends in the workshop placing it in the Cuban camp. Some time later it was published in an anthology and I still like it. It seems to me that if there is a common thread right now in Cuba, it is cyberpunk, which in my opinion will come to be to SF what the noir novel is to classic detective fiction.

4. In your opinion, what is the reason for the scarcity of horror and mystery writers in Cuba?

No idea. Perhaps it is because Cubans are too sensual and boisterous and that doesn’t square well with horror.

5. There was a time when very little SF&F was published in Cuba. Starting in 1999 the situation began to change. What is your opinion of this?

That it is a good thing, and hopefully it lasts, because I have a long novel at Letras Cubanas and I would love for them to publish it. That was a joke. Seriously I don’t think that the publishers have ever valued SF. Whether intentionally or not, they ignore the fact that it is one of the most widely sold genres in the world, along with detective stories. Let’s see whether they catch on...

6. How do you feel about the SF literary competitions in our country?

We need to create a competition for novels with a well-funded prize, one that motivates creation: I know it is difficult, but that’s how it is. Maybe the solution is to include the genre among the bases of prizes already established like the Casa de las Américas; I don’t think it should be considered too wild an idea, because at the end of the day, Borges and Bioy Casares both wrote SF. And nobody can say that they weren’t great writers.

7. What possibilities do Cuban authors have to publish and how can they do it?

Send those manuscripts to the publisher and dress yourself up in a thin layer of Benedictine patience to wait until they call you to tell you that your work has been chosen. That can take years.

8. Is there anything typical that you find characterizes Cuban SF?

The optimism and the steadfastness of the writers who continue fighting despite the fact that almost nobody notices and the critics remain wedded to the notion that SF is a "minor" genre or escapist literature. The "serious" literati have read no more than one or two works, and they judge it at the drop of a pen. Sometimes I don’t blame them, because if you judge by the films full of bug-eyed monsters and little green Martians, it is understandable. What is not understandable is that a large majority of the cultural elite completely ignore writers like Ursula LeGuin, Rudy Rucker, William Gibson, Angélica Gorodischer, George R. Martin and an endless list of others who have been producing high quality SF for a long time. That is in large part because none of these great writers has been published in Cuba.

9. Is it true what they say that there are few Cuban writers who develop the plots of their stories inside Cuba?

I think so. At least in may case it is.

10. Do you believe that one can speak of classic and contemporary writers within Cuban SF?

First of all, Arango and Hurtado are classic, Daína Chaviano and Agustín de Rojas are contemporary, Vladimir Hernández, Raúl Aguiar and Yoss are the most recent.

11. Do you believe that we now need an association of SF&F in Cuba?

Such a group has been missing for years. Even in the 1980s Bruno Henríquez, Raúl Aguiar and others of us thought so, and so we formed the Oscar Hurtado workshop. In the 90s we were about to produce such a group, but all we managed to achieve was the i+Real Group which organized an event in the International Press Center, supported by CIDGRAF, which of course took some skill, given the circumstances.

12. In your opinion, how do you believe such an entity would function in our country?

Under the current Law of Associations, but certainly with UNEAC’s Writers‘ Association as the bridging organization. Of course I am talking about an association of creators, not fans.

13. Can you tell us anything about SF events in Cuba?

Now I recall what I mentioned before [under Question 11], which was called Ibeficción, and which we repeated twice as Cubaficción in the Casa de la Cultura in central Havana, and that there was a Cuasar Dragón I think in the Patio de María and last year another one in the Library at Plaza de Armas. I think that the best of them were Ibeficción and the two Cubaficcións, I didn’t like the Cuasar Dragón. I think that such events need to leave the "scientific promotion" and the large and boring talks behind and devote themselves more to the idea of science fiction as an artistic expression, principally literary. Bruno Henríquez is going to hate me for saying so, but I don’t care. We need to invite foreign writers and above all Cuban and foreign publishers, because science fiction is principally a literary genre, and books are written for those people who read. But for this to happen, they have to get published. Our events have turned into plenary meetings in which we meet the same old friends who have been in this for ages, we hear speeches similar to those from years past, and we debate ideas that we all more or less agree on, then we watch some film, which is almost always very good, and that’s as far as it goes. I think that the meetings have to be like parties where people meet to try to contact publishers, discuss books, listen to one or another interesting talk, have fun and meet new people. The clearest example of this is the Black Week of Gijón [Semana Negra de Gijón]. We could have a Black Week of Havana.

14. In your understanding, what are the challenges and prospects of Cuban SF&F for the future?

The same as ever, that we publish before the writers and their stories get old, and in another order of business -- something essential and very difficult -- that we penetrate the English-speaking market. If we do not succeed in making our works known there we run the danger of spending all our lives reading to one another in literary workshops. I’ll take this opportunity here to say that I’ve been surprised and delighted by the Guaican Literario site, and I consider it a powerful tool for achieving or trying to achieve what I’ve been talking about. I think placing novels on the Web that can be downloaded for free would be well worth the effort.

Interview conducted May 21, 2002, by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon

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