CUBAN SCIENCE FICTION INTERVIEWS:
PART II: PERSONAL WORK

Yoss
Ariel Cruz Vega
Vladimir Hernández
Michel Encinosa Fú
Bruno Henríquez
F. Mond
Ángel Arango
Roberto Estrada Bourgeois
Raúl Aguiar
Agustín de Rojas
Josefina Martínez Otaño
Eduardo del Llano


Entre nous... YOSS
Original interview in Spanish

We haven’t seen you on the streets of Havana for months. Would you care to tell us what you’ve been up to?

I was in several countries of the European Union. It was a sort of European tour of nearly a dozen months.

What were the most notable events of this trip?

I always say that I am a man who lives by the story. That really means that my only means of financial support consists in writing, or in activities related to writing.
In January I published a collection of science fiction stories in Spain entitled: "Planet for rent" [Se alquila un planeta], which came out simultaneously on the 8th in both Madrid and Barcelona. I offered various literary workshops in Andorra, Turin and Milan, Italy. I attended an homage to Nicolás Gillén in Andorra.
I participated in the creation of a collective novel in Turin. I gave some lectures in France. I published some pamphlets in Barcelona. That’s it, more or less. I may have forgotten two or three things, but that’s basically what I did.

Could you tell us more about "Planet for rent"?

It was published by a small house: Team Sirius [Equipo Sirius], which formerly did a good business publishing scientific works, particularly astronomy, and now has launched a new line, The Tau Collection, dedicated specifically to science fiction. They have noticed that there is a lot of good SF in the Spanish language -- which saves the bother of translating -- and so they decided to begin with authors from countries which have not traditionally been considered to have a strong SF tradition, like Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico. They started publishing, and are having a rather good commercial success. These books have been selling well.

How many copies were printed?

10,000. A small printing. By the standards of the Spanish publishing industry, a little trial balloon. They have a system of geometric growth. If these 10,000 copies go well, they print 20,000, and if these go well, they’ll print 40,000 and so on until the copies start lying around unsold in bookstores.

What is "Planet for rent" about?

My book is an attempt to describe the situation in Cuba in the Special Period, using the prism of SF. Simply put, I extrapolate the problems that the Cuban people are facing right now into a future in which the action unfolds on a planetary scale, rather than just within our own country. For example, just as there are "jineteras" [prostitutes] in Cuba today, in my story there are women who prostitute themselves with extraterrestrials. And just as there are illegal means of escape today from Cuba, in my book there are illegal means of escape from the planet. And just as there are visitors today from abroad, in the setting of "Planet for rent", Earth is a sort of tourist suburb, to which all of the races of the Universe come, taking advantage of the low prices, and the hospitality and friendliness of the natives. And professionals leave Cuba; I dedicate two stories to the problems of athletes and scientists who remain "outside". So, they reflect many themes in an extrapolation of 200 years into the future.
A black future, terrible. Oftentimes SF is accused of being pessimistic and I at least feel that we writers have the possibility to warn, with this pessimism, saying "Things can turn out bad! So we have to see how we can go about fixing things so that we don’t arrive in the situation I’ve been warning you about."

Your odyssey through Italy: can you tell us how it went?

Basically I offered a series of talks on Cuban SF at the University of Milan, which seem to have fallen on fertile soil and now I’ve been entrusted with putting together the first anthology to be published in Italy of stories by Cuban SF authors. I already have the title: "The mechanical guava" [La guayaba mecánica], and have made 70% of the selection, more or less.
I participated in the creation of a collective novel in Turin, written by 75 writers, which was my first experience writing directly in Italian, and judging from the results, it seems that the difference between what I did and what the others did was hardly noticeable.
I gave workshops on creative writing and talks on Cuba and how it’s been treated in realist narratives of the last 15 years. Above all, I made contacts with the publishing world in Italy. I managed to secure a contract to publish a surrealist novel about Cuba entitled "They did not die" [Ellos no murieron], which will be published by Fassi, possibly at the end of next year.
I had the opportunity to teach a workshop for the residents of a marginalized neighborhood, people who have confronted problems with drug addiction and girls who have been prostitutes. Almost all had been single mothers at an early age. This was a neighborhood with a pretty troublesome social composition, but one that responded well to the idea that they could share their experiences in a literary format. I believe that this was one of the most valuable weeks of my life, because I was able to discover what the problems of marginalization in other countries were -- I, who have always been so interested in this marginalization in Cuba -- and I realized that marginalization is practically a universal language.
Good...And I also did some tourism, which is always an interesting option when one goes to Italy.

And what did you do in Andorra?

Andorra has always been a curiosity for me. Being one of the smallest countries in Europe, where they speak Spanish, French, Catalan. It is also one of the highest, as the average elevation is about 10,000ft [3000m]. I had many expectations. I got to celebrate my birthday there. I was invited to teach a workshop on narrative techniques for aspiring writers, and to participate in an activity of reading/homage to Nicolas Guillén, reading and reciting his poems.
The first surprise was how many youth -- and others who weren’t so young -- were interested in my workshop. They had to restrict the access. I had said that I could handle as many as 20 people and there were 45 who signed up. We had to choose the participants on the fly and promise to return next year to give another workshop.
I was there for a week, part of a succession of cultural activities in Andorra. The month before had been Joaquín Sabina, who gave a concert. I found a very receptive attitude toward everything having to do with narrative and especially with respect to Cuba.
Many were surprised that a Cuban writer would come to teach them how to write in Spanish, to teach them how to use prepositions -- you have to bear in mind that for bilingual people there are confusions caused by the other language and for trilingual people even more -- when the mix is between Spanish, Catalan and French; sometimes the sentences acquire a very peculiar syntax, which is occasionally interesting, but other times is simply wrong. It was very interesting for me to see what kind of errors one can commit in such a special linguistic environment.

In the last 200 years there has been a growing tendency in the world for writers to emigrate to other countries. However, despite the most erudite predictions, you keep coming back. Why?

Because I miss Cuba. The voyage is never complete until I return. The trip does not make sense until I can tell my friends everything I have seen and everything I have done.

Many thanks for your time, Yoss.

Interview conducted July 14, 2002 by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.



ARIEL CRUZ VEGA
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

I remember reading science fiction very early on, but I suppose it was Ray Bradbury who showed me how broad and rich the genre could be, the range of human concerns it could tackle. At the beginning of the 90s I decided to write those things which I wanted to read but could not find around me.

2. Present occupation?

Writer.

3. Tell us about your literary work.

My first story was sold and published immediately, a very rare thing and very flattering in this genre (we are talking 1995). The following stories had the same luck, even though I wrote them by pure craft. Eventually I saw how easily I had fallen into a trap, and since then I have advanced with feet of lead. My production is light; there was a time when I began to feel painfully my own lack of a formative base in science fiction, and for two years I didn’t write a word, dedicating all my spare time to reading whatever fell into my hands. No prizes. I have here some stories, articles and talks:

"Sysen", published in the anthology "Eternal kingdom" [Reino Eterno: Cuentos de Fantasía y Ciencia Ficción]. Editor: Yoss. Letras Cubanas, Cuba, 1999. ISBN: 959-10-0481-8.

"This morning" [Esta Mañana], published in the electronic magazine i+Real, number 13, 1995.

"The fruits of Deneb" [Los Frutos De Deneb], Published in the anthology "Dust in the wind" [Polvo En El Viento]. Editor: Bruno Henríquez. Instituto Movilizador De Fondos Cooperativos, Argentina, 1999. ISBN: 950-860-073-X.

"Breathe carefully" [Respira con cuidado], Published in the Argentine electronic magazine Axxón, number 102, Sept. 1999.

"X7", Published in the anthology Probable Horizons [Horizontes Probables]. Editor: Vladimir Hernández. Lectorum, México, 1999. ISBN: 968-7748-53-2.

"Millennium", Published in No. 7 of the Cuban popular science magazine "Energy and you" [Energía Y Tú]. Editor: Bruno Henríquez, July-Sept. 1999. ISSN: 1028-9925.

"Quartz nova" [Nova de Cuarzo] (with Valdimir Hernández). Published in the collection of stories of the same name, Vladimir Hernández. Extramuros, Cuba, 2000. ISBN: 959-7020-54-8. Re-edited in Cuasar, SF&F magazine edited by Luis Pestarini. Argentina, Jan. 2002.

Interview published in March 29, 2000 issue of the Mexican newspaper El Financiero, under the title "Science Fiction: Vision of the genre in Cuba" [Ciencia Ficción: Visión del género en Cuba]

"The Postmodern generation" [La Generación Postmoderna] lecture delivered at Cubaficción 2000: La Semana Fantástica. Aug. 2000, Rubén Martínez Villena Library, Havana)

"2001: Odyssey of the Past" [2001: Odisea Del Pasado] lecture delivered at Workshop for Lateral Thinking. Jan. 2002, Casa de Cultura Municipal de Arroyo Naranjo, Havana.

4. Who were your teachers?

I had no teachers. Or rather, my real teachers did not know me. They are those writers I admire, whose works I reread trying to understand the inner sources of their genius. All have influenced me in one way or another, and the clever reader can find their traces in my works. The majority, but not all, belong to the grand armies of science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Jorge Luis Borges, Norman Spinrad, Vladimir Nabokov, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Alejo Carpentier, Stanislaw Lem, Terry Bisson, Mario Vargas Llosa, Connie Willis, Michael Swanwick.

5. Who are your favorite Cuban SF writers?

José Miguel Sánchez (Yoss) is my favorite, without a doubt. I believe that one day we will have to recognize his importance within our science fiction. Although he is primarily a writer of realism, it was he who opened a breach and showed the generation of the 90s how a Cuban could approach science fiction without falling into caricature or imitation. I salute you, Jose, you old warrior.

6. For whom do you write?

For people like me, of my time and my condition. People interested in literature which is rich with novel ideas, sometimes enchanting, and sometimes dangerous. I am a cerebral type. I am not particularly interested in creating imperial galaxies where there are heroes and total war. Nor does the opinion of the critic interest me much. When I write, my preoccupation is to achieve a clarity which allows me to reach the average reader with the efficiency of a good pop song.

7. What do you like and what do you hate about SF literature?

I like to experience that cognitive shake, that jolt of disorientation which SF, and only SF, can dish out. It is almost an addiction. And I detest those stupid commercial films they make in Hollywood, spiced up with special effects and pseudoscientific charlatanism.

8. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

I have my reservations about the concept of "teaching to write" and the usefulness of literary workshops. Tackling the search for one’s own voice is the intimate epic voyage of the writer. What I do like to do is to talk about science fiction, quote writers and titles and plots and characters, and critique at the dinner table. I do that with any other kindred spirit that I meet.

9. How do you define SF?

Science fiction inscribes mankind against a background which is the universe, and explores alternative futures. Well, in reality that is the pretext for such stories. A useful pretext for satisfying that human urgency to transcend one’s own place and time and to dream of the places, people and conditions of tomorrow.

10. What message do you transmit in your works?

There was a time when I worried a lot about implicit messages. Now I am less young and more relaxed. Even so, I suppose that all my science fiction is permeated by my belief in the principle of progress, according to which -- aside from momentary reverses or total catastrophes -- humanity advances toward a world more sensitive and more self-aware, in which mankind is freed to fulfill its own spiritual potential.

11. What themes do you prefer to cover in your stories?

In my histories in general there is a conflict between a mechanistic worldview and a more holistic/intuitive one, the latter of which generally triumphs. For example, in my tale "Credential cards" [Cartas Credenciales], the computer chooses a handful of Bohemians, rather than Nobel Laureates or professional diplomats, as representatives of the Earth to face an advanced alien race. And in "X7", which appears on this website, the understandable desire of an ethnic group to vindicate itself is sabotaged, not by the repression of the society in which it lives, but by its own ignorance.

12. Why did you select this genre?

I cannot conceive of working outside the parameters of science fiction, so that it doesn’t really deal with a selection on my part as much as an identification.

13. What are you up to now?

I am working on two stories. Both have been feeding each other, which is odd given how very different they appear on the surface. One of these involves a man with a death sentence who travels through time, the other the disorders provoked in an ex-soldier by an experimental drug. Now that I’m writing these lines, they seem rather dark. We’ll see how they turn out.

14. What are the challenges and prospects of Cuban SF literature?

The challenges of Cuban science fiction lie, curiously, in its past. Let’s sweep away the burden of our many years of isolation from world SF. If we can somehow overcome this blind spot, even partially, then the prospects will be more than interesting; they will be promising. We have the talent and we have the motivation, and we stand at an effervescent moment for the culture of this country. Everything would depend on writers and readers finding the most positive way to do this and taking advantage of it.

Interview conducted Sept. 29, 2002 by Gerardo Chávex Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.


VLADIMIR HERNÁNDEZ PACÍN
Original interview in Spanish

What were your first contacts with science fiction?

My first contacts with science fiction date from the mid 70s. When I was barely 10 my parents bought me a book of Soviet science fiction stories called "A guest of the Cosmos". The book had stories of uneven quality, but in that volume I found a genre so interesting that it hypnotized me permanently (At the time I had no idea that what I felt when I read those stories was pure intellectual adrenaline, something that only my childhood readings of Jules Verne had given me). In truth, I feel very proud of having begun -- in fact, in having educated myself -- with Soviet science fiction and its profoundly humanistic concerns. The first stories which I remember are a story by the Strugatskii brothers entitled "The spontaneous reflection", about a robot who discovers free will, and a magnificent story by Vladimir Savchenko called "Professor Bern awakens", about a man who is cryogenically frozen in the 50s, just before an imminent worldwide nuclear conflict, and "dreams" for 18 millenia, contemplating the dawn of a new humanity. Those stories and other anthologies of Soviet SF that I read later permanently changed my way of seeing literature.

When did you decide to write your first book?

I definitely did not plan to write my first book; I simply noticed that I had a quantity of stories which explored a series of interrelated themes with the obsessions which define me as a storyteller, and that I could convert them into a recompilation. My stories from the 1990s appeared in that book, "Quartz nova" [Nova de cruarzo] (Extramuros, 1999, Cuba), including one collaboration with my friend, the writer Ariel Cruz.

What prizes have you won, and which has been the most important for you?

In the year 2000 I had the good fortune to win the Espiral prize and second place in the competition Cuasar-Dragón-2000, and then, at the end of the same year, my short novel "Signs of War" [Signos de Guerra] (Ediciones B. NOVA, 2001, Spain) was first finalist in the International Prize for short science fiction novel sponsored by the Polytechnic University of Cataluña and was published in the book of the prizewinners UPC 2000. In 2001 I won the international prize Terra Ignota, in Mexico, for a techno story with a space opera feel called "González express" [El correo González] and won the González Oria Prize for short story (in realism), in Spain with the (SF) story "Némesis". In truth, I think that all the prizes have been equally important for me. All of them have been part of my step of "visualization", of developing as an SF writer, of positioning myself in the difficult international marketplace. The most significant is, perhaps, to be first finalist in the UPC prize, since that is the most important prize in Europe, and has an international character.

What are you writing now?

I just finished a couple of stories, which complete a collection called "Interface dreams" [Sueños de interfaz]. On the other hand I am also working on a rather long and exotic novel, a space opera, and on several short novels and stories. My intention is to keep producing more and more. I have various stories translated into French and English, and my story "Point of encounter" [Punto de encuentro] will be published in the US in an anthology of Latin American SF edited by the University of Hamlin, in Minnesota. I am thrilled that my stories would be translated into other languages to reach a wider cross-section of readers.

What has been your most recent work?

My last story is a short novel called "Hypernova" [Hipernova], related to the story "Quartz nova" [Nova de cuarzo]. It is a story with several points of focus, which takes place in a not-too-distant high tech future, set simultaneously in the Havana of 2050 (the city CH in my cosmology) and in the city of Barcelona. One of the characters is implanted with some high-tech gadget, and this technology, as in almost all of my tales, achieves its own autonomy and runs out of control. In general I am very interested in technology as the source of human conflicts.

Who are your favorite science fiction authors?

Some of the examples I follow are my favorite authors. William Gibson and Bruce Sterling; both redefine my way of extrapolating the times that may come. I also find the stories of Greg Bear, James Patrick Kelly and Greg Egan impressive, and in the last year I’ve discovered several European writers, Paul McAuley, Iain M. Banks, Ken MacLeod, and Charles Stross (who curiously live in Scotland) who interest me a lot, both stylistically and through their command of ideas. These are all writers who fill my head with valuable speculative sources; who activate unsuspecting regions of my mind with their rivers of intellectual fire.

What led you to write the story "Némesis", which won the prize?

"Némesis" is a story which revolves around a mind which is both very clever and very sick at the same time. I tried to convey the levels of extreme response inside this person and the way that this person viewed the other half of his own species. And of course, I was reflecting on the enormous ethical responsibility which falls upon researchers who work with cutting-edge technology.

One of the criteria for which you were awarded the prize was the originality of the story. Do you think that there should be more public debate of the subject of genetics, or the future risks associated with the subject? Do you find it moral or immoral?

I think that all technological themes need to be debated more in public, since I don’t think that there are sufficient fora in the media where people debate the social impact of biotechnology, or other important technologies like artificial intelligence and communication networks. So some of us writers have decided to speculate about the risks which mankind runs with its own creations, about what could happen if these technologies escape our control, or if less capable people use these technologies to control peoples’ lives, or inflict harm on the mental and physical integrity of their colleagues. The morality of the matter takes root precisely in knowing how to control the process. Personally, I see technology as the only rational way of resolving the environmental problems that our society has generated in its interrelation with nature, and also as the only logic method of insuring the comfort and survival of the billions of humans who live in our world.

Interview conducted by the Mexican journalist Gabriela Salmón for the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University of Frankfurt. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.



MICHEL ENCINOSA FÚ
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

At the start of the 90s. About that time I left an adolescence which had seemed infinite (shame that it hadn’t been). Most of all, I felt a fascination for these genres, and tried to get closer to them by all means possible. Books, comics, films, TV series, gossip... I came up with characters, scenes, plots, stories, and wished to share them. If the exact question is why did I begin to write, the answer would be simple: people write because they think they can.

2. Present occupation?

Graduate in English Language and Literature from the University of Havana. Literary researcher in the Provincial Center of the Book and Literature of the City of Havana.

3. Tell us about your literary work.

Publications within anthologies:
"La baia delle gocce notturne", BESA, Italy, 1996.
"Vedi Cuba e poi muori", Feltrinelli, Italy, 1997.
"Dust in the wind" [Polvo en el viento], IMFC, Argentina, 1999. (Science Fiction)
"Probable horizons" [Horizontes probables], Lectorum, Mexico, 1999.
"Eternal kingdom" [Reino eterno], Letras Cubanas, Cuba, 1999. (SF&F)
"Initial writings" [Escrituras iniciales], Letras Cubanas, Cuba, 1999. (Fantasy)
"Shock wave" [Onda de choque], Ediciones Extramuros, Cuba, 2001 (SF)

Published books:
"Black sun" [Sol negro], epic fantasy stories, Ediciones Extramuros, 2001.
"Neon children" [Niños de neón], science fiction stories, Letras Cubanas, 2001.

Books in press:
"Paths" [Veredas], SF novela, Ediciones Extramuros.

I have also been president of the SF&F jury "Media Vuelta" [Half turn] of the Espiral workshop, in 2001.

4. Who were your teachers?

I had two types of teachers. One the one hand, I count on the help of my friends, some of them already writers of renown, like José Miguel Sánchez (Yoss), and others who started out with me. On the other hand, I had the inevitable apprenticeship at the hands of the international authors of the genre, like Orson Scott Card, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Poul Anderson, Ursula K. Leguin, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke....

5. Who are your favorite Cuban SF writers?

First of all, Agustín de Rojas, who I think is the only one who has known how to give his work a touch of universality, as well as the literary mastery. He is a visionary. Others have had inklings, good hunches, but Agustín’s vision is the most global, and leaves no loose ends.

6. For whom do you write?

I write for those who are interested in a change of point of view, and wish to see their reality bombarded from other dimensions of imagination and logic. And of course I write for myself. I never forget this last one.

7. What do you like and what do you hate about SF&F?

I am fascinated by its potential to interpret aspects of human and universal nature that would be difficult to observe outside the context of SF.
I hate the way that certain people who lack control of the technique or the spirit try to pull the wool over our eyes, selling us self-important stories or anti-stories so cryptic that nobody can swallow them.

8. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

A group of true friends is always welcome. Feedback is always crucial. Any place is fine for talking about and sharing your works and others’. Although I prefer an environment which invites reflection. A warm head [una cabeza caliente] is a good thing at the moment of creation. Analysis requires a certain equilibrium, which allows for comprehension, tolerance and advance.

9. How would you define SF?

This is my choice of the best definitions: SF is one of the only forms of modern literature that permits us to deal with change, it is a controlled way of thinking and dreaming of the future and past, in order to illuminate the present. In its purest form, it consists of sociological analysis of the relations between mankind and technology, mankind and nature, and mankind with itself. It is a subdivision of fantasy literature which employs science or reason to suspend the reader’s disbelief. Stories created by humans, with human problems and solutions.

10. What message do you transmit in your works and what themes do you prefer to deal with in your stories?

My aim is to strip human nature bare. Motives, resources, obstacles. All the lowness and grandeur of people, and the way that codes of ethical values mix, mysteriously, fashioning individuals.

13. What are you doing now?

I am working on various projects, in SF as well as fantasy. Specifically, in SF, a book of stories ("A million gods of neon" ["Un millón de dioses de neón"]) and a novel ("The seventh temple" [El séptimo templo"]); and in fantasy, a book of stories which forms a sequel to "Black sun" and a story-novel (both untitled so far) and two novels ("Durujari" and "The autumn of the eternal" ["El Otoño de los eternos"]).
I have also set out a project for a Fantasy Literary Workshop, together with a great friend and co-creator of universes, Juan Alexander Padrón, for which we are seeking adequate funding.

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


BRUNO HENRIQUEZ
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

Science fiction was present in my life almost as soon as I could think. I was born in the year 1947 when the boom in the UFO phenomenon, then called flying saucers, began. My childhood was influenced by science fiction films and "muñequitos" (today we call them comics) which I always enjoyed more than fantasy, and later the works of Verne and those of the Minotauro and Nebulae collections. I always liked to make up stories, all of which had a touch of science fiction, and adventures which I saw at the matinees with heroes like Captain Video, Captain Marvel or Superman, and my preferred comics were Planetary Titans, Superman, and Batman whom I particularly admired for all his equipment of curious technology and the possibility of traveling in time without which he would be a hero with superpowers rather than with intelligence (I am speaking of the Batman from before the 70s.).
I wrote and created SF characters almost as soon as I learned to write, or perhaps earlier, at culture nights ["veladas"] at school I always had some work of mine in the SF vein, which either my buddies or I presented, all the way through high school. Even on matriculating in physics at the University of Havana, answering the questions of the admission interview about why I studied physics, I answered in order to write science fiction. This caused disgust among the professors interviewing me who thought I was kidding them, so that I had to insist with much seriousness that essentially my interest was to write science fiction because I considered it a means to create intelligent environments and to develop my imagination for scientific creativity. They eventually ditched this first attempt to send me off into a degree in literature, taking on an attitude of tolerance toward an eccentric who after all was not a bad pupil. So then I specialized in the physics of space and worked ten years in the Geophysics and Astronomy Institute.
My first publications were in the Raúl Cepero Bonilla high school student newspaper, in the magazine Technical Youth [Juventud Técnica] and in the newspaper of the Physics department.
In 1978 I obtained an honorable mention in the David Prize competition with the book of stories "Adventures in the Laboratory" [Aventuras en el Laboratorio", which led to the establishment, in 1979, of a separate David Prize in Science Fiction, which is about to be reestablished soon. My first book, "Adventures", however was not published until 1987 by Oriental Publishing because it opened with an atheistic poem which offended a powerful individual who spent much time ensuring that my work would not be published.

2. Present occupation?

Right now I am a scientific researcher in the Solar Energy Group of the CITMA, where I develop works on environmental physics and its relations with the buildings and the use of renewable energies. I am also member of the directing board of CUBASOLAR where I am in charge of the publishing and also director of the popular science magazine ECO-SOLAR. I am also vice president of the Cuban Society of Physics. And founder and director of the science fiction group i+Real.

3. Who were your teachers?

There are various types of teachers: those that taught me to write and to love literature, those whom I followed because their works were the genre’s gold standard and others who showed up in my life at whatever moment with their work as a consolation or an example, whether science fiction or not.
Among them I can count above all my mother and my uncle Ignacio Arbelo who told me in my childhood the stories that showed me the fantasy world which hides within reality.
And my literature teachers and friends who inspired me to write and publish: Nuria Nuiry, Ezequiel Vieta, César López, Beatriz Maggi, Lirca Vallés, Onelio Jorge Cardoso, Alberto Batista, and the masters of the genre who were my examples and guides to the universes of SF: Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Stanislav Lem, Clifford D. Simak, Ray Bradbury, Robert Sheckley, Theodore Sturgeon, Henry Kuttner, Pierre Versins, Mark Twain, Jorge Luis Borges, Poe. Other writers from whom I learned how one should write and who showed me the value of the office of the writer: Stendhal, Hernández Catá, García Marquez, Cervantes.

4. Who are your favorite Cuban science fiction writers?

F. Mond, Yoss, Julián Pérez, Agustín Rojas, Lester Acosta.

5. For whom do you write?

First of all for myself, because writing is a personal act; and then for those who, like me, expect a work which offers something new.

6. What do you like and what do you hate about SF?

What I most like about science fiction is the flight of the imagination. The possibility that something that we write or read might be true and that the universe could be as complex and unpredictable as it is in everyday life, rather than as predictable, plannable and correct as the other literary genres paint it.
I also like that the spirit of science fiction fills the writers of the genre with a great kinship. I have had the opportunity to meet SF writers in many countries and we’ve always welcomed each other as brothers, beyond the barriers of language or the political system in which we live.
It bothers me that we try to pigeonhole works of SF, that people who work in one part within the genre should be considered less valuable or exalted than the others. I think that all subgenres have their place within the genre, whether they deal in hard science fiction, imaginary universes, space themes, cyberpunk, or whatever. I am also bothered by those who consider themselves professionals within the genre, affording this word a sense of superiority above the others. I think that all are fans, and as such lovers of the imaginative flight which SF offers us.
I am also bothered by adaptations of SF works on Cuban television in which they show an absolute disrespect for the genre and its writers. Among other examples I can mention the filming of Lem’s "Mr. Smith really exists", which they filled with special effects which contradicted the spirit of the work, along with changing the ending.
I think that SF manifests itself not only in the literature but in many forms of art and sometimes that means that there are bad works as in any other artistic demonstration. 80% of what is written of whatever kind is always bad, SF is no exception, but there are many people who believe that all SF is bad and when they bump into a good work of SF they say "this is too good to be science fiction."

7. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

For as long as I can recall I have shared my SF experiences. With some friends, in 1966, I created a science fiction club "Third Foundation" [Tercera Fundación] at the University of Havana which lasted until 1970, I worked on the creation of an SF section of the magazine Technical Youth. We also created a prize at the magazine. In 1980 I was the founder of the "Oscar Hurtado" literary workshop (which functioned until 1990) and we promoted the creation of similar workshops on the entire island and established contact with similar groups in other countries -- Mexico, Argentina, Hungary, Spain and the US. In 1989 we held the first SF festival in Guantánamo and united 58 Cuban writers for that exchange. I have worked in the organization and promotion of SF through international events celebrated in Cuba, the first of which was "Ibeficción94", and, in the succeeding years: "Cuásar Dragón 95", "Cubaficción 96", "97", "98", "Ciencia Ficción Habana 99" and "La semana Fantástica 2000".
In 1991 I founded the group i+Real which united all the lovers of the genre in the country in difficult economic times and allowed the publishing of the magazine i+Real in electronic form, at a time when there was no paper to publish anything and these works reached abroad. It published until 1997 (There were 29 issues, some of them published on CD in the US and Argentina, and there are still some around on various websites) and now I am working to revive it.
The group promoted SF in distinctive cultural venues and in the media in Cuba, Spain, Hungary, Argentina, US, Colombia, Norway and other countries. It inaugurated the "Oscar Hurtado" prize which was awarded twice before stopping due to lack of funds.
Recently I founded the "San Miguel del Padrón" SF literary workshop which meets alternate Thursdays. I proposed a course in Science Fiction for communicators to the Faculty of Communications of the University of Havana and of Cinema, Radio, and TV of the ISA. I await an answer.

8. How would you define the genre of SF?

I understand SF to be a genre which permits the creation of intelligent environments while dealing with the limits of reality. It is not only a literary genre, but a way of looking at the world.

9. What is the message which you transmit in your works?

It depends on the work of the moment. Many times it is a word of warning, a stimulus to thought or an intelligent entertainment. I don’t believe that there is "one message" in all works but messages that some will see and others not. There are also readers who have seen things in my work which I hadn’t myself noticed, but this happens to all writers.

10. What themes do you like to explore in your works?

I don’t have favorite themes, but favorite situations in which to test the intellect or in which one can discuss some interesting idea.

11. Why did you choose this genre?

I think that it chose me, because since boyhood it has been the one thing that best fit my personality and tastes.

12. What are your current projects?

I’m currently enmeshed in resuscitating the magazine i+Real and in consolidating the group i+Real as a society which promotes and aids the cultivators of the genre in their different forms. From sculpture, music, computer design, film, video and especially literature and poetry.
I am preparing a series of essays on themes that are at the root of the genre: virtual reality, time, anomalous phenomena and the roots of SF in the myths of various cultures.
I am also cooking up two anthologies -- one of non-Cuban Spanish-language SF, and another of Cuban fantasy -- both to be published in Argentina, and one of Cuban SF stories which will appear in Mexico.
As for literary works, I am writing a novel about Mozart, time travel, virtual reality, conspiracy theory and historical reworkings, with a history of love.

13. What are the challenges and prospects of Cuban SF literature?

The first is recognition. That is, that the media acknowledge it and that the public knows that it exists. Or rather, that it not only be familiar to the lovers of the genre but that they know and recognize it as an indigenous cultural movement. That they see its unity, even if those of us inside it practice different streams within it.
The other challenge is that of information, that we recognize what is happening in the world in science and that we write it into our current SF, above all, as a friend has said, so that we don’t "fill our tomorrows with already antiquated ideas."
The prospects are of supporting ourselves in the institutions and communities of SF, especially in i+Real; of being able to seek help in financing works; and of participating in international events and anthologies in Cuba as well as abroad.
Cuban science fiction needs to also move into film and television in the way it already has done in music, comics, and the plastic arts in general. Particularly the well-known writers of the genre: we have seen that they are not permitted entry in the media, radio and television and yet the media present SF works which are created by people who do not know the basics of writing SF and who believe that SF is all about special effects or themes of space and high tech.

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

Books:
"Adventure in the laboratory" [Aventura en el laboratorio] Ed. Oriente, 1987.
"In another space" [En otro espacio], poetry, Municipality of Cultura Plaza, 1987.
"By a shortcut" [Por el atajo], Ed. Oriente, 1991.
"Mars: myth and reality" [Marte: mito y realidad], Colihue Argentina Ed. C-T, Cuba, 1994.
"Dust in the wind" [Polvo en el viento], Editor, Argentina, 1999.

Stories:
"Lost in the crowd" [Ajeno en la muchedumbre], Anthology, Contactos Ed., Gente Nueva, 1988.
In Technical Youth [Juventud Técnica] (1965-1997): "Futurama", "Power in hand" [El poder en la mano], "Plague" [Plaga], "It can’t be helped, Colonel" [No hay remedio Colonel], "Five minutes" [Cinco minutos], "Only Martha" [Sólo Marta], "Point of contact" [Punto de contacto], "Para acabar con man costa", "Time once again" [Otra vez el tiempo], "Time for laughter" [Tiempo de bromas], "Island" [Isla], "By a shortcut" [Por el atajo], "Transformations" [Transformaciones], "Next week on Contact" [La próxima semana en Contacto], "Cosmic contact" [Contacto cósmico].
"Sneezing Wednesday" [Estornudar Miércoles], OtraCosa, issue 1, Mexico, 1992.
"Speculations" [Especulaciones], Magazine "To whom it may concern" [A quien corresponda], Mexico, 1993.
"Hacker" [Craker] Axxón online-magazine, issue 62, Argentina, 1994.
"Legend" [Leyenda], Axxón, issue 83, Argentina
"The signal, the word" [La señal, la palabra] Axxón, issue 74.

Poetry:
Union magazine: "UFOs" [OVNIS]
Bohemia magazine" "Pieces of an answer" [Piezas de repuesto]
i+Real virtual magazine: "UFOs II" (issue 0), "Cosmic contact" [Contacto cósmico] (issue 1)
Tulan magazine: "Cuba1" and "Cuba 2" (issue 1)
Supplement CT-21 of Rebel Youth (Juventud Rebelde), Science fiction Summer: Sand and shadows [Arena y sombras]
Solaris (Venezuela): issue 1: "Genesis" [Génesis] and "evolution" [Evolución]
Literaturnaya Gazeta (USSR: June 1983): "Genesis"
Galactika (Hungary: March 1987) selection of poems

Articles:
"Is interplanetary space really empty?" Technical Youth, July-Aug. 1978 (First place, ACC competition for popular science, 1978).
"The chemistry of interplanetary space". Weekly magazine of Radio Reloj, 1978 (Chemistry Magazine, Nov. 1978).
"The magnetic memory of rocks". (Third place in ACC popular science competition, 1979).
"How one measures terrestrial magnetism". Bohemia, Dec. 1977.
"Microseconds in antiquity", in suplement CT-21 of Rebel Youth, Science Fiction Summer.
"Time in ancient India", DUDA magazine, Mexico, 1993.
"Robots for the first time", in Asimov magazine, Mexico.


F. MOND
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

I believe it was around 1978 or thereabouts, enthused by the prologues of Oscar Hurtado in those extraordinary anthologies of SF and fantasy themes.

2. Present occupation?

Computer scientist.

3. Tell us about your literary work. (Publications: Title, year, publisher, country? Articles? Prizes. Other?)

"With apologies to the Earthlings" [Con perdón de los terrícolas], Letras Cubanas, 1979.
"To see you laugh" [Para verte reír, Letras Cubanas, 1979.
"Where is my Havana?" [¿Dónde está mi Habana?], Letras Cubanas, 1980.
"Cecilia later, or Why the Earth?" [Cecilia después o ¿Por qué la Tierra?], Gente Nueva, 1983.
"Cecilia later...", Letras Cubanas, 1989.
"Life, passion and luck" [Vida, pasión y suerte], Letras Cubanas, 1999.
"Holocaust (2084)" [Holocausto (2084)], Letras Cubanas, 2000.

Prizes: Just one honorable mention in the David Prize competition, back in the 1970s or so.

4. Who were your teachers?

Hurtado, Jules Verne, Arango, Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Poe,... Many, many. I always learn something from whoever is writing, even those who do it poorly, because that’s how you learn how NOT to do it.

5. Who are your favorite Cuban SF writers?

There are many and, since I have a bad memory, I do not want to leave anybody out if I try to name names.

6. For whom do you write?

I try to do it for the majority of the readers. I am not an elitist. That is not my style.

7. What do you like and what do you dislike about SF?

I admire the imagination. I hate the technology

8. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

Every time I can, I do it. Wherever, even in a park. But I prefer to talk one-on-one or with a few people. I am not a big fan of crowds. That’s for the jugglers who walk around on stilts in front of the Capitanes Generales.

9. How do you define SF?

I don’t believe that there is a specific genre, but rather a tendency or thematic within literature, just like social prose, romance, adventure, detective stories, humor,... For me SF is a way of expressing that which we imagine, like any type of fiction. There is nothing special in that.

10. What message do you transmit in your works?

I transmit my way of seeing things that were and things that will be. Nothing more than that.

11. What themes do you prefer to deal with in your stories [historias]?

Those having to do with history [la historia]

12. Why did you choose this genre?

Because it is the most imaginative one there is. I have always been a loner and that reflects, I believe, living within one’s interior world. Furthermore, the everyday bores me (and I beg pardon before the Tribunal of the Inquisition for that), it’s what we see. Why should we talk about the stuff we’re living through?

13. What are your current projects?

Ridicule, as always. I am waiting for them to publish a novel that I left at the publisher’s over six years ago. Fortunately it takes place at the beginning of our era, otherwise, it would be completely out of date when it appears, like so many other works.

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


ÁNGEL ARANGO
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

I wrote my first SF story in 1957 I believe, and it was called "The day that New York burst into the sky" [El día que Nueva York penetró en el Cielo]. It was a critique of the spirit of the New Yorkers, even though I admire their character. Because, in my view, they are not Americans but a different thing altogether. They have their own personality and this strong, individual character, that’s what I’ve always liked about the citizens of that city. The fact that it was a critique is not meant to be pejorative. In that epoch, I had written another story, which appeared in the magazine Carteles [Posters] which was called "The Hanged Man" [El ahorcado]. From there I noticed that this genre gave me more possibilities to develop, more freedom to write, from a creative standpoint, than any other type of story. This second story was from the Batista era [pre-1959]. It was a critique, the man was killed because he had no job, but the critique was given in a form in which the story was told. In addition, I began to read the stories of Bradbury. I read The Martian Chronicles, which opened the path of poetry in science fiction for me, the sentimental part of life as opposed to the solution of technical problems.
After "The day that New York burst into the sky", all set to break the conventionalism of realist fiction, I wrote a story, the story of a cosmonaut from the Earth who arrives on another planet where he meets beings that reproduce by cutting off all their bodily extremities and when he arrives, they go cutting his extremities until they kill him, because that is what they do as their means of reproduction. They wanted to make love and it cost him his life. Later there was another story from this time. It was called "An unexpected visitor" [Un inesperado visitante]. Here the situation was one of a character who arrived on Earth where he had not expected to arrive, because of mechanical difficulties. I developed this character with elements that came to mind and which came forth in a poetic form. In the description of parachutes, how they opened, of blood circulating through veins and of how the language of this character’s people would sound. As I went along I realized that he was arriving in a similar way to how Christ would have had if he had arrived on Earth as a cosmonaut.

2. Who were your teachers?

My teachers were the American SF writers that I read, above all Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon, who wrote "More than Human". Here in Cuba there wasn’t a lot of information about what was taking place outside. That was lucky for me, because I tried to search in my own resources, inside myself, as much as possible and I found some literary devices which tried to open new roads. That is how I explored the topic of robots: "Robotomaquía", with various stories of this sort, time warps. A short novel from Italo Calvino, called "The non-existent knight". I am talking about twenty or thirty years ago.

3. For whom does Ángel Arango write?

Primarily I think I write for myself. To confront problems and work out solutions for myself. I try to take on something that will satisfy me, above all, even if I am the only one who agrees with this discovery. One of the things that allows me to say this is that I have not lived from literature, I have not lived from what I write. I have my job. So that when I write I try above all to write about what I want. Not that it is something that I am going to publish, not that it is something that others will accept, just that it is what pleases me when I see it in black and white.

4. What do you like and what do you hate about SF?

I love the freedom that this genre gives me to express my imagination. The ease and latitude that it gives us to do this. What I don’t like is that which people commonly call SF, which is really adulterated SF offered to the public in film but which is worthless. It is anti-imagination. The best of the genre is that it gives one the possibility to change what is in front of one’s face and give it new dimensions, or to create a new reality. The stuff I was talking about was adulterating SF to give us a false subproduct, one that has nothing to do with developing the imagination.

5. How would you define SF?

I once wrote somewhere that it was the vanguard of organized imagination. And later there was an American SF writer who wrote something similar. If you think about it, it is the vanguard of organized imagination. Because mankind’s imagination, if it is organized, is much more effective. It is the spearhead which opens up roads to the future. Or... sometimes to the past, because by means of SF one can discover that there are holes and spaces that cannot be explained, because they require a different explanation than the one we have.

6. What message do you pass on in your works?

There was a connection between my first short stories. But now we can consider the novelas, in which I have tried to conquer time. Starting with "Transparencies" [Transparencias], "Junctures" [Conyunturas], "Sider" and the ones I have, the last one. I have tried to overcome time. The terrain in which one moves is an abstract, philosophical one. I think that I have been consistent with this and have been creating this complete world, without having made facile compomises.

7. What subjects do you like to deal with in your stories?

In the most recent novels, what I’ve done is to develop the characters of the story "Whither go the cefalomos?" ["¿A dónde van los cefalomos?"] In Transparencies, I turned the story into a novel. Then in Junctures, I brought them back again. I saved the human race there and created another new world. Then in Sider, I developed another of the characters which I left behind in Junctures and the latter one, it is also a community with aspects in which I lightly touched on in the earlier novels. Because I had to decide whether to pursue different themes or continue delving deeper into my own. Further developing my own seemed to me the greater challenge. That is what I have done.

8. Why did you choose this genre?

For the freedom that it provides to create. Because it requires so much from the writer: it requires a great capacity for abstraction in its conception and thus is like poetry, because SF has come to be the poetry of realist literature and legitimate poetry always offers one great opportunities to defend universal values.

Interview conducted June 17, 2000, by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.


ROBERT ESTRADA BOURGEOIS (aka R. E. BOURGEOIS)
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

At age 12 I read "220 days in a spaceship" by Georgui Martinov and I threw myself into reading a rehash of that novel. I had already gone through "Voyage to the center of the Earth" and other little novels from the Space fighters Collection [Colección Luchadores del Espacio], so I thought I was prepared. My sixth grade teacher was so good and patient that when he discovered me writing, he read it and was so surprised that he invited me to read it chapter by chapter in class. I didn’t get past the third one, but all my friends from that time became convinced that I was either very smart or a lunatic. Some of them still wonder, including my wife. Many years later I discovered by accident that a charming woman named Daína Chaviano had won the David Prize with the book "The worlds which I love" [Los mundos que amo]. I sat down and wrote "Trenco", sent it to the Davids the next year and obtained an Honorable Mention. They recommended that I attend the Oscar Hurtado workshop, where I met Daína and Bruno Henríquez. That was enough to convince me that I wasn’t the only lunatic.

2. Present occupation? I’ve been an attorney for 21 years, and have worked as a property register for ten.

3. Tell us about your literary work.

The novel "Trenco", Honorable Mention in the David Competition in 1985, was published in 1986 by Letras Cubanas. In 1984 I won the Prize in the first SF stories competition of the magazine Juventud Technica with the short story "In the gutter" [En la cuneta], which was published the same year. JT had already published another story, "Sosias". In 1988 "In the gutter" was published in the anthology "Extreme measures" [Recurso extremo] by Abril, and "Father Veracierto" ["Papito Veracierto"] in the anthology "Contacts with new people" [Contactos con gente nueva]. In 1995 I was a finalist in the UPC Prize of the Polytechnic University of Cataluña [Spain] with the novel "Forest" [Bosque]. That same novel was finalist in the Luis Rogelio Nogueras competition - I don’t recall what year - and Extramuros wanted to publish it because the internal biology of the alien creature that appears in it is not explicable according to our understanding of the laws of biology. In 1999, I cruelly betrayed science fiction and published a detective novel, A Modigliani from Cuba [Ein Modigliani aus Kuba [http://www.krimi-couch.de/krimis/roberto-estrada-bourgeois-ein-modigliani-aus-kuba.html]] with Distel Publishing. Also in 1999 my story "A shop on the avenue" was published in the anthology "Dust in the wind" [Polvo en el viento] in Argentina, and in February 2000 the story "Teledildonic love", again in Juventud Técnica.

4. Who were your teachers?

Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arkadi and Boris Strugatski, Ivan Efrémov, William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, Ursula Le Guin, Daína Chaviano.

5. Who are your favorite Cuban SF writers?

Yoss, Vladimir Hernández, and Raúl Aguiar’s old crazy stories.

6. For whom do you write?

For anyone who can bear to read me.

7. What do you like and what do you hate about SF?

Above all I like the stories of humans and aliens if they are told from the point of view of the aliens, as in the Chanur saga. I like stories about time paradoxes and dystopic futures, cyberpunk, and plots where the characters, even in anomalous settings or situations, act like human beings, have sex, smell bad, fall in love, hate, etc. I can’t stand stories of idyllic futures where everything is resolved, it is pretty, and everyone is in love. That is not SF but a fairy tale. I don’t like stories about bug-eyed monsters which are overrunning the cinema, although they are pleasant for whiling away Sunday afternoons.

8. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

I do. I spent a bunch of years doing that in workshops. Now I don’t because of lack of time.

9. How do you define SF?

As the best and most enjoyable intellectual exercise possible.

10. What message do you impart in your works?

I’ll leave that to the critics. Meanwhile, I try to imagine the relations between thinking races in a future less rosy than one we anticipated twenty years ago.

11. What themes do you like to deal with in your stories?

Complicated stories, especially when there’s an erotic component.

12. Why did you choose this genre?

Same answer as to question 11.

13. What are your present projects?

Betraying SF again.

14. What are the challenges and prospects for Cuban SF?

To create beautiful novels and to break the English-speaking monopoly of the genre.

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


RAÚL AGUIAR
Original interview in Spanish

What has been Raúl Aguiar’s relation to science fiction?

I would say very close. My training as a writer comes from the science fiction workshops of the 1980s, the Oscar Hurtado workshop, the Plaza workshop, which Daína Chaviano advised in those days, and the Jules Verne workshop. I remember that I wrote so much in those days that I had a different story to read at each meeting. In 1984 I obtained an Honorable Mention in the David Competition with a book of SF stories, and my first stories published in anthologies were also science fiction.

But your first novel, "Everyone’s phantom time" [La hora fantasma de cada cual], David Prize 1989, was already a realist novel...

Well, the first version, the one I sent to the competition and not the one that was published, was quite different. It had chapters alternating between a realist flavor and a fantastic, dreamlike, or science fiction character. My original idea actually was to construct a surreal universe in which my character was going to move, and, from this world, he would have visions of another world, in this case, the real world. A sort of reversal of the traditional fantastic story of Borges or Cortázar, where one travels from the real to the fantastic, right?

And what happened to that version?

It turned out that the publishers didn’t like the surreal chapters and I had to get rid of them. They thought that the quality of the writing and of the plot was inferior to that of the "realist" narrative I had. At the time they convinced me, but I’ve wondered ever since whether I did the right thing. It was about 100 or 150 sheets of the manuscipt that we threw away. Obviously the conception of the book changed as well.

Later you sold the novela "Mata" [The title can mean either "He kills", or "shrub"], on the war in Angola.

Yes, that was completely realist, although not autobiographical. I was never in Angola. In reality, it is not a book about the war in Angola but about war in general.

Some critics have indicated that your last novel, "The face-up star" [La estrella bocarriba] is like a no-man’s land, a bit difficult to classify, and that it has cyberpunk elements...

Yes, in reality I enjoyed writing "hyperrealism" in the vein of Baudrillard, that is, a place, a text, where the imaginary and real were interchangeable, in the syle of J. G. Ballard’s "Crash", or where one seeks to elicit specific reactions from the readers, a sort of shock where they would see concepts of "the real" contaminated, as in some of Philip K. Dick’s stories. I think that "The face-up star" contains many traces of the fantastic. You can find, as you say, scenes with a cyberpunk ambience, but also the mystic, black magic, the poetic, medieval, horror...

There are also many readers who ask how real the "Black Bible" in the story is, or the rock group "The Witches"?

It is curious, because that novel has become a bit of a performance piece, hasn’t it? Some youth have started to use the cryptic writings of the Witches, have adopted some newly coined words into their speech, have adopted some very interesting readings of the text. Perhaps it is better not to confess what is real and what is imaginary, if the book is not to lose its effect. Personally, many aspects of the novel have become reality after it was published.

The other day I overheard a couple of youths discussing the novel and they considered you a sort of witch, or priest of black magic. Do you really practice it? Black magic I mean.

A dangerous question. Let’s say that I have learned a little and am at a different level, where this whole business of "black" or "white" is very relative. We call it "The game" [El juego], and it is a sort of synthesis of everything: fractals, quantum cosmology, the teaching of Castaneda’s Don Juan, superstring theory, the Kybalion, high magic... It is complex, but also simple. It seems that the fundamental problem of philosophy has passed from contrasting "mind" and "matter" into questioning the categories of "the real" and "the virtual", but you had better ask me another question because if you give me chance, I will spend hours talking about this subject, aside from which they would probably certify me as crazy.

And cyberpunk?

This movement has interested me from the beginning, with William Gibson, Sterling and even further back, "Blade Runner", its cinematic grandfather. I went so far to write a little book of popular science on the topic.

Yes, "Virtual reality and cyberpunk culture" [Realidad virtual y cultura ciberpunk]....

Exactly. I intended to write a cyberpunk novel, but it was never published. Maybe that explains a certain reference in "The face-up star", although obviously it is not gratuitous, but serves a specific purpose.

How do you see SF in Cuba?

A bit down in the dumps, but we’ve been through worse. If we focus on the publications, in the last few years only Yoss, Michel Encinosa, Vladimir have published, and a few on the borders of the genre, Eduardo del Llano, with his characteristic brand of humor. There was a fantasy anthology launched by Yoss, in which a number of promising names appeared, but it was sold on the dollars market, and did not reach the Cuban public. Of the foreign science fiction writers published, only re-editions of classics -- Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne, Wells -- and not much else. I imagine that the problem is with copyrights, which the Cuban publishers cannot afford to pay. We are very much isolated from the currents outside and we remain dependent on friends who travel and bring back books, or those that can be downloaded from the Internet, also very complicated to read, much less print out.

In summary, what do you think is lacking for the development of science fiction in Cuba?

First would be an important prize, with a published volume of winners. Like that David Prize in science fiction which brought writers of the caliber of Agustín Rojas, Daína Chaviano, F. Mond, or Yoss, to name a few, to light. Also a good workshop, specializing in the area of narrative techniques and the fantastic. I think Michel Encinosa just inaugurated such a workshop, the Quasar-dragon, but it is in Alamar, on the outskirts of Havana, and I imagine that that makes attendance difficult for those who would want to participate in it. The third thing would be a magazine. I think that Guaicán Literario is very good for an Internet site, but there is no printed magazine that circulates in the country. And finally, to revive a bit the level of the annual events, the Cubaficción, which in the last few years have been a little flat and not promoted as much as it deserves.

Interview conducted by Gerardo Chávez Spínola, March 12, 2003. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.


AGUSTÍN DE ROJAS
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

The story is long and pretty complicated... It all began with the famous Dragón Collection, which I took the opportunity of reading as a teen. Works that I fondly remember are Miguel Collazo’s "The voyage" [El viaje] -- which convinced me that Cubans could actually write good SF -- and that incredible novela of Bradbury’s, "Fahrenheit 451", whose characters seemed more real to me than the people around me. I had not ever felt that effect (and much more besides) from any other genre, and it made me think about writing someday -- when I retired, I used to say then. I had more than a little trepidation in putting this off, and I had great respect for the writers of the genre (besides Bradbury, I would mention Heinlein, Asimov, Zelazny, Farmer, etc.); it seemed to me that these writers were not of this planet, to speak in the language of SF; and that it would be a great presumption to try to write similar works... But well, I came to a place where I either had to win a Cuban SF prize (and, at that time, in 1978, not even the David Prize in SF existed), or hang myself. And that is how I wrote, between 1978 and 1980, "Spiral" [Espiral] which won the second David. I didn’t have to hang myself.

2. Present occupation?

Writer. I earn my keep under contract as a Professor of Theatre, a subject which I teach to first year drama students in the Manuel Ascunce Domenech School for Art Instructors in Santa Clara.

3. Tell us about your literary work.

"Spiral" [Espiral], published by Unión, 1982, gave rise to a conceptual trilogy which followed with "A legend of the future" [Una leyenda del futuro] (Letras Cubanas, 1985) and concluded with "The year 200" [El año 200] (Letras Cubanas, 1990). To explain a bit of the theme of the trilogy, I’d say that these three novels deal with three possible futures -- one black, one white, and the third gray -- sharing a common core problem: How can humanity grow mature enough to successfully face a future which grows each day more complex? The situation in Cuba at the end of the 80s -- the implosion of real socialism in Europe, and other factors -- forced me, in being true to myself, to change literary genres: so that after publishing an essay on the social role of literature in art for Capiro Publishing in Santa Clara in 1992 (the title was "Catharsis and Society") I began to write an historical novel, "The publican" [El publicano], which won the Dulce María Loinaz Special Prize for Novels. One of the unexpected consequences of this novel about one of Jesus’ disciples has been the opportunity to write a series of interpretive articles in the magazine "Daybreak" [Amanecer] of the Diocese of Santa Clara (the odd thing is that they published it, even though I am not a believer); these articles, a dozen, have appeared in the magazine between 2000 and 2002... "The publican" was published by Letras Cubanas in 1997.

4. Who were your teachers?

Good books -- of whatever genre -- and the lessons of everyday life.

5. Who are your favorite Cuban SF writers?

From the old guard, Miguel Collazo of "The voyage". With respect to the intermediate generation, Daína Chaviano is the author of impressive stories like "Loving planet" [Amoroso planeta]; and of the newest, José Miguel Sánchez (Yoss), who continues to bear the promise for which we all continue to hold our breaths; and of the newest, there is one writer who switches between SF and F (his inclination toward the second one being stronger), writing stories with great expressive effect, and with solid emotional impact: Michel Encinosa.

6. For whom do you write?

Obviously, for the readers.... Which readers? To be more specific, I would reply the broadest range of them. From those who are only seeking strong emotions (that’s their right, no?) to those who like to reflect on who they are, and what they can achieve.

7. What do you like and what do you hate about SF?

I like how it opens up possible worlds -- the future, parallel worlds, the interior world of human beings -- and I hate those works in which a good idea is treated poorly, or to be more exact, mistreated.

8. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

Like any self-respecting old man, I enjoy embittering the life of young people telling them stories of those mythical days thirty or forty years ago... Also, I have the good fortune that Lorenzo Lunar, an excellent writer of detective novels, also lives in Santa Clara, and has organized a workshop for young novelists. I attend that workshop whenever I can, because I am fascinated to see how Lorenzo and his wife Rebeca (another very good writer) manage to respect the personalities and individual styles of an ensemble of writers who are still very much in the developmental stage. That is not an easy thing to achieve.

9. How would you define SF?

On a theoretical level, I would tell you that I don’t know. On the practical side, there are cases like "The Lord of the Rings", or Lovecraft’s very rich universe, which are not SF, but it would please me if they could create a category which would include them, because they possess what most attracts me to the genre: the creation of a logical, seamless universe which readers can accept as perfectly real.

10. What message do you transmit in your works?

I would like my readers to answer that question.

11. What themes do you like to deal with in your stories?

I have written several works about the past and the future, all of them published, and also about the present (only one of these, the story Air [Aire], was published, by Caimán Barbudo in June of 1985 or 1986, I don’t remember). Summing up its themes I would like to cite the Roman writer [Terentius]: Nothing human is alien to me.

12. Why did you choose this genre?

See the answer to question 1.

13. What projects are you working on now?

The continuation of "The publican", which ends a little before Jesus’ departure for Jerusalem, where He would be crucified. The new novel is titled "The Kingdom comes" [La llegada del Reino]. Writing it is a slow process, but that is what the narrative story demands.

14. What are the challenges and prospects for Cuban SF?

I answered that in the last interview. Uff! I hope there are no more questions.

Interview conducted December 2002 by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.


JOSEFINA MARTÍNEZ OTAÑO
Original interview in Spanish

Josefina is presently considered among the best radio novelists in Cuba. She also writes for TV. Her links with fantasy and science fiction begin with her tales of horror and mystery for the radio show "Steps in the darkness" [Pasos en la oscuridad], for the broadcaster Radio Cadena Habana (Havana Radio Network).

Josefina, when and how did you become a writer?

I had just gotten out of a relationship which had left me deeply scarred and the best way of expressing what I was feeling was to begin to write. I did this with the novel "The butterfly crown" [La corona de mariposas], something very biographical, since it was based on the story of my grandmother and my aunts. With that novel I also began a work in conjunction with my son Servando Blanco, who has done the music for my novels ever since, for Cuba as well as for Mexico, the country for which I have been writing since the end of 1999.

In Cuba you are recognized above all as a radio novelist. Your novels enchant the audience. Could you tell us more about them?

Look, something is always happening in my novels, something that often goes beyond what I had hoped for. It has been that way since the beginning. I think that that must be because my principal theme is love, and I approach it using all the sources and resources of the genre, not by giving it the "pink novela" [novelitas rosas] treatment, but by delving into human feelings, showing how complex, difficult, lovely, and often painful, love is, above all in these times in which we believe that sentiment has gone forever. It seems that people like having it proved that this is not so. Proof of this is the success achieved -- not just in Cuba -- by novels like Alejandra and Obsession, with which won the Argante Prize of Excellence in Mexico.

What are your other current projects?

I have various commitments with television which I plan to complete when I am done with a novel which I am writing for Mexico, specifically for the singer and actress Angélica María. They offered me a TV series, and I would very much love to work for the program "When a woman" [Cuando una mujer]. On radio I continue writing for the shows "Tales" [Relatos] and "Steps in the darkness" on Radio Cadena Habana.

With regard to your work on the radio mystery show, "Steps in the darkness", what have you been doing? And what are you preparing for your listeners?

I have written science fiction, suspense, fantasy, horror and mystery. I plan to continue working for this show, as much as I can.

When did you become involved in horror and mystery?

With the radio show "Steps in the darkness".

What do you think about these genres?

They attract me, they envelop me, they make me shiver. Oftentimes when it is horror, it keeps me up at night. Now, when I work with fantasy, I fly along with it. Science fiction works force me to withdraw into the readings which feed and sustain me. One of them, "The servent" [La servienta] was a prizewinner in the last Radio Festival.

How do you come up with the curious plots of your mystery stories?

I don’t know. They choose their own paths. They show up and tell me: "Here I am."

On what do you base the psychological structure of the characters in those works of mystery you create for "Steps in the darkness"?

You know, I believe that every one of us has a special "folder" in our brain where we save up all our life all those characters taken from any film, reading, or person we’ve known that has impressed us. Or ourselves, when we are injured, or in the darkness of our room imagining a thousand ways of getting even.

In those genres of horror and mystery, who have been your teachers?

To say that he was my teacher would be presumptuous, but the person who most influenced me is Alfred Hitchcock. Even though I remember how much the shower scene in "Psycho" terrified me.

You are a very prolific writer. How do you manage to produce such an impressive volume of work without lowering your standards?

I myself don’t know. I do not have a method or a specific hour for writing, but when I sit down to do it, I go at it with my entire brain. I suppose that is my method.

We know that you have several stories that are unquestionably science fiction. Could you tell us about them?

"The replica" is one of those, "Love vs taste" [Amor vs. gusto] is another, since I tried to delve into the science of cryogenics, which was very interesting. I also felt very good when I finished "Fire in the forest" [Incedio en el bosque], which dealt with a strange civilization arriving on Earth.

In the radio show "Steps in the darkness", you have experimented with fusing science fiction, horror and mystery. How has that gone? Do you plan to continue in that direction?

Yes, I think it went quite well. "Love vs taste" is one example, and I would very much like to continue doing it. Only because in order to do it I have to separate the horror, the mystery of science fiction, and thus lengthen the day to thirty hours, in order to put down on paper everything going around in my head.

What foreign science fiction writers do you like?

One for all times, Jules Verne, and also H. G. Wells, whose "War of the worlds" spread panic in the US when it was broadcast.

Do you enjoy the style of any particular Cuban science fiction writers?

I have heard works from various science fiction writers on the show "Steps in the darkness", among them I have really enjoyed those of the writer Gerardo Chávez Spínola. [Translator’s note: Chávez is conducting this interview.]

We know that an anthology of Cuban horror and mystery is being planned, in which you are going to participate. Could you tell us about that?

Yes, they were gracious enough to invite me, and I would be delighted to be able to hobnob with all of the magnificent writers who will be there. I am certain that it will be something very beautiful.

What are you working on right now and what are your future plans?

The novel for Angélica María, as I’ve mentioned, the stories for "Tales" and "Steps in the darkness", and something marvelous in which I have great hopes, a social-cultural project for the people of the town where I was born, Minas de Matahambre in the Province of Pinar del Río, which I’ll tell you more about later.

Interview conducted September 21, 2003, by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.


EDUARDO DEL LLANO
Original interview in Spanish

1. How and when did you start to write science fiction?

At either seven or eight years of age I began to write a novel about two teens, having suspiciously Slavic names, who had traveled into space. Every four or five pages, I added my own illustrations. Not only did I finish it, but there were two sequels, which I finished when I was twelve. They had everything: trips through space, wars, invasions of Earth, good guys and bad guys. I still have them.

2. Present occupation?

Writer. What else could I be?

3. Tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer.

I was born in Moscow, October 9, 1962. I graduated in Art History at the University of Havana in 1985. I have been included in a number of national and international anthologies. My stories have appeared in Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Austria and Italy. I was professor of Latin American Art History and History of Photography at the University of Havana from 1990 to 1995.
I have taken workshops in writing and screenwriting from the specialists Jorge Goldenberg (Argentina), Tom Abrams and Walter Bernstein (US) in 1995-6. I have given courses in screenwriting in Managua, Nicaragua, in February 2000, and New York in October, 2000.
I was founder and director of the group for literary and theatrical creation NOS-Y-OTROS [Translator’s note: "Us and others": a play on words of words "nosotros" = we, "nos"=us, and "otros"=others], from 1982 to its demise in 1997. In this capacity, I acted in various theaters all over this country.
I have participated in theater festivals in Innsbruck (Austria), Lucarno and Fribourg (Switzerland), Munich (Germany), Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). In March 2002 I was part of the International Jury at the Fribourg Festival.

4. Who were your teachers?

Primarily, Verne and the Soviets. You know, the Strugatskii brothers, Ivan Efrémov, that group. Then Bradbury, Michael Ende, Tolkien. I am multifacetedly ignorant in the scientific realm, so that I can tell only fantasy tales with characters multifacetedly ignorant in the scientific realm.
I like Woody Allen, Milan Kundera, Mark Twain and Chekhov. But not in that order.

5. Who are your favorite Cuban SF writers?

Yoss and myself.

6. For whom do you write?

For clever people.

7. What do you like and what do you hate about SF?

I hate the obviousness in the extrapolation of the ideology and problems of the present age into the future. I detest those paragraphs which bring us up to date with world history from the present day to the date in which the plot occurs, and what bastardly manipulators they are, bringing us in a particular direction. But I can manage to enjoy even that.

8. Do you like to discuss your work when you are writing? Do you do it often? Where and how?

No. No. Never. In no way.

9. How would you define SF?

Not the least bloody idea. ["Ni la más puta idea."]

10. What is the message that you transmit in your works?

Like Machiavelli said, "DVD and conquer". That’s a joke.

11. What themes do you like to explore in your stories?

I like dark, defeated characters and a humorous tone á la Woody Allen. Because humor and fantasy are the genres I like best, I try to mix them.

12. Why did you choose this genre?

I didn’t choose it. I sometimes use it.

13. What are your current projects?

I published the novel "Three" [Tres] in Letras Cubanas, the first installment of a trilogy which will combine realist stories and fantasy. I just finished "Two" [Dos], the second part, which I also presented to Letras Cubanas. At the start of 2003 I will start to write "One" [Una], the third and final.

14. What are the challenges and prospects for Cuban SF?

To survive, and to make it all worthwhile.

Interview conducted November 7, 2002, by Gerardo Chávez Spínola. Translation 2004 by Daniel W. Koon.


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