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The introduction examines the ways the genre has developed in Latin America and Spain since the 1700s and studies science fiction as a means of defamiliarizing, and then critiquing, regional culture, history and politics—especially in times of censorship and political repression. The volume also includes a brief introduction to each story and its author, and an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary works. Cosmos Latinos is a critical contribution to Latin American, Spanish, popular culture and science fiction studies and will be stimulating reading for anyone who likes a good story.
"The introduction provides a historical overview of sf development in the Spanish-speaking world, and the notes accompanying the stories build useful contextual frameworks for appreciating the authors and their work... A welcome expansion of the sf terrain for Anglophones, especially since its scholarly trappings highlight how vital sf is in Latin America and Iberia." —Booklist
An obscure but fascinating figure in nineteenth-century Mexican thought, Juan Nepomuceno Adorno (1807-1880) was a seemingly indefatigable inventor who dreamed that the physical and moral perfectibility of mankind could be achieved through the combined efforts of technology and the enlightened doctrine he called "Providentiality."
Adorno outlined his philosophy of Providentiality in his 1851 book Introduction to the Harmony of the Universe, or Principles of Physico-Harmonic Geometry, written in English while Adorno was living in London. The treatise was later expanded, translated, and published in Mexico as Armonma del universo: Sobre los principios de la armonma fmsica y matematica (1862). Influenced by the work of Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier-particularly with regard to social reform and the concept of the utopia-Adorno believed that many social, economic, political, and ethical problems could be eradicated through the vigorous application of progressive technology in fulfillment of divine providence. His vision of mankind's happy fate was celebrated in the chapter of Armonma del universo entitled "The Distant Future" ("El remoto porvenir"). On the following pages we present some excerpts from this chapter that we have grouped according to topic.
In the course of Armonma, Adorno describes many of the technological innovations he believes await humanity, marvels such as an instant global communications network, unlimited steam, electric, magnetic, and thermal energy at our beck and call, airports, and even genetic engineering. Adorno called the type of writing exemplified by "The Distant Future" intuitive poetry-an apt term. The modern reader, however, struck by the perceptiveness and mechanistic imagination of Armonma, would recognize it as an early example of the technological utopia and an indisputable precursor of what we now call science fiction.
The Distant Future
El remoto porvenir, 1862 by Juan Nepomuceno Adorno translated by Andrea Bell
Greetings, beauteous Planet of green, resplendent fields, of silvered rivers and cerulean seas! Whither, oh whither do you set your ellipcentric course? ...
Sunward with your companions do you slowly journey, like the glorious hero who shuns exaltation, or as one who strives to make his destiny the more brilliant before bringing his praiseworthy toils to an end!
Earth, O Earth, it is you! I greet you!
Now do I perceive the graceful curves of your beautiful continents and islands. Some of their features have changed; they are positioned differently with respect to your equator and axis, and thus offer less resistance to your diurnal and annual movement.
ON PHYSICAL CHANGES IN HUMANS
I draw nigh unto you, lovely Planet; I wish to see what remains of mankind, to discover if humans still dwell upon you or if they are entombed as fossils, their species extinct.
Where, oh, where are the ancient Ethiopians with their lustrous, ebony skin? Where have the sons of Albion gone, ivory colored and golden haired? What of the diverse varieties of humankind that, in times of conflict, were the pride of some and the shame of so many others?
Differences have now disappeared! One integrated, beautiful, wondrous race peoples your land, crosses your seas, and drifts in glory among your clouds. Humans have been perfected, in shape and in size!
Their color is soft, rose-hued, and harmonious.
Their eyes are bright and shining.
The dazzling light of their hair, worn in braids and ringlets of ebony, contrasts with the subtle and beautiful finish of their firm skin, its fresh softness graced with iridescent hues.
Their limbs are vigorous, defying fatigue.
And slender are they, and beautiful; and pleasing in the way they walk; and noble, and tranquil, and straight....
Of the savage I see not a trace.
ON MORALITY AND PROVIDENTIALITY
You, Planet, are mankind's house, its divine mansion, and all your varied inhabitants are now simply brothers.
O enchanting Earth! O gentle people! O Eden, adorned by their hands! The noble days of mankind have arrived; pleasure, virtue, and innocence unite with wisdom, and power with goodness has joined! ...
Would happiness be possible for mankind without similar conquests in the moral sciences? Without doubt, no. But morality now is founded in the Providentiality of the human species, universally acknowledged and revered by all individuals. Morality is no longer that agonizing restraint which used to confine mankind within the narrow limits of artificial obligations. It is not the harsh, strangling tether that, though invisible and internal, kept the slave under the master's fierce whip and reduced the unhappy proletarian to poverty and death by starvation while surrounded by fields covered in ripe crops....
Divine virtue! You, too, ally yourself with truth; and with the noble example of the strongest and most beautiful of men, you have made it so that all practice love and mercy, that the strong and the weak care deeply for one another, that the strong derive the highest pleasure in being Provident with the weak, and the latter derive great joy from savoring the blessings of the former without envy or jealousy! ...
Thus do the strong work the same hours as the weak in common labor, and do not calculate to see whose work has been the more or less productive. Are not the fruits of collective efforts equally useful and profitable to all?
In the same way does the child of talent and genius learn and help his peers to learn, without the petty vanity of comparing his superior wit to the lesser talents of others. Is not science likewise shared? Are not its benefits the prize and glory of all humanity? ...
Thus it is: equality, as the fundamental principle of humanity, a principle conquered through thousands of years of heroic virtues and glorious efforts, can no longer be corrupted by tyranny. Tyranny is impossible. ... Talent, intelligence, and sublime virtue no longer worship personal glory, but instead render glory to all mankind. Of what importance is the name of the inventor of a celebrated machine? Did not the inventor find contentment in offering the machine to his fellow citizens? Was not the original idea discussed and improved upon by all, and is not the machine the result of a multitude of combined efforts?
Inventors from past ages! Of what benefit to you were your exclusive rights? You suffered the torments of enslaved genius, and the tyranny of capital was almost always what profited from your ideas and hard work. What misery, what degradations consumed you in your solitude, and how quickly did you discover that the childish vanity of hearing yourselves called inventors became ridicule once the pecuniary deceptions of success came roaring down to drown you in dismay and make you drink from the bitter cup of disappointment!
Now, genius is assured of collaborators; combined efforts nourish the initial ideas for improvements, and all of humanity wins. It is guaranteed that everyone will enjoy the benefits of the work of all; the common person assists the genius and inspires the great projects that humanity perfects and executes....
But so many wonders, so many pleasures, so many reasons for contentment-to what are they owed? ... To you, holy equality, sacred dogma; fundamental precept of the Providentiality of mankind. To you, unique and fruitful principle of personal well-being on the Planet.
You, divine equality, for whom the poor yearned in their days of wretchedness. You, whom the arrogant despised. You, attacked for so many centuries; you are both the cure for social ills and the fertile seed of all human delights.
Equality, equality, sweet and sublime! You have dried the tears of the angry child. Anger no longer enters into his festive games. With whom could he be angry when he looks around and sees only equals?
You have exiled the conceit of youth.
You have tamed the pride of adults.
You have made self-seeking useless.
You have stilled the greediness of the old.
You have rid the one of disdain for the other, and the latter's envy of the former.
Because of you, divine equality, no longer is there unpleasantness, no longer is there hate, no longer are there crimes, or vengeance, or vices ....
But can we therefore say that absolute equality among all mankind exists? And if it did, to what would people devote their virtues and Providentiality?
Humans, with the level of perfection they have attained, differ among each other less than in past times. Strength, beauty, and intelligence are more evenly distributed among them, but absolute equality is impossible in complex organizations such as that of man, and herein lies the magnificent and the sublime of human Providentiality, which has learned to balance these small differences with the reciprocal virtues of mankind.
Oh, yes, I see sweet and kindly children strive with the greatest enthusiasm to excel in their studies, not so as to humiliate those less able, but in order to help them in their intellectual tasks!
So also do I see them eagerly take up their gymnastic exercises, so that one day they may be of service to their fellows through their physical efforts. What glory, what joy for whoever among them saves from the deep someone who, through unintended fatigue, has sunk beneath the waves! ...
Praise you, praise you a thousand times, glorious humanity, for you have learned to cleanse yourself of your deficiencies and raise yourself up, splendid, sublime, and Providential, on the marvelous Planet which you inhabit ...!
ON THE STATUS AND NATURE OF WOMEN
Morality is no longer that arbitrary force that kept the weak and ill-fated woman a prisoner in the house of her abusive tyrant, and that led her to the bonfire, like some sacrifice to suffering, when-upon his death-he ceased to torment her....
O ages past, when a lonely and destitute woman would have to sell her graces, resisting, and in the end spurning, that powerful and lifesaving instinct-modesty-with which nature itself had blessed her! 0 periods of infamy and disgrace! For the virtuous woman, you were the greatest shame of human history, and we cannot cast our eyes over your contemptible era without encountering those sad and melancholy centuries in which society was awash with terrible suffering and woman was an object to be sold, vulnerable to becoming the most repulsive assemblage of decay and vice!
You are over, yes!, 0 you age of weeping and disgrace for the weak and abject, of oppression and pain for the gentle and sensitive woman! Human Providentiality has vindicated the rights of woman, of that Providential being par excellence, and in her mild and loving heart is raised the crown of the sweetest of virtues!
Woman has been freed from her ancient weakness and servitude. She is a full member of the nucleus into which she was born, and from the time of the cradle on, she has the same rights as the male child....
And you, sad and oppressed woman of times past! How much pain you underwent, until you were drowning in vice, and how much more did you suffer once corrupted! In you man sowed the bitter seed of shame and poverty, which germinated in your weak and degraded breast; and in time man reaped the fatal and poisonous harvest of his crimes!
But now, free and independent modesty is the eternal champion of the delicate sex, and man has at last realized that he can experience the joy of happiness-the supreme joy on Earth!-only when love and respect gain him the virtuous favors of modesty and love, which are inseparable from the worthy wife.
ON CHANGES IN NATURE AND THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
No longer, O Earth, have you your dark and murky ravines.
Nor your arid deserts of floating sand.
Nor your jagged, uncrossable cliffs.
Humans have tamed the fury of your seas.
They have regulated the flow of your rivers and harnessed your lakes.
The imprint of mankind is everywhere, and it is the sign of heroes ....
But science and human Providentiality have not stopped at simply making humans happy.
The whole of nature seems lovingly to support the objectives that man proposes, and docile, submissive, and content, yields up its treasures to science.
Cheerful countryside, delightful homes, forests traversed by the serpentine flow of pure, diaphanous streams that pour forth from artificial springs; these are the enchanting places that can be seen everywhere, O Earth! And in them are revealed the signs of happiness and of noble pleasures.
No longer do fields or gardens have fences. Do not their delicious fruits belong to all? Do not all work to sow, cultivate, and harvest them? Do not all respect the time necessary for the fruits to mature, and do not all love the always wonderful and cherished sight of nature's corsage, which we call plants?
All living species have undergone the beneficent modifications to which mankind's genius has submitted them, and those species that were only pernicious have ceased to exist.
Now do I see gentle flocks, adorned with flowered garlands, obeying the voice and call of the melodious strains of the horn. And you, loyal friend of man, you loving, intelligent, and pleasing dog, do guide the tender little lambs with caresses of your soft and wholesome tongue, assisting their mother who, bleating, calls to them.
And even the cattle lack their weapons of bygone days; the forehead of the powerful bull is no longer armed with the sharp, sturdy horns that once made him look so fierce and threatening. His strength is no longer subjugated to the yoke, nor does the lance increase his pain and fatigue. Happiness and ignorance of death make his days placid and sweet, and forever harmless.
Thus has mankind spread good to all creatures of the earth, and happiness radiates from all sentient species that inhabit this lucky globe.
ON SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS
The roads that I look upon-clear, safe, and long-are crossed by prodigious machines that glide softly across the continents, linking islands throughout the wide seas, or even, O Earth, visiting your depths in long subterranean passages.
And mankind delights in traveling your ferrous roads with movement so soft and gentle, like an infant rocking in its cradle or a bird flying through the air on a calm day, diaphanous, luminous, and serene.
Not the mildest fear nor the slightest danger now exists on those roads of former and habitual disasters.
Mankind, with a flash of strength and speed, has obliterated distances! ...
All dwellings are wondrous palaces.
Excerpted from Cosmos Latinos by Andrea L. Bell Copyright © 2003 by Andrea L. Bell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|Introduction: Science Fiction in Latin America and Spain||1|
|The Distant Future||23|
|On the Planet Mars||36|
|The Death Star||52|
|The Crystal Goblet||68|
|A Cord Made of Nylon and Gold||86|
|The Last Refuge||109|
|Gu Ta Gutarrak (We and Our Own)||123|
|When Pilate Said No||140|
|The Violet's Embryos||158|
|Reaching the Shore||223|
|Glimmerings on Blue Glass||265|
|The Day We Went through the Transition||271|
|Like the Roses Had to Die||305|
|About the Contributors||351|