The collection can be read simply for enjoyment: most of the stories are brief, tasty morsels and the longer ones are fast-paced and gripping, making for a volume that I found really easy to read. Some of the authors have also published "mainstream" works, but all the pieces (with the possible exception of the earliest few) are unequivocally science fiction — there is no attempt to claim the big names of South American magical realism for the genre. Cosmos Latinos offers us dystopian futures, spaceships landing on alien planets, aliens and alien artifacts on Earth, body enhancements, and much more that any reader of the genre will find familiar.
If the motifs and themes are familiar, however, they are given different twists. Take the time travel stories: in Ricard de la Casa and Pedro Jorge Romero's "The Day We Went Through the Transition", the favorite target of time terrorists is Spain's transition to democracy in the mid-1970s, while in "Gu Ta Gutarrak" Magdalena Mouján Otaño takes a hoary time travel plot and mixes it up with some light-hearted Basque nationalism. While malign or authoritarian governments are a genre tradition, for many of the authors in Cosmos Latinos that is informed by first-hand experience of prisons, censorship, and disappearances, rather than by the more theoretical libertarianism of much North American science fiction. Factories and working conditions appear as themes in several stories; religion — and specifically Catholicism — in others.
For those interested in the background, Bell and Molina-Gavilán offer a twenty-page general introduction to the history and themes of Latin American and Spanish science fiction. This surveys some of the landmark works and authors as well as the broad trends both within countries and across the region.
"The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a veritable explosion in Spanish and Latin American SF, in terms of the number and quality of works being produced by authors who dedicated all their creative efforts to SF and of the increased opportunities they had for disseminating the genre. Many diverse factors made this an era of unprecedented achievement ... the increased availability of translated U.S. and European works; the broadening of the genre to embrace more of the thematic concerns of the social sciences and humanities ... foreign and domestic SF magazines that were willing to publish local writers ... small presses specializing in SF ... the vision and energy of dedicated editors ... and a much greater level of communication and organization among fans"
There's also a twelve page select bibliography, covering secondary sources as well as key works. A brief author biography precedes each story and endnotes explain references that may be unfamiliar to English-speaking readers. The biographies are a nice supplement to the introduction, offering some personal, localised stories to flesh out the more abstract and general introduction.
Two negative features of Cosmos Latinos strike me. The first is that it inspires an interest in authors whose other works have not, in most cases, been translated into English. The second is that the price may deter casual science fiction readers used to cheap paperbacks. On the plus side, it's a seriously handsome volume, with a cover that almost makes me reconsider the "no images" policy on this web site.
The included stories:
- Juan Nepmuceno Adorno, "The Distant Future" (Mexico, 1862)
- Nilo María Fabra, "On the Planet Mars" (Spain, 1890)
- Miguel de Unamuno, "Mechanopolis" (Spain, 1913)
- Ernesto Silva Román, "The Death Star" (Chile, 1929)
- Juna José Arreola, "Baby H.P." (Mexico, 1952)
- Ángel Arango, "The Cosmonaut" (Cuba, 1964)
- Jerônimo Monteiro, "The Crystal Goblet" (Brazil, 1964)
- Álvaro Menén Desleal, "A Cord Made of Nylon and Gold" (El Salvador, 1965)
- Pablo Capanna, "Acronia" (Argentina, 1966)
- Eduardo Goligorsky, "The Last Refuge" (Argentina, 1967)
- Alberto Vanasco, "Post-Boomboom" (Argentina, 1967)
- Magdalena Mouján Otaño, "Gu Ta Gutarrak (We and Our Own)" (Argentina, 1968)
- Luis Britto García, "Future" (Venezuela, 1970)
- Hugo Correa, "When Pilate Said No" (Chile, 1971)
- José B. Adolph, "The Falsifier" (Peru, 1972)
- Angélica Gorodischer, "The Violet's Embryos" (Argentina, 1973)
- André Carneiro, "Brain Transplant" (Brazil, 1978)
- Daína Chaviano, "The Annunciation" (Cuba, 1983)
- Frederico Schaffler, "A Miscalculation" (Mexico, 1983)
- Braulio Tavares, "Stuntmind" (Brazil, 1989)
- Guillermo Lavín, "Reaching the Shore" (Mexico, 1994)
- Elia Barceló, "First Time" (Spain, 1994)
- Pepe Rojo, "Grey Noise" (Mexico, 1996)
- Mauricio-José Schwarz, "Glimmerings on Blue Glass" (Mexico, 1996)
- Ricard de la Casa and Pedro Jorge Romero, "The Day We Went through the Transition" (Spain, 1998)
- Pablo Castro, "Exerion" (Chile, 2000)
- Michel Encinosa, "Like the Roses Had to Die" (Cuba, 2001)