Science Fiction & Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Angélica Gorodischer

Trafalgar Medrano describes fantastic galactic journeys in the language of the ordinary, the recognizable: “. . . equipment, machines, furniture, more books, dishes, vehicles, decorations.” Was this choice of language used to hint that Trafalgar was drawing on his own knowledge to make up stories about other worlds? Or was something else at work?

What Trafalgar Medrano does is to speak in the Argentine Spanish that he uses every day and for all situations. He is that way, he talks the way we all do. He talks the way we all talk when we go to the café and visit with friends. For Trafalgar, none of what he’s telling is extraordinary: He simply describes what happened to him. I mean to say: Trafalgar Medrano lives as a person, not as a character. He isn’t a construction of words. He’s someone who functions within our surroundings.

You and Trafalgar seem to share similar tastes in authors. Do you share his opinion on literature: “Apart from science fiction and detective novels, I read nothing but Balzac, Cervantes, and Corto Maltese . . . they are among the few that have everything one can ask of literature: beauty, realism, entertainment, what more do you want?”

No, no, no. Of course—and fortunately—my tastes and my preferences have changed over time. It is true that I have always read the classics in search of what they have to teach me (or, as Harold Bloom said, “You want novelty? Read the classics.”), but it is also true that when I abandoned SF, I didn’t abandon Balzac or Borges or Cervantes, but I added the people that interest me: the women, Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, Asa Larsson, Fred Vargas (she’s a women in spite of the “Fred;” her name is Frederica), Clarice Lispector, and so forth, plus feminist theorists. I no longer read SF. I look around to see what’s new and I keep to what interests me: science (astrophysics and paleoanthropology above all), women’s politics.

Trafalgar explains the current condition of the planet’s residents as a result of knowing all there is to know. “After visiting dead worlds, worlds living or to be born, after leaving their seed on a few of them, after exploring everything and knowing everything, they not only stopped caring about the death of the star, but about the rest of the universe and they had enough with the sense of the circle.” Is the recognition of ignorance the only driving force for humanity?

But no, of course not. Those guys were fed up, that’s it. They had spent their lives and their history trying to find the answer to the basic, classic question: What is the meaning of life? And instead of seeking the answer within, they had looked for it outside, something that is exhausting because the universe is—I don’t know if it’s infinite, but it’s at least verrrry big.

How did you come up with the gibberish and its meaning that Veri Halabi translated in her dreamsdid the words come first or the meaning?: “A circle . . . is formed in the kingdom when the oil lamp burns out in the perceptible game of every distant precinct. As quartz is unaware of the howl of the wild animal and if it rains on the high grasslands it is improbable that the roots will know, all precincts come in contact at the rough edges until knowledge erases that which has been constructed. Its measure depends not on the rocks but on the torrent.”

For me, words just come on their own, in a torrent, in a flood. I imagine what the character feels and their words come without my forcing them too much, just a little. The words and their meanings (deep meanings, not the ones in the dictionary) are fused in a single outpouring. But careful, it’s not a matter of “inspiration.” Inspiration doesn’t exist; what exists is work. As someone said: “Inspiration arrived . . . and found me working.” There is no other way.

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Jude Griffin

Jude Griffin

Jude Griffin is an envirogeek, writer, and photographer. She has trained llamas at the Bronx Zoo; was a volunteer EMT, firefighter, and HAZMAT responder; worked as a guide and translator for journalists covering combat in Central America; lived in a haunted village in Thailand; ran an international frog monitoring network; and loves happy endings. Bonus points for frolicking dogs and kisses backlit by a shimmering full moon.

Translator Amalia Gladhart

Amalia GladhartAmalia Gladhart is the translator of two novels by Ecuadorian novelist Alicia Yánez Cossío, The Potbellied Virgin (2006) and Beyond the Islands (2011). Her chapbook Detours won the 2011 Burnside Review Fiction Chapbook Contest. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Iowa Review, Bellingham Review, Stone Canoe, and elsewhere. She is Professor of Spanish at the University of Oregon.