2020 Award eligibility post

(Before anyone asks: Yes, much of the text below is just blatantly copy-pasted from similar posts for previous years.)

I have exactly one (1) short story eligible for this year’s Hugo: “Calamity”, published in September of this year by the fine folks at Andromeda Spaceways Magazine in their issue #79, available now in epub, mobi, and pdf formats for the modest price of $4.95 (Aus).

So if, by chance, anyone out there reading this has voting privileges in this year’s Worldcon, why not nominate the above-mentioned story for a Hugo Award. (Or if you’re a SFWA member, nominate it for the Nebulas, I’m not picky.)

Honestly, what could it hurt? Huh?


Chiquito de la Calzada (1932-2017)

All day long, I’ve been thinking about Chiquito.

Years ago, when I was just starting to play with Scandal Jackson, my bandmate Fredi asked if I knew who Chiquito de la Calzada was.

Me suena,’ I said (if I remember correctly).

I had not been here very long, and had gleaned most of what I knew about the local pop culture from reading satirical comic strips in the magazine El jueves (as I’ve mentioned before). One reference that popped up again and again in strips like Para tí que eres joven and others was the name ‘Chiquito de la Calzada‘.

A week later, Fredi brought me a DVD of Chiquito’s ‘greatest hits’, jokes taken from appearances on various ’90s TV programs, galas, etc.

That night, I took it over to Belén’s house. We had just started going out, and she seemed genuinely flabbergasted that I would have a DVD of Chiquito in my possession, and that my friends were sufficiently friki to suggest I would be into such a thing.

It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ll never forget slapping the disc into Belén’s laptop and watching Chiquito for the first time.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this DVD, but whatever it was, Chiquito was not that.

This was not the self-deprecating confessionalism or wry observational humor that someone in the Anglophone world might associate with the idea of a ‘comedian’.

I didn’t know what the hell this strange, balding man in the blousy paisley shirt was on about.

I don’t think I understood a single word of the first few jokes on that DVD. Part of that was down to the accent and my listening skills, to be sure. By the sixth or seventh joke, though, I realized: I didn’t understand because more than half of the words coming out his mouth were complete gibberish.

Beautiful, sublime and utterly weird gibberish.

For the unitiated, Chiquito’s humor takes (if I may continue using present tense here, as if he were still around) as its base a ‘joke’ in the most basic ‘have you heard the one about the guy who…’ form, with punchlines which (all due respect) are frankly not great.

But the greatness of Chiquito, however, has little to do with the jokes themselves. Oh, no no no.

Part of his greatness lies in his often-imitated-never-duplicated way of moving across the stage–well, okay, that’s a pretty big part. Another part of it has to be the high-pitched squeals and snatches of popular song (the theme from Bonanza for example) that constantly break the narrative thrust of each joke.

But what really endeared the art of Chiquito to me is his language. And I mean his language. A comedic idiolect entirely of his own making.

This includes catchphrases made up of actual words that appear in the Diccionario de la RAE (‘¡Por la gloria de mi madre!’‘¡Pecador!’, ‘¡Cobarde!’, ‘¡Al ataque!’, ‘no puedo, no puedo…’,físicamente i moralmente’) but which appear and recombine in fascinating permutations, with little regard for anything resembling context.

(I would be remiss if I did not also mention here his obsession with that most overlooked of organs in our digestive system, the duodenum (variably pronounced as duodeno or ‘diodeno’)).

More often, though, Chiquito seems to delight in just making up words. Smurf-words, if you will, that seem to mean whatever you need them to mean when you say them, but are mostly useful as interjections: «fistro», «Acondemor», «Jarl», «Apiticawn, mor nau», «A güán, a peich, agromenáuer». The list goes on and on.

The joke at 1:43s of this video gives a decent sample.


It’s hard to overstate the impact Chiquito de la Calzada had on the impressionable young minds of 1990s Spain. (See the outpouring of grief on my social media feed.) In an often fractious society with huge amounts of mistrust between sectors of society for reasons political, linguistic, and otherwise,  our friend Chiquito seemed to be something everyone could agree on. As one person said on Facebook today, ‘Este tío consiguió que todos hablaramos el mismo idioma’‘ (This guy got us all talking the same language’).

And as a newcomer here, getting to know and love him was, odd though it may sound, a big part of my cultural adjustment here. I love me some Chiquito. He embodied the style of joyous homespun surrealism that most appeals to me in Spanish humor. I even paid my own little homage to him years ago now, sampling melodic interludes from two of his performances for a song entitled ‘C de la C’.


Anyways. I should probably get back to watching videos of Chiquito on Youtube.

Gregorio Esteban Sánchez Fernández, DEP.

Hasta luego, Lucas.




Notes from Córdoba, 2016

On the day we visited the Mezquita de Córdoba, the place was full of people both living and dead.


In addition to the tourists roaming the seemingly endless recursion of pillars and arches, one finds at every turn centuries-old inscriptions that mark the eternal resting place of some duke or bishop or some other wealthy corpse.

The first one I noticed bore this crude image of a skull:


The second was more stylized, cartoonish even, and included alongside the skull and the scythe a ‘winged hourglass’ motif. Tempus fugit, memento mori, etc., etc. etc.:


The last of these images I photographed that day was another skull, this time lit up in the rainbow colors streaming down through a stained glass window of the Cátedral–as all the official communication takes special pains to remind you, this is indeed a Cathedral and most definitely no longer a mosque, despite everything you’ve ever read or heard about the place calling it ‘the Mezquita‘. Somewhat difficult to appreciate the colors in this photo, but still an interesting contrast of brightness and gloom:


The starkest, most surreal contrast I found in that cathedral-cum-mosque, was inside the Capilla de Benditas Almas del Purgatorio(!), next to an ossuary containing the skull, femur, and other remains of some important figure. There, alongside these remains left for centuries on display in this sober iron box, someone had accidentally(?) left a humble coathanger made of clear blue plastic:


The contrast of old and modern, ceremonial and workaday, unearthly and mundane…something about it spoke to me, and asked me to document and share it.

I knew as soon as I snapped the photo that it would most likely spawn a post on this long-neglected blog of mine. You know, a few photos with a few jokey and affectionate comments about the Mezquita and all its interesting juxtapositions and what not, nothing too transcendent.

What I didn’t know was that the next morning I’d be laying in my hotel room watching news about a terrorist attack of Brussels killing dozens of people and injure dozens more, and thinking: Fuck.

And later, as we visited the ‘Museo Vivo de al-Andalus’ located in the Torre de la Calahorra and sat in the tiny Sala 2 staring at wax figures of brilliant philosophers like Averroes and Ibn Arabi and watching their eyes glisten in the spotlight as readings of their texts played through our audioguides, I couldn’t help thinking how little mankind has advanced in the last thousand years.


In the face of events like the terrorist attacks in Brussels (and in Paris, and in Lahore and Turkey and all over the Muslim world), and of the often rash and uninformed responses they inspire–the moronic, knee-jerk xenophobia of Trump & co., the wholesale bombardment of thousands of innocent victims, the shameful handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, etc.–my instinctive response has always been a retreat to the sort of misanthropic atheist position that I’ve always found most comfortable.

Namely, the conviction that mankind is, generally speaking, doomed. That if, in the 21st century, we’re still slaying each other for the same idiotic reasons moros and cristianos were doing so a millenium ago, then as a species there really is no hope for us and we deserve to perish forever from this earth.

But no, I tell myself. That’s an easy out. Because how many of us have that luxury? Burying our heads in the sand while the world burns around us, and crossing our fingers and hoping for a quiet death from natural causes, before we too are consumed in the flames? And those of us who do have that luxury, for how much longer…?

Tempus fugit. Momento mori. Etc.

On a lighter note, Virgin Mary says Haaaaaaaay



Us and Them

Apropos of nothing, I present without further comment the following handful of quotes from The Politics of Experience by Scottish psychologist and author R.D. Laing.

“Only when something has become problematic do we start to ask questions. Disagreement shakes us out of our slumbers, and forces us to see our own point of view through contrast with another person who does not share it. But we resist confrontations. The history of heresies of all kinds testifies to more than the tendency to break off communication (excommunication) with those who hold different dogmas or opinions; it bears witness to our intolerance of different fundamental structures of experience. We seem to need to share a communal meaning to human existence, to give with others a common sense to the world, to maintain a consensus[…]

“The group, whether We, or You or Them, is not a new individual or organism or hyperorganism on the social scene; it has no agency of its own, it has no consciousness of its own[…]

“The group is a reality of some kind or other. But what sort of reality? The We is a form of unification of a plurality composed by those who share the common experience of its ubiquitous invention among them.

“From outside, a group of Them may come into view in another way. It is still a type of unification imposed on a multiplicity, but this time those who invent the unification expressly do not themselves compose it. Here, I am of course not referring to the outsider’s perception of a We already constituted from within itself. The Them comes into view as a sort of social mirage[…]

“All those people who seek to control the behaviour of large numbers of other people work on the experiences of those other people. Once people can be induced to experience a situation in a similar way, they can be expected to behave in similar ways. Induce people all to want the same thing, hate the same things, feel the same threat, then their behaviour is already captive–you have acquired your consumers or your cannon-fodder[…]

“As war continues, both sides come more and more to resemble each other. The uroborus eats its own tail. The wheel turns full circle. Shall we realize that We and Them are shadows of each other? We are Them to Them as They are Them to Us. When will the veil be lifted? When will the charade turn to Carnival? Saints may still be kissing lepers. It is high time that the leper kissed the saint.”


Ornette Coleman, RIP

At some point in my early-to-mids 20s, I came into possession of a saxophone.

I won’t detail the circumstances that led the instrument to me.

In fact, I should probably apologize to my friends and roommates and anyone else who suffered through that period, as I was never very good at playing the thing.

One of the tunes that I liked to noodle around on was “Congeniality” by Ornette Coleman.

I could only do the first few bars of the tune, as I never had anywhere near the chops I’d have needed to actually play the whole thing. Again, I was very bad at playing the saxophone.

Still, it seemed like an Important Thing to me, to learn to play, or at least to try.

Or, as Ornette said back in 1966:

“To be a man, whatever a man is…there’s something that’s very important about being a man, and it’s not necessarily your honesty or your philosophy, but it has more to do with you being able to get away with what you can do and someone else saying, ‘Well, that’s him.'”

(Mr Coleman was one of my ‘idols’, if such a term is even appropriate here, which it probably isn’t. An inspiration, an example, more like. R.I.P.)


Hey, check out this review of my story in Tangent Online

So, here’s a first for me. An opinion about a story of mine in Tangent Online, self-proclaimed as “the genre’s premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993.”

Reviewer Martha Burns writes:

“It’s a surprise that no story in the collection addresses the effect gaming has had on humanity, especially considering that right now, people spend billions of hours each week in those virtual worlds. The story that comes closest to addressing our interaction with gaming is “Hacking ‘Wilkes-Barre PA, May 2001′” by NM Whitley. In this story, it isn’t humans who play a game, it is a computer system that engages in a form of the 1990s favorite, The Sims. The computer chooses a real town to start its simulation, but the realities of that time period keep intruding and ruining the fun. The story is enjoyable, sometimes grin-inducing, and does a good job demonstrating how, to borrow the title of Jane McGonigal’s famous book on the positive insights to be learned from gaming culture, reality is broken.”

Not bad, right? And lest you think this is some feel-good, I’m-OK-You’re OK puff piece (it’s not), I’d encourage you check out the rest of the review at Tangent Online. Honestly, what could it hurt?