The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction

By Morrison, Michael A. | World Literature Today, January/February 2012 | Go to article overview

The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction


Morrison, Michael A., World Literature Today


MISCELANEOUS Rachel Haywood Ferreira. The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction. Middletown, Connecticut. Wesleyan University Press. 2011. isbn 9780819570826

In 2003 Wesleyan published one of the most exciting anthologies of Latin American fiction in years. Edited by Andrea L. Bell and Yolanda Molina Gavilán, Cosmos Latinos presented previously untranslated stories by writers from Spain, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Venezuela, Peru, and Cuba. These twentyseven stories, dating from 1862 to 2001, shed new light on both Latin American fiction and on world sf. Aware of the book's space limitations, the editors concluded their introduction with a mouth-watering list of authors whose works they would include in a subsequent volume. That book, alas, never appeared.

Now Wesleyan has brought us The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction. Neither anthology nor literary criticism, it's an engrossing, readable history of the genesis of modern Latin American sf. Its compass is fiction from Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico written between 1850 and 1920-nationally formative years during which Latin America contributed distinctive "local appropriations and local adaptations" to the "global genre" of sf. After steering us through a first chapter on utopian proto-sf, Rachel Haywood Ferreira guides us into darker territory: stories that vivify the raging conflict between Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution; that prophesy the end of the world; that pit canonical science against spiritualism, theosophy, occultism, and the like; that consider (seriously!) eugenics as a tool to counter threats to national identity; and much more. In lucid, jargonfree prose, she layers this complex story onto a meticulously constructed skeleton that is simultaneously thematic and chronological.

We discover how authors used the distancing in time and space allowed by sf to address the burning issues of national identity and its attendant political baggage of "nationality, race, and social class or profession. …

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