Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picasso on Art via Pablo Cortez

Another story that I've recently read, which I am seriously considering for my Alien Contact anthology (forthcoming from Night Shade Books in November), is "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song," by Ernest Hogan. See my previous blog post, "We Have Alien Contact," for background on this anthology, including a complete listing of the stories (so far) that have been submitted and/or recommended to me, in addition to stories that I myself have added to the list.

When I contacted Ernesto about a possible contribution to the anthology, here's what he had to say about "Guerrilla Mural...": "It's about a Chicano muralist/graffitist who turns out to be the person who breaks through to communicate (sort of) with telepathic microbes that live in Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Later I expanded it into my first novel Cortez on Jupiter."1 Sound intriguing? Indeed. "Guerrilla Mural..." involves art, and a Zulu, and Aztecs, and alien contact, and is written from the POV of a Chicano -- and is pure zany Ernest Hogan. The only other author with whom I can compare Hogan's writing would be Paul Di Filippo.

"Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" was originally published in issue four of Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine (Summer 1989), edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch; this particular issue was devoted to "Science Fiction," as noted on the cover above. The graphic is a bit difficult to see/read because all the Pulphouse magazine covers were stamped using an iridescent ink, thus reflecting the light. (According to former Pulphouse publisher Dean Wesley Smith, the process is called "foil stamping.") Each issue of the magazine was published in an edition of 1,000 numbered trade hardcover copies and 250 signed (by all contributors) and numbered leatherbound copies. I bought a copy of the first issue (#19 of 1,000), liked what I read, and then subscribed; so all of my later editions have matching numbers: #71 of 1,000. The last volume, number twelve, was published in Fall 1993. Pulphouse Publishing just may have been the first press to self-publish at that time.

But back to "Guerrilla Mural..." Here's the protagonist in the middle of one of his rants:
Me, Pablo Cortez, infamous guerrilla muralist from the wild, crumbling concrete and stucco overgrowth of L.A. -- who refused to be absorbed into the decaying society I satirized in my work long after my fellow wall-defacers were caught, arrested and offered a chance to become honest artists who paint on neat, clean canvases that are displayed in sterile galleries, and bought by the affluent to show everybody how sensitive they are by what they choose to decorate their expensive, prestigious apartments with. I, who tattooed the Picasso quote, "PAINTING IS NOT DONE TO DECORATE APARTMENTS. IT IS AN INSTRUMENT OF WAR FOR ATTACK AND DEFENSE AGAINST THE ENEMY" on my own left arm with a felt-tip pen and a safety-pin. The guy who really meant it when he helped paint -- fast, so we could get it done and get the hell out of there before getting our heads busted -- Quetzalcoatl choking on smog, Uncle Sam holding up the heart of a draftee for the "disturbance" in South Africa (soon to be Zululand -- again) to the gaping jaws of a Biomechanoid War God, mutilated/spacesuited corpses and countless mass portraits of the ever-growing throngs of the homeless to decorate the featureless, empty walls of the blank architecture where Mr. and Ms. Los Angeles could see as they did the freeway boogie to work. Siquerios and Orozco and every spray-can wielding vato would’ve been proud!
Personally, I'm not much of an art aficionado; when I read the Picasso quote I immediately searched for it on the web -- and was shocked to learn that it was, indeed, a legitimate quote. Picasso dissing apartment art! Who woulda thought....

Ernest Hogan, the author of this story, and I go back a ways; he contributed an original story, "Coyote Goes Hollywood," to my co-edited Witpunk anthology, which was published by Four Walls Eight Windows in 2003. So when I was looking for a previously published, over-the-top "alien contact" story that involved another culture (Earth culture as opposed to alien culture), I immediately thought of Ernesto.

One final comment on Pulphouse Publishing:

My most prized set of books from them is The Collected Short Fiction of Robert Sheckley -- five slipcased volumes, signed by the author as well as the introducer of each volume. My set is #282 of 300. I haven't really thought about this set of books until now, so I did a web search just to see if there were any sets available "out there": I found a few hardcover sets like mine (the set was also published in trade paperback), ranging in price from $600.00 to a high of $1,240.00. Whew.

I bring up Robert Sheckley because if there ever was a witpunk, Sheckley is (was) it. And I have to believe that Sheckley's sardonic writing had a direct influence on both Ernest Hogan and Paul Di Filippo.


1 Unfortunately, Cortez on Jupiter has been out of print for quite some time; it was originally published as a mass market paperback by Tor Books in 1990. This is another example in which a midlist author's books have gone out print long before their time. I would suggest to Ernest Hogan that he consider releasing the book in a variety of eBook formats as well as print on demand (POD). There are a myriad of cost-effective resources now available to authors for eBook and POD publishing.


  1. I am considering putting out my books, including CORTEZ ON JUPITER, as ebooks, especially since the Borders where I work is being liquidated. Watch for news.

  2. Hi, Ernesto,

    Sorry to hear that the Borders you are working at will be one of the ones closing. I hope there is an indie store (or two) in the area that the Borders customers can turn to. Does this mean you'll have more time for writing? And good luck, too, with the eBook project.

    - marty

  3. Picasso was a badass! I've only read Paul Di Filippo, but you've piqued my curiosity on these other guys. Look forward to seeing the final anthology.

    In the meantime, I'll be checking on Hogan and Sheckley.


  4. Hi, Jonathan,

    Thanks for your comment; and I'm happy to be able to point you to a couple "new" writers. (Alas, Sheckley passed away in 2005 but he left one helluva oeuvre.)

    I didn't mention above that Paul Di Filippo also contributed a story, entitled "Science Fiction," to the Witpunk anthology. The story was later reprinted in his collection The Emperor of Gondwanaland and Other Stories, so if you have that book, then you have his Witpunk story as well.

    - marty