42 - Female Sci Fi Writers
The Spanish author Angeles Vicente, one of the first Spanish female science fiction writers, tells the story of a young man and his friends led to a place where a mad scientist is determined to release man's spirit by transferring it to a body that can fly.
In the commentary, we talk about the author, the program's upcoming changes, and conclude with an interview with one of the editors of the science fiction anthology, Cosmos Latinos, Dr. Andrea Bell.
“Angeles Vicente and her strange narrations”
Written by Leo Quiron
Translated by CQ and DH
Read and adapted by DH
A while back times were tough, and hunger beset me. I managed to get a job at a local newspaper writing celebrity notes. I was annoyed to deal with my boss's pressure. My notes were not what she expected, but I was also frustrated with myself for not giving up a job that I wasn't interested in.
At that newspaper, I met a woman who recommended I read the Spanish writer Angeles Vicente. One day at the cafeteria, we read a story called "Vultures," which I liked, but I didn't think more about it.
I remember that one day, the woman came with a book by Angeles Vicente called Shadows. Psychic Stories. She asked me to guard it by keeping in my backpack, but she never came back to claim it. Soon after, I quit that job. I did not say goodbye, and I forgot the woman and the book.
Months later, I got a job at another newspaper that required I write a cultural note for the next day. I was free to choose the subject, but I couldn't think of anything. With all my creditors harassing me, it was hard to concentrate. Looking through the mess in my living room for inspiration. As I dug through scattered books and papers, I suddenly discovered Shadows, the book I kept for the woman from my last job. I cleaned it up a little and began to read, "Alone in my room, where the last rumors of the night reach, I am sick and sad thinking of bitter and gloomy chimeras, upon evaluating my life, I want to decipher the enigma of my thoughts...".
I first looked at the words with disdain, but slowly became more and more drawn into it. Before sunrise, I was finished. In the early morning sunlight, I sat in front of the screen and tried to write, but I couldn't. I was tired so I tried to sleep, but my head kept buzzing. Finally, I closed my eyes and forced myself to dream.
Often my dreams are fill with of images that pass from one scene to another, without a face or a clear sound, but this time it was different. First, I dreamed of a woman in an old psychiatric hospital. She told me about a spirit that haunted h er. The ghost wanted to force her to use her hypnotic powers to harm people.
"Get out of here! "The woman screamed.
I saw her anguish and the panic it caused when no one believed her. She felt trapped. I told her to tell the doctors that her insomnia was causing her temporary insanity.
Then the scenario changed.
We were in a kind of operating room. A doctor was doing surgery on a man's skull. The patient was awake; it seemed that his will was overwhelmed by a power that did not allow him to fight. My heart was beating fast, my breathing was agitated, my whole body was strained. I got the feeling that I was next. I couldn't move.
"I'm going to turn you into vultures." The surgeon murmured.
I was still stunned. I screamed without being able to open my eyes.
Then a woman grabbed me by the arm, pulled me away, and we ran out of that sinister operating room. "I'm Angeles," she told me, "And you're a part of stories you still don't understand."
I tried to look at her face and then, suddenly, I recognized her. When we stopped running, I asked her, "What happened after 1920? Where did you go?...
"I went looking for more stories." The woman replied. "I experimented with occult sciences; I tried to reincarnate at free will, but something failed, and I entered the wrong portal."
"What went wrong, Angeles?" I asked...
"You wouldn't understand." She replied. She smiled at me and then she pushed me. I fell into a vortex. I felt emptiness and panic. I woke up screaming and covered in sweat.
With my heart pounding, I sat in front of the screen and began to write the cultural note. The theme was "Angeles Vicente and her strange narrations." Then, I wrote this story so as not to forget my dream, and to remember Angeles.
Welcome, dear listeners of Tres Cuentos, the bilingual podcast dedicated to Latin America's literary, historical, and traditional narratives. I am Carolina Quiroga-Stultz, and today we have a special program dedicated to a female science fiction writer, the Spanish author Angeles Vicente.
The story that served as an introduction to today's author was written by Leo Quiron and translated by DH and myself.
On my quest to find the stories for next season, I read several books, and as of today, I cannot remember which one led me to Angeles Vicente. A woman who in the early 1900s was writing science fiction. My lack of good memory may seem like an omen announcing that Vicente's life was an incomplete puzzle.
The truth is that after retracing my reading steps, I still have not found in the books that I read - or perhaps I misplaced the book-, the name of Angeles Vicente. It is as if she appeared in a dream and whispered her name. The next thing I knew, I was looking her up, downloading her book Buitres, (Vultures), and submerging myself into her world.
Moving on, today's episode is loaded with good, intriguing drama. After Don Hymel reads today's suspenseful story, in the comments, I will share the latest news about our program, which in a way is kind of going through a transformation. Finally, we will have an interview with one of the editors of the book Cosmos Latinos, Andrea Bell, Ph.D.
So, let me open the door leading to the rabbit hole that is the literature of Angeles Vicente. However, I am afraid there are no magic pills or friends across the mirror. Vicente's world is one from which you may not come back the same. At least we know she did not.
A man and his friends are led into a place where a mad scientist is determined to free man's spirit by transferring it to a body that can fly.
Read by Don Hymel
Translated by CQ and DH
We follow him in silence, holding hands. We entered an empty pigpen with chipped walls, and large windows with no glass or wood.
It was dawn.
Once inside, the Doctor, who was guiding us, turned to us:
-I understand, he told us, - That this pilgrimage through the dream terrifies you. There is something extraordinary frightening in the power to scrutinize everything that men think, good and evil, in the ability to foresee what they will concoct tomorrow in defense of their ideas or their concerns.
-And where are we? -I asked uneasily.
-I will explain it. But you are shivering, are you cold? Are you afraid?
Indeed, we were shivering, our teeth were chattering, and there was fear on my companions' faces; it was the same restlessness that I felt.
-Where are we? -I insisted.
-Soon you will know, but above all, I want to prove to you that I am superior to other men; I want to teach you what you are and what you should be. With my discovery, we will be able to see through the walls; we will penetrate the impenetrable. Due to the law of transformations and evolutions, I can do what I want with matter because I have discovered the higher force that governs everything. There is nothing I no longer ignore about myself.
For a moment, I thought the Doctor was crazy. My companions kept quiet and looked at each other in amazement.
A superstitious fear took hold of us, seeing ourselves alone with that extravagant man, in that house, far from the village, frequented only by countless vultures, coming and going through the windows.
-Do you understand me? Do you realize the importance of my discovery? - the Doctor continued. - No more thieves! No more murderers! No more punishments! All diseases will be eliminated, because their cause will be known, and once the reason is avoided, there will not be any consequences. In an orderly manner, psychological and neurological abnormalities will cease in a way that there will be a remarkable increase of good sense and perfection. Isn't that enough?
I thought evidently, the Doctor suffered from a monomania. For the past two weeks, he had followed me around talking about the stubborn ostentation of his remarkable discovery. If only that were possible! It is true that...
My thoughts were interrupted. The Doctor opened a door almost hidden in the wall, and with the most innocent tone of voice, he told us:
We obeyed, and we found ourselves in a bleak and humid passageway. Weird and reeking animals dozed off in cages stack up against the walls. The unpleasant jungle smell forced us to contort our faces with disgust.
The doctor opened another door. There he introduced us to a kind of laboratory full of strange devices and instruments. Along the walls and aligned in perfect order, numerous glass jars containing purplish, yellowish, white fetuses of all shapes and dimensions were preserved in alcohol ...
Now hear me. – After closing the door with a smile of satisfaction, the Doctor continued saying -Man's brain is the biggest and most terrible source of humanity's infection. In relation to the human brain's system, the beast's brain offers the advantage while the although the beast's brain thinks, it does not translate its thoughts into philosophical acts. Whereas man needs to transform his active energy into an expansive force... do you understand?
The Doctor stared at me with his gray, metallic eyes, as if he wanted to decipher what I thought of him, of his discovery, of his house, of his creatures, of his aborted fetuses, and of his ideas. He seemed to pity and despise us at the same time. His words amazed me.
Suddenly he asked me:
- What are you thinking?
I replied, - In... nothing...
-Speak freely. He said.
-But... I do not know... I'm stunned... I thought...
He smiled. I understood that he was making fun of me, but I didn't care: my only desire was to put him in his place, to escape the absorbing fascination of his diabolical dominion.
My classmates kept quiet and watched.
The Doctor continued. -Do you see those jars? In them I keep the product of my experiments, the proof that man's brain is a terrible source of infection that from it has come all the miseries of the world, all evils, all tyrannies, all human iniquities. In believing the most absurd things, man has infected everything, raged madness, attributed all power to himself, and assumed there could be no equal to his greatness. And in his fastidious life of obeying and lowering his head to see nothing but the ground, never sought to understand his surroundings. You are nothing to me; like the first piece of junk I find at hand, I can use you at my will. Yes, you are all the same, with the same flaws and the same virtues. Oh! God frees us from the virtues of men!...
The Doctor was silent for a moment.
-However... -he warned us- Who can deny an exception?... Maybe your brain is different... Let me satisfy a curiosity...I need your brain... Yours... it could be the...one.
Frightened, I took a step back. Without saying a word, my classmates looked at each other.
- Do not be afraid, it will take just a moment. You will not suffer, and you will immediately recover your present being and state. Come here; he said - get in this bed. Oh! so, brave! Fear not. You submit voluntarily, don't you?
I cannot explain, but against my will, I obeyed that scientific executioner. He continued to look at me and grabbed my head in his hands:
-Do not be afraid.
Tac! I felt a quick blow. He had opened my skull with a scalpel. I did not feel pain. I could hear his voice and feel his hands. Finally, I sensed something cold, and the blood was ice in my veins...
Then I saw the Doctor leaning and eagerly examining my brain. His face contracted in an expression of anger:
-All the same! – he shouted. -All the same junk! It's a curse!...
I tried to sit up, but it was impossible.
-What are you doing? - Stupid! Cretin! – he roared at my attempt.
I remained still.
Then, he gently removed my eyes and cut my nerves with a sudden blow.
I was in darkness. A cold sweat bathed my entire body. I felt a lump in my throat. I could not explain how I could still think, and why I was a passive toy to this man. The Doctor gently stroked me and wiped my sweat.
Then he left me alone and repeated the same operation with my companions. Not one objected or even said a word.
Suddenly we were transformed. We were no longer men; we were vultures; we felt endowed with a special lightness, with a desire to communicate, to speak with each other sincerely. We felt the need to fly, to spread our enormous wings into that wonderful immensity ... We didn't think, we let ourselves be carried away by our newly awaken and more perfect senses... We rose higher, higher, to the very top.
What happiness we felt! Breathing that air of freedom and piercing the heavy layer of lead pressing in our heads ... Aloft our carcasses appeared even more miserable, abandoned in that disgusting room.
Finally, we spread our black, pointed wings, and it seemed that an inner voice was shouting at us:
<< Go for it! Go ahead! Yes, always forward! Do not look back! Do not look down! Forward! >>
Our excitement was ended by the Doctor who demanded our returned with an imperious gesture. We obeyed and descended.
Then he ripped off my wings, put my eyeballs back in its orbits, and after sewing back my skull he helped me get up and said:
- Look! Your body is a machine, nothing more than a machine. When your spirit leaves your body, you will become a vulture, a mouse, any animal... The structure of your body matter is not important. Your essence is lays in your spirit, and your spirit is a force adaptable to any engine... You can now leave.
He accompanied me to the door, and once there, he looked at me with an air of compassion:
- You are restored! he exclaimed, - Your freedom lays along this path, and if someone gets in the way, fight with your teeth, they are not only for eating bread...
Very well, let us come back to the safety of our homes or workplaces from where you are listening to Tres Cuentos. We can only hope that no mad scientist is -as we speak- performing crazy experiments to either transform or destroy humanity.
The truth is that the Spanish author, Angeles Vicente, wrote other stories that could compete with some of the most apocalyptic movies seeing these days. But I chose "Vultures" because, in a way, it served as a transition from our last season on Science Fiction to what's coming in September, that is "Fantastic Latin America."
And when I say a transition, I also mean what is going to happen to the program. But before I reveal any more details, allow me to dedicate a couple of minutes to Angeles Vicente's biography.
Vicente was born in Cartagena, Spain, in 1878. Along with her family, she moved to live in Argentina in 1888.
The family lived in Argentina for eighteen years. There Angeles Vicente married Cándido Elormendi, Chief of Police of the Argentinean providence of Formosa. The union allowed Vicente to travel throughout the "El Chaco" region and later capture her experiences in a series of short stories called "American Frames," published in the Newspaper El Imparcial, between 1913 and 1915.
A curious fact about Vicente is that she was a Mason. In an article published in 1901 in the Argentine newspaper "Caras y Caretas," a picture of Angeles corresponds to a report about the first women lodge (Masonry). Apparently, she was the founder.
Angeles returned to Europe in 1906 and lived in Milán until early 1907. It is from that Italian city that Vicente writes three letters to Don Miguel the Unamuno, the author we presented in episode 40.
In 1907 she moved to Madrid and wrote for newspapers and magazines. There she published her first novella, "Teresilla," which reflected the author's predilection for reading, music, her initiation into spiritualism, and women's rights.
Between 1907 and 1910, Vicente published another novella, Zezé. It was very controversial at the time. She also wrote two more books of short stories, Vultures and Shadows: Psychic Stories. The last two collections reflect the writer's fascination with science fiction, fantasy, and spiritualism.
In 1916, Angeles Vicente returned as a widow to Argentina, as is reported in her immigration entry papers. There Vicente collaborated with other Argentinian newspapers until the early 1920s. But soon after the turn of the new decade, Angeles Vicente's trail grows cold. I wonder if her disappearance had something to do with the occult sciences that she seemed to be fascinated by. Remember that she had been a Mason. I can't help to ask, did she free herself and fly away like a vulture? Or did she find a portal to another dimension? We will never know.
Well, it is time to reveal how this program will change. To understand our reasons for this new way of doing things, I will share a bit of our background story.
Tres Cuentos initiated in 2018 as an effort to promote and showcase Latin America's traditional narratives. If you check the first six seasons – that is the first 18 episodes – we covered everything from spooky folklore to mythology to historical fiction and even a season on Children Stories.
But things changed in 2019. During that year, the program was awarded two national grants from Alternate Roots and NALAC, (the National Association for Latino Arts and Cultures), to develop four seasons, that is 12 episodes on Latino Literature and History.
From July 30 to Aug 28 of the same year, we released the first season under both grants on Latino Authors. Honestly, I was not expecting much of a change in downloads. But I was wrong. After I published the last episode of that season, I went back to Colombia to visit my family. When I returned to the states, I couldn't get back to the program because we were moving from Texas to Georgia.
The move took us almost three months. We lived like gypsies in so many places, but I will spare you the details. Then in October, I checked the podcast's numbers, I was stunned. The episodes on the last season were soaring. A couple of episodes were reaching 3000 downloads. I thought I had been hacked. After checking and double checking, I came to realized that presenting literature pieces had been a game-changer. The next three seasons confirmed my suspicions; they all did just as well.
So, why are we making changes again? Well, what happens is that I have been wearing most of the hats in the podcast's production. To make matters worse, I got a bit ambitious with the commentary part, and that segment turned out to be quite exhausting to research and write.
By 2020, I still love what I am doing but I also think it is too much, and I either need a drastic change or turn the switch off. Thankfully, the same year Tres Cuentos is selected to go under an intense 3-month training by the PRX-Google Podcast creator Program. Yet, because we were in the last cohort, we had to wait until the summer of 2021 to fully envision the future transformation.
The training program was a blessing but a lot of work, and it meant hours of soul-searching. The exercises led us to reflect on how and why the program needed to change its modus operandi. We realized that the team needed to grow, so now there are four of us, Don Hymel, Leo Quiroga, Alexa Jeffres and myself. I hope her name rings a bell because she collaborated with us the last season. After that, I invited her to join us as a part-time translator, and I am happy to say that she gracefully agreed.
Yet, those are the easy changes. As I mentioned, I was doing the heavy lifting, in part because I was the only bilingual member who had knowledge in audio editing, graphic design, and web managing. So, after putting the production of the podcast in a very detailed workflow, reality hit me. The program had become a giant, and I am only 5'2".
So, we thought about doing the show only in Spanish. Then we consider getting rid of the commentary. But after conducting a survey with our listeners, and I'm very grateful to those who responded, because they helped us see the light.
Like in the story of Ángeles Vicente, we are going to transform the program into a format that can fly, that is, easier to produce. The show will remain bilingual, but we'll lighten the commentary and change the seasons' format.
Starting in September, we will expand the number of stories per season, and the episodes will contain the narration and biographical data of the author or culture that was presented.
This means that a season can have as many episodes as we want, and that we are putting on-hold the researched analysis that we used to present after each story.
Our goal is to lighten the program and invite the audience to reflect more on the stories and participate. In addition, during each season we will be releasing episodes weekly, on Wednesdays en español and Thursdays in English.
And this is not all. There is one last change: our name. After much consideration, we decided that the program has evolved so much since 2018, and Tres Cuentos no longer reflects where we are and where we are heading. So, the name is changing. But don't worry; this will happen in 2022. In the meantime, we are honing details and planning a relaunch.
We would not be where we are if it weren't for you who have listened and shared the episodes, for your sweet comments and reviews. And because we know you appreciate the program; we want it to be better and better.
And so, this will be the last episode presented in the old format. We are grateful to you all for your patience, encouragement, and suggestions. Please do not hesitate to continue writing to us, letting us know how you like the changes.
So, with no further ado, I am very glad to present an interview done back in May with Dr. Andrea Bell, co-editor of the book Cosmos Latinos, an anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain published by Wesleyan University Press.
(Left: Book Cosmos Latinos, Right: PhD. Andrea Bell)
"Andrea Bell is a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies in Hamline University's College of Liberal Arts. She enjoys teaching at all levels, from beginning Spanish to advanced courses on literature and popular culture. Her research on Spanish-language science fiction keeps her active at professional meetings, on editorial boards and as a literary critic and translator. She and a colleague have published two volumes of science fiction from Latin America and Spain, in English translation. Bell travels frequently to Latin America and has taken Hamline students to Chile and Argentina. Her BA in Spanish and German is from Whitman College and her master's and doctoral work in Spanish and Latin American Studies was completed at Stanford University."
Very well, it is time to wrap up the program. We will be back in a month, kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month with a two-month season on Fantastic Latin America. Remember to go to www.trescuentos.com and subscribe to our mailing list. Until the next cuento, adios, adios.
Los Buitres por Ángeles Vicente. Alicante: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, 2017. Madrid, Librería de Pueyo, . URL del PDF: http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra/-los-buitres-847191/
Biografía de Ángeles Vicente según la Real Academia de la Historia. URL: https://dbe.rah.es/biografias/angeles-vicente-garcia
Aftermath - Madness Paranoia by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ - Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100575
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