Interview with Alberto Chimal

Alberto Chimal (Photo by Raquel Castro)

Where did you grow up, and where do you live now? Where can we find you on social media?

I grew up in a small city called Toluca, in Mexico, and now I live in Mexico City. I'm on Twitter and Instagram as @albertochimal and on Facebook with the handle albertochimal1. I also contribute to a YouTube channel: AlbertoyRaquelMX.

What kind of creative work do you do?

I'm a writer. I write novels, short stories, and the occasional article. I also have the aforementioned YouTube channel with my wife, Raquel Castro, who is a writer, too.

Raquel Castro and Alberto Chimal ready for Hugo night (Photo by Alberto Chimal)

Had you ever been to a Worldcon before?

Nope.

What did you expect being part of the Initiative would be like? How did your experience compare with that expectation?

I didn't know what to expect. I was a bit nervous, but it was mostly because of the political climate in the US around us Mexican and Mexican-descended persons. At the very least, I hoped I could get to know the fabled convention I had read about since I was a kid. The fact that I would be participating in it didn't really sink in until I was in front of an audience, and that was the moment when a) I got really nervous, and b) the whole experience became a lot better than I had imagined. At the same time, the Mexicanx Initiative people were all so nice and welcoming it all felt like being in another world: another place, within the larger US.

Alberto Chimal and Gerardo Horacio Porcayo at the history of Mexicanx Sci-Fi panel (Sent byJulia Rios; photo by Kateryna Barnes)

Tell us about a highlight of your Worldcon experience.

The moment I got to read a short story in Spanish at the Mexicanx Initiative group reading. I love narrating and reading for audiences in Spanish, but I never thought I'd be doing that at a Worldcon! Also, a dinner we had with Gay and Joe Haldeman. We had met them in Mexico a few years back and they are both talented, funny, and very kind.

Joe and Gay Haldeman, Gerardo Horacio Porcayo, José Luis Zárate, Iliana Vargas, Raquel Castro, and Alberto Chimal at dinner (Sent by Alberto Chimal; photo by Anonymous on Alberto's phone)

Recommend any or all of the following: a song, a written work, a piece of visual art, and a movie. Tell us why you love them!

A song: "Te quiero (¿Cómo lo vas a tomar?)" by Mexican singer Eugenia León. The title means "I love you. What will you think about it?" I heard it first when I was a teenager and it felt full of longing and passion. It feels that way to this day.

A written work. Kalpa imperial, by Argentinian writer Angélica Gorodischer, which is a beautiful novel about power and community. It's made out of short fantasy stories, and was translated into English by none other than Ursula K. LeGuin!

A piece of visual art: "El amanecer", a painting by Mexican artist Daniel Lezama. He creates mythical, fantastical images of Mexico with an emphasis on real-looking bodies and faces. Many of his paintings are violent and dark, but this one (the title means "Dawn") seems hopeful to me: a woman so gigantic she towers over the clouds stands with two children (maybe hers?) on a city seen from afar, catching the first light of day.

A movie: American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's so influential it's become almost invisible, and it's (of course) an artifact of its own time. But that movie cemented my love for the fantastical, SF stories, and cinema itself. And any film fan who hasn't seen it yet is in for a few surprises!

What was the funniest thing that happened during your trip?

I can't dance, but Raquel and I went with some of our friends to a Steampunk Ball, and at one point I was astonished to see a lightbulb coming out of someone's head! (It was an electric hat, of course, a very clever contraption, but I didn't have my glasses on. It was all very... steampunky, I guess.) ;)

Where should new people start familiarizing themselves with your work?

I curated a dossier on Latin American speculative fiction for Latin American Literature Today magazine, and I wrote an essay about that subject: http://www.latinamericanliteraturetoday.org/en/2018/may/latin-american-speculative-fiction-alberto-chimal

"The Latin Cities" is a short story of mine that features many smaller stories within it and was translated into English here: http://www.palabraserrantes.com/the-latin-cities/

And there is a little horror story of mine in A Larger Reality, the Mexicanx Initiative anthology. :)

Pablo Defendini